Tag Archives: inspiration

Superstar conference tweeters, bloggers and curators

I wanted to cite a couple of excellent and experienced conference tweeters in my last post about preparing yourself for backchannel tweeting. So I turned to Twitter, of course, and asked for recommendations. I’d expected one or two names to pop up several times, but instead I got a raft of recommendations – some familiar, some new to me – so I decided to share the list in full for the benefit of any aspiring conference tweeters (or experienced tweeters looking to up their game!).

Some of these people are expert tweeters, others do more live blogging, photo-sharing or curating. Some do all of those things! Either way, these are all examples of people who are perceived to contribute to event backchannels in a really pro-active, consistent and valuable way.

  • AnneMarie Cunningham - One of the names that was new to me, AnneMarie is a GP and clinical lecturer so is in medical ed rather than corporate L&D. She was so highly recommended as a conference tweeter that I look forward to following her at the next event she attends to see what tips I can pick up.
  • Aisha Taylor - I had the pleasure of meeting and tweeting with Aisha at BP’s recent Future of Learning event in Houston. I loved how seamlessly Aisha brought non-attendees into the backchannel by referencing previous conversations or other websites, programmes and events.
  • Craig Taylor - Craig is the master of speedy end-of-day recaps. Whether it’s on his blog, Tayloring It, or his YouTube channel, he shares the two or three key points from each session and his own personal takeaways or actions.
  • Dan Martin - Another new name to me, Dan is (amongst other things) editor of BusinessZone.co.uk and was recommended by Kate (herself an excellent backchannel contributer, mentioned below). He sounds like he knows what he’s doing with social media so, again, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can learn from him next time he live tweets from an event.
  • David Kelly - I have no doubt that, when he tweets from conferences, he does so brilliantly. But where Dave really sets himself apart is in backchannel curation. He describes himself as ‘a huge proponent of backchannel learning’ and his commitment to curating backchannels, even from events he hasn’t personally attended, is second to none. 
  • Justin Mass - I met Justin in the backchannel at Learning 2012, noticing his relentless enthusiasm and ability to capture the really resonant, retweetable soundbites. I’ve since discovered that he’d pledged to just share a single core learning takeaway at the end of each session, but found himself falling back into live tweeting, leading him to reflect on real-time activity switching.
  • Kate Graham - There’s a reason why Kate has become the go-to girl for backchannel organisation in the UK. She’s always aware of her audience and looking for new and better ways to share the event experience with her network. Most often, this is via Twitter and her blog, Learning As I Go.
  • Lesley Price - One of the most enthusiastic tweeters I know, Lesley can always be relied upon to inject a sense of the event atmosphere into the backchannel. She’s also a good person to follow if you’re interested in any tweet-ups that might happen.
  • Martin Couzins - Martin was probably one the first people I noticed uploading photos during conferences and events, as well as sending text-based tweets. He regularly shares round-ups and video or audio interviews from events on his blog, itsdevelopmental, and he’s also written about why live event coverage is so important,
  • Mike Collins - As well as presenting at a number of conferences recently, Mike always reflects thoughtfully and usefully on events he attends, and I believe has also ventured into live blogging – both on The Learning Asylum - as well as tweeting during events.
  • Perry Timms - I’ve not personally followed Perry as a conference tweeter yet but he comes highly recommended, and was also recently voted 7th in People Management magazine’s Top 20 HR Power Tweeters poll – so certainly one to start watching!
  • Steve Wheeler - When some people speak, you know you should listen. Steve’s one of those people. He’s much sought after as a speaker at conferences and other events, but his backchannel contributions are also worth following and learning from.
  • Sukhvinder Pabial - Sukh was another one recommended by Kate, an occupational pyschologist and proponent of positive psychology. Collaboration is a big thing for Sukh and he co-founded the L&D Connect community, so it makes sense that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to backchannel sharing.

Who would you add? If you know of someone who’s a role model for aspiring backchannel contributers, let me know in the comments below or via Twitter, and I’ll add them to the list.

Quick links and resources from BP’s Future of Learning

FutureOfLearningAt the end of November, I flew over to Houston for a two-day internal conference organised by Nick Shackleton-Jones called ‘Future of Learning’. I tweeted a lot throughout the event, using the #BPFOL12 hashtag, and I’ll be writing up some of the key sessions and takeaways in subsequent posts.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to try and pull together some of the really useful links and resources from the backchannel: even though we were a relatively small group tweeting, there were a lot of websites, videos, infographics and tools shared.

I should say that this is almost certainly not a complete list. In my backchannel curation naivety, I didn’t realise that you need to get in there very quickly before Twitter erases all evidence of the hashtag stream! I did manage to find the majority of tweets on Topsy, but I’m fairly sure it was an incomplete record. If you tweeted a link or resource which isn’t mentioned below, let me know and I’ll add it in.

Conference summaries and overviews:

Resources shared or mentioned by Nick Shackleton-Jones

Resources related to Nigel Paine‘s session:

Resources and websites mentioned in or related to Greg Williams‘ session:

Resources and websites mentioned in or related to NeuroSky’s session:

Miscellaneous tools, resources and websites:

Three themes at Learning Technologies 2012

This year’s Learning Technologies event was a bit different from previous years for me. In the past, working for a supplier, I’ve spent most of my time on the exhibition floor – although I gained something new from the experience each year. This year, though, I was able to really experience the conference as a delegate and a track chair.

Don Taylor and the team pulled off a bit of a coup with three impressive keynote speakers, along with a varied programme of topics and presenters. I’ve got pages of notes I want to look back over to help consolidate my takeaways and follow-up actions, but as I reflect on the two days there are three overarching themes that stick out for me.

  • Creativity and innovation don’t just happen – they require a conscious effort and a willingness to challenge the status quo. We as L&D professionals have a responsibility to question, rather than accept, the way things have been done before and find ways to generate and drive forwards new ideas.
  • We mustn’t lose sight of who we are designing learning solutions for – the users. It’s all too easy to give in to business requests for ‘click Next to continue’ e-learning or to allow dense, dry subject matter to become an excuse for ‘crapathy’. Keeping the end users front and centre in mind helps to deliver engaging, effective learning.
  • Sometimes, a back-to-basics approach is the right one. Edward de Bono held a full auditorium in the palm of his hand armed only with an armchair, OHP and pack of coloured pens – demonstrating that, in a world of flashy gadgets and ever-changing technology, less can indeed be more.

There is no shortage of blogs and articles out there already reflecting on Learning Technologies 2012 (and I’ll be adding more of my own over the next few days and weeks). I’d recommend following Kate Graham, the event’s official rapporteur, to make sure you don’t miss the best of the bunch.

I’m interested to know whether the three themes that stuck out for me were the same for other people – do we all take away different messages from these events depending on our roles, interests and pre-existing ideas, or are there a few broad themes that defined the conference for all attendees?

Getting started with Find 15 (Find 15: 9-13 January)

One of my resolutions for 2012 was to take a Find 15 approach to my personal development, and use my blog to record what I did with my 75 minutes each week.

Last week, I mostly used my daily 15 minutes to organise myself so that I can use the 15 minute slots more efficiently in future. Before I share my new approach, let me start by telling you about the fairly inefficient approach to managing my various online sources of inspiration and information that I’ve used up till now.

I used Google Reader to collate all the blogs I’ve ever been interested in, and marked anything I wanted to come back to again as ‘unread’. I used Hootsuite (on the computer) and Tweetdeck (on my phone) to help me manage my Twitter feed, with separate columns for mentions, direct messages and any searches or backchannels I was following. If a Tweet included a link to something I wanted to look at later, I emailed it to myself. (I’m not sure why, but I’ve never really got into ‘favouriting’ Tweets.) I also emailed anything else I found online that I was interested in to myself, again marking them as ‘unread’ to keep them near the top of the pile. And I used Evernote to draft and store blog posts.

That’s a lot to keep track of, and I decided last week was the week to do something about it.

First of all, I tackled Google Reader. I deleted subscriptions to blogs I tend to skim over rather than read or to blogs that haven’t been updated for a very long time. I then sorted the remaining subscriptions into four categories: L&D, presenting, writing/blogging, and entertainment. Finally, I took the time to go through everything I’d marked unread because I had intended to come back to it in more depth: anything that was no longer of relevance or interest, I marked as read; anything that I still wanted to explore, I emailed to my Evernote account.

