Category: Lifelong Learning

What I Learned at LSCon

I had a great experience at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference last week. The days were long, but the time was really valuable. My own session on Avoiding Voice Over Script Pitfalls went very well. I had a very active, engaged audience. We even had a voice over artist and an editor attending, which was perfect for my session. I’ve had some requests to give a virtual version of my session, so stay tuned for that.

It was so much fun to get to meet people in person who I’d only met online. I’ve built so many relationships with people online, but it’s great to see them live and connect a different way.

I took about 30 pages of notes over the 3 days. While everything is still fresh in my mind, I want to record some highlights. This list is one thing I can use from every session I attended. This isn’t necessarily the most important point from the speaker; in fact, some of these came from tangents. I’m focusing on what I think I can apply in my own work.

Information on all sessions can be found on the LS Con website.

Tim Gunn: A Natty Approach to Learning and Education

“There’s nothing more powerful than the word no.” Gunn talked about this in terms of advocating for the intellectual property rights for designers, but I think this applies to working with clients and SMEs as well.

Connie Malamed: Crash Course in Information Graphics for Learning

I loved the ideas for data visualization from this presentation. I don’t do infographics often, but I do need to present data and charts in courses (including one of my current projects). My big takeaway is that I need to do more sketching for charts. I’ve started to do more pencil and paper sketching for course layouts thanks to Connie’s last book, but visual brainstorming for charts would be helpful too.

Mark Sheppard: Building a Learning and Social-Collaborative Ecosystem in Slack

One note is that Learning Locker is working with xAPIs that can talk to Slack and pull data. Even without xAPI, you can get other data from Slack, like how many emojis were used to answer a poll.

Julie Dirksen: Diagnosing Behavior Change Problems

How many times has a client or SME given you a vague objective like, “Improve customer service”? That’s a nice business goal, but what does that mean for measurable performance? What behavior do you want to change? Julie shared her “photo test” for identifying behaviors. What would that behavior look like if you took a photo or video of it? Asking that question can help get to an observable behavior you can measure.

Karen Kostrinsky: Storytelling for Learning Impact

Think about the titles for your courses. What’s the most important takeaway? How can you put that takeaway in the title?

This session also had some discussion around the difference between scenarios and stories. Some people raised objections to using stories. I’m planning some future blog posts around those objections and questions.

Glen Keane: Harnessing Creativity in a Time of Technological Change

My favorite quote (I’ve already used it with a client during a video call): “Technology is like a 3-year-old at a formal dinner. Just when you want it to be at its best behavior, it starts acting up.” On a more serious note, Keane talked about how creativity means he can see it in his head, but he has to figure out how to get you to see it too. That’s a challenge we face creating elearning. We can see it in our heads (or the SMEs can see it in their heads), but we have to get it in a format learners can use.

Jane Bozarth: New Ideas for Using Social Tools for Learning

Jane shared lots of inspiration in this session (who knew that the TSA had a great Instagram account?). What I’m going to use first is a Pinterest board for sharing book lists. I started a draft version, but I want to switch the order (I forgot to load them backwards) and move this to a professional account rather than my personal one.

Jennifer Hofmann: Mindsets, Toolsets, and Skillsets for Modern Blended Learning

One quote stood out: “If you can test it online, you can teach it online.” When you think about blended learning, think about goals and objectives first, then assessment. Decide on the instructional strategy, technique, and technology after you figure out the assessment. Maybe some parts of the skill can’t be taught and assessed online, but think about the parts that can be.

Will Thalheimer: Neuroscience and Learning: What the Research Really Says

The big takeaway is that we should be skeptical of claims that we can use neuroscience to improve learning. The reality is that we don’t know enough about neuroscience to really improve learning design yet. Sometimes what people claim is neuroscience (which means fMRI data) is actually earlier cognitive psychology research with an incorrect label.

Panel: What’s Wrong with Evaluation?

This was with Will Thalheimer, Julie Dirksen, Megan Torrance, and Steve Forman, with JD Dillon moderating. Can’t you tell from just the list of names that this was a good discussion?

Julie Dirksen made the point that we as instructional designers don’t get enough feedback on our own work. We don’t really know whether what we’re doing is working or not. It takes 10,000 hours (give or take) to become an expert, but that only works if you get the right kind of feedback to continuously improve your practice.

