Progressive Place

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spiral Learning, for subjects too vital for a training module

This came in an October newsletter from the Masie Center ( Since I can't find it in their website to link you to, I'm just copying the whole thing here.

Spiral Learning: Critical Topics Woven Into the Organization

By Elliott Masie, Chair - The Learning CONSORTIUM

Some topics can’t be contained in a single course or online module. We advocate that there are a few ideal topics for “Spiral Learning”, meaning they should be woven throughout the organization and integrated into a wide range of learning and development activities.
Consider these 4 topics for Spiral Learning in your organization:

  • Cyber Security: Using technology in a manner that is secure and safe for the individual and organization.

  • Safety: Creating a culture of safety throughout the organization, with an eye toward managing risk in every nook of the enterprise.

  • Corporate Sustainability: A business approach that creates long-term consumer and employee value by creating a “green” strategy aimed at the natural as well as social, cultural and economic environments.

  • Virtual Leadership: With distributed teams, our leaders must evolve their leadership modes to extend across time zones and distance while leveraging new models for assisting team members across the globe.

Sure, a learning department could offer classes on Cyber Security, Safety, Sustainability and Virtual Leadership, but the topics are too important and too pervasive to be contained in a single learning activity.

Spiral Learning advocates weaving these topics into every corner of our organizations and existing learning curriculum. Here are a few examples:

  • Executive development case studies should be focused on topics of Cyber Security or Sustainability. As we are teaching strategy or alignment, let’s make these “Spiral” topics the content focus.

  • Exemplars: Actively build exemplars of individuals or units that are aggressively tackling these topics and promote them as internal corporate “heroes”.

  • Teachable Moments: Managers should find regular “teachable moments” to focus on how we can take better approaches to educating employees about these topics.

  • Job Descriptions & Performance Review: These topics can be built into job descriptions and performance reviews to highlight their mission-critical status.

  • Contradiction Awareness: I was about to organize the distribution of a daily newsletter at our conference; then I thought about the Sustainability issues and the image of several hundred papers left on tables.

  • Hurdles: As learning and performance professionals, we should focus on behavioral hurdles that stand in the way of implementing approaches to address these important areas.

Spiral Learning Design is a great opportunity to combine learning with organizational development and corporate communication to spark strategic and measurable changes in our workplaces. Each of these Spiral Learning Topics lends itself to a measurement or dashboard.

We will be focusing on Spiral Learning at our Learning 2010 event, to be held from Oct 24- 27 in Orlando. We will hear from Howard Schmidt - White House Director of Cyber Security, Greg Hale - Safety Officer for Disney, and a wide range of learning leaders working on Sustainability and Virtual Leadership.

Complete information at

We have an Advanced Registration Discount and there are a range of hotel rooms still available.

Yours in learning,

Elliott Masie, Chair - The Learning CONSORTIUM

Sent by: The MASIE Center, PO Box 397, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sensor Suit, with Mouthpad accessory

As I slowly shift my body in yoga class, I visualize the tight and pained spots I need to lean into and visualize dissolving. In my mind's eye, these areas appear, as though in an infrared scanner, in hotter colors. I then imagine them melting into coolness, to be drained away by my breath directed to the area.

Quite suddenly, the vision shifts to me wearing a garment that fits like a wetsuit, embedded with sensors that "read" the bio indicators, and feed the stream of info into a 3-D visor I’m wearing. Attached to the visor by a tiny, thin wire is a “mouthpad”, a tiny, flat touch pad stuck, like a glob of peanut butter, just inside of and above my upper front teeth. I use this like a touchpad, controlling the interface with the tip of my tongue.

Some possibilities:

  • The sensor suit could be used in rehab after neural and muscular damage, to help re-acquaint the mind with the body, so it can go about establishing and extending new channels of communication.
  • The mouthpad could be used by quadriplegics as a control device. The tongue is more sensitive and less fatigued when it stays inside the mouth, where it belongs.
  • Longer term, both would have all kinds of applications in the mass market. Me, for example-- an average aging person enhancing my body awareness, allowing me to get the most out of exercise, and minimizing the possibility of injury by accentuating cautionary feedback. A swimmer could control a remote-control robotic device in the water, or even (heaven forbid) take and respond to text messages while swimming laps.

