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Buzzin’ on the Biz for 5/12 – 5/16/08 May 19, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, Learning, training industry.
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Buzz

 

Not so much buzz, but an interesting thread that I found about blogging. First, I ran across a post by Tony Karrer on whether blogging should be mandatory as a learning tool. And then on Tony’s del.icio.us bookmarks, I found an article in FastForward that talked about blogs as a tool for managing personal knowledge. And if you want to delve into the topic of blogs as Personal Learning Environments, Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project blog has written prolifically on this topic.

Buzz in the Professional Organizations

  • ASTD Learning Circuits: May’s Big Question: Do we have to design, develop, and deliver instruction differently for Digital Natives?
  • E-Learning Guild: Reminder to members to update survey responses on the Guild’s Web sites. (not updated since end of March.)
  • ELearn Magazine: An interview on designing learning with Irene McAra-McWilliam, who specializes in cultural research for social innovation, creativity, new technology, and community and who is a pioneer in the field of interaction design. She talks about “transformation design,” differences in teaching certain subjects online and in the classroom, the use of imagining a person in online course design, the educational equivalent of fast food, the choreography of learning, and the value of face-to-face interaction in education. 
  • Training and Development Blog: Asks readers to think about how well they listen. Are they really hearing what the other person is saying? 
  • The MASIE Center: Masie is conducting a real-time blogging experiment using Twitter to capture his notes from a Harvard Kennedy School event on Presidential Leadership Competencies.
    Also, a post last week talked about NBC’s new group called NBC Learn, which has launched a new product called NBC iCUE, which “takes ‘e-Learning’ a huge step forward, with the introduction of small video chunks (from the NBC News archives), social networking and gaming. They blend these learning and engagement components in new ways, which will form the basis of new pedagogical approaches.”
     
  • Training Day: Discusses how to prepare your business and your employees to function successfully in the global marketplace.
  • Educause: A long list of podcasts and reading related to the use of technology in higher education, including IT issues in higher education, Web 2.0 and knowledge, communities, and cyberinfrastructure and the humanities.

 

Bytes

Research on Feedback: Will Thalheimer has just completed an extensive review of research and data on providing learners with feedback. You can download his free report.

New White Paper: Mobile Devices: This is part of a white paper on mobile learning. This part covers technologies, devices, and networks. The part on designing for mobile devices was included in the E-Learning Guild’s report on mobile learning.

Working Memory Down from 5 – 9 to 3 – 4: This post references a study conducted at the University of Missouri and reported in the April Proceedings of the National Institutes of Health that shows that our working memory struggles when handling more than about 3 or 4 items at a time (unlike the 7 +/- 2 that has been the rule to date).

Mobile in 5 Paragraphs: Clark Quinn provides a quick overview of mobile learning: what it is, what kinds of devices there are, developing content for, and how it enables learning. There are also links to the ELearning Guild’s report on mobile learning and other resources.

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Experimenting with Blog Design April 13, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging.
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Today, I have been updating the design of my blog.

That first step of setting up a blog is so easy–click a couple of buttons and then you have a blog. But now I’m ready for that next step where I really think about what features I want on my blog and how I want it to look.

I’ve been participating retroactively in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog series that Darren Prowse ran last August. I discovered this excellent series from Michele Martin’s Bamboo Project blog. And through the Building a Better Blog community that Michele set up on ning, I’ve been working with a few other people who have the same goal.

After about 3 months, I’m still stuck on Day 2 of the 31 Days. I think my experience will be more like 31 Months for a Better Blog, and hopefully not 31 Years!  But then again, hopefully I am still blogging and trying to make a better blog in 31 years (if there still is blogging then).  On “Day 2,” I conducted a Reader Audit of my blog, that is, I had friends, family, coworkers, and other bloggers review my blog and suggest improvements. Many thanks to my husband, my writer friends–Marlies and Heather, and the good people in the Building a Better Blog community who took the time to look over my blog and provide thoughtful comments.

As a result of those comments, I have:

  1. Changed the theme. If you’ve been here before, you probably noticed a startling change in look-and-feel. Someone told me that the image on my initial theme made her think of Princess Diana’s death–not something I want associated with my blog. Plus, I thought this new theme was a bit cleaner and made it a bit easier to find things. And I like the font better. What do you think?
  2. Added my picture. So readers can know more about me.
  3. Added an RSS feed. So that interested readers can subscribe to my blog–just scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and you’ll find the RSS buttons.
  4. Updated my About page.  To make it a bit friendlier and less “me” oriented. And to add my e-mail address.
  5. Added a disclaimer. To formally state that the opinions on my blog are completely my own.
  6. Added recent posts. So, you can see at a glance what I’ve been thinking and talking about most recently.

So, what do you think? What works well for you? What do you think I could do to improve it even more?

Buzzin’ on the Biz March 6, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, e-learning, Learning, social networking, training industry, Web 2.0.
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As a service to the company for which I work, I’ve been doing a biweekly summary of hot topics of conversation on learning-related blogs. It occurred to me, with a little help from Michele over at the Bamboo Project blog, that this information might be valuable to people outside my organization as well. So, here’s the first installment of Buzzin’ on the Biz for the worldwide audience.

Buzzin on the Biz

Buzz
This week’s hot topic on learning-related blogs:  Good Design, with a number of posts providing tips and showing examples of good online learning design.

Games and Web 2.0 as always were big topics of discussion. Also, since ASTD had just had their TechKnowledge conference, there were a number of posts about that, as well as a post about ELearning conferences in general.

Miscellaneous topics covered everything from Shakespeare to ELearning as a green solution.

 
Buzz in the Professional Organizations
  • ASTD Learning Circuits: March’s Big Question: What Is the Scope of Our Responsibility as Learning Professionals?
  • E-Learning Guild: Review of serious gaming software developed by IBM.
  • ELearn Magazine: Graduate student experiences of how they learn through blogging.
  • Training and Development Blog: Big brother is watching your Internet use.
  • The MASIE Center: Use of emerging technologies in the political campaigns; and a video about the Starbucks training shutdown.
  • Training Day: Make sure you’re not trying to solve every problem with training.
  • Educause: The value of feedback; and how people can experience the flight deck of the Space Shuttle in Second Life.
  • HCI featured blogs: So many Internet postings—does anyone work anymore?; result-Performance Management; d-Future business blog; reference to a blog with ideas about creativity, marketing, advertising, branding, interactive, social networking, web 2.0, design, democratization of the web etc.

Bytes

Check out these top-notch posts:

100 Ways your iPod can up your IQ
Need some ideas of how to use iPods for learning? Prepare to be overwhelmed with GREAT ideas!!

Welcome to Creepy Valley – Motion Portrait – 3D Facial Animation
This is absolutely amazing technology that converts a static image to an animation. The face actually follows the movement of the cursor. You can output the animation to PC, TV, Game Console, and Mobile devices.

5 Ways to Make Linear Navigation More Interesting
There’s a great slideshow here that provides 5 great tips for making learners WANT to click that Next button.

Wikiful Thinking
Talks about considerations for making wikis successful as enterprise tools.

Instructional Design Conversations
For the past month or so, there’s been an interesting discussion about whether or not people need a degree to be an instructional designer. This post adds to the discussion, but provides links to other parts of it. Really interesting!

Are Social Sites Good for Educating? 
This is an old post from last fall, but provides some insight into 1) how schools are handling social networking and 2) the online and social networking usage of the 9 – 17 age group. Fascinating stuff. The link to the report in this post is wrong. Use this one instead:
http://www.nsba.org/SecondaryMenu/TLN/CreatingandConnecting.aspx

Do corporations really need blogging policies? February 9, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging.
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Through some strange trick of the subconscious, my first thought one morning last week was: Does our company really need a blogging policy?

Is a blog different from any other public appearance?
I don’t know why, but it occurred to me that in a few weeks I’ll be presenting at ASTD’s TechKnowledge conference in San Antonio, and no one has briefed me on a “presentation policy” to make sure I don’t do anything too crazy there.

By the same token, companies don’t define a “training class” policy with guidelines like:

  • Don’t monopolize class discussions
  • Don’t behave like an overbearing Know-it-All
  • Don’t air your company’s dirty laundry to perfect strangers
  • Don’t be rude to other participants

I don’t think anyone has ever thought that was necessary, even though we’ve all attended classes with embarrassing participants.

And I haven’t seen anything called a newsletter or publication policy that tells me what I can and cannot publish in the industry.

Why should a blog be different?

