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A Twitter Experiment June 21, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in change management, experiments, Learning, Twitter, Uncategorized.

I have recently started using Twitter as a way of staying on track with my goals.

I’ve never been very disciplined with goals. This blog is the perfect example. You can see when my enthusiasm spikes and I write some posts. And then when my enthusiasm wanes, there are long gaps. I have the best of intentions, but mostly those intentions are overcome by events. Too much going on, so I say, “I’ll write that post tomorrow.” And tomorrow turns into the next day and the next, then the next week and the next. Then the next month. And all those good intentions evaporate into nothingness.

Lately, I’ve come to believe that the way to make a change, to learn something new and make it part of your life is to commit to it daily, to do something toward that goal everyday.

I suppose I could do that here, but Twitter seemed a better approach, more suited to the small steps forward that I think will help me achieve my goals.

So, a week ago, I started off, and for my first goal, I chose communicating more effectively. I am fortunate to work with many effective communicators. And I watch as the people in a meeting hang on every word they say, but turn deaf ears to what I say—even when we’re basically saying the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pitched an idea in a meeting that met with lukewarm reception, and then someone else pitched the same idea a half hour later that was received enthusiastically. So, I decided to focus on this skill of effective communication for a while and see where it takes me.

As guides, I have two books: 1) The Power to Connect by Teresa and Chuck Easler and Words that Change Minds by Shelle Rose Charvet.

Each day, I read from these books and make my notes in Twitter: LLLearningLab. Follow along with me as I work day-by-day to become a better communicator.


Getting Unstuck April 30, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in training industry, Uncategorized, Web 2.0.
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This month’s Learning Circuits Big Question asks if we are feeling stuck because of our clients’ or organizations’ insistence on using the same old training approaches.

Unfortunately, that is a common problem that designers face , especially those of us who make it a point to keep up on new thinking and new technology. We’re halfway down a path that our clients, bosses, and even peers are just getting to. We have to wait for them to reach a level of comfort that we’ve been living with for awhile.

But I don’t think we have to stay stuck. We can give our clients and our organizations the benefit of our experience to help them move down that path a bit more quickly.

Here are a couple of strategies that I use to help convince clients, bosses, and peers to try something new.

1) Show, Don’t Tell
After many failed attempts at convincing someone of a great new approach, I’ve come to realize that telling someone about my ideas is generally a waste of time. They’ll argue about it. They’ll list a slew of reasons that it won’t work, and I’ll waste a lot of energy fighting that uphill battle. Luckily, with today’s free and easy-to-use technologies, we don’t have to waste our time telling; we can build a quick prototype to show what we mean.

This “Show” approach worked well recently with a client who wanted an e-learning course on doing business in other countries. He wanted learners to be able to quickly get up-to-speed on common business practices in a country before going there. The more he described his goals, the more I thought that a wiki was a better option than a traditional e-learning. But my client had no idea what a wiki is. So, I went to wikispaces and in about an hour’s time, I set up a prototype using my client’s content. When he saw it, he knew that was exactly what he needed. No arguments. No selling. Just the testimony of something that he could see would work.

2) Talk to your audience’s needs
It’s a basic rule of good design, but something we can forget when in the throes of excitement about a new idea: Know your audience.

Your client, your boss, and your peers have needs. And if you can show them how your approach will meet those needs, then you’ll quickly find resistance replaced with enthusiasm.

Recently, many of my friends have asked, “Why would I want to go on Facebook?” The term “social media” doesn’t mean much to them. They haven’t been out there, so they can’t see its benefits. I ask them: Do you have friends around the world you wish you were in more frequent contact with? Do you wish you were better at staying in touch with people? Do you ever wonder what happened to your best friend from high school? Do you ever wish there was an easy way to share your vacation photos with all of your friends? Suddenly, they’re interested–because I’m talking about things that matter to them.

Be careful with the words you use. Words like “blog,” “wiki,” and “social network” can scare some people away because they can sound like some new teenager trend. Instead, talk about a knowledge repository or a professional community. Listen to what’s important to your clients and colleagues, and be sure to use those same words when you talk about your ideas.

If all else fails…

…Find a community of people to keep you inspired
Even if you’re never able to convince your client or your organization to adopt your exciting new approaches, don’t let that keep you stuck. It’s so easy these days to find like-minded people who will help you grow your talents and keep you inspired.

Not too long after one of my clients told me that they didn’t see any educational uses for Second Life, I met an educational professional who is actively advocating the use of Second Life for educational purposes and helping clients to realize its benefits. He had just spent more time playing and experimenting in Second Life, so he could see possibilities where my client saw obstacles.

Use free software to test out your ideas, and then get feedback and support from other adventurers. The only way to really understand the uses for a new technology is to try it out.

