Thursday, August 30, 2007

Games Games Games #4

Finally...something for those who like to shoot things:

BTW - I will have a question on all 4 items on Tuesday...please play them all and happy Labor Day!!!!

Games Games Games #3

For the sudoku freaks among us:

Games Games Games #2

I am going to provide a link to this one. It's a bit wide and doesn't scale.
Click the button to see the widget.

Hope you like trivia.....

Games Games Games

Found some cool gaming widgets. Since we get a long weekend to spend time with our families, I figured I'd share....

Widget #1 - Frogger

Beware the Chicken-Throwing Educator

Lurking in a darkened corner of Facebook lies a crazed educator. Igor-like - she hulks over her keyboard preparing for the coming onslaught of students.

Suddenly - a chicken bonks her on the head. Maniacal laughter rings through the blogosphere as the chicken looks up at her - a bit dazed.

The chicken is kinda cute - in a cartoony sort of way. It clucks at her and settles in.

The sound of another flying chicken - another startled educator.


Suddenly - a barage of flying chickens!!!!

Because some ambitious chickens think they can fly - they hit unintended targets - like the grumpy professor, and his dour acolyte (who is secretly thrilled at being included in the fun, but can't let the professor know).

The grumpy professor yells (with a few well-chosen expletives) that chicken-throwing is NOT an appropriate pursuit for this highly serious corner of the blogosphere and demands that the chicken-thrower show themselves THIS INSTANT.

The chicken-throwing educator prepares another chicken. Whispering in it's ear about the nice nest it can build in his toupee. The chicken, the smartest of the batch, clucks in understanding and, with a little help from the purpose built chicken-catapult, lands squarely on the professor's head.


The grumpy professor goes into full tantrum (expletives, panicky gestures and all) and laughter covers the education blogosphere.


So why chickens? Well sheep are heavy. Cows are heavier. And fish are unsatisfyingly floppy.

Plus, there is a level of unpredictability about a chicken. They think they can fly and occasionally direct themselves to unintended targets.

Much like the stuff we put out there day in and day out. We have an idea of our target audience. But we later find our material used for unintended purposes. It's that level of unpredictability that makes our job so exciting.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Mark - I'm with ya'. I, too am struggling with the "OMG - I can't right-click! Now what?!?" syndrome.

I suspect this is what we get for 15+ years with the same operating system and not being able to fully replace the old with the new. Makes it tough to establish new rhythms.

I've been focusing on learning keystroke commands. Thus far, I've mastered Copy and Paste. Though, admittedly, I am not spending as much time on the new laptop as I ought to. It's summer and my real-life friends have a way of distracting me...

I liked Clark Quinn's suggestion to you (thank goodness for copy/paste - now I can steal your COMMENTS too....bwahahaha):

Mark, at home I have a mouse with two buttons and a scroll wheel, which I use greedily. The right button maps to the command-click, which is the same as a Windows right-click (basically).

When I'm on the road, I just have to remember to command-click. And I LOVE the trackpad two-finger scroll. If you haven't tweaked to that yet, you'll find your use gets much sweeter. Multi-touch from the track-pad to the iPhone...

Must remember - control-click = right-click, control-click = right-click, control-click = right-click.....

Maybe if I practice this enough, I'll remember it.

Or I should just break down and buy a 2 button mouse...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Week of the Corporate Drone

The week before Labor Day and all is (strangely) quiet in IT World. Most of the docs are on vacation (or so frustrated with the system and the speed with which things are being fixed they've given up). Half of IT, including the boss, is at a conference in Boston. The temperature in Washington DC fluctuates between 100 and 75 during the course of late August. The office stays a steady 60 degrees and fluourescent.

I have spent the past couple of weeks engaged in the monotonous task of re-formatting old tutorials to fit our new templates. In the dramatic temperature variations between the frigid air of my cube and the heat of Pennsylvania Avenue, it is the only task my brain seems suited for.

As I look over material from a year ago, I notice that much of it is a fancy version of a click-through tutorial. They have to actually find the "next button" hidden amongst the directions, but it's still click-through. Occasionally, the monotony is broken by a text-entry screen. The tutorials have all of the engagement of someone who has to go through required training, and who has to build the required training. Just get it over with.....

