Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's YOUR Privacy: Own It

We're lucky to live near the fabulous Durham Bulls Athletic Park. This ain't your usual little hometown venue with wooden bleachers, but a big, pretty, sure-fire stadium. I'm not much of a fan but my husband is, and he often goes to games by himself to catch up with friends there. One night last September he was sitting, alone, on a row behind a talkative thirtysomething couple with a young son. In the span of half an hour my husband -- the  "strange lone man" of lore -- sitting behind this family, had learned:

  • Where the child goes to school, and his teacher's name
  • What time school gets out
  • The family's secret password ("Jupiter")
  • What color and kind of car the mother drives
  • The name of the subdivision where the family lives
  • Where and what day and time the child takes karate lessons
The irony: Later in the game the mother was expressing her concerns about... FACEBOOK privacy issues.

It's no secret that I like Facebook; I wrote 1/5 of a book about it. But apart from its usefulness as a tool, I really admire what Mark Zuckerberg has done. After a decade of struggling to drag people into online interactions, someone  popped up with a technology so appealing and user-friendly that five hundred million people voluntarily use it. (Update: Make that over a billion.) Grandmas, my high school principal, folks from my dad's neighborhood, and sometimes their dogs, all have profile pages. And while I don't always agree with the changes, I truly do admire Zuckerberg's vision. He is not just trying to build a faster horse -- if he were, he'd have yet another portal site. He is forcing new interactions, new ways of engaging, and along the way redefining the concept of "privacy". He does give users privacy controls, but they are granular and prone to rapid and frequent change, and you'd best keep up. He's tearing down the silos the rest of us just keep talking about. Mark Zuckerberg is changing the world and the way we move in it, even if we're not even on Facebook.

I'm amused by people who are only too happy to take advantage of everything Facebook offers -- including the inescapable acreage of Farmville --  yet feel they have any right to complain about anything. Let's get clear: We are not Facebook's "customers".  We are its product.  Don't like it? Close your account, then. (Or ask for your money back. That'll show 'em.) I'm reminded of the time years ago when Ted Turner, blasted for announcing that he would be colorizing old Hollywood classics, reportedly replied, "The last time I checked, I owned those movies." Like it or not, it was his to do.  

I also am not in the camp that people need to be saved from themselves. It's the internet, and you can't both share information there and really expect it to be 'private'. Here's something to help clarify, from Dave Makes: 

So: If you want it to truly be private, don't put it online.  Don't be surprised if you learn that someone has harvested your email address, or used Google street view to get an idea of your income, or allowed some third-party app to access data it shouldn't.  (And don't be naive: Making a call? Your phone knows where you are. Buying gas or eating at a restaurant? Your credit card company knows where you are and what you're doing. In your car? OnStar knows where you are.) Don't allow others to tag you in photos. Turn off the geotagging feature on your smartphone. Disable Facebook Places. Don't download every Facebook game and app and gift. Don't announce when you'll be out of the country for 2 weeks. If you don't want Facebook to have it, then don't give it to Facebook.

And maybe don't talk about it so strangers can overhear at ballgames, either. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If You Force Them, They Won't Learn

A link on Twitter caught my eye this morning: "5 Hallmarks of Good Homework", Much of the content is applicable to L& D (make assignments relevant, have a purpose, that kind of thing). If you're interested in workplace learning I encourage you to take a look. 

One item that struck me: "
Our children are now expected to read 20 minutes a night and record such on their homework sheet. What parents are discovering (surprise) is that those kids who used to sit down and read for pleasure … are now setting the timer, choosing the easiest books, and stopping when the timer dings. … Reading has become a chore, like brushing your teeth."(Kohn, 2006, pp. 176–177)

We see this happen in the workplace all the time.  For instance, "Diversity", "Harassment", and "Ethics" can be really interesting, engaging training topics if handled by good designers and facilitators. But nooooo, the HR Department takes over and loads the policy word-for-word onto 73 PowerPoint slides, no one in their right minds would want to sit through the oral recitation on it, and so HR... makes the training  mandatory.  If people don't want to sit through your program on their own accord, then there's something wrong with your program, not your learners.  Making it mandatory does not send the message, "This is important", but, "This is so awful we have to put a gun to your head to make you attend." This topic becomes a chore and, worse yet, learners have had another bad "training" experience. What could be useful learning just becomes more work.

