Thursday, August 18, 2016

Exciting Stuff!

After 10 years of blogging, I am (finally) moving from Blogger and to my own web site.

The site is (far from) complete as of this writing - expect a formal announcement September 1.

1) For those of you using feed readers - I am going to be republishing a large number of posts over the next few weeks.  I apologize now for spamming your RSS feed.

2) I will be keeping the content from this blog free and accessible to all.

3) I am working on an automatic feed redirect so that you don't have to re-point to the new site.  Will keep you posted as I figure out how to do this.

4) The links in the re-posted content won't work until September 1.  Please be patient :)

Thank you Brian Dusablon for helping me with the website.

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In other news, as of August 3rd - I have left the University I worked at for 8.5 years and have gone independent!!!!

Yes, it was voluntary and planned.

A couple opportunities presented themselves and I decided it was time to make the leap.  As much as I wanted to, I couldn't do everything (though it wasn't for lack of trying).

As I look at the state of the world of work - it made more sense to me to set up my life and career so that I was not reliant on the whims of a particular organization to provide for my career growth.

"Job security" is a myth anyway. We are ALL freelancers - whether we intend to be or not.

And I am at a point in my career where it was time for me to take more responsibility for myself and for how I make a living.

It was a really good run.  I learned and grew a lot during that time - and I never expected to be in the same place for that long.

The friends I've made and the opportunities that have presented themselves as a result of my blogging have been infinitely more valuable than anything that could have come out of AdWords, sponsored posts, or some of the other techniques I've seen for "monetizing the blog".

Without blogging, I would have never gotten the University job I was at for so long and I would not have gotten the opportunities I have now.

For that, I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

From the Archives: Do It Yourself FIRST

This speaks to a rule I have for myself when teaching or leading - thanks to Rick's management lessons....

Is this something I have done and / or are willing to do?

People can read the inauthenticity if you are telling them to do something you are not willing to do yourself.

I can't help people through the process of change if I haven't done it before and / or won't be right there with them. If I haven't done it before, I NEED to be right there with them.  If I HAVE done it before, I still should be right there with them.

Over the years - I've learned that being willing to walk with someone through change is one of the most powerful things we can do.
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November 18, 2008

Chris Lott gave one of the most eloquent descriptions of the role of trust and risk in education.

When we ask students to blog, collaborate, participate and present, we are asking them to perform. Meaningful performances demand taking risks. Is it any surprise that students doubt us– resenting and even pushing back– when we demand performances that there is no evidence we understand?

During DevLearn 08 it dawned on me that many members of our profession still need to prove that they understand the tools we are asking them to use. And in my mind, the best way to understand the tools is to use them yourself for an extended period. For your own purposes.

At the Work Literacy session - I heard a number of questions about "how do I get other people to do this stuff" where the real question still needs to be - how do I get MYSELF to use this stuff.

I struggle with that question with Wikis, Twitter, Second Life, Facebook and LinkedIn (for starters). Until I get more comfortable with these technologies, there is no WAY I am going to force my students to use them. As Chris said - "Gotta walk the walk."

Remember: so much of what we do is sales. We just sell ideas. And if we are not familiar and/or don't like the thing we are selling - we are NEVER going to convince others of its value. No instructional design in the world can help that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

From the Archives: Differing Expectations?

Why am I so sad that this is still true?

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May 7, 2008

OK - I am going to put on my flak jacket for this....

I wonder if the conversation about whether learning design should be different for the "Digital Natives" is a red herring.

There's more research demonstrating that the standard training operating procedure (stand in front of classroom, babble, watch eyes glaze over) doesn't work.

There's more research demonstrating that converting the standard training operating procedure to electronic media (create powerpoint with multiple bullets, babble if you have the technology, click Next to continue, and offer multiple choice questions to see if anyone is paying attention) isn't an improvement.

And, like Clark Quinn, I am beginning to doubt that the increasing need for more engaging and effective instruction is a result of cultural change (particularly in regards to the technologies available at the time).

