Sunday, November 17, 2013

Each One Teach One -- Musings from a different kind of university.

I'm lucky enough to be travelling right now to South Africa.

I've just spent 4 nights with my wife and my brother & sister-in-law in the cape wine lands  where we indulged our shared passion for wines.

We hit Cape Town on Friday and one of our first trips was to Robben Island. Former home of since then President Mandela and a host of other political prisoners.

Robben Island is now a museum. Tours of the island are conducted by professional tour guides but then they hand over to former political prisoners who take you through the maximum security prison where they and all the other black, male, political prisoners where held. (The non political prisoners were held in a separate 'convicts' prison elsewhere on the Island, the White men in Pretoria and women at a women's prison on the mainland.)

It was, as you can imagine, a deeply moving experience. Especially to an old Anti- Aparthied campaigner who (mis)spent a chunk of his college days on marches and protests.

It was also a deeply uplifting one.

One of the things that was talked about was that the prisoners established a learning culture that would be the envy of many of today's 'learning organizations'. So much so that the Island was called 'The University".  They took the principle of Each one Teach one, that had (I later learned) come from the slavery days in the US, and used it to ensure that all the prisoners had a responsibility to share their learning with their comrades.

While some, like Mandela, where educated men, many of the prisoners came to the Island with little or no education. Our guide shared with us that one such prisoner started his 17 year sentence on the Island illiterate. 17 years later he left with a degree.

Simple literacy lessons were taught drawing letters in the sand in buckets. The thirst for learning shown by people in some of the worst prison conditions in the world is truly inspiring.

If they can dedicate themselves to learning, then there is simply no excuse for those of us who work in this field not to dedicate ourselves to helping others learn.

Happy Learning

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thoughts from a Leaders Conference

I've just spent a couple of days in the company of a great bunch of people.

Some background

When I started my career as a Workplace Learning practitioner, I realized fairly quickly that I loved this field. It gives me the opportunity to help others develop new skills. I still get a kick out of the "Aha" moments I get to witness when I'm doing any form of live training. Pretty quickly I also realized that being able to share that feeling and discuss it with others was also very fulfilling so I joined my local learning group. Back then and there it was an organization called SEAL. The Society for Effective Affective Learning. When I moved to the US I joined the International Alliance for Learning and was active there for a while. Those two groups were focused on Accelerated Learning which I still see a set of fundamentally good learner focused principles.

Since 2008 however my energy has been more aligned with ASTD. I see that ASTD is the professional body of my chosen profession. Back in Chicago I really enjoyed spending my time with people who shared some of my passions for learning and started to get more and more involved with my local Chapter. I even ended up on the board where the like-mindedness took another step forward because then I started spending time with others who not only shared my passion for learning but choose to give back to the furtherance of our profession by volunteering their time and energy to their local chapter.

Being on a Chapter board is a lot of work but its very rewarding work. I get to help other learn about helping others learn. How cool is that?

If you are thinking that this sounds pretty cool then I suspect that you might also want to be a part of your local chapter board, giving back to your profession, and spending time with others who do the same. Imagine spending your time with 6-12 others who share that.

Now imagine spending your time with 350 people like that.

That's what the ASTD Chapter Leaders Conference is like. We get together with a single aim. How do we make our chapters better at serving the needs of Learning Professionals in our areas. We share great ideas and learn from each other. We return to our chapters energized and ready to push ahead with new initiatives and new ideas. I'm bringing two specific things back to Golden Gate Chapter with me.

Firstly from the folks up at Sacramento Chapter I'm bringing back "The Programs Machine"  A planning tool that will hopefully allow us to better plan the programs that the chapter hosts, not only the central chapter meetings but also the Geographical and Special Interest groups we have.

Secondly from Houston Chapter the idea of a Leaders Advisory Board. How we can get local learning leaders to guide and advise the board on the work that the chapter needs to do to meet their needs as leaders of large teams of Learning Professionals.

I'm excited about all of these things.

Naturally I was busy tweeting. I've collected my tweets and retweets here.

I'll keep you posted.

Happy Learning


Friday, October 4, 2013

Learning about Leading and Tango.

Day two of the conference in Berlin and this morning I had a number of workshops to choose from and none of them jumped of the page at me to tell me I must attend.

So I chose to allow myself a small amount of spontaneity and went along to the workshop that I would have least expected to find myself in.