Another example: I used to belong to a vibrant,dynamic community of workplace trainers who gathered formally once a quarter, and informally at other times, with the stated goal of improving their practice. The meetings were fun and exciting, people brought new topics and activities to share, and many deep and lasting friendships evolved. Without fail, at every meeting, one or two people would show up and say something to the effect of "My boss made me come." Sometimes this was the boss's indirect cowardly way of telling the employee there was a performance problem; sometimes the person was sent to see if he/she could "get" something to bring back to the workplace. Either way, the person sent did not enjoy it, did not get much out of it, and saw the requirement to participate as extra work. (And PS: We didn't enjoy having them there, either.) You won't find many articles or discussions on the topic of communities of practice without someone asking how we can control and manage them, how we can make people participate, and when we should enroll our new hires in them. Here's the thing: You can't. See the bibliography in my dissertation for forty-eleven references that say that. 

Katja Pastoors, in particular, offers research that speaks to the matter of voluntary v. forced learning. From my dissertation:  
"Pastoors (2007) found that motivation to participate in bootlegged CoPs was high, that the bootlegged CoPs allowed for sharing of tacit knowledge and provided a welcome arena for those who shared common interests and “passions” (p. 29), and that those involved in bootlegged CoPs were willing to expend time and energy in its activities. The institutionalized CoP was, by contrast, viewed as the organization’s means of imposing additional workload and expecting work outside of regular working hours. Strict communication plans and procedures were viewed as inhibiting effective activity. By their own report, members felt no ownership of the institutionalized CoP."

The full Kohn citation is: Kohn, A. (2006). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. 

Pastoors, K. (2007). Consultants: love-hate relationships with communities of practice, The Learning Organization  14 (1), 21-33.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blog Book Tour Week 1 Recap

Thanks to everyone who's been following the blog book tour for Social Media for Trainers! It was a great week with contributions from great folks:

Stop 1 was Jane Hart's Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, where the book received "Pick of the Day" status.

Stop 2 offered comments from Karl Kapp's Kapp Notes on the variety of activities available to workplace training practitioners wanting to extend and enhance their practice with social media tools.

Stop 3 was a guest post for Yammer with a discussion of using these tools for social learning in the enterprise.

Stop 4 Came from someone with a slightly different specialty area, Clark Aldrich, who commented on categories of social media on his Simulations blog

Cammy Bean went beyond the call in doing both an audio interview with me (Stop 6)  for the Kineo blog as well as inviting me as a guest on the fun ID Live program (link will take you to the Elluminate recording).

Stay tuned for more! Up next: Posts from Brent Schlenker, Gina Schreck, Don Clark, Sahana Chattaopadhyay, and Monish Mohan, and a podcast from Eden Tree. See the complete blog book tour schedule here.

Social Media for Trainers is now available in paperback and for eReaders in North America; shipping soon to the UK, EU, and India. Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other booksellers.Thanks again to everyone helping with this project. It's much appreciated.

 I'm especially interested in hearing what ideas readers are applying/what new ideas the book may have sparked, so please comment here or find me on Twitter (@janebozarth , @SoMe4Trainers) or on my Facebook pages (Bozarthzone ,  Social Media for Trainers).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Social Media for Trainers" Blog Book Tour Starts Thursday!

The Social Media for Trainers blog book tour begins this Thursday, September 2, with a kickoff post from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies' Jane Hart. This will be followed by a constellation of blogging stars from the training and eLearning fields.

Is the book right for you? The publisher asked specifically for activities and ideas to help trainers and instructional designers develop an understanding of social media tools at "eye level": What are they, how are they best used, and how can we use them to extend and enhance current practice?  The book is available from booksellers in North America now, with UK and EU releases due in the next few weeks. Check out the "look inside" feature on to get a peek.

Take a look at the blog book tour schedule  and watch for the posts from my colleagues. Many thanks to them for their help with this project!

