Friday, September 04, 2015

Social Media for Learning, Part 1: Extending, Including, Supporting

This month's Nuts and Bolts column is the first in a series updating ideas around using social media for learning. I'm looking especially at the rise of new tools for user-generated images and video:  

“L&D is great at creating and delivering content. But emerging and evolving tools give us the opportunity to engage with our learners in new ways, to help move us toward making workplace learning more a process and less an event. Consider where you have needs to extend the reach of a course, stay in touch with alumni or people in particular work areas or jobs. Chances are there are easy ways of solving a problem, enriching conversations, and making L&D’s work more visible and valuable.”

You can access the rest here

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The #Blimage Challenge

I do love fun, original ideas. My buddy Jane Hart (@c4lpt) has just tagged me in the #blimage challenge. What is it? Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) says: “You send an image or photograph to a colleague with the challenge that they have to write a learning related blog post based on it. Just make sure the images aren’t too rude. The permutations are blimmin’ endless.”  

Here's the image Jane sent: 

My first thought was that this is a wonderful metaphor for reaching for -- and finally getting to -- that ah-ha "lightbulb" moment that changes our perspective, or clarifies a concept, or illuminates an idea. The trees represent those around us -- those with whom we live and learn --  who one way or another help us reach that goal.

It's interesting that at nearly the same moment my #blimage assignment arrived another colleague pinged me with a question about PLNs. Another thing I see here, probably because of that conversation, is that in achieving this ah-ha several trees wrapped around and directly supported the tree reaching for it. Other trees stand close nearby, contributing in ways that may not be direct, but with roots touching and supporting below the surface, not serving only as onlookers. Such is the nature of social learning. 

See also my recent Learning Solutions Magazine piece on "Causing Serendipity" . 

And now... I hand the #blimage challenge off to David Kelly (@lnddave) Sue Beckingham (@suebecks), and Connie Malamed (@elearningcoach) . Here's your image:   

Be sure to check out this Pinterest board for results!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Accessibility Is More Than "Compliance"

I'm always surprised that so many in the training/instructional design/elearning business aren't more concerned with accessibility issues. In my experience this comes more from lack of awareness than intentional disregard. Here are some musings on accessibility, usability, and universal design. Be sure to check the resources offered -- and don't miss the informative, helpful comments! 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

About that Brain Tumor...

This month's column takes me into new personal-revelation territory with a story of terrifying surgery, recovery, and the ways training did (and didn't) play into it. Bottom line: Performers are actors in a system. The things L&D so often focus on don't happen in isolation. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Causing Serendipty

In my social media workshops I find that participants struggle most with ideas for supporting serendipitous, accidental, and spinoff learning. This month's Nuts & Bolt's column offers tips for that.  Among them? Be a curator & connector, encourage reflection, and put rocks in the path. We can’t schedule accidents. But we can work to help create an environment in which opportunities can serendipitously occur.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Spring Treat: Connie Malamed's New "Visual Design Solutions"

Much better than a hollow chocolate bunny, my metaphorical Easter basket this year held a review copy of Connie Malamed’s wonderful new Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning.  

As a career-long government employee I’m always interested in low-cost solutions so appreciate Connie’s attention to the idea that good design is not necessarily about money or software. She offers  examples created with PowerPoint, tips for taking your own photographs, and ideas for making something better by, for instance, mixing photographs for a more complete effect. My other career challenge, again a product of my government environment, is the unending demand for learning experiences around deadly-dry-content areas like policy and compliance. Malamed helps here, too, with ideas for making content more exciting and offering suggestions for challenges like working with numbers. Some other highlights:

-          Visual fluency and the role of symbol in developing a common language
-          Overcoming simple challenges that often bedevil new designers, like working with gradient backgrounds
Alternatives to bullets and other layout challenges
Grouping to support the brain's gift for pattern sensing 
-          Techniques for creating emphasis   

If there’s a central message, though, it’s the idea of designing with intention. As I like to say in one of my own design workshops: “Put your hands in the air and step away from the computer.” Think about the look and feel and the feeling and the view from 10,000 feet. What is the whole experience you’re after? It is hard, looking at an authoring tool, to refrain from wanting to start loading content and searching for templates and images. Malamed wants the learner to have an elegant, complete experience. To that end she focuses on the view of a project as more than the sum of its parts. Typeface matters: Even people not trained in design “pick up cues from a typeface and ascribe its characteristics to a personality” and are aware when the typeface doesn’t match the message.  Color matters: It conveys mood and stirs emotions, especially pleasure. The palette has psychological impact.  The tone of the writing matters. The choice of when and how to, or not to, use white space matters. In other words: Everything matters.

Malamed’s Visual Design Solutions is an excellent resource useful for anyone in the training/elearning design/presentation business but also anyone involved in design in general and communication in particular.  

