Sunday, December 22, 2013

So far, so good, so what?

I've been an Online Learning Consultant for just over a year now. It's taken me a while to get here, and I'm the first one to hold the role in my organisation. Come to think of it, I was the first one to hold the previous role (e-Learning Technician) I had before that on my way up from being a generic Administrator. I thought it would be good to stop and reflect, to get my bearings as I start to ask 'What's next?', but first of all perhaps I should ask 'How did I get here anyway?'.

How did I get here? Kind of by accident really, I just happened to be working in the right department where someone needed to master the technical tools to produce software demonstrations, and I showed a flair for it. After a few years of mastering first WebEx recorder, then Camtasia Studio, Adobe Captivate and Articulate, plus all the different software packages I was demonstrating, and converting briefing presentations to online materials, I finally got offered a development opportunity in doing a Masters degree, and attending the Learning Technologies Conference. Getting back to the world of academia seemed very strange, but after some initial struggles I got the hang of things. Going to the conference was another experience entirely, because here I found the meaning of the elusive 'community of practice'. I've learned the hard way that academic degrees are no sure way to success; you need to create your own identity and find relevant employment.

I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to do all these things together, allowing me to get the most out of my course. The problem with traditional academic courses is that there's no access to real problems that you need to solve - the course just doesn't have enough doing for you to actually learn anything that will serve you well in the outside world.  Fortunately the part-time course I was taking had enough flexibility to mould around work projects, and I also took to heart the idea of the story-centred curriculum, always seeking ways to push my limits whilst working through the course and make things relevant. The course material became subservient to the narrative of me actually understanding challenges, seeking out alternative approaches, creating solutions and implementing them. Not everything worked so well, but in taking on the challenges I internalised a great deal more than I would have done without context, or without broadening my world-view by by seeking out the feedback of others, particularly through social media.

I've gradually progressed from an under-performing, depressed and frustrated individual to having an irrepressible drive to perform and innovate, and being recognised for having some real leadership qualities. My leadership is not in the traditional management sense, instead it's drawn from personal responsibility for my work, speaking my mind regardless of hierarchy and choosing my own approach. I get a lot more satisfaction from work, and my personal life has improved, with my better self esteem keeping depression in check. My Masters degree is coming near to the end, it's been a long journey with lots of ups and downs, but very worthwhile for getting to grips with the complex, even chaotic, field that we call learning. I still remember speaking to Clive Shepherd at a conference, and saying that I felt I was never sure if I really understood it, or if I was just going mad. Clive simply simply smiled and said 'Welcome to learning.'

So where do I go from here? When asking myself this question, I remembered reading Harold Jarche's blog post 'So you (still) want to be an elearning consultant?' some time ago and revisited this for ideas, along with with the original blog post and article it was based on, for some ideas about where I need to turn my focus. The helpful Venn diagram pretty much sums up my development needs - although I have plenty of cognitive and technology skills, I need to seek out ways of being more directly involved in the business. Most of my remaining frustrations stem from the feeling that most of the important decisions (and assumptions) have been made before I get involved with projects. I'm now actively seeking ways to get more directly involved in new projects from the outset, although I can be limited in choice because I'm already committed - perhaps I'm doing something right then.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What is the future for work and wealth in a digital society?

I've been following ideas on the future of working and learning in the digital age for some time, and the trends inescapably point to increasing automation.  Who are the drivers behind this, and how will it affect the future world of work?  How will society change as a result of this - for better or for worse?

Smart Planet has recently put out a number of articles that touch on the potential implications.  Many workers don't seem to be worried, apparently being more keen than their CEOs to push for the adoption, according to an article by Joe McKendrick.  They are keen to adopt for a competitive advantage, and resent managers who refuse to make time for adoption of digital tools.  However, the potential for automation to destroy jobs is not restricted to manufacturing it seems.  Charlie Osborne's article cites research from Gartner that suggests the appearance of self-learning systems that may replace human workers at a faster rate than the market can create new roles.  Will we resort to legislation banning the use of such tools?  Further changes to our standard workforce model may come in the shape of 'open source talent', with people offering their services in improving products for free.  Could this offset the loss of jobs, or is it just another tactic for employers to shed costs?

