This Week on #TalkTech: Microsoft’s Nightmare, Training at Facebook and Google Shortens Attention Spans

Topic 1: How might real life training exercises like Facebook’s “hackathon” be applied to other industries?

Facebook hackathons


October was CyberSecurity awareness week, and Facebook was not pulling any punches. In order to teach employees about the dangers of security breaches, Facebook launched a series of security threats and fake phishing sites to see how employees would respond. Those who reported the threats received fun prizes while those who missed the threats had to complete more training. Facebook’s approach to CyberSecurity training used a real world experience to teach instead of eLearning or instructor-led training. How can this be used in other industries?

Mashable: Facebook Hacks Its Employees to Teach Lessons on Cyber Attacks


Topic 2: How do poor reviews of Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 affect the future of Microsoft?

For many companies, it’s hard to imagine a work world without Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. However, Microsoft’s recent product launches have yielded disappointing results. Windows 8 is getting mixed reviews, and Microsoft recently cut their order for 4 million Surface tablets in half. Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the tech giant? If so, what will it take for business to lose its dependence on Windows and Microsoft Office?

Business Insider: Steve Ballmer’s Nightmare Is Coming True

Topic 3: How does learning need to change to accomodate shortening attention spans and changing reading preferences?

Is Google Making Us Stupid?


Nicholas Carr wrote a terrific piece in The Atlantic back in 2008 (an eternity in internet time) asking if Google was making us stupid. He noted his own struggles focusing on reading books and lengthy articles in favor of skimming headlines and scanning blog posts for key points. There is no doubt the internet affects the way we consume content. How should learning design change to make the most of our new habits?

The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

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Is Microsoft Surface a Major Step Backward for mLearning?

The tech world has been buzzing about Microsoft’s announcement of the new Surface tablet. Microsoft Surface is supposed to do everything and more….but did Microsoft miss the point when it comes to creating a truly “mobile” experience? The answer may depend on who you ask.

One of the biggest criticisms of the current tablet landscape, even the mighty iPad, is how tablet computers thus far are still primarily used as content consumption devices, not for hard core productivity. Mobile apps are limited by nature, designed for more specific and niche applications, and can’t be relied on to finish a full day’s work. Even the biggest power users with an iPad in hand for most of their daily work would likely admit that they are not able to produce documents, spreadsheets, and real “work” as quickly on the tablet as they can on a Mac or PC.

Enter Surface: a tablet with all the myriad features, functionality, and productivity possibilities as a PC. In fact, it IS a PC. But is this a good thing? The features do sound enticing:

  • USB port for additional peripheral support.
  • Smart cover with a built in keyboard.
  • Mini-Display port
  • Both versions of Surface will run Windows 8…so you can theoretically use it for everything.

This all sounds well and good…if the goal of the tablet is to replace and expand upon our use of PCs. But are all of these included features actually a step backward? In his recent blog post, RJ Jacquez referenced a quote by philosopher Herbert Marshall McLuhan:

“The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

I see the point he is trying to make.. Microsoft’s overdue foray into the tablet world has them taking the features, functionality, and traditions of their Windows platform and essentially porting them onto a tablet. Rather than re-imagining an experience that will take advantage of a smaller screen and multitouch interface, Microsoft appears to be keeping older “legacy technologies” alive in an effort to appease its more traditional market segments. This makes plenty of sense if you consider Microsoft’s largest customer base: businesses.

According to Tech Republic, Surface might be just what businesses are looking for in a tablet:

…the Microsoft Surface… (is) going to automatically drop into the Windows networks that most Fortune 500 companies as well as a lot of small and medium businesses already have in place. That’s going to mean a lot fewer worries about compatibility, security, and data protection. In other words, it means a lot less work for IT on the backend and a smoother transition for many users.

Most of our large corporate clients are still 100% Windows based. Even if companies are adopting iPads for niche uses, this uptake is slow in the more traditional segments. Heck, many of these companies still run Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 or 7! Would a tablet solution already running on the more familiar Windows software be a more attractive option for these companies? Possibly.

What does all this mean for Learning and Development?

At Bottom-Line Performance, we are strong proponents of thinking of a tablet as a unique medium, different and separate from the desktop or laptop. It has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and creates a tremendous opportunity to think different about the type of experiences we can create. The newest suites of rapid authoring eLearning tools such as Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6 offer ways to publish course content to HTML5, but this functionality is still rather limited. As an industry we still have a ways to go before we break out of the mindset of taking a standard eLearning course and converting it to HTML5. By releasing a product that is essentially a PC in a new frame, we aren’t sure if Microsoft Surface will really help us innovate in the eLearning and mLearning worlds…or keep us stuck with the same best practices of yesteryear.

For those looking to push forward and create an experience that is truly “mobile first,” we recommend checking out what’s possible with iBooks Author and its ability to replace more basic eLearning. But for those companies who just don’t want or need to break out of the Windows world, Surface is a compelling option. We’re just worried that all those peripherals and features will slow innovation and keep us stuck in old ways of thinking for even longer than if Microsoft did not try to port a Windows desktop onto a mobile tablet. What do you think?