So headed upstairs to a session called.

Leadership goes Tango: Impro(ve) your leadership-skills with Tango Argentino

Read the session description here

I found my dance ability at an improv class many years ago when Matt Elwell taught me to 'Get All Up In It' or what we call the GAUII approach.

However I have found that dance where I'm expected to remember steps or even a pattern is not for me.

So attending a session on Tango was a stretch.

It was a well put together 75 minutes and I'm offering to share with you dear reader my lessons from it.

It can be just as hard following a leader as it can be leading a follower.

It's easier to follow blindly (literally). But you must trust your leader to do this.

There are many ways that a leader can work with a follower who resists being led. Sometimes it's best to stop and restart. Sometimes it's best to use the Aikido approach and let the resistance lead fr a moment then overtake that to take leadership again. And sometimes there will be something else to try.

The final exercise we did had a leader, with a blindfolded follower by their side and a resisting (sometimes) follower in front of them.
What I learned from that was how hard it is to lead a blind follower when you change the way you have done it before AND have something else to concentrate on as well.

I'll muse on the lessons from that and how they apply to learning and get back to you all.

In the mean time I feel like a steak!.

Happy Learning

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Learning and Playing. AIN Conference Day 1

Today was the first full day of the Applied Improvisation Network conference in Berlin.

Some great conversations and some great learning.

I was tweeting my notes and thoughts and so were loads of others.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Learning by Engaging Meaningful Change

Regular (ha!) readers will know that I'm a part of the Applied Improvisation Network.

This week I'm in Berlin joining over 225 of my fellow applied  improvisers for our Annual Conference.

The conference starts in about an hour with some Learning Journeys.I'm discovering a 'playful city'. I'll let you know how that goes.

For the last two days I've been with other leaders of the network at a summit where we tried to move forward on some of the things for the network. One of these was about how we define ourselves and our field.

One of the decisions we made was to use three words next too our logo to help with that definition. The words are a base and each of us gets to tweak it to make it relevant to us and our work.

The term is Engaging Meaningful Change. I'm supposed to add an adverb at the front but as I've never been much for grammar rules I cheated.

I believe that not only does learning essentially change people but also that for learning to really happen it has to be engaging, and meaningful.

So my version of the tag line is.

Learning, by Engaging Meaningful Change.

Happy Learning


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Learning Pro learns: About Captivate with Captivate Joe and HTML5 with eLeraning Joe (Same guy!) and Reflects on a great Summer

Summer is over.
Well at least ASTD Golden Gate's Summer of eLearning is over.

I was very proud to have been able to put together a great series of programs for chapter members and guests.

It started with the thought leaders panel. if you missed that, read all about it here.

We also had Tom Kuhlman and David Anderson in town.  Read about that here.

But all good things must come to an end. And so they did on Tuesday when Joe Ganci came back to the chapter and presented both a full day workshop on Captivate ad an evening meeting on HTML5.

As always I was tweeting my notes and here they are along with those of some other attendees.

But as the summer has ended I think I'd like to muse on the bigger picture of what I learned.

With great power comes great responsibility
There are some great eLearning and mLearning development tools out there. Many of them are very powerful. But that power reminds me of what Peter Parker's uncle says to him.  As Workplace Learning & Performance professionals and learning developers we have a (sacred?) responsibility to our learners. Give them the opportunity to advance their skills, knowledge or attitudes to allow them to 'work better'. That means giving them a chance at real learning.
But not all eLearning is that, or quite frankly, needs to be. If the learner is tackling a task that they might do once a year, do they really need an eLearning course on that? Or is what we are being asked to create a multi-media job aid? We need to be honest about what we need to create and what we are creating.
Our responsibility is to allow them to work better. That might just be pointing them to a well written manual, or it might be something more complex and interactive. Where we shirk our responsibility is when we assume one way or the other.

With great power comes a great learning curve.
The tools themselves vary in their capabilities. If you want to take a PowerPoint deck of existing content and turn it into a Multi Media job aid, then there are lots of great tools out there. However the more interaction you want to build into the eLearning the higher the chance that you will start to encounter complexities that you will need to build yourself. The easier a tool is to use for the simple stuff the harder it is going to be to bend it to the more complex stuff.
In a previous life (before I became a Learning Pro) I was a programmer. So programming is not hard for me. Some tools have some really simple drag and drop, point and click programming interfaces in them. But just because it's simple to use does not mean you can use it well without learning about it. This applies just as much to the programming interface as to the rest of the tools.  Programming advanced actions in Captivate or programming everything in ToolBook is still programming and it's a skill not everyone has and no-one can do well without learning.

