Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pickett's Charge and PLEs

I've been catching up on my Google Reader and noticed the conversation about Personal Learning Environments. I'm sure I'm misunderstanding the conversation - but it seems to me that a Personal Learning Environment should encompass more than just the blogs, wikis, rss feeds, and other tools we use to gather and process information.

Clive Shepherd notes that his personal learning environment also includes people and alternate media.

I know it would be neater if these were all digitised and processed for my easy access, but I'm not so sure I don't prefer them as they are.

I wonder if we are losing something by moving everything "online". The feel of the pages, the smell of newsprint, the engagement of senses other than sight and sound.

Langston Hughes Intermediate annually took their 8th grade class to Gettysburg. As part of that trip - they split the group and recreated Pickett's Charge. Being able to experience the distance between Seminary Ridge and Culp's Hill, climb around Devil's Den, running through the woods on Cemetary Hill finding strategic locations... I learned more about Gettysburg through that field trip than I ever did in a book, movie, online tutorial or multimedia presentation.

Today, the organization I work for regularly has people from other organizations visit to see how we are using our Electronic Medical Record software. Movies, interactive video teleconferencing, online tutorials, documents, and the like will only take them so far. Our visitors say they learn more when they can immerse themselves physically in our environment. Despite some folks efforts to script the encounter, the visitors get more when they nose around, talk to people, observe patient interactions, read body language and (at the risk of sounding new-agey) sense the energy around the clinic.

I wonder if we need more field trips. More opportunities for PHYSICAL immersion - not just virtual immersion. And I wonder if this is the type of thing that should be considered when putting together our own Personal Learning Environments and providing resources for others to do the same.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cold Feet

The go-live date has been pushed back (again) to May 21.

Projects like this remind me of planning for a wedding.

If you only leave 2 months to plan for a wedding - you are forced to make decisions quickly. No agonizing over the "right" flowers, bridesmaids dresses, and other annoying details. Less time for family and well-meaning friends to give you advice you don't need.

Same thing with projects. With short timeframes - workflow decisions have to be made quickly. Less time for co-workers and stakeholders to agonize over the change.

As the date keeps getting pushed back, the workflows and configurations keep changing because the stakeholders change their minds - again. As soon as I finalize documentation and training for the most recent "go live" date, the date gets pushed back further, all decisions are back up for negotiation, and the stakeholders get more nervous.

The closer we get to a real "go live" date, the more nervous the stakeholders become, the harder it is for us to maintain our superuser's attention, the louder the clinicians complaints about the change.

I'm not entirely sure how to mitigate this anxiety.

More Hoops of Fire

The most recent challenge - "You will only have 20 minutes to train the residents."


To their credit - the preceptors freaked when the medical director sent down this pronouncement. Of course - this happened at 4:30 pm on a gorgeous Friday afternoon.

So we came up with a plan....

There is a 1 hour meeting for the residents who are working at other hospitals. The 3 preceptors who are leading the sessions for the next 3 weeks gave us their time. This will take care of 60 of them.

We are teaching 3 20 minute blocks (actually 10 minute blocks since everyone is at least 10 minutes late) - a different topic each week. This happens every day at the same time - catching the other 60 residents who rotate through.

I installed the new upgrade on an easily accessable for them to practice on. Of course, no one has....

We all pray that "informal learning" kicks in...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Scenes from a Vigil

Video taken from a candlelight vigil for Virginia Tech, held in Alexandria VA on April 18, 2007.

My friends are more eloquent than I may ever be....

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Heart Sinks

I NEVER thought I'd see something like this at one of my alma matters.
In buildings I spent quality time in over my misspent youth.

I don't even know what to link to. Or how to express my sadness.

What I found interesting was how quickly alumni and friends still there started e-mailing each other. Trying to figure out if everyone was ok.

The only person who could get through to the folks in Blacksburg via phone was an alum in Alaska.

Even more interesting - from listening to interviews, more people found out what was going on by word-of-mouth than by texting (from accounts from my friends - the mobile network was maxxed out) or Twitter or any other "new" social technology.

Right now - the major point of contention was how long it took for the administration to notify the students from the point of the first shooting via e-mail. I'll admit I am a little surprised that news hadn't spread between the students faster - from the students at West AJ to their friends outside that dorm as the building was in lockdown. The whole thing is so unreal - I doubt anyone would have believed it on first hearing.

I hope this horrible incident drives the students and faculty to spend their energy figuring out better communication solutions.

Thus far, it seems that everyone I know in Blacksburg is accounted for.

My thoughts and deep condolences are with those affected.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Just to let everyone know....

Looks like the upgrade project has a Go Live date of May 7. I think this one is going to stick.

To let you know what's up:
- I'm spending the next week finishing the training materials

- I have to build a site visit movie with the new version (large chunks of which still aren't working) for a very important site visit on the 24th.

- Training will happen between 7am and 5pm every day from April 23 to May 3.

- The weekend of May 4th will not exist

- Any rare off moments are being spent on some lifestyle improvement projects (not that blogging ISN'T a lifestyle improvement project...)

As a result - you may not be hearing from me much this month.

Wish me luck.....and thanks to everyone for your support.

I'll let you know how this goes when I get to the other side.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good to Great

I'm currently sitting with my computer working (again) on a weekend. Training documents requiring rewrites surround me. Laptop in lap. 5 firefox tabs and 4 programs open.

