What to know about playing online poker

Many poker players, and most beginner poker players choose to play poker online. Doing so allows them to play from the comfort of their homes, whenever they feel like it. Furthermore, beginners can choose to play for play money instead of real money, thus ensuring they won’t lose too much while learning the essentials.
There are many websites where you can play poker online, and we suggest you identify the best one for your skill level and poker playing needs. A simple online search will provide the answers you need to make the best decision.

If you’re considering playing online poker, we hope this article will give you some useful basic information on poker websites, the software and game mechanics.

Poker Software
After deciding on which website you want to play poker, you need to download the poker software. The software gives you access to the most important areas of your account, including financial information, and provides an easy to use interface to access the list of game tables and tournament options.

Game choices
Since more and more people are being drawn to online poker, various types of games are becoming available. It’s usually enough for one website to post a game for the others to soon bring it online as well. Texas Hold’em is the most played type of poker these days, but you’ll also be able to play Omaha, 7 Stud, or less popular games like Razz or H.O.R.S.E.
You can also choose between either live tables or tournaments. Live table games can be either Fixed Limit games or No Limit games. While at live tables players play for real money, so each hand you win or lose real cash, in tournaments you pay an entry fee and then receive a stack of play money chips. The winning players receive cash prizes from a prize pool consisting of the total amount collected through entry fees, minus the house’s cut. The number of prizes depends on the number of players joining the game, and it’s usually between 3% and 10% of the total number of players.

Game mechanics
While in online poker games there is no dealer shuffling a deck of cards, cards are randomly dealt using a random number generator program. This procedure is even more effective than traditional shuffling, because there is no room for human error.
You are the only person who can see the cards you were dealt. The data is encrypted using a high security algorithm, and becomes available to the website staff only after the hand has ended.

Website profits
Poker sites make money by taking 3-5% of each pot played on the website, a commission called ‘rake’. It’s only taken from hands which reach the flop, so you won’t pay the rake if you’re the big blind and everyone else folds.
In the case of tournaments, most websites charge a 10% fee which is added to the buy-in, as ‘$10 + $1’. At times, however, the house might take its cut from the total prize pool. Either way, there is plenty left for the winners of the tournament.

ID Research Versus Application

I really owe a huge apology to those who have so ardently followed my blog for being away since September. Not for the shortage of ideas or things to blog, but due to a lot of changes that I had to go through at work, and personally grapple with managing time. Yes, there are still many things happening and I have slowly got back to the blogging circle, started reading stuff people in the community are sharing, trying to observe changes that have come about during this gap, etc. I do like to spend significant time researching matter that I want to write about, by reading other blogs where people have written about related topics. To me blogging is like a research, a constant quest for solutions for tomorrow and a means to express ideas that run through my head every now and then.

Fortunately, the ‘changes’ I’m talking about have helped me see things in a new light, to understand my domain from a broader perspective and understand how it fits into the bigger picture of things.

Things on my mind for a while now…
I have always wondered about the two aspects of instructional design: the theoretical side and the application side. I see how each time application tends to fall behind on going research. By the time you build a system to add in the most current trend, there is already something new. I believe this is the way it works in other domains as well, but the question that keeps running in my mind, is how does one reduce this gap? The smaller the gap, the more connected research will be with application. For example, if someone researches and writes about the ADDIE theory and I have to implement it in my organization, it is most common that I will not able to implement it as it is defined in books. What will likely happen, is that the way I work through it in my work place, gets driven by actual events that occur, functioning of other departments associated with the completion of my task and so on. I personally feel that research should not just run parallel to application. There has to be a means to constantly go back and forth between the two, take into account dependencies when writing a theory, and finally define more realistic theories and processes. It is important not to look at each domain in isolation and imagine it implemented in a running organization with real-time challenges.

This has been on my mind for really long now and I will continue to think on it. Please add your valuable thoughts as I would be glad to hear from you all.

Don’t Market Social Media

I have been through this battle of encouraging people to use social media for learning and knowledge sharing. I will admit my style is subtle and not aggressive. But that’s also because it doesn’t work by being aggressive. What does help is empathizing with the users and their various styles of social interaction. Just because someone is not on social media sites often doesn’t mean they are not social or don’t want to share information.

