You Can’t Stuff A Classroom Down A CAT5 Cable


old-classroomLast week I was having a nice conversation with a new online friend about helping her move her “in-person” teaching into the land of the Interwebs.  (This is a conversation that I’ve now had 21,586 times — since I do this sort of thing for a living — so I’m getting better and better at it.)  As usual, she was bemoaning the fact that there were parts of the in-person teaching experience that you “just couldn’t translate” into the online world.

With great sensitivity and thoughtfulness, I told her that those of us with a great deal of experience in developing online learning had a technical term for that concern.  We called it “dumb”. As you might expect, a short silence followed.

(I need to interject here that my new friend understands that I’m an obnoxious, opinionated old bear and doesn’t object to that at all.  Had I been dealing with someone who was more sensitive I might have described this as a “possible disconnect in her evaluation of the potential learning modality available within the online form factor as it relates to the more traditional instructor-led design model” or something like that.)

When she asked me to give her more detail, I said that thinking of the digital world as a place to just move her in-person class model didn’t make sense, because she already had a great place to teach in person.  It was called real life. What she needed to do was learn about the wonderful things that you can do in the online world that you can’t do in person, the experiences that learners can have in the online world that can’t be replicated in the meat world, and the ways that a digital teacher can create amazing experiences that would never be possible if they were in a traditional classroom.

How About An Example, Then?

Thank you for asking. One of my favorites involves what I call the “Poindexters” that all of us have in our real-world classrooms.  They’re the ones who sit in the front, have a pocket protector and a fresh notebook, and wave their hands high in the air every time we ask a question.  They want to be called on, they crave attention, and hope that the whole class hears them answer every question. (I have a great sympathy for them, because I is one.)

In the back of the room, we have the Wallflowers.  Heads down, never engaging, terrified that you’ll call on them and make them look stupid if they answer wrong.  Many of these people have the correct answer — and often some of the most interesting ideas — but you never get to hear them.  Because over the years in education we’ve taught them that the focus is on getting the right answer at all costs. So they just won’t participate.

In the online world, I can ask every student to log in as their favorite candy bar for the day.  (This means nobody in class knows who they are.)  Then, when I ask a question, the Poindexters and the Wallflowers are on a level playing field.  You should see the sparks fly!  You should see the creativity, the passion, and the engagement!

There are many more examples.  Online offers learners more time to create their thoughts and craft them carefully.  Those learners who are glib and can speak quickly and easily (I’m also guilty of that) are no longer at an advantage.  Collaboration looks very different online.  Research looks very different online. And peer-to-peer learning works wonderfully online, meaning the poor teacher doesn’t have to be the source of every bit of information.

So Online Learning Is All You Need, Then?

Oh, Pish-Tosh!  It’s just one more tool in the bag.  Just because we got pens, we didn’t give up on pencils.  There are good parts and bad parts to any way of delivering knowledge to young skulls full of mush.  And so far, we’re only scratching the surface on how to do digital learning right.

Want to glimpse the future?  Take a look at Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors: Student-Centered Strategies For Revolutionizing e-Learning” by Beverly Park Woolf.  In a nutshell, it’s AI that watches how the student is doing and offers meaningful help just when it is needed.  (Think “Clippy” on steroids.)

We’ll always have classrooms, and I’ll always love to teach in them.


Inbox Zero: Secrets From An Email Veteran


I often see tweets from people bemoaning the fact that they’ve got (from their point of view) a huge number of emails clogging their inbox. I used to work for a big software company herding a bunch of cats, and those cats just loved to send me email. So I had to come up with ways to manage all the mail. I’ve distilled all the classes, tips, hints and tricks right here for you at no charge. Hop on it, young Jedi Warriors.

On the first day of every month, take these five steps:

emailStep 1:  Sort Your Inbox By “From”

This allows you to quickly identify newsletters, blogs, lists and other high-volume content that you can either delete or move to an appropriate folder.  It also shows you who the biggest offenders are (Mom?  Brother Bob?  That woman in Argentina that you’ve been seeing?) and lets you think about suggesting they get a life.  You could also set up some filters to put her mail directly in the trash if you’re the bashful sort.