More? Follow "Social Media for Trainers" on the book's Facebook page and on on Twitter @SoMe4Trainers  (use #SoMe4Trainers).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Microblogging in the Enterprise: Tips

Twitter not quite right for your organization? This came up in #lrnchat last week, and in a Twitter discussion yesterday. Here are tips mostly from Aaron Silvers (Twitter: @mrch0mp3rs) on using microblogging in the enterprise:

-Remember, the practice is more important than the tool. This gives flexibility to change tools later on.

-Having said that: Choose the right tool in the first place.

-Make sure someone is a registered admin. Don't do this with no one in charge.

-If you're using a free account, do your org a favor and link to digital files in these microsharing tools instead of uploading into them.

-There ARE reasons why email works. Use the right tool for the task.

-You want leaders to contribute consistently -- even if it's just once a day, a reply to an employee.

- Write up the "rules" or expectations for your boss person to distribute. Fear is often not knowing what to say.

-Give examples of the kinds of things to use it for to get people acclimated/started.

-With any new communications medium, patience and consistency are keys to adoption. Modeling how to use is important.

-Start w/ a core group, and make sure at least one big manager is involved and posting daily.

And from @ldennison: if you're bringing it into the organization, you're the person responsible for it.

See also: Comparison of Microblogging Tools

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What's Your Objective?

[Note: This originally ran on Training Magazine’s former “Training Day” blog on 2/12/2010]

Discussion of objectives in training could be a topic for a book all by itself, but lately I’ve run across 2 excellent examples of problems with learning/performance objectives. They provide a good basis for looking at just a couple of common problems.

Example 1: One summer afternoon my friend Jo left her son, 5-year-old Max, in the care of his grandmother. While Max was napping Grandma found a dead rattlesnake in the yard and thought to herself, “This is a good time to teach Max about snakes.”

Her objective: “Max will understand about snakes.”

So when Max awoke from his nap Grandma took him outside and said:
“See, Max, this is a rattlesnake. Some snakes are very dangerous so you must be careful if you are ever near one. They can be hard to see.” Using a hoe, grandma moved the snake into high grass, then onto a bed of pine straw, to show Max how the snake’s colors tended to blend with the setting. Grandma talked about being careful when running around outside barefoot, not bothering or teasing snakes, and taking care when playing near places snakes might be found, like fallen logs or warm rocks.

At the end of Grandma’s lesson she said, “So, Max, do you understand about snakes?”

And Max looked up at her and said,

“Oh, yes, Grandma. I love snakes.”

In the example with Grandma and Max, the problem was an objective too vague: “He will understand “ can be interpreted in more than one way, which is exactly what happened, and Max did not understand in the way Grandma meant him to. This is a common problem in compliance and policy training, where it’s more usual than not to see objectives like, “Learner will know the policy”, “Learner will understand the rules regarding unlawful harassment”. And regarding Grandma, well, as we say here in the American South, bless her heart. She did intend to help Max “understand” (learning) but she didn't specify actual performance. She tried to make the snake training meaningful and engaging. She did not read PowerPoint slides to Max. She included important information (they are hard to see in the ground cover) and offered some helpful tips (don’t tease). But the training did not accomplish what she’d intended.

I’ve seen the opposite problem as well: Objectives (and performance this time, not just "learning") so detailed and specific that the real point of the thing is lost. Which brings us to Example 2: A contractor charged with developing online tutorials on the new employee timekeeping system listed the desired performance objectives (below).

At the end of the training, the employee will be able to:

Log on and navigate to the employee section of the portal

Record and review time

View time statements

Display leave quota overview

Generate leave requests

Access system help resources

Assign charge object numbers

Report premium pay hours

The objectives were certainly detailed and specific. The contractor had thoroughly delineated desired performance. After weeks of tedious wordsmithing, next-level management finally signed off on the objectives. Senior management likewise approved of the plan. Everyone involved agreed that, yes, these are the outcomes we’re after.

Several million dollars later the training was launched, and several weeks after that the new time sheet software “went live” to 30,000 workers. And the critical problem with the tutorials quickly, and loudly, and in a most dramatic way, became evident. The list of objectives had not included:

At the end of this training, the employee will be able to
complete his or her
time sheet.

