Friday, May 30, 2008

Making People Happy

On Wednesday, I received a phone call from one of our professors.

Professor: You are the 6th person I've talked to and I can't find a Dreamweaver course and the person who is supposed to be teaching the Dreamweaver course isn't in and I really need to learn Dreamweaver this week for a project that I'm doing for my summer students.

Me: You have a couple of minutes? I can show you something.

Professor: OK.

Me: You at a computer?

Professor: Yes.

I have the professor log in and navigate to the new LMS that has great content but still doesn't have all of the courses organized or people in tidy little groups. Many committee meetings (committee still TBD) and some manual keyboard/mouse labor will be involved before that happens. I'm thinking - 2 years....

I show her how to find the Dreamweaver course (mostly because I wasn't entirely sure those courses were in there), how to find other courses, and how to add stuff to her personal learning plan for easy access.

Professor: This is great!!!! Why isn't you or your help desk telling people about this!!! I WANTED an online course! Now I can do this on my own time! You are the first person who helped me! Thank you so much!!!!! (Yes - she did yell on the phone.)

Me: I know it's not fully implemented, but the courses are there. Feel free to tell people.

Professor: Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

We are already getting a shocking amount of activity for a feature that is getting absolutely no advertising outside of my little bit of guerrilla marketing. Let's see how far we can take this....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Value of Specialists

Ahhhh...if I could only strike that level of fear in the hearts of pins......

I purchased my first bowling ball at one of those mega sports stores at the strip mall. Bowling balls were stashed in mangled boxes on disorganized shelves in the back corner by the loading dock doors. After choosing the only 10 pound ball - I was measured by someone who assumed I knew what I was doing (I don't). 3 phone calls from the little asian man drilling the ball ("That's just not RIIIIIGHT!") and two visits later I walked away with a ball that magically magnified any flaw in my delivery.

This weekend, after one full season of bowling, I decided to get a new 13 pound bowling ball. I had been playing with the 14 - 16 pounders in the alley during the short off-season and decided it was time for me to increase my weight. This time, I decided to go to Carmen Don's - a local bowling shop tucked in a building next to one of the local bowling alleys.

What a difference!

Nick, the strapping young man who took care of me, measured my hands more ways than I thought they could be measured for something as prosaic as a bowling ball. He then drilled the ball, had me throw a few times in the store, gave me a couple of tips, fine-tuned the holes and sent me on my way with a shiny new ball and a friendly "Don't be a stranger!"

Can you tell I'm just a tad smitten.

I was even more smitten after I played a couple games with the shiny new ball last night.


Even the Captain noticed the difference - particularly in my first ball.

I'm still having my usual control and release issues, but once I get used to this thing, I may have a fighting chance of breaking 100 on a regular basis.

I'm reminded that specialists can sometimes help you take that next step in ways that a generalist can't.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Life and Times in Social Media

Karyn -

A short answer to your question.

Brent made me do it.

The long answer:

My justification for blogging (which I only consider "social" in that others can see my mental laundry) hasn't changed all that much since my first post. (OMG! Has it been that LONG?!?!?)

- I'm still journaling about my experience in the thick of large projects.

- I'm still trying to build a robust just-in-time training environment (just not in health care).
- I'm still trying to figure out why people adopt particular technologies (and getting no further than I did 18 or so months ago).

Funny thing is - airing my mental laundry has led to:

- A new job! Where I work now is a DIRECT result of this blog.

- New online acquaintances - that I am finally getting a chance to meet in person.

- Finding the confidence to present at conferences thanks to the encouragement of the folks within the eLearning blogosphere.

- Broader input and insight into some of my half-baked ideas. And a wider pool of folks to get advice from regarding said ideas.

- Encouragement to try new forms of technology and media (Facebook anyone?).

- A weakening of my grasp of the English language :' )

All I was truly expecting was some sanity control and an opportunity to flesh some things out. Writing in a public forum forces you to process and present information in a different way than just writing for yourself. The exercise has been more valuable than I would have dreamed.

Good luck Karyn!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Comforting Users



I want every software programmer who has ever made me train buggy software to angry end users to read Jeff Atwood's blog post.

I spend large chunks of my day comforting people trying to use your software. Telling them that it really isn't them.

Do you realize that your buggy software is shattering the confidence of competent adults everywhere?

If you do nothing else, please at least apply Rule #2!

Thank you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bringing History to the Masses

Those of us who have slogged through early manuscripts know what she means.....


Sarah Redmond's LOLManuscripts is what I wish I had the resources and creativity to do back when I was a history graduate student in the early 90s.

I bet her dissertation is going to be brilliant.

Or that she'll be able to parlay this into something infinitely more lucrative than the publish or perish life of the professoriate.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Brain Dump

I'm on some tight deadlines between now and mid June, so blogging will be sporatic and mental processing minimal. Which is a real shame since my last few posts have gotten some fantastic comments and food for thought.

Issues regarding facebook are getting an awful lot of attention. I'm wondering if it's a result of our attempts to process what this new level of social interaction really means and how it will ultimately impact us.
Comments on the Facebook Adoption Curve
From the Beginning to the End of the Curve

Another subject that has made an appearance is the mixed legacy of PowerPoint and other "rapid eLearning development tools."

