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 http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1218/nuts-and-bolts-instructional-design-101be-a-learner . 

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. http://www.ispringsolutions.com .  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 http://www.ispringsolutions.com/ispring-pro-7.

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: