In memorium

Jonathan Kayes PortraitJonathan Kayes just died. For most of his career, Jonathan worked with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). More recently he held the post of Chief Learning Officer at The Masie Center.

My path first crossed Jonathan’s in a funny way.

I was having dinner at Indochine, a French Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong, with Elliott Masie of the Masie Center along with his wife Cathy and Graham Higgins, who was then the learning and development manager at Cathay Pacific Airways, when Elliott asked if we knew of any interesting learning or performance support innovations coming out of Asia. I mentioned Chinesepod, which was born during SARS, and was, I thought, a great example of necessity mothering invention.

Elliott liked Chinesepod so much he brought it to the attention of the CIA, where he was a member of the board of advisors. At that point Jonathan picked the idea up and ran with it. Chinesepod has since gone from strength to strength, as have a bunch of other online language learning services, including Livemocha and Smart.fm.

I had the privilege to meet Jonathan several times after that and even to introduce him to one or two officials in other (friendly) governments trying to figure out how to achieve some of the successes he had achieved in his CLO roles.

Jonathan was a serious, good man. We’ll miss him. I’ll miss him.

A different drum

drumbeat_logoThe good people over at Mozilla set up a spin-off called Drumbeat, essentially a peer to peer, open source, learning and development environment.

Two Drumbeat projects caught my eye.

The first, Universal Subtitles, is both a technology development project and a global learning initiative. To date 772 people have contributed to this project. Subtitles clarify a lot, even song lyrics in one’s native language. Speech-to-text transcriptions and follow-on translations (this is the universal part) cost money and take time. Easy, user generated subtitles mean that videos in one language can be leveraged out to any number of languages easily.

It’s a very cool idea with lots of implications for making video-based learning that gets pushed out globally.

The second project that caught my eye is the P2PU School of Webcraft, which aims to make a “vibrant, peer-led system to help people around the world easily access and build careers on open web technology.” The project bills itself as “the ultimate curriculum for open web developers” with  “a community endorsed certificate to show off your skills” and is an outgrowth of a course held via Peer2Peer University. The first intake starts in September. The proposed syllabus includes:

* Web 200: The Anatomy of a Page Load
* Web Development 101
* HTML5
* Building Social with the Open Web
* Reading Code
* Semantic Markup
* Organic SEO Basics
* What is PHP
* Drupal Basics
* Building Social Web Applications with Drupal
* Beginning Webservices with Python
* Designers Tackling The Web
* Principles of Project Management
* Introduction to System Administration
* Web Accessibility
* Designing for Education: : How to optimize the user experience.
* Extension Development
* Interactive games for the open web
* Scripting 101

This is serious stuff. It bears watching.

Out of gas or speeding out of sight?

David Wilkins, a technology evangelist at Learn.com, recently published a blog post I thought worthwhile. A Defense of the LMS (and a case for the future of Social Learning) hits several nails on the head, including the ideas that (1) it is without a doubt easier to build social networking functionality into a mature enterprise system like an LMS than it is to build LMS functionality into a social networking application, and (2) LMS platforms are essential business applications in large part because compliance support is crucial, complicated and difficult.

He also makes the point that future learning cooks will want to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix — a shake of social, a pinch of old-school personnel records,  a tablespoon of talent management, a cup of sifted reporting and repeated lashings of user generated content.

This is all true but I would add a couple of thoughts:

Reading the signs

Typical eye movement across a page
The track of a typical eye movement across a screen or page of text

I am in the middle of a series of signage articles on Slate. The first article in the series, The Secret Language of Signs, is worth reading and got me thinking in a number of different directions.

One road it sent me down was the idea that we are always looking for signs that reinforce our feelings of exceptionalism, be they political, professional or personal. Being special seems to be a psychological imperative.

In the learning and development world, we go so far as to grant post-graduate degrees in instructional design, incorporating ideas from graphics, psychology, organizational behavior, adult learning theory and various bits of technology research and development, among other specialty areas.