Tuesday, August 09, 2016

What Does Social Learning Look Like? Pokémon GO

This month's "Nuts & Bolts" column examines social learning as it happens naturally, organically, as people go about their day:
It’s not about ‘doing social.’ It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.
upporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about uScenario A: An international company rolls out a new product. The trainers are thrilled with it and, despite some technical glitches, eagerly hop on to learn more about it. There isn’t much user support, so understanding more about specifics of the product proves to be a collaborative proposition. Trainers working with the product run into each other and talk, sometimes teaming up to work together.
The company hasn’t provided any collaboration tools, so the trainers across locations begin talking in places like Facebook groups, Google communities, and Reddit. They share tips via text posts as well as screenshots, audio commentary, and video clips. A few create video tutorials about product features or shortcuts.
Something like a community of practice—in which people work together to get better with the product—develops, showing hallmarks like a common vocabulary, accountability to the effort and each other, and in-jokes. There’s fun and energy around conversations. Master trainers emerge: Some commenters try to game the system but are mostly shut down by the other trainers. Some post wrong information, but it’s caught and corrected. The company keeps an eye on the activity and announces it will make adjustments to the product based on feedback gleaned from the community.
Scenario B: An international company rolls out a new product. The trainers are thrilled with it and, despite some technical glitches, eagerly hop on to learn more about it. The company sets up an internal social platform that allows for text posts and photo attachments.
Trainers are assigned to “communities”—separate discussion areas—based on their geographic location. The initial post on all forums is a disclaimer from HR advising trainers of guidelines for participating in discussions and reminding them of company communication policies. Each forum has a designated manager who facilitates conversation by supporting, redirecting, and if necessary deleting comments.
Few people participate, and when they do they’re usually just posting a hint or two, complaining about a problem, or asking for help. Responses are sporadic, and back-and-forth conversation is minimal. People report glitches and offer ideas for improving the product, but the developers are not members of the communities, so the feedback never reaches them.
Scenario B describes most failed initiatives at companies attempting to “do” social.
Scenario A is … Pokémon Go.*

You can access the rest of this article at Learning Solutions Magazine .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Transforming Classroom to Online: What's the Reality?

“When you’re looking at ‘converting’ classroom training to an online format, try to actually get to the classroom event. Get clear on what really goes on there, as opposed to what you might hear in a meeting or via document review. Talk to the trainers or facilitators who run classroom events, and ask them about any tricks or special adaptations they might employ. Then work on ways to bring the richness—and maybe even fun—to the worker’s online experience.”
Though I rarely do traditional classroom work now, I’m still around it all the time, as it’s what my co-workers do all day, every day. Our halls are full of people here to attend classes. I hear them before sessions and during breaks, talking to one another or on phones calling home or back to the office. Often they are enjoying the class they’re in. And often they complain that the sessions are good, but not quite realistic, or not always relevant to their needs. In the classroom, a good trainer can adjust on the fly, a luxury not available to the eLearning designer. This month's column explores some common issues and ideas for overcoming them.

What's Happening in the Classroom? 
When we're in the classroom this is how we work on customer service skills for van drivers.  Can you guess why? What happens in the classroom is sometimes worth knowing. 

Compared to other service providers, a van driver’s situation is unique in a few ways:
  • The driver always has his or her back to the customer
  • The driver makes eye contact through quick glances in a mirror
  • If there’s a problem, the driver has to get the van off the road, to a safe spot, and notify a dispatcher about the issue
Want more? You can access the full article at: 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Temple Grandin Keynoting Training 2017: San Diego, January 30

I speak at many conferences and over the years have been lucky to see -- and often meet-- some remarkable presenters. I am thrilled  that Training Magazine has booked Temple Grandin to keynote Training 2017.

Wikipedia: "... an autistic American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, world-renowned autism spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. She is widely celebrated as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She is also the inventor of the "hug box", a device to calm those on the autism spectrum. In the 2010 Time 100, an annual list of the one hundred most influential people in the world, she was named in the "Heroes" category."

From the online conference brochure: 

Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her achievements are remarkable given at age two she had all the signs of severe autism. Many hours of therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to speak. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt motivated her to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer.

She obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College and has received honorary doctorates from McGill University, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duke University.

She has published hundreds of technical articles, and 12 books including "Thinking in Pictures", "The Way I See It", and "The Autistic Brain".

HBO has made a movie about her life starring Claire Danes. The movie received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

In 2011, Temple was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Positive Deviance in L&D

A follower who'd attended my "Tips for the Positive Deviant" webinar asked on her Facebook page how ideas around Positive Deviance (PD) might be applied specifically to L&D. I answered in this month's Nuts & Bolts column
“In every group there is a minority of people who find better solutions to the challenges at hand. … Even though they have access to exactly the same resources as the rest of the group, their uncommon practices or behaviors allow them to flourish.”—Jerry Sternin
While “positive deviance” is a fun, alluring term, it’s not about just breaking rules. The “deviance” must have a positive outcome. It’s not quite just innovation or creative thinking, though those can certainly be part of it. It’s not just a random act of kindness, like paying for the coffee of the next customer in line. It’s more about deploying uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies to achieve some better result.
While there are individual positive deviants who work alone, a key factor is working with the community to surface, spread, and sustain solutions rather than try to force outside-in answers—as is so often the case with training. … Leveraging social tools and workplace communities, and encouraging people to show their work, can help to surface and spread solutions and to sustain application of new learning to the workplace.
In 1990, Jerry Sternin, director of Save the Children in Vietnam, was tasked with finding a sustainable solution for overcoming the problem of child malnutrition. At the time, 65 percent of the children under age five in Vietnamese villages were malnourished. Prior attempts to implement solutions—such as supplemental feeding programs—did not succeed for long. Along with his wife, Monique, Jerry looked at a question that researchers were working on at Tufts: “Why, with all resources being equal, are some children in a community not malnourished?” Working in four communities, the Sternins turned to the members of poor villages who seemed to overcome the malnutrition problem and have healthier children. There emerged a group of positive deviants, the families who, despite identical resources, were able to achieve better outcomes through doing things others did not. It turned out those families were giving more frequent meals than was the custom, and were feeding items—such as brine shrimp and crab—considered inappropriate for young children.

It isn’t about imposing solutions, but helping the community surface the solution it already has

You know the drill: Organization has a problem. Organization brings in “experts” to study the problem, devise a solution, run a pilot (which may mean a training program), and then leave. Organization members quickly revert back to old behaviors.
The solution in Vietnam was sustained precisely because the solution was not just imposed on the villagers. The Sternins didn’t go around lecturing about feeding more frequent meals and unusual foods. They leveraged the help of community members—the mothers of the healthier children—in working directly with other families to spread the different practices. Ultimately, the initiative cut childhood malnutrition by two-thirds because the families sustained the change.

A quick start? Flip the question

As you saw with the Sternins, a key behavior of positive deviants is their ability to reframe the question. Instead of asking, “Why are so many children malnourished?,” they asked: “Why are these other children not malnourished?”
Other examples:
  • Not “How can we stop distracted driving?” but “How can we make cars safer?” Even inexpensive new cars have sensors that prevent following too closely and that offer help with staying in lanes.
  • Not “How can we get money?” but “What can we do with no money?”
  • Not “How can we force people to finish courses?” but “How can we make the courses more interesting and worthwhile?”
Years ago, I was working with a hospital for adults with developmental disabilities, where I supervised the staff who taught emergency response courses. All workers were required to be regularly recertified in standard first aid, and we had a terrible time getting this done. In most instances, the ever-present nursing staff handled emergencies, so other staff did not perceive recertification as a high priority. Getting people to class involved a lot of foot-dragging, endless floor-coverage issues, last-minute cancellations, and even threats. One of my staff suggested that we start adding on infant and child CPR at the end of the training day. It didn’t cost us anything, as we already had staff and equipment to do it, and by trimming down breaks we didn’t extend the day by much. It solved our attendance problem overnight, as the training was suddenly seen as more valuable to the parents and grandparents who constituted a huge proportion of our audience.
The related field of appreciative inquiry offers similar flip-the-question approaches but is more specific, asking us to look for and build on the positive case or “outlier.” Is there someone in the community already exhibiting the desired behavior? What is enabling them to outperform? What resources are they tapping into that others are not?
  • Not “Why are staph infections so high in the hospital?” but “Why are staph infections lower on the third floor?”
  • Not “Why are sales down in Regions 6 and 9?” but “Why are sales up in Region 4?”
  • Not “Why do so few graduates of our leadership academy get promoted?” but “Why did these seven graduates get promoted?”
  • Why is the accident rate lower in _______? Why is the turnover rate lower in ______? Why are there fewer ethics complaints about ______ division?
For more on key characteristics of positive deviants, and ideas for applying PD principles to L&D, see this month's Nuts and Bolts column in Learning Solutions Magazine. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Webinars? About That Whiteboard...

