Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

By lunchtime Doc had my new kazoo roughed in. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Everything I Know About HR I Learned From My Corgi

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

Tongue mostly in cheek here.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Re-Ignited! DevLearn Session Recap

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see bureaucracy and bureaucratic structures fade away:

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

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

It’s an exciting time for L&D:

 Where do you see L&D going? 

Don’t miss posts from the other DevLearn bloggers! 

Music is Becoming Social Again (#DevLearn)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of his YouTube-based teachers: 

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Ukulele Learning" Devlearn Session Recap

“Ukulele Learning” session recap: 

Update: This has proven to be a popular session and has been on the annual DevLearn program since its inception in 2015.  Shawn and I will be offering it again on Thursday, October 24, 2019.  In the past, after the conferences, ukuleles used in these sessions are donated to the Children's Hospital of Nevada. This year the idea expanded into a "Guild For Good" initiative with DevLearn attendees asked to bring additional toys and craft materials to contribute to the hospital. Many thanks to the eLearning Guild for the support. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Critical Elements of Performance Improvement: Devlearn Session Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Up with Your Conference Learning with this Template! (#devlearn)

Devlearn Bloggers Update: 

The September 24 #lrnchat focused on learning from conferences. Participant @MichelleOckers took away this idea for keeping up with conference learning. It’s a template she’s shared with us as a Google doc. Looks like a great tool, and I love the final colum's reminder to share learning with others. I hope  #devlearn folks find it useful.

(Don’t forget to join us for #lrnchat this week, coming LIVE to you from the Devlearn Demofest floor. Theme: Show Your Work, of course. Be prepared to share an example of something you do, something about your workday, even a photo of your office. See you then!  Thursday October 1, 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT. In Australia? That's Friday morning 10:30 AEST. Follow the @lrnchat account and use the #lrnchat tag.)

Elements of Working Out Loud at a Conference (#devlearn)

DevLearn Blogger Update:

Half the fun of a conference is participating in the backchannel, so friends back home, people who chose other sessions, and colleagues everywhere can keep up with the happenings. It's also a nice way of making notes for yourself. 

 Here’s Helen Blunden’s (@ActivateLearn) “Elements of Working Out Loud at a Conference”. Which ones will you try at #devlearn? 

Monday, September 28, 2015

The DevLearn Mobile App: A Lesson in Motivation and Reward (#devlearn)

One of the components of our upcoming Devlearn "Ukulele Learning" sessions is some conversation around motivation and reward.  A great example is happening right now in the DevLearn conference app, available to attendees. There's a swag shop with stuff like fun tshirts and sunglasses; app users can earn points toward purchases as outlined below. Notice the relative value of posting and filling out evaluations compared to just checking in or tagging something.
There aren't limits on what can be posted;  everything doesn't have to be "work related". Many posts are about sessions participants attended today; some are from presenters sharing tidbits from their upcoming presentations; some are pictures of the hotel pool, quick meetups, or pets and kids left at home. There's a lot of fun and engagement and people are making new friends. That's important when you're at a conference, especially alone, and helps to sustain engagement beyond the event. 

All behavior is purposeful. There's a great lesson here for those wanting to encourage use of collaboration tools and those who have goals like seeing more completed evaluation forms. I hope attendees recognize the app's activity feed as itself a valuable conference takeaway. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Coming to Devlearn 2015?

Coming to DevLearn 2015? I'll be there with 2 new sessions and a refreshed visit to a fun one from last year.  Some prep has involved extensive new research. Some has involved rethinking something I may have changed my mind about. The best thing? Prepping for these sessions gives me a chance to collaborate with some of my best friends in this business, bright people who bring energy and passion and fun to creating something together.

1. First, with the ever-glamorous and wicked smaht Jeannette Campos, is "Designing for Performance: Nine Critical Elements" (Session 114, Wednesday Sept 30, 10:45 am). This one starts with the story of my husband's brain tumor -- my most-read written piece ever-- and our ensuing experience with the healthcare system. From there we'll look at critical learning elements, from the importance of a system view to the criticality of identifying the correct problem, and how we as learning practitioners can support the performer as an actor in a system, not just as a "learner" who takes a course or two.

2. Next, Shawn Rosler and Ellen Wagner join me for "Ukulele Learning: Exploring the Relationships Between Music and Learning" (Session 304, Wednesday, Sept 30, 3 pm; repeated on Thursday: Session 518, 1:15 pm).  Paralleling current trends, L&D has a lot of folks who've taken up the uke, and lots of them will be at DevLearn. Join us for an overview of how music can support learning, a discussion of ways to apply that to improve the experiences we design, and a short ukulele lesson that will have you playing a couple of songs in no time. There is rumor of an impromptu ukulele band jam after the Wednesday session so new players and singers will be welcome for that, too.

Kudos to the eLearning Guild for providing the ukuleles for this experience. After the conference they'll be donated to the Children's Hospital of Nevada UMC.

3. On Thursday, October 1 at 3 pm I'll be joining up with Cammy Bean, Jeannette Campos, and David Kelly for "Reignited: Meme-ing the Innovative World of Learning". Last year's experience with this was a riotous, provocative hour of poking at sacred cows and affirming a shared vision of what our field could be.

4. Even if you're not attending DevLearn, don't miss "#lrnchat LIVE!", which we do every year from the Demofest floor. (Thursday October 1, 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT.) #lrnchat is now in its seventh year. More than the average Twitter chat, #lrnchat's fun and spirit of community span time and space.

And don't miss other DevLearn highlights, with great keynotes from people like Mythbusters' Adam Savage, the Demofest experience, and a panel on gamification with Julie Dirksen, Koreen Pagano, Bianca Woods, and Sharon Boller. (Extra credit to the Guild for supporting women in games!)

Finally: I love that the eLearning Guild wants presenters to try new topics and new strategies. As a presenter at many of their events I love the conversations about how to put a new twist on a popular theme like social learning. I do hope "Ukulele Learning" grabs hold of a few new players for us to join up with at future Guild events. The eLearning Guild Futureama Uke Band has a nice ring, don't you think?

See you soon!

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 cammybean.kineo.com. Today's slide deck is available on Slideshare.