Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wondering how to use Twitter?

Many professionals have asked me if Twitter isn't just a big waste of time. I don't think so. Here's an answer to this question that I recently posted in The eLearning Guild's group on LinkedIn.

It's like blogs, only shorter. Some people use their blogs to document and share their professional work, and some use their blogs to contemplate their own navels. It's like email. Some people use email to further their professional contacts, some use it to send spam and inbox clutter. Many of us use Twitter productively in our work. It's not the same thing for everyone. It's certainly not the End of Civilization As We Know It.

Some observations and some things you can do (if you want) that *might* help you find value in Twitter in 2009:

- Remember that it's more important to follow than to be followed.
- Remember that it's important to be selective about who you follow.
- Remember that you can UN-follow people if you are more distracted than informed by their tweets.
- Post useful stuff; minimize the number of "Putting on my socks" tweets you leave -- no point contributing to the noise.
- Learn how to use @, DM, hash tags, and RT to carry on a conversation and to share resources.
- Get familiar with the #lrn and #edu hash tags, and use to filter out a lot of the noise.
- During eLearning Guild conferences, use the hash tags designated for that conference to follow what is going on -- lots of good stuff gets reported this way, in real time. Better than reading the blog posts from conferences, in many cases.
- Suggest relevant hash tags to your friends (colleagues) on Twitter, so that you can, as a group, develop your own topics.
- Use Tweetdeck to further filter and organize your timeline -- this may be the most important Twitter management tool available for busy people.

I think that should get you started. There are a lot of good, solid Learning and OD professionals using Twitter. Here are some you might want to follow for starters (and don't be dismayed by the fact that even the pros use Twitter as a social chat channel -- many of us work from home or travel and we miss the chatter and bonding that people who work in offices enjoy).

Me -- @billbrandon
Brent Schlenker -- @bschlenker
Mark Oehlert -- @moehlert
Marcia Conner -- @marciamarcia
Tony Karrer -- @tonykarrer
George Siemens -- @gsiemens
Alan Levine -- @cogdog
Tim O'Reilly -- @timoreilly
Tawny Press -- @tawnypress
Scott Leslie -- @sleslie
Will Thalheimer -- @WillWorkLearn
Cammy Bean -- @cammybean
Jay Cross -- @jaycross
Kathy Sierra -- @KathySierra
Clark Quinn -- @Quinnovator
Inge de Waard -- @Ignatia

... and there are many, many others -- these are just a few of the ones out of the almost 500 people that I follow (and I am nowhere near saturated). When you follow someone, check out the people that they are sending @'s to. If they are interesting to you, follow them.

I hope this helps. Twitter is what you make of it. You really ought to check out how other professionals are using it before deciding that it isn't for you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Twitter matters or

Even Business Week gets it. Why doesn't everybody?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flip Video: How is it?

I bought a Flip Video (the 60-minute version) about six weeks ago. My observations:

Good quality video and audio for everyday use and for basic e-Learning apps, but certainly not to compare even with most consumer-grade camcorders. Better than most cell phone video, however. Be sure that you are shooting in a place with enough light: this is not a night-vision camera.

Controls are very basic. Holding camera steady while zooming in or out takes practice. On my camera, the red button is tricky -- hard to stop recording, takes several presses of the button, which is frustrating and also makes for more camera shake.

Editing software does not function on a Mac. Works well on a PC, though it is pretty basic. You can upload to your Mac easily, however. The instructions for converting the video to QuickTime format are pretty confusing, and I still have trouble -- the manual is not much help.

Files are very large, with no way to compress them unless you use third-party software. This means upload times to YouTube can be quite long, ditto for emailing your videos.

I overspent. Considering that most of what I've shot so far has been 1- to 3-minute segments, and I am never far from my PC or my MacBook, I could have saved myself $70 and bought the 30-minute Flip.

Bottom line: The Flip is a nice little camera, just don't expect too much from it. (My cell phone actually makes videos that are as good or better, but of course my phone cost about twice what the Flip did, so it better be good!) Good for interviews, getting video of expert performance/needs assessment examples, plus all the usual informal and family video opportunities. Think of it as being the early 21st century version of the Brownie box camera.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just for fun

Awareness Test

Friday, March 7, 2008


Exactly six years ago today, The eLearning Guild web site went live. This morning, The eLearning Guild officially recorded 29,000 members worldwide.