The boyfriend was flipping through channels and caught Good to Great on WETA HD.

Channel surfing stopped.

The documentary is based on Jim Collins' research regarding what made the difference between good companies and great companies.

Admittedly - the series is a long advertisement for his book - but the case studies he provides (Southwest, Starbucks, the Dallas Police Department) confirms some of my thoughts about management:

- The importance of the right people in the right places
- The need to confront brutal facts
- Why charismatic leaders shouldn't be trusted
- The importance of planning (more of an underlying theme rather than something Mr. Collins overtly discusses in the documentary).

Occasionally - having some of my ideas confirmed by experts becomes depressing. If only because the gap between what is and what could be is so great.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What I Need NOW

Maybe it's the stress I'm suffering - but I can only look at what I need right now....

For an ILT or content provider to be worthwhile to me - they need to be able to do the following:

- Give me case studies. The good content folks listen to their customers and figure out how their customers have adapted their content to their purposes. Then they share.....

- Help me with the implementation process. Implementation is ugly. And it's not all about training. They need to be around for the support weeks. The weeks where we are all being bombarded by phone calls from people wondering where they can find a particular function. Because people forget. And the REAL learning occurs when people are attempting to apply what they were taught during training in their real environments.

- Give me basic infomation, then give me the tools to easily customize the information to fit MY needs. I don't WANT to send people to your special site, then have to explain it to them later (or, more likely, deal with the complaints that the material did not apply to them).

Yes - these are probably not long-term business solutions. Tom Haskins and Clark Quinn have better ideas for long term businesses. But if you are looking for short-term, easy kill items. This is what I need right now......

Evolving Meetings

As the evil upgrade project stretches longer - the trainers have finally run out of teaching ideas. One of the younger trainers went into her session with a set agenda. "I'll have the group show me how they process prescription refills using the new system and go through a clinical visit." The idea made some sense, since she had a good mix of people. On the other hand - I am beginning to feel like we are beating a dead horse.

I think the SuperUsers have hit the point where they are tired of coming to the meetings and tired of seeing us. Don't blame them.

So when I walked into my class - I saw 5 people who work in the same department. The department, as a whole, is the most sophisticated group of end-users we have. Those 5 work very tightly together. So I figured if no one else showed up in 15 minutes - we could all get back to whatever it was we were doing. We've all had a nice 15 minute break. Caught up with each other. That sort of thing.

10 minutes in, the head nurse from one of the departments that use the EHR "sub-optimally" walked into the room.

Much to her surprise - I gave her carte-blanche to ask questions of the others and lead the meeting. "Here are members of a department that use the EHR in some great ways. They've passed through where your department is now. Now's your chance to ask them some questions. I think they can help you a lot."

After a little encouragement - she started warming up to the idea.

Some of the lower-level administrative people wandered out (they were shocked when I told them it was OK...).

At the end - the nurse asking the questions and the 2 answering the questions looked at me and said "You know - this was really helpful."

It's scary to walk into a "training" with absolutely no agenda. And there were a number of questions they looked to me to answer and I didn't have one. But it was OK. We all learned some new stuff about the upgrade. And I learned something new about letting go.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Video Experiment: Old Hickory Golf Course

I spent Sunday playing with Windows Movie Maker and Camtasia. Camtasia gives me more options with captions and an extra soundtrack. Movie Maker provides better titles. After spending 7 hours playing with the editing, I've learned the following:

- I REALLY want more than 2 audio tracks. You'll hear it with the bad cuts between the theme music and my narration.

- I spent way too much time in the bathroom. It was a very nice bathroom. Female golfers would understand......

- A storyline is a good thing. I took the video first - on the sly since I wasn't sure of the course's video policy and I was afraid of slowing down my playing partners and anyone behind me. I shouldn't have worried.... When I've made movies before, I've had a script first and filmed around the script. I have much greater respect now for folks who do post-production on reality TV. Piecing together a cohesive story from random vignettes is much harder than it appears.

- I need to spend more time looking at how professionals edit their material.

- I'm beginning to think that a desktop Mac is going to be my next high-end techie purchase...... From the number of video podcasts who use iMovie, that may prove to be a good investment.

Sorry for the video quality. I'm still figuring out how to optimize my final product.

I've discovered that Camtasia doesn't do Windows Media (.wmv) format particularly well. And, though I saved my work regularly, I managed to lose a lot of my project. Not sure why that happened.

A few weeks ago, I had drinks with one of Discovery Channel's video editors. He recommended Quicktime as a final format. I may need to experiment with that next....

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Feel Curious

I look forward to Cool Hunting's weekly video podcasts. I find myself visually inspired by the artists and the production values of the podcasts. It is also interesting to hear about other people's creative processes.

In his interview with Cool Hunting, Jonathan Harris talks about how his paper journals have led him to new ways of using the internet to tell stories and analyze information.

We Feel Fine analyzes blogs looking for the phrase "I feel" or "I am feeling". The query allows you to search by gender, age, location, weather, feeling, and date.

Jonathan has used a similar technology to analyze news feeds in his Universe project. Enter anything in the text box and press enter.

A very different way to think about information. Warning: both projects require fast computers with broadband access and will suck up a lot of time as you dig through the links......