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You Never Know Until You Try! November 30, 2009

Posted by cjescribano in experiments, social networking, Web 2.0.
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(Photo: Daniel St.Pierre / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Imagine trying to “communicate the value” of sushi to someone.

You could make a case for it as a health food. After all, it is high protein and low fat. But ultimately, you’re going to have to address the fact that sushi is basically raw fish, cold rice, and seaweed. It’s a tough sell, and yet there are lots of people who LOVE sushi. The only way to know about sushi is to try it.

The same is true for social media.


And so, in response to this month’s Learning Circuits Big Question on how to communicate the value of social learning to people in your organization, there is one simple message:

You never know until you try!

Fortunately, social media software is easily accessible and typically free, so it isn’t hard to try it.

Rather than arguing with doubters and naysayers, tell them that perhaps they are right. Perhaps social media is just a waste of time—despite examples and evidence to the contrary. But they could also be wrong. And they’ll never know until they try. Then, get them to agree to do a 30-day Experiment.

The 30-Day Experiment
The 30-Day Experiment has been my personal learning tool for figuring out social media, how I can use it, and how it might help my clients. Basically, for 30 days, I commit to daily immersion in a specific social media tool or site, and I capture my observations about the experience and what I learned.

Here’s how you could use the 30-Day Experiment with clients, colleagues, and management to help them see the value of social media for themselves:

  1. Determine a critical business need that social media could address.
  2. Use social media to create a solution to meet that need.
  3. Assemble your test group and tell them:
    -How important their input is for determining how social media might help their organization
    -That you need daily participation and honest feedback
    -The value of an open mind
    -How to use the site
    -How to capture their experiences and insights so that they can send them to you (You can give them a feedback form for this, or better yet, use the social media tool to collect their feedback)
  4. Begin the experiment. Send regular reminders and suggestions for things the test group can try on the social media site. Stay as curious and scientific as possible. Demonstrate the value of an open mind.
  5. Collect the feedback, analyze the data, and put together a report of your findings.
  6. Assemble the group and share your findings and discuss people’s experiences during the experiment. Find out:
    -What surprised members of the test group
    -What they liked about the social site
    -What other ideas they have for using social media in the organization
    -What they found difficult or unpleasant and how to avoid those negatives in the future

There’s no guarantee that your 30-Day Experiment will sell the people in your organization on social media. But it will give you valuable information for overcoming objections. And my experience has been that getting people to try something and to think objectively about their experience can save a lot of time and energy that would otherwise be spent arguing, persuading, and “communicating the value.”

P.S. The 30-Day Experiment is also useful for groups who have already bought into social media. It’s a great way to get a group to focus on learning more about a specific tool or method.


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.

Buzzin’ on the Biz for 4/14 – 4/18/08 April 17, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Learning, training industry, Web 2.0.
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The Buzz was busy as a bee this week, so this is a slightly abridged version. I didn’t have time to look through all 50 blogs I usually track. But here’s a run-down of the professional organizations. Plus some summaries of articles worth reading out there. Enjoy!

Also, a quick glance through my RSS aggregator showed a lot of references to the E-Learning Guild Annual Gathering. So, if you want to catch up on that event, plenty out there to read.

Buzz in the Professional Organizations

  • ASTD Learning Circuits: April’s Big Question: What would you like to do better as a learning professional? There are some interesting answers to this question–about interactivity, ROI, and pushing back. There’s even a post from Bulgaria.

  • E-Learning Guild: Reminder to members to update survey responses on the Guild’s Web sites. (not updated since end of March–probably busy with the AG.)

  • ELearn Magazine: Usability testing of e-learning. Interesting article that talks about why to usability test and provides tactical information about how to test.

  • Training and Development Blog: Celebrate Diversity!–article calling for companies to celebrate April as Diversity month. There’s also a good article on April 4 about problems with communicating with millenials.

  • The MASIE Center: Masie’s learnings and impressions from his Learning Systems event last week where he met with 370 learning leaders to talk about learning and LMSs/LCMSs. Also, info about an interesting learning event in Atlanta for high school students–called FIRST Robotics Co-opetition. “It involves intentional use of a game challenge, atmosphere, coaching, “gracious professionalism”, short/intense action spurts and a design/build experience. Creative use of “failure” is also leveraged in a way that could be deeply emulated within corporate learning designs.”–Intriguing! Masie will be live blogging on this event and posting video interviews.

  • Training Day: Discusses ways to relieve stress at work.

  • Educause: Several new books are featured; there’s also an interesting article about a keynote speech at the 2008 Midwest Regional Conference, in which Susan Metros talked about new IT strategies for a digital society.


The Power of Networking
Really, really great article about a group of bloggers who met online, wrote a book together, and finally decided to meet in person. Talks about the value of having a powerful social network.

