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It’s Not a Training Event – It’s a New Media Cultural Experience

MEDIA CULTURAL EXPERIENCEIn my Tuesday morning post about Apple Announcement Day I highlighted the importance of the digital media cultural experience that surrounds an Apple event. And that, even if you don’t care about the products, you should be a little interested in how social media and new streaming technologies surround the event. But before I go into that, let me address the obvious.

The event has come and gone. The Apple haters are out in full force. No more rumors. We now have confirmation of the iPhone 6 in 2 larger sizes…AND a wearable. Yes, it has a time feature. But it’s not a watch, despite the name.  Much like the iPhone is not a phone, but it has a phone call feature. But I digress. got very little press as it was overshadowed by the product announcement.  But this was Apple’s first attempt at live streaming their own event, as well as posting images with Pinterest-style design, publishing as fast as a live blogger, and including share buttons to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. They were able to deliver behind the scenes images and information that live bloggers could not and since they didn’t need to be stealthy about it, they could use real camera equipment and setup beautiful images to represent their event.

This is the new world of social marketing that will soon become the new world of informal learning. Imagine Tim Cook, and the cast of presenters, as if they were teaching a course. Is there any reason why this exact setup would not work? Or simply because it’s a “course”, would the same attention to detail be dismissed as not necessary for a “training event”?

Before you dismiss that image from your brain too quickly, hold onto it for one more thought. Replace Tim Cook with Richard Feynman and his lectures on physics.  Would you consider THAT important enough to apply the treatment? Or even more? Why, or why not?

You don’t need to answer that.  You just need to think about it. Every major cultural event is getting the social media treatment these days. And yet education and training remains very…well…UN-social. We use social media to create, and engage in, the cultural social experience around television shows, sporting events, and yes company product releases, but not educational events. Events created with the intent of transferring knowledge should also be as highly valued, and receive the same treatment.


Finding time to design: 5 useful tools to help manage your eLearning project

Best eLearning Tools

I am an Instructional Designer. But it sometimes seems that instructional design is something I do when I’ve finished all the rest of my work. In fact, my other work should just be peripheral and the content development should be taking up most of my time – and definitely most of my energy. When I was a trainer I used to have the same issue – getting people into training, writing documentation, setting up equipment, evaluating feedback would all take far more time and effort that the actual training delivery itself. That was actually what led me into online learning in the first place – seeing the ratio of time spent doing the peripheral stuff being dwarfed by the time that people were benefiting from the learning. Delivering learning online does this by default, our courses can impact many more people via the Internet than it can within a classroom. Once the course is finished, theoretically it has the potential to reach an infinite audience. And now that I work exclusively in delivering online training, it is important that designing courses is what I am actually doing. Managing projects as effectively as possible is an absolute must to enable me to have the free time to design content. Learning how to do this is something that I’ve stumbled into and whilst I am improving at it on a daily basis, it is something that I’m beginning to master.

Top 5 eLearning Project Tools

Here are my top 5 tips for tools to help manage the daily onslaught of project administration:

1. BaseCamp

Basecamp is simply outstanding for managing projects that involve several people. It offers a simple interface for each project which includes to-do lists, shared calendars, document sharing and lots more. No more digging around for an email from the SME, all the info is in one place. Often the issue with these types of tools is that other people don’t harbour the same desire to use another tool as you do – and with Basecamp, that is no issue, you can forward emails directly to the project so even if others aren’t using the tool, you are still keeping all the info in one place.

2. Zoho Creator

Keeping track of TNA, content requests, course adjustments, course feedback etc. can be a nightmare. If your LMS can’t do this, or if you are juggling projects that use several LMS, I’d thoroughly recommend Zoho Creator. A powerful tool that let’s you create public and private online forms, that then displays the data in both a database format and then numerous graphical formats. You then save these easy-to-create graphs as templates for future projects, and create URLs for others to easily see the data.

