Monthly Archives: February 2009

TwitterSheep portrait

TwitterSheep draws a tag cloud from the profiles of people who follow you on Twitter. Mine is a good fit with my own self image. Birds of a feather?


Of course, you can look over the tag clouds of other Twitterers, too. Try to match the person with the clouds below:

  • Tony Karrer
  • Jane Hart
  • Britney Spears
  • George Siemens
  • Marcia Conner (who turned me on to TwitterSheep)











Answers under the fold.

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A new model for training

This is an excerpt from The training department of the future by Harold Jarche and Jay Cross. See the full article at the togetherLearn site.

A New Model for Training

Workers at the the bottom of the traditional organizational pyramid are those who interact closest with their environment (market, customers, information). To be effective today they need to be constantly probing and trying out better ways of work. Management’s job is to assist this dynamic flow of sense-making and to respond to workers’ needs, within a trusted network of information and knowledge sharing.

The main objective of the new training department is to enable knowledge to flow in the organization. The primary function of learning professionals within this new work model is connecting and communicating, based on three core processes:

* Facilitating collaborative work and learning amongst workers, especially as peers.

* Sensing patterns and helping to develop emergent work and learning practices.

* Working with management to fund and develop appropriate tools and processes for workers.

The only certainty about the future from here on out is that it won’t resemble the past. For example, instructional designers no longer have time to develop formal courses. Survival requires people who can navigate a rapidly-changing maze at high speed. They need to find their own curriculum, figure out an appropriate way to learn it, and get on with it. It’s cliché to say that people have to learn how to learn. Management needs to support self-learning, not direct it.

Workers will also have to be their own instructional designers, selecting the best methods of learning. Furthermore, given the increasingly reciprocal nature of knowledge work, they will have to know how to teach. Each one-teach-one is at the heart of invent-as-you-go learning. The training department should be encouraging and supporting these activities.

Harold and I are members of togetherLearn. Organizations call on us for help building ecologies where work and learning are one and the same, where people help one another build competency and master new crafts, and where workers strive to be all they can be. Open, participative, bottom-up, networked, flexible, responsive: that’s learning with business impact.

eLearning is not the answer

eLearning is not a big cost-cutter

bullCorporations are flocking to eLearning for all the wrong reasons. It’s cheaper: no travel, no facilities cost, no instructor salaries. This sort of fanciful thinking tripped up eLearning ten years ago.

In that first wave of eLearning, venture capitalists and the learning industry saw fortunes to be made by replacing instructors with computers. It didn’t work. Clive Shepard wrote about this a few months back. Here’s what I was blogging five years ago:

When I began writing about eLearning in 1998, some of us felt the training industry had struck gold! We were going to change the world and pick up some dot-com riches while we did it. Irrational exuberance? We didn’t think so at the time. eLearning was going to make email look like a rounding error. It reminded me of the spirit of Woodstock. People in the business exchanged knowing smiles. “We must be in heaven, man!”

What happened? We fumbled the implementation. We naively expected workers to flock to the glowing screens. We thought we could take the instructors out of the learning process and let workers gobble up self-paced (i.e., “don’t expect help from us”) lessons on their own. We were wrong. First-generation eLearning was a flop. Companies licensed “libraries” of content no one paid attention to. PowerPoint became the authoring language of choice. (Personally, I get more content from a Jackson Pollock drip painting than from someone else’s PowerPoint slides.) Dropout rates were horrendous. After-the-fact finger pointing is not productive. I don’t use the term eLearning much these days.

If you want outcomes that are comparable or better than what you were getting from instructor-led workshops, you have to do more than just throw things online. You have to support electronic offerings with mentors, guides, help desks, FAQs, reinforcement, and organizational support. eLearning is not a free lunch.

Poorly implemented eLearning is a more expensive alternative to doing nothing at all, and often the results would be the same.

Well-executed eLearning makes learning more accessible but it’s rarely going to double or triple one’s return on investment. eLearning is an incremental improvement, not a game-changer.

Natural (“pull”) learning has the real profit potential

Corporations can make the learning function many times more effective by shifting their orientation from push learning to pull learning.


Concepts at work in pull learning include:

  • Learning on demand, immediate reinforcement
  • Learning while working, not separate from working
  • Self-service, flexible delivery, convenience
  • Peer learning, communities of practice, collaboration
  • Small chunks, links for further discovery
  • Holistic, process orientation

Facilitating pull learning requires building learning ecosystems that bind workers together instead of developing courses and events. Replacing instructor-led events with living networks yields astounding gains in productivity.