Instead, I think that it is more a matter of student expectation. Cammy Bean has a fantastic illustration of this process in her recent post.

Maybe the Digital Immigrants request the mind-numbing, information-heavy powerpoint because that's what they grew up with (and we all turned out OK, didn't we?). The Digital Natives expect more engaging material because they grew up in an environment where that level of engagement (at least outside of the classroom) was the norm. I'm thinking Civilization, World of Warcraft, MySpace etc.

The expectation of engagement from the folks joining the work force for the first time can only help us all.

Monday, July 25, 2016

From the Archives: Adventures in Dining

Over the years, the practice of making myself uncomfortable and putting myself in unfamiliar situations has proven to be invaluable both personally and professionally.

So much of what I do is help people through the disorienting process of change.  It's a practice that continues to inform my efforts as I walk through implementations with my colleagues and clients. 

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April 8, 2008

The Captain and I have a long-running tradition of getting together for dinner before bowling. This tradition has lasted as long as I've lived in the area - through 3 sports, 4 years and more than a couple relationships.

We serve as each other's companion in weird dining. One of us wants to try brains, fugu, crickets, haggis, whatever...we'll call each other first before talking to our respective love interests (much to their relief, I know).

The great thing about living near Washington DC is the diversity of dining choices. If you want to find an esoteric dish - chances are, some local restaurant makes it (though you may have to charm your way into the meal).

Last week, our meanderings sent us looking for a restaurant in the Little Korea section of Annandale. I forget how disorienting it is to not even recognize the letters on the signage in your own backyard. Since neither of us know Korean, we looked for something that resembled a restaurant with a lot of cars in front.

We walked into a Korean noodle parlor. The only way we figured this out was from the waitress repeating "Noodle" as we helplessly pointed at the miscellaneous symbols on the place mat. Finally - we figured to just trust. We wound up with two large bowls of thick noodles. One a black bean-based beef dish. The other, a kimchi-hot seafood stew.

One of the best meals we've had this season.

Occasionally, it's good to put yourself in a situation where you are forced to trust. Often, this is done through travel. But sometimes, you can experience it in your own backyard. It doesn't have to be in foreign languages, just the simple act of going someplace out of your norm.

If I allowed myself to be that disoriented more often, I would be a better educator. I'd be better at recognizing and respecting the shock and awe that comes with encountering something very different and unfamiliar.

Friday, July 22, 2016

From the Archives: Working with No Information

8 years later - I am astonished by how familiar this scenario still is.

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March 5, 2008

In a stuffy meeting room, the manager(M) and the director(D) attempt to get some information out of the assigned subject matter expert.

The upper management has decreed that a department will be switching over to a new email system as a pilot for the rest of the university. However, the group within the university that is already using the new email system is not to be consulted in any way shape or form on this project. And no other resources are to be used.

The below scenario is a rough idea of what happened when the Manager and Director attempted to get information from the Subject Matter Expert for the pilot group.

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M&D: So - what would you like to know about this application at the end of the training?

SME: I dunno

M&D: Well, how do you use the current email system?

SME: Well, we use it for email and stuff.

M&D: Just amongst yourselves? With outside groups? Other departments? Is this going to be your primary form of communication or an alternate form.

SME: I dunno

M&D have realized that they do not have the right subject matter expert and that they have no other folks that they are allowed to work with for the project. They plow forward.

M&D: Most of your folks are mobile and don't have a designated PC - how did you want them to access this email system?

SME: I guess they could find an open computer and look at it .(Note: there ARE no open computers the end users have access to. All computers require the person to log in and the majority of this end user population do not have network logins.)

M&D: Uh, 99.5% of the computers they have access to require a network login. Did you want to have your end users get a network login?

SME: No.

M&D: Are they going to use mobile devices?

SME: Nah - they should find a computer (Note: Though we are not sure what they are using, from observation we know that the majority of the end users have a mobile device of some sort.)

The Manager takes a note to find out what mobile device the end users are supposed to have assigned to them.

M&D: Are you going to use the calendar?

