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Book Review: 'E-Learning Provocateur; Volume 1'

By Alison Bickford / December 2011

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Ryan Tracey has been a generous blogger in the Australian organizational learning and technology field since 2008. E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1 brings together many of Tracey's pearls of wisdom into one easy to read book. The book is aptly named; the honesty and clarity of Tracey's opinions are laid out in E-Learning Provocateur making it a valuable read for anyone responsible for learning strategy or learning design.

This book is especially valuable to the learning professional who is relatively new to learning technologies. Tracey's simplified writing style helps provide the reader with the language to communicate and debate with peers. He offers contemporary thoughts about learning and our changing practice, providing simple explanations of learning theories and what they mean in an eLearning context. Through practical examples, Tracey helps to iron out misconceptions about what makes good design. He suggests technology options for typical organizational learning challenges, such as information management. In the bigger picture, Tracey questions organizational policy around social media, and reminds us of the important role we have as staff advocates and enablers of learning.

Books on organizational learning and technology seem few and far between. And, when you find one, they can be difficult to assimilate to your own context. Tracey appears to have taken a lot of care to provide authentic "explanation." In some of his writing, he raises contention. This is healthy for debate—to help us to question our practice and our assumptions so that we can continue to evolve.

One of my favorite parts of the book is "take the ass out of assessment" (p. 107) where Tracey boldly declares learning management systems (LMS) should manage assessment, not content. This is in the context of Tracey's view that organizations should provide two learning environments: an informal learning environment (where staff can learn anytime, and anywhere) and a formal learning environment (for when competency has to be measured, such as compliance). I like Tracey's idea of uncoupling content from assessment. Content is most useful when it is close to workflow. Assessment is a very different learner state, belonging best in a "management system."

E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1 has been synthesized from Tracey's blog, and I'm happy to see further volumes will be published. The book form provides the reader with an immersive experience not easily achieved by scrolling blog posts. It also provides the reader with an opportunity to highlight, dog ear, and pass the volume to peers. It's a great initiative by Tracey to get his musings into this paper-based format.

I highly recommend E-Learning Provocateur: Volume 1 to anyone who wants to litmus test the evolution of their own approach to learning technologies.

About the Author

Alison Bickford is an eLearning and social media consultant for Australian organizations. She provides strategic support for systems implementation as well as operational support for learning professionals in the form of workshops and online coaching. Bickford is also an Ed.D. candidate at the University of Technology, Sydney. She blogs at E-Learning Academy and can be found on Twitter @connectthinking.

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