From this month's Nuts & Bolts column:

I’ve been working in virtual classrooms since 2003, back when I first met Insync Training’s Jennifer Hofmann, who pretty much invented using virtual meeting software to support instruction. My job involves a workforce with many issues: geography, availability/coverage, and work shifts. These are frequently compounded by a lack of travel funds for moving people or instructors around for face-to-face training events. I saw so much potential for the technology then that I shifted nearly all my live instruction work to the virtual classroom.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the technology to be leveraged for the worst possible applications: One thousand people enrolled in the name of “efficiency,” with presenters only pushing slides while disabling collaboration tools like whiteboard annotation, participant text chat, and breakout rooms. As with the struggle to differentiate “presentation” from “training,” I tried to distinguish better use of—and my approach to—virtual classroom-based instruction with language like “live online session.” Let’s face it: There’s nothing positive about the word “webinar.”
Over the years I’ve developed or picked up a lot of little tricks for making the environment more collaborative and engaging and thought I’d share some of what I learned. This month I’ll talk a bit about using the whiteboard as a working space instead of just a screen for displaying slides.

You can read the complete article here

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Read Up!

I thought I knew a lot about my field—I’d been there a decade, after all, and was a voracious reader of trade journals and business books (back then it was EQ and the tail end of the TQM movement) and a member of a very active community of practice (CoP) for trainers. But grad school, in what I recall as often exhilarating moments, also introduced me to a whole world of academic writing I didn’t know existed. There were studies that shed light on my unease with popular things like personality type-assessments. There was a whole body of literature that explained my sense of breathing better air when at a CoP gathering. There were research-based explanations from Richard Mayer that helped me articulate—finally—why we didn’t want to narrate every word in every online learning program. There were entire books on evaluating training programs and initiatives—like those beloved and institutionalized by my then-employer without any real rationale—and not just single classes. While I’m not interested in arguing about whether people need to get degrees to work effectively, I would argue that a practitioner can benefit from learning more about the academic work in their chosen field.

To start?

I spend a lot of time in online conversations, most often on Twitter, and I love that this puts me in the path of other, often newer, practitioners. I’m still surprised when they are surprised to hear that there is, for instance, a pile of empirical studies on the topic of “learning styles” or extensive academic, research-based discussion of the role and value (or not) of a community “lurker.” So in the spirit of “Nuts and Bolts,” here are some ideas for exploration:

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in Learning Solutions Magazine.
You can read the rest here

Friday, February 26, 2016

What Did You Learn Today?

I've written quite a bit over the past few years about a certain disconnect we have with our learners. We tend to think about "Learning" with a capital "L", as some rather abstracted high-minded pursuit, a lifelong systematic interconnected journey of brain enrichment. (Heck, I have a doctorate in that. Don't get me started.) But the rest of the world thinks about "learning" as "solving a problem" or "getting an answer" or "figuring it out" or "looking it up". And really, even those of us in the business are bad for not always paying attention to our own learning -- we handle an issue or task and then move on to the next thing.  

