Wednesday, December 28, 2016


“Innumerable confusions and a feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transition” – Marshall McLuhan
And, I would argue, during periods of great personal transition.
2016 has been an interesting year for many of my colleagues and friends.....

Read the rest at

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.

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.
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?

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. 

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From the Archives: Things I Think I Think

And I still think these things....

October 23, 2007

1) I think that corporate culture (in general) DISCOURAGES the development of reflexive learners (platitudes to the contrary).

For those of us working in corporate environments, the stress is on DOING stuff (or, at least, APPEARING to DO stuff) rather than thinking/reflecting/planning/anything that requires NOT ACTING INSTANTANEOUSLY.

Evidence of reflective learning looks suspiciously like goofing off.... Yes, I am writing, but I'm not writing a step-by-step guide on how to schedule a patient. I'm writing about how do teach that better. Why is that important when our old way works just as well (never mind the phone calls from folks who didn't understand the material in the first place)? Therefore, I am goofing off.....

2) I think that encouraging an organization requires serious culture change for most of us.

Question for those working in corporate environments. How many times have you been faced with a student / students who say point blank "just tell me how to do it!" You tell them, then they call you back the same day accusing you of not "teaching" them because you just told them how to do it? Is it just me?!?!?!?

3) There has to be some way to nudge / cajole / wheedle / bribe an organization into at least allowing reflexive thinking practices - or, at least, not actively preventing them, at ALL levels of an organization.

Whenever I've seen reflexive thinking in an organization, it is at the highest levels and/or within individual, isolated pockets of rebellion. Hmmm...maybe if we bridge those pockets somehow......

4) The only way I can think of starting (as Tom said) is to model the behavior as best I can.

I only truly have control over my own actions, right? At least, more control over my own actions than over others (over which I may have persuasive ability, but no actual control).

5) The only other thing I can think of doing is to encourage this radical behavior one individual (or really open group) at a time. Just like we are doing amongst each other in this little corner of the blogosphere. Enough individuals and we have tipping point, right?

Monday, July 18, 2016

From the Archives: One Letter of ADDIE

This is a conversation I have had multiple times over the past 9 years.

How do we keep up?
What skills do we need to stay relevant?

Though this is in the context of Instructional Design, the single-person shops are a lot more common than when I wrote this, and the question of whether Instructional Designers NEED technology skills has been answered (yes), I think this post speaks to a larger issue.

I would argue that the most valuable skill we can cultivate is our ability to learn new things quickly.
Everything else follows from that :)
June 12, 2007

Christy Tucker asks whether Instructional Designers NEED Technology skills. (emphasis mine)

Read the comments and conversation carefully in her post. Quite eye-opening.
I occasionally envy those folks whose world is so compartmentalized. Who have the luxury of being able to focus on one letter of ADDIE. Who are able to let go after they have finished their Design piece.

Realistically, I'm probably too much of a control freak to thrive in that situation.

That said - whenever I start dreaming of a work life of relative ease where I can focus on one skill set, I think of my friend the Graphic Designer.

The Graphic Designer REALLY wants to find a new job. She's very good at the nuts and bolts of graphic design. She created beautiful things on paper and has an impressive portfolio of work.

But she continues to run into the same problem.

All of her potential employers ask about her computer skills. Does she have a web site and web development experience? What desktop publishing tools does she use? Is she skilled in Photoshop? Illustrator? Quark XPress?

The change happened slowly...imperceptibly....

She keeps arguing that her current skill set is enough.....yet she still hasn't found new work after 2 years of searching.

Her field has changed. Folks are looking for people who can design in multiple media. And our world is becoming more computer-dependent by the day.

I look at Help Wanted ads and find that more employers (especially corporate employers) expect their trainers to have baseline computer skills (mostly Office and PowerPoint) and their instructional developers to be familiar with a wide array of educational technologies.

Having the professional knowledge and experience of an instructional designer gives you a theoretical base. And, as has been documented in other educational blogs, the theoretical sands are shifting.

More importantly, as organizations and universities move towards computer-based education - either as the core of their educational strategy or as a supplement - our clients will expect instructional designers to be versed in the technological tools of our trade.

Are you ready?

Friday, July 15, 2016

From the Archives: Pickett's Charge and PLEs

I think we are doing an amazing disservice to ourselves and our kids by not getting out more.

If anything, this most is more timely now than it was when I wrote it.