The trend for wealth inequality in developed countries is alarming.  Research in the UK (via GlobalNet21) and the US points to an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor.  Is automation helping to widen the gap, or can society adapt to bring the situation back into balance?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Influence and the anatomy of networks

Some interesting thoughts from Bruce Marko, about the different types of influencers in a network, got me thinking about some of the other models I have encountered.

First up is a summary of the types that Bruce identifies:
  • Primary: Massive followings, drive traffic & spread messages rapidly; Sometimes hard to gain access & understand how they got there in the first place
  • Threader: Own postings can fluctuate, contribute to conversations, can bring knowledge and clarity; More likely to contribute on the fly
  • Maker: Has an effect through production of content, ripples spread out through others; Sometimes appear not to engage

Harold Jarche, in his posts The work of many and Twitter and the law of the few, elaborates on the different players in a network identified in Malcolm Gladwell's work 'The Tipping Point':
  • Salesperson: Influences people to take action; High Social Capital; Gain influence by knowing what people want
  • Connector: Has many relationships; High Creative Capital; Gain influence by sharing with others
  • Maven: Deep knowledge in a field; High Intellectual Capital; Can gain huge followings through reputation

Finally, Anatomy of a social network, a post from David Grey, cites the work of Ron Burt.  This identifies two activities for creating value in a network:
  • Brokerage: Developing weak ties, building bridges between clusters
  • Closure: Developing strong ties, building trust within clusters
Further, there are three dimensions for gauging the power of a node:
  • Degree: Number of connections; Potential to interact & connect
  • Closeness: Ease of making new connections; Potential to gain access
  • Betweenness: Power of link between other nodes; Potential to block or grant access

So it looks like a great convergence of different viewpoints, that strengthens my own understanding:

Primary = Salesperson; High Closeness and Social Capital
Threader = Connector; High Degree and Creative Capital
Maker = Maven; High Betweenness and Intellectual Capital

Thanks to Bruce for getting me inspired :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reflections on Gerd Leonhard's session (LSG13)

How is learning changing in the digital age?

Digital is now becoming the default for everything, with the divide between digital and physical learning spaces continually eroding.  Our assumptions about linear change have to be thrown away, because technology is changing at an exponential rate, and we won't keep up and remain relevant unless we change our attitudes.

How is work changing in the digital age?

Businesses still sit on the fence, uncertain of when the real shifts in economics - such as digital advertising, the internet of things and cloud culture - will really start to take effect.  Mobile internet access is expected to be particularly disruptive, with mobile money transfers already commonplace in Africa.  Many standardised jobs based around transactions are becoming automated, so how do we adapt to this future?  The key is not to try to beat the machines, but consider how best to use new technology to our advantage.

The future is 'humarithms' - not algorithms

Companies that base their value on logic alone will eventually find themselves obsolete, because everyone is converging on the same set of logic, and it is only our intuition that can lead us to discover new ways of doing things.  As standardised work and protected spaces come to an end, businesses need to move towards a decentralised model, and e-learning can become a key part of organisational strategy.  But this has to move away from the standard perception of e-learning as distributing content - it has to be disruptive in nature, focused on breaking down the traditional silos.

Where are the future job roles?

Physical output is reaching its peak - we simply cannot continue with our model of outsourcing labour to cut costs.  As more value gets placed on the intangible products of a company, real human work will become focused on such areas as interface design, visualisation of data and software programming.  So as we move towards the complete automation of work, we have to ask ourselves if this will set human beings free, or doom us to become unemployable?  A tough question, but several members of the audience were quick to give their solutions:
  • Developing your identity in a world of automation will be increasingly important.  Know your value’ (via Ben Betts)
  • The future of work? Become indispensable’ (via Steve Wheeler)
  • Maybe we need some Big Wisdom – Wisdom trumps knowledge and information which will also trump data’ (via David Wilson)
See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Reflections on Phil Green's session (LSG13)

    Although it's been almost a month since the Learning & Skills Group Conference, I'm still keen to get some of my thoughts about the sessions down to make sense of it all.  Going back over Phil Green's session on ensuring real interaction in online learning in the light of some recent experiences has been very helpful for me.

    I was keen to attend Phil's session because I've been a lead user of web conferencing in my organisation for several years now, and I've used it to help colleagues learn from me on a number of occasions.  This has included teaching people to use the web conferencing tool itself and run their own sessions, preferably in a free-wheeling and humorous way, and also to get people started with their own e-learning projects.  I've always considered everything I've done to be firmly in the category of informal learning, so taking a serious look at how to use the medium as a classroom had a strong appeal.