Sunday, March 08, 2015

What's the Story in the Slide Deck?

This month's Nuts & Bolts column looks to extend Cammy Bean's great session on writing better elearning scripts.  Key ideas include trimming the fat, editing ruthlessly, finding your 20%, and playing the old "classified ads" game.   Check it out!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Cammy Bean, "Writing Better eLearning Scripts" Training 2015

I'm in Atlanta for Training 2015. Our friend Cammy Bean so often live blogs other people's conference sessions, including some of mine, I figured I'd return the favor.

"How can we write better programs?" 

-Aim for short & snappy
-How do people talk to each other? Write like that. Use a lighter, accessible tone.
It's really critical to know your audience
(Form follows function) Comic books are fun and can support the fun affect.

-We are storytellers - that's why writing is so essential.
"It's all about the people, man. Sitting at the other end of that computer is a person. We need to make it accessible, conversational. What if you were sitting having a cup of coffee with someone and talking about this topic? Capture that tone.

-Object to learning objectives. These are objectives for the designer. Learners don't need these and won't read them -- and it's not how we  talk to each other.  (Jane: I have never had a boss ask me to "list" anything.)

- Read it out loud. Would YOU want to listen? That helps a lot with cutting jargon, wordiness. Make it something that's appealing to you. If you think it's boring, others will think it's even more boring.

- Inject humanity by letting real people talk. Use iPhones if you need to: "Here's what  I think." "Here's my perspective" "Here's how I do that." Work out loud/show your work.

- Tell great stories. See Heath & Heath's Making Things Stick . Use stories to help someone step into another's shoes. It will help them remember, will help with subsequent practice.

- Grab attention w tales of risk & intrigue. Provide a cliffhanger. Set up a curiosity gap.

- Find stories by asking questions of SMEs: Where do people get this wrong? What do people want to DO? Where can they get more information and help?

-"Ask your experts to think out loud. Get them to narrate their work and walk you through the process."

-"Have the SME tell you the story of their slide deck."

-Use the words they SAY, not the words they write. Get it in their words.

- Activate your writing -- go for engaging, active. Pull the learner through a great story. Connect the dots so the story flows from one piece to the next.

- Cut the blather; focus on doing.

- Write the neverending story. Elearning may just be the beginning -- help learners take the action out into the real world.

-Clear call to action: get them to think about how they will change their behavior.

Learn more at Today's slide deck is available on Slideshare.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Expand Your Surface Area

In this month's Nuts & Bolts column I extend an invitation to  expand your surface area beyond usual topics and readings and communities:
" A while back at an eLearning Guild event (DevLearn 2010), I was fortunate to attend a keynote by John Seely Brown, who at the time had just published his 
Power of Pull. Among my takeaways? His advice to “expand your surface area.” One great way to do this is to increase your nonfiction reading, or join in conversations, in areas perhaps not directly connected to your immediate work interests."

Take a look! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Figure It Out

No time or money to do what you'd like? Not "allowed" to use this tool or that process? Shifting time constraints? This month's Nuts & Bolts column explores figuring things out, making things happen, and getting things done. Largely inspired by Euan Semple who said: “Quit reading case study porn and get on with it.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

"Social Media for Learning" meets "Show Your Work": The 21 Day Drawing Challenge

There's a fun social learning activity going on via, the "21 Day Drawing Challenge" . Led by artist Von Glitschka, the project offers a daily new assignment (like "draw a cat" or "draw a man on a unicycle using only a continuous line") along with a quick overview video and printable reference worksheet. 

Additional support and participant interaction happen via a Facebook page.  There Von Glitschka offers additional tips and sometimes directs participants to tutorials in other courses. Even better: People use the comments area on the daily Facebook posts to share pictures of their own drawings and to talk about what they found especially challenging or describe the technique they used. It's a great example of people interacting around a shared purpose, showing their work, helping each other learn.

Many people are also sharing their images via Twitter (#draw21days); @
kristinrtaylor tweeted a picture and said: "My first go at @lynda #draw21days challenge. Getting over my fear of others seeing my work. Have to start somewhere!" 

So if you're interested in using social media to support instruction, and/or seeing how "show your work" really works (or if you're interested in learning to draw!) do pop by and take a look. Day 3 has just started so there's still time to catch up if you'd like to join the fun. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reflective Practice

. Consider investing more time in working toward improving in the future, reconcilin
We spend a lot of time in this business talking about how to do things: build it, program it, deliver it, launch it, or sell it. We don’t spend much thinking about what to do after we’ve actually done it. Consider investing more time in working toward improving in the future, reconciling your walk with your talk, and building your role as practitioner in a professional pursuit.

See the July Nuts & Bolts column for details on becoming a more reflective practitioner. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Show Your Work!