So: Lots of credit to #lrnchat founder Marcia Conner and her team, who years ago set the question "What did you learn today?" as the opener for every #lrnchat. It's a nice little warmup conversation starter sort of thing, meant to be answered in just 140 characters. I especially love that it helps, in a rapid-fire chat that as often as not includes new people or people who otherwise aren't very tightly connected, give just a bit of insight into the human behind the Twitter account: what interests them, what energizes them, what they struggle with. Also what expertise or specialty they might have.  And whether they're funny. Or exasperated.

Answering "What did you learn today?"  can also serve as a great, quick way to show your work/work out loud.  My own organization had great success with this some years back when I convinced then-management to change a line item on our weekly reports from "Research" to "What did you learn this week?" Not only were people working out loud a bit more, but the question helped teach them to reflect on their own learning and to better recognize it when it happened.

Here are some answers from the February 25 #lrnchat

Answering "What did you learn today?" can help generate conversation and connection (the fun "baby goats" comment got a lot of attention). I do a workshop on "music and learning" so was interested in what Tricia was saying. And "What did you learn today?" can help you tie conversations together or help people find additional resources: as I told Kim Maston, the March 17 scheduled #lrnchat topic is "resilience" so that might be of special interest to him. It can also point to an organizational problem, or an issue in the industry, or maybe something with which many others will empathize: 

Answering "What did you learn today?" has been valuable for me, personally, too: I'm a #lrnchat moderator and try to participate every week. I know the question is coming. Still, I sometimes struggle to answer it. While I'm sure I must have learned something new-- even if just some factoid from reading -- I have found that can get lost in the clutter of a busy day, Knowing the question is coming forces me to think back over the past few days, and I can always find something-- something-- to say in answer.  Answering the question helps to sharpen the saw. (Interested in reflective practice in general? See this article from a couple years back.)

We've recently started including the wrap-up question, "What did you learn tonight?" or "What will you do differently as a result of this #lrnchat?" (or some variation on that theme) to encourage our community to think intentionally about their learning and growth. As one of the other #lrnchat moderators, Jeannette Campos, says, "This can make learning less accidental. It's also a signal of commitment; we're sharing our plans and intentions with a group.  This is the power of learning with and through a community. Because if we aren't learning, what's the point?" 

So: Come to #lrnchat (Thursdays 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT, Friday 12:30 pm AEDT) and tell us what you learned that day. Or put the question on a post-it stuck to your office light switch and ask yourself as you leave at the end of the day. Or include the answer  in whatever TPS-reportish document you submit. Just take a minute to answer it. You might find it energizing, or challenging, or funny, or at least satisfying in an I-did-that kind of way. Do whatever you can to build a bit of reflection into your practice and workday regardless of what kind of work you do. Among other things, it will help build mindfulness and awareness of your learning.

By the way: They're all good and it's not a contest, but my favorite answer lately to "What did you learn today?" came from my fellow #lrnchat moderator Kelly Smith:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Show Your Work": The Kazoomaker (#wolweek)

... so I belong to a ukulele band, The Gang of Ukes, and am often called on to double on kazoo. 


While I have a bunch of metal and plastic kazoos, including the extra-loud Kazoobie Wazoogle and the trumpet (the keys move! They don't change the sound, but they move!), 

I thought it was time to buy a "real" one, with better tone and more control. Kazoos are folk instruments and there are still a few craftspeople around who make them from wood, from scratch. Thanks to Google and Facebook I found "Doc" Kazoo, proprietor of the Great Aswego Ukulele Factory .  After a few emails back and forth (I wanted something for a lanyard or pocket, not a harmonica holder), I chose the model I wanted and placed my order for a custom kazoo, which per notes on the website I assumed would take awhile to make. That was at 7 am on Monday, November 8.

By lunchtime Doc had my new kazoo roughed in. 

at 6 pm he had the kazoo smoothed and started waxing (it protects the inside from moisture): 

A few minutes later, at the end of his day, he posted a photo of my mostly-finished kazoo:

...and showed off his day's work: Mine wasn't his only project. 

I was surprised by Doc's alacrity and loved all the unexpected personal attention and frequent updates. I also loved watching the process and seeing how Doc spent his day. In talking about Show Your Work I often ask audiences how working out loud benefits organizations, individuals. I never thought to ask how it benefits the customer, in this case by showing the time and care that a craftsman puts into even a simple product. 