This calls for us to stop thinking run-of-the-mill. Yes, over selling social media is becoming run-of-the-mill! We need to get back to the basics and think again. I can give examples from my team of people who are collaborative by nature and achieve the same results by meeting people face-to-face or over web and video conferences. They are some of the most brilliant people in their jobs and communicate effectively. They are always happy to share their knowledge for the benefit of our team. Such people will always excel in communication whatever means they choose. But they are not necessarily the most communicative on social media sites. They just have their own style of doing it and I respect that.

The value of personal meetings as well as eye contact is immense in effective communication. Our goal must be to encourage information flow in whatever way is effective.

Yes, I agree I have learned a lot due to social media websites and they have greatly increased my reach. But that is me and others have done the same differently. It is for us to choose what works best for us as individuals or teams and stick with a strategy until we know a better way. Remember that tools can only enable us but our personal styles and attitudes dictate how we choose to communicate and how we ensure we do it effectively. I don’t think a single social media tool can facilitate the various communication styles or can ever be accessible to a large section of the 7 billion people in the world!

Of Android, Mobile Games and Learning Experiences

I never thought I’ll write about learning games and mobile learning until I bought my Android. People have asked me, why Android phone? My answer has been that I love Android as it is breaking new ground for mobile computing and open technologies. Android is versatile as it is not limited only to mobile phones, but it can be installed on various devices. Android gives developers the opportunity to leverage their development skills, while also building an exciting and active community, just as ground breaking as Java. Just thought of adding this: “When technologies don’t restrain you, they enable you to innovate.” I truly believe open technologies are the future!

I couldn’t have written this post without experiencing the real thing. I had set aside to buy my Android (Nexus S) after some expenses were out of the way. But my 5 year old Nokia gave in and I had no other choice but to buy my Nexus immediately. I am extremely happy.

Having the power of a smartphone , I am now always connected irrespective of my tight deadlines at work. Oracle Fusion is on its way to the first release and the Information Development team is busy, extremely busy. These are exciting times and the Nexus was just the icing on the cake!

I started off a couple of weeks back, very cautious initially about randomly installing apps fearing security issues and malware. When i inserted my sim card, the phone just configured everything like a breeze. Everything started working on a simple 2G connection. I didn’t even have to call my service provider
To start off, Twitter and, Facebook were safest bet.

I was soon reading articles and blogs voraciously as it was so much faster that logging into my laptop, opening the browser, and using a mouse. This was smarter and everything I wanted was accessible using my fingertips. The feeling was amazing. I missed tweeting and following up with news so frequently before. A phone had changed the world for me. I was even replying to my manager’s emails immediately during the harrowing time to renew my passport.

The world was at my fingertips and I felt empowered. I was managing my time better now despite my deadlines. Not that other phones don’t have such features, but what makes the Nexus S special is the user experience and the speed at which I’m able to complete the same tasks. Being in Information Development I have a lot to take back to my job from these experiences.

I have also been skeptical about computer games and NEVER got hooked to one till now. I saw Jane Bozarth tweet on #lrnchat last week about Angry Birds teaching you Physics.
Today I can admit that I’m hooked to it for the following reasons:
- Incredible user experience.
- It’s ability to teach you using experiential learning.
- Shows how there are multiple solutions to a problem.
- The game teaches you strategy.
- Ensures you remain motivated.
- Encourages and rewards you interestingly.
- Last but not the least, the birds are so very cute.
- Jane Bozarth also mentioned it instills love for nature. I think compassion too.

Moreover, this is my first blogpost from my Nexus S! And I’ve finished writing it in exactly 45 mins! Now that’s a record for me. I’m now motivated to blog more! Get the message? :-)

The New Age Instructional Designer

Instructional design provides a gamut of principles and models that enable you to train people effectively in various areas of expertise. The role of an instructional designer is essentially driven by a need to find appropriate solutions by applying instructional design strategies and models to transfer information to users who use a particular product or service to perform their jobs.

Changed Learning Methods
As time progressed and technologies evolved, the role of the instructional designer as we understood it several years back, underwent a paradigm shift. In spite of client demands to create conventional elearning courses, the fact is that the way people are learning today has changed phenomenally due to the increased access to social media tools and advanced mobile devices. Twitter, blogs, wikis, and discussions have become the new age learning methods. Learner’s look for relevance and access information only when it is needed. The concept of reading everything that comes your way and conventional ideas about increasing knowledge generically have phased out. Learner’s now search for what they want, skim through to establish relevance, and move on if the information is irrelevant. The attention span of today’s learner is short and they want quick and easy access to information. Working smart is the code word and learner’s will only use resources that enable them to do so.

