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Friday, July 13, 2012

How would Steve Jobs Do Training and Education?

I was asked by a certain company a question.  How would Steve Jobs do training and education?

The New Old Software Development
My first answer is the bottom right of the three charts.  In terms of software (and hardware) development, the simplest answer is 1) Create tools that don't need training. Use skeuomorphic designs.  Provide rich feedback.  Use icons and other visuals well.

Then, because that is not always possible, 2) Provide just in time context support for specific features, such as bubble help.  For real-world hardware, this will also increasingly include a layer of just in time training that can be triggered by tags (such as barcades or QR Codes) or even shapes  (an airplane maintenance worker takes a photograph on a mobile device (including Google Glasses) of a broken part, and this triggers the material on how to fix it).

The third aspect is "The Tool is the Philosophy."  The development of software assumes and codifies processes on how to do a task outside of simply using the software.  So increasingly the best way to learn a subject (even at a deep and philosophical level) is around engaging the tool.

One way to learn project management is to master a tool on project management. Math curricula for most non-Math majors should be shaped almost entirely by a modern spreadsheet.  Similarly, new tools bring forth, not just capture, new philosophies.  The existence of Facebook and Tumblr changes what MBA students need to know.  Finally, certain technologies update skills.  The skill of spelling is less important in the era of spell checkers.

The New Old Training
Having said that, there is plenty of training that happens (or should happen) outside the use of tools.  For these, I submit the model of The New Old Training.  Here (depicted on the bottom left of the three models), training organizations produce three types of content for which iPhones, iPads, and iPods have been optimized .  
  • The first is sims (simulations and serious games), using today's casual games as a guide for scope and production values.  I might look at PopCap as a model vendor here, with such games as Plants vs. Zombies.  These are easy to engage, slick, with humor and other forms of personality.  These will not just teach competence but more importantly conviction.
  • The second "deliverable" from the new old training group would be a Kahn Academy-esque video and podcast library.  Here, low production value, short videos and MP3s (some user submitted) on a range of relevant area can be made available (and, on occasion, pushed out).  
  • Finally, communities, such as modeled by StackOverflow.com, provide places for people to engage around both shallow and very deep issues.
All three of these New Old Training models use tracking methods, including awarding of achievements and other gamification techniques.  The methodologies used to put hard certifications on soft activities (badges for status in a chat room) allow organization to measure and prescribe a wider range of activities.

The New Old Education
Finally, all learning has to happen in a context (hopefully intrinsically motivating, but often not).  The New Old Education (upper middle diagram) is a complete reversal of the current industrial model.  Education systems (K through College) should be dedicated to helping students:
  • find out at what skills they are better than almost everyone else, and 
  • identify what their personal missions are (what problems in the world they find most motivating).  
Any functioning education system would then help students connect their unique gifts with their mission by: 

The more people are self motivated, the less broad training is needed.  But "best practices" communities and other deep content are still critically important.  

It is impossible for me to answer the question, "How would Steve Jobs do training?"  But it is easy to imagine the future of education being much richer than the past. 

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