 3. TeamGannt

Gannt charts? Yuck! I hate trying to keep these up-to-date. Now you can do this quickly and easily with Team Gannt – or more easily let your team update their progress online. It even syncs with Basecamp.

4. Google Docs with Google Drive

- I love being able to create and share my documents on the fly. Except for storyboarding in PowerPoint, I don’t need Microsoft Office any more. Google Sheets allows me to create and edit spreadsheets on the move and then share them with specific clients at the click of a button.

 5. Evernote

I couldn’t live without Evernote for capturing ideas, blog posts, design examples, colour schemes, meeting notes and info from phone calls. It syncs across all my devices, allows capture from within any web browser and provides a simple tagging system and powerful search capability so I can quickly find my notes when I need them. I’m not going to write any more about Evernote, because if you aren’t already using Evernote then you’re missing out! What tools do you use to manage your projects? Are there any better alternatives I’ve missed? Please let us know!

What Does Apple Announcement Day have to do with eLearning?

Apple Announcement

This morning will most likely be the most unproductive morning for Apple enthusiasts since…well…the last Apple announcement. Except for tech journalists who will be busy, and have been bored since iPhone 5s. There will be live video streams, live blogs, hashtags, instagrams, Vines, hyperlapses, 360s, cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria! (+1 if you can name the movie)

Social media is still a new phenomenon. It’s the digital wild west with no rules. However, if you ever wanted to see how the A-players step up their game then there is no better day than Apple announcement day. Informal and/or social learning advocates look to these folks to see how it’s done. Well, if they don’t…they should.

Something that’s changed, however, is the fact that Apple will be the one live streaming their own event at Since the first iPhone announcement we’ve refreshed web browser pages to get pirated photos, and the occasional live audio stream directly from the event. Notable tech journalism outlets have finally figured out how to get every angle of the event covered in unique ways hoping to capture the largest audience…and pray their servers hold up. coverage has always been solid and entertaining throughout the years.  Leo Laporte has mastered the art of the live webcast.  And not just from the technology perspective.  Leo knows how to build the right team to both educate and entertain, and manage the hysteria of the day. He makes it look so easy, but if you’ve ever tried to manage even a simple G+ hangout, you quickly gain a whole new level of respect for his work.

And besides the other usual non-mainstream locations like Techcrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo and others, I’m looking for Yahoo to take this opportunity to show the world a new and improved Yahoo. I may be wrong but Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO) has been building a team of rock star personalities for exactly this reason. Event coverage that is unique, entertaining, educational, and filled with celebrity star power could be huge in turning around the lagging image of the Yahoo brand.  Because, let’s face it, this is a big friggin’ deal for even the most hardcore Microsoft or Android user.

Everyone is watching for Apple to blow our minds, or crash and burn famously. I’m certain of the former, but also feeling a little edgy about potentially being let down.

What does this have to do with eLearning, or corporate training, or learning management systems? Nothing directly, but indirectly Apple sets the tone for what’s next.  The Apple ecosystem drives so much of the tech world that I would not be surprised if they had a significant announcement around education in either hardware, software, or both. Could the wearable have educational usage? Could the new iCloud have xAPI calls built into a “learning wallet” of sorts? I don’t know.  But I’m all in on finding out!


Repetition – The Killer Learning App!

REPETITIONWe’ve all, I hope, heard about the benefits of spaced repetition. But hearing about it is one thing. Implementing it as a learning solution is quite another. We all know that repeating small chunks of information at timed intervals is the key to solidifying new information into memory. I think Duolingo is the current poster child for an application making use of spaced repetition. Read about it, check out Duolingo, and let’s continue this specific conversation later. Understanding spaced repetition is just the setup for what I really want to share with you in this post.

As someone always on the hunt for connections, I was delighted to discover Elizabeth Margulis, Ph.D. recently.

“Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, directs the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas. Her research uses theoretical, behavioral, and neuroimaging methodologies to investigate the dynamic, moment-to-moment experience of listeners without special musical training. She was also trained as a concert pianist.”

Check out her long bio here. Her research and her book are all about why we love repetition in music. I couldn’t help but wonder about how this might relate to spaced repetition in learning. I have not read the book, but it’s on order from And she recently started a new blog titled Looking at Listening for Psychology Today.

I discovered this TEDed video from a tweet by Adnan Iftekhar (@adnanedtech). Check it out.

I love the idea of “The Mere Exposure Effect”. Did you catch that in the video? This is exactly what I’m referring to when I reference marketing professionals as knowing more about learning than we do. We try all sorts of complicated academic “learning methods” to get people to learn and remember information. And marketing professionals keep it simple and rely on the mere exposure effect. Okay, so yes, it’s more complicated than that…but is it? Think about it for a later discussion…

Finding Dr. Margulis and her research reminded me of the amazing Bobby McFerrin “playing the audience” using the pentatonic scale. We’re all familiar with the tone patterns of the pentatonic scale whether we think we are or not. We’ve been exposed to them our whole lives. Watch the video but don’t stop it right when McFerrin sits down. The last 30 secs are great. I love how the academics (I’m assuming) on the panel react.

Repetition works. So, are you using it in your corporate training strategy? Why not? Does your tool of choice support spaced repetition? Are you concerned about annoying your learners?

Or is it that we feel like repetition is like “studying”. And therefore the responsibility of the learner to leave our perfect classroom or eLearning course and go back to their desks and continue to learn on their own. Perhaps?

Let me know what you think!


Let me know what you think!


Let me know what you think!


Background image The Beat Goes On by HippieDude

Storytelling: Comics, Journalism, Visualization, and the Brain

Comics, Journalism, Visualization, and

uc-bookUnderstanding Comics – The Invisible Art

In my last post about favorite books I made an error leaving out Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. With all the talk/blogging/tweeting about the power of story, I’m surprised this book is not mentioned more often. It’s storytelling gold. In it we learn about how the unique medium of comic books is used to drive a story.  And how the physical constraints of a page turning medium actually create storytelling possibilities, and not limitations. The elements of time and space, and how comic artists represent them in their art is fascinating.

Scott McCloud, Author of Understanding Comics & Brent Schlenker Litmos, Chief Learning Strategist

Scott McCloud, Author of Understanding Comics & Brent Schlenker Litmos, Chief Learning Strategist

If you’re looking for something a little more current than 1993 than you might be more interested in his followup book, Reinventing Comics released in 2000, or Making Comics in 2006. But despite being a little older, Understanding Comics still holds it’s own as a must read in my collection.

In 2008 I was speaking at the first VizThink conference, and had the pleasure of hearing Scott speak, and appreciated hearing his insights first hand. It’s always a pleasure to meet people who are passionate about their work, and just genuinely happy. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak I would highly recommend that you do.

As I was thinking about this post many connections became clearer to me. However one in particular stood out the most: Vision. The importance of visualizing data is popular in the form of infographics. And obviously, telling stories with images, pictures, and artistic form, is powerful. But why? It’s our brain. Dr. Medina highlights vision as “Brain Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.

Journalism in the Age of Data

In my quest for more connections I came across this little gem: Journalism in the Age of Data.  It’s sort of an interactive documentary piece. If you are new to data, visualization, storytelling, and the new technologies available to you, then you must take some time to watch this.

And if you want to geek out on data for a living then just skip right to chapter 8 titled, “First Steps”. And just get started.

It’s important to note that it’s fringe areas  like visualization that will make you a better eLearning designer.  Stretch your skills a little and look into how you can help people learn through comics, or better visualizing data to improve comprehension.

Story-telling, brain research, data visualization, graphic arts, and statistical analysis are all important to learning. They may seem like an odd collection of studies, but I hope you can see the value in understanding enough of each to level up your career game.