Step 2:  Sort Your Inbox Alphabetically

This will also reveal huge chunks that can be handled in one swell foop — all from the same sender, the same list, the same topic.  It often reveals that you get scads of email from a list you no longer read, a person you just don’t care about, or a source that is no longer relevant.  Again, you could use filters or “mail rules” here to make life better.

Step 3:  Sort Your Inbox by “Attachments”

This will reveal any messages that were sent to you with documents, spreadsheets, photos or other important stuff that you might want to make sure you keep.  It will also show you all those spam messages you don’t ever want to click on, so be careful.

Step 4: Search The Inbox Folder

Search this folder now, for key words that matter — like the name of current clients, current projects, your hired assassin’s code name or the password for your Swiss bank account.  It’s worth it to make sure you’re not missing anything really important.

Step 5: Make A New Folder

Create a new folder.  Give it the name of the previous month.  Move everything that’s left into that folder.


Viola.  Inbox empty.


I Measure Results Because I Suck


This morning I noticed a tweet from @JaneBozarth, the Doctor O’ Learning who writes books and is the Worlds Worst Bureaucrat in Raleigh, NC. She was pimping an article she’d written for Learning Solutions Magazine on measuring the results of your e-learning, entitled “Nuts And Bolts: How To Evaluate e-Learning“.

Always the snarky guy, I tweeted the link out to all my little followers, but then sent a comment direct to Jane:


I spend a lot of time promoting the idea of assessment in learning — and rarely, if ever, get much interest from clients in including that part of the project.  Because it’s expensive, difficult, time-consuming and often embarrassing.

She responded quickly:


And that’s the sad truth.  Lots of people don’t really want to know if their learning, “e” or otherwise is working.  Because it’s hard to measure, it takes time and dedication, and (ultimately) you might just embarrass yourself.

So Why Bother To Measure At All?

Because I don’t create amazing training the first time I try. My first version is usually somewhere between “good” and “sucks”.  I don’t spend a lot of time on it, it isn’t real glossy and pretty, and sometimes there are even some big empty gaps.  But I quickly evaluate how well it worked — using the actual learning goals and the assessments we all agreed on at the beginning — and then go right back to designing.

By version #2, I’m usually at about “great”.  But I don’t stop there. Now, I’m able to really start making things happen.  I can add teaching suggestions, more interactions, alternate models, and lots of nice media and facilitation. Then I head back to designing.

By version #3, we’re up to “amazing”.  Most people would hang it up. Not me.  I’m drilling down on the 20% of the assessment questions that people are still missing.  I’m asking the students what isn’t engaging them, the instructor what still feels stiff, and the client what they might have forgotten to include.

At version #4, we’ve reached “in-freakin-credible”.  Go ahead and measure me. Bring it on! Want to talk about R.O. I.?  I’ve got your ROI right here, sucka!  Want to compare me to your PPT lectures?  Go for it!  Want to put your next training project out to the lowest bidder?  Listen to me chuckle my evil chuckle!

So the next time somebody asks you whether you include assessment, just smile and say “of course — that’s where we start!”

A Tall, Blue-Haired Woman And Me — Wearing Pants


Yesterday morning, I got in Abe Lincoln (my 1994 Lincoln Town Car) and headed 100 miles north to Greenville to attend “Social Story Greenville — billed as an event to “help you find and social_story1communicate your unique story in a way that will connect to your customers like never before.” (Full Disclosure:  I was the guest of Phil Yanov, aka @ThinkHammer and a man who often buys me beer at TechAfter5.)

To attend an event in G-ville means I have to:

  1. Wear pants.
  2. Get up at 6AM.
  3. Act like an adult.

miss_dSo whatever it is, it’s got to sound pretty interesting.  Lots of the time, I pass because it just doesn’t seem worth it. But since Phil was going to be the Ringmaster at this Circus, and I had a chance to get my picture taken with MissDestructo, I decided to take the risk.

Good investment.  I spent the day listening to a wide variety of folks talking about the value of stories — your stories — and how you could use them in connecting to customers in Social Media situations.