With a great learning curve should come great learning.
I've been using Captivate 6 and now 7 since about February. I learned it from the tutorials, from a colleague helping me and from advice in the Adobe Community. It was a slowish, at times frustrating, road. If only I had managed to have Joe teaching his class in February I'm sure I would have been far more productive far quicker. Even with the 7-8 months of use I still learned a raft of things on Tuesday. I know that I would never have been able to get up to speed on StoryLine anything like as quickly as I did without spending the day learning from Tom Kuhlman.

Happy Learning


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Learning Pro spends two days with an ELearning Hero.

I spent a couple of days last week in the company of experts and learners.

The experts were Tom Kuhlmann and David Andersen from Articulate

The learners were some 60-70 attendees at the two workshops they ran for ASTD Golden Gate

The first day had the title "How to become a Rapid E-Learning Pro'. I had heard how great this was when Tom ran the same workshop in Chicago last year for CCASTD and was looking forward to seeing it myself.

As ever I used twitter as my note taking tool and here are my combined tweets from that day.

The second day was "Getting Started with Articulate Storyline" and I had some pretty high hopes for this day as well.

I had heard of Storyline of course. I'd been an Articulate Studio user since 2009 and had heard from an ex colleague who was part of the Beta.  But could it really be that good? I saw a demo of the tool at ASTDICE in 2012 and nearly cried. Of course part of the reason for that was that I was working for SumTotal at the time and so constrained to using ToolBook So I would probably have cried at anything.

When I took my current contract, my customer had a Captivate 6 licence and so I took a look at that. The Interactions that they introduced meant that many of the failings of V4/5 were taken care of, or so it seemed. You could create a valid interactive learning experience in Captivate 6.1. As I was more focused on strategy that tactical delivery I left the tool choice alone.

But I did decide that once I'd taken a real look at Storyline I'd evaluate that question again, unless it was moot.

So I spent the day learning about the tool and taking twitter notes.

So what next?

And now that the day has passed I'm looking to see just how big the savings might be. Because in just a couple of hours I created templates and used them to rebuild the first of the courses I'd built in Captivate.

Let me repeat that. 

I spent about 3 hours.
In that time I rebuilt a captivate class that in Captivate would have taken me at least that long. AND about 50% of that time was spent setting up a theme and importing about 30 or so images of a 'presenter' into a character with 'states'  All this with a product that I had one day of training on. Now I didn't learn everything in that single day. But what I did not learn I found out using the Articulate Community Forums.

I think that Storyline is worthy of all the hype I've seen about it. 

Let me give you a simple example.

Tab interactions.
Captivate 7 has a Tabs interaction widget. you can choose from between 17 pre arranged layouts and customize them all considerably. You can have up to 5 tabs and each one can have text, image and audio.
the problem becomes if you want more than 5 or if you want to have a common look and feel as each time to move from one preset layout to another all your color choices are blown away.  It takes me about 10-15 minutes for me to build one of those, dropping in the text, images and audio I want and setting all the colors to meet my client's color palate rules.

In Storyline I can build the same thing from scratch in the same time.  But I'm not limited to 5 buttons or even having them look like buttons. Then save it as a template and use it again, with enough changes to make it seem to the user as something totally different.

I know which product I will recommend to anyone wanting to build some eLearning.

One more thing.
The evening of the second day was spent with Tom & David presenting "The Power of Rapid E-Learning" at the monthly meeting of our chapter.

There were a few of us tweeting that one and here is the back channel in all it's glory.

Happy Learning

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Learning from the eLearning Pros

Regular reader(s) will know that I took on the role of Programming VP at ASTD Golden Gate Chapter at the start of this year.

Last Thursday saw the start of what we have called the "Summer of eLearning" a series of monthly programs and workshops around eLearning topics.

We kicked it off with a BANG.

I was lucky to be able to have a number of thought leaders in the eLearning world form a panel to discuss the state and the future of the tools that developers have available to create eLearning programs.