We know that a lot of “traditional” knowledge management approaches don’t work very well. We have piles of status reports and documented standard operating procedures and what have you, and still, data says we spend a quarter of our time looking for something—or someone—with the information we really need.

Working efficiently and effectively isn’t just about capturing “information.” We need to do better, not at documenting what people do, but how they get things done. This will help our organizations, our coworkers, and others who engage in our practice. It will support your credibility and establish or strengthen your brand. And it’s how we help each other learn.

See this month's Learning Solutions Nuts & Bolts Column offers an exploration of how showing our work can help solve some of organizational life's most bedeviling problems. 

Available now! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Managing Expectations of Social Tools

I find that many organizations have rather unrealistic expectations of what will happen when they move to employ social tools. See this month's Nuts & Bolts column for more: "Every member in an organization won’t participate equally. There will be noise. And some of that noise will end up having value, or building a bridge that will prove useful later. Just like in real life.”

Headed to Learning Solutions next week? I've got breakouts...stage presentations...a panel... and live #lrnchat! Hope to see you there. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Building Community

A lot of my time is spent hearing about, and talking about, and reading about, and endeavoring to, building communities.  I find that people come to the conversations often too focused on the same things (mostly control, platforms, and, er, control) without much regard to desired outcomes, user experience, and dangers. See this month's Nuts and Bolts column for more.  

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Punish the Learner

For those who've been keeping up with Project Ukulele, I found a nice local group that has a uke playalong meetup every 1st and 3rd Monday. We meet in a small coffeehouse that hosts small concerts so there's something of a 'stage' up front.  In months that have a 5th Monday -- like September 2013 -- there's an open mic meeting. People come prepared to perform a song or 2,  and with the smaller group that shows up it's a fun time to share and learn some new songs. 

Last night as we were winding down, and after a good deal of nudging from the man next to her, a woman named Vivian got up on stage. She's been playing for 2 1/2 weeks. Weeks. Before she began she said:

"I took piano lessons for a year when I was six. The night of my recital I walked out on stage in my beautiful blue satin gown my grandmother made for the occasion. We weren't allowed to have music; we were expected to play our pieces by heart. I sat down on the bench and started to play and then -- I couldn't remember what came next. I just froze. And I hung my head. And I remember now how it felt when I looked down and saw big teardrops falling down onto my beautiful new satin dress. I haven't touched an instrument since then."

She put some printed music on a stand, then played and sang a lovely rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". 

In my work I run into a lot of "blame the learner" mentality: "They can't use the technology, and they don't want to learn, and they don't care, and no matter how many times we go over it they go back to work and do it wrong."  And I recently read -- really --  "There are no learning problems in corporate settings. There are only people unwilling to learn." 

I promise you no one wanted to learn more than 6 year old Vivian. But put a good performer in a bad system and the system will win every time. 

Let's talk about Vivian. She was 6 years old and:
Was expected to perform.
Before she was ready.
In an unnatural setting.

In public.
With "bosses" watching.
By memory.
Without a job aid. 

I suppose you get my point. 

Last  night Vivian was ready to try again. It wasn't quite this, but it wasn't bad at all. And it only took her 56 years. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making Video More "Social"

Something new next week, hosted by KZO Innovations: Video used in formal training, or to support informal learning, doesn't have to be just another passive viewing experience.  Too often online video becomes just another publish-only venture, but there are easy ways to make it more of a social and reflective endeavor. Join me for a look at the ways video can be used effectively to extend learning experieces and help generate new ones. September 26, 1:30 pm, free (note: 50 minutes). Sign up

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Myth of Best Practices: Update

In 2009 I wrote a post, "The Myth of Best Practices"  , that described problems with both context and fidelity. Here's a great example of what usually happens when "best practices" are transferred from one setting to another: 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Be A Learner

This month's "Nuts and Bolts" column explores the ways an instructional designer can learn from her own learning. In my line of work there’s a lot of conversation about instructional design and common design flaws, and I spend a lot of time evaluating eLearning courses and products. I find it helps my perspective immensely when I set out to learn something new for myself, the more unrelated to work, the better. Among them: Play the song, draw a picture, and lose the ferrets. 

See more at . 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Show Your Work" Event Today

I publish a lot, and few things have gotten me more response than last August's Nuts & Bolts column, "Narrating Our Work". It clearly resonated with readers, so much so that strangers now contact me wanting to share their own examples. (I am always interested in seeing more, by the way.)