My Answers
First of all, in a blog, there’s tangible evidence, which can be spread virally and quickly. But probably more importantly than that, the blogosphere is a totally different culture than a corporation. What many of us love about the blogosphere is that it’s the place where everyone can be heard. But that can be a scary notion for someone running a corporation. Corporations are still trying to figure out blogs, as the launching of the Blog Council last year demonstrates. Some have already done a lot; others are just starting. Perhaps in a few years when corporate blogs are as common as newsletters and Web sites, the whole idea of a blogging policy will go away. But today, when to many, blogging can seem like unchartered territory run by a bunch of wild savages, perhaps it makes sense to spell out the rules as clearly as possible. Perhaps today, a blogging policy is like those reminders that teachers give students before a field trip: “Now, remember to stay with your buddy. And please listen politely to the tour guide.” Also, it’s probably a good defense against possible lawsuits: “Well, we have a policy about that.”

Other people’s answers:

  • IBM–a month or two ago, I attended a Webinar in which two ladies from IBM talked about their approach to blogs. They mentioned that IBM does not apply a lot of rules to blogging. Instead, they tell employees to think of blogging as any other business behavior and to follow the organization’s ethical guidelines and values. Makes sense.
    That said, they do have a published blogging policy that covers issues such as: disclaimers, confidential and proprietary information, copyright laws, and overall behavior
  • The New PR Wiki lists a number of blogging policies
  • Charlene Li of Forrester offers a Blogger’s Code of Ethics

What keeps CEOs and corporate lawyers up at night?
When you think about it, what a company is really worried about is:

  • Looking bad in the industry
  • Getting sued
  • Incurring some other type of penalty, whether financial or reputational
  • Having confidential information leaked

What blogging policies cover
As I looked through a variety of corporate blogging policies, here are the types of issues that they addressed:

  • Being clear on whose opinions are represented
  • Obeying laws
  • Not disclosing proprietary and confidential information
  • Behaving properly; being respectful, especially of those who disagree with you
  • Referencing and linking to others
  • Admitting mistakes
  • Identifying when employees can blog (on company time or not)
  • Handling any media contacts

So, do we really need a corporate blogging policy?
It seems like most of these are already covered in my company’s Ethics and Information Security policies. So, now I’m back to: Do we really need a corporate blogging policy?

Also, just to see what others were saying, I Googled “Corporate blogging policy.” The first two pages of returned links were all posted in 2005 or 2006. Have blogging policies already faded away into irrelevance?

What do you think?
Do any of you know? Are corporations still worrying about corporate blogging policies?  Or have they realized, as Jay Shepard noted on his Gruntled Employees blog a year ago, that all they really need to do is remind employee bloggers to: Be professional!

Woo Hoo! I’m Starting Again! February 5, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, experiments.
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After a few days away from the blogging scene, today marks the beginning of a new blogging journey.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on Michele Martin’s Bamboo Project blog and found her 31 Days to Building a Better Blog experiment. So, I dove into that. I got stuck on Day 2 though because I needed someone to conduct a Reader Audit on my blog. My husband will do it, but coordinating our schedules is often tough. So, long story short, it hasn’t happened yet.

Today, I joined the Better Blog group on ning that Michele created. Lo and behold, several others are working on a reader audit. So, I offered to audit their blogs and asked them to audit mine. Look for changes to occur as the feedback comes pouring in.

The thing I like about this particular experiment is how it focuses a number of my areas of interest and helps me achieve at least two goals at once: 1) get better at blogging and 2) understand better how social networks facilitate learning.

Remember, browsing the Web and reading are good starting points, but the doing is where the learning occurs. That’s why experiments are so important.

Woo Hoo! I Made It! February 1, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, experiments.
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Today marks the end of my 30-day experiment of blogging every day. I have to admit I’m kind of glad that it’s over. Don’t get me wrong, it was well worth the effort–even on nights like tonight when I start writing about 15 minutes before bedtime. I learned a lot about blogging in general, and I think I am more up on the learning industry because I’ve been paying more attention.

So, while the experiment ends tonight, a new one will begin tomorrow. Now that I’m on a roll, I want to slow down just a bit but maintain some consistency, so I am going to aim for 3 articles a week. I already have ideas for four.

Also, as I slow down on the posting, I want to take a more critical look at this blog in general and improve it to make a better experience for users. I want to think through the overall design and focus it a bit better, and work on adding more visuals.

A Really Cool Experiment January 24, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging.
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Earlier today, I’m not sure how, I stumbled upon a really great blogging experiment that was conducted last summer–Darren Rowse at ProBlogger conducted a group writing project called 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. Michele Martin at The Bamboo Project jumped on this project as a personal learning experiment and has documented her results on her blog.