My panel was moderated by "elearning Joe", also known as Joe Ganci. Joe has been teaching Captivate and other eLearning tools for 30+ years. Joe was designated as a 'Guild Master' by the eLearning Guild last year.
The only other person ever to have received that honor was Clark Quinn. Who was also on the panel. Also there were Nick Floro, Brandon Carson, Michelle Lentz and Phil Cowcill. Joining us over the net was Craig Weiss

Take a look at some of those links.  These folks are thought leaders in the field and I was so happy that they were able to join us for this event.

There was lively debate, ranging from a view that we have never had such great opportunities to create great eLearning so easily using the tools available to a view that we are 'in the dark ages' as the tools mean that so much bad eLearning is being build and sent out.

There were a few of us live tweeting and I've captured most of those tweets in a Storify here

But one evening does not a Summer make....

The rest of the summer is full of workshops and programs on eLearing topics.

Want to learn about Mobile Learning.  We have a program in July for that.

Want to meet the 'E-Learning Hero' tom Kuhlman from Articulate. He is running a workshop on How to be come a Rapid E-Learning Pro in August followed by a workshop on Getting started with Articulate Studio and that evening a program on the Power of Rapid E-Learning

eLearning Joe returns in September with a full day Captivate class and an evening that will tell us what eLearning designers and developers need to know about HTML5

I'll be at all of these, because as much as I already know about many of these topics, I'm not going to miss out on an opportunity to learn from these pros.

Happy Learning


Saturday, May 18, 2013

In with the Learning Pros (and amateurs)

I'm writing this at the gate as I wait to board my flight to Dallas for the ASTD International Conference and Expo.
I'm looking forward to spending time fully submerged in my profession and  surrounded by fellow Workplace Learning & Performance professionals.

As my regular reader(s?) will know I'm somewhat annoyed that my professional organization has run away fro the WLP tag and run back to Training & Development. (see previous posting about that here)

To highlight my unhappiness, and because let's face it I'm a trouble maker at heart, I have had 200 ribbons made and will be handing them round for people to attach to their conference badges.

The serious reason behind this little bit of theater is that I really believe that for our profession to move forward and become the respected partner to the businesses and organizations we serve then we need to be about more that 'Training' and focus on more than 'Development'. We owe our customers, clients, employers and learners a focus on performance. 

Over the last couple of years when meeting new people I've been answering questions about what I do with the statement "I'm a workplace learning & performance professional." I freely admit that most of the time this is met with some form of blank stare or question. But I see those questions as a gift. They give me the chance to point out that I help people improve their performance. That it's not about what I know and can train but about what they do and what they can learn. The old concept of the 'sage on the stage' imparting knowledge to their listeners is no longer relevant or acceptable to today's workforce. The demand to be engaged and an active driver of their learning is a hallmark of the millennial generation.    

That is why I'll be wearing the ribbon and making trouble. Because I have no wish to go backwards.

#WLP4Ever & Happy Learning


Friday, April 5, 2013

Learning & Performance or Training & Development?

I sat in on the ASTD webinar last week about the revamp to the ASTD Competency Model.
As always when involved in such events I looked for the 'Back Channel' but could not find it. So I started my own. If you want to see what was being discussed you can read all about it here.

The biggest topic in the back channel (Apart from why the hell we had to create our own in the first place) was the fact that the model had been renamed.
It used to be the Workplace Learning & Performance Competency model.
If you chose to get certified against this model you got designated as a Certified Professional in Learning & Performance.
One of the things that attracted so many people was the simple fact that the words made the focus very clear. It is about what the Learners learn and how we can help them improve their Performance.
For the last 10 years we have been trying to socialize the term Workplace Learning & Performance. Because Training & Development is about the training and (hopefully) the development it facilitates. WLP is about so much more.

In fact the new model still talks about so much more than just training.
There is Knowledge Management, Coaching, and Integrated Talent Management. I don't know many 'trainers' who have deep knowledge of those things, although I know many Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals who do.

ASTD said that they changed the name to make is more understandable by our employers, clients and other business partners, but I think that a sad mistake.

Language matters. As stated in the model a foundational competency of any professional, especially one in our field, is that of being able to communicate effectively. Its in the model, right next to influencing stakeholders and building trust, under the Interpersonal Skills heading. If people don't understand what we mean by Workplace Learning & Performance then we should be able to tell them.