[This is not to oversimplify the other problems here, including the evidence that no one ever thought to ask even one potential learner to try the material out, or that much of the training content, like charge object hours, was relevant only to a fraction of the target audience.]

So: Before developing the instruction don’t just write objectives. Write the right objectives. What is this person really supposed to do back on the job? What does “understand” mean, and what evidence will show you that understanding has occurred? Devotees of Bloom’s taxonomy will argue that learner performance like “listing” and “describing” can constitute what he called ”enabling” objectives. That may valid, but they should not be the only objectives: Employees are rarely asked to “list” or “describe” anything, so it’s critical to move on to behaviors closer to desired performance, not just knowledge. And: Enabling objectives are easy to write, and to develop bullet points for, and to develop training around, and to write a quiz to assess. If you feel the training really must address these, fine, but be sure to push past them on to things that more closely resemble real performance. In my train-the-trainer course I don’t want my learners to describe strategies for engaging learners, I want them to deliver a piece of instruction in which they demonstrate the ability to apply those strategies. It’s more work for both learner and me, and much more time consuming, but it moves us far closer to the actual desired performance. And it makes the training worth doing.

Think Goldilocks. Not too little, not too much. And remember in developing objectives to keep an eye on the rock-bottom performance goal: Don’t get eaten by bears.

Other problems with training objectives? I asked Twitter training/elearning/ID folks and here are some of their answers. Perhaps we’ll expand on some of these in a future column.

  • Gina Minks @gminks, EMC: “When objectives relate to what someone wishes the performance was, even though that may be a fantasy.”
  • Jeffery Goldman @minutebio, Johns Hopkins Healthcare LLC: “Not setting them at all, not measuring whether they are met in the final assessment, and not providing content to meet objectives.”
  • Guy Wallace @guywwallace, EPPIC, Inc: “Objectives are not systematically ‘derived’ from solid analysis of ideal performance/gaps & are best guesses.”
  • Kevin Bruny @row4it, Chesterfield County VA Government: “Once used for design and communicated in training, we tend to forget about them and never return to validate.”
  • Kara DeFrias @californiakara, Intuit: “People get so wrapped up in objectives they forget to take time to make the actual learning meaningful & engaging.”


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Updates to "Social Media for Trainers"

Many thanks to those who have preordered Social Media for Trainers or purchased it for Kindle. A challenge with writing a book about technologies—particularly those that are continually morphing and evolving – is keeping content as up-to-date as possible. Since the book went to press several things have changed:

1. Correction to p. 59: While Facebook terms of service have always been clear that having fictitious accounts was a terms of service violation, it is now clearer that having multiple accounts is forbidden, too. Those wishing to maintain “private” space on Facebook (for instance, to have one’s personal account but also to use Facebook for hosting a course) can do this via the use of groups and fan pages. For instance, I have a main account but a "Jane Bozarth Bozarthzone" page. I post training/learning related information there; my "fans" don't have to friend me or vice-versa. Facebook offers many options for setting limits on who can see what: Be sure to learn about using lists and other privacy settings. (July 30, 2010)
2. Google has just announced that it will no longer support development of Google Wave and plans to support the service only through the end of 2010. Be on the lookout for new tools from Google. (July 30, 2010). Update to an update! September 4, 2010: Google has now announced that it WILL continue to support Wave. See details .
3. A new tool, HootCourse, has recently emerged in beta testing and is so far proving a useful, friendly space for aggregating conversations. Hootcourse assigns a unique URL. Learners can access Hootcourse via either Twitter or Facebook. Conversations can be kept private if so desired. See . For an example, visit a bookchat I recently led at (August 8, 2010). I've also used this as an introduction to Twitter for new users. We spend half an hour or so working privately in HootCourse, practicing using @replies, RTs and #s, then move into the bigger Twitter feed. Think "training wheels".