What Work-Learning Audit Reveals
Will Thalheimer, who always offers excellent analyses of what’s going on in the learning world, provides some interesting data about where learning happens for retail clerks (hint: only a small part happens in classrooms and e-learning).

Seven Habits of Highly Connected People by Stephen Downes
Really good list of habits for a socially networked world. Good snapshot of the Web 2.0 culture.

Extreme User Research
This may seem old-hat to analysis pros, but I think this article puts forth a quick and easy way to get valuable user data for a design. I especially like that he uses sticky notes to organize his data and look for patterns.

Running Virtual Groups
Jay Cross posts some lessons learned from interviews that he conducted at a company that “lives and breathes community.” Another good description of Web 2.0 culture.

Buzzin’ on the Biz March 6, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in blogging, e-learning, Learning, social networking, training industry, Web 2.0.

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

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.


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:

Formal Learning at TechKnowledge March 1, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Formal learning, Learning, Web 2.0.
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I’m just back from the ASTD TechKnowledge conference in San Antonio. I forgot how intense conferences can be, especially when you’re presenting. I had planned on blogging every night to share what I was learning. But most nights, by the time dinner was over, I was so exhausted, I just went to bed. And then there was the piano bar night, but that’s another story.

Anyway, since many presenters spoke about formal, non-formal, and informal learning, I thought that I would provide a quick summary of all the things I learned–both formally at the sessions and informally the rest of the time.

This post summarizes the formal sessions. Stay tuned for my informal learning anecdotes.

David Pogue’s opening session:
Despite a last-minute hard-drive crash, David gave an interesting and entertaining overview of four key technologies to watch, including:

  • Phone and internet devices, such as Voice over IP
  • Ala carte TV and movies
  • Wireless everywhere, beyond laptops
  • Web 2.o

He ended his session by putting his musical talents to work with some side-splitting renditions of popular songs, for example a song about long waits on help lines sung to The Sound of Silence.

Will Thalheimer’s Measuring Learning Results:
Several years ago, I happened upon Will’s Work-Learning Research site and have found it very helpful in finding ways to make learning as effective as possible. So, when I saw him on the schedule, I went to the session to see him in person as much as anything else. It was a great session in which he guided the group through some thinking about how to best measure learning results, including:

  • Conducting assessments at different intervals after a learning event
  • Conducting assessments in different contexts
  • Making tests as authentic as possible

Some of what he presented, I recognized from a wonderful tutorial called Don’t Forget Forgetting that he published on his blog about a year ago. Because of that tutorial, I have been focusing training designs more on transference to the job and on-the-job support. This session just reinforced that shift.

Lance Dublin’s Exploring Emergine Learning 2.0 Technologies:
In this session, I learned a new term: “nonformal learning,” which is a structured form of informal learning. Lance gave a whirlwind overview of the evolution of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and predicted the future of the Semantic Web in which the computer can look at your patterns of online behavior and begin to suggest links to you. He also gave many good examples of how various Web 2.0 technologies have been applied for learning.

Joe Miller of Linden Lab’s overview of Second Life:
Joe provided a nice overview of Second Life. Much of it, I already knew, but I heard about some exciting new features, such as 3D voice, mobile clients for cell phones, and revamped search capabilities. He also talked about some sites I’m interested in checking out, such as Vassar’s Sistine Chapel inworld. And he also showed some examples of “Mixed Reality” situations where live events had Second Life components.

UBS’s case study on developing simulations using SimWriter:
It was interesting to see the thought processes behind the design of the simulation, and we got to try out the SimWriter software.

Kevin Jones’s Learning 2.0–The Learning Revolution:
This was a very valuable session for me because Kevin laid out 7 key things to consider when implementing Web 2.0 technologies in an organization, including:

  • The current learning environment
  • Which technical principles to capitalize on and when
  • The type of environment that will be best for the organization and when to introduce pieces of the solution
  • How to implement the human principles of social learning
  • How to anticipate and overcome objections
  • How to introduce and manage the implementation
  • Creating a plan to build momentum

Kevin had recently completed a Learning 2.0 project for a client/employer, so he had good stories to tell about what worked and what didn’t. The worksheet he provided for thinking through the implementation will be useful to me right away.

JIMPACT Closing Session:
Jim “Mr. Energy” Smith did a great job of bringing the session to a close and helping us to see how we could apply all that we had learned. He offered a wonderful 5-step process for anchoring your learning:

  1. Get on your manager’s calendar right away so you can tell him/her about what you’ve learned and how those learnings could help your organization. If you’re having trouble getting in touch with your manager, send e-mail teasers.
  2. Show your manager what you learned in an engaging way. Get him/her involved. Make your presentation a good experience for him/her.
  3. Show your manager your plan for implementing what you learned. Be sure to include how you’ll measure results.
  4. Put together an affinity group to help you achieve your goals; make sure you’re not the smartest person in the group.
  5. Believe in you!