Pull learning is not always appropriate; its application calls for judgment. For example regulations specify push learning for compliance training. Highly structured learning is appropriate for learning some technical skills. Face-to-face is unparalleled for changing behavior and rallying emotions. Simulations fall into a space somewhere between push and pull. Virtual Princeton will never be the same as being there in person. Nonetheless, most corporate learning is informal; improving the channels for pull learning makes it more effective.

Origins of term eLearning

The eLearning Museum

Videocam becomes still cam?

I splurged and bought myself to a snazzy HD Canon videocam. I still figuring out how it works but it’s clearly a powerful little machine.

I need a new still cam soon. Ever since bouncing off some cobblestones in Rome, my beloved little Casio Xilim camera has been acting crazy. It had not occurred to me when I bought it, but should I simply use the new Canon for both video and stills?

This afternoon the rains stopped long enough for me to take my standard 25-minute walk through the North Berkeley neighborhood. I took the videocam along to take stills, for example:

Home in North Berkeley hills

Our humble house.

Meyer lemon paradise

Meyer lemons on the tree out front.

View of the bridge are a recurrent miracle

We are directly across from the Golden Gate.

For you Jay-groupies, here’s a slideshow. Here are the pics. The colors are garish, but I assume there’s a way to tame that down. What do you think? Good enough to use as a primary cam? What’s been your experience in using a single cam for video and stills?

Yesterday I made a practice video to see how that works. This was impromptu, unscripted, low light, easy-mode recording. It’s not pro quality but in time, and with friends’ help, I should be able to create what I am looking for.

Telling stories to "work the past"


Working the Past by Charlotte Linde

Linde is an anthropologist who worked on a three-year study of a large insurance company as part of a team from the Institute for Research on Learning.

She’s right that stories are an important way for organizaitons to find and uphold their identities. Want to preserve and protect a corporate culture? Tell and retell stories.

Within business and management studies, the question of the past and its presetvation is both a concern — and also a business opportunity. As U.S. businesses continue the more than a decade of downsizing that we have seen since the arly 1990s, and as the cohort of the baby boomer generation begins to reach retirement age, there is a concern about losing knowledge central to the operation of the business.

After all, how much cutting and outsourcing can a company live through until the essence of that company disappears?

(The insurance company Linde studied) is not unusal in having its narratives focus on identity: who the company is, what qualities the company and its members are expected to exhibit, how the changes in the present are necessary to preserve the fundamental nature of the company.

The past is a mental construct, a variable rather than a constant.

Identity and memory are acts of construction. The past is not inert, not written in stone as we used to say before the digital age. …various representations of past events are brought into the present to shape the future by continuous work, large-scale work, and intimate work, by collectivites and individuals.

In the rush to rapid eLearning and small chunks, let’s not forget the importance of the stories and myths that reify the soul of the organization.

By the way, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t buy this book. The insurance company is pre-web, so the potential of YouTube stories and so forth doesn’t come up. Also, I had to read way too many words to extract the book’s meaning.

Rethinking conferences

When I signed up for Spaces for Interaction: An Online Conversation about Improving the Traditional Conference, I didn’t appreciate how timely the topic would become.

Conferences have traditionally provided foundation knowledge for instructional designers, trainers, CLOs, and others in the field. I’ve learned a whale of a lot from these events over the last twenty years. Through their presentations at conferences, Allison Rossett, Elliott Masie, Gloria Gery, and scores of other awesome teachers have shaped the thinking of the greater learning and development community of practice. Conference attendance have played a vital role in our professional development.

Nonetheless, the patience of those of us who have paid our dues in Orlando, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Chicago, and L.A. over the years is wearing thin. When the old hands gather at the bar in the conference hotel, you’ll find them shaking their heads while saying there’s got to be a better way. The basic structure of one-way presentations, flying to convention cities, blowing an entire week at a time, and vendors going through the motions but getting few sales is counter to the culture and M.O. of the network era. Scheduling twenty simultaneous sessions guarantees you’ll miss something you wanted to see. Wi-fi is always broken. Some of the certificate programs conducted before conferences strike me as low-grade diploma mills. There’s lots of room for improvement.

Note: The vintage photos in this post are from training conferences circa 2000.

As the Recession Waxes, Business Meetings Wane

According to a survey released last month that was conducted by the industry trade group Meeting Professionals International and American Express, 7 percent of business meetings already scheduled for 2009 have been canceled. And attendance is expected to be down by about 5 percent at those meetings that are still being held, the survey found.

…more often a professional event is canceled because the number of prospective attendees has shrunk as companies lay off employees and cut travel and professional education budgets for remaining workers.

One conference planner, who did not wish to be identified because of continuing hotel negotiations, canceled a two-day seminar a month before it was scheduled to take place when only 16 delegates had registered. The event had drawn an average of 125 people in years past. The organization refunded registration fees for the handful who had signed up, and offered a credit toward a future event to offset the expense of canceling their flights.