4. Tweetie2, a Twitter iPhone app discussed in the book, was purchased by Twitter and is now the Twitter-branded iPhone app Twitter, available from the iTunes app store. (June 2010)

5. Enterprise social networking is rapidly expanding and evolving. Here's a comparison of 7 enterprise products, including Sharepoint and Jive. Also, Yammer (previously regarded as a microblogging tool) is moving toward becoming a full-fledged networking tool. (September 5, 2010)
Keep up with more frequent updates by following me on or on the book's Facebook page

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Look Inside "Social Media for Trainers"

Amazon has just added the "look inside" feature for Social Media for Trainers so be sure to go take a look!

I'm offering daily tips and ideas on social media for trainers via Twitter @SoMe4Trainers and weekly-ish tips via a Facebook page.

Check "Where's Jane?" at right for my speaking schedule. Most upcoming events are on the topic of social media for trainers, and several of them are free.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Book Chat on Learning-in-Practice: Join us!

Some Twitter folks are getting together to discuss "how people learn" as evidenced in King's On Writing and Gawande's Complications. Both books are examples of adult learners who learn through practice/reflect on learning.

Interested? Details are at the Training Book Review blog.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Getting Management Commitment to Training

"One of the frustrations in Learning & Development is the reality of what happens when the worker returns to the job. A thousand things stand between a learner and performance; among the biggest of these is the learner’s manager."

This month's "Nuts and Bolts" column for Learning Solutions Magazine offers tips for getting management commitment to training.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Trainer's Handbook

A look at the 2nd edition of Karen Lawson's Trainers Handbook on the new Training Book Reviews blog sponsored by HRDQ.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Consider Your "Loose" Connections This Memorial Day

Monday is the US Memorial Day holiday, set aside for remembering those who gave their lives in military service. For me it has additional meaning. On Memorial Day 2003 my brother and his wife were hosting a holiday cookout, and some of the young men there started playing basketball. My nephew Ryan, without warning, collapsed and was taken to the hospital. That evening it was determined he'd suffered an aneurysm, with a prognosis that included a long rehabilitation period. The next morning he was pronounced brain dead. Doctors kept Ryan alive long enough for his little brother to rush home from Iraq to see him while he was still breathing, even if not on his own. We buried him the next weekend.

I was at the time working in a small HR shop for a state agency, and office protocol in the event of a death was the gift of a potted plant. They sent a small hydrangea in full bloom, which the family gave to me and I took home. I hated to let it die so, when it outgrew its pot, planted it in a shady spot beside the garage.

That $20 hydrangea is now taller than I am. It's thrived despite my inattention and appallingly un-green thumb. It's leafy and green for most of the year, and loaded with huge blue blossoms in late spring and summer. It bloomed again this week, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend:

I see the plant every time I pull into the driveway. Apart from reminding me to think of Ryan, the plant -- a $20 token gift sent per policy -- represents much more. It's a reminder that little things do matter, and small gestures sometimes carry great meaning. It's a reminder of how important it is to maintain memories. I left that job not long after Ryan's death but often remember it, and my former coworkers, fondly, prompted by the view of the hydrangea.

And what I'm trying to get to: Small connections matter, sometimes in unexpected ways. I think this is why it disturbs me to hear some people who are so dismissive of social media and online interactions and distant or "loose" connections. Through social media, especially Twitter, I have cultivated a network of smart, funny, interesting people who have never failed to come through when I asked for something. My reach with some is fairly close, with interactions nearly daily; others I may directly connect with only sporadically.

Little things matter. Connections matter, no matter how they cross time and space. You can't predict in 7 years, or 20, or 50, which small connection will still be important. So this Memorial Day I urge you to take a moment to connect on Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn (or if you must, the telephone or even in person) with someone perhaps not part of your daily orbit. Perhaps, as with my former coworkers, the connection will provide a fond or poignant memory on some future Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Figuring Things Out

Revisiting Zemke & Kramlinger's wonderful Figuring Things Out, a must for any trainer's shelf--if you can find it. On the new Training Book Review blog sponsored by HRDQ.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Travels With My Kindle

My husband and I spend 2 weeks in the Caribbean every spring, and while I don't unplug completely I do spend the bulk of my time unwinding. This usually takes the form of sitting by (and often in) the pool with a book. My undergraduate degree is in English Lit, so I've always been an avid reader. But between a life spent in front of a computer and writing assignments (first for Training Magazine, now for Learning Solutions) requiring business-related reading, I find I have little time in my "real life" for novels and other non-work related books. This annual trip is my chance to catch up.