SME: I dunno

M&D: How many people are we going to need to train?

SME: Not sure. We haven't decided who is going to use this yet.

M&D restrain themselves from banging heads on table and/or strangling the SME.

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Meanwhile, in a corner of the cube farm, the Instructional Designer stares at her monitor.

She knows that M&D have hit a brick wall. They cannot get the answers the team needs to develop useful training. The upper management has given a deadline of the end of the month to get this new email system "live" with the group they have selected for the pilot.

She also knows that this particular group of end users are not a tech-savvy bunch.

Thankfully - the Instructional Designer has used this email system before at another organization.

She takes a sip of her 3rd cup of coffee.

What did I want to know when I first looked at this system?

She stares at the monitor for a few more moments, then begins to scribble things on the steno pad by her left hand.
- Send email
- Find people
- Receive email
- Forward and Reply
- Delete
- Add attachments

She takes another sip of her coffee, grabs a Jolly Rancher Soft Chew (Cherry) from her desk, unwraps the candy and pops it in her mouth.
- If calendar then:
- Add appointments
- Move appointments
- Delete appointments

Satisfied that this is a reasonable start - she swallows the plasticine candy, opens Captivate, opens the email application and begins building the tutorials.

She'll make notes identifying knowledge gaps as she works.

The Instructional Designer knows that whatever she builds using these cursory guidelines may not be terribly useful for the project at hand. The tutorials will probably not be an example of textbook instructional design. But she know that the tutorials can serve as reference later and for other projects.

And, if nothing else, it looks like she's doing something proactive and useful.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

From the Archives: Watching Surfers

Now that I have had a a chance to actually GO surfing (and live a little more) - the "wait for the big ones" strategy seems like a more productive one.

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November 7, 2007

Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon on the Cocoa Beach Pier watching the surfers.

The surf is not particularly high at Cocoa Beach on a normal day. Maybe a couple of feet. With Hurricane Noel spinning in the Atlantic this weekend, the surf was 8-10 feet with higher swells. Surfer's dream.

The Cocoa Beach surfers were out in force on Saturday - many of them hovering around the pier, where the sand bars created the best swells. Watching the surfers, I spied a couple of strategies:

Catch every wave you can

These surfers would swim out to the end of the pier, sit for 2 waves to catch their breath, then attempt to catch the next wave. Once successfully caught - they would swim back out to the end of the pier and repeat the process.

These kids do more actual "surfing". But it's not always quality. Often, they are trying to make their way back to the pier when the big ones come. And they tire out early - especially if they are getting hit by the big ones while they are trying to swim out. I noticed these kids are out of the water after an hour.

Wait for the big ones

These surfers would swim out, and wait. It looks like they are not doing much. Just sitting on their boards....waiting....watching....looking for patterns. When the situation looks just right, they surf.

Some of these surfers misjudge the wave and find themselves on a dud. Some of these surfers don't quite catch the wave because they start paddling a bit late. But a lucky few catch the big ones.

These surfers are able to stay out longer. And they seem more rested. If they misjudge a wave, they swim back out and wait. Eventually, they catch one of the good ones. Some of the surfers using this strategy were out the entire afternoon.

So what's your strategy?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

From the Archives: Technology to Bring Back Intimacy

At the time I wrote this, I was sick with a dose of the shingles (not a recommended experience).

I think this post may be more timely now as more organizations become distributed, more people telework, and you are less likely to be able to get everyone in the same room together.

What I find interesting is the compulsion to schedule a meeting room for the 5 people who are together in a location while the other 5 people work from home and another 5 are in another meeting room.

If there is a VTC unit in the room - the 5 people in the room complain about not being able to see while staring at the 5 tiny figures in the other room on the TV, half of whom are out of camera range and the 5 folks working from home are left fighting with feedback and echo and wondering why the hell they are on the call.

Then after the meeting - the groups in the VTC rooms have their "meeting after the meeting".

Of course - this also includes the side conversations that make it even harder to hear what is going on.