My new kazoo arrived on Saturday, November 14 and I'm very pleased with the tone, volume, and better control it has compareed to toy models. I'm headed to Toronto today to speak at the Institute for Performance and Learning Conference and am wondering if it's the sort of thing I want to have to explain to the Immigration guards. Perhaps I'll just pack a plastic one. 

Want to know more? See Doc's YouTube channel for factory tours, listening samples, and kazoo model comparisons.

And finally, in the event you've never seen a real kazoomaster at work, check out this video from Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops: 

Words to live by: "You can be clueless, but don't be kazooless." ~ Doc Kazoo

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Everything I Know About HR I Learned From My Corgi

Ok, I am not necessarily equating animal and human behavior. Except sort of. 

Tongue mostly in cheek here.


I have a corgi who’s one of the smartest dogs I ever met.  Earlier this year I had a serendipitous meeting with a fellow who owns a small farm, which he uses as a dog training facility. His specialty is herding: he provides sheep and ducks and fenced spaces in which to work them, and rents the space and his counsel to area dog owners.

So one day last January I drove the corgi over to the farm completely clueless as to what to expect. I figured he’d want to chase the sheep around until he got tired. My husband was worried he might try to hurt them. Talk about inaccurate expectations.

From the moment we pulled into the driveway our dog, Thomas,  was on high alert, corgi ears at full staff. The owner/handler turned him loose in a pen of sheep and it was… magical. My little dog took control, rounded the sheep up, and moved them from one end of the field to the other. If one tried to break ranks the corgi would run around to put him back with the flock.  He and the handler had some secret mostly silent language they both understood.  Thomas was born to do this.

Really: Corgis are herding dogs and the instinct in his case is clearly strong. I knew this on some level: Whenever we have people over I’ll notice that everyone is standing in the kitchen without realizing he put them there.  He sits to one side keeping an eye on us all.

So: If you need someone to herd sheep, hire a herder.  But be careful of stereotypes: some corgis think this is a fun game and the sheep don’t take them seriously.  Meantime, there are videos of rabbits and cats herding quite capably.  The fellow who owns the farm offers regular herding instinct testing  for any dog that comes to visit; it’s not that hard to see whether a critter is inclined to do this. Meantime, back in organization land, we often can’t get past interview questions like, “Tell us about your ability to herd sheep, Bob.”  We need to do better at creating meaningful work sample tasks/inbaskets  to assess an applicant’s ability. And we need to quit hiring unqualified turkeys and then asking the training department to spend 10 years trying to teach them to herd sheep.

On our first visit Thomas performed beyond our expectations. There was no training, no preparation,  no orientation/onboarding/qualifying/certification.  Since then there’s been some fine-tuning.   The handler helped him move from  something more like “chasing sheep”  to  what is clearly “managing sheep”:  

"Thomas, keep them in the corner so I can pull some of this wool off." 

And  in a metaphor for Leadership101, Thomas did have to learn the hard way that you can’t guide ducks by biting at their tailfeathers. He wants to do this well and shows visible satisfaction and delight at performing better, often going back for another round even when the rest of us are taking a break. Training works when a learner wants to do something but doesn’t know how. 

Learning is Social
Some of Thomas’s best lessons come from the farm’s resident work dog, Flicker the Amazing Border Collie. Her first job every morning is going out alone (no supervisor or handler) to the big pasture, rounding up the sheep, and bringing them the several hundred yards through gates, past the pond, and into the training pen to start the work day. On his fourth visit my corgi on his own went along with her to see how this was done.  Next weekend he’ll help her.  Learning is social.

Thomas watches Flicker closely when she works. Every now and then at home we catch him crouched down against the living room wall, stretched out, head low, eyes alert – imitating his border collie mentor.  When Thomas started visiting the farm Flicker regarded him as another incompetent novice in need of her help. But he's done good work with her, and proven himself; he became a full community member the day the ultra-achieving border collie started hanging out with him.