There’s simply no reason at all to stay stuck. It’s just up to you to keep moving forward, and the more you know, the better able you’ll be to drag your clients, bosses, and peers along with you.

Experimenting with Microsoft LiveWriter and Publishing Dates April 17, 2008

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Today, I am experimenting with Microsoft Windows LiveWriter. I do like the interface, and it appears to be easy to use. In fact, I clicked Publish to see if it gave me any publishing options, and boom!–post was published.

There are two features that I’m looking for in LiveWriter that I’m not seeing:

  1. The ability to export a Post to Word so that I can share a post with someone else offline–for example, suppose my manager wants to see a post before I publish it. There doesn’t seem to be an option to do that. I’ve got to do a bit more research to see if there’s something I haven’t seen. But my quick glance through the menus and the help does not show this kind of feature. So, I guess instead I can: 1) Copy the post to Word to send to others or 2) Post to an internal blog site that’s set up for just this kind of review. I’m leaning toward option 2.
  2. The ability to write a post and then publish it at a later date. Again, I don’t see that option in LiveWriter. But I think I’ve found it here in WordPress. So, I’m going to try it now. Right now, it is April 15 (Tax Day!) at 6:04 a.m. I’m going to set this post to publish on April 17 at 6:00 a.m. Let’s see what it does!

What I Learned from Howling at the Moon March 27, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Uncategorized.
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As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the great experiences I had in San Antonio was at a piano bar called Howl at the Moon. Those musicians were masters at creating a totally engaging audience experience, something so “sticky” that it was really hard to leave, even after a long hard day of conference attending.

So, I wanted to step back from the experience a bit and think about the elements of that experience. What specifically was it that made it such a great experience?  How could I translate that to learning design?

So, here are the reasons I stayed and stayed at Howl at the Moon, with some thoughts on how instructional designers might use those same approaches to keep learners engaged:

  1. Relevance and emotional appeal: They played songs that I knew, and more importantly, songs from my past that carried an emotional appeal. When they sang Queen’s Somebody to Love, I felt like I was in high school all over again.
    Implications for learning design: Make it relevant to the learners; tie to what they already know or have experienced, and ideally, tie to a past experience that has a positive emotional association for them. So, for example, if you’re launching a new initiative for an organization, try to relate that experience to a successful initiative from the past.
  2. Audience control: Through their requests, the audience determined what music was played.
    Implications for learning design: Allow the learner to control the environment. That’s easily done in a Web-based environment. For a classroom session, a show of hands can be used to let learners request what’s important to them. Or perhaps, you could use a flipchart as a request board.
  3. Audience Expression: The audience could express themselves not only through requests, but also by paying to have their messages written on the mirrors behind the pianos. These messages could be anything–a quote, a greeting, some teasing or taunting; one guy even advertised his accounting services. They changed throughout the night as people paid to have their messages featured.
    Implications for learning design: Let audience members express themselves during your training–perhaps using something like Twitter. Or you could have a flipchart up throughout a class where they can post comments when they see fit.
  4. Friendly Competition: They included some friendly competition, such as seeing who could sing louder–the men or the women.
    Implications for learning design: Use friendly competition to motivate people to try a little harder. For example, you could have teams compete to see which group can best summarize the key messages from the class.
  5. Surprises: There were lots of surprises. You weren’t sure what they were going to do next, so you stuck around to find out. They previewed these surprises a bit too, like TV shows do, so you’d stay a bit longer to see how things turned out.
    Implications for learning design: Throw in some surprises. Sometimes we’re so focused on making things “user-friendly,” that we hold people’s hands too much. We take away the excitement that comes of figuring things out for yourself. Or we’re so consistent that we put learners to sleep. Every now and then we need to shake learners up so they wake up and learn.
  6. Easy to Participate: They made it easy to participate. You could tap your toes, clap your hands, sing along, send money in for requests. You never even had to leave your chair if you didn’t want to. Braver souls might stand up and dance. The really daring would go up on the stage to be picked on, while the rest of the audience enjoyed the hazing from afar.
    Implications for learning design: Give people a low threshold for interacting at first. Don’t expect them to jump in and start role-playing or ad-libbing at first. Build them up to those more interactive activities. Recognize that some people just don’t want to have the spotlight on them, and give them unobtrusive ways to participate.
  7. Changed Up the Leads: There were about 5 musicians–two playing piano, one playing guitar, one playing bass, and one playing drums. All 5 musicians could play all the instruments, so there was a lot of rotating. That provided a lot of variety in style and songs.
    Implications for learning design: Change up the people who are leading the learning experience. For a facilitated session, have different facilitators for different segments. For a Web-based course, use different narrators or different coach characters.
  8. Pacing: They kept the pace moving. There was never any down time, so we never had a chance to think, “Maybe I should leave now.” Instead, the next song would start playing, and we’d think, “Well, let’s just stay for this one more song.” Needless to say, that went on for many, many songs.
    Implications for learning design: Think carefully about the pacing of your course and how you can optimize that. Keep learners so engaged that they never have time to think about clicking off to something else. This means catching them right away with an intriguing idea and then giving them something they have to do to follow the path of that idea.
  9. Know Your Audience: They talked to us as if they knew us, and they did. Their comments, such as, “I bet you guys really want…” hit the mark pretty much every time.
    Implications for learning design: Know your audience, and be sure that they know you know them. There’s nothing so satisfying as feeling that someone understands you and knows what you need.
  10. Appeal to the Senses: The experience at Howl at the Moon was definitely multi-sensory. There was a lot to look at, especially when people were willing to get up on stage and make fools of themselves. Of course, there was great music to hear. The beer was good, so we had something good to taste. I can’t say much for the smell, and I don’t think I really touched anything, but the kinesthetic sense of dancing to the music felt good.
    Implications for learning design: Think about classes you attended in the past where all the materials were bullet points in black and white. Dulled your senses, right? Think about adding some color, some sound, some motion, maybe even a little taste to your learning materials and activities.
  11. Involved the whole body: When they played a good song, it was almost impossible to sit still, and the musicians encouraged people to get up and dance. So, my whole body was engaged in the experience. I was singing, clapping, dancing, laughing. It was as much a physical experience as an emotional or mental one.
    Implications for learning design: Look for ways to involve audience members physically. This could be as simple as providing play-doh or pipecleaners on the table so that kinesthetic learners have something to play with while they learn. Or provide activities that force learners to get up and move to different parts of the classroom. Set up stations and have them travel to each station to complete activities. Current brain research shows that exercise prepares the brain to learn and increases intelligence. So, think about staging a few optional physical activities for ice-breakers or optional break activities.