As I wrote in the May issue of T+D Magazine:
" Sharing and showing what we’re doing and learning can ease several pain points for organizations. First there’s the capture of tacit knowledge:  it helps fill the gap that so often occurs when someone leaves a job but those remaining don’t know how to pick up where the former worker left off. And it helps others learn about executing work not easily captured as a step-by-step process. Then there’s the matter of connecting talent pools, branching across organizational silos, and surfacing expertise. How many times have you finished a project , or researched an idea, or hunted down a resource, only to find someone else had already done the same thing? For T & D, a willingness to learn from what workers share can help to reveal where training issues exist, provide artifacts that can be repurposed as training content, and help make workplace training more relevant and real-world based.  And:  showing what we’re doing -- narrating our work in a public way -- work helps make learning more explicit. It surfaces informal and social learning to help make it visible to the organization and and management, whereas often now it is only opaque." 

Join me today, June 11, 2 pm ET,  for "Show Your Work", a webcast hosted by ASTD. We'll look at a lot of real examples and talk about why, how, who, and what we in L&D can do to support it. The session is free but you do need to jump through some registration hoops.

Curious? Here's a Pinterest board that should give you an idea of the kinds of things we'll discuss today. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Are You a Positive Deviant? (Updated June 1)

Update: I curated some resources for webinar attendees that others may find interesting. Due to the buzz this topic generated we're continuing the conversation in #lrnchat on Thursday, June 6, 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 PT. (Sydney? That's Friday June 7, 11:30 am.) 

"In every group there are 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

You know one: the one manager of 30 in the building who never misses deadlines and consistently shows good results while retaining great staff. The one teacher who’s successful with technology integration, while 50 others don’t “have time.” The one state government classroom trainer of 500 who instead of saying, “We can’t do e-learning because it’s too expensive,” asked, “How can we do e-learning without much money?” 
Read the rest in this month's issue of Training Magazine.

And view the recording of the May 29 webinar (Training Magazine Network)  "Tips for the Positive Deviant"  . 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Want Better Outcomes? Design Assessments First

New Learning Solutions column this week: “Work backwards. Write the performance goals, decide how you will assess those, and then design the program. The content and activities you create should support eventual achievement of those goals.”ork b

See the full article at:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

What is "Good" eLearning, Anyway?

This month in Learning Solutions:

"Over the years I’ve seen a lot of lists of criteria for buying eLearning, for developing a product, and for choosing a vendor or developer. I agree we have to go in having some idea of what ‘good’ is, at least enough to keep us away from all text or bedtime-reading narration of that text, or seductive but irrelevant elements. The trick? Finding an explicit performance need, getting clear on assessments first, and sticking to a plan that helps the learner learn.”

See more at:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

PowerPoint Converter for 2013

With the 2nd edition of Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging eLearning with PowerPoint (updated for PowerPoint 2013) going to press in August I’ve been busy learning PowerPoint 2013 and testing out converter tools. [Disclosure: I made it known that I was working on this. Some vendors approached me asking me to test tools; I downloaded some free trials of others.] What I’ve always needed? Quick conversion, quick upload with minimal bugs, and fidelity in capturing audio, transitions and animations, including triggers.  What I need now? All of that, compatible with PowerPoint 2013, and with reliable conversion to both Flash and HTML5.  And, with Microsoft’s unfortunate decision to take the Sound Editor out of Windows, I hoped for a product that included an audio editor, thereby keeping me to just two tools (PowerPoint and the converter tool) rather than three or more.

I looked at several products and found overall I was very happy with the iSpring Suite 6.2 and still-in-beta iSpring Pro 7. .  I gave it quite a workout and consistently got the fast, smooth conversions I was after without once having to go play with manifest files or otherwise do any debugging.  Conversion of even big slide shows with lots of images, animation and audio is very fast. I don’t make heavy use of video but did try conversions with several video clips in assorted formats and got good results. Here's the iSpring Suite toolbar: 

The player is highly customizable.  I never need 1/10 of what most products offer so it did everything I wanted although I admit to not pushing it very hard. I especially liked the ease of making choices:  unlike some other products, there aren’t a lot of default settings that are difficult to override. 

Publishing is a one-click to web, cd or LMS, and everything ran the first time, every time. I was pleased with the audio recording and editing tools and allow that it is much better than the minimal functiontonality provided by the old Windows Sound Editor.

While I’m not looking for much in the way of “authoring” outside of PowerPoint itself, the iSpring suite includes the Quizmaker and the Kinetics interaction tools so I did take them for a spin.  The Quizmaker provides options to create graded items such as multiple choice, matching, hotspot, and even text entry, or ungraded survey-style quizzes.  The Kinetics tool is limited but offers a few interactions, such as one for creating a page-flip appearance, a FAQs creator, and a nice little timeline builder (period, event, that sort of thing)  that would be tedious to build from scratch in PowerPoint. 