I see this - and I dread the amount of time it will take to fix it. Especially knowing that as soon as I fix it, I will have to chuck it all and start over (again).

Thankfully, my newer tutorials are a bit more engaging. They have a story line. They offer choices. They can be quickly split up so that the person only sees what he or she needs and can escape if they need to.

They are still short of my vision......still short of the engaging, gaming holy grail.

I'd like to think my current materials are an evolutionary step towards something really fabulous - developed with the (lack of) time and (minimal) resources at my disposal. I wonder....can I do more? What will it take? Can I find the holy grail without destroying myself in the process?


Why is Hugh MacLeod's Gaping Void not in your feed reader yet? He's on another tear.....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Throwing Sheep

My great Facebook experiment continues.....

I am starting to notice the same phenomenon that Karyn sees in her Web 2.0 participation...the bleeding between one's professional and personal life. In my case, the bleeding went the opposite direction. What started as a professional Facebook profile is slowly being invaded by my real-life friends and acquaintances.

I am also seeing more weird tools and gadgets being sent my direction, shockingly by my professional friends - most recently, SuperPoke.

For instance - I sent Karyn a beer. Not a real beer (sadly), but it's better than "poking."

I also threw some sheep at some friends. If you've ever played "Worms" (think battleship with little cute pink worms with british accents), you will understand the reference.... I've included a picture of the game below to jog your memory.

Of course, none of this is very "professional." But with the blurring of the borders between professional and personal lives, do you think we are looking at greater acceptance of each other's humanity, or is all of this sheep-throwing more evidence that can be used against me in a professional environment?


Sheep picture

Worms screenshot from

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How am I Gonna Use This?

Karl Kapp has an interesting post on teaching software to others.

The one key being drilled into me by my end-users: Context.

Real-world examples of how they are actually going to USE this thing.

Most of the folks I teach are looking for the fastest way to accomplish a particular task. That gets lost in most software training because we get so focused on buttons and features.

- Buttons and features don't require us to actually get out there and TALK to people.

- Buttons and features don't require us to address the messy human portion of the whole exercise.

- Buttons and features are tangible and quantitative.

The type of evaluation I (still!) see in this type of training: A, B, C, or D - which button do you push to print a document?

How often do you push a button in isolation from other processes?

Just blogging I have to find the site by clicking a series of links and images, push a series of physical buttons (I call this typing) to put words on the screen, then click the Publish Post image to start background processes that will place this idea from the editing screen to the blog page and RSS feed where you all can see it.

Never mind the messy process of coming up with the idea in the first place, generating a coherent thought, and remembering basic American English grammar conventions and spelling.

And I haven't even included other people in this process yet (thanks for the idea, Karl!).....

Besides - folks working outside of technology don't look at software as a thing in and of itself. They are looking at it as a tool that will (hopefully) get something useful done with minimal aggravation. If the tool improves HOW that thing gets done, so much the better.

So a large chunk of my face-to-face training still consists of asking questions. In your experience, what types of things did you do and how did you do them? What have you seen so far observing your colleagues? Here's how you do that same thing using this tool (the software).

It's the conversation that makes the face-to-face interaction valuable.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Change Under Stress

As usual, Tom Haskins has me thinking....

It's easy for us, as bloggers who have taken the time to process our thoughts and analyze our practice, to say what ought to be done in the trenches. Much harder to live it.

Think about it - how often have you reverted back to old practice because it is more expedient in the short-term, even though it does nothing to help in the long-term. Maintaining change under intense stress is a much more difficult process and one that requires strength, force of will, and not a little cunning.

I see that now among my co-workers - who are spending all of their time fighting fires (most of which aren't training issues so much as process and accountability issues) and not thinking through what it is we SHOULD do in the long term for supporting performance, both new and existing. Essentially - training becomes reduced to "help desk" and hand-holding.

So how does a trainer (or group of trainers) find the space to develop and implement long-term solutions?

Here's what I've been doing (hope my co-workers aren't reading this....)

- Play into everyone's ADHD. I find that if I just let things sit a day or two before acting - the crisis will pass. I listen and write it down somewhere since, generally, the ideas are good ones. If they ask a second time, then I know it's important. If I have time prior to them asking a second time, then I will go ahead and implement.