April 26, 2007

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 digitized 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 Cemetery 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.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From the Archives: Ode to My Parents

My parents provided (and still provide) a case study in creating a rich learning environment.

Thanks Mom and Dad!
February 26, 2007

Stephen Downes, in his response to Steve Hargadon's post on Academic Rigor, enumerates the ways his parents celebrated "academic virtues."

Like Stephen, I was very lucky to have parents with open and curious minds. Yeah, they read newspapers and books and all that. Most importantly, they were about experiences.

- Dad made it a point to take us to festivals. Particularly the Caribbean festivals in DC. We may not have appreciated it at the time, but the exposure to the colorful costumes, calypso, and different foods made me more willing to seek small community festivals in the towns I've lived in. I learn more about food and culture at these festivals than I ever would in a book.

- Mom loved to take us to the historic homes in the area. Interestingly, she was about the homes off the beaten path. Gunston Hall, Oak Hill, Woodlawn, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and the like.... Sully Plantation was her favorite. They would hold regular "Colonial Days" where kids could learn about life in colonial times.

- The folks dragged my brother and I to the Smithsonian on a regular basis. We are so lucky to have free, world-class museums in DC. I am still a huge fan of the Natural History Museum's bug room.

- Mom is an adventurous cook. She made it a point to cook foods from different cultures and turned these meals into cultural lessons. Many of these meals came from Time-Life's Foods of the World series. I would read the entire series cover to cover at least once a year from ages 9 - 15. During those readings, I would find myself cooking at least one of the recipes. Usually cookies :' ) It's to my mother's credit that she even let me near those books - her cookbooks are some of her most precious possessions.

- We used to celebrate at least 1 evening of Hanukkah and 1 evening of Passover each year with family friends. If my parents had friends who celebrated other faiths, we would have joined them too. As I've gotten older, I've been very fortunate to have friends from a wide range of faiths that invite me to celebrate important holidays. Again, I learn more from those experiences than from any book.

- Dad continues to be my most ardent supporter in any academic endeavor. He was the one who set the "2 master's degrees with long gaps in between" model that I have followed thus far.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have parent who implicitly understood the importance of "modeling" behaviors and providing opportunities for learning and growth without forcing the issue.

I suspect that those experiences drove me to study history (for longer than I probably should have), encouraged me to continue my education (both formally and informally), and helped to develop my fidgety mind.

Thanks Mom and Dad!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

From the Archives: Fear of Success

This is just as relevant now as it was 10 years ago.  We still need to focus on creating environments.

December 20, 2006

Brent Schlenker sent me another nice comment on my post Playing in the Digital Sandbox that I'd thought I'd share for those of us who read blogs on feeds:

I think Paul touches on something a little deeper and may not even realize it. Much of that fear is NOT based on what if nobody comes, or what if it's a fad. The fear for many is that people WILL come, and people WILL begin to create their own content and make their own connections with the covetted SMEs. Then where will the value add be for those practicing old school ISD? Its the fear of success for many, not the fear of failure.

It takes a lot of courage, both on the individual instructional designer level and on the organizational level, to allow individuals to create content.

If we're serious about being educators, that's the way it should be.

Think about it:

- People learn more if they are forced to put concepts into practice - through teaching, applying the information in other contexts, creating things for public consumption, etc.

- As educators, we are about helping people learn more (right?).

So why are we so afraid?

I'm seeing a growing consensus in our little corner of the blogosphere that our job, as it evolves, is to create environments that motivate people to learn things, rather than content.

This change in emphasis is long overdue.

Monday, July 11, 2016

From the Archives: Finding Talent Right In Front of You

Allowing others to use their strengths = win for all.

Just takes observation.

And yes...she made the Moodle site pretty :)

October 4, 2006

Michelle is the boss' new secretary. She has been serving as our Moodle tester. Since Ta and I started this project - she pesters me daily, asking when she can test stuff. Very motivating to have an enthusiastic co-worker keeping you on-schedule.

She came by my cube this afternoon - "Do you know where the Photoshop disk is? I need to reorganize this picture." Michelle then unrolled an enlarged screenshot of the consultant's vision of our intranet site. The consultant had obviously not read any web design and usability books and the picture bled with red marker.

My first thought - "Oh my god - reorganizing that picture is going to take FOREVER! How much time does she have to learn Photoshop?!" My Photoshop skills are serviceable (at best) and this was not a small project. Essentially - she had to reorganize every part of the picture and modify most of the graphics. This means (to me) multiple layers and resizing. I sent her off to check the software shelf in the boss' office hoping that a) the disk WAS in his office and b) that the project didn't land on my desk.