I learned a lot just scanning through Michele’s lessons learned. Right now, I’m in a very similar place to where Michele was when she started the experiment. I’m just dipping my toes in and trying things. Michele learned a lot from her 31 Day Experiment. And I’ve decided to follow behind now, almost 6 months later–read Darren’s daily tips and do the homework assignments.

I liked Michele’s emphasis on building community, and I think that’s an aspect of blogging I haven’t thought about as much as I should. There’s so much more I could do to build community.

Just from my quick scan of Michele’s posts, here are a few areas where I know I need to improve (in no particular order):

  • Add more visuals to my site.
  • Be more focused in my posts–I’m still all over the place.
  • Install Google Analytics and pay attention to what seems to interest people.
  • Ask some people to review my blog as “first readers” to get feedback on what is effective and what is not.
  • Redesign the look of my blog. I’ve never really liked my font. It’s too small and it’s serif. And an old post from Stephen Downes on how to design a blog so you’ll be heard confirmed my hunch that I’m using the wrong font.
  • Link more and reach out to other bloggers more.
  • Step back a little bit and plan this blog more.
  • Review my posts and analyze them to see what I can do to improve.
  • Look into getting Google customized search for my page.
  • Look at my blog in different readers.

I’ve learned so much in the past hour that my head is about to explode!

Web 2.0 Moments in the World January 23, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, user experience, Web 2.0.
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It’s always interesting when new technology enters the world. People scramble to react. Some people “get it” so quickly and come up with creative uses almost as soon as the technology arrives. Other people resist kicking and screaming.

Extend the Experience
I remember how startled I was the first time my radio station DJ pointed me to her blog: “That was Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, and if you want to find out more about the Led Zeppelin Reunion tour, check out my blog at…”

Interact with Your Customers
One night when I was watching Mythbusters, I was distracted by a little bit of bright, animated text at the bottom of the screen asking me, “What’s a wiki?”. Well, it turns out that the Mythbusters have a wiki that gives their fans a number of ways to interact with the show.

Let Customers Decide
Tonight, I saw a commercial for a cartoon on Nickleodeon, El Tigre, which allows kids to vote online for the next episode’s ending. In my opinion, Nick is a real leader in this realm. As far as I know, they are the first to have a show with both an online and a TV presence–that’s iCarly.

Provide the Right Information at the Right Time
I also saw a commercial for a product by Chase that will send your credit card account information to your cell phone when you need it. Imagine that you’re in a store trying to buy a new TV set. You’re falling in love with that high-end model, but you’re not sure you can afford it. Don’t wonder. Find out. Just text Chase, and your account information is sent right to your phone. So, you can make an informed decision.

Create an Alternative Universe Online
More and more connections are happening between the online and offline worlds. More frequently, the “offline” worlds push us to go online to find out more, communicate with other like-minded individuals, and to buy. These are all little breadcrumbs to lead us increasingly online, I think. Take the consumer one step forward–give them what they’re comfortable with, but offer them more online. It’s a strategy that learning professionals can use too.

Web 2.0 is here now. It’s not the future anymore. But still I think, there’s plenty of future for it. And plenty of opportunities to create a whole new world with its capabilities.

Blog Statistics January 20, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging.
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Today, Tony Karrer’s Web Stats Meme post inspired me to take a closer look at Blog Statistics. It’s something I haven’t worried about too much yet. Since this blog is one big experiment, I’m not sure I’m really writing for anyone else. I’m more feeling my way along, and learning a heck of a lot along the way.

Important Blog Statistics
Through today’s explorations, I learned what the important stats seem to be:

  • Visits–this is the number of people coming to the site
  • Page Views–this is the number of pages visited. Since one person may view several pages, the Page Views number is usually larger than the Visits number. In Tony’s case, it was about twice as much.
  • Pages/Visit–this is the number of page views divided by the number of visitors to provide an average number of pages per visit.
  • Bounce Rate–this one was a new one to me, so I had to look it up on Wikipedia. But basically, it’s a measure of the number of visitors who come in, take one look at your site, and leave. Apparently, the ideal is to have a bounce rate of about 30%. More than that, and you need to do something to make your content or your design “stickier.”
  • Average time on the site–pretty obvious what that is.
  • Percent new visits–again pretty obvious.

Sources of Blog Traffic
It was also interesting to look at Tony’s Traffic Source View, which showed that more than half of the traffic to his site comes from Search engines. Then about a third comes from referring sites (people linking to his site). And he’s got about 14% in direct traffic, which he said comes from RSS feeds.