Overall: The product behaves well, did what I need without compromise or workaround, and had no performance problems during testing. There are a few animations not yet working with PowerPoint 2013 but they are expected in an upcoming update. I’m not one to often endorse products but, along with my undying love for SnagIt, can say iSpring is worth a look.  There’s a free trial for iSpring 6.2, but I’m bringing this conversation up now because iSpring Pro 7 is currently in beta  and available to those wishing to serve as testers. See

Monday, February 04, 2013

When Social Biz Meets Superbowl

I spend a lot of my time describing effective use of social media and the need for brands to have a real voice, to show that they are in touch with their customers, and to show that they are acting in real-time. Problems with auto-scheduling and then stepping away from social media content, or outsourcing social media tasks to inept firms, have time and again proven embarrassing (at best) for companies. But it's no reason to shy away from working in the social space. 

Last night's power failure during the Superbowl brought several great examples of corporate social media voices in the right place at the right time, giving a bit of humanity to the companies and showing some personality behind the corporate image: 

As with most anything else at work, it's a matter of hiring. Choose those who will understand and bring the right voice at the right time, who show a sense of humor and confidence in doing the right thing for the organization. And let them work. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Happy New Year

It's my habit with each January column to revisit colums from the previous year. Here's a recap of major themes from 2012:

1. Find new approaches to design work

2. Be more reflective about practice, and work to evolve it 
3. Find new ways to encourage change by showing value

The full piece is at:

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Content Becomes Its Own Context

“How much of our training budget goes to things that have nothing to do with ‘learning’? Why does the LMS cost more than the whole L&D department? How many organizations invest in more authoring tools and asset libraries than they do in people who know how to use them to design more effectively? Why have we fragmented learning into shards of ‘objects’ rather than craft whole, robust learning experiences? We’re supposed to be in the learning business, not the ‘object’ business.”


Tuesday, November 06, 2012


"How would different beliefs about learning affect our practice? What is the prevailing belief in your own work culture? In thinking of my own past and present workplaces, and the types of instruction I’ve most often been asked to build or facilitate, the belief seems most often to be that learning happens as people acquire discrete pieces of data—which we hope they’ll apply as needed. This in turn affects the way in which the instruction attempts to tap into prior learning and tie to other, related pieces of instruction."

For the full article, see:

The Pinterest board referenced in the article is at

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Assessing the Value of Online Interactions

In looking for value in online interactions, try to get past the idea of a magic metric. I can’t tell you that my spending x hours on LinkedIn and tweeting y times per day will get you the result I got in the example above. I can tell you that my choice of when, with whom, and how to engage is what helped drive that result.

For more, including an overview of a new framework from Wenger et al, see:

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


One of the givens in working with adult learners is the importance of helping them access prior knowledge and building on what they already know. But what if that prior knowledge is no longer useful, or the skills no longer applicable, or it was never very accurate in the first place? 

See more in this month's "Nuts and Bolts" column:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Narrating Our Work

"By sharing what we are doing and how we are learning, we distribute the tacit knowledge otherwise so hard to capture; invite feedback and encouragement from others; invite others to learn with us; document our work and learning for future use; and tie our learning to the efforts of others. Here’s a true story about physical rehab turned learning turned hobby turned community of practice turned two successful businesses, all via informal, social means. And all within six months."  

See this month's "Nuts & Bolts" column:

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"Selling It": Encouraging Change

This month's "Nuts and Bolts" column takes on a common problem: sometimes in our enthusiasm we may be creating the very resistance we're trying to overcome. "What we find cool, others find intimidating. What we find useful, others find threatening. What we find magical, others find scary. And sometimes the very benefits we tout are exactly what others fear." 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blog Book Tour: Karl Kapp's "Gamification of Learning and Instruction"

Blog book tour stop 3: I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Karl Kapp’s new book, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction” (Pfeiffer) (also see the book's Facebook Pagejust in time for a long plane ride. What a delight! In an age when there’s so much confusion about this in the field, Kapp offers a timely, common-sense view of realities and possibilities.  Among my own frustrations are those in L&D (and, ahem, marketing) who are swept away on tides of badges and points without really understanding the instrinsic motivation and factors critical to successful, meaningful gamification.  (More about that? Take a look at the incredibly popular new game Draw Something, in which the only "rule" is an implicit one and successful play requires collaboration, not competition. Fifty million downloads within 50 days of release. And there isn’t even a winner, ever. )

Kapp pitches the book at just the right level, making material relevant for more experienced gamers as well as for those to whom all this would be rather new.  Several chapters offer basics about game elements and play, while others offer reviews of theory and research regarding games for learning, player types and patterns, and snapshots of ways games can support workplace performance of particular types of tasks. Chapters open with  questions, which provides a nice advance organizer for the information to come.

The author has called in some big guns in terms of expertise, with Alicia Sanchez providing a chapter-length case study from Defense Acquisition University, and a chapter on virtual reality games from expert Koreen Olbrish.   I love that Chapter 11 is written by high school senior Nathan Kapp, the author’s son, who  brings a particularly relevant perspective as  he “has been playing video games his whole life."