Karyn Romeis pointed to this excellent post by Mark Berthelemy that we may need to just print out and hand to anyone wanting us to post yet another PowerPoint with pretty colors and useless content that makes no sense unless someone is talking and that they think serves as "eLearning". (Can you tell I've been doing that a LOT this week?)

Maybe I should make a poster and put it in my cube.

PowerPoint does not equal eLearning.
Nor does Captivate, Articulate, Elluminate or any other -ATE.

The managerial folks I have run into in past jobs think "Rapid eLearning Development" is about making the ENTIRE instructional design cycle fast rather than just the Development (taking the design and making it real) piece. There is no design time and little development time. The result - useless objects taking up valuable server space.


Janet Clary provides some excellent advice regarding implementations that hit home this week as we completed one of our "problem projects".

The #1 answer - Culture
Clarification to the #1 answer

The first piece of Janet's advice I am going to implement on my next project:

You can start ... by drafting a flowchart for the project and identifying everyone you’ll likely deal with along the way. This means everyone not just the “stakeholders.” Are there people that should be ‘red flagged’ as possible bottlenecks?

(Note: don’t actually use a red flag on your chart. I’d go with “KA” - ‘known asshole’ to you, to others “Key Asset” or “Knowledge Area” or something).

I think my manager and director will have a field day with this one!


Karyn, Janet, Christy and I have started our first Scrabulous game together. After a couple of false starts (Karyn moving and me forgetting), we finally have a game going (Thanks Christy for reminding me!).

Current score -
Karyn (51)
Janet (21) (she has not had her 2nd turn)
Christy (53)
Me (40)

Don't you hate it when you have nothing but vowels.....

Your turn Janet!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Comments on the Facebook Adoption Curve

I've been getting some amazing comments on Facebook. Too much food for thought!!!!

For those (like me) who hate leaving our feed readers, I'll share:

sleepycat said...
For me (as a 35+ person), the generalness (for lack of a better term) of Facebook that really holds no appeal. I blog and read blogs that appeal to me. I'm active in subject-focused social networks. That's enough. I think you're right in that it does come down to priorities. If I'm getting sucked into another network that eats up my time and takes me away from other things and people then there needs to be a payoff greater than the cost. I learn from the blogs I choose to read and the networks in which I participate. Despite what others have written, I don't see a lot of learning in the purely social nature of Facebook

On a certain level, I agree. Facebook has an overwhelming number of gadgets and widgets. And I am also going to go on record stating that I HATE HATE HATE that I always have to install yet another widget on my facebook page when people contact me (usually by zombifying, sending cards, etc).

I'm starting to think it is best approached much like Second Life. Know what you want to get out of it before you go in. Otherwise, you won't get much out of it.

christytucker said...
My dad, who is 58, joined Facebook not too long ago. He got a friend invite from someone whose name he didn't recognize. That's because she changed it when she got married and doesn't have the same name as when they were in junior high together.

Although when I started playing with Facebook I expected it to be more about connecting with other bloggers like you, I've gotten much more from it connecting with people from college, high school, and music groups. It's been much more about those connections than anything else.

Even I, as an only 31-year-old, didn't "get" that part of it. It's about those connections--it isn't about something else. It's about having a way of maintaining those connections from different places in your life, knowing what's happening in their lives and sharing what's happening in yours. And yes, it's the little things in our lives as much as the big ones. I found out that a lifelong friend is expecting kid #2 through Facebook--there is that big news. But all the little daily things matter: Cammy was sick for ages this winter, Janet has awesome shoes in her new picture, my friend Julie is craving s'mores right now.

But when you think about your friend MZ, how much of that relationship was built around the small little experiences your freshman year? Yes, there are clearly big things that keep you together too. But the little experiences in the cafeteria or the quad or the dorms--the stuff of ordinary life--that's part of your relationship too.

You know, I guess my thinking has been moving this direction for a while, but it hadn't crystallized yet. I think Facebook is really about the connections and relationships--everything else is just a side effect or an environment built to support relationships.

Thanks for giving me a space to think out loud and process this all.

So what do you think? Is there some deep purpose that I'm missing? Am I oversimplifying it?

Christy - as always, your space is my space. Oh yeah, and I took the liberty to highlight the most important point (in my mind).

And, like you, I went in with 2 purposes. First, to keep in touch with my blog buddies (As Dr. Bob put it - I turned it into a Blog tool). Second, to see whether I can create a one-stop shop for all of my online activities. Not so successful with the second.

The fact that folks from my past have started making an appearance is both thrilling and a wee bit disconcerting. I suspect that reaction has more to do with my naturally antisocial nature and more than a little shock that someone from that long ago actually wanted to get in touch with me.

And there is still the issue of "how much do you REALLY want to share"? Unlike the day to day minutia that bonds us in face-to-face life, stuff dumped online isn't particularly fleeting. It's all historical record which can be used for good or ill.

Then there is Clark Quinn's take on the issue. inclination is to run and hide. I don't know about you but I am starting to get panic attacks when I see the facebook junk in my inbox. Especially the "Compare People" stuff. Ack!!!!!

The genie is now out of the bottle!!!!!!

Catching Up to Our Imagination

"I think that [in the next 3-5 years] the changes will be more in the area of content authoring and development. ...remember how long we had to struggle with Authorware and clunky, inflexible, horrible-to-use proprietary authoring tools, before applications like Captivate and Articulate et al were eventually released?"

In my view, in the last decade, technological and network infrastructure deficiencies, not to mention a serious lack of investment, went a long way in impeding our ability to develop engaging and immersive learning; in short, our imagination exceeded our technical ability to create great educational solutions.

In one sense, the emergence of a generation that grew up with the expectation that 'digital environments provide high degrees of sensorial satisfaction and intellectual stimulation' has smoothed the path: at last the demand, and consequently the market, is there for learning practitioners to create great content.

If we look to examples like the popular Nintendo Wii Big Brain Academy I think we can see the first glimmerings how we can create learning content in the short-to medium term.

I still think we're a bit short on effective authoring tools to facilitate this. At the absolute top of my wish-list is the development of a Learning Engine - the educational equivalent of a game engine), but at least the infrastructure is almost in place now to get on with the job of using technology to enable learners to acquire skills knowledge, and expertise.

Finally(!), it's my belief that "a rising tide lifts all ships" and future developments will help everyone learn more effectively, regardless of age or background.

- Michael Hanley

Ah yes - the tools!

I know from the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering that companies are just starting to figure out ways to build tools that help us bring our instructional ideas into reality without having to be Flash professionals or world-class programmers.

The other part of it is that what we have been building does not require as much time from either the instructional designer/developer (because we've been using the same tools and the same models) or the subject matter expert (who generally hands us "the manual", a disorganized powerpoint, or a combination of the two) as building a truly immersive game.

It's that TIME where I see the greatest pushback. No one has it. To get the logic right, the story right, the correct options and variables requires a tremendous amount of thought and planning. Just dumping stuff into a tool, no matter how easy to use, still won't get us to immersive learning simulations that result in real behavior change.

(Michael - this last sentence is more me clarifying my thoughts. I've read your blog and know you understand this. I just need to remind myself sometimes....)

The demand from students is going to help with the marketing. Further research evidence that the new way is better than the old way will help loosen the purse strings of the old schoolers who hold the purse. The big kicker, however, will be return on investment in tangible, measurable forms (esp. money). Then, it will be much easier for us to get the resources (both human and financial) to really make this work.

Differing Expectations?

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.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

From the Beginning to the End of the Curve

A friend who I have not talked to in over 15 years contacted me through Facebook a couple of weeks ago. MZ is easily one of the smartest people I know. During freshman year at Virginia Tech, we were practically inseparable. Life got in the way, of course, and though we occasionally found ourselves in similar orbits, we hadn't communicated directly until now.

Thankfully, his penchant for making me think to the point of paralysis has not changed in that time.

Funny how slow our generation is about getting on facebook. I've been putting it off for years it seems like.

Now - this came from the guy who got me involved in one of the earliest iterations of online social networking in the form of Virginia Tech's bulletin boards. We're talking 1988. (Procomm Plus and 19.2K modems anyone?)

So why did we, former pioneers in online communication, take so long to adopt Facebook?

I came up with the following list of excuses.

- Facebook does not solve an immediate problem. (No, it never dawned on me that folks I haven't talked to in 20 years would actually want to contact me. Facebook has been great for that).

- We have other priorities. (True - MZ has a wife, kids, professional job. All require attention.)

- How many new technologies can we learn? (Lots, apparently.)

- Do we really want all of our "stuff" out there? (Still grappling with this one. How much to expose. What will get me in "trouble" later).

I then promptly realized that all of these excuses don't really get to the core of the issue. And I'm not entirely certain what that core is.

So why is it taking so long for us 35+ folks to adopt Facebook and other social networking technologies?

Bowling Team Update: The Joys of Being Bad

I've been trying to get some stuff out the door for some implementation projects - so lots of material, little processing bandwidth (Thanks Tom for pointing out I've been slack!).

The season ended yesterday - and our motley crew of mediocre bowlers came in 1st place!

One-Armed Joe (the best bowler in the league) said to me "You all are tough to beat!" Best compliment we've received all season.

Because this is a handicap league and we are so streaky, if 2 of the 5 of us have a really good game and the rest of us don't completely blow it, we win. Our handicaps are low enough that it's relatively easy to stay within 10 pins of average (unless I go through a streak where I can't find the center of the lane if life depended on it). This is how we have been able to win at least 3 of 4 points each week (save for a couple of weeks when we ALL stunk it up).

Joe and his crew have it much tougher. Joe is damn near professional-quality. 2 of his teammates carry 190+ averages and the others are well over 140. They HAVE to bowl well. If any of them have an off game, they lose.

If this were a scratch bowling league - they would mop the floor with us. Easy.
As it stands, it's not, so we walk home next week with $300 in each of our pockets (which will be promptly spent on a fancy steak dinner) and bragging rights.