On a related note, Megan Torrance asked, “Why don’t we do A/B testing on training?” I saw an example of that at the DemoFest, but I admit I’ve never done it myself. Maybe there’s a way to set that up for a future project so I can test what method really works (and get feedback for my own practice in the process).

Jennifer Nilsson: Best Practices Training Should Steal from Software Development

We talk a lot about stealing agile methods from software development, but Jennifer’s presentation was about other proven practices. For example, software developers add comments to their code to explain what something does and why it was done a certain way. We can’t always add comments to our development tools the way you can in true coding, but we can add notes in an off screen text box. That’s an easy solution that will save a lot of time if I have to go back to a complicated interaction a year later.

Diane Elkins: Responsive Design: A Comparison of Popular Authoring Tools

The first thing I’m going to change as a result of this session is what questions I ask clients after they say they want a mobile solution. I haven’t been asking enough follow up questions to understand what clients really mean by “responsive.” Do they mean tablets only? Are they OK with landscape only for phones? Is a scalable solution enough, or do they really want it fully responsive (adaptive)?

Julia Galef: Embracing a Mindset of Continuous Learning

We all use motivated reasoning sometimes and ignore evidence that doesn’t support the outcome we want. One way to check if you’re vulnerable to self-deception on a specific topic is the “button test.” Imagine you could press a button and find out the absolute, complete truth about something. If you find yourself hesitating to push that button, you might be vulnerable to motivated reasoning on that topic. If you know that, you can be aware of your cognitive biases and be more careful.

Photos

I took photos during the sessions and of the lovely sketchnotes taken for many sessions (including sessions I didn’t attend). Email readers, you may need to click through to the post to see the gallery of images.

Do You Need a Mentor or a Network?

Maria often works from her local coffee shop. She always engages in a bit of people watching while she’s there. For the last two months, she’s been observing Jack, another frequent patron of the coffee shop. Jack meets clients for a coffee at least once a month. Maria is impressed by how effectively Jack builds relationships with his clients, and she wanted to learn more about his strategy. Although they’ve never spoken before, Maria decided to approach him after his latest client left.

Woman and man shaking hands in a coffee shop

“Hi, Jack. That was a great closing you did with Priya. I’ve seen you here a bunch of times, and I’m always impressed with your work.”

“Um, thanks.”

“I’m so inspired by you! Will you be my mentor?”

“Uh, what?”

“Will you be my mentor? You know, meet with me for an hour or two a week, answer my questions, coach me so I can improve my skills? What do you say?”

Jack packed up his laptop and bag. “I’m sorry, I don’t know you. That’s a big time commitment for someone I just met. Besides, I need to go now. But here’s my card. Why don’t you email me so we can set up some consulting? I’ll send you my standard rates.”

Maria left the coffee shop feeling a bit deflated and surprised that Jack didn’t agree to be her mentor. She wasn’t quite sure what went wrong.

Requests for Mentors

If you saw this behavior in a coffee shop, how would you feel? It would be a bit bizarre, wouldn’t it? We don’t go up to strangers and ask them to donate hours of their time.

Online, however, these sorts of requests are commonplace. Here’s a sampling of messages I’ve received in the last few months:

  • “I’ve been on the lookout for experienced professionals such as you who can offer professional advice/opinions and if possible act as a mentor to our team.”
  • “I was basically looking for some kind of mentor as this field is very new to me. “
  • “Would you be interested in mentoring me on this project?”
  • “Will you mentor me in instructional design and e-learning?”
  • “Given the experience and skills you have, I am sure you are the right person to guide / mentor me.”

I receive so many requests to mentor people that if I mentored everyone who asked, I’d never have time to do any actual instructional design work. It’s just not feasible to spend that kind of time one-on-one with everyone who is looking for a mentor. When people ask me to mentor them, I wonder if they really understand what they’re asking. Do they really expect months of free consulting? Their requests are the online equivalent of Maria badgering Jack in the coffee shop. I try to answer a few questions for free, but a long-term relationship would mean taking time away from paying clients. It’s flattering. I just can’t do that kind of mentoring.

Personal Learning Networks

What do you do if you’re new to the field and need some help though? Rather than looking for a single mentor who will spend hours working with you (a pretty big commitment to request of a stranger), work on building your personal learning network or PLN. A PLN is basically a group of people you’re loosely connected to, usually online, who support you in small ways. You can help your PLN by sharing helpful resources or answering questions yourself as you’re able. Instead of asking a single person for a significant amount of time in a one-way mentor relationship, you find a large group of people who can all help you a little bit.