Google Analytics
I also found out about Google Analytics, which I can import into my page to help me keep track of my stats.

My Blog’s Stats
Of course, WordPress provides me with some stats. And I was pleased to see that the number of visits has jumped from about 0 to 29 since I recently re-started this blog . I can also see where my referrals are coming from–that is from which sites are visitors coming. And I can see which posts generated the most views.

Technorati Authority and Rank
I learned what a Technorati Authority is and why it matters: It’s basically a measure of the number of sites that link back to you. And the more sites that link to you, the more authority you have. If you have a lot of Technorati Authority, your Technorati Rank goes up.

Driving Traffic to My Blog
And I found a great post about how to increase my Technorati authority (not sure I’m really ready for that). But what I found useful were the three simple steps for driving traffic to my blog:

  1. Create good content–should be controversial, unique, or informative
  2. Link to other sites
  3. Post links to social voting sites

Those steps pretty much sum up how I’ve approached this blog. Up til now, I’ve been more interested in generating good content. Only recently have I started linking to other sites. And I have to say, I do so with trepidation because I worry that what I’m writing about wouldn’t interest anyone else. But I’m gaining confidence thanks to some of the comments I’m getting in return. So, maybe next, I’ll take a look at posting to a social voting site.

Another next step is to set myself up with an RSS feed. I’m not sure if I’ll get subscribers, but one thing is for sure: If I don’t offer RSS, I definitely never will.

Browsing the Blogosophere January 19, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, e-learning.
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As part of my study of blogging, I am also trying to pay attention to the hot conversations. The Marketing Director at my company wants me to find the “high-value” blogs for our industry–talent management. I happen to know that the Human Capital Institute pulls together a number of industry blogs to browse. So, I started there. And since my personal focus is learning and performance support, I focused on the High-Impact Learning blogs. I don’t want to call out any blogs specifically, just focus on the main topics being covered so I can see if there are any trends.

So, here’s what’s hot in High-Impact Learning:

  • How Google works
  • Online resources for learning more about new technologies–from here I linked my way to a site where you can create your own Harry Potter character avatar. My daughter has been busy for HOURS!
  • Data portability–centralizing your identity online:  good thing or bad thing
  • Mapping the domain of ignorance with a taxonomy of fallacies
  • An online community where people help to grant each others’ wishes
  • Creative training ideas mentioned in a recent issue of ASTD’s T&D magazine
  • Episode 30 of the e-Learning Lingo podcast series
  • Social networking in education–time for the hype to give way to thoughtful research
  • Virtual worlds are to become as important as the Web–references a ComputerWorld article about the recently released Forrester Report
  • Talent Development–a question from HCI about how interdisciplinary and organizational language is taken into account when developing simulations

And then if I go to my own personal faves, here’s the conversation:

  • InspireAction–Effective e-learning? It’s about a lot more than browsers:  Discusses the results of a recent survey of the top e-learning tools by ELearn magazine.
  • Karl Kapp–Web Stats Meme Answer: Talks about blog statistics in response to Tony Karrer’s e-learning technology: 2007 Traffic Stats: Hopefully a Meme; AND a callout to me! Nice! I’ll definitely have more to say about this one because it has some good thoughts about blogging stats and reasons people blog.
  • Elliott Masie–Learning Trends #499: Classroom 2.0–what will the classroom of the future be like; and Learning in a Recession.
  • TrainingDay–Low CEOs?: Talks about different ways of understanding your CEO better
  • Learning Circuits–January’s Big Question:  Asks for predictions for the learning industry in 2008.
  • Influencer by VitalSmarts–Supporting Your Social Networks: Describes tactics for becoming a valuable, supportive member of your social network
  • Will at Work Learning–Neon Elephant Award: Will awards his Neon Elephant Award to Sharon Schrock and Bill Coscarelli who wrote a book “advocating against the use of memorization-level questions in learning measurement and for the use of authentic assessment items, including scenario-based questions, simulations, and real-world skills tests.”
  • Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid E-Learning Blog–How Walt Disney Would Use PowerPoint to Create E-Learning Courses: Tom shows some good strategies for adding animations to PowerPoint, without having to be a trained graphic artist.

I guess I’m not really surprised, but the decided majority addressed issues related to using technologies for education. It took me about an hour and a half to look through all this, and I definitely learned a lot doing that.