Last night I received an invitation to PresentationCamp.

It’s a BarCamp, the Open Source Version of a Conference

PresentationCamp is an ad-hoc gathering of passionate folks who want to share, interact and spread the love around the topic of presentation design and delivery. Come to learn, come to share: everyone walks away knowing a little bit more.

No More Death by PowerPoint

Spending your days and nights toiling away on a killer slide set? Need to develop one? Hearing about the new trends set by Nancy Duarte, Guy Kawasaki, Garr Reynolds and others? Wondering if the new trend toward visuals and storytelling are really going to take you to the next level? Did you see a fantastic presentation and want to emulate it?

Yes? Then let’s get together and talk about it.

Is it a Conference?

Yes. It’s your conference. Giving a presentation is open to anyone, and encouraged! Want to talk/present, or see who’s talking? See the Sessions and Schedule below for topics submitted by attendees (and add your own if you’re coming). The event schedule will be determined from 9:30-10:00 AM, and all attendees are invited to host a session. You do not have to present if you don’t want, but it is encouraged. Once the schedule is set, the fun begins! Expect to be engaged, educated, and hopefully entertained as well.

I’ll be there, and since it’s a BarCamp, I will probably lead a session on whatever springs to mind on the one-hour drive down to the Stanford campus.


surveyshare logo
In preparation for my conversation on PowerPoint is Tyranny midday Wednesday, I took an impromptu survey on what makes for a conference great… or a loser. 48 people have responded. Here are the raw results.

More than half of the participants are speakers, not participants, so you have to be careful interpreting the responses.

4) What makes a conference great? Give us a few examples.

Response 1 Great night life and scenery in host city. People and networks. A chance to meet famous people. Free wireless.
Response 2 Lots of “white space” = time between scheduled events
Response 3 Great speakers. Great chances for interaction. The right “vibe”. Wireless.
Response 4 Content / speakers / networking
Response 5 Relevant content and effective speakers
Response 6 Relationships established, Research/Rationale, Applicalbe to address needs for attending conference
Response 7 Interaction, fun events, co-creation of new ideas, doing stuff with other people. e.g. Writer-sports, Theatre-sports —- writing a play and acting it out at the same time – that focuses on what we could collectively become. Thinking Theatre, events using a team meeting system with wireless keyboards to collectively respond to a sequence of questions that helps the audience experience/learn how to think/act like the keynote.
Response 8 Great people Great opportunities to meet the great people Great food Great Technology
Response 9 Interactive sessions, opportunities for attendee networking, good mix of vendor, academic and peer led sessions, well organized schedules, opportunities for product demos, appropriate keynotes for the attendee audience.
Response 10 Lots of opportunities to break bread together and network in casual surroundings. One of the best was an oceanside bonfire roasting marshmallows. Patio buffets are nice. At another conference, we voted on topics and broke into small discussion groups.
Response 11 Enough time to get to know a few new people as well as to catch up with old conference friends. Presenters who work on the assumption that the rest of us are interested and competent. Interesting spaces – informal meeting and/or socializing space. Choices but not overwhelming number of events.
Response 12 Meeting intelligent, sharing people who are passionate about the same things I am
Response 13 Interaction; good web conferencing software, audio and video elements, whiteboards, diverse contributions
Response 14
Response 15 Engaging, interactive sessions; “white space”- time to ruminate and reflect on learnings (and not just shuttled from one session to another); sensible, structured, assisted networking (“I’m hiring” buttons or other ice breaker buttons, ribbons, tables, etc). Mix of short, interactive, discussion sessions with lecture with application sessions. A good social event one night (band, theme, etc)
Response 16 Relevant practical papers. Related papers grouped together. As a presenter, great guidance and specific information from organisers. Food is ultimately important