About 30 minutes later - I saw her at her desk happily Photoshopping away. "Yeah - I've been doing this in my Digital Photography classes. I LOVE using Photoshop!" I bet it took only 15 more minutes for her to finish.

So I'm going to give her a new project - help me make our new Moodle site pretty. I've been fighting with our new logo hoping make it pretty. Thus far - I have spent 8 hours on this project. Michelle will do a MUCH better (and faster) job.

I learned something today - never ever underestimate the talents and passions of your co-workers. Especially the junior co-workers. You never know what they bring to the table.

Friday, July 08, 2016

From the Archives: Fear of Blogging

I am working on something special for my 10th year blogging anniversary. So I figured it was a good time to dig around the archives.

Collaboration is still a big buzzword.  Though there are now a LOT more blogs (and tweets and instagrams and.....) and people are much more willing to get out there and share (vs 10 years ago) - I think that little tinge of fear still exists for many of us.

Even today, I click Publish and think "Today is the day they will all realize I have no idea what I am talking about."

My life is richer for having taken that risk.
September 22, 2006

Within the blogs, I am starting to see discussion on why people don't use collaboration tools (or LMSs for that matter). The big question is WHY?

Dave Pollard did a little experiment in August 2006 trying to get people to help him edit a Writley document. Sadly, he gave the process a failing grade.

Shawn at Anecdote and George Siemens at elearnspace both add their 2 cents regarding the reasons for the failure of collaborative tools. So the question in my mind is....with what we have to work with, how can we encourage adoption of these tools? Especially since the buzz in knowledge management and training circles is COLLABORATION.

All three bloggers hint at something that came to the fore for me when I started blogging - fear.

How many of us have risked answering a question at school (elementary --> grad school)? How did you feel when you found out you were wrong?

In the corporate world, how many of us have had ideas stolen by others? How did that make you feel?

How many of us have had a great idea only to be told how stupid it (and, by extension, you) are?

Is it any wonder that we all hesitate to collaborate? Particularly in a corporate environment?

We are essentially asking our end-users to put themselves out there with no net, no reason, and no reward. In most organizations it is in the best interest of the individual to keep their ideas and knowledge to themselves. That individual's information is what makes them valuable. Why in the WORLD would they want to share if sharing means idea theft and potential downsizing?

I had to fight through ALL of these emotions when I started blogging.
- Will I be accepted or rejected?
- How much criticism will I get?
- Will others discover that I am a phony and realize that I have absolutely no clue of what I am talking about?

I am sure that I personalize things more than others. Still - if I am feeling this, certainly others go through the same thoughts when they put themselves out there for others to view.

And maybe THIS is one of the key factors that prevents collaborative tools from being adopted by an organization. How do you get people to work through the fear?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Slick Translation Use Cases

Elizabeth Cox, from Belmont Middle School (and the wife of one of my co-workers), put together a very slick use case for helping international students with English.

The solution leverages tablets, voice recognition, and Bing Translator.

Microsoft in Education featured the solution recently.  Worth the 3 minutes to watch...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Knowledge Centered Support

Screenshot of WKU's IT Help Desk Client Portal.  This particular one is run off of TeamDynamix Service Management solution.
During a conference I attended recently, I encountered the concept of Knowledge-Centered Support.

Kaliegh Belda at Western Kentucky University gave a presentation on this topic that turned out to be the hit of the conference.

This concept is taken from IT Help Desks and Service and is one way to think of learning in bite-size, easily consumable chunks that are updated by the people on the front-lines of support - taking some of the pressure off the training team to update materials. The other benefit I see (and that Kaliegh touched on in her presentation) is that the act of writing the article helps her staff become more familiar with whatever tool they are supporting.

An even bigger benefit is the growth of an up-to-date, easily searchable knowledge library for both the IT staff and the university community. 

This is, essentially, one of the best implementations of micro-learning I have seen in action.
Brief notes on how this works (from my conference notes):

Read more ...

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Hardest Thing (Sometimes) is Deciding What To Do

As I write this, I'm paralyzed by choices.

What to do next.

I have some blog posts to write. Detailed, high-mental bandwidth blog posts.

I could write another to-do list, but fear if I do THAT I will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the things I think I should do.