Speakers included:

• Rick Murray, President of Edelman, Chicago

• Sean Buvala, @storyteller, author, and entrepreneur

• Trey Pennington, story prospector

• Tim March, aka TimTV, storyteller and performing artist

• Olivier Blanchard, @thebrandbuilder, entrepreneur

• Amber Osborne, @MissDestructo

There was also lots of nice time to talk with people who were attending, a nice box lunch, and an after-party that I had to miss so I could scoot home early for another engagement.

As a “professional learning dude”, I was a bit disappointed that it was mostly done in a model of one smart guy on a stage talking to all of us sitting on the bleachers.  It really would have been great to have used some of the SM tools that we have, and maybe created some other models for engaging before and after the event.  So here are three ideas for future events (that are planned for other cities, I hear).

  • Engage with us before the show Let’s have some short webinars or teaching sessions online before the actual show, for the participants who’d like to join in.  Or a phone call.  Or some e-learning.  Or a TweetChat.  Not everyone will attend, of course, but it would help beginners get up to speed and let the presenters better understand the needs of the audience.
  • Don’t just lecture to us I’m an experienced presenter, and I realize that there’s nothing more entrancing than the sound of your own voice!  But ask us questions, have us do things, play videos, use clickers for feedback, project a Twitter feed in response to your topic, engage, engage, engage! Kudos to Sean Bulvala for engaging with his audience!  (And NEVER present sitting down.  Never, never, never! That’s why people fall asleep listening to Charlie Rose.)
  • Give us some “next steps”  Set up a little community we can discuss our stories in, or a place we can share what we’re working on, or somewhere we can learn more.  You’ve gotten us all excited about this topic — don’t let the momentum die!  No matter what you’re trying to teach, people have to practice it to make sure it sticks — so help us out.

If you couldn’t make it to the show, you can watch the video online and get your stories out to the world right away courtesy of Brian Kelly Multimedia, or read the wthashtag transcript for all of the tweets sent.

Oh — as you can see — I didn’t have to act grown up the whole time!


ADDIE 2.0 — Designing Learning Without A Net

William The Conqueror

The other day my spirit guide to the world of learning Dr. Jane Bozarth got a question from a young person on the Twitters, who was looking for the person who “said ADDIE was great model for designing training, or building a strip club or invading a foreign land.”  Dr. B immediately suggested that it was probably me, and I confessed to saying something along those lines once upon a time.

William The Conqueror(For those of you NOT in the learning industry, ADDIE is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation” — a design model first developed by William the Conqueror to write curriculum used to train his troops how to pour hot oil on enemies without burning themselves.)

Actually, there is some debate in the learning community that ADDIE may have been used earlier than that.  Some of us suspect that the project team for the big bang developed training materials and job aids using ADDIE because God was concerned that there might be user support issues.

When I said that ADDIE could be used for many other things than learning development, I was trying to use sarcasm to make a point. (Pause for shocked intake of breath by readers.) I’m not a big fan of the old girl, and was pointing out that you could really use this model in almost any kind of endeavor because it’s so generic and basic.

Tie My Shoes

Analysis:  Where are my shoes?

Design:  Criss-cross or horizontal?

Development:  Insert laces

Implementation:  Shoes on feet

Evaluation:  Attempt walking

Extreme Makeover

So — while it’s fun making fun of something near and dear to the hearts of many, and I love the angry comments and emails — how could we improve it?

Let’s rethink what the old girl might look like with a little lipo, some time with a personal trainer, and a few hours under the knife of a great plastics guy.

A is for “Amazing”

Let’s start with designing training that opens with something amazing.  Get your learners on the hook like a big ol’ catfish, so they can’t wriggle off.  It doesn’t matter what other good stuff you’ve got in that lesson if they’re not on the line headed towards the boat.

D is for “Delightful”

You’re gonna hate me for this, but all the other parts better be as good as the opener.  Today’s learners need to be engaged and delighted too.  Use videos.  Use humor.  Use fun, games, interaction, things to click on, multiple learning styles.  Yes — it IS all about the learner.

D is for “Doing”

Keep those little fingers busy.  If you’re teaching in person, have people working in small groups, get them moving in the classroom, have learners writing and giving responses.  If you’re online, you need to be taking polls and asking for input via chat and Twitter.  If you’re lecturing people are checking their mail and seeing who’s on Facebook.