Evernote itself was my next target. I got rid of all the notes that were just one-liners I jotted down, initially blog post ideas but now fairly meaningless for various reasons. Everything that was left got cleaned up into three notebooks (draft posts, ready-to-publish posts, and published posts) and I grouped these three notebooks under the heading ‘Good to Great’. I then added four new notebooks, corresponding to my four Google Reader categories, and grouped these under the heading ‘To read’. Now, whenever I see a Tweet or blog post that I want to come back to later, I email it to one of these four notebooks in Evernote. I also have an Evernote notebook dedicated to recording (very briefly) what I do with my Find 15 slot each day.

All in all, I’m trying to make Evernote my personal development centre, rather than having numerous emails-to-self, unread Google Reader articles and open browser tabs. I’m sure this more streamlined approach, as well as having inspiration and reference material in the same place I draft my blogs, will really help me maximise my daily 15 minutes set aside for personal development.

(Everything I’ve described above I did during my Monday and Tuesday Find 15 slots. I used the time on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to draft and polish this blog post and my last one, about the use of language in learning design.)

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 ways to improve learner experience: webinar summary

Last week I posted some reflections on innovation, prompted by an interesting LSG webinar presented by James Cory-Wright from Brightwave.

James illustrated 10 examples of incremental innovation (or ‘butterfly moments’) in e-learning, which I think are well worth sharing.

So here’s a quick summary:

  1. Reflect your users. Take the time to create a look and feel that aligns with what they know and that resonates with what they value.
  2. Respect your users. Credit them with the ability to find their own way round a course or set of resources and step away from the enforced linear path model.
  3. Re-purpose successful formulas (with a twist). Find something that works and tweak it to keep it fresh, for example by modelling your next course on a tried-and-tested website.
  4. Resources not courses. Provide users with different entry points into a range of mixed-media resources, whether that’s by format, story, character or topic.
  5. Re-use best practice by the experts. There’s no shame in emulating success and learning from the masters – if someone has a idea which has worked well, use that as a starting point.
  6. Re-invent the e-learning screen. Even if you can’t stretch to video or 3D modelling, you can redefine traditional screens by experimenting with images, text, colour and layout.
  7. Re-purpose good stuff that inspires you. Pull elements from websites, adverts, films or games that you love and see how you can incorporate them into your e-learning design.
  8. (Re-)evolve. Rather than always starting from scratch, consciously consider what you’ve already done and how you could build upon it and evolve it into something one level up.
  9. Remember what the user needs from your design. Keep the WIIFM agenda at the front of your mind and design e-learning that will work for users in a range of contexts and situations.
  10. Repeat the key messages – but always with a twist. Use poster or email campaigns, takeaways, viral videos or any other media you can think of to help people remember what you need them to remember.

You can see a recording of the full webinar (which includes real examples of all the above in practice) or download James’ slides on the LSG website, and he has also picked up on some of the key themes raised by the webinar audience on the Brightwave blog.

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Five days to better e-learning: a quick recap

If you were following last week’s series of blog posts about refreshing and improving an old e-learning course in five days, there was a lot to take in. If you were putting it into practice as you went, it will have been even more intense! So here is a quick recap of the key things we focused on.

We looked at everything from the big picture (learning outcomes, high level structure and flow, and overall character) to the detail (all components of interactions and specific wording choices). But each day we were working on things that one person with limited resources could do even with very little time.

We focused on one area each day for a week, making small changes that add up to a big overall improvement. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty proud if I achieved all that in a week!

Now you’ve had some time to digest, and perhaps even implement, my suggestions from last week, I’d love to know what you think. Does this framework work for you? Is it achievable with your resources? Is there anything you think I’ve missed?

If you missed any posts last week, here’s where you need to go:

Finally, I initially designed this content for a webinar for the IITT and a recording is available for members. I’ll try to pop the slides up on Slideshare sometime soon for everyone else.

Better e-learning – Day 4: Tone of voice, style and character

After two long – but well spent – days focusing exclusively on improving your e-learning interactions, it’s time for something a little different.

Today we’re going to look at how we can bring your e-learning course to life and inject some personality into it. (For me, this is the really fun bit!)

As always, rather than simply tell you what I think, first of all I’m going to share what my webinar participants said when I asked them: what small changes can you make to your existing e-learning course to bring it to life?

Avatars are a great idea but within the constraints of our contrived scenario we probably can’t realistically incorporate these. They are a great aspiration though and something that’s definitely feasible in a more realistic situation – and don’t let the word ‘avatar’ put you off. It doesn’t have to mean virtual world style characters; many of the same benefits can be achieved simply through adding photographs of narrators or characters, for example.

Just as we found yesterday, there are more changes we could make to inject some life into your e-learning than we can possibly hope to achieve in a day. I’ve highlighted four that I think are quick, easy and high impact but ultimately it’s up to you to select the things that are most important to and will make the most difference in your organisation.

  • Apply some imagination to your titles

It’s Thursday morning and I know your creative brain might need a little time to warm up, so we’re not going to get stuck into the detail of the text in your course just yet. Instead, let’s spend some time seeing what we can do with the titles.

I think this is a great place to start, because the course title has a big impact on first impressions. I suspect many e-learning courses are effectively nameless until they’re completed, when a descriptive but not particularly engaging label is attached. This makes me sad for two reasons. Firstly, the course title is your chance to set the tone for the learning experience and to make sure your learners come to that experience in a positive frame of mind. Secondly, coming up with creative course titles can be really enjoyable.

I’d recommend thinking about it throughout the project lifecycle, jotting down ideas as and when they come to you, rather than setting aside a particular slot in your schedule to come up with the name. Having said that, I am putting you on the spot now with a challenge to review and improve your course title. To give you some inspiration, here’s what we came up with when I gave my wonderful webinar participants the same challenge.

Everyone came up with very different ideas, and in this there is no right and wrong. Clearly you need to consider the culture and constraints of your workplace, but a brainstorming session like this might well throw up some ideas for pushing the bounds of what you can do within those constraints. It’s a great exercise for challenging yourself to be a little more imaginative.

So once you’ve come up with a refreshed and revamped title for your course, see if you can take this further. Review the module or unit titles, and even the individual screen headings, to see where you might be able to inject a little burst of creativity. Remember, this is a quick and easy way to change the atmosphere of the course and influence learners’ first impressions.

  • Add contractions and shorten sentences

A friendly, conversational tone of voice is something that was suggested by a few webinar participants and this is definitely one of my top tips for improving an e-learning course. It almost goes without saying that an e-learning course which adopts a less formal and more natural ‘voice’ is more enjoyable and user-friendly than a very stuffy, formal course.

So how do you make your course’s voice more conversational? One of the easiest ways is to add in contractions: replace most instances of is not with isn’t, and so on. This reflects the way we speak in everyday conversation and is instantly easier and more pleasant to read. You don’t necessarily need to add a contraction in every single case; I’d suggest reading the text aloud to yourself, as this is the best way to discover where it sounds forced or unnatural. Those are the places where contractions will make the most difference.

Reading aloud will also help you identify any sentences that are too long and convoluted. If you’re struggling to get to the end of the sentence without taking a breath, perhaps you can rephrase it. These are quick and easy changes that really do have a big impact on the overall feel of your course.

  • Switch from third-person to first- and second-person

How many courses have you seen which talk about ‘the business’ or ‘the organisation’ and the things ‘it’ requires from ‘its employees’? Regardless of the content, for me this instantly creates a ‘them and us’ impression and the feel of top-down instruction.

I’d much rather my e-learning courses were inclusive and personal, and I’m sure you would too. Your learners all work for the same organisation, after all, don’t they? Luckily, this is not difficult to fix. It’s just a case of reworking the text from third-person (‘the business’, ‘employees’) to first-person (‘we’, ‘us’) and second-person (‘you’). Yes, this will probably take a bit of time – and it’s important to be consistent so you’ll probably need to check it through a second time in case you missed anything – but it’ll be worth it.

  • Add real-life examples or employee quotes

I’m probably being a little cheeky including this one as you couldn’t really do this on Thursday afternoon without having done some prior preparation. Nonetheless, you may well have some case studies, quotes and war or success stories from people in the business that are perfect for illustrating your key messages. Now is the time to dig them out and see where they might fit in. Just one or two will do, so don’t panic if you don’t have reams of examples to hand.

Obviously there are lots of different ways you could integrate this kind of material using animations, video, photos and audio. But even without much time or money, the benefit of this material can still be delivered simply by adding it in text format. It might just be a sentence or two here and there to illustrate a key point – perhaps highlighted using italics or bold formatting if you really want it to stand out. Even this low-tech approach will help add character.

So despite having no graphic design resource, we’ve made some significant changes today to the overall feel of your e-learning course, simply through making some subtle changes to the way things are written. You’ve now got a friendly, lively course that will make a positive first impression on your learners and maintain that impression throughout.