    What guiding principles do we need to stick to for a virtual classroom to work?  Phil gave us an opening quote of 'None of us is as smart as all of us', emphasising the need to draw on the knowledge of everyone present.  Really an effective virtual classroom shouldn't be too different from an effective physical classroom.  The problem is that most of us don't know how to really use a classroom in the first place, so we end up bringing all our bad habits with us, and being seduced by the tools, to the detriment of learning.
    Key goals for learners in a classroom:
    • Taking in new content and...
    • Engaging in meaningful practice around it...
    • Discussing it with their peers...
    • Collaborating with their peers...
    • Making sense of it...

    How can the virtual classroom enhance (or interfere with) this?
    • Using internet connections opens up limitless content to explore (but we need to provide the right guidance)
    • Access interactive resources to aid meaningful practice
    • Engage in more informal interaction with their peers
    • Reflect on their participation using recording of the session
    Whenever I have been teaching people within a web conference setting, the best learning occurs when I keep the prescribed content to a minimum, and act to give real tacit advice as people are exploring things for themselves.  Letting everyone see what is going on and take part really helps them to gain from observation and discussion - while I've recorded a huge number of training recordings in the past, nothing quite beats live learning for getting over the tips that boost a learner's confidence.

    What should the tutor be doing in a classroom?
    • Reacting and responding to the needs of learners - not just working from prescribed content
    • Providing meaningful challenges and activities for learners
    Best tips for moving to the online environment
    • Don't assume that being a good face-to-face trainer will make you a good online facilitator
    • Don't assume that all the learning has to take place on-screen - allow learners a pause for reflection (sometimes less is more)
    • Activities that work well face-to-face may not translate well to the online environment
    • Remember that our expectations for online interaction are constantly changing
    • Don't get seduced by the technology
    Whenever I've been training people to use web conferencing tools, the real value comes in helping people prepare for the situations that they will actually be facing - effectively working in collaboration to fill in the gaps around more standard guidance.  I've found it best to get the prescribed content out of the way before the live session anyway, by having guidance notes and videos permanently available on the LMS.  Phil's call for reflection is particularly insightful, as this is something that I haven't directly considered when running a session so far.

    See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Monday, July 01, 2013

    Reflections on Nigel Paine's session (LSG13)

    Big Data.  It's here and it's only going to get bigger.  Some people will doubtless be trying to hide from it, because they are convinced they don't know how to deal with it, and that it should be left to people with Maths and Statistics degrees.  The truth is that you can make a difference with a minimum of knowledge - if you're willing to change your approach.  Some good ideas can be found in the health field (see the Longer Lives website), and in Harvard Business Review.  As L&D professionals, we should strive to bring some of the benefits to organisational learning.

    Making use of big data needs some changes in our approach, and one of the key changes is the move towards effective visualisation of data.  Bringing in data from different sources can help to increase the overall validity of your data, and also to view it from different and clearer perspectives.
      One key example of big data in action is Amazon vs the local book store.  Because Amazon can gather so much information passively from your transactions, they can find ways of improving the customer experience.  Here we have a concrete example of Gerd Leonhard's assertion that transactional jobs are being taken over by machines.  What if we could improve our organisational learning in this way?  Using data to start conversations about effectiveness could be used for improving leadership, as it was at Google, simply by making the data available instead of filing it away.  Simply asking the right questions and aligning learning with the business can make a huge improvement.

    So how am I planning to use any of this to change things within L&D?  I've recently had a few conversations with colleagues that relate to using our data more creatively.  One of our management programmes could possibly benefit from showing participants trends in the data, in similar fashion to the Google example mentioned in the session.  Another thought I've had relates to stopping face-to-face equality & diversity training before it can even get started in favour of using data creatively to provoke discussion - still working the details but I think I'm on to something here....

    See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    Reflections on Harold Jarche's session (LSG13)

    Social learning has been an area of real interest for me in the last two years.  I've encountered Harold Jarche's ideas a great deal in that time through his blog and the Social Learning Centre, so it was great to finally see him run a live talk and actually speak to him afterwards.