I is for “Interactive”

I’m repeating myself because it’s so important.  Don’t lecture — ask leading questions, and let the students discover answers on their own.  Yes — I know it takes longer.  Yes — I know it’s messier.  Yes — I know it’s more work for you.  I don’t care!

E is for “Exhibit”

If you really want to measure the transfer of knowledge, you and I (the “learning professionals”) know that multiple-choice questions don’t mean squat.  Get your learners to exhibit what they know. Build a bridge, respond in a role-play, stage a server, or write a sales page.  That’s really the only way to measure if you taught them anything meaningful.


So what do you think?  ADDIE 2.0 is slim, trim, and quite a sexy little number.  Want to take her home to meet the parents?

P.S.  ADDIE 2.0 would still be quite effective for running a strip club, I believe.

The Fundamental Things Apply — As Change Goes By


My wife (the big-time network admin) and I have great conversations in the morning as I drive her in to work. We’ve got two cars, but we both enjoy the time together, and we’re worried that there’s too much fossil fuel on the planet and we want to do our part. So each day I get to hear a little about the madness of life in a large school district and how the inmates are expected to keep the computers running with no money and little respect.

dooley_wilson10Today’s story revolved around a new printer control system (I’m gonna call it OOPS-Print, to protect the guilty) that their IT Director decided was the bee’s knees last year. It was so cool that it had to be installed on every single box in every single school in the district. (It’s pretty amazing — it lets you select a printer to use with your machine.) (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

The folks in the trenches weren’t very impressed, but like the guys flying the Kamikaze airplanes, nobody wanted their feedback on the flight plan. So they spent months and months planning, deploying, installing, troubleshooting, and generally getting this POS (Printing Organizational System) ready for the start of school this fall.

My love was a key piece of the puzzle, and worked long hours to make it happen. She then spent lots of time teaching the 30+ technicians who support the schools how to use it, how to install printers, how to troubleshoot — trust me, she’s ALMOST as good as I am at training. (If I get hit by a bus, she’d become “The Best Damn Trainer In The World”)

“Houston — We Have A Problem!”

So she was a little bit surprised, yesterday, when one of the suits in the Admin Wing walked in to the server room and announced to God And Everybody that OOPS-Print wasn’t working at an entire school. And it was all their fault.

Unaware that his life expectancy was now measured in seconds, my wife asked him for details. Where were the individual “trouble tickets” that everyone was required to file? Who had done the troubleshooting? What had they found?

Weeeeeeelllllll. Turns out there were just a few tickets. And the local tech closed them before they ever escalated to NetOps. Didn’t fix anything, just “closed” them.   (Smoke begins wisping out my sweetie’s ears.) So she and a couple other top level administrators drop the actual work they’re doing, saddle up, and head out.

Turns out that the techs had installed the OOPS-PRINT client on the machines, but failed to select a printer. I asked her if this was the version of the software with psychic powers that could reach into the user’s mind and determine which of the many networked printers they wanted to use. No, she said, they hadn’t purchased that plug-in.

For one reason or another, the techs assumed that because this was new software there really was no reason to even attempt to try any basic troubleshooting steps — like, could the computer “see” the printers? Could it print a test page? Could it print locally? Was the freaking cord plugged in? Were their underpants pulled all the way up to their ears?

This morning, The Only Woman I Will Ever Love will be in a meeting with lots of suits and network friends. I told her to start out the discussion with a suggestion that just because you put on new shoes doesn’t mean you should completely give up any future attempts to walk on your own. She told me sarcasm doesn’t help anything.

But in all seriousness, I see this often in education. A teacher gets a new ActiveBoard, and thinks all the rules of learning have now changed. Someone teaches in a Webinar and suddenly believes a 60-minute droning lecture would be a great idea. Or someone’s e-learning class uses stupid little games like Jeopardy and Match Game for low-level retention and they call it real learning.

Sam had it right in Casablanca. The fundamental things apply.

Learner Feedback? You Can’t STAND Learner Feedback!

A Few Good Trainers

A Few Good Trainers

There have been lots of tweets and blogs and squawks about the collection, management and integration of feedback from learners floating across the Interwebs lately.  And, as I often do, I’ve turned to Jack Nicholson to get some sage advice on the subject — to share out with the tiny skulls of mush that come to my blog for the latest thinking on this thorny subject.