Experiment Status January 27, 2008

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Here is the weekly update on experiment status:
Experiment 1: Writing in my blog everyday–Continues to be successful. It may look like I did not blog last Friday, but that was due to technical difficulties, not laziness. The post was ready to go, but I kept getting error messages when I tried to publish. So, I had to wait til Saturday to publish. You’ll notice that there are two posts for yesterday. I have to admit that I’ll be kind of glad on Thursday when I don’t feel the pressure to blog everyday. I like the exercise, but I think everyday is just too frequently. I plan to continue 3 times a week in February. My goal is to continue 3 times a week for the rest of the year. 


Experiment 2: Nutrition Experiment–I’ve been taking my “magic potion” (as I call the drinkable vitamin solution) everyday since January 1. My fingernails continue to get harder. I can only imagine what is happening to my brain and the other parts of my body.

Experiment 3: Blog Strategy–I presented the Blog Strategy for my company to some other colleagues. I’ll be getting more feedback from them next week. I need to reschedule a meeting with my rector and the head of Adult Christian education to get the church blog strategy back on track. 

Experiment 4: Act As If–I keep forgetting to do this one. Maybe four experiments at one time is just too many.

Experiment 5: 31 Days to a Better Blog–4 experiments may be too many, but that won’t stop me from adding yet one more. I guess this one is really more of a sub-set of #1. This past week, I discovered an interesting experiment that someone else conducted last summer–a blog class of sorts to help people improve their blogs. I started down the 31-day path, but I got stuck on Day 2 when I needed to do a Reader Audit with someone who had never seen my blog before. My husband says he’ll do it, but catching him when we’re not busy or tired is tough. My friend, Heather, was going to do it on Saturday, but she got sick. So, I’ll try again next week. Meanwhile, I plan to join the community of people who are dedicated to improving their blogs.

Today’s Web 2.0 Experiment January 27, 2008

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Tonight, I went into my e-mail to get a coupon for Papa John’s pizza, and I saw this little message:

Text Pizza Ad

It felt like a challenge. Was I up for ordering pizza via text?

I’m fairly new to texting. I really only “got” it last November. Up until then, I joked with friends that if they texted me, they’d have to call me to let me know because I would never think to look for text messages and I’d have no idea how to read them, much less reply to them. My brother is a big texter, so when we were travelling together, I asked him to show me how, and it was fun. We whiled away our waits at different terminals of Toronto’s airport, having a nice text conversation.

So, ordering pizza via text is a big step forward for this Baby Boomer. I struggled through figuring out how to get numeric digits and upper-case letters. (I usually just use lowercase and spell out numbers.) But, hey, I learned something new. And now I’m psyched! The next time, it’ll be much easier, and faster.