    We normally find that social learning is dismissed as something that is hard to measure and intangible.  Yet increasingly it is the intangibles that make up the real value of our businesses, so let's challenge that assumption, and think about how social learning can fit with organisational goals.  Most of the learning strategies we already use, such as ADDIE and ISD, come from the military, where they also know the value of training people in a social environment - individual members aren't effective unless they are trained to work together, and share their knowledge.

    Meanwhile, back in the business, we often find that sharing of knowledge can border on career suicide, because we reward the wrong behaviours.  Whilst this may sound like an unbreakable deadlock, the tide is turning as we move away from standardised work and rely on creativity and innovation.  You can't automate these things, only encourage them through a culture of openness and sharing.  Harold has been a great advocate of these approaches, especially through his 'Seek-Sense-Share' model in the building of online communities, an area that I have been exploring in depth lately.

    Some of the problems with organisational learning, and our education system in general, stem from our acceptance of the printed word and the linear thinking that it instils in us.  This tends to reinforce a hierarchical organisation, that we need to combat by encouraging real learning skills within our organisation, such as Personal Knowledge Management.

    I'm becoming ever more keen on this approach, although I have encountered some of the problems associated with working across silos, and resistance to different ways of learning.  Seeing Harold's talk has given me some fresh enthusiasm for keeping up the battle!

    See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Backchannel resources from Learning & Skills Group Conference 2013

    I've been scouring the Twitter backchannel for interesting resources that were shared before, during and after the Learning & Skills Group Conference, and here is the list that I have after one month:

    General reflections and resources

    Keynote: Work, learning and living in the future (Gerd Leonhard)

    Track 1

    Session 1: Open learning - opportunity or threat? (Steve Wheeler)

    Session 2: The Tin Can API: Connecting the dots with data (Megan Bowe)

    Session 3: Moving to social learning (Harold Jarche)

    Track 2

    Session 1: Ensuring true interaction in live online learning (Phil Green)

    Session 2: Using Open Badges for accreditation (Doug Belshaw)
    *** Still searching ***

    Session 3: The learning design challenge (Julie Wedgewood)
    Track 3

    Session 1: The seven habits of highly aligned L&D teams (Laura Overton)

    Session 2: Big Data - a guide for those without a love of statistics (Nigel Paine)

    Session 3: Mobile devices, learning and the mind (Terence Eden)

    *** Still searching ***

    Track 4

    Session 1: Learning resources: how long is long enough? (Stephanie Dedhar)

    Session 2: Lessons from the virtual playing field (Ben Betts)

    Session 3: The Tin Can API workshop - putting the Experience API to work (Megan Bowe)

    *** Still searching ***

    Slideshares from Learning Technologies Summer Forum

    Stephen Walsh, 'From ADDIE Men to Mad Men'
    Charles Gould 'Diary of a Next Generation Learner'

    Friday, May 31, 2013

    Why won't they comply?

    After a manic month of completing my studies and numerous other projects, it's finally time to get some overdue reflections on Epic's 'Why won't they comply?' event together.  Here goes...
    The best and worst of compliance training

    Is all compliance training really that bad? Have you experienced something that was engaging, practical, interactive, specific and relevant to your role, maybe even a little bit fun? Some people have, but sadly the reality is often generic, page-turning, content-heavy, narrator-driven, generic and repetitive.

    Top areas for compliance training are health & safety, anti-bribery/corruption (been there, done that!), data protection and code of conduct. Employees all say that they want changes in employee behaviour, attitude and engagement, but sadly the focus is still on completion and assessment pass rates. Our panel for the day set about inspiring us with ways to break the cycle and inject some life into this necessary, but often tedious subject.

    Why doesn't compliance training work?

    Charles Jennings wrote a very thoughtful blog post on the subject last year - just in time to give me a reality check as I was putting anti-bribery compliance training into play at work - so I was keen to hear his thoughts on the matter.  We often find that compliance training falls into the trap of box ticking, to prove that the required training was given as a protection against lawsuits.  There is no doubt that companies and individuals can be damaged by compliance failures - just look at the Ford Pinto story.  Ford ignored safety warnings, confident that they could easily compensate for any injuries through their profits.  They not only cost lives but also lost huge sales revenues when the truth came out.  So how do you stop the compliance failures in the first place?