Response 17 The chance to learn something to improve practice. This usually means interactive sessions, rather than presentations. Good keynote speakers can give me new ideas that I can take with me and explore.
Response 18 Great treatment of speakers, great guides for speakers, great control of commercialism, free wifi, good receptions, great location (city you’d want to visit anyway), good lineup, good keynotes
Response 19 Clear administrative and logistical processes so I don’t have to worry about the details. Communication about events and locations so I understand what is happening and where I need to be. Enough variety to provide a wide range of options Enough opportunities for informal fellowship to allow me to meet others. I am NOT talking about structured networking, but more unstructured time and opportunity to mix and mingle. Good weather:).
Response 20 welcoming atmosphere, inspirational speakers, opportunities to share experience and network, good logistical organisation – e.g. practical things like parking facilities for conferences in Brussels – quite rare!! good food,
Response 21 High quality keynote speakers range of topics/discussion areas covered Presentation of new (to me) ideas Opportunities to think (away from the hubub of day to day work)
Response 22
Response 23 1. Enables participants to keep themselves up-to-date in their respective fields. 2. Provides an opportunity to interact with others and create collaborative work.
Response 24 Diversity of participants, not too big, space for a social program but no programming of the social program. Can’t think of any examples that cover all of these.
Response 25 Opportunity to meet like-minded people. Opportunity to promote our services to possible clients.
Response 26 Interactive presentations Meeting of friends and strangers New principles and procedures New concepts and ideas
Response 27 inspireing presentations good conversations in breaks
Response 28 Focus on just a few topic areas, thoughtful choice of speakers, someone competent handling logistics.
Response 29 networking–the mealtimes and breaks are where some of the best stuff happens.
Response 30 good presenters, new and interesting ideas to apply, new friends, great location, engaging experiences.
Response 31 high-quality participants with buying authority
Response 32 Interaction with peers and presenters. Brainstorming, discussion, engagement, a resulting feeling of energized empowerment and inspiration.
Response 33 Presentations about cutting edge developments in the field.
Response 34 The quality and relevance of the topics. Having the big names is nice too, but many times their sessions are about the same topic. So, if you went to so-and-so’s session at one conference, you probaby don’t need to bother with his/her session at the next conference. I really enjoy the sessions done by practitioners where they share their successes (and failures).
Response 35 Options…plenty of options for how to become involved with the content.
Response 36 Content, Networking
Response 37 Excellent presentations, lots of content, but plenty of guided networking activities. Not just free time that allows everybody to disappear, but time where people get to more or less informally exchange ideas about solutions to mutual problems.
Response 38 Lots of interaction between speaker and audience, and also between audience and audience. The more space for meaningful dialogue the better.
Response 39 Solid theme(s) and presenters that have prepared for the audience etc. Obviously the networking aspect are critical too – need to be close to the sessions etc.
Response 40 Engaging, motivational speakers
Response 41 Great content, networking, actionable takeaways, future possibilities
Response 42 Good schedule, great keynotes, social interaction
Response 43 Good presentations on a wide variety of topics
Response 44 good speakers good conversations with colleagues networking meeting new people
Response 45 interesting and prepared, on topic, dynamic speakers
Response 46 Organization, quality of speakers, multiple themes, EDUCAUSE ELI is by far the best example I have experienced for overall quality, service to its attendee community. (And I have MANY years at numerous conferences in different areas of emphasis from my academic discipline to compliance organization in higher ed)
Response 47 Connecting with like minded participants, engaged participation, discussion forums, active how to use tools/techniques, learning something new/refreshed
Response 48 Information that can easily be translated into action – solutions.