I also loved some of Jim’s pithy quotes like: “You’ll always get what you’ve always gotten until you become the person you’ve never been.” and “You are the CEO of You.” and “Grow through the conference.” and “Does your difference make a difference?”
He also talked about creating a highlight reel every month of your accomplishments–great idea!

Overwhelmed 2.0 February 14, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in social networking, tools, Web 2.0.

Overwhelmed 1.0
During Overwhelmed 1.0, I was bogged down writing storyboards for converting hundreds of hours of instructor-led training to e-learning. Then, when learners couldn’t stand taking that much e-learning all at once, I was busy combining e-learning with classroom sessions and job aids to create a “blended solution.”

Too Many Possibilities
With Web 2.0, I’m overwhelmed all over again, but in a different way. Now, I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities for blending–so many tools and technologies to deliver content, training, and information to my target audience. Just when I’m starting to figure out to use a blog or a wiki in my training solutions, I discover that perhaps I should find out about Twittr. Then suddenly, all my friends are inviting me to join their social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, and ning. Oh, and I can’t forget the whole new world that text-messaging opens up.

Learning Takes Time
I love these tools. Their potential excites me. But to really use a tool well, you need time to play with it and get to know it. My colleague, Rob, is a genius with Adobe Presenter (formerly Breeze). We’ve worked on several projects together, and he never ceases to amaze me with the clever ways he works around the “walls” of the tool. If someone says, “Presenter doesn’t do that,” Rob takes it as a challenge to figure out how. He refuses to take “no” for an answer. And because he works with, and more importantly, plays with Presenter almost everyday, he knows its rules well enough to break them.

But There Is No Time
You can’t know a tool that well if you’re trying to learn 12 different tools at once–at least I can’t. I get overwhelmed. And yet, it’s my  job to know enough about these tools to help my clients use them to meet their needs.

So, what’s an overwhelmed person to do?
Well, my answer to that question is to use my network. I don’t have to know all about every tool because I have colleagues who do. I can specialize in one or two, learn their rules (so I can break them). Then when I need help with LiveWriter, I can turn to Dennis. Or I can ask Cindy about wikis, Laura for Facebook, Joe for Flash, and of course, Rob for Presenter.

That’s the beauty of a social network, right? It’s like a zone defense. If we each cover a couple of tools, we’ll have the whole field covered. And we can still sleep at night.

So, what’s your answer?
How do you keep up with all the new tools?

Webkinz as Learning Tool January 29, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in e-learning, Learning, social networking, Web 2.0.

Webkinz–the Social Networking Tool for the Youngest Set
For the past 6 months or so, I’ve watched over my daughter’s shoulder as she played in the world of Webkinz. If you’ve never heard of it, Webkinz is probably the most brilliant marketing scheme ever. Your child buys a stuffed animal for about $12 to $15 and can then participate in a whole online world geared toward those “pets” and their owners. While not a true social networking site, Webkinz is the first step in that direction. But what I’ve been impressed with, as I watched my child become totally absorbed in this world, is how much she’s learning.

What Can Kids Learn on Webkinz?
On Webkinz, my daughter “earns” KinzCash by playing games and doing jobs. And she can shop for virtual items she’d like to “buy” with her KinzCash. She has to take care of her pets or their health and happiness meters go down. She takes her pets to school where they work on various skills. And at Quizzy’s Question Corner, she can work on her own science, math, reading, and other academic skills. Also, scheduled events help her learn to keep an eye on and manage time. There’s no one telling her any of this, but the types of things she’s learning include:

  • The value of taking care of things
  • The value of a job well done
  • How to manage money
  • How to manage time
  • Not to mention all the little pieces of knowledge she picks up in games and quizzes

She’s learning in a very real way by the results of her own actions. And the good news is  that learning in Webkinz translates to the real world. For example, it isn’t such a large leap from saving KinzCash to buy virtual items to saving allowance money to buy real items.

Webkinz Motivates Reading
About the time that I was checking out Webkinz and composing this post in my head, I stumbled on an edublog post about how Webkinz motivates younger kids to read so they can do more in Webkinz world.

For the most part, the commenters, most of whom seem to be educators, agree that Webkinz is a powerful learning tool. One teacher even had her 10th graders use it to teach safety to younger kids.

What Ideas Can Translate to Adult Learning?
As a parent, I think WebKinz is a good learning tool. As an e-learning developer, I’m impressed as heck. And I’ve been looking at it pretty closely to see what strategies I can use to keep my learners as engaged as my daughter is on WebKinz.

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.