- Don't pick up the phone. The docs tend to be in "crisis" mode when they call. Often, the solution is very simple and if they just spent the 5 seconds thinking rather than dialing me, they would have figured it out. Mean, yes. But sometimes it's the only way. And if I have to, I go elsewhere to get work done. VNC is a beautiful thing.....

- Create long-term solutions via stealth. Do it first - apologize later. And make it a POINT to find time to do this. They will not give it to you (see prior tip for one "how-to") since others are perfectly happy letting you flit from one crisis to another. Also, think in terms of "how can I do it cheap / free." Quietly introduce the cool thing for them to play with. Eventually, they realize how cool the thing is and maybe give you money to do it right later. Though chances are, they will keep playing with the prototype....

- One deliverable, multiple functions - An example....One of the requirements for the end of every project I've ever been on has been a "lessons learned" paper. The blog, for me, serves as both a personal lessons learned and the start of the formal corporate lessons learned. The blog is for my peers in the elearning community. The white paper is for my peers at work. Shockingly similar audiences...I'm trying to impress them both.

- Daydream - I get the best ideas when I am zoning out at my desk or in a meeting (admit it, you do this too). Half the time, when I'm taking notes in a meeting, I am scribbling ideas for what I want my corner of training to look like and what needs to happen for me to get there. One thing grad school is fantastic for...teaching you to half-listen to what is going on around you while thinking about something totally different.

Actually - of all of the things I do as I try to drag my organization kicking and screaming into the 21st century - daydreaming is the most important. And the most fun....

I know Tom is preaching to the converted.

The folks in the trenches will ultimately have to take responsibility for their own transformation....all we can do is help....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spying on Others

I am a gardenia......

During last week's illness (and before I killed off my old computer), the eLearning and technology blogs seemed like too much work for my fever-addled brain. I couldn't concentrate on my usual round of reading (news, sports, cooking). I couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep.

I found myself reading fragrance blogs. (I can hear my friends sniggering in disbelief now....).

Please don't ask why. I occasionally find myself in the compulsive throes of odd research projects for no apparent reason. I've learned over the years to go with it.

The perfume / fragrance corner of the blogosphere share many of the same positive characteristics that the eLearning community share.
- They are very supportive of each other - bloggers regularly comment on each other's pages. The message boards and blogs are very inclusive with commenters and willingly define their lingo to any interested party.

- Their disagreements are respectful - the community members understand that scent perception is a very personal experience and respect those differences. (How dare you diss my beloved Shalimar you moron!)

- There are certain sites that serve as "community centers" for the group, and certain people who, however informally, facilitate conversation.

- They are absolutely passionate about their topic.

What impressed me about this group is that the community grew organically. No navel-gazing about "how am I going to build this community?" No introspection about "what is the appropriate way to move this conversation?" It just happens.

And the trigger - from what I can tell - is shared passion.

I suspect that this is what keeps our little corner of the world going. More than any analysis about "what makes community and how to build one."

Now if you'll excuse me - I have some samples to order.....

Picture from Marian's Mac Page (she's got some very nice flower pictures in here)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

RIP - Old Laptop

I am going to admit I did something very very stupid. I managed to download a virus from my e-mail. One so nasty it ate my TCP-IP and attached itself to many of my files.

The best PC doctors I have access to (thanks for all of your efforts Matt!) couldn't fix it.

I've been having problems with the old girl for some time now. The sound card didn't record sound. The processor regularly ground to a halt as I compiled my projects. I had ghosts of uninstalled and trial applications. She kept me good company - but it was time to let go.

So I got a Mac Book Pro.

With the amount of multimedia I find myself doing - I was getting tired of jury-rigging movies and pictures using multiple bits of software. Tired of using a Phillips Head screwdriver (my PC) on a standard screw (my projects).

It was time.

The old girl is in the Dell Hospital (thankfully - she's still under warranty). She's been my companion through illness and travel. Helped me find information and a community of like-minded people I couldn't even dream of. If the nice Dell people get her working again, I will use her for Captivate (at least until Adobe comes out with a Mac version), the EHR, and little else.

May she rest in peace.

I have lots of stuff to talk about during my time away. Right now, me and my new companion are going to spend quality time getting to know each other.....