In years past I've usually brought 14 books, a heavy and now, with fees for checked bags, an expensive proposition. I've always liked my Kindle and find it great for business trips, but had some concerns about taking it out in bright sunlight & heat/reading in the pool/keeping it safe at a resort. But this year I decided to give it a try on the long vacation, with great results:
1. I am taking it into the pool in a ziploc bag, which has worked very well. Lesson learned: Some ziploc bags have writing/white label on one side, making them half as useful for reading purposes, and I have found that ziploc bags, after being handled for a day or so, start showing their age by wrinkling. This makes it harder to read through them, so if you plan to try it, bring backup bags.
2. The size, with "next page" buttons on either side of the screen,is a perfect fit for my hands, and I can hold the device and turn pages with one hand. This is great for keeping the Kindle from getting wet.
3. The no-glare screen is fabulous in bright sunlight!
4. No running out of books. One year I didn't like several of the 14 I brought and was just miserable: There's no bookstore here, so except for souvenir-shop titles I was out of luck. (I agree with Stephen King on this: The lending library in hell is filled with nothing but Danielle Steele and Chicken Soup titles.)

I realize that electronics are electronic, and disaster could lurk around every corner. Once the Kindle is dropped, or stepped on by the pool, or gets wet, or something, it could stop working altogether, whereas a paper book, unless set on fire, will probably always be there. Overall, though? Kindle is a fabulous travel companion. I've resisted the idea of so many devices, advocating for consolidation into one, but now am rethinking that. I've been eyeing the iPad, but can't foresee ever taking it by or in the pool, so kind of hope the predictions that iPad will kill Kindle and other reading devices are wrong. (Although to compete I do think Amazon will need to rethink Kindle pricing.) In this instance, having another machine (bigger than my iPhone, less cumbersome than my netbook, smaller than the iPad) did fulfull a need.

My favorite titles so far this trip? Cutting for Stone (hands-down), Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and Fool.

What are you reading?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And ADDIE wasn't even there to see it...

There's been lot of talk in Twitterland lately about the usefulness of the ADDIE process model often used in instructional design (much on the theme of whether ADDIE is dead), and the validity/existence of "informal" learning. I saw it all hit overlap this week in 2 separate encounters with service employees.

In the first, I was purchasing a prepaid gift card at a drug store. The transaction brought the place to a halt, with the register giving off that dull 'thunk' sound as unhappy computers will. The cashier fumbled with the register, pressed a number of keys to no avail, said she "wasn't sure" if the card was activated, and finally called for a manager, who quickly took care the problem. As I left -- after a one-item cash transaction that took maybe 5 minutes -- the cashier said, "They told me that in training but I hadn't done it before. Sorry, but I forgot."

In this first instance, performance support could have supplemented, or likely replaced, training simply by programming help screens and prompts. Training for future use of a skill is pretty much pointless. It would be like not training at all, but for adding the maddening "I think I heard something about this" factor to an already frustrating situation. The solution here is not based in designing-implementing-evaluating instruction, but in identifying places for, and deploying resources toward, good performance support.

In the second instance, last night, my husband and I were at a restaurant. A new server appeared in the company of the more experienced server charged with training him. The training pretty much took the form of job shadowing, with the experienced guy modeling good (in fact, breathtaking, exemplary) performance. Occasionally he would ask the new guy something like, "What do we always ask when someone orders coffee?" (Answer: "Would you like cream?"). They stayed together most of the time we were there, merging into what my husband called The Waiter with Four Arms, and appeared to be having both a good and successful time. We enjoyed them, and had no complaints with the service. By the time we left the new server was taking his first steps at working on his own, and as far as we could tell he was doing just fine.