This is an excellent resource for those seeking to make sense of the gamification craze and apply gamification principles to create better learning experiences. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

How Can We Know What We Don't Know?

Last month's "Nuts and Bolts" column "Buy or Build? and hte decisionmaking folwchart included there, sparked an interesting comment from a reader: " Sometimes organizations go to great trouble and expense to build (often inferior) eLearning in-house becasue they don't really know what their other options are." I explore this further in this month's column:   How Can We Know What We Don't Know? 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

eLearning: Buy or Build?

So often I see organizations struggling to develop eLearning in-house when, really, outsourcing would result in  a better product that's really less expensive in the long run. This month's "Nuts and Bolts" column for Learning Solutions Magazine explores this: Buy or Build? 

Saturday, March 03, 2012

What Does Learning Look Like? This.

3 Birds, One Stone

Bird 1: I do lots of workshops on using social media for learning, and I struggle to help participants see the possibilities of using images rather than text-based approaches in their work. Thanks to email and discussion boards, we tend to fall into "comment here, post there, respond to that" kinds of interactions. But now, with so many workers armed with cell phones, nearly all of which have decent cameras, there are so many more possibilities for using images and video in our work. A plus: This can level the playing field for people with low-literacy or second-language issues.

Bird 2: I struggle with helping learners recognize when they are learning. They think of it instead as "solving a problem" or "getting an answer". They don't say, "Gee, I'm a motivated, self-directed adult learner, and I think I'll become more mindful of that." They instead say, "I'll just Google 'spreadsheet tutorial' and see what I find." And if they don't recognize when they're learning, it may just not occur to them to share their new learning with others, or mention it to the boss, or include it in their weekly status report. 

Bird 3: My whole career I have struggled to help managers and HR Directors and supervisors and workers understand that "learning" rarely looks like "school". Because of their experience with education, they believe learning happens at tables (or in front of a computer) while an expert talks. 

One Stone: 
This morning (thanks to Dan Pontefract @dpontefract sharing something via Valerie Irvine @_valeriei, who were posting this, the brainchild of Jeffery Heil  -- that's how Twitter works, see?) I ran across the most wonderful big stone that hits squarely on all 3 birds: being mindful about learning, while showing what it really looks like, all done via sharing photos on Pinterest on a board called "What Does Learning Look Like?"  

Fabulous answer to a fabulous question. And worth much more than 1,000 words. 

Friday, March 02, 2012

From Traditional ID to ID 2.0

I have an article in the new issue of ASTD's T+D, "From Traditional Instruction to Instructional Design 2.0". It's excerpted here if you'd like to take  look. Some highlights:

Social learning is learning with and from others by moving within one’s culture, workplace, and world. It’s often unconscious and unintentional, and it often looks more like solving a problem or working together to make sense of something. Social learning is how most of us learn most things: through living in our cultures and interacting with others there. It’s how babies learn to talk and how we learn the basic rules of getting along on the playground. It’s all around us every day, from water cooler conversations to asking a co-worker for an opinion.

What are some ways to help support the new learning as people work to implement it? Some ideas include
  • an online leadership book club to sustain learning beyond the confines of the organization’s structured leadership academy
  • a networking group for graduates of a particular course, which can be a great way to support transfer of new learning from the classroom event
  • a dynamic, evolving frequently-asked-questions webpage for new hires, created by new hires, or a webpage with tips from top sales staff
  • a wiki for group projects
  • a site for “critical incident” discussions related to training topics such as customer service or ethics
  • a microblog-based live chat for all the leaders in your organization, or all leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, or all leaders everywhere
  • a Twitter hashtag assigned to your training sessions so participants can tweet key points and takeaways to those who were unable to attend.
Check here for the excerpt, and the actual publication for the full text. 

Social Learning and Etc.: In Conversation with Jane Hart

Jane Hart and I got together to talk about social learning, social media, change management, and measuring engagement in online communities. Here's the recording: Her audio's not great so she let me do most of the talking. I didn't do anything to cause that-- I promise.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not Everything Requires "Instruction"

New "Nuts & Bolts" column today: Watch for opportunities to quickly solve a performance problem or encourage use of a new idea, approach or tool. Warning: this may not have a thing to do with your job.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Headed to DevLearn?