If it wasn't so early, I'd crack open a bottle of champagne to celebrate -- maybe at lunch ...


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Do we still need "courses"?

George Siemens raises an interesting question. Here's my contribution to the conversation:

Courses make sense when you've got canonical content and a prescribed/required outcome, and when "packaging" a set of learning experiences and assessments serves the stakeholder(s) who are paying to have their achievement documented and certified. It seems to me that if any of those conditions is n/a, then a course might be a less than optimum approach (if not an outright waste of time, money, and effort).

It also seems to me that, increasingly, we have fewer situations in which "canonical" and "prescribed/required" are not debateable. In spite of the best efforts of legislatures to require certification and accountability for *everything* citizens do.

My biggest worry about how to tie all the stuff together (including content) has to do with changing technology. PageFlakes may only be around briefly. Any given proprietary element of a PLE (there's that word again!) can disappear. Some ambitious, unknown, tiny legal entity can finagle a patent that shuts down all accreditation methods unless the accrediting entities pay Big Bucks for a license. And so on. It's still an uncertain world. Not that it wasn't always, of course.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Don't be so quick to dump systematic design

I need to write a longer post about this, but systematic design (the idea behind ISD, ADDIE, HPT, etc.) is not a bad thing. The bad thing is getting caught up in the "grain of sand" syndrome, whereby the designer gets locked into endless analysis and research (even for instructional problems where excellent solutions are well-known).

This is an issue that has been bugging me for several years now. Maybe it's time I got it out of my system. Or maybe I just need to get over it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

First shot at this month's Big Question

Tony Karrer has posted the Big Question for February: For a given project, how do you determine if, when, and how much instructional designer and instructional design are needed.

My first thought off the top of my head is that the answer is about expertise. The reason there are instructional designers is the same as the reason there are engineers: they have developed expertise at getting to outcomes.

Our expertise is the value we add. That value comes at a cost -- it isn't free. If the cost of the expertise (plus whatever other resources are needed) is less than the cost of the problem, and less than any other solution to the problem, then it's a good value and the ID gets hired. Otherwise the ID is a bad deal. We get into trouble when we "assume" that the ID is always the right answer. Organizations get into trouble when they "assume" that the SME is always the right answer. And by the way, whether the development is "rapid" (however you measure that) or not makes no difference. An ID can "do rapid development" -- it's not like being an ID requires being committed to "agonizingly slow development." An IDs rapid development product might (or might not) give better results than the product of a SME using the same tools. It all depends on expertise, and on the nature of the solution being required (see "good enough," media, and cost comments below).

A little more thought: There are questions a manager can ask that will start leading toward a defensible answer to The Big Question.

- Can you define "good enough" and is good enough sufficient? Nobody will get killed or injured, the company won't be exposed to some intolerable downside or consequence, the business mission and objectives will be supported? If so, can a SME give you "good enough" in an acceptable length of time -- a day, a week, a month?

- Does the desired outcome require media to support learning? Does your SME have the necessary skills? If not, and if the ID does have the skills, use the ID.

- Considering the loaded cost (salary + benefits) and the opportunity cost, is it cheaper to have an SME do this, or an ID? Use the one that will get you the results you need at the lowest (loaded + opportunity) cost.

- Are there "standard" (proven and effective) ways to teach the topic (e.g. speaking French well enough to travel to Paris, check into a hotel, order a meal, ask for and comprehend directions)? Does your SME know those paradigms?

- Is this a topic where there are no paradigms for teaching, but one for which there are strategies that have been researched? Does your SME know the research and how to apply it?

This isn't all that organized, but it's a start. The objective is to avoid spending $100 fixing a $0.02 problem. And you can spend that $100 on an SME, inappropriately tasked, just as quickly as you can spend it on an ID.

More later. Maybe. I need to go walk this 110 pound Labradoodle that is bumping my elbow and making it difficult to type.