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Extending the Handheld Device

Core concepts here:
Handheld devices are weakest at helping the user maintain a sense of context for the small amount of information displayed on the device’s small screen. A helpful adaptation would be a larger display space outside the device; say, a printed illustration showing the layout of the options in a particular app. Until we become familiar with the conceptual space inside the app, our memories are not good at doing that on their own.
The device screens could provide more contextual information by using visual layering to simulate a 3-dimensional image space. Color coding and varying depth of shade and color could further enhance the (delicacy? Precision? Articulateness?) of the display. For whatever reason, pocket video games are the only mobile devices that have gone this route.

Background: see, and the paper that spawned the idea, at

Blended media could greatly enhance the experience of using a handheld device. In a research paper I wrote back in 2001, I pointed out that the small screen of a mobile device doesn’t provide the context a person needs to make full sense of what one sees on the screen. In situations where the content is known and fairly predictable, the handheld could be laid on a printed chart that physically represents . like a site map that shows the whole subject domain, or any conceptual space laid out like a mind map, with each sub-topic/page node and relationship briefly described and illustrated.

(Rewrite the following 3 paragraphs. They’re redundant.) Basically, viewing a visual application in a handheld’s screen is like viewing real life through a paper towel tube, or a rolled-up newspaper. If you set the device down on a sheet of paper on a clipboard, or a table even, your visual space is limited only by the size of the paper. If the paper shows the whole “map” of the app you’re working with in the handheld, you get to see how the detail in the screen fits into the “bigger picture”. To see the detail at a different point in the app, just find that spot on the large chart, then tell the device to go to that point, where you’ll see a zoomed-in” view. The proximity sensor in the iPhone, iTouch and iPad could provide this positioning automatically.

This was a primitive form of blended learning that would have been exceptionally useful in all kinds of applications. I put it aside because it didn’t apply to my paper, which focused on mobile digital audio. By the time I finished the paper, I’d forgotten the visual idea, and was working to make a business of the more familiar audio part. It would have been simple create a pilot, but it didn’t happen.

Another spin on the idea was to extend the image by creating a 3-D visualization within the handheld, and using it on a drafting table with a set of roll-up charts. The absence in handhelds of so obvious an enhancement as the 3-D image continues to amaze me. People are very skilled at thinking in 3-D perspective. Treating the handheld device screen as a flat surface makes as much sense as declaring that all cities should have only one-story buildings. In the size-constrained land of the handheld, 3-D should (be the) rule (not the exception).

Incidentally, I also continue to be appalled that the creators of mind-mapping software don’t use depth, shading, and perceived near-far proximity to enhance the visual and conceptual richness of their products.

It occurred to me 11 years ago that my kids’ Gameboys were vastly better at representing a complex domain than my PDA. Once you learned the terrain, it was graphically navigable, and used several metaphors to simulate a 3-D physical space. While it’s sad that I didn’t act on that observation back then, knowing how my mind works, it probably would have kept me from finishing my research paper and getting the damn degree.

Separate topics:
The Golden-i is a Bluetooth video headset, mainly intended as a mobile interface to a computer or the Internet. Voice activation makes it a totally hands-free workstation. However, adapting it for eye-monitoring would let the user:
1. Use blinks as button clicks, to navigate among layers in a 3-D space. Since blinking is mostly automatic, signals would have to start at 2x, plus signals for close-and-open, etc.
2. Use quick left-right-up-down eye motions to move an oversize image correspondingly, as with an iPhone, or like moving objects around on a physical magnet board.

Mobile technology in the work setting can be very Green-enhancing, in that it saves travel, time, office space, carting around of materials, and more. Also, I’ve noticed that most large-scale sustainability initiatives depend so heavily on automation, they could say “IT Inside”, like most PCs say “Intel Inside”.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Hemp, the Fabric of Freedom

Our nation's Founding Fathers wore fabric made of cotton because they could afford it, and because many of them had enslaved the people who planted, picked, and processed it. In this land, cotton as a crop was possible only through the enslavement of others. Today, it is possible only through a constant and unsustainable battle against Nature.

