The Quantified Self and What it Means for Learning

In early April I presented (in Dutch) at the e-Learning Event about the quantified self and learning. I have now translated the slides into English as I think the topic is important enough. The presentation explains (in five parts) why the quantified self movement will have big consequences for how we will learn in the future. You can download a full resolution PDF file, watch a video (with slides) in Dutch or watch it on SlideShare:

[slideshare id=12601603&doc=120404quantifiedselfandlearningsmaller-120419063431-phpapp02]

Below an outline of the presentation and links to all the sources I used.


A short explanation about what an innovation manager does and how an innovation funnel works.


The scenario process is explained and the four scenarios that were create at the Online Educa workshop are presented.


Quantified Self

The history of the quantifying yourself (and the scientist and artists experimenting with it) is shown. Consumer products show that it is now not only scientist and artist anymore.



An exploration about what the quantified self might mean for learning (in organisations).



There are risks around measuring yourself.


Dutch Presentation about the Quantified Self (Leren is Meten Weten)

I presented the following keynote (in Dutch) at the the e-Learning Event 2012 (an English version of this message is available here):

Deze presentatie legt in vijf delen uit waarom de trend om jezelf te meten (quantified self) grote gevolgen gaat hebben voor hoe wij in de toekomst gaan leren (je kunt de presentatie ook als PDF downloaden en dan werken de overlay quotes bij de foto’s wel of je kunt een opname van de hele keynote bekijken):

[slideshare id=12277678&doc=120404metenislerensmaller-120404035311-phpapp02]


Een korte uitleg over wat een innovatie manager doet en over de innovatie funnel.


Het scenario proces wordt uitgelegd en de vier scenarios die uit een workshop op de Online Educa zijn gekomen worden toegelicht.


Quantified Self

De geschiedenis van de trend om jezelf te meten wordt uit de doeken gedaan. Met consumentenvoorbeelden is te zien dat het niet meer alleen voor wetenschappers en artiesten is weggelegd.



Een verkenning van wat de Quantified Self trend kan betekenen voor leren (in organisaties).



Er kleven ook risico’s aan jezelf meten.



De volledige presentatie kan hier als PDF gedownload worden.

Storytelling for Behavioural Change at the e-Learning Event

Maggie Shelton works for Ikea and talked about storytelling. She started her talk by showing some of the stories that Ikea allowed their staff to tell about their personal lives and how they relate to the culture at Ikea. See this one for an example (not the example Maggie used, the stories aren’t public):


Ikea’s Human Resources department actively uses these videos to share how their culture lives and it can be really be a tool that engages people with the company. Storytelling is all about gaining trust. Authenticity is important. This means there is a big difference between a message coming from high above or a message coming from “the workfloor”. I personally find these type of stories (consciously not using a big Ikea logo in the back) of which they have more than a thousand(!) incredibly valuable. According to Shelton they are also timeless.

She then shared the example of the “home furnishing introduction”. This was an assignment where she, as a learning person, had to help the home furnishing manager with some of her goals around how people should be engaged with home furnishing. She created a story about a guy who is a bit in mess and who starts reflecting on himself through his own home. She played us the first episode. The film was made with as little spoken language as possible as it had to be translated into 28 languages. The video is then used in a two-hour lightly facilitated workshop.

If you want to have maximum impact with your story (on learning), then it is very important to have discussions after watching the film, usually by asking questions about the video.

One more thing I learned from this session is that there is a circular Ikea store built in 1965 Stockholm inspired by New York’s Guggenheim, interesting!

Ikea Store inspired by Guggenheim
Ikea Store inspired by Guggenheim

Erik Duval on Learning Analytics at the e-Learning Event

Erik Duval is a professor at the Catholic University in Leuven. His team works on Human Computer Interaction. In the last few years, he has done a lot of work around Learning Analytics, which he defines as being about collecting traces that learners leave behind and using those traces to improve learning.

His students at the university do everything (and he means everything) using blogs and Twitter. He stopped giving lectures and instead works with students in a single place a few times a week. This makes it very hard for him to follow what is going on. The number of posts that are generated in his courses are too many for him to read them all. If you are facilitating a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) this gets worse. This is why we do learning analytics. This has a lot of attention now with a conference and a Society for Learning Analytics Research

Nike+ Fuelband
Nike+ Fuelband

Next he mentions the quantified self movement: self-knowledge to self-tracking. If a tool gives you a good mirror about your behaviour, then this might make it easier to actually change your behaviour. He showed many examples from the consumer market (i.e. Nike+ Fuelband or the Fitbit. He is trying to see if you could develop similar applications for learning. Imagine setting a goal for how many words you want to learn every day and a device that shows you how many you’ve learned for the day. He wants to create awareness in the student, so that they can “drive” themselves better. This is different from the current efforts in learning analytics where they are mostly used to give more information to the institution (Duval doesn’t like that). He showed us an example of the dashboard that he uses to see the student’s activity on the blogs and on Twitter. The students have access to this information too and can see that data for their peers: openness and full transparency. This measuring leads to externalities that aren’t necessarily good (think students writing tweetbots to get good score). Duval depends on the self-regulating abilities of the group of students.