It is a shame that our professional body has retreated from this. Rather than aim to influence all the stakeholders into understanding what it means to be a professional in our field they have chosen to use a language that dumbs down our contribution to organizational goals. Rather than build trust among the people working in our profession they have chosen to supply a metaphorical slap in the face to those of us who have been fighting the 'Workplace Learning & Performance' fight by going back to the old job and the old term.

I am a Workplace Learning and Performance Professional.  And I'm damn proud of that.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A quick rant about 5 point Likert Scales

If we are doing Level 1 evaluations (and why are so many organizations doing training and not bothering to even start with a Level 1???) then we are all familiar with the use of the Likert scale for lots of simple evaluations.
I was lucky enough to attend a couple of sessions taught by Ken Phillips one of the lesser known masters of the evaluation world and have redesigned my Level 1's as a result.

Ken points out that if you give people a 5 point Likert scale you are almost guaranteeing scores very heavily weighted at 4/5.

People don't like to give a perfect score and that is probably valid. Very little in this world in Perfect.

But if it's better than 'average' then the only other choice on a 5 point scale is a 4. How little differentiation is there between something hat was just a little better than average and something that was nearly perfect.

So push to a 7 point scale.  Or maybe a 9 point one if you can manage it.

Standard good practice in the evaluation world.

So why do SO many tools only allow you scales of 1-5?

I'm looking at LMSs for my client and many have built in evaluation tools and so many of them only allow 1-5 scales. The same is true in Captivate.

It's time the tool set for L&D Professionals caught up with our needs.

OK Rant over.

Happy learning.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hey I'm in Sales - According to Dan Pink.

I've been a Dan Pink fan for a while. I heard him Keynote as ASTD International Conference & Expo in Chicago in 2010 and went out and bought his book on intrinsic motivation, Drive, immediately. I then went and bought his previous one "A whole new mind" which is about how right brained thinkers are making a resurgence.  Both great books that I would highly recommend.
So when I heard that he was coming out with a new one I was excited. When I heard that one of the main ideas in it was how useful improvisational skills are to the modern business world I almost died of happiness.
Dan is on a book tour right now, and last week (on the first day of my new gig!) he was speaking at the JCC in San Francisco. Now as the JCC is 2 blocks from us and Sarah and I are members at the fitness center there I could not resist.

So I left Mountain view at just gone 4:15 and drove back up to SF. Parked the car and headed over. Met Sarah and sat down to hear him sell his book about selling.

The book is called "To Sell is Human" and his basic argument is that although 1 in 9 people in North America are "in sales" (according to statistics and self defined answers to questions) if you look at what all the rest of us do we are also selling. What Dan calls "non-sales selling" This happens when we spend our time trying to persuade people (or move them as he says) to give us something of value (time, attention, resources, money, support) in exchange for something we have to offer. His figures show that about 40% of our time is spent doing that. When I reflected on how I spent most of my time at SumTotal I get to probably 60% or more.  My new gig is too early to say.

So Dan tells us that to be successful in the new world of non-sales selling (and sales as well) there is a new ABC to think about. Instead of Always Be Closing we should concentrate on Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.
And three tools to help us with all that are Pitch, Improvise and Serve.

I recommend reading more, buying his book and/or seeing him on the tour.

If you are lucky I may put some more onto this blog.

Happy Learning.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Year, New Challenges

2012 was a big year for my family and I. We upped sticks and moved half way across the country and at the end of the year I resigned from SumTotal and I'll be starting a new consulting role with a great 'post-startup' in Silicon Valley with my own consulting company  IMPROVing Organizations.  

In addition being 2000 miles away I'm leaving the Chicagoland Chapter of ASTD and my position on the board and instead getting active with two chapters out here in the Bay Area. I'm joining the board at Golden Gate Chapter and will be a regular attendee at Mt Diablo Chapter.
I'm taking on a programming role at Golden Gate chapter and so I have a responsibility to set up speakers for the monthly Chapter meetings

So I'm going to ask you my loyal reader(s) what would get you to come to a meeting? What topic or topics would you like to see covered? One option we are looking at is trying to make sure we align to the ASTD Competency model. There are 10 'Areas of Expertise' and we would like to align each meeting to one or more of those AOEs. How does that sound to you?

One of the things that Darin Hartley mentioned was that blog comment counts are a great indicator of how much a blog is being read. By that rating, I'm talking to myself. But as this is as much a way for me to organize my thoughts as anything else I'm going to continue.  It would be nice, even so, to hear from you.

Happy 2013 and Happy Learning.