In the world of “assessment” — there are two broad divisions.  Measurement of whether the learner can actually do something:

  • Learner can name the state capitals
  • Learner can explain why sexual harassment will land him in jail
  • Learner can assemble the nuclear warhead

…and the second, how the learner felt about the experience:

  • Learner thinks she will be a better manager
  • Learner felt trainer integrated his input into the final conclusions
  • Learner experienced a feeling of value and appreciation for his presence

Let’s Look At Feelings

Today I’m focusing on the second.  Feedback from learners about the experience they had, their feelings on the session, what they think they took away, how the process worked, and whether or not lunch was tasty.

There’s a lot of focus, lately, on making sure that the learner leaves our hands giving us top marks on the experience.  They’re supposed to check the smiley face on the right margin, or give us 10 out of 10, or we just haven’t met the mark.  And I’m here to say that you’re headed off a cliff if you buy into that crap.  (I’m rarely accused of being subtle.  Ask Dave Ferguson.)

Yeah, I’m interested in what my audience has to say about my teaching.  I read those little sheets with just as much excitement as all of you do.  But all of the difficult lessons I’ve learned in my life (and I bet yours, too) came in situations were I wouldn’t have tacked a smiley face on the end if you’d asked me.  So I’m sometimes a little worried about making changes to what I do based on keeping people happy.

Have you ever:

  1. Gotten divorced?
  2. Stuck your tongue on a frozen pipe?
  3. Dated a rock musician?
  4. Driven drunk?
  5. Burned yourself on a hot stove?
  6. Voted Republican? (That’s for you, Dave!)

I bet you would have been pretty unhappy at the conclusion of the learning, but I’d also bet that it was very valuable and kept you out of lots of trouble in the future.

My own little experience with this was Private Pilot training many years ago.  After learning some basic skills, my Flight Instructor (with thousands of flight hours experience) said it was time for something called “Stall Training”.  He made me take the plane up to 5,000 feet, then point it up in the air — higher, and higher, and higher — until the little engine couldn’t lift the weight anymore.

At that point, the Cessna ceased being an airplane and immediately turned into a 2,000 pound chunk of metal with two big pieces of meat in it. Those of you who fly will support me when I say it’s probably the most gut-wrenching experience (well, next to a spin) that a student pilot goes through.

The Freaking Plane Is Falling Out Of The Sky, Out Of Control!

Now, of course, he’d told me exactly what to do.  Even demonstrated what to do. But the degree of pucker took over, I froze and screamed like a twelve-year-old girl.  He calmly said “my airplane” and soon we were flying straight and level.

He said once I’d calmed down and the adrenaline had burned off, we’d try it again. I told him I’d step out the door and walk back, rather than do that. It took him a good 15 minutes to even get me to take the controls.

We did it again.  And again. And again.  Over the course of several lessons, and several weeks, I finally got so that I could recover from the stall.  It wasn’t pretty, and he usually laughed at my efforts, but I could do it well enough that I wouldn’t die if I encountered a stall.

If offered a chance to give feedback, I would have said:

  • He didn’t take my feelings into consideration
  • My input was not valued by the instructor
  • The design of the course didn’t suit my learning style
  • The course content should be changed
  • Stalls hardly ever happen, if you fly correctly (true)

So be careful what you do with feedback.  Don’t want any of your learners falling on my head while I’m sleeping in my hammock.

Social Media: A Parable

It Will Just Be A Little Prick

A few nights ago, on a warm summer evening, a bunch of us were out standing in the middle of our street down here in South Carolina.  One guy was talking about politics.  Another lady was talking about how she wanted to be the Mayor.  And I, as usual, was making snarky obnoxious comments and offending people with my caustic sense of humor.

It Will Just Be A Little Prick

It Will Just Be A Little Prick

Surprisingly, a crowd of people started developing around me — a couple of thousand.  Many of them laughed and enjoyed my humor.  Some didn’t like it, and headed down the street to where somebody had a solution to erectile dysfunction they wanted to talk about.  Even more surprisingly, some of the people enjoyed my shtick so much that they wrote down what I said and then sent it off to their friends to read — boy, was I impressed.

