Name Generators for Learning Scenarios

Because I create lots of scenarios and stories for learning, I create lots of characters. Some of these characters are only mentioned for a sentence or two, while others drive the progress in extended narratives. All of those characters have one thing in common: they need names.Name Generators for Learning Scenarios

I usually avoid using generic characters in my stories. Part of the value of scenarios for learning is that they make abstract concepts concrete.

This is OK: “A manager is having trouble with an employee who’s late all the time.”

But this is better: “Tom is a new manager. He’s having trouble with one of his employees, Abbi, who has been late to work 3 times in the last 2 weeks.”

See how much more concrete the situation is in the second example? This isn’t just any manager and employee; this is Tom and Abbi. I added a few more specifics too (Tom isn’t just any manager, he’s a new manager; we know how often Abbi has been late).

The book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath explains why some ideas “stick” and are memorable while others are quickly forgotten. One of the characteristics of “sticky” ideas is that they’re concrete. Giving characters names is the kind of detail that makes those characters and their situation more realistic and memorable.

But how do you come up with character names, especially if you have a large cast of characters?

I use a variety of name generators for my scenarios. Different tools may be better for different situations.

  • Fake Name Generator: This is my go-to site for generating names. It creates an entire profile for you at the click of a button–not just first and last names, but birthday, age, address, job, height and weight, car, and more. You can choose the gender, age range, name set, and country. Choosing the “name set” gives you names from different nationalities, making it easy to create diverse character names. (Bonus tip: If some website requires you to enter a bunch of information and you don’t feel like creating a fake profile yourself, just copy and paste one from here.)
  • The Name Generator: If you need something quick and easy, this has a simple interface. Click Generate Name repeatedly until you find a name you like. The power of this site comes when you expand the options. You can set the minimum and maximum characters for the name, as well as what letter each name should start or begin with. If you want an alliterative name, you can have Mary McCune or Dylan Daugherty.
  • Social Security Administration Names: This site is most helpful if you need popular names from a specific time period. For example, if your character is a new baby, Madison might be a good choice. For a 60-year-old woman, perhaps Donna or Janet would be better. Choose Popular Names by Birth Year and enter a year to see popular names for babies born that year. (h/t to Desiree Pinder, who I learned this tip from.)
  • Behind the Name: This site lets you choose the background or nationality for your names. Some of the choices are perhaps less useful for corporate training scenarios and more useful for role-playing games (fairy or Xalaxxi names, anyone?). You can get some great diverse names here from other nationalities though.
  • Just for fun specialty name generators: There are random name generators for all sorts of topics. Most of these are more for entertainment (or perhaps novel writing), but a quick search online turns up some fun options. You can use the Dickens Name Generator to create that perfect name for your Victorian novel. Perhaps Harry Potter is more your style? Try this one or that one. Maybe you need a pirate name or a futuristic name.

How do you create names for the characters in your scenarios? Do you have a favorite name generator site? Share your suggestions in the comments.

 

ID and E-Learning Links (8/30/15)

  • Diigo can automatically save your Twitter favorites. Links are saved as bookmarks. If you choose to save favorites without links, they’re saved as notes. This lets you categorize and organize your favorite Tweets in your library.

    tags:twitter diigo

  • A rare criticism of Dweck’s growth mindset research, largely centered around the idea that the results are so dramatic for such small interventions that they can’t be real. No proof for falsification is provided (although the author says he looked). There are some more legitimate concerns raised about the social psychology and alternate research showing that yes, innate ability does matter.

    tags:learning education research growthmindset

    • A rare point of agreement between hard biodeterminists and hard socialists is that telling kids that they’re failing because they just don’t have the right work ethic is a crappy thing to do. It’s usually false and it will make them feel terrible. Behavioral genetics studies show pretty clearly that at least 50% of success at academics and sports is genetic; various sociologists have put a lot of work into proving that your position in a biased society covers a pretty big portion of the remainder. If somebody who was born with the dice stacked against them works very hard, then they might find themselves at A2 above. To deny this in favor of a “everything is about how hard you work” is to offend the sensibilities of sensible people on the left and right alike.
    • So basically, you take the most vulnerable people, set them tasks you know they’ll fail at, then lecture them about how they only failed because of insufficient effort.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

ID and E-Learning Links (8/23/15)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

1 Million Views. Thank You!

Today, I reached a milestone in my blog: 1 million total views. Thank you to everyone who is reading this, from the long term readers who have been there since the beginning to the ones who just found me today.

All time views 1,000,083

It’s taken me over 8 years to reach this milestone, and I’m hardly the most-viewed blog in our field. It’s still a bit mind-boggling to me though. One million is one of those numbers that’s hard to really wrap your head around.

For those out there struggling with low traffic on a new blog, don’t give up hope! I average 16,000 views and 8,000 unique visitors a month now. Look how low my numbers were in 2007 though (I started in December 2006, so the 6 views in 2006 don’t really count). In 2007, I averaged 1400 views a month. I get as many views now in 3 days as I did in an entire month in 2007.

Chart of views from 2006 to 2015

This is post number 950. That post count includes all 678 of my links and bookmarks posts. Until 2010, I posted bookmarks via Diigo every day I saved a link. Hundreds of my early posts were daily bookmark posts (I posted 286 times in 2007, for example). Now I consolidate and post links roughly every other week. As for non-bookmark posts, my current goal is to write a new regular post every two weeks.

So thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, and sharing. When I started this journey, I had no idea how much I would learn, both from writing posts and from conversations with all you amazing people out there.

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations with you in the years to come. Here’s to the next 1 million views!