I have a bunch of meetings I need to set up.

A new computer I need to set up.

New tools to learn - quickly.

Niggly personal stuff that needs to get done - like get my car inspected, make an appointment to get more fillings, talk to an accountant and other responsible adult activities (bleh).

For me...big things are easier to break down in small pieces and execute on.

It's all the random small stuff.

  • Write thank you letters.
  • Read up on the current state of xAPI and the JSON space
  • Mess with SharePoint SLK and see if I can't get that working for some old tutorials
  • Fix my Quickbooks
  • Write the conference organizers to get permission to share my recent presentation with the blog
  • Write people to get sponsorship for a conference
  • Get off my couch and get another cup of coffee
  • "Meditate" (ie - sit on the couch and think while trying to get myself to focus on SOMETHING that is not thinking)
  • "Exercise" (ie - get off the couch and pick up a dumbbell x number of times, then go get more coffee)

It's enough to send me screaming to Facebook to look at my family and friend's current political opinions, pictures of idealized lives, game requests and funny cat videos.

Next right things (since I'm here) - get off my couch, get another cup of coffee and write another blog post. 

Thank you for letting me break through my log jam with you.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Walking People Through the "Getting Your Ass Kicked" Part of the Program

The majority of my career has been spent in change management.
The front lines. I'm the one who gets the brunt of people's fear about the change.
The anger. The frustration. The sadness. The discomfort.

We spend so much time talking about how "great" the change is going to be.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The "Getting Your Ass Kicked" Part of the Program

What Snowboarding is supposed to look like.
I don't aspire to jump off of 50 foot rocks.  I just want to be able to turn pretty.

This winter I decided it was time to get serious about learning to snowboard.
Read more....

Thursday, May 26, 2016

On Influence

The wonders of Google search uncovered Jewelpet Magical Change anime.
Seems appropriate.
The full video is here.

Recently - I've been asked the following question:
So how do you influence people to change?
Read more.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Brainstorming What to Do

For the next phase of our training subcommittee, we decided to tackle Collaboration.
Read more....

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Attempting to Virtualize a Meeting

Showing my work.  As of this writing, I am not entirely certain how this is going to go....

My Director challenged me to come up with a way to allow for virtual participation in our Resource Lab.

Read more....

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Phase H - Useful Evaluation Triggers

I had talked a while back about a common Evaluation trigger - the end of the LMS contract.

There are other triggers I've noticed:

Read more.....

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Keeping Track - the Board of Doom

Throughout our effort, we have been using Trello to keep track of ideas and the status of our effort.


Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Importance of Psychological Safety

Picture from

I am coming to believe that a strong indicator of success in any cultural change initiative is psychological safety.

Read more....

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Deciding What to Do - Business Writing

Once we settled on "Business Writing" as the theme for this cycle, we narrowed down our list of activities from the stuff we brainstormed.

A few activities came to the surface.  Read more.....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Breaking Down Themes - Mapping to Business Benefits

To help us decide what to tackle first, we took a look at the potential business benefits of improved communications.

Read more....

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Fractal Gets Tested

Among other activities this past year, I have found myself leading a training subcommittee.

Typically, employee professional development has been the responsibility of the individual managers.
With the push for us to spend our money smarter, the division decided to try a more coordinated approach.  Read more....

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Phase G - Executing Your Evil Plan

During the Implementation / Execution phase of your architecture, you need to keep track of two things:  Read more....

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Prioritizing Sleep

I write this at 2:30am.

My friends and co-workers know that I am an unapologetic morning person.
The running joke is "Wendy turns into a pumpkin as soon as the sun sets".
My friends (and boss - who seems to get the brunt of my crazy early morning emails) are very understanding.
Morning insomnia has been an issue for most of my adult life. 
The past 5 years, it's gotten better.
I'm down to only a couple of mornings per week where I'm waking at ungodly hours and not getting at least 6 hours per night.

I've learned that I don't function terribly well with less than 6 hours a night. 
I'm OK in the morning (to me, others may argue with that assessment), but by 1pm - the brain decides it doesn't want to work anymore, I get even crankier, and I want sugar (preferably in licorice, mint, gummy bear or ice cream form).

A helpful pattern I picked up during the Masters Thesis push is "sleep when you are stuck."

Tough to do at work (most workplaces frown on napping) - but when I am in the throes of learning something really mentally intensive, I find myself sleeping a lot more.