5) What are your biggest gripes about conferences you attended? How can organizers make things better?

Response 1 Same old people presenting year after year. Same boring approach. No indicators of best speakers; people pick by title or topic and lose out on good speakers. Work me too hard. Hold in one location or close proximity if multiple sites.
Response 2 Not enough time to meet people
Response 3 Figure out how to get WiFi Figure out how to make a readable guide Don’t let speakers sell from the stage Plan some group events Integrate social media
Response 4 Wide but not deep / deep but not deep enough
Response 5 Content that is not right for the audience (too technical or not technical enough) – organizers should know the audience Speakers who do not have good presentation skills – orgainzers should review speakers or get references Presentation that is not well designed –
Response 6 Relevance, Interactive, Offer interactive distance learning opportunities when appropriate rather than traveling, follow up with blog/wiki/elearning opportunities.
Response 7 Boring talking heads..Blah, Blah, Blah..not enough focus on the audience as a participant in the knowledge creation process. Imagine how powerful TED would be, if after the speaker, everyone participates in a process of inventing new stuff….
Response 9 Too many panel discussions, not enough practical application advice provided in sessions, poorly laid out conference locations, not enough time for expo floors
Response 10 When you are in sessions all day and then on your own for meals – no events targeted at mingling and interacting with other participants.
Response 11 Presenters who sound like they think that their experiences and opinions are the only correct ones. (We may just have to live with this one.) Early morning quasi-compulsory activities. (let such things be voluntary or repeated later in the day if they are really important.) Too many activities packed into a short time. (Don’t try to do everything) Presenters in early stages of doctoral work who have not been well mentored (organizers could have postgrad sessions for real beginners or hold an early conference workshop on presenting for first timers.)
Response 12 Outrageously expensive or non-existent technology, expecting presenters to take up the slack
Response 13 Crap software, terrible comms ie having to load software like webex and then make an international phone call. Monologues from speakers. No interaction
Response 14
Response 15 See above. I really like Masie’s events, except he always has it at Disney world.
Response 16 Keeping to times. Consider the length of days – conference should try to be only two days more than that is difficult to take in. Better to have less and better quality.
Response 17 Too many sessions. Organizers try to squeeze so many different presenters in that the quality of many is low.
Response 18 not having free wifi throughout venue, meals not included
Response 19 Getting way too hooked on the latest “buzzword” or trend. Not having a clean logistical flow. Too many sessions and tracks – one-person shops can only cover so much. Having too many short presentations – not enough time to really get into discussions or learn in-depth about the topic. How to make better?: Fix the above.
Response 20 speakers turning up with a file of ppts and then just reading their points off the slides, poorly prepared and moderated discussions, bad time-keeping,remote presentations when I am expecting to see the speaker in the flesh,
Response 21 To liitle interaction Trying to cram too much in to the programme/not giving keynote speakers enough time & the audience opportunity to engage in discussion
Response 22
Response 23 As far as offsite conferences are concerned, due to time differences one cannot access live programs. Hence individual programs must be made available to participants so that they should be able to choose the ones they want.
Response 24 Lack of variety, being organised on autopilot.
Response 25 No time for people to look around the associated exhibition. No time built in for networking.
Response 26 Lectures Hypocrisy of people who lecture on why lectures are evil
Response 27 cut down on opening addresses of powerful, but boring speakers
Response 28 1. Speakers who are only hawking their wares. 2. Lately there is ALWAYS some issue with handouts: speakers told to submit them weeks ahead of time, then conference does not tell attendees to print them ahead of time. 3. Incompetent staff at registration desk. This is first person you encounter and can set a bad tone for the whole event. They need to know how to read conf brochure, offer basic directions to places(expo hall, shuttles, speaker ready room. 4. Overall: conference doesn’t know what it’s about. You can’t be everything to everyone.
Response 29 People who read PowerPoints and don’t leave enough time for Q&A, discussion.
Response 30 poor organisation, few good papers, bad memories. Organisers to ensure smooth registration and wonderful memories that include site visits, local tours, unique cultural experience, great food, etc.
Response 31 inefficient way to get new business
Response 32 1) Lack of opportunity for feedback. 2) Speakers who take question from un-mic’ed audience members, but are not mindful enough to repeat the question on mic before answering the question.
Response 33 Scheduling five presentations at the same time on Saturday afternoon, with almost nothing scheduled for Monday. Waste of time and money to stay over, but there’s always somethings you have to stay for on Monday, yet you wind up missing important presentations due to too many things being scheduled for Saturday.
Response 34 Having to pick and choose amongst the concurrent sessions. So many times there are great topics I want to hear about at the same time, and I’m forced to go swipe a handout from one (and hope it’s helpful by itself) and go participate in another. Or, I try to divide the time, which doesn’t ever work very well.
Response 35 Large luncheons or dinners. Speakers who are off-topic for the event/audience but are supposed to provide “inspiration” or “motivation” or “organizational skills” that may be translatable to your group’s work. If I want to go to a general business or higher ed conference I will. If I want to learn about tech in higher ed or Moodle then don’t pay big bucks for a keynoter who hasn’t a clue what the issues are for us!
Response 36 Useless Stuff, Disorganization
Response 37 Getting good tracks so there is enough breadth to keep everyone interested and yet not so much overlap that you end up having to miss presentations that you really wanted to see.
Response 38 Venues that are pre-designed for a traditional “pulpit-congregation” paradigm that are inflexible and don’t allow for interaction. The most flexible space is a “holodeck” — a cube with no preconceptions.
Response 39 When presenters don’t seem to have considered the theme/audience – delivering a standard speech!
Response 40 Non relevant discussion topics, clear attendee instructions
Response 41 It’s really an event with more one-way push of content than meaningful interaction and ongoing dialog Oftentimes, the speakers/content you’d like to attend have overlapping or conflicting time slots.
Response 42 Schedule doesn’t allow for social time, bad session choices, amateur keynotes, vendors being paraded around by conference organizers as experts
Response 43 Too expensive. Pre-Conference workshops are too expensive as well.
Response 44 allow more time for people to talk to each other
Response 45 sloppy, unprepared speakers. lousy food.
Response 46 I personally don’t need or want “social” events…especially at large conferences where “herding” is necessary. I don’t believe in the “wisdom of herds.” Personally, given travel and time cost of attendance, I’d prefer to “work into the night” rather than breaking for such events. This could be accomplished in a variety of less taxing ways, but ditch the tours, etc.
Response 47 passive presentations, 10 minutes for questions, treating participants like cattle who know nothing and are just herded from session to session, no opportunities to find out what other people are doing, no discussion groups, no post conference forum to continue discussions, no post conference PowerPoint links.
Response 48 Often boring PowerPoint focused, with few easily adaptable ideas. Make sure that the speakers are engaging and have useful information to share.