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Comments on Popfly

I've been caught by the crud going around and this is the most coherent I've felt since yesterday morning. This is gonna be quick and I may be silent until Monday or whenever I can get my brains back and fever down....

I've been trying to build new widgets, However, when I preview them (after saving them, of course), I seem to lose my settings in one or more of the blocks. And it's not necessarily the block where the problem lies...

Is it just me? Something I'm doing wrong?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cool Blogger Widget

I found a cool new Blogger widget (through blogger) that allows me to put my Shared Items from Google Reader onto my blog homepage.

Feed Reader folks: You won't hear me asking this too often since I'm a huge feed reader fan, but please visit my site and take a look.

Still trying to find one for Facebook that works correctly.....

Preparing for the Moodle Upgrade

Almost 1 year and 2 versions later, it is time for us to upgrade Moodle.

Actually, the timing for our first upgrade is perfect.
- I have to dump 90% of the materials currently on the site.

- We have a new batch of residents and med students who have just been trained and don't need online tutorials yet.

- The more I look at the site, the uglier I think it is (grey marble was a fantastic idea at the time....)

- The 1.8 version of Moodle seems to have more flexible user security. Since we are talking about permitting external access, it would be a good idea to investigate this setup further.

So here is my "to do list" for this upgrade:

- Get a retrievable backup from Ta on Friday

- Get rid of all of the old tutorials hanging out on the site.

- Make sure the course organization is where I want it

- Do a final inventory of materials to make sure everything goes across

- Download all upgrade instructions and documentation for known issues

- Download both 1.7 and 1.8 stable builds and hotfixes (since it appears you have to upgrade to 1.7 FIRST then 1.8)

- Plan testing for both upgrades that week.

- Publish and load all of the new Captivate tutorials

- Test the new publication method with Moodle's reporting structure.

As with everything - I'm staring at an aggressive timeline. I hope to have something remotely useful by Labor Day.

Wish me luck......

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bocce v. Kickball

Summer 2007 - Del Rey team - DC Bocce League

Guess which one I am........

This is the first time in many years I have played a team sport and have enjoyed myself. I'm not a jock to begin with and have little patience for folks who take games too seriously. Unless there is a significant amount of money at stake, most recreational activities are not worth getting bent out of shape for. I have enough stressors in my life.

Most of us played kickball together a few years back. I made it through the 2005 Spring season out of a sense of obligation. I found the pre-game (catching up with friends) infinitely more satisfying than the game itself or the post-game flip-cup competition. Within 2 seasons after my tenure on the team, the rest of my friends (save 1) decided that they had had enough.

At a BBQ and Bocce practice last night, my teammates and I talked about the differences between the 2 experiences and why we are finding bocce more enjoyable.

Consensus #1: As much as we hate to admit it, playing drinking games in public well past your 30s whiffs of desperation.

Consensus #2: The type As wrecked kickball for the rest of us. Listen folks - you are smacking a large red rubber ball around a scrubby playground. This is NOT worth berating your teammates over. I have already informed my bocce teammates that as soon as the type As invade the league - I'm outta there.

Consensus #3: It's nice to have smaller teams. The 6 of us (Miller didn't play the week we took that picture) have known each other for at least 2 years. Will (the guy looking sideways), Miller, and I have known each other since undergrad (more years ago than I care to think about right now). The other 3 have been around the crew for 2-5 years. We know each other's habits and productively keep each other in line. Much easier to do when there are fewer cats to herd.

Consensus #4: The bocce season only lasts 5 weeks. Everyone makes the playoffs. If things go well, you are playing 3 more weeks. Or, if things also go well, you are only on the hook for 1 more week. And you only need 2 people from the team to show up without forfeiting. The commitment is a lot less daunting.

So what does this have to do with education?

Well, it got me thinking about my preferences in education. There seems to be a link between the 2.

Preference #1: I've never been a huge fan of "getting to know you" games during training sessions or online classes. Especially when there seems to be no point other than "community-building." Some of us just want the material (yes, I KNOW I'm in the minority on this one).

Preference #2: I think we need to get away from education as a competitive activity. We see it in the schools (look at the people with the nice shiny As), and we occasionally see it in corporate training. Maybe it's just me, but competition when I'm trying to learn something is more DEMOTIVATING than motivating. And more distracting.

