Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An Old Dude Gets Whyze


In my personal life rarely do I have a plan.


A basic tenet of EdCamp is to vote with your feet. Not getting what you came for? Vote with your feet: Let them take you where you might.

Almost 40 years ago I gave up control of my life for six years. At 20 I enlisted in the US military. In the Navy to be precise. I made choices, sure. But for the most part others made the decisions. Except they were really my choices. Confused? So was I. At least until I read a blog post by @davidtedu on a writing technique known as The Three Whys. The way I figure it asking why three times takes one deeper into a subject. This allows one to glean insights that might have been missed during a more conventional process of analysis.

Why did I join the Navy? To have an adventure. To have a chance at living a life beyond the commute here and there existence I'd known for far too long. Why did I want adventure? Because I felt my life to that point resembled a connect-the-dots puzzle where predefined forms reveal themselves after a period of focused effort. The point is the forms were there all the time. It was live by the numbers 28-29-30 and there you are hello Mr. Easter Bunny. Why do I have a problem with numbers? Because life isn't about counting. Life is more about formulating. And there I got brought up short. Because I don't like to plan. If I really believe in formulating, in thinking deep thoughts and applying, them isn't that planning, which I have mentioned I'm not a big fan of?


Diego Garcia. I spent one of the best years of my life there. Located a little off the equator in the Indian Ocean it's a coral atoll and jungle. The thing about jungles is they smell. Jungles smell bad. It's because jungles are in continual renewal. Old stuff falls to the jungle floor where decomposes. It feeds new life. I had to travel something like 11,000 miles from home to learn that lesson.

I got there after a week riding a C-141 transport plane all the way from Norton AFB (Air Force Base), to Travis AFB, to Hickam AFB, to Anderson AFB, to Clark AFB, to.. Trust me on this point: It took a whole lot of tos to get me where I wanted to be.

Collage of images
Which brings me back to choices. Diego Garcia in 1978 was isolated duty. I volunteered to go there so the Navy obliged and sent me. I learned that I could usually get what I wanted by asking for stuff few wanted. It wasn't a plan. It was a formula.


I've voted with my feet twice in the last couple weeks. At Design Camp San Diego and EdCampPerris I listened for a time then got up and moved on. What got me moving was a static message, a conversation where one person was doing most of the talking. I know this as teaching. What I'm much more into these days is learning. It's like traveling by air. You can get there slowly by balloon. To go the distance, to make the big leaps, takes oomph, the sort of thing a rocket is good for. The great thing about EdCamp are conversations, where everyone speaks up and shares. It's a kind of design thinking. Everyone speaks up. Different things resonate with different people. Bonds of empathy bring people together for deeper collaboration.


So I asked why a few times and I got whyze. With this whyzdom came the realization that I don't much like being told how something works. I'd much rather listen to a multitude of others share how they think something works and then try it on for size so I can figure out how it works. Thank you David for why assist.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Learning is motion


Initial meetings with clients can be illuminating.


The other day I met with a new client. Their team and I are in the "getting to know you" stage. They showed me a number of slides with data on how many courses were in production, how many were live on their LMS and how many courses were taken by their employees.

Sketch of a human body showing its heart and brain

When I asked about results, what we refer to in the business as return on investment, they drew a blank. Sadly, this is typical. Their data tell a story about butts-in-seats: developing and completing training. But learning is so much more than that.

Don Wettrick teaches a course on innovation at his high school in Indiana. In a Periscope video this morning he talked about how he's considering moving away from traditional grading to PASS/FAIL.

Reflecting on his thoughts I got to thinking that the methods my client and Don use to assess learning misses on efficacy. How well did they achieve their planned result?

One (among many) things I've learned after two years of professional development (PD) alongside K-12 teachers is that mistakes matter. They're a significant part of the learning process. My client, tracking the data they do, don't have visibility on the number of mistakes their organization is making. They don't know if the training they've developed has moved the organization towards its planned result.


I would suggest to Don that grades are important. PASS/FAIL doesn't capture the mistakes learners make along the way. I don't believe grades are a carrot to entice learners to do better for the sake of a higher grade. In Don's Pure Genius he writes how learners say what they're going to do, how much their ultimate work will be worth and then assess along the way and at the end. I believe learning is much more than butts-in-seats. It's about enabling learners to get their hearts and minds in motion doing stuff. Honor the mistakes learners make along the way. Keep the grades.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Wanted Moster


I used to be a Hagar the Horrible fanboy. The Dik Browne strip was a hoot and helped me get my day started right. One of my fav strips was where a bartender asks Hagar what he wants. His reply is something I cherish to this day.


Today's #ds106 daily create challenge was to produce a wanted poster.

Screen capture of a Plotagon animation

To get some ideas I googled "wanted poster". An animated poster of Have You Seen This Wizard caught my eye right away. So that's what I decided to make.