    Firstly you need to shift away from the belief that information alone can change behaviours.  When you make the information relevant and specific to people's roles you have part of the equation, but the key is to connect it to the risk-causing events that you want to prevent, and devise decision-making challenges that people have to think their way around.  It also has to give people a safe environment to experience failure, and make its way into culture and workflow to ensure that pressures to meet targets don't over-ride good practice.

    Why won't they comply?

    Most compliance training fails to hit the mark because people are bored by it, and there's not enough clarity on how they are expected to change their behaviour.  Imogen Casebourne suggested some good reading on the subjects of habit and persuasion with technology for us, along with a wealth of her own insights on producing effective compliance training.
    One of the biggest factors in effective compliance is how the leadership take responsibility for it, because this is key to embedding a culture of compliance.  The CEO of one aluminium production company would sack managers who refused to comply - this resulted in a massive drop in casualties, not to mention increased profits.  Although many of us don't put our lives on the line doing our jobs, these industries can give us important pointers on how to get things right in our own culture.  Hearing colleagues talk about their own near-death accidents might sound extreme, but it certainly works for some companies.
    What can we fix in our own compliance training?  Cutting out repetition in favour of letting people show that they know the material, making it multi-device and role-filtered could go a long way to cutting out the information overload and contributing to real ability amongst employees.  Harnessing the power of storytelling can help to overcome motivation problems by giving learners a clear goal to focus on.  If you have the budget and the ability, perhaps even take this as far as creating a game to get people to make behavioural commitments within the game environment.  But getting people to continue the behaviour in the real world needs some triggers.  Mobile technology could be used to give prompts in this respect - those looking even further forward might consider the potential of Google Glass and the iWatch.
    What can we do differently?

    Some interesting ideas for alternative future approaches came out in this session.  Some of the ideas that I'll be keen to explore in future are:
    • personal growth plans
    • interviewing colleagues for sound-bites (peer-to-peer learning)
    • changing to return on expectations (rather than investment)
    • measuring the impact on others (not just yourself)
    • measuring the impact on learner confidence.
    The concept that brought out the best discussion (both during and after the session) was moving from courses to campaigns.  For some good examples, see Lars Hyland's post on the eLearning Network blog, or Craig Taylor's series of blog posts on his experiences.

    Looking forward: new technologies for compliance training

    I've been hearing a good deal of excitement about the release of the Tin Can API, but this is the first time I've heard some live thoughts about what people are calling 'Son of SCORM'. Whilst SCORM has been built into practically every e-learning product as a universal, reliable technical standard, some people are keen to break the limitations of the system - so how will Tin Can help here?  Mark Aberdour gave us his thoughts on what can be achieved.
    Tin Can will allow for more data to be captured that relates to learning, wherever and whenever it may happen.  Interactions don't have to take place within the LMS - we are moving towards the creation of a Learning Record Store (LRS) for personal learning, that can interface with your LMS when you log back in.  This can extend to capturing data through QR codes and possibly even internal software - although perhaps this could actually raise privacy and security issues for companies?
    The key model for the LRS approach seems to be linking up noun - verb - object, which lets any task be converted to a language that the software can keep track of, for any type of activity.  Potentially performance statements could even feed into this.  From a compliance perspective, it allows employees to build up evidence of learning that doesn't have to be from standardised modules - webinar participation, blog posts and other informal activities could be used instead.  The system could even be configured to build up achievements - I'm sure gamification fans will be jumping up and down with excitement here...

    Overall, there appears to be a wealth of interesting options made available with this emerging software.  However, as with any technology, we will have to beware of letting the technology dictate design - our responsibility is to make sure it fits with employee motivation.

    How do you build a successful business case for compliance? 

    Compliance training is often costly both in money and time, so how do you keep effective programs in play without breaking your budget?  Simon Brown was given the task of bringing the learning function at Lloyds Banking Group under control in 2010, and found that they had a huge and expensive catalogue.  Within 2 years this had been brought under control, reducing budget and improving effectiveness.

    So what are the key points for a business case?  Reducing duplication of courses and keeping to a smaller number of trusted suppliers are quick wins, bringing better consistency and reducing the size and cost of the catalogue.  Moving towards e-learning wherever practical can reduce your costs, not just on purchasing but also through reduced completion time, by freeing up employees for more important tasks.