I hope to see you at the eLearning Guild's DevLearn Conference and Expo next week. If you're there, join me Wednesday for a Morning Buzz session on social learning, on Thursday for breakout sessions "What Managers and Executives Need to Know About Social Learning" and, with Kevin Thorn "DesignBoarding: Leveraging Good Treatments for Your Content".  Also on Thursday I'll be on the Strategic Buyers Stage to discuss "Outsourcing Social Media: When and Why".  Also check out sessions from many of my great and learned (and entertaining) colleagues. DevLearn is always a great time, and this year it's in Vegas, baby. Should be a fun and meaningful time! 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

"Nuts and Bolts" for Practitioners

Many of you likely know that for the past couple of years I've been writing a monthly column, "Nuts & Bolts", for the eLearning Guild's Learning Solutions Magazine. It's meant to help an audience largely made up of folks who may have found their way to eLearning and instructional design via less-than-formal means. I find that writing this often satisfies my bloggin' urge (and find that people often refer to these columns as "posts"). Some are ID based, some philosophical, some theory. Visit here for all the past columns. 

"Social Media for Learning" Report

I was delighted that the eLearning Guild invited me to write up the results of their ongoing "Social Media for Learning" report. The 2011 version is now available to Guild members. Results showed great enthusiasm for using social media for learning, and widespread (83% of respondents!) belief that social media for learning was worthwhile. 

There's a brief excerpt in my October "Nuts and Bolts" Column for Learning Solutions if you'd like to take a look there. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tool Time: To Each His Own

In my work I sometimes need to schedule meetings with people, all at once, who live around the globe: New York, LA, Sydney, London. As I am math-challenged even on the best days I find the time zone issue confounding and almost always get something wrong. I'd tried a number of time zone converters but none displayed multiple cities in just the way I needed. So I was delighted to find out about World Time Buddy, which displays time by cities all at once. I tweeted about this and was almost immediately, resoundingly, hammered with responses like "this is not useful for webinars" and "I don't need to know the city, I need to know the time zone".

Here's the thing: World Time Buddy is useful to me. It is the tool that solves my problem. It is what I need. With literally dozens of time converters out there, no doubt there is something more useful for you, that solves your problem. This is part of the magic of the web 2.0 world: people can find just-in-time, just-for-me solutions. Some of us think that maybe that's supposed to be the point.

I see this happen, too, in discussions of most other tools. People say, "Well, college students don't use Twitter" as if there is some fatal flaw of Twitter that only college students see. Why would a college student use Twitter? Do most undergraduates need to reach out to big online communities day and night? I like Twitter because I am in a very isolating work role and have found it a wonderful way to connect with other L&D professionals and writers. I didn't really need that when I was in college. (And by the way: when I'm in a location with lots of friends nearby, like at a conference, and want to keep in touch via text, I don't really use Twitter for that. I like the Beluga phone app. I bet college students have something they like for that, too.)

And of course it is happening now with Google+. I keep going in to look at conversations, and I'd guess that fully half of them right now are either arguments about how Google+ is better or worse than some other tool, or discussions of which other tool will or will not be put out of business by Google+. I like Google+  fine, and I've enjoyed playing with it for the past week or so. I also still like Facebook and Twitter just fine, too. Others like LinkedIn. Or Ning groups. Or [name your tool]. (As I've said before: Don't like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+? Ask for your money back.)

I don't know why we feel there has to be one magic tool to rule them all. But I do know this, for sure: If tomorrow someone launched the Perfect Social Media Product, which was free, ridiculously easy to use, seamlessly integrated with every other need and tool, and solved every problem we had, then the day after tomorrow there would rise up a group of People Who Hate The Perfect Social Media Product. There would then be another tool, and more discussions, and ... will it ever end?

So my $.02? Find what you need, and use that tool/those tools. Partly that may be driven by where your best connections spend most of their time. But don't be blind to other, newer things, or places where other good connections are spending time, and try to give them an honest chance. And please, if we ever need to have a meeting in Yokohama, be sure to double-check my math.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Join me at eLearn Magazine!

I have recently taken on a new role as Editor in Chief of eLearn Magazine and hope you'll be a partner with me on this new journey. Here is part of my welcome message:

"I’m thrilled to be coming on board as Editor in Chief.  We’ve worked hard to identify ways of keeping the best of the last 10 years while looking for new areas of focus and ideas for reaching a broader community of readers. eLearning has evolved so much since 2001, from “CBT” and the early days of “distance education,” through virtual classrooms and virtual worlds to, now, the brave new frontier of handheld devices and mLearning, in an age with so much being created, shared, and curated through the new channels provided by social media.
The eLearn reader we hope to reach is  interested in and willing to use new technologies and approaches in creating, delivering, and supporting instruction (both academic and organizational) and workplace performance improvement.  This reader sees him- or herself as an educator or workplace learning practitioner interested in professional development, improving practice, and learning more about learning regardless of the vehicle.  He regards professional development and lifelong learning as an obligation for any practitioner in any field.  She is not a schoolmarm with a ruler.
eLearn will continue to publish content for the higher ed audience but will expand material for  those involved in workplace training, instructional design, and performance support.   We’ve already begun this journey with Cammy Bean’s wonderful  “Avoiding the Trap of Clicky-Clicky-Bling-Bling”, Aaron Silvers’ review of Thomas and Brown’s New Culture of Learning, and Tracy Parish’s reportage from Learning Solutions 2011."
We welcome reader submissions and invite case studies, research, app and product reviews, reviews of conferences and other events.
See the full text of my first blog post and writer's guidelines for more details. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Talking is Easy. Do Your Objectives match Your Strategies?