By contrast, our Founding Fighters-- the farmers, bakers, wheelwrights, and carpenters who fought and died to free our nation from tyranny-- wore hemp. Hemp that withstood the wear and tear, the mud and blood and sweat that planted the seeds and nourished the roots of our freedom. Hemp that was chosen by Betsy Ross to create the first Stars and Stripes. Hemp that had grown like a weed across much this continent, before an environmentally insane and economically-motivated campaign after World War Two eradicated it.

Hemp is not a drug. It is an amazingly hardy and useful plant that grows easily, without irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizer, just about anywhere. Unlike cotton. Cotton can do none of those things. Our economy and our environment need help now. They need hemp now.

Cotton is rooted in Slavery. Hemp is rooted in Freedom.

Choose Hemp.

As soon as I find out what organization is spear-heading this movement, I'll post it here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's my favorite thing about documenting requirements?

My favorite thing about documenting requirements is talking with someone who's an expert at a particular job, but might not have a sense of how much their work contributes to the big picture, to the bottom line. I capture what they do, and make sure I got it right. Then I put it into the context of the big picture, and hold that view up for them to see. The reaction is usually something like, "Oh, wow! So that's what this does, how that works, where I fit, what they do!" Almost always, they get a bigger sense of themselves and their importance, and a better understanding of those they interface with.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Meyers' Twilight series is deeper than it appears

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was called "downmarket" in the April 20 Newsweek. Why am I five weeks behind in reading my Newsweeks? Because I was, yes, deep into the Twilight series!

The Twilight series is full of ponderable questions about the human condition. Consider: How can the "good" vampires stand to live with us regular humans, when a vampire's strongest desire is to rip out our throats and drink our blood?

Here's a similar question: How can so many of us regular humans drive powerful machines of potential death and destruction, and be tempted daily to maim and kill some of the obnoxious idiots on the road, yet not do so?

The "good" vampires make it quite clear: Once they've experienced the life-enriching joy of living among humans, subduing their taste for human blood becomes a worthy trade-off.

Maybe they're not that different from most of us, after all.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Next Eco-Advance: First Bottles, then Bento Boxes

Perhaps you’ve seen, or ordered, a “bento box” in a Japanese restaurant. Until they were replaced by polystyrene, as here, the personal re-usable bento box was a common container for Japanese to take their lunches to work in (school children have been getting universal school lunches since after WW II.)

Here’s my vision of the next eco-advance, after using one’s own water bottle and coffee mug: the personal re-usable bento box. Initially a personal statement for trendy young econistas, the bento box will eventually be adopted by all the environmentally conscious. Rather than accept our food in disposable containers, we will insist on having it put into our own containers, from which we will eat it or take it out, to wash it at home. Initially this will conflict with municipal health regulations and vendor convenience, but those will quickly adapt to suit the changing market. To accommodate servings that are charged by weight, each container will have its tare weight embossed on the handle, and that weight will be deducted at checkout.

At purchase, those using their own containers may have to sign a release of vendor liability should they get sick from an unclean container. This has obvious risks, if the sickness might also have come from the food itself. An alternative might be for arriving customers to use a fast, automated steam sterilizer designed for that purpose.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

All Is Connected

You’ve probably seen this shape: It's a circle, with a bunch of evenly-spaced dots drawn on it, and lines drawn that connect every possible pair of dots. It's often drawn with lots of points, then the lines filled in to create a fine mesh of connections, to show how complex the relationships can get between multiple things.

Now that you have that shape in mind, consider it representing this:
In the real world, all phenomena are connected.
If a technological race such as ours is to have a sustainable presence (read: long-term survival) in this world, we are responsible for understanding how everything we do impacts everything else, and all the relationships.
While the challenge may seem impossibly complex, the responsibility to take it on is no less ours.
We have the sensing technology to monitor, reveal, and measure the influences and outcomes, and the analytical tools to identify and assess the impacts, and locate the causes.
We must accept the responsibility to understand and act on what we learn.

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