This experience has shown me what pure intrinsic motivation looks like. When he’s herding, the corgi is completely uninterested in pats on the head or “good boy!” or even tasty treats.  We have to drag him away when he exhausts himself, tongue nearly hitting the ground, and he pouts all the way home. His reward for herding is… to get to do it some more.  I feel that way when I’m in the zone on a good design project, or when researching a new topic that excites me. You have likely felt that way, too.  We can’t expect it every day,  but we should get to experience it often enough to make the rest of what we do less drudgery or routine. Giving people more opportunities for peak moments will help get peak performance.

Okay, then.
When we’re out at the farm other people stop to watch my dog. To see a good performer at work, clearly finding joy in a task (even a hard physical one) is a delight.  We need to do better at targeted hiring, and at creating realistic work samples in the interview phase.   We need to bring people in who are more in need of fine-tuning than complete revamping. We need to find the tasks workers want to perform for their own sake – and give them more opportunities for that.  We need to give people access to mentors and communities with good workers to emulate.  Many L&D practitioners are connected to organizational HR offices. Take a lesson from the corgi in helping to inform your work. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Re-Ignited! DevLearn Session Recap

Devlearn Session 614 Recap
Re-ignited! Revisiting the Innovative World of Learning
David Kelly, Cammy Bean, Jeannette Campos, & Jane Bozarth 

I've done a few Devlearn Ignite! sessions over the years. As the one in 2011 turned into my newest book, Show Your Work, I am always eager to see where these will go.  And there’s no greater pleasure than getting to work with David Kelly, Cammy Bean, and Jeannette Campos. Last year's "Ignite! Meme-ing the Future of Learning" was such a hit we were asked to revisit it. 

A couple of things:
1. Nothing’s is more challenging than creating an Ignite! presentation. 20 slides X 20 seconds each demands really clear thinking and ruthless editing.  I’m not complaining, though: it’s a great exercise.
2. As if creating an Ignite! presentation isn’t challenging enough, we were asked to use only internet memes on the  slides.

This year I focused mostly on the ways work and workers will change. Some points:

We’ll see more jobs automated. Not just mechanical tasks, either: Pharmacists, bookkeepers, and drivers stand to be replaced by robots.

We’ll see bureaucracy and bureaucratic structures fade away:

The employment contract will change. People will be more involved in part-time, self-employed, contractor work. There will be renewed interest in making rather than just consuming.

Wearables will inform us about everything from nutrition to our moods: 

It’s an exciting time for L&D:

 Where do you see L&D going? 

Don’t miss posts from the other DevLearn bloggers! 

Music is Becoming Social Again (#DevLearn)

During this week's "Ukulele Learning" sessions at Devlearn 2015 my copresenter Shawn Rosler showed a chart with whole, quarter, and eighth notes and asked who had ever struggled to learn music this way. A lot of hands went up, accompanied by some headshaking and grimacing. He then led us on a fun activity based on this image.

One of the takeways for participants, I hope, is that learning music can be fun, especially when shared. 

Not all that many years ago, before Mr. Edison invented his wax cylinder, music was something you had to go somewhere to hear unless you played an instrument yourself. Churches had pianos and organs, and communities had local gatherings of musicians both impromptu and planned, amateur and professional. People gathered together to listen and play. It was social. Then mass produced records brought teenager dance parties and whatnot, and if you listened to records at home, well, others heard them. 

In the 1980s music took a turn with the advent of "personal listening" devices like the Walkman. It was great for not subjecting others to your musical taste, but it also shut out those who might be interested. 

Now, with the proliferation of new tools, music is becoming social again.  Songs you listen to can be auto-published by products like Spotify. Others can like it, share it, be reminded of a favorite song, or go check out something new themselves.  You can create collaborative playlists. You can share playlists.  

A wonderful recent development: As the ukulele becomes more popular, more and more open ukulele jams are popping up in cities and even suburbs everywhere. They typically welcome novice players, usually offer something in the way of introductory lessons or support -- sometimes just the promise of starting with easy 3-chord songs-- and are usually filled with amateurs just wanting to gather and play and be happy. 