In this second scenario, we see something on the learning continuum between formal (in the sense of an intentional,planned event, either live or online) and informal (in the sense of an employee at the point of need accessing help)learning. Basically:

--the 'trainer' (more experienced server) was the performance support
--as a peer,actually doing the same job, the trainer was able to provide real-world suggestions
--the learning experience appeared to be a successful one
--as a side effect, the experience appeared to be forcing better performance from the trainer
--and I'm afraid ADDIE wasn't anywhere to be found. There was no deliberate process, no 'steps'. The new guy followed the more experienced guy around, and the more experienced guy demonstrated and explained. And it worked.

I'm not interested in the dead/undead discussion of ADDIE so much as concerned about the desire on the part of many to apply it to every situation. As L & D professionals we need to have many items in our toolkits. ADDIE is one. What others do you use?

Monday, March 01, 2010

How the Snake Got Its Oil

There's been a flurry of activity this week on the topic of snake oil: First Harold Jarche said: "“As soon as the software vendors and marketers get hold of a good idea, they pretty well destroy it." Jane Hart weighed in with “social learning is being picked up by software vendors and marketers as the next solution-in-a-box, when it’s more of an approach and a cultural mind-set”. And today Jay Cross added to the discussion, using the word "hijack" in terms of both what happened to elearning and, now, what we're seeing with the concept of "informal learning".

I agree with my colleagues but would like to twist the conversation to why the hijacking keeps taking place. Time and time again I see Training/L & D allowing this to happen. When "learning" started happening online, Training/L & D resisted and let elearning be co-opted by vendors and IT departments. Now that "learning" is finally recognized as something that often happens informally and via social connections, Training/L&D is letting "social media" decisions be made by everyone but Training/L & D. Learning is happening everywhere in organizations, but unless it looks like "training", then Training/L &D stands aside and lets it belong to someone else.

Mark Rosenberg has used the metaphor of the railroads: They saw their business taken over by the trucking industry because they defined themselves as being in the railroad business, not the transportation business. And the training department is going to go the way of the railroads if it doesn't start seeing itself as being in the learning business, not the classroom business.

So: I really can't begrudge the vendors for acting when they see a chance, even if they end up peddling a snake-oil version of a better concept. As my work email account signature says: "Opportunities are not lost. They are just taken by others."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

RIP Training Magazine

I apologize for the length of this, but eulogies bring out the wordiness in me. Tuesday morning brought the sad, but not surprising, news that 41-year-old Training Magazine will cease publication with its March 2010 issue. From my view, the magazine had been in a downward spiral since its sale by Lakewood Publications to VNU Business Media and then again to Nielsen Business Media. Every sale saw new staff, less and less knowledgeable about (or, as far as I could tell, interested in) workplace training and learning. The struggle was evident: Those who subscribed to the print edition over the past few years can attest to its shrinkage from magazine to something more akin to newsletter. I don't know how it held on for as long as it did.

Since Tuesday's news many people, familiar with my 10-year participation as a member of the "In Print" book review column team and my other sundry contributions, have reached out to express surprise, conjecture about the reasons for the closing, and sympathy for the loss of work. Magazine work is just an add-on for me; I am among the fortunate in the training/learning business to have good, full-time employment complete with retirement plan and health insurance. The shutdown will have no effect on my livelihood, but I am sad to say some friends are now out of work. I hope that among the many supporters I've heard from will be someone in a position to help these folks find new employment.

I owe Training Magazine a great deal. As a new trainer, armed with an undergraduate English degree and assigned to a training department led by a former registered nurse who broke out in hives when she had to speak in public (no, I am not kidding), I had no one to help me learn how to do this. My coworkers taught canned programs like CPR and First Aid, and all came from the third-grade-teacher approach to training adults, so weren't much help when I was assigned things like developing supervisory training. I was fortunate that we had an office subscription to Training (and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one there who read it). Jack Gordon and Ron Zemke were still in the house then, and the magazine was about training. It's the first place I heard about things like adult learning theory, ISD, and ADDIE; it's the first place I saw someone question venerated training idols like the MBTI; it's where I first saw someone try to pull back the curtain on high-priced consultants peddling "packages" (as I recall, this was a piece titled "Ship of Charlatans"). The magazine then had heart and a sense of humor: One of the funniest things I've ever read was a piece by Zemke (or was it Gordon?) about frustrations with personal computers. Among the points made: "When I am driving along at 60 miles and hour and the car sounds funny, I don't just shut the ignition off." The help Training provided in the early days of my career is so significant that I discussed it in my doctoral dissertation.