ID Badges: My Experience with TIfPI’s Certification

Last month, I earned my badge for Instructional Design: Goal- or Problem-Based Scenarios [ID(GPS+)] from The Institute for Performance Improvement (TIfPI). The “plus” and gold color signify that this is an outstanding level badge, meaning I received an outstanding rating on at least 7 of the 9 standards.

Certified GPS PlusHow It Works

TIfPI uses 9 standards to measure and rate ID work samples. Each of these standards is mapped to performance behaviors, detailed in a Word document.

  • Addresses Sustainability: Considers the best usage of resources (time, money, materials, staffing, technologies, etc.) now and in the future.
  • Aligns Solution: To create or change relationships among parts of the solution (internal to the solution) or between the solution and its parent organization or sponsors (external to the solution).
  • Assesses Performance: Evaluate what the learner does within the learning environment using a specific set of criteria as the measure or standard for the learner’s progress.
  • Collaborates and Partners: Works jointly with sponsors and other members of the solution development team to develop the solution.
  • Elicits Performance “Practice”: Ensures that the learning environment and practice opportunities reflect the actual environment in which the performance will occur.
  • Engages Learner: Captures and keeps the participant’s attention and interest through active participation, practice opportunities, feedback, and reflection.
  • Enhances Retention and Transfer: Ensures that the learning environment creates and measures recall, recognition, and replication of desired outcomes.
  • Ensures Context Sensitivity: Considers the conditions and circumstances that are relevant to the learning content, event, process, and outcomes.
  • Ensures Relevance: Creates content and activities that address the learner’s background and work experiences.

Instead of providing a single broad certification covering all aspects of instructional design, TIfPI decided to create microcredentials or badges. Currently, the badges are all based on different types of deliverables: asynchronous e-learning, instructor-led training, coaching, job aids, community of practice, mobile learning, etc. They plan to add additional badges in the future.

To earn a badge, you complete an application form explaining how you met all of the standards in a project. You provide samples of content (screenshots, a page from a storyboard, planning documents, a short video, etc.) to demonstrate what you say you did.

Your application receives a double blind review by two peers in the field. These reviewers use a rubric to determine how many of the performance behaviors for each standard you demonstrated. For each standard, you can receive an Outstanding, Acceptable, or Insufficient rating. If you get at least 7 Outstanding ratings, your badge is gold instead of blue, and your designation has a plus sign. For example, a normal badge for asynchronous e-learning would be ID(AEL); an outstanding badge would be ID(AEL+).

There’s a few other pieces of paperwork too: an attestation from a supervisor or client saying you did the work you said you did, a code of ethics, etc. The badge is valid for three years, after which it must be renewed by either doing professional development or earning a badge in another area. The badge costs $295.

My Process

To start, I attended a webinar explaining the process. I spent time reviewing the handbook and all the standards. I had a project in mind for the certification. This was an e-learning course which included a branching scenario and a job aid. I debated between going for the Asynchronous E-learning (AEL) badge and the Goal- or Problem-Based Scenario (GPS) badge. I think I could have done both badges with this course. Initially, I wasn’t sure if this would really meet the requirements for the scenario badge. The branching scenario is a 10-minute activity within a 60-minute course. I’m focusing my business on scenario-based learning though, and I wanted the more specific credential to match my specialization. After some discussion with Sharon Gander at TIfPI,  I decided to go for the GPS badge and really concentrate on the branching scenario within the context of the larger course.

The application took me about 10 hours to complete, and I did the entire process from webinar to application in about a month. In comparison to the CPLP, which takes 120+ hours and a year to complete, this seemed quite reasonable. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I chose this certification.

After submitting the application, I found out in about two weeks that I not only earned the badge, but earned it at the outstanding level. I added the badge to my website, LinkedIn profile, and the About page of my blog. The badge includes verification so you can click a link or image to check that it’s authentic.

Why I Chose This Certification

In the field of ID, we perennially debate whether everyone needs a degree in instructional design or not. I don’t have one (I have a bachelor’s of music education), so you can guess which side of the debate I’m on. I first posted about this back in 2008, and I’ve periodically joined this discussion since then. I’ve argued that although master’s degrees are valuable, that shouldn’t be the only path to this field. There are lots of “accidental instructional designers” who didn’t set out to be IDs, but found their way to this field, usually switching from another career. Although I don’t think a master’s degree should be mandatory, the industry would benefit from a way to differentiate between IDs who are deliberate and reflective in their practice and those who aren’t working to improve. Seven years ago, I argued that if we had an evidence-based certification, that could be one tool for people who came to ID from an alternate path.

The ID Badges are an evidence-based certification; it’s based on a real work product that you created. I didn’t want to do something with an exam; I wanted this to be about the work I actually do. Although I have some other certifications from previous jobs (CTT+ and Expert Synchronous Producer), I didn’t have anything formal saying I knew how to do instructional design. The market for IDs can be crowded at times. A certification is one way to differentiate myself; I can show prospective clients how my work has been reviewed by my peers and deemed “outstanding.”

Realistically, I didn’t want to spend $800 or $1000 on a CPLP, not to mention the time commitment. The CPLP is a bigger certification that measures more, and it’s certainly more well-known (at least in the US). TIfPI’s ID Badges are a relatively new certification program. They don’t have the name recognition of ATD and the CPLP, although I hope in time the ID Badges will become more recognized.

Even without wide recognition, I wanted that double blind peer review of my work. I wanted to see what someone thinks of my work when they don’t know my blog or my online brand. I wanted to validate that what I’m doing is on the right track. This certification gives me that personal validation.

Your Thoughts?

Have you considered a certification? What was your experience? Does it help you get more work or justify the work you do? If you hire IDs, do you look at certifications when making decisions? Tell me in the comments.