Knowing these patterns, I went into the PMP boot camp week with the plan to prioritize sleep during the week. Above all else.

The plan:
  • Schedule the test for your strongest time of day.  Since mine is early morning - I scheduled the 7:30am exam. 
    • Last year, I took the TOGAF in the afternoon on a work day 3 days after the class. Taking a test is stressful enough without walking in already frazzled from work and tired because you are trying to do this when the circadian rhythms want you to take a nap. I had zero intention of repeating that experience.
  • Go to bed as close to my normal time as possible.  
    • I knew my brain was going to be completely fried by the end of each day, and I don't work so well in the evening. I figured much more studying after class was likely going to be a case of diminishing returns.
  • Get to the hotel ballroom early. Leaving before 6am helped me beat DC traffic. That gave me time to do my homework while the brain was still fresh.  And the behavior was closer to what I was actually going to do on test day.
  • Don't sweat if you don't get your homework "done."  Thankfully, I found the extra time in the hotel ballroom in the morning was enough time to get the homework complete.
I was pleased to find that my plan worked brilliantly. Less stress, better rested, felt sharper than I had expected.
Meanwhile, I was amazed at the number of my classmates who prided themselves on not sleeping.
"I was up until 3am studying!"
"Yeah - well I was up until 4am, then came here at 6!"
"So Wendy, what did you do?"
Uh...went to bed at my normal time and came here early this morning.

They would usually go back to one-upping each other on their lack of sleep and busyness and how "hard" they were studying.  Much like work.

There is so much research on how lack of sleep impacts brain function.
And from experience, I knew that if I slept - it would allow me to process the information in a way that I could more easily retrieve it when I needed it.

Why are we still in the cult of sleeplessness and busy and "hard"?
How well is that really working? 

I would posit "not well"- if finding the director of a Fortune 500 company crying in the bathroom on day 3 - sleep deprived, frustrated, and scared that she wasn't going to pass the certification exam because she could not see ANY improvement in her practice tests - is any indication.
I've been there.
Sleepless, busy and working "hard" (vs smart) doesn't work for me.
As much as my partner loves to point out my love of "the struggle".

My lack of sleep is not by choice and not a point of pride.
Yes, I get a lot of work done early in the morning.
Yes, I occasionally send emails at ungodly hours.

But for me, this is making the best of an unfortunate situation.

My current boss is smart enough to chide me for it (vs reward me for it).

I'm getting better.
It is a work in progress.
I'm going back to bed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Phase F - Creating the Final Plan

All that project management talk recently had a purpose.  
Phase F - Migration Planning in TOGAF is when you finalize your plans.  Read more....

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Importance of Accountability Partners

I've learned over the years that any major change is more likely to stick when you have accountability partners.

Those really important friends who touch base and ask "'s that THING going?"  With the tone that says "You're doing what you SAID you were gonna do.....right?"

Read more....

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Expanding the Community - One Technique

Thank you to the members of Up 2 Us for the feedback on this post.
A few of us had a really nice, lengthy theoretical conversation during our annual retreat.  We wanted to continue that conversation afterwards.  We also wanted to invite others in the community to join us.

Read more.....

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Instructional Design and Certification Courses

In March, I earned my PMP.

For the final push, I took advantage of an opportunity to take a test prep bootcamp through Cheetah Learning.  The bootcamp came highly regarded by our project managers - so my management was kind enough to spring the money for me to take it before the exam.

Cheetah's PMP Bootcamp has some really interesting features that I have not seen in other bootcamps of this sort.

1) Single-minded focus.  You are there to pass the test.

You are NOT there to learn project management. You are NOT there to learn project management tools and techniques.  You are NOT there to have discussions of project management practices and what each of you do in your own environments.  You are there to focus on passing the test. PERIOD.

What this means?  It means you do not question the PMI.  At least - not for the next week.

2) Your heavy lifting occurs before the class.  Memorizing the mind map.

Before you show up, you are expected to memorize a mind map and be able to draw it on demand day 1 of the bootcamp.  The mind map will serve as a tool during the exam - drawn during the 15 minutes you have prior to the test as you run the Prometrics tutorial.

The act of memorizing that mind map helped to organize what I learned in the previous 35 hours of course work I needed to perform before I submitted for exam eligibility (PMP eligibility is 3 years, 4500 hours, and 35 hours of coursework).  I also tended to look in the PMBOK if something in the mind map didn't make sense.  That helped ground the week a bit.