    With a slimmer and more effective training portfolio, the company has been able implement academies and group-wide capabilities.  But don't forget the need to keep stakeholders engaged - embedding processes for reporting and governance takes time and effort, even with the best e-learning at your fingertips.

    Ask the panel: How do we re-engage the business with compliance training?

    Some final points about compliance training came out through this session with the panel members.  Re-engaging your business with compliance training will really depend on you being able to make it role-specific, and more closely aligned with supporting performance objectives.  Tracking your data to satisfy regulatory bodies is often a bugbear, but hopefully Tin Can and the emerging LRS software will give you more flexible ways of achieving this.
    From the L&D perspective, our on-going challenge remains in demonstrating the value that we bring to the business.  Good points of advice here include using the Kirkpatrick evaluation model - but be sure to use all the levels.  Stick to business metrics in your evaluations - avoid producing masses of data, just enough to satisfy the leadership that you are doing the right thing.  Also remember that sometimes your role might be to say NO to training when it's not the best approach.
    And above all else, keep the conversation going - your thoughts?

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Online communities - trying to walk the talk

    Some more reflections from Learning Technologies 2013, this time thinking about Jane Hart's session. I've been involved with online learning for quite some time, steadily developing my ability to design effective e-learning materials in one form or another, but perhaps my most powerful experiences have been through online discussion with peers. I've been part of two communities in this respect: a formal community of enquiry for my Masters course, and of course Jane's own Social Learning Centre, although I must confess I've not had enough time to participate in all the activities that I'd like to!

    After so many positive experiences of using informal tools for learning, I've been very keen to start bringing some of the benefits to my own colleagues, but progress has been quite slow, since it's not always seen as a priority. My quick wins here have been to bring in the social tools alongside traditional training events, which Jane identifies as being the 'social training' approach, as opposed to full social collaboration. Amongst my L&D colleagues, I've been able to get some engagement in longer term online communication, but this has been a little patchy without some clear goals to focus on. However, as Jane notes, communities don't have to last forever to be successful.

    Where do I go from here? Well, my current module for my Masters module is Research Methods, so I thought that some kind of study of the online interactions we get at work would be a helpful next step, both to learn good research practice and consider ways to encourage and sustain communities, or at least to get the most out of social training initiatives. After several weeks of study and blog posts, I've learned a lot about research methods and online communities, but I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface - as Jane said in her final step:

    "Do not underestimate the time it takes to nurture a group or community"

     Link to my Research Methods blog:

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    What can you do with one laptop?

    To start off some overdue reflections on the Learning Technologies 2013 conference, I've been thinking about the keynote given by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop Per Child foundation.  Nicholas gave a passionate talk, daring to question pretty much all of our assumptions about how learning and education should be approached.  He believes that too much weight is given to memorisation of facts and standardised tests, which kills off children's natural curiosity, as it teaches them to fear failure instead of learning from it.  Within this system, the computer has simply become another tool of our instructionist mentality, with no thought for anyone (let alone children) daring to experiment with the machines themselves.

    These beliefs have led to the creation of a non-profit foundation, with the goal of distributing laptops to the world's poorest children, giving them real empowerment in their own learning.  2.5 million children now own a laptop of their own, sometimes in villages that have never even had electricity before.  The XO laptop itself is an example of what can be achieved by stripping a computer down to the bare essentials, with the emphasis on access to information and the freedom to customise the machines.  By building the machines in bulk and using open-source software, OLPC has managed to keep the machines affordable
    So what are the results to date?  A detailed research study is still inconclusive about the long-term effects on learning, leading some critics to label the project a failure.  This is sadly premature, as the criticism focuses on the lack impact on test scores - perhaps they are still missing the point about changing our attitudes on learning?  If anything there is a slight positive effect on cognitive ability observed by the researchers.  I'll be interested to see how the situation develops over the years as the laptops become more widely used, and people learn to make even more effective use of them.

    The critics also overlook another massive success of the project, namely that so many laptops were distributed with so little corruption or theft.  Distributing something as simple as textbooks can prove problematic, and corruption is often a problem in poor countries.  Take a look at Transparency International for examples of corruption in third world education projects, and you begin to understand what a tremendous achievement this is.  Operating as a not-for-profit organisation has allowed OLPC to achieve amazing political cooperation, bringing government ministers directly to the table.  Mission, not market, should be our approach to education.

    Bookmarks for OLPC