6) Anything else you’d like to share? A horror story? An inspiration?

Response 1 Some conferences forget to test the equipment with the speaker until it is too late or provide minimal speaker support.
Response 2 For the most part, conferences are a waste of time, so I go to fewer and fewer. However, I attend and participate in a lot of online conferences.
Response 3 Look for speakers outside our field.
Response 4
Response 5 I don’t think PowerPoint is terrible it’s how it’s used!
Response 6 Sometimes the travel is well worth the time and expense. Most “meetings” are not.
Response 7 Best ever keynote was a guy from Ideo had 500 people inventing an environmentally-sound wastepaper basket for Al Gore’s film maker (whose office and waste paper basket were an environmental catastrophe)…using design principles presented during a 10-minute introductory talk/with pix and examples…using scraps of paper, timber, plastics etc. from Hallmark’s waste collection.
Response 8
Response 9 One conference I went to last year had ALL panels, and all vendors on the panels…nothing but posturing. Another conference had exhibitors spread across two different floors…absolutely horrible. There were no sessions AT ALL that I attended last year that were structured as learning sessions. I’m tired of learning conference sessions that are structured like lectures…don’t we know better?!?
Response 10 Towns where everything shuts down after 5 pm are horrible for conferences – unless the planners also hold evening dining/social events. The entire point of spending money to go to a live event is to mingle with others. Conference planners do a disservice when they don’t facilitate ice breakers and open discussions.
Response 11 Maybe we just need to lower our expectations – I always like to take a ‘shopping’ break away from the venue.
Response 12 I’ll share in my own presentation at the conference you’re presenting at, cya there
Response 13 One session, the speaker kept going for over an hour without catching breath (about 50 PPT slides). Every 15 mins she would pause and ask if there were any Qs, wait a millisecond and then plunge on!
Response 14
Response 15
Response 16 I am about to attend a conference that commences at 8.00am each day and finishes at 6.00pm each day (and its also a 3.5 day conference across 4 days) Too long! I am already working out which sessions to skip (rather than which I should attend) to keep my sanity.
Response 17
Response 18 bad venue in Vegas: long walk from one end to other, food not included and a LONG way away
Response 19
Response 20
Response 21
Response 22
Response 23 An encouragement by Prof, not known to me directly. After my participation in SITE, a University prof. from Neveda contacted me through his research student and asked me to present papers in Interactive Learning, which was hot topic then. This encouraged me to focus my research and paved way for further enhancement of my carrer in e-learning. The instructional designs I created after his suggestion were later on submitted to AACE Ed Media conf, IADIS Mobile Learning conf.
Response 24
Response 25 At the best conference I attended last year (as a speaker and a vendor) the exhibition was set up in the dining area. People were able to eat their lunch and browse the exhibition at the same time. As I’d just presented, it was a great opportunity for those invaluable follow-up conversations.
Response 26 I use ppts for giving instructions to interactive activities. I seldom use them to provide substantive content.
Response 27
Response 28 Smaller seems to be better. Worst conference I ever attended was 8,000 — very hard to get any sense of community, common interest, figure out what topics right for you.
Response 29
Response 30 Make the participant feel welcomed and taken care of; right from the time he/she lands at the airport to the time he/she leaves the conference venue. Happened with several conferences in Malaysia.
Response 31 …but we would have never met Jay Cross and gotten our name in Internet Times in 2001 if we hadn’t attended a trade show…
Response 32
Response 33 Scheduling conferences in cities in off season to save money on hotels, which results in going to Ghicago, Denver and Boston in January, and Miami and Orlando in June!
Response 34 I’ve participated in the Online Learning Trends online conference that past two years, and I really took so much from those sessions. If I missed one, I could still view the recording, and the price was more than right (free!!).
Response 35
Response 36 Nope
Response 37 A big challenge I see is in providing enough backup information such as proceedings, podcasts, etc., to help participants take home and apply the ideas they garnered at the conference, but yet not so much that people are discouraged to physically come to the conference and participate in the future.
Response 38
Response 39
Response 40 pre event learning, create an intrest beffore the event
Response 41 Establish ongoing collaboration forums to take content/ideas to next level and ongoing ability to network.
Response 42 I really starting to get peeved at all the keynotes who simply have written one book and all of a sudden they are experts. Or a keynote who has done something with a hot topic but no one has ever heard them speak and they are TERRIBLE.
Response 43
Response 44 help maintain the momentum generated in the conferecne so that some of it at least will continue after the conference ends
Response 45
Response 46 Be careful when you select a conference site to bring 2000 or so of your closest friends together for a meeting, and you don’t plan to provide a lunch for them that the selected mega-hotel actually does have more than one lunch sandwich wagon to serve all of them (assuming of course they won’t all go to your $$$$ onsite restaurants for sit-down meals in the middle of the day); else your afternoon sessions might be a bit delayed. An inspiration? Look at EDUCAUSE/ELI as exemplars. They know how to do conferences right, including continuing connectivity and resources after the conference.
Response 47 My horror story-10 minutes for questions and 30 people put up their hands because this was a really important issue, I left $6,000 poorer and didn’t have an opportunity to have any questions answered. My inspiration – Post conference wikis where people can share ideas, questions, resource links on each topic presented.
Response 48