One of my favorite aspects of the uke jams are the way they are age-agnostic. Jams I've been to welcome and even embrace young players. Here's a guy who comes to my local (Durham, NC) jam and stays as late as his dad will let him:

And here's a first-person video from a fellow relearning after many years:

One of his YouTube-based teachers: 

Music is a great mood lifter and memory-enhancer and helps increase the brain's neuroplasticity, important as we age. Take up an instrument. If you already play, find a way to share it more. Find a community. Have fun! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Ukulele Learning" Devlearn Session Recap

“Ukulele Learning” session recap: 

Update: We repeated this for Devlearn 2016 yesterday, sadly without Ellen Wagner. Not too sadly, though, as, well...ukuleles. The recap stands. After the conferences ukuleles used in these sessions are donated to the Children's Hospital of Nevada. Many thanks to the eLearning Guild for their support. 

Devlearn  2015 Session Recap: 304 (will be repeated Thursday Oct 1 as session 518)
Jane Bozarth, Shawn Rosler, Ellen Wagner

Ukulele Learning:  Music and the Brain
Since so many colleagues of mine have taken up the ukulele recently I wanted to have a uke jam at Devlearn.   We could play together and offer introductory lessons to those who wanted to learn to play. Knowing that people might not want to add a uke to their travel loads, I asked David Holcombe and David Kelly if the eLearning Guild might buy a few to have around.  They said sure, but with a catch: The experience needed to be tied to a concurrent session with a topic related to learning. We did the first session today to a packed house: 15 ukes, 24 maracas...and 72 kazoos. What a good time! 

So I recruited helpers Ellen Wagner and Shawn Rosler, and together we developed “Ukulele Learning: Music and the Brain”.   The session focused mostly on ways music can be used to enhance our work by taking advantage of its affordances:

1. Memory and Retention.  Music has powerful uses as a mnemonic, from tying new vocabulary and ideas to familiar tunes (see students reciting the Chinese dynasties to the tune of “FrereJacques"), to helping fix an idea (see Conjunction Junction), to tapping into prior learning. Oliver Sacks, in his years of work with patients with dementia, said: “Music memory remains when all other types of memories have failed.”

2.  Mood. Just as setting and color can visually affect the mood of, say, an elearning course, so can music “color” an approach or an idea. Compare the mood in this piece to this one

3. Attention. Listen to a song like “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Notice how you listen for the shifts in voice and speed? Or when you have a playlist on “shuffle” and perk up a bit to notice which song comes up next? Music – particularly when it is used strategically, and not just as background noise -- invites us to focus and attend.  

4. Motivation and reward. Likewise, music can be the reward for paying attention, releasing a hit of dopamine to the brain. Music can also provide a sense of urgency or motion, important to learner persistence and encouraging the learner to keep going.

Discussion in the session involved tying ideas to specific work projects:  You’re developing a module on customer service. What kind of music might represent an angry caller? What might suggest the mood created for the service rep during a difficult interaction? How could you use music to convey a sense of urgency about responding quickly to a safety issue? What role could music play in a banking scenario about fraudulent activity?
Important:   We do not advocate for using music as auditory wallpaper. Music should not serve only as noise but be used judiciously as a design element. As Tom Kuhlmann says: “Adding an audio background to your boring elearning course only makes it boring and danceable.”

We then moved on to a fun basic ukulele lesson, working on a simple strum and forming a few basic chords to play a couple of songs. 

Thanks again to the Guild for purchasing the ukuleles, which will be donated to the Children's Hospital of Nevada LV.

The session is being repeated tomorrow, October 1, at 1:15, session 518 in room 201. Here is some foreshadowing:

Session resources including the music playlist are at Diigo.com/user/jbo27712/MusicLearning

Be sure to check out posts from all the DevLearn Bloggers! 

9 Critical Elements of Performance Improvement: Devlearn Session Recap

Session Recap:
“9 Critical Elements of Performance Improvement”
Devlearn 2015 Session 111: Jane Bozarth & Jeannette Campos

In January 2014 my husband, Kent,  was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The experience -- from diagnosis to surgery to complications to recovery -- served as an excellent reminder that learning does not happen in a vacuum, that “training” is rarely enough, and that learners are actors in a system with many moving parts. This session explored 9 key points of performance improvement in the context of Kent's story.