In such times, we can no longer talk about the standard learning deliverables, like elearning and instructor-led training materials in isolation. It has now become important to understand the factors influencing the learning process. The solution lies in viewing the job of an instructional designer more from the perspective of convergence of discrete learning entities that were created earlier and new ones that have evolved. It is also important to be aware that the concept of learning styles of a learner were never proven or found beneficial when designing learning content. The extensive variation in learning styles of individuals and lack of proven theories in the area, have automatically eliminated the need to talk about learning styles any more.

The New Role of IDs

When I listed the skills sets of instructional designers, I tried to be a generic as possible, but today I would not like to classify them only as skills sets any more. The way conventional instructional designers used to think about designing learning content needs to change.

Here are some things we can do to change the way we have been planning the creation of learning content:

  • Look at an IDs role as a supplier of information to audiences who are consumers.
  • Understand that learners have matured and are capable of finding what is relevant to them, while deciding on the value of the information available.
  • Appreciate that learning will be influenced by several information resources due to the learner’s access to social media tools.
  • Leverage available information resources and help organize them effectively for the learner.
  • Plan learning in a manner that assumes the use of social media resources like wikis, social groups, blogs, and tweet as part of the learning process.
  • Start looking at learning as an ongoing activity that does not just end with a training.
  • Identify the need for performance support on the job and create modular content that is accessible when ever a user requires.
  • Stop assuming users read course materials and user guides sequentially.
  • Break content into smaller independent learning units targeted at an audience role, ensuring you accommodate those learners who may access learning content using mobile devices.
  • Employ strategies to make the content searchable and increase the relevance of information to the task the user is performing.
  • Design content solutions that are specific to an audience and the tasks the role is expected to perform.
  • Design models that address the needs of constantly changing information.
  • Plan learning deliverables in various forms to make them accessible from intranets or centralized content management systems.
  • Present information succinctly rather than beat around the bush in the name of overviews and long winding introductions.
  • Applying the above, does not de-emphasize the underlying principles of instructional design:

  • Know your audience.
  • Thoroughly understand the tasks they perform in their jobs.
  • Employ appropriate learning strategies to improve learning.
  • To me instructional design has always been a guideline of the mental process of creating any kind of content that a learner will consume. It is therefore imperative that we stop thinking of elearning or instructor-led training as the only learning deliverables. Being aware of the fact does not undermine the value of these traditional learning materials, but rather helps you identify the gaps and think about how to reorganize the existing models to make learning effective.

    Quoting from Harold’s blog on social learning for a business:

    Tacit knowledge is best developed through conversations and social relationships.

    Training courses are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and connections were few; that time has passed.

    Social learning networks enable better and faster knowledge feedback loops.

    Benefit of Social Media in Corporates?

    It has been a while since I was first figuring out how social media works and how it could benefit my job and organization. It was easy to see what I was able to do with social media, but hard to imagine how an organization as a whole would reap the benefits.

    When I first started blogging and thinking about social media influencing learning and improving performance on the job, it was slowly sinking in and I think today I have a lot more clarity. I have changed teams within the same organization and dealt with people with a very old school of thought versus people who though are not big fans of social media but are quite open to it when I talk about the benefits. In my previous team, no one really thought much about it except a few managers who added the activity in my goals to make sure I find ways to benefit the entire team. People with not open to try a new way of communication and wanted to hold on to traditional email for everything. A basic thing as finding your remote team counter-part online itself was an issue. On being asked they responded saying they don’t ‘like’ to be online so the best way to contact them was email. That was not an effective solution for a team distributed globally. It made things very complicated. I tried giving people suggestions to blog and share their knowledge about a product area on the wiki and use the forums instead of email. I sent invites over our internal networking site and also tried to encourage people to use tweet but participation was poor, and it was hard to show any substantial benefits.

    The thing missing then was the enthusiasm to look at a new way of communicating. I can empathize with that thought as I realize it was even hard for me to explain how everyone would benefit from participating. Once I moved into a different team I made it a point to share my interest in social media and my blog. My team was more open to the use of certain other tools like tweet and instant messaging. That was a good start. A team of over 100 people used tweet as a medium to receive updates on the status of a product environment, uptimes, downtime etc. It quick and hassle-free. Given that I had already earned the reputation of being an advocate of social media, I’d have people question me about the use of various tools. Things do get easier when people ask questions, because then you know that they want to learn. Even if some were mildly resistant to the idea, I managed to come up with a few examples of using certain social tools and benefit from them when compared to the current way people were doing them. I had to clarify the bigger goal these tools aim to achieve and the fact that they are not perfect but constantly evolving.

    In a more recent instance of a similar conversation amongst my team, I was able to push out the benefits of using a white board in conferences for brain storming and aiding a group discussion. I was happy with the positive reactions. Later on today, I was contacted by someone from my previous team. He conveyed that they were planning to use social media to help technical writers do their job more easily. He asked me of what I thought about it to improve the quality of technical documents. He had reservations like so many from the old school of thought about things like, what if information on social networking sites is inaccurate? I surprised myself with my clear response to his queries. My response made the following points:

  • Our company has a bunch of social networking and business collaboration tools that one can use. Blogs are available both externally and internally.
  • Imagine a community of employees from various product teams collaborating with customers and partners, about the product on the company blog. A plethora of information is shared over time. Implementations experiences, customizations, problems faced, workarounds, solutions, best practices, tips and tricks….the list is never ending when there is a community.
  • So, if an individual has to blog ‘inaccurate’ information they will soon realize they have a greater responsibility to the community. When someone blogs they are in the glare of the public eye. Experts and novices will read the information and validate if they found it useful or not. If someone’s information is not satisfactory, they automatically receive less traffic and someone in the community would let them know about their view of the content. So generally everyone would try to give their best rather than their worst.
  • Your blog or profile becomes your public image and people know and respect you for the thoughts you share and the value you add to the community.
  • Moreover, blogging what you know helps you organize knowledge you’ve gathered over time in a meaningful fashion and clarify several areas you may be in the process of figuring out. What is nice is that you’re able to keep a record of what you thought and how your knowledge evolved over time.
  • For large corporations where knowledge is distributed in unknown pockets, social media can be the medium of discovering that wealth of knowledge and putting it to good use.
  • Today, the fact that I feel so much more confident handling questions from colleagues and friends, whether positive or cynical, is simply because I am an example of the evolution I’m talking about. I can slowly coax people into participating and getting a glimpse of what is going on. I can empathize with those who do not see the benefits because it is almost impossible to see it without being a partner in crime. Social Media needs your participation for you to see any benefit and only when you participate will there be a community, and when there is a community is there scope for collaboration, conversations and innovation!!

    Social Chat Culture: Thoughts on joining #lrnchat

    The social chatting culture has been quite rampant and people seem to love an online discussion with ‘tweeple’ as they are known. Or is that term old already? Today, I chanced up on lrnchat on Twitter in a time that I could attend and quite enjoyed the conversations. The dexterous manner in which planned questions for a topic were put forth and people responding with quick thoughts itself was really enjoyable and overwhelming. I think some of the key things to note in an online conversation is the spontaneity of the answers and often every one has a valid point. The answer often comes without much thought or speculation and is very instantaneous and I believe it is this quality that makes it interesting.

    We have similar social chats on Fridays in our organization and they’re quite fun too. Such sessions give employees an outlet to express how things can be improved, what they think is important, and overall build a conversation that has a capacity to bring out what people have in mind in an informal manner. The outcomes can be interesting as people are uninhibited as they might be in formal meetings; they joke chat and contribute whatever comes to their mind, and you automatically have some excellent points made in the end. Overall, every one enjoys a brainstorming session on a topic with some guiding questions to carry the discussion forward to a possible outcome. In addition, they have an ability to help you network with like-minded people or people who share your interest areas.

    Some tips for planning a social chat:

  • Choose a topic that appeals to a larger audience using voting or polls.
  • Choose an organizer who can plan how this topic can be discussed or guided.
  • Assign moderators to help the main organizer and act as guides during the session.
  • Schedule a time and date for the discussion to take place. An hour of discussion is the ideal amount of time. It can be less or more depending on the volume of participants expected, and capacity of conversation that the topic can initiate.
  • Have the organizer prepare a short excerpt of the goal of the discussion, why it is important, and what will the key points in question.
  • The organizer may share this information with the moderators and use some of their feedback.
  • Find ways to pass on this information to the larger audience by tweeting to groups, setting up an event, writing on your website or blog.
  • It may be a good idea for the organizer and moderator to be an expert in the topic but also be open to new ideas and feedback.
  • Tips to Organize the session:

  • Have the organizer write a welcome note and ask all participants to introduce themselves.
  • Initiate the conversation in any fashion deemed suitable. A question a picture or video to look etc.
  • Once the conversation is on, the organizer should keep an eye on the time and initiate the next question or point for discussion.
  • In the end, thank people for participation, ask them to share links, feedback, or suggest more topics.
  • Finally, publish a transcript of the discussion for the benefit of the others who wished to attend but could not.
  • I would recommend anyone to attend social chats simple to experience the value that they can bring if done right.

    Future of Organizational Learning: Some questions

    Recently, someone from Bloomfire contacted me over LinkedIn and requested me to give answers to some questions. I have been late to respond but thought they were pertinent given the way things have changed in the training world. So let me answer them for myself anyway before I send them to Bloomfire.

    From your perspective, what are some of the challenges in writing curricula that resonate with the learner?
    The main challenge I see is Knowing your audience precisely. Knowing your audience helps you scope out the training accurately and achieve the right level of detail. It will be the key to any kind of task you want to do; build a product, create a game, or plan training content.

    How might these challenges differ from the challenges of yesterday?
    I believe the challenges of yesterday were more than the challenges of today. The intervention of Web 2.0 and the increasing tech-savvyness of the learner have made information immediately accessible to one and all. Today, most information is easily searchable, Internet connections are much faster, Web technologies have come a long way and social media has gained ground. We no longer have the challenges of providing learners access to information. What we need to focus on is planning our training curricula in a manner that incorporates hands-on training in a simulated environment, and promotes collaboration with peer and subject-matter experts. The key is in knowing how to leverage social media to make the learning curve easily achievable and in a shorter time.

    What are some technology and research trends today that will have an impact on tomorrow?
    The study of users in general has revealed that giving the user information based on their existing knowledge on a subject is critical for their success. The research has shown a need for greater user-focus. Tomorrows applications will be increasingly user-focused and minimalistic. Minimalistic because we will have a clear picture of the user’s profile and be able to focus on what the user needs to know. So organizational learning will be designed to support performance, and training will be largely collaborative and exploratory in nature. Learners will be mature and be able to determine their own learning paths. Learners will be more independent and able to access information in a manner that will help them accomplish tasks. In other words, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) will be a norm.

    What might organizational learning look like 10 years from now?
    Ten years is a long time and we are already stepping into the era of Web 3.0 where personalization and social intelligence will be key. Ten years from now social and collaborative learning will become commonplace and will be built into the system. Learning will be less controlled, more learner-driven and minimalistic. Formal training will be supported and followed with collaborative, experiential, and exploratory learning. Content will be open and designed to be accessible from all kinds of devices; it will be simple and very specific. For example, the use of a screen shot or graphic can replace the use of words. Information will need to be to accessed faster and during execution of the task. A learner’s performance will be supported by pertinent, short, and instantly available information anytime and anywhere.

    Could you envision a 21st century training program for us? What might it look like?
    A new employee is hired into an organization and needs training. The machine is automatically setup by the network. Once the employee logs in to the system, he is automatically shown a screen which will predict the first questions on his mind like, what am I here to do? What do I need to learn to do my job? How do I learn what I need to learn to do my job?

    The employee is informed by the system that he needs to learn how to use the company’s CRM product to capture and process customer requests. The system finds out based on the employee profile from HR and social intelligence date, that the employee is already familiar with similar CRM systems and does not need to under go the basic-level training. The system automatically directs the employee to the next level of the CRM product training.

    The employee learns by working directly on the CRM environment. There are short Whats new? and product overview modules to get him quickly up to speed with the tasks the product is designed to complete. The modules instruct him to interact with the environment in real-time. The modules are not sequenced linear courses but reference-hybrids in any form like demos, examples, scenarios, and real-time exercises on the product. Reference information is easily available on the product interface. The training encourages looking at the help and other references like real-time use cases, FAQ information, common problems faced and the resolution.

    The goal of such training is to get high-specialization individuals up to speed on the job in the shortest possible time. The training is planned based on learner profile information and studying the background knowledge levels of the learner.