Before I could actually do the texting, I had to go to papajohns.co, set up for texting, and choose some “favorite” orders. Then all I had to do was text the number of my “favorite” (FAV3) to the designated number. Right away, I got a message back summarizing my order. Then I had to reply with a Y3. I had imagined some young kid sitting there texting people back, but the system must be automated because when I texted Thx in response to a summary of my order, I got an error message.

Anyway, it worked–30 minutes later, the pizzas arrived!

More and more, learning strategies are heading toward texting and mobile devices as we try to reach and teach the generation that already lives and thrives with this technology. And the only way I can be ready for the day when my learning design includes learners looking up information on their cell phones and answering questions is to jump in and use the technology. After all, it’s really more about the culture and the way it feels to order a pizza via text message than it is about the technology. The technology makes it happen. It’s up to us to make it cool. The only way I know how to do that is to jump in and try.

Sometimes Skiing Trumps Blogging January 22, 2008

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Need I say more?

Well, maybe so, but it will have to wait til tomorrow. All I’ve got left today is a hot shower and bed!

Quick Experiment Status January 21, 2008

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Here is the weekly update on experiment status:Experiment 1: Writing in my blog everyday–Continues to be successful and I notice a lot of progress in my knowledge of blogging in general and of the learning industry as well. Blogging everyday forces me to pay attention to what other people are saying and to think about what it means to me.

Experiment 2: Nutrition Experiment–I’ve been taking my “magic potion” (as I call the drinkable vitamin solution) everyday since January 1. Just this week, I began to notice that my fingernails are beginning to feel stronger again. About a week ago, they were paper thin. They’re still a bit flimsy, but definitely feeling stronger. From this, I think I can say that it takes about two weeks for the vitamins to start working.

Experiment 3: Blog Strategy–I’ve done a lot this past week on blog strategy. I’ve mapped out a beginning blog strategy for both my church and my company. One of the things that’s interesting is how different the strategies are since they are too very different organizations. For the church, I’m interested in building a community with an existing congregation. If we bring in others, that would be good, but not essential. For my company, we want to drive traffic to our site, so I have to keep that in mind. 

Experiment 4: Act As If–Relapsed into old habits on this one this week. But I keep trying.

Blog Strategy, Step 1 January 16, 2008

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Today I spoke with my company’s Marketing Director to talk through our blog strategy. He had some good ideas. His primary concerns were:

  • How we could link strategically to “high value” organizations, which would then raise the value of our blog.
  • How the blog could lead people back to our Web site.

We decided to focus on finding blogs that we think our primary customers will be reading. To start, we’ll follow those blogs and leave comments. That will give us a good background to begin building our own “high value” blog.

In a couple of days, I will have the same conversation with the rector and adult studies director at my church. As I think through these blog strategies, here are the questions I am asking:

  • What is the purpose of this blog? What will it do for the organization?
  • Who is the audience for this blog? And what will they see as its benefits? What will keep them coming back?
  • Should this be a public or private blog?
  • How often should posts be published?
  • Who should be responsible for publishing posts? Should we have a single author for a consistent voice? Or multiple authors?
  • What topics will we focus on?
  • What will be the sources for our content?
  • What are our editorial guidelines?
  • What is the “personality” of our blog?
  • Based on the “personality,” what should our blog look like?
  • What other tools do we want to provide to our visitors (polls, links, gadgets)?
  • How will we describe our blog to visitors?

I’ve begun to answer these questions for both my company and my church. And the answers are very different–which tells me I’m probably on the right track of honing in on what’s important in designing a blog strategy.

Experiment Status January 12, 2008

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It occurred to me recently that I ought to post regular updates on the status of my experiments. So, here’s what I’ve got going so far:

Experiment 1: Writing in my blog everyday–Successful so far. I have posted to this blog everyday since Jan. 1. For some reason my January 2 post got pushed to January 3. But you’ll notice there are two Jan. 3 posts. It has been powerful for me to blog everyday. Lots of ideas are bubbling up into my head because now they know they have some place to go. Oddly, I seem to be writing a lot about NLP topics.

Experiment 2: Nutrition Experiment–I’ve been taking my “magic potion” (as I call the drinkable vitamin solution) everyday since January 1. I haven’t noticed any big changes yet. My fingernails are still soft and broken–not long and hard like they were in November. So, nothing much to report here.

Experiment 3: Blog Strategy–I need to do some more research on blog strategy. This experiment hasn’t really gotten off the ground yet. I guess I should pull my focus on that for the next couple of weeks.

Experiment 4: Act As If–This one has been working out well. Acting as if definitely changes my own behavior, which I notice impacts how others behave.