I've come to believe that if you can't get everyone in a room together - we all need to be on an even playing field.

This means - everyone engages remotely. NO VTC ROOMS.

You can see the screenshare better and you reduce the us-v-them.

It's gonna be a hard sell.  Mostly because of the human compulsion for physical presence.

But the us-v-them does no one any good.  And it sure as heck isn't team-building.

Rant over.

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October 27, 2007
I suspect that higher technology is bringing back the kind of intimacy we lack when we are separated from the world by visual perspective. And an intimate world seems more human. What an artist is trying to do for people is to bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn't want to be an artist unless you wanted to share an experience, a thought. I am constantly preoccupied with how to remove distance so that we can all come closer together, so that we can all begin to sense that we are the same, we are one. That is what I think removing distance on whatever level means, and that is why there are so many parallels, in science, in publishing, in printing, in communications generally.

- David Hockney, That's the Way I See It, 1993.

Physical locations function more like "groups and walled gardens". Stephen Downes has sensitized us to the shortcomings of restricting any of the valuable diversity of an open network. Besides there's no way with live bodies to tag, bookmark, link back or add comments 6 hours later to what got said in passing.

- Tom Haskins, 10/24/07

Both of these quotes have me thinking about the value of distance and the exercise of bridging that distance. When David Hockney saw "higher technology" as being a tool to bridge distances and, more importantly, bring back intimacy - he did this in the context of an environment where the internet was still new and used in highly isolated pockets (I was one of the few in my graduate department in 1994 to have a sendmail account). Before Web 2.0 and online social networks became buzzwords. When any online networks occurred within small groups (such as the bored engineers at VA Tech with their IBM 500s, 19.2 K modems and Procomm Plus talking on bulletin boards) and the chances of meeting the folks you talked to virtually in "real life" were practically 100%.

It has me thinking about the relative value of our physical "real world" networks (the ones we don't necessarily choose, but we are a part of simply due to proximity and circumstance) vs. the value of our "second life" networks (the ones that we choose due to shared interests and experience).

I am wondering if it is a mistake to value one network over the other. To see one as more important than the other. I find myself with a bias towards my "real world" network. Not necessarily because I get more out of my interactions with this network - often, I don't - but because of the "instantaneousness" (I suspect that's not a word) of those interactions.

Physical proximity leads to a sense of immediacy, whether the issue at hand truly has long-term importance or not. It's easier to share emotions (good or bad) when you are standing in front of an angry customer or sharing someone's excitement in person than it is when you are typing an e-mail or instant messaging or blogging. Physical proximity also has a way of making issues more urgent than they really are.

E-mailing, blogging, and instant messaging allow you to archive and reflect in a way that face-to-face conversations don't. Telephone, video conferencing and in-person conversations provide levels and layers of instantaneous feedback, adding tone and, in some instances, body language to the words. Neither are superior. And both provide various ways of establishing intimacy between people.

My recent enforced period of isolation has made me better appreciate the virtual communities I participate in. I value not having to make snap judgments. I love that I can read through ideas, categorize what I read and write for later reference and generally process my environment in a more leisurely (and frankly more meaningful) manner. And the feedback I receive from members of the virtual community is more thoughtful (thanks Tom!).

I suspect that the time spent engaging another person is more a measure of intimacy than the "stuff done" or "things gotten" that we often do to show how much we care for another.

This isolation time has allowed me to see exactly how rushed and panicky our "real life" environments get (for no apparently good reason). People feed on the urgency. Busyness = importance right? Hate to say it, but many people are addicted to that type of rush. Or, like myself, they get used to operating at that level of anxiety.

It's been interesting to find that "real life" communities are not necessarily more intimate than their "second life" counterparts.

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Yesterday, I was mentally writing off my recent blogging conversations with a dismissive

"This is fun, but I have no idea how I'm gonna use this in my real life"

And I'm realizing that these virtual conversations don't necessarily have to translate to "real life" for them to be important.

Just like scientific research does not always have to be immediately applied.

This time has been a real eye-opener.....