    Also, the system will have collaboration built-in as a norm and will suggest appropriate contacts in the CRM domain within the organization. The employee will be able to collaborate with technology similar to tweets, chat and web conferencing to learn from subject-matter experts. Social media tools will allow him to search for existing information on the subject, or start a new live conversation about his queries on the product. Using the tools, the new employee is now able to network within the organization and get acquainted with appropriate persons related to his job.

    In short, I am hinting at the use of intelligent-training techniques by leveraging on social-intelligence data.

    We’ve seen online communities proliferate, from online communities just for friends (Facebook.com) to communities just for tackling complex R&D challenges from Fortune 500 companies such as P&G (InnoCentive.com). What do you think of organizations supporting their own learning communities?
    Supporting organization-wide learning communities is becoming essential so that employees within an organization are well networked. In medium to large-sized organizations, it often happens that knowledge is in unknown pockets with individuals or teams. A lot of the knowledge could be documented and made available, but it is almost impossible to capture tacit knowledge and the knowledge gained from real-time experience. The use of social media connects people based on areas of interest, and aids the discovery of resources with the required domain expertise within the same organization. This positively impacts efficiency on the job and improves employee productivity a great deal. In future, the normal way one does their job in an organization will be using collaboration and social networking techniques. Social media is causing the breakdown of hierarchy to build communities using wirearchy by enabling horizontal and peer-to-peer based communications.

    Looking at things from a bigger picture, I’d like to leave you with this note: Are you Ready for the 21st Century?

    Are You Ready for the 21st Century ? from Michel Cartier on Vimeo.

    What books, blogs, and/or magazines would you recommend for our readers if they’d like to stay current in your line of work?
    There are tonnes of great online resources and blogs. I recommend the best-of-breed approach so one can reach out to the maximum number of resources in one area. I suggest going into elearninglearning.com and performing a keyword search. The site filters your information to various levels as you may need. It is also a good idea to subscribe to the ‘Best of’ feed on this site to get a summary of the best blog posts for the month.

    Evolving the Education System

    A few recent events have compelled me to think harder on a previous post of mine about a change proposed in the education system in India from 2011. This post was my first reaction to the decision while also highlighting the realities associated with education on our country. While it is easy to pass a rule, but bringing in a change in the mindset is going to be the hardest. I have been guilty of becoming an infrequent blogger, but from time to time there has been a reason to come back. This time it has been after a friend told me that my post had been used as a topic of group discussion in one of the premium management institutes. It was totally by chance that I found out, thanks to KP. That sort of woke me out of my slumber and made me want to come back, to learn more and write more.

    Before each post I spend a lot of time reading and listening to other related resources. I have done so this time as well and will try to bring them all in here as well as I can. There are various problems that I was discussing in the post about No board exams, including my own disagreements with the way I was educated. Doesn’t really mean that I don’t acknowledge that what I am today is due to my education and the ICSE board is certainly one of the most respectable boards from my point of view. My comments are on much broader lines based on the kinds of problems I faced when I studied certain subjects, of what I would have rather done versus what I did, of the fact that I believe I realized my strengths much later in life after I had made choices, of how my confidence was higher only after I had figured out very many things. So I am not criticizing a single board but the entire system. How the system assumes that one kind of learning suits all and how you are drilled down with a bunch of subjects read out of a text book, learned by memory in which you understand some part of it and just remember the rest so you can score in the exam. After having completed my studies and in my present life, I find I hardly remember several things I learned in school. I find no application of many of the things. I only remember those topics which had seemed interesting but are just in my memory to tell people things like – I know laughing gas, its nitrous oxide!! Now who even cares about that?

    So what has effectively happened, is a lot of the learning is irrelevant to my job and my daily life. I tried cramming several things initially and then it just became too much. I always wanted to stay out of the race and never could. Finally I chose to be an instructional designer after having a taste of it and reading related information on the net. I am glad about this one decision though as I came in to this field by complete chance when I had no idea where I was going after having done a BSc and MSc. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Well my parents wanted me to do science and I did. I chose computers as a subject and somehow got in here and I am glad of not having to be an engineer writing a small piece of code who’s greater application I have no clue of (no offense to coders there but that’s what happens in jobs) or even the customer.

    Bringing changes to the education system?

    Process-based learning
    So what are the kind of changes should we be comprehending to the education system? Maybe to get rid of the term ‘system’ in the whole thing and introduce ‘process’ instead.
    I like quoting Harold from his post:

    Some of the processes that readily come to mind are critical thinking; analyzing data; researching; communicating ideas; creating new things; etc.