Preference #3: I like smaller classes - both when I'm the teacher AND when I'm the student. As a teacher, it is easier to accommodate everyones' needs. As a student, it is easier to get the attention you need. I also find that people are more willing to participate in smaller classes, especially when they are familiar with the other students, than in larger classes. I know I am....

Preference #4: It's tough to get fired up for lengthy classes. Particularly when you have other stuff that needs to happen - both at work and personally.

The older I get, the more difficult it is to get fired up about spending hours, days, or weeks in a training class. Whether it is during business hours or not.... Whether I am teaching it or not...... Even whether it is something I am interested in or not. And I'm single with no kids. It takes tremendous force of will to commit yourself to extended education, show up every day, and do the work with little external coercion.

I've particularly noticed over the past 5 years - as corporations become progressively tighter with their staffing - there is more pressure to cut the time it takes to train employees. Training is seen as an intrusion - even if there is a long-term benefit. Even if it IS the right thing to provide your employees. Even if the training is good and provides immediate, positive ROI for the organization.


I have to keep these biases and issues in mind when I recommend training solutions and design materials. Especially since in some areas, I am the only one who seems to hold that bias (other people seem to LIKE competition during training).

Friday, August 03, 2007

Finding a Use for Facebook

I think I found a use for Facebook - for me....

The start of a personal toolkit....

I'm finding that there are interesting applications within Facebook that allow me to post items for feedback, play with new ideas, and share cool info and links with others. There seems to be an active developer community building new widgets all the time.

More importantly, for me, Facebook allows me to access stuff from 1 place while creating on the appropriate tools (links hosted on del.i.cious, accessed through Facebook; blog through Blogger, access through Facebook; videos on google Video, accessed through Facebook). As soon as I can get my Google Shared Item feed working, I'll be a real happy camper.

I know my plan seems a little awkward (don't you want to create in one place too?) - but I have found through hard experience that applications that try to do everything wind up doing nothing well. I spend enough time supporting crummy, overcomplicated applications that I don't want to mess with them in my recreational time.

I am also finding that this approach does not particularly rely on me waiting for others to participate. I have something independently useful that just also happens to have a social component.

Come by and visit - and for those of you who are more Facebook savvy - let me know what Facebook applications you have found useful.
Pretty danged exciting.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm INTJ - What Are You?

Tony Karrer added this description of the Myers Briggs personality types to his del.i.cious feed.

Thanks Tony - I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

I am now going to continue work on my Argon laser mind-space modulator.....

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

8 Random Facts

Because this is all about building community and getting to know each other... (thanks for thinking of me Cammy!)

First, the Rules (because I follow directions...when I feel like it):
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Second - Things you never wanted to know about me (but I'll tell you anyway):
1. I am currently on an Atomic Fireball kick

2. I am a member of the Del Rey Bocce Team. Much like the teams I played on in my attempts at team sports - Del Rey is currently 0-2.

3. I was a foreign exchange student too - I lived in Kentucky for 3 years :' )
(go Cats....)

4. My current best golf score - 118.

5. I practically failed out of Virginia Tech because I am a crummy electrical engineer (hence my degree in History).

6. My cookbook collection is now at 200 books. Compared to my mother - I am an amateur...

7. Mom used to work for a gourmet food wholesaler (she's retired so don't ask). This is how I managed to eat through grad school.

8. My teachers (from K - grad school) attempted to fix my handwriting. This is why I type.....

I'd tag people but I'm too lazy and everyone I'd tag has already been tagged.....

BTW - a very similar Meme went around in December. But it's good to ask the question occasionally.

This way, we get a chance to know each other better....

Brief Commentary - Google Gadget v. Popfly

For the first time in awhile, I think Microsoft has Google beat. At least in terms of widget development for dummies....

Case in point - the documentation for Gadget development from Google.

vs. Popfly

Easy cheezy for non-coders like myself to build spiffy gadgets. Microsoft provided excellent baseline code for us to edit. Microsoft spent a lot of time focusing on developer tools and user interfaces on this product.

The only current gripe I have about Popfly (and Google Gadgets) - my computer slows to a crawl during development.

I'll be posting my experiments here and on my Facebook page as I build them over the next few weeks.