Back then the magazine had a final page, "My Turn", open to 1000-word contributions from readers. The first national piece I ever published was a "My Turn" column on problems with customer service training (the gist: Smiling does not make make up for utter incompetence). I did a couple of these, and when the magazine was looking for people to staff its new book review column, editor Martin Delahoussaye recruited me to help. The book review column was a great gig, giving me piles of new books every year and putting my name and picture in a national publication every month. Martin left the magazine for Pfeiffer publications, where he became the push behind my first book. And when that book came out in 2005, new Training editor Holly Dolezalek ran a feature article about it, along with a banner on the magazine's cover.

Apart from the magazine proper, I want to note that I especially loved the Training conferences (ending with a year: "Training 2004", 2005, and so on) and the people who organized them! Leah Nelson, Julie Groshens, and Kris Stokes were fun to work with, competent at what they did, and adept at turning a lot of spinning plates into a well-oiled machine. In addition to giving me a lot of exposure and letting me try new things, the events are where I met in person people like Susan Boyd, Thiagi, Bob Mosher, Patti Shank, The Hortons, and my dear friend and valued colleague Jennifer Hofmann. These gigs, in turn, led to Training's online certificate programs and webinar work. (Those are still on, by the way, as is the online community.)

The magazine seemed to slip away under its latest ownership. The field was changing, with much emphasis shifting from training in specific to learning in general, but that wasn't all. Content seemed less and less focused on anything related to training and learning, some of the freelance contributors clearly knew little about what they were discussing, and there seemed to be a widening disconnect between the interests of readers, who paid for the subscriptions, and the content catered to the advertisers, who paid the big bucks. I was rarely sent anything training-related to review. (Heck , they wouldn't even review my books. I mean, seriously, what's a girl gotta do?) In earlier years I reviewed works by people like Mark Rosenberg, Mel Silberman, Alison Rossett, Patti Shank, and Michael Allen. Along the way there were occasional leadership books, including the dreaded Little Animal or Dairy Product Metaphors, but the books mostly were one way or another tied to learning. The last book I read for Training was something called Jenga, which was really quite interesting -- all about getting a product manufactured, trademarked, and distributed for sale -- but had not one thing to do with training or workplace learning. Yes, in considering the magazine's demise, there were lots of red flags. While I don't know all the details, I do know that the problems weren't all connected to the economy.

I'm sad to see Training go and am sure other industry publications are taking heed. It has brought me back to the reality that the shift from training to learning, and the proliferation of content via free Web 2.0 means, are going to bring big changes for all of us, some of them perhaps painful.

I will be back in print soon in another publication, likely with both book reviews as well as a new training/learning related column, so stay tuned for news of that. Thanks to all who have expressed their interest and concern, and reached out with offers of new opportunities.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Learning in 3D blog book tour stop

Welcome to today's stop on the Learning in 3D blog book tour.

Does the passage below sound familiar? Substitute “VIE” with any other term you like: “technology”, “tool”, “course” “blog”, “Facebook group”, “webinar software”…:

“Some organizations create a virtual space with only vague learning outcomes and no formal assessment plan. Then, after a few months of inactivity, no visible learning outcomes, and frustration, the organization drops the VIE because it doesn’t seem productive.” (p.204)

Learning in 3D offers sound advice for avoiding what the authors call a “virtual ghost town” and maximizing time and work put into the efforts. As with all things elearning, the magic lies not with a tool but with a deliberate, thoughtful approach to design and desired outcomes. Authors Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll stress the importance of planning, of intent, of systemic approach and strategy. They also acknowledge the background and expertise of their audience, assuring readers that moving to VIEs is largely a matter of adjusting existing skill sets and learning to focus as much on environment as context.

Question: For those of you who have made the move from more traditional training and elearning, what did you find helped the transition most?