    These are the skills that should be taught to students Reasons backing process-based learning are mentioned in Charles Jennings blog. Quoting from there:

    Dr Ebbinghaus’ experiment revealed we suffer an exponential ‘forgetting curve’ and that about 50% of context-free information is lost in the first hour after acquisition if there is no opportunity to reinforce it with practice.

    The rate at which the Internet has caught up has made information available free and faster at all times. So we can reduce the load on our brain from ‘remembering’ facts which can be Googled at any point and time, and spend it in learning techniques for solving problems, interpreting information, improving communication, reusing data rather than trying to reinvent the wheel where possible, and making innovation and creativity the main goals of our existence. You may note that the previous line has dropped the word learning at the end and quoted on existence. I would like to take a step back and explain why I said this. Enhancing learning is our goal as instructional media professionals, but the bigger impact of ‘learning’ in our lives is what we do with what we learn. We can learn just for the passion of it but until it is put into good use it remains passive and is almost the same as having learned by rote. If we can use the learning to improve the existing ‘system’, it would make a huge difference.

    I consciously chose to mention problem-solving skills as I read how problem-solving skills are important to each one of us. When people are trained to be engineers they solve loads and loads of problems to crack entrance tests. I’ve noticed that engineers are hired as programmers, because their degrees certify better problem solving skills than people who have studied the very same subjects and curricula in pure-science streams. So we’re talking about people who are trained to solve problems based on certain facts given. These are called structured problems and they usually have a correct answer. But the irony about problems is that there are several kinds of problems. The CSPS site talks about unstructured problems where facts are vague and you don’t necessarily have a single correct answer, but multiple options based on which you need to take decisions. This is how our real life day-to-day problems are designed. It would be ideal if schools could assist students in the process of thinking through such problems and letting student discover the outcomes. It is also important to reinforce and be realistic here as several problems do not have immediate answers and how one can choose one path over the other knowing the pros and cons of each option.

    Help Students Identify their Talents
    After relating some of my own story, I find this point to be so very critical to education as a whole. Teachers should be trained to identify the strengths of students and curriculum designed to help students identify them. Without this you would always have only some all-rounders topping the class and the rest biting the dust. They would eventually get branded as ‘average’ students for no real fault of theirs. The problem more often is that they do not know where their strengths lie. If one can identify their strengths and focus their energies in those areas supported by a more flexible curriculum at school, it would make the life of several students much easier and they would shine much better in areas of their strengths. That way we would have many more happy students who would love going to school rather than the opposite.

    Focus on doing more than rote-learning
    Provide students ground to explore possibilities about the subject they are learning about. Give them space to explore and discover, to feel and analyze, to give what they read about a thought, to discuss and collaborate, to work as a team and try experimenting. This kind of learning will not only increase their interest level but help them complete the learning cycle for a topic. Thus curriculum should not prescribe text books from which to ask questions in an exam. Text books limit information to no end and I used to quite hate them. I used to like that the ICSE board occasionally gave questions that students would love to rate as out-of-syllabus, but there was no big deal with them because all you needed to know were basic common sense techniques and simple concepts you had already learned. So help students ‘use’ their learning and not expect to see a dumb-xerox of what they read in a text book, in the exams. Don’t spoil them, but encourage them to be independent and proactive learners. Don’t try to control what they learn but teach them how to learn and how to use what they learn.

    After revisiting Harold’s blog right now I see some recommendations made to the University of New Brunswick. Now these are interesting.

    Education for under-privileged children: Helping them catch up
    I also came upon this recording from Hole in the Wall Education which is an initiative by NIIT. Their take on educating poor children in India brings in a whole new perspective into the effectiveness of informal training, self-learning and short elearning modules to educate children of poor parents for free. Since the children face several challenges to complete their education, there is a high dropout rate and these children are unable to cope with the bulk of the syllabus in schools. So informal learning and the Internet can save the day for such children and help them learn and grasp basics easily. Here is where process-based learning and problem solving can be of great use. You can teach kids the processes and then help them apply it to various situations. Teach them the techniques and they will be able extrapolate them to other applicable areas. If these kids run after the existing curriculum, they will never be able to learn for the next generations.

    No board exams from 2011 in India?

    This bold move by the HRD minister of India to bring in radical change in the Indian education system, shift to a grading system, and eliminate ranking and the mark sheet, triggered a huge furore! In a country where citizens have grown up to ‘always’ be measured by marks, compared to others who always score well and yet are all rounders, been pushed by our parents to ‘study’ so much, that they reach a point where they didn’t want to hear the word anymore. Somehow even today in India, young people are pushed into engineering and medicine, as they are the most highly respected streams. Such stereotypes make parents put enormous pressure on kids and the competition just gets stronger. Kids cram and prepare for competitive exams and sometime commit suicide when they fail, as they feel they’ve let down their parents. I’m sure so many Indians of this and the previous generation can relate to this experience unless they ‘were’ those ideal kids all parents liked to have; good at studies (the greatest stereotype)! Yesterday the HRD minister Mr. Kapil Sibal was called on to one of our news channels (NDTV) to recite a poem he wrote on his and the government’s vision in this bold decision.

    So many of us in this field of learning and education talk about various ways of engaging the learner, creating a great learning experience rather than dumping information on the learner. Some have even blogged about Killing the curriculum and have made some really bold statements. Harold Jarche makes some great points in his post First, we kill the curriculum and some great discussion came up in the comments on the post. Gilbert actually tried a whole new way of self-learning for several years! I thought that was interesting. I like some points Harold makes:

    As books are to subjects and disciplines, the Web is to processes. David Weinberger says that Everything is Miscellaneous, and in our interconnected world it sure is. That means that ALL subjects in school or university are miscellaneous and it doesn’t really matter what you study. It matters how you study and what you can do with your knowledge.

    How apt! If you learn and only learn and don’t figure out how you can make a significant difference with all you’ve learned, it does seem futile. Often, Indians are also known for their vast general knowledge. Their ability to dream big and struggle to reach greater heights at all times, is probably ingrained in this ‘traditional’ system of education and upbringing. This definitely is a good thing, but maybe not all in the population of 1.2 billion can be expected to be run of the mill. In a country where basic education is a struggle to deliver to so many, bringing in such a radical change all of sudden can lead to a lot of chaos, unless it is gradually brought about and with a proper implementation plan that takes into account the deficit in the existing system to take on such a change smoothly. Any change is good, only when it is done keeping in mind everything that is needed to to be done, to reach the vision in mind.

    Some interesting statistics on the subject of the use of social media in schools in the U.S. are detailed in this post by Geetha Krishnan. Coming back to the scene in India, here are a few thoughts on what I think maybe issues in the implementation of the new system of grading students:

  • The majority (including rural India) existing teachers are certainly not qualified to move into this new system. Existing teaching styles and practices would make the implementation come with a lot of resistance to change. News reports already show so much concern and speculation.
  • The existing infrastructure of the majority of schools do not support advanced and alternate means of learning like access to the internet and other learning resources.
  • ‘Making learning fun’ calls for not only changing the final event of a board exam, but improving the overall learning experience in schools. In India more often than never, teachers cling to older methods of teaching and it will be very hard to get them out of this. It would stir several out of their comfort zone and this will not help bring value.
  • Given everything, bringing about a mindset change seems like a major issue to me. The size of the population and our binding to culture, tradition and most importantly ‘stereotypes’ could make this an implausible proposition at least in the near future.
  • Just like accepting and imbibing social media in general has come through so much resistance globally, changing the system of education and a new way to look at and design curriculum seems a really long way to go.
  • Given everything, I am positive that change will come, but in its own time, as it is the way of nature as such. But to have the conviction to bring in this change is a quality that is needed going forward. I wish our government good luck in this noble endeavor and hope to see positive outcomes.

    Another good point Harold makes in his post:

    All fields of knowledge are expanding and artificial boundaries between disciplines are disintegrating. Our education system needs to drop the whole notion of subjects and content mastery and move to process-oriented learning. The subject matter should be something of interest to the learner or something a teacher, with passion, is motivated to teach. The subject does not matter, it’s just grist for the cognitive mill.

    I believe this is true and it is only a matter of time before subject-purists start seeing the diminishing lines and start looking at the bigger ‘subject’ called knowledge. As we evolve as human beings we will slowly start seeing life and learning from the bigger picture and that’s what will make the real difference!

    This is an attempt to pen down all my experiences as an instructional designer. Feel free to express your views and contact me if you feel necessary.