New "Nuts and Bolts" column today! Do your learning objectives match strategies and outcomes? 

“Talking is easy. Presenting bullet points is easy. Figuring out how to reach the other domains – to provide psychomotor practice or to elicit an emotional response – is your challenge in developing effective eLearning.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

THIS is What Social Learning Looks Like

Something really interesting happened on Twitter last night. The backstory: There is a regularly scheduled discussion, #blogchat, that happens on Sunday evenings at 8 pm ET (oops--update, correction: 8 Central). Participants share ideas for generating content, growing readership, that kind of thing. I don't usually participate but I follow several people who do. Last night I happened to see a tweet from @MackCollier with a link to . Turns out the #blogchat group decided to dedicate some of their Sunday nights to offering critiques of one another's blogs. Participants wanting feedback submitted their blogs for consideration; 4 were chosen this time with a promise that others would be considered soon. 

Those who offered their blogs up for review got a good deal of feedback useful particularly for them, but also for others in the group. For example:
@newdaynewlesson: Make your type left justified. Centered screams amateur.
@Collin_K: Font in the header looks too much like comic sans. Hard to take you seriously.

@blogdash: You want your readers to focus on your content. Everything else is a distraction. Choose your distractions wisely.
@Collin_K:  I've never been a fan of the double sidebar. Takes too much attention off of content.
@TheOnlineMom: I love how you share your objectives of the blog right off the bat.
@MikeHale: You can get a premium template for $100 and tweak it, you don't need to do a whole custom design. 
@AmyAfrica  If you want a new design & are on a budget, get a new header. It's affordable & it will make biggest difference.

I think last night's #blogchat is important for several reasons:
1. So many organizations show interest in Twitter and other social tools, but then worry about making online conversations private, or locking them up inside the company's firewall. I always say that's not really the point, and last night's #blogchat is exactly why. These are people who otherwise don't know each other, or work together, but who share a common interest -- and improving could be quite valuable to some of their employers. Talking about top-secret research on a new drug the company hopes to patent, or a pending indictment of an SVP? Maybe not in public. Talking about making your corporate blog better, or tweaking your leadership academy, or communicating with a global workforce, or finding the best productivity apps for the organization-issued smartphones? Why not a Twitter chat, or a LinkedIn discussion, or a Facebook group open to the rest of the world? 

2. The fact that this happened in public means I got to learn from  it, too. Because I happen to follow some of  #blogchat's regular participants, their tweets started showing up in my feed.  My takeaways: In blogging, content matters more than most anything else, and "choose your distractions wisely". I also found a couple of interesting new folks to follow. How many of us work in organizational silos and have discovered -- often too late -- that employees in other silos were having really interesting, useful discussions relevant to our own interests and work? Or were working on a project that we could contribute to? Or were replicating work that's already been done? Another thing that happens by living out in the big wide world: You may find new things that interest you. Hagel, Brown & Davison's Power of Pull describes this as "increasing your surface areas".

3. Popular talk about  "communities of practice" (CoPs) focuses a great deal on 'community' but rarely on 'practice'.  Per Wenger, a CoP is comprised of people who work together with the explicit intention of getting better at what they do (not just talking about it, or complaining about it, or 'conferencing', or sharing 'best practices'), but to actually apply their new learning and improve their own practice.  #blogchat is a great example of what a CoP does. The community members don't want to just gripe about problems with blog products, or trash other bloggers who don't participate in #blogchat, or complain that someone else's blog is better because that someone else has funding for it. People engage within the CoP with the intention of improving their practice. Most are open to offering up their own work and saying, "How could this be better?" -- if the feedback is given in a spirit of cameraderie from peers or other credible sources. Most people are willing to share what they know. Most people want to help each other. And what organizations often just can't grasp: People can gather based on their own self-identified needs and self-manage to get better at what they do -- without excessive administrative oversight or elaborate procedures.

Here's the thing: What happened in #blogchat last night goes on all the time in workplaces. People say they're having a problem and ask coworkers or others for help. They likely don't think to document it on their TPS reports, or include it on a time sheet, or maybe even mention it to anyone else. They don't call themselves "adult learners"; they call themselves "solving a problem". Last night it happened to happen on Twitter. Where is it happening in your organization?