At the beginning of each course he tells his student that everything will be open in the course. He might have a debate about this, but he never gives in. He doesn’t think you can become an engineer without having the ability to engage openly with the society. If a student has very conscionable objections around privatey, then he sometimes allows them to publish under an alias.

If you collect a lot of data about people, then you can make technology enhanced learning more of an exact (i.e. hard) science. He wrote a paper titled: Dataset-driven Research for Improving Recommender Systems for Learning.

This whole field has a couple of issues:

  • What can we measure? Time, time spent artefact produced, socal interactions, location. Many other things might be important.
  • Privacy might become an issue: we will know so many things about everybody. One solution might be Attention Trust which defines four consumer rights for your (attention) data: property, mobility, economy and transparency. Our idea about privacy is changing, he referred to Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis.
  • When does support become enslaving (see this blogpost)

His solution for the problems (once again): openness.

Duval’s talk had a lot of similarities with the talk I will be delivering tomorrow. Luckily we both come from slightly different angles and don’t share all our examples. If you attended his talk and didn’t enjoy his, then you can skip mine! If you loved it, come and get more tomorrow morning.

e-Learning Event 2012 Keynote Sessions Day 1

Today and tomorrow I will be attending and speaking at the e-Learning Event in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. This should be one of the biggest learning technology events in the Netherlands. For some reason I have never been before, so I am curious to see how much I enjoy the event.

Theo Rinsema, General Manager Microsoft Netherlands

Rinsema talked about new ways of working (“het nieuwe werken”), a concept that in the Netherlands has been appropriated by Microsoft. His first point was that current times have accelerated the amount of change and that this means that we will have to learn contineously. Learning and change are very much related. The causes for this speed of change can be found in a couple of trends that drive change in the virtual world: cloud computing, data explosion, social computing, apps, natural interfaces, connections, computing ecosystems and mobile workplaces. Cloud computing, for example, lowers the barrier of entry in a market. This create more competition and this accelerates development.

Microsoft in the Netherlands went through a change process (1100 people work for Microsoft in the Netherlands). The focused on productivity (can we really become more productive every year or are we just working more hours?), talent (how can we attract more women to our mostly male organization?) and the boundaries between work life and private life (how do we solve the puzzle where our offices are only utilised 24% of the time, people like the flexibility, but don’t like their private/work mix). They were on a multi-year journey where they one of the key elements was creating trust between employees and about creating real conversations between staff (I wonder whether he has read the Cluetrain Manifesto).

They created a few things:

  • “Ruimte voor groei-dagen”: an event where the whole organizations get together and works on personal growth.
  • “Raad van Anders”: they have about 50.000 visitors a year coming to check out their offices to see how they are working. Rinsema thought that Microsoft was starting to believe too much in themselves. They instituted a “board of others”, inviting non-Microsoft people (young people, government workers, women, disabled people) to come into their offices, have open doors everywhere and then get feedback on what Microsoft does (with the press present). This enables Microsoft to “see with different eyes” (Proust would have said: “see with new eyes”).
  • “Silverlight Society a.k.a. project Crowley”: an alternate reality game in which Microsoft staff thought they were in a pilot from Microsoft research about collaborating in a virtual world. Members of this elite group of beta-tester had to solve more and more complex problems day by day forcing them to collaborate with each other and use social networks. 290 people participated.


I appreciated Rinsema’s talk for sounding authentic and for not mentioning SharePoint as an enabler for these new ways of working. This means he is smarter than 95% of the collaboration consultants in this space.

Erwin Blom on the Social Media Revolution

Erwin Blom from Fast Moving Targetsis a journalist who got addicted to the Internet in 1994 when he was working for Dutch media outfit VPRO. He produced a music program for the radio and found out that he suddenly wasn’t the expert anymore, his community of listeners knew more than him. He later became heaf of new media for the VPRO and now works for himself looking at how the net changes many aspects of society.

He showed Draw Something as an example of where people learn very naturally: his children play the game to learn English and learn how to visualize. It is incredible how quickly that game grew and for how much the creators were bought by Zynga. Another example of using game-based things is Codecademy. Another example is Foodzy. It teaches you about your own behaviours around food and teaches you a lot about food. Blom considers YouTube the largest collection of lessons in the world. In general these things work for one person, but they work even better if there are multiple people doing the same thing.

With social media everybody now is a publisher. We have endless means to tell each other stories. We underutilize the potential of storytelling (an important skill). We are now all connected and can ask each other questions and can have good conversations with people that were out of our reach (in many dimensions) before. Knowledge is now available everywhere, we need to learn how to find and select the information. Network building skills and “personal branding” skills are important for future proofing. You have to be present on this platforms and create narratives about yourselves.

He showed a nice example of what his daughter learns from her blog. She is learning about how to tell a story, about how to write headlines, about dealing with commentary about and she learns discipline (blogging twice a week). His son writes at Game Testers United and learns similar lessons. Blom asks himself why this isn’t a part of their school education. Can’t we make schools media production companies?