Old habits die hard. I’ve spoken at ASTD, ASTD TechKnowledge, TechLearn, Learning, eLearning, Online Learning, Online Educa, Training, ISPI, CLO Symposium, eLearning Guild, I-KNOW, Research Innovations in Learning, Emerging eLearning (Abu Dhabi), Quality in eLearning (Bogota), LearnX (Melbourne), Learning Technology (London), and others, often year after year. It’s time for change. I’ll offer three words of advice for conference organizers and participants to take to heart: go on line.

Agile instructional design

I’ve been thinking about fresh approaches to instructional design.

Instructional design was invented around the time of World War II. Starting virtually from scratch, America had to train millions of men to be soldiers and millions of civilians to make ships and armaments. The training film was born, soon to be followed with the ADDIE model. ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement & evaluate) made it possible to manage the process of creating useful training programs systematically.

Instructional purists still revere the logic of ADDIE. (It’s hard to argue with the concept of planning your work, then working your plan.) but ADDIE is beginning to show its age:

  • Training is only part of the learning equation.
  • Training is generally imposed on people. Whether of not they learn is an entirely different matter. Learning requires motivation. (You can lead a boy to college but you can’t make him think.)
  • ADDIE invariably points to training as the solution. Sometimes it’s more effective to imbed the knowledge in the work than to plant it in the head of the worker.
  • Modern instructional design needs to focus on creating flexible environments that nurture learning rather than rigid programs that attempt to force lessons into the heads of learners.
  • Old-style training enraged many managers because it was separate from work. Why isn’t Sally at work today? Because she’s in training.

It needn’t be this way, particularly since knowledge work and learning are nearly indistinguishable. Most corporate learning today can take place simultaneously with work. A major part of modern instructional design involves creating and nurturing learning ecologies..

Building a learning ecology is a different exercise than building a training program. In lieu of top-down control, it relies on continuous experimentation and evaluation. It takes coordination, flexibility, and on-going conversation. These qualities are at the heart of the discipline of agile programming. Hence, I am exploring how well the principles of agile programming might be incorporated into a new framework for instructional design.


Agile Software Development

This morning I took part in a conference call focused on now might we use the precepts of agile programming in general (non-IT) business settings.

Agile programming has come a long way from its early incarnation as extreme programming on the first wiki. It’s been influenced by lean manufacturing and spawned practices like Scrum.

Yet the agile community remains pretty insular. Only lately have people seriously explored how agile principles and practices might be used outside software development.

Agile Software Development on Wikipedia

Agile methodologies generally promote a project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices that allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.

The modern definition of agile software development evolved in the mid-1990s as part of a reaction against “heavyweight” methods, perceived to be typified by a heavily regulated, regimented, micro-managed use of the waterfall model of development. The processes originating from this use of the waterfall model were seen as bureaucratic, slow, demeaning, and inconsistent with the ways that software developers actually perform effective work. A case can be made that agile and iterative development methods are a return to development practice seen early in the history of software development.

Unlike many design disciplines, Agile’s beginning and principles are easily accessible. See the Agile Software Manifesto, which states:

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Another great reference is Martin Fowler’s The New Methodology.

Agile practitioners Jim Benson and Bill Anderson set the stage, outlining the benefits of Agile:

Empirical: learn our capacity
Iterative: small steps get them there
Participatory: client tells what is wanted, feedback is frequent

Discussion flushed out other aspects:

  • John Smith: this is a community of practice approach
  • Great opportunity for people learn by eavesdropping.
  • Makes cost changes conspicuous
  • Introspection along the dimensions of commonly accepted metrics
  • Ability to look back at what we’re capable of
  • The day’s code is not entered in if it doesn’t work
  • Rewards constants communication
  • Daylight overcomes rigid specifications
  • Aesthetics, not practices
  • Teams sharing one terminal learn from one another
  • Relationships among teams is important

Skeptics of agile program don’t believe you can do things one piece at a time; they think you have to eat the whole sausage. Sometimes a company itself has a waterfall style. Scrum and other methodologies call for short, standing, daily meetings; people are skeptical about daily meetings: because they are burned out on traditional meetings.