1. “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.” ~Kettering
Kent presented with occasional blurry vision.  He thought he needed glasses. Our family doctor sent him to an opthalmologist. 

What evidence do we look for to confirm our understanding of the performance problem? How often do we treat symptoms versus performance problems?

2. Prepare your learner and others.
We were provided with only the most general information about what to expect from the surgery and during recovery.

How well do we prepare our learners for successful outcomes?  How often are our training interventions designed in response to specific and targeted performance problems?  How do we design for “personalized” learning experiences?

Do we even know who our learners are? What shortcuts do we take around getting to know our learners?

3. The long tail of performance improvement
We expected that Kent would return to work in about 6 weeks. It ended up being a year. 

Discussion: The long tail of performance improvement. Training has ended but the performance hasn’t yet begun.

How do we link/pair the training intervention with extended support for performance improvement?  Why is training (as an intervention) almost never enough?
How do we resist (or help others resist) the idea that the initial event – training – is the end when it is only the beginning?

 4. All learning is about relationships.
Performance depended on a network of support staff, from medical personnel to neighbors helping Kent take his first walks around the neighborhood.

When trainers/training aren’t enough (and they almost never are) … how do we think about the relationships that best support performance after learning? Well-designed performance improvement interventions involve many people from different parts/areas of the learner’s natural environment that exist well beyond the classroom. 
How do we as workplace learning practitioners design performance improvement strategies that extend beyond trainers and the classroom?
How do we promote learner-to-learner relationships? Or, said differently, how often do we involve a learner’s manager or co-workers in the success of a performance support intervention?   

5. Consider the five moments of learning need.
Unexpected outcomes forced Kent to have to learn new things, like managing with a walker and navigating a shower stall by palming the walls. 

This speaks to the classic five moments of learning need: When learning for the first time, when trying to remember, when trying to apply, when things change, and when things go wrong.

 6. “You and the cause of all of your problems are part of the same system.” ~Senge
Kent’s recovery depended on many moving parts, from transportation arrangements to visits to additional facilities such as outpatient PT office and the eye center.

What other parts of your system influence your ability to achieve optimal performance outcomes?  How do you incorporate  systems thinking into your design of training and learning events?

7. Allow for the graduation of a skill.
Time spent at inpatient rehabilitation involved hours of work toward successfully (without falling) showering, dressing, and performing basic life tasks. The facility had a working kitchen and things like freestanding steps and  a replica of a car that allowed practicing getting in and out.

The degree to which the learning environment replicates the performing environment.  How often are we able to do that in training?  How often do we try to do that in training?  What is the benefit of supported practice prior to application?

8. All people present with 4 basic tendencies
Based on the work by Chris Argyris, we know that all people present with four basic tendencies; 1) maximize winning and minimize losing, 2) remain in unilateral control, 3) appear rational, and 4) to suppress negative feelings. 

How much do you know about basic human behavior? How often do you think about predictable human behavior when you design, develop, and deliver training or learning interventions? 

9. What is measured matters.
The initial goal of “surviving the surgery” was a noble one but, given the outcomes, not enough. Given the complications many people in the system set other goals for Kent’s recovery.

What is a successful outcome of training? What is the goal of the intervention? How do we stay focused on the “true goal” of improved performance for our end-user instead of the artificial goal of “learning at training”.

I hope one thing people took away from this session is that "performance" is a concept far, far beyond someone completing an elearning course, passing a test, or even performing a discrete task correctly in the moment. There are 1,000 things between the learner and successful performance. The learner is an actor in a system and it's up to us to start seeing the nodes and connectors and other elements that will support performance improvement.

For more on Kent’s story see Bozarth, J. (2015). Performance Matters, or, Guy Walks Into A Brain Tumor Clinic. Learning Solutions Magazine June 2015. http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1714/nuts-and-bolts-performan ce-matters-or-guy-walks-into-a-brain-tumor-clinic

Be sure to check out posts from all the DevLearn Bloggers! 

Update: Several hours after the presentation I received this from Kent: