Thursday, November 22, 2012

Copyrighted Material

For years I worked in an organization that only developed internal training.  The risk that my training materials would be seen by anyone outside the organization, let alone by anyone whose copyrighted material may have found its way into my training, was pretty close to zero.  Of course this doesn’t make it right to use someone else's stuff in your course.  I certainly wouldn’t want someone to take my material and use it how they wished.

I touched on this briefly in an entry I did on the topic of eLearning on a shoestring budget, but you really need to watch where all your photos, graphics, and even concepts and ideas come from.  They are all potentially someone’s intellectual property.

I think this is especially important for the designers who are working as contractors or sub-contractors as I have done.  I have charged customers thousands of dollars for the courseware I have developed.  I’d hate to have to give it all back if my client was sued, and thereby I would be sued for steeling someone else’s material.  Make sure you have the rights to use the material you put in your courses.  In the long run, it may just save your bacon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Windows 8 Verdict

For about a year now, I have been playing with Windows 8 in its various forms.  The long and the short of it is that to take advantage of the new features of Windows 8, you need new hardware.  If you have an existing PC, you certainly can use Windows 8, however you may find it cumbersome and much of the interface and new style metro apps may not make a lot of sense.

I have three PCs in my home.  The first is an aging desktop PC, which today is little more than my media streaming and download PC. It probably doesn't have a lot of years left in it and while I have Windows 7 running reasonably well on it, I can't imagine it running well with 8.

The second PC in my home is the main PC I use for work.  It's a 15 inch Sony VAIO laptop that could certainly support Windows 8 from a specification perspective; however I feel that the additional features don't offer any value to me.  The work I do is primarily with software that would run equally well with Windows 7 as it would with Windows 8 so I don't see why I should part with the $40, no matter how much of a good deal that is.

The third PC in my home is an Acer netbook that is about a year old.  It's primarily used by my wife and is the one machine that I seriously thought about upgrading.  Since it’s a netbook, it came with Windows 7 Starter Edition. Windows 7 Starter Edition is a pretty basic version of Windows and the upgrade would provide additional functionality.  That said, the resolution of the netbook will mean that it doesn't natively support the metro environment so again, I’m not sure it’s a good choice here as well.

So I've read the reviews and played with the previews and I have come to the conclusion that Windows 8 is not a great upgrade path for those with existing hardware.  You next PC or PC-like device will come with Windows 8 installed, however I just don't see the value for me right now.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Four Stage Training Cycle For New Trainers

I wrote this in the intro of a recent facilitator's guide.  I realized that instinctively this was something that I do, however formalizing it was something useful for some inexperienced facilitators who had to work with my material.  It's a simple four stage cycle to teach content in a classroom setting.

You start out with a few minutes explaining what the class is about to learn.  It's not enough to simply introduce that the class will learn how to run reports, for example.  You need to explain why you run reports and perhaps give an example of a time when you would run reports.  Also provide them with what the benefit of this knowledge is to them and to the organization.  Without the benefit, they won't be interested in learning.

Demonstrate the procedure to the class.  Either have them follow along in their student guides, or better yet, have a volunteer perform the procedure while the students instruct them what the steps are according to the student guide.  Having the class instruct the volunteer is more engaging than simply watching you perform the steps.

Once the learners have seen the demonstration, give them a few minutes to try the procedure on their own.  Walk around the class and assist individuals who may be having difficulties.

Before moving on to the next topic, ask if there are any concerns or questions.  Briefly address these or write them down on the parking lot for later follow up.

This simple formula for training can be used if you are a new instructor, a subject matter expert with little or no facilitation experience, or if you are an instructor who hasn't been provided very good facilitation guides.  Repeat this cycle for all the content that needs to be taught and you will get through the training without too much difficulty.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Time Machine for Windows

I remember when Time Machine for Apple’s Mac OS X was announced.  It was heralded as an extraordinary accomplishment in computer technology.  Turns out Windows has had a similar feature called ‘Previous Versions’ since about 2003 that was originally available in their server line of operating systems and has quietly made it’s way into the consumer line of operating systems such as Windows 7.  Nobody knows about this feature as it’s kind of buried in the operating system’s features and not as flashy as Time Machine for Mac OS X. 

To access it, you simply right click on the file you would like to revert to a previous version and click on properties.  Select the Previous Versions tab to see any previous versions that exist for that file.  You may need to turn this feature on, which you can do by navigating through the link on this tab entitled How do I use previous versions?


The reason I am mentioning this here is the usefulness of this feature when developing materials for training.  Having the Previous Versions feature turned on, allows to recall versions that you may have written over with new material.  It happens, from time to time, that your stake holders may request you changing a document back to the way it was last week.  If you haven’t saved that version as a separate document, using Previous Versions in Windows could help you get that information back.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Can Music Teach More than Just Music?

I love the work that Symphony of Science does with their music.  I’m not certain if what they do teaches any science, however it probably reinforces learning that may have already occurred.  In either case I love these videos.  Here is once that I watched the other day:

Symphony of Science–the Quantum World

While it may not be for everyone, if you subscribe to the theory of multiple intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner, this would be a great application of the musical intelligence.  He proposed that learners who respond to the musical intelligence learn best when there are elements of sound, rhythms and obviously music.

I also think this could be used as an example of informal learning as well.  Making corporate videos that narrate the key message of a company’s mission, vision, or values could be a great way to reinforce those messages.

If you want to see more examples of this type of song/video, search YouTube for Symphony of Science.

Monday, April 23, 2012


People have been throwing around HTML5 a lot and I’m not sure everyone fully understands where HTML5 is at.  While the need for HTML5 is firmly established, HTML4 is still the de facto standard for the web.  HTML4 is about a decade old at this point but I decided to check where we were at with HTML5 and how ready are all the browsers for HTML5. 

Turns out that HTML5 hasn’t been signed off so to speak.  Many standards, such as the ability to add video tags without the need for plugins like QuickTime or Flash, or audio tags based around native mp3 playback have been proposed, yet there is no one internet browser that has implemented all the proposed standards yet.

I found this great video that lays it out well.  Take a look.

What is HTML5

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Impressions

I once attended a training session where the instructor was late in arriving to the session, was in a bad mood due to whatever it was that made him late in the first place and was a little dishevelled, also likely due to whatever made him late.  My impression of him and of the training was negative;  I didn’t like this guy and my thoughts of the training was that I wasn’t going to get anything out of this experience.

It turns out I was wrong.  By the end of the first day it was clear this guy knew his stuff and the material was excellent.  I learned a great deal and it changed the way I felt about the subject matter. 

The expectation we put on instructors and facilitators is extremely high.  We expect that they have all the answers, show up an hour early and stay and hour late to answer questions, are perfect in appearance and dress, and are immaculately groomed even when the learners in a session are sometimes more than casual.  We hold them to a higher standard. 

I used to ship my documentation, equipment, and student guides to a location in advance of my arrival.  This was one little thing that you could avoid having to chase after.  That said, what is your contingency if your materials do not arrive.  What do you do?

All I can say is plan for the normal and the abnormal.  Ask yourself these types of questions as you are preparing.  “What happens if my materials don’t arrive in advance of the training?”

Having contingencies can make you look professional and demonstrate to your customer that you can roll with the punches.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PhotoShop CS6 in Beta at Adobe Labs

I've been testing out Windows 8 for quite a few months now and I've felt less than enthusiastic about this new platform.

What I am excited about is the the new PhotoShop which has been out for a few weeks.  I'm going to download it today from Adobe Labs and check out some of the cool new features.  Here is the link for those that might be interested:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dead Poet's Society

One of my favourite scenes in Dead Poet's Society:
I love this simple idea of taking learning out of the classroom, but more importantly Robin Williams makes training engaging and interactive and makes it real - Sharing why the people in the photos are just like the students.  Obviously a little carefully crafted humour doesn't hurt either.