Books Are Cool …

… and here’s some useful information about how to use them to get the value:)

Here’s  a LINK to the video in case the embed above does not function correctly.

Short, sweet, and usually packed full of learning.   Have I mentioned lately how darned valuable and enjoyable TEDTalks are?   If not, consider it done now.

Enjoying the exposure to ideas about learning in the Heartland ….



Are You a Milestoner or a Reminder … ?

ClassroomSo a group of us are sitting in a very cold classroom listening to a preview of our new online class management system, which will replace our old one with a very different environment.

The discussion is rolling along with many questions, but few answers, since this is rolling out piecemeal through the university.

At one point, we are shown a new function which allows us, as instructors, to quickly schedule and post notices along the timeline of an assignment, from the point assigned to the point due.

Imagine getting a message telling you that you should have a complete outline done on Tuesday, a rough draft message on Thursday, and a final draft ready to check for errors on Sunday.

Amid much excitement about this apparently useful new tool,  about this, some of us talked like this:

Great, I can tell the students when they should have something done, so they are not waiting till the last minute to complete their work.

Others of us were talking like this:

Great, I can post reminders of  where they should be as the time passes.

Each group used different words to describe both what they would say and even the name given to the reminders.   The first group used “Milestones” and the second group used “Reminders” to describe what we could create and use. Continue reading

3 False Assumptions and 3 Reasons to Choose Non-SMEs to Teach …

Illusions - Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah“We teach best what we most need to learn.”

― Richard BachIllusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

I believe this ... and not just because it comes from one of my favorite books.

Note: For non-techies, SME stands for Subject Matter Expert and represents those people who know how to do something really well.

An SME is NOT someone who has been doing something for a long time.  Doing in itself does not insure either knowledge or competence … just logetivity.

We make several fatal assumptions about SMEs:

1)  We assume that someone who has been doing something for a long time is doing it right.

2)  We assume that someone who can do something right knows how they do it that way.

3)  We assume that someone who can do it right can also convey this knowledge effectively to someone else.

So we often reward our best doers with a title or at least the responsibility for training others to do whatever it is they do so well … down this road lies frustration and despair.

I suggest we consider others who are not necessarily the masters of a process or a skill be given the task of teaching it.   Select those who are motivated to do good work in general and who have a demonstrated ability to communicate effectively to and with others.

Give them clear directions and solid support… then stand back.

1)  Non-experts bring fresh eyes to a subject

SMEs may have spent their entire life focused on the subject and they do know it.  They know it so well that they feel no particular reason to look at it.  SMEs actually have trouble imagining how someone who does not know the subject would view what they know so well.

Non-SMEs are not  constrained by knowing the subject inside and out.  They will seek to learn and understand it.

2)  Non-experts realize that they do not know the subject in depth.

SMEs tend to behave in accordance with their belief that they know so much about the subject that nothing will faze them.  As an SME in some areas, I have sometimes boasted that I could do a workshop on subject X with literally no preparation.

 Complacency and hubris are common results of this attitude.   

Non-experts know they do not know and make efforts to prepare themselves.  They will often veer away from lecturing and toward more engaging activities, since this is somewhat less threatening for them … it also is more effective learning for everyone:)

3)  Non-experts intentionally anticipate and prepare for questions.

The SME will be prepared to respond to questions, but may also assume things about what is being asked, based on their own experiences.

The non-SME, lacking that depth of experience, will prepare for questions, but will also listen to them and clarify before responding.

Am I painting with a very broad brush here? … Sure.

Am I ignoring the many astute SME’s who are also consummate teachers and trainers … Yep, I am.

Am I trying to make a point about experience and learning? … why, yes, I believe so:).

What do you think about the use of non-SME’s for training and teaching?

Thinking about how much better I taught when I did not know as much in the Heartland ….


3 Ways We Waste Our Professional Development Time and More …

Class circleA workshop is not learning.  Learning is what happens as you absorb and use the information gained in the workshop to change your behavior, attitude, and world.