So….. Do others agree that instructional design would benefit from incorporating the principles of agile?


Driving results through social networks


Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizaiotns Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas

This sequel to Rob Cross’s The Hidden Power of Social Networks is chock full of practical advice on leveraging networks for innovation and increased performance. If you’ve been scratching your head, wondering how all this social media stuff is going to increase the bottom line, this book has some answers for you. You could do a search-and-replace, putting “informal learning” where they write “collaboration,” and you’d end up with a practice guide to socially mediated learning. Rather than put their already pithy prose into my own words, I’m going to quote a few of the passages that grabbed me:

Most leaders readily acknowledge the improtance and power of informal networks for getting work done in their organizations. Yet they generally spend little if any time assessing and managing these networks — a mistake with substantial implications for innovation and performance. Network analysis provides a powerful means for leaders to understand and drive value through this seemingly invisible aspect of organzations.

Not all value-based networks are the same. Customized response networks are good for solving ambiguous problems such as those faced in R&D or strategy consulting firms. Routine response networks are better for tackling established problems; think call centers and claims processors. This matters, because managers must choose the optimal networks for their situation:

Work and innovation are inherently collaborative endeavors, but as the need for collaboration increases, the demands on people’s time skyrocket. The answer is not more and more layers of a matrix structure or yet another collaborative technology. Rather, what’s required is a more nuanced and strategic view of collaboration on the part of leaders as designers of their organization.

We are living in a time rife with opposites. Organizations are expected to exist globally and act locally, to be efficient and innovative, and to remain profitable in both the short and long term. In this environment of increasing complexity, a one-dimensional focus is fatal.

Organizational network analysis (ONA) is about connecting people. Six Sigma and similar methodologies discount the importance of emotional ties. One thing I applaud in Cross’s work is his measurements of positive energy, toxic blackhole people, the importance of introductions, and other people factors.

The book is particularly strong at isolating causes of insufficient innovation. The root causes of failure are fragmentation (often border disputes), domination (not heading all the voices), and insularity (because most of the bright people are working for somebody else.) As they say, “the major barriers of innovation result not from failures or individual genius but from failures of collaboration–the inability to exploit existing capabilities in revolutionary ways.” Time after time, the authors use a graphic of a dense network to reinforce their points. Most of these are meaningless blobs for me; perhaps I could interpret them if they used color, but in black and white, the network diagrams look like huge smudges on the page.

Regarding teams, organizations should divert their energy from forming teams to setting up the conditions for teams to prosper.

The authors favor a programmed approach to onboarding because it accelerates development. Consider…

On average, the time for new hires to achieve an acceptable level of productivity ranges from eight weeks for clerical jobs to twenty weeks for professionals to more than twenty-six weeks for executives. In today’s fast-paced, competitive economy, organizations obviously cannot afford this kind of productivity lag.


PowerPoint is tyranny

First of all, please go here and take two minutes to answer half a dozen brief questions about attending conferences.


Then, please join me later this week at Spaces for Interaction, a free online conversation on improving traditional conferences. Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

My presentation, “PowerPoint is Tyranny” follows an opener from Teemu Arina and is followed by a presentation by Karen Hyder, so even if I bomb, it should be a great day.

Here’s the schedule. Note: the times are Central. From the overview:

    While a keynote speaker is presenting, back channel conversations occur through Twitter, facts are checked through Google searches, and opinions are expressed on blogs.* What changes are required in traditional conferences in order to take advantages of these ongoing conversations?
    * How can conferences be designed to amplify multiple back channel conversations, foster interaction over content presentation, and create opportunities for serendipitous learning?

What are your thoughts on off-site conferences?

The economy is sure to take a toll on discretionary events. I was just uninvited from presenting at eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering. At least I didn’t have to eat a plane ticket, as happened to a friend in Europe who was just uninvited to the same event. Another friend cancelled out of Training 2009 after only two people signed up for his pre-conference workshop. The Learning Technologies conference in London last month held its own — but most of the attendees could take The Underground to get there.

Could the downturn change the shape of traditional conferences permanently? Decades ago, milk was delivered door to door to residents of Long Island. The milkmen went out on a long strike. People discovered the convenience of picking up milk at the grocery store. They bought it when they needed it. There was less spoilage. No more little notes for the milkman. When the strike was over, no one wanted home delivery any more.


Will a downturn in offsite conferences spare me from flying to Orlando several times a year? That would be a blessing.