Kathy Schrock’s guide to creating a PLN is one place to start learning about PLNs. This concept has taken hold more in K-12 education than in the workplace, but I think the ideas and strategies can work for people in any field. Harold Jarche’s PKM (Personal Knowledge Mastery) model is a related but more comprehensive structure for workplace learning. In Jarche’s Seek – Sense -Share model, you Seek knowledge from your network and Share what you learn back to the network. That network could be called a PLN.

Whether you call it a PLN or something else, most of us in today’s workforce aren’t going to have a single one-on-one mentor who guides and shapes our careers. That’s the old way of learning in a hierarchical organization. In a networked world, our lifelong learning should take advantage of the availability of the network. In fact, you can probably learn more from a network than from a single person, even if you only learn a small amount from each individual in your network.

Your Network

Where do you find your network? How do you connect with people? How do you share what you’re learning so the relationship is reciprocal?

 

Giving Thanks

"I'm thankful for mommy and dada and the leaves and the cookies." Happy Thanksgiving! E

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US this week, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for.

I have a career where I get to write, be creative, and solve problems. I’m always learning new content, skills, and technology.

I’m grateful for working from home and the flexibility of setting my schedule. Yes, I often work at night after my two-year-old daughter goes to bed or early in the morning before she wakes up, but that means I get to spend more time reading and playing with her.

My daughter, “E,” made the card above at preschool. As you can see, she has her own list of what she’s thankful for. I can’t argue with anything on her list. 🙂

I’m thankful for everyone who reads my blog, comments, and shares. Social media has allowed me to connect with so many wonderful, smart, talented people.

Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week or not, I hope you have much to be thankful for in your work, friends, and family.

 

Remembering Jay Cross and His Work

It’s been a week since Jay Cross passed. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, but like many in the field, I read his writing and had great respect for his work. Someone asked me recently about what makes a thought leader, and Jay was one of the first people I mentioned as an example. We often overuse the word “innovate,” but Jay truly did innovate and lead the industry forward. He was the guru of informal learning who pushed us to think outside of the traditional model of formal courses and training. He may not actually have been the one to coin the term “e-learning,” but he certainly shaped and led the field.

Between his books, a dozen years of blogging, and other writing, Jay shared many ideas worth remembering. What better way to remember him than with a small sampling of his own ideas?

Meeting Jay Cross

Formal and Informal Learning

“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance

Training versus Learning

“Training is imposed on people (for example, by the training department), as if they are cogs. Learning is what people choose to take in (whether or not through training), as if they can make decisions for themselves. Training assumes the trainer is in control; learning puts the learner at the helm.”
Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It

Conversation

“Conversation is the most powerful learning technology ever invented. Conversations carry news, create meaning, foster cooperation, and spark innovation. Encouraging open, honest conversation through work space design, setting ground rules for conversing productively, and baking conversation into the corporate culture spread intellectual capital, improve cooperation, and strengthen personal relationships.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance

Emotion

“Businesses have been trying to promote passion in the workplace while keeping other emotions at bay. Denying people their emotions is de-humanizing. We have to start treating people like people.”
The Coherent Organization

Perpetual Beta

“Nothing is forever. In the long run, evolution keeps life and the lessons of experience in perpetual beta. Even when something is a perfect fit with its environment, environmental change will render it obsolete.

Everything flows. In the long run, everything is beta or dead.

The opposite of Perpetual Beta is closure. The topic is no longer a subject for discussion. People cease trying to make improvements, for the ones worth making have already been made. We’ve closed the book on it.

Closure makes room for the next chapters but it shuts down attention in the brain. Never tell people they’ve graduated from anything because it causes their memories to atrophy. Keep the things you want to keep alive in beta; close out the others by withdrawing your attention.”
Should Learning Content be in Perpetual Beta?

Real Learning

“You are learning all the time, taking in new information and making sense of it. You learn by doing, through conversations, and from the school of hard knocks. You, rather than a teacher or institution, are in charge of the process.

Learning is not something that happens to you at events or in courses. It is something that you own and experience continuously, with other people, in your life, and your work.

Learning is how you solve problems, grow professionally, and achieve your goals.”
Real Learning

Others Remember

Many others have written more eloquently in Jay’s memory. If I missed your post or you have memories to share, please leave a comment.

Image Credit: Meeting Jay Cross by Alan Levine

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!