Three things happen too often in organizations when people attend off-site learning events:

1)  They do not learn anything

2)  They learn, but are not recognized for what they have learned

3)  They learn and are recognized, but nothing else happens


The reasons why this is so vary:

1)  Those responsible do not set professional expectations for those attending.

If the employee has not been told why they are going away or what is expected of them as they return, they will fill that void with their own ideas about what should occur and what is important.

This is great for those at the higher end of the self-motivated employee list, but disastrous for most others.

2)  Those responsible do not follow-up in a timely or focused fashion with those who attended.  

Asking and probing about what the employee learned goes a long way toward reinforcing both the focus of the employee’s time away and the importance of what they bring back.

Asking a month later doesn’t count …

3)  Those responsible do not trust the change process to actually, well, change things.

Ever had the experience of coming back from a workshop or conference just brimming with enthusiasm and on fire to make things different … to be eitehr ignored or even worse, told to cool it?

To use the professional terminology, that “sucks”.

4)  Those responsible do not recognize or accept the value of learning.

Sigh … I hate to speak ill of those responsible, but some managers and leaders just do not value learning.   Maybe they believe that learning consists of fads which are temporary and just waste time.   Possibly they feel that formal learning, as occurs at workshops and professional conferences, is not a valid method for transformation and change.   Some may just not be very bright and do not appreciate the value of learning, because their own learning has not been valued by others.

Whatever the cause, if the learning brought back by the employee is not valued, it will probably not survive.

5)  Those responsible view learning events as just that – events, to be checked off a list or a personal development plan. 

This reason relates directly to number 4.  If learning is not valued. learning events are seen at best as necessary evils.   Something to be endured, completed, and filed away.  We’ve probably used the term “butts in seats” to describe this mentality, which views the events as the requirement, rather than the outcome of the event.


So, some simple guidance:

1)  Identify the expected outcomes of any learning event and communicate those expectations clearly to those attending … before the event.  

2) Explain specifically  how you expect them to meet these expectations.

3)  Prepare those attending by providing support materials or preparatory activities to enhance what they will receive at the event.

4)  Schedule immediate follow-up after they complete the learning event.  No, not the morning after they return … a little later.   Let the learning gel for a small amount of time.  

5)  Listen to what they say.  Ask questions and probe to find how their knowledge has changed and how deep their committment is to what they have learned.  Reflect on what they now have to offer.

6)  Collaboratively plan on how they will share their new knowledge with the organization.  Keep in mind:  They are now the experts in whatever they were sent off to learn.

7)  If  legitimate and overriding reasons exist not to use the new knowledge, explain those and thank them for their efforts.   These reasons must be compelling and significant.

8)  If change is to occur (Best Scenario), support them with resources, action, and words through all levels of the organization.

In this day, formal professional development less often comes in the form of a day away at a workshop or a week at a professional conference.   The advent of online professional development, distance learning, virtual conferences, and other cost-effective learning events has changed the landscape … in some ways.

You still have to plan, follow-up, and support those who learn on behalf of the organization.

What have I missed or misstated?

Remembering both time-wasting and world-changing conference experiences in the Heartland ….




“Moodling” Around On A Saturday Morning …


“So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

~ Brenda Ueland   with thanks to Sandy over at Another Lovely Day.

Lately my favorite blogs have had a distinctly Canadian connection … either something in the water or the beer Up North.

“Moodling” – what a lovely word to describe the above.

I can vouch for the value of this approach from personal experience.  Once you break the self-delusion that one has to be always working, always producing, always doing something “for a reason”, you can unleash creative thought that will knock your socks off.

… and even if you do not entertain a single creative thought,  you will still enjoy and benefit from the time spent relaxing.

Now in my world, “Moodle” has another meaning:

Moodle (abbreviation for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a free source e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System, Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Of course, my mind always tries to draw some connections and find the points of similarity, but this might be a stretch:).

I just wonder about the coincidence …

Either trying to create something that might not be there or just piddling around in the Heartland ….