By the way - memorizing someone else's mind map stinks.

I would have liked to been able to make adjustments to the mind map on the Tuesday of the bootcamp rather than waiting until late Wednesday afternoon - if only so I could incorporate my newer thoughts (particularly regarding contract types and some trickier quality management concepts) and draw them out more quickly.  I spent more time drawing the mind map during the actual exam than I would have liked - taking about 18 minutes vs the 15 allotted.

3) They control as much as they can control - your food, your breaks, your focus, your time.

Unlike other courses of this type, Cheetah did a few things I have never seen before.
  • Food.  No caffeine. No sugar. High protein.
  • Breaks.  No time to pee until the designated break.  Really.  It was that intense.
  • Focus. They provided "meditation tapes".  3 voices with random project management definitions on top of a delta wave soundtrack.  You were to listen to this at designated times during the bootcamp and at night.  
  • Time.  I typically appeared at the hotel at 6:30am (DC traffic). Class started at 8am. We went until at least 6pm. I then spent another hour or two doing homework.  Unlike many of my classmates, I prioritized sleep - which helped.  The only person who heard from me or saw me that week was the man I live with. And that - barely. No email. No voice mail. Nothing. 
The days fell into a rhythm pretty quickly.
  • Recreate the mind map
  • Take a test for the day
  • Notecards on the chapter - each section timed
  • Workbook / mind map on the chapter - each section read
  • Test on the chapter
  • Notecards / Workbook / Test - repeat until finished with each chapter for the day
  • Oh yeah...and there was lunch somewhere in there.....
  • Go home. Study hard sections. Retake at least 1 test from the day. Fall asleep to the "meditation tapes"
It's been a long time since I've been through an experience quite that intense.  But damn if it didn't work.
As with most of these certification tests, the trick is to get into the mind of the test authors.

The PMP is notoriously hard because they occasionally enjoy testing whether you have fully read the question (attention to detail).  They also write questions using a wide array of unpredictable source materials - not just the PMBOK.

I got the feeling that they wrote the test in a way to encourage / force people to take a test prep class.

So now what?  The next round is likely going to be Agile courses and methodology.

Beyond the task of trying to push  my phone number off my business card with letters behind my name - I find that going through these certification efforts provide me with some tools I can use in my own work.

Building the toolbox.

Having something for the resume / LinkedIn profile to show for my efforts is a bonus.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Reality - The Universe Laughs at Your Time Estimates

Depeche Mode doesn't account for the sense of humor displayed in life....
You have the plan. You are starting to execute the plan. You are on time. On budget. Things are awesome.

And then they are not.

Read more....

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Risk Register - Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Thank you Patrick Warburton. "Control Enthusiast".
My long-time co-workers will tell you the following about me:
Read more....

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Documenting How You Got Your Numbers

Random clip art of office workers in deep collaborative thought.
You're welcome.
As you create your budget and cost estimates, make sure you document HOW you got your numbers.
Read more....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Finding the Numbers

So where do you find the numbers you need to make your cost estimates?


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cost Estimations for Your Plans

Sometimes, you just have to speak the language of business....
And Unikitty nails it - so you see her again :)
I talked a little bit in a previous post about Calculating Opportunity Costs.

If you are asked to put together more numbers, there are a few techniques available out of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (fondly known as the PMBOK) that you may find useful.

Read more......

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Requirements Sample - The LMS and scenarios

When pulling requirements, it helps to consider the scenarios that the solution will be implemented within.

Read more....

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Breaking Down the Work

An early project.
Once I've taken the time to figure out the opportunity costs of particular scenarios and a decision regarding direction has been made, I start breaking down what needs to happen to get from here to there.  Read more....

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Calculating Opportunity Costs to get rid of a duplicate system

We talked a little bit about risk in the last post.

In highly risk and change averse cultures, you want to make sure you have a solid argument for why you want to make the changes you wish to make.   Read more...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Phases E - Creating the To Do List

Once you have your baseline and your target architecture, it is time to create the roadmap or, what I would like to call, the "To Do" list.

To build the "To Do" list, we need:
Read more.....

Monday, February 22, 2016

Observing the Environment

You may have noticed that I have spent a LOT of time with planning in this blog.

The silences should have told you I was also DOING stuff too.

Architecture planning doesn't happen in a vacuum.

As the plan is developed, it's good to observe what is going on in the environment.
Read more....