A guy in the house across the way came out, listened for a bit, and liked what he heard.  He asked if I would please come over to his house every single time I had something to say, and say it right in the middle of his living room.  Even if he wasn’t there.  Sounded a little crazy — I told him he could just get the jokes about zebras, or only listen to the stuff about peach trees — but he demanded every single thing I said. Even gave me a key to his house.

Then one day, I said something he didn’t like.  I don’t remember exactly what, but boy was he pissed!  “Where do you get off saying that?  There’s no place for that kind of talk!”  I reminded him that I had just been out talking on the street, and he had chosen me to invite into his home — but it didn’t help.  I told him that there was a big red button on my head he could click, and I’d disappear and he’d never, ever see me again — but that wasn’t enough, either.

He really wanted to make rules for the whole neighborhood.  Based on what he liked, what he thought was entertaining, and what he wanted to hear.

Oh — one more thing.  I lied.  It wasn’t my neighborhood.  I was talking about Twitter.

Great Post On Copyright, From Some Guy. Somewhere.

Darren Rouse, from ProBlogger

ProBlogger has a wonderful post on copyright basics for content producers.  Here are the three points I stole from it:

  • Only use content that’s identified explicitly as being available for reuse under the creative commons or open content licenses.
  • Always include a linked citation alongside the content I reference or reuse, identifying the creator and the URL of the original work.
  • Contact the creator to let them know I’m reusing their content and appreciate their making it available.

If you want to read the rest, click the link.  If I stole more I’d get in trouble — those Australians are pretty touchy, and they’ve got sharks. And jellyfish.  And alligators.

Darren Rouse, from ProBlogger

Darren Rouse, from ProBlogger

My Heart Will Go On: Social Media In The Enterprise


I just read a wonderful post by Jane Hart entitled “The Future Of Social Media In The Enterprise“.  In it, she deftly describes an issue that I’ve been encountering often lately with potential clients who want to talk about using this game-changing paradigm-shifting bar-raising (insert your own favorite stupid marketing metaphor here) thing we call Social Media.

titanic1Her argument is quite elegant.  If I may distill it, she feels that using Social Media tools only behind your firewall (not allowing employees to connect outside the company) is short-sighted.  And that their real value is the cross-pollination and connection that comes from engaging across a discipline, around the world, and to people who see things in vastly different ways.

(I bet British Petroleum has a great internal forum to discuss how much time and money to spend when drilling really deep wells, and what to do when you get 700+ safety violations.  But maybe, if they’d been more connected to reality, they wouldn’t have lost $17 BILLON DOLLARS and become the poster boy for dumb.)

I have to say, though, that I’m getting a little bit tired having this discussion with people who are extremely focused on keeping the fence up between their employees and the rest of the world.  Stopping the dangers of Farmville, YouTube, and people randomly getting information they might use to improve their skills.  It’s exhausting to keep having the same chat with the same network administrators.  The same vendors who want to sell their custom “behind the firewall” solutions.  The same tiny minds who think they have all sorts of special secrets about how they put their canned hams in the boxes and ship them out.

Would it make more sense for me to have a “pre-work” session, where there’s an assessment of some kind?  And if the client is mostly focused on how to lock all the doors and bar all the windows — just smile and move along?

On Jane’s blog, I said it this way:

We try to run from or eradicate that which we do not understand. If we can’t kill it, we try to control it and limit the access of others.

Probably true with the first cave-person who found fire. Still true in corporate America today. I have to admit that I, personally, am actually getting a little tired of having this discussion with potential clients and people who ask for advice.

I want to just say “Whatever” and move on to someone who’s open to new ideas and things that might help them. (Kind of a lifeboat drill — if I’ve only got so many years left, do I spend them arguing with people about the VALUE of parachutes or just HAND OUT parachutes to as many people as possible before the crash?)

It’s actually kind of exhausting. Like trying to convince my mom that “unlimited long-distance” actually meant she could talk to me as long and as often as she liked.

Never won that one, either.

So what do you think?  Do you want a parachute, or should we keep talking about the nuts and the in-flight movie?