I love using my iPad to ideate and prototype. The daily create challenge helps me open up my creative mindset.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pains of Glass


I spent most of the morning after Christmas looking out my back window and sketching. My mind, free to wander and wonder, eventually coalesced around a pane of glass


I used to make a mean paper airplane. It was fun experimenting with folds and tossing them into the air. Some flew mostly straight. Other planes flew erratic paths in the air.

Sketch showing the launch of a paper airplane into the sky
Somewhere, sometime, I remember someone telling me there would come a time when I would have to put aside my childish things. So at some point in my life I did.

Now, many years later I find myself wondering, is there a difference between childish and childlike? As usual when my mind drifts too far afield I ask Mrs for her perspective. What usually happens is while she's sharing I either have a sudden AHA! moment of crystal clear insight or my thoughts go off on an unexpected tangent.

Today it was a sudden insight that brought understanding. Childish suggests something having to do with one's maturity. Caught with my hand in the cookie jar do I deny it's my hand or do I ask, "Want a cookie too?" Childlike, on the other hand, speaks to innocence and wonder.


It's sometimes painful when I look back and recollect. What might have been, if.. I used to think they were cognitive excursions of the wasteful kind. The past is immutable, right? But of course they're not wasted. Reflections can lead to the old seen in new ways and to new directions.

Which brings me to my granddaughter Carly. We light up when we see each other. I've mostly given up sharing things I know with her. We both get more out of our time together when I experience what she shares with me. I like being childlike alongside her. Problems I'm working on seem smaller when I see them as I think Carly might. No pane, no gain.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Experience It


Bored, the boy took off his watch and began fiddling with it whilst the teacher droned on about predicates. Turning his head he gazed out the window at the concrete playground. Lost in a daydream playing ball with his friends his watch, somehow, found its way into the cuff of his uniform pants. "Five more minutes. Please God make the time go faster." the boy prayed as he stared at the clock high up on the wall. "My watch! Where did it go?" he thought as he sat up suddenly, his face worried. His right arm shot up, hand waving frantically trying to gain the teacher's attention.


This actually happened. A few days after Christmas Break in 1969 I lost my watch. The sister, at Our Lady of Guadalupe School teachers were nuns of the Incarnate Word Order, when she noticed my raised hand smiled. Maybe she thought I was going to ask a question predicated on predicates? Sadly, we'll never know. What I do know, much to my embarrassment, was what happened next. After I told her I'd lost my watch she asked the class to help look for it. Before anyone could start Peter, sitting at his desk in the row next to mine said "He stuffed it into his pants cuff a few minutes go." What do you think happened next?

Sketch of an online student hunched over a desk with a door open to the night in the background

I learned lots of stuff in school. Reflecting on my experience now, so many years later, it surprises me that I did. I mean so much of the time in class I was daydreaming.

Fast forward to now: I finished watching George Saunders: On Story. My takeaway from his talk, I watched it several times, is that story is experience boxed up. Opening the story exposes someone to wonder. Being individuals we appreciate the story based on our experience. So I reflected on this a little more and connected some dots.

What if an online learning experience was more about story than facts? I'm taking HumanMOOC at the moment. I'm learning how to make online learning experiences a bit more learner friendly and engaging. The course is presented in two modalities that I don't completely understand. One is instructor directed whilst the other, I think, is learner directed. As usual in school the subject matter is chunked into lessons or modules the thought of which makes me shudder. They're artificial structures designed to make it easier for.. sorry, I'm going off on a tangent that has nothing to do with my story.

Except that it does. When a student is engaged in her learner experience hours can seem to pass in a blink. In this MOOC I'm put off by the structure of the first modality and confused by the second. The dissonance I feel makes me seek a third learning mode: rhizomatic learning. It's where I come up with a question and go in search of stuff. Sometimes I find answers. Most of the time what I find is more questions.

This is where the magic happens. Rather than poring over media the course designer and/or instructor thinks will provide learning I go on my own way. I don't believe it's serendipitous. It's purpose driven. It's my purpose that motivates me to go out and learn based on my own needs via my own resources.


My face, I'm told, flushed the deep red associated with life-threatening embarrassment as sister bent down to retrieve the watch from my pants-cuff. Geez that memory comes back so clearly despite the passing of almost 50 years. How might we leverage story to build life-lasting knowledge and skill? Might it encourage learners to open a door and, curious, go out into the night and experience it?



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Where The Teachers Are


I spent Saturday October 24 with a roomful of ELA (English Language Art) teachers at the Arizona K12 Center. We learned about educational technology tools, including how to leverage them to support teaching to Arizona’s college and career ready standards. Disclosure: I’m not a teacher. I do instructional design.


Me not being a teacher is a good thing. I don’t know enough to keep quiet when something was introduced during the workshop. It’s all new to me. Except that it’s not. I learn a lot about K-12 strategies and educational technology at the EdCamps I participate in. Through some applied improvisation later on I figure out how to apply it with the adult learners I support.

I get asked sometimes why participate in so many EdCamps? I think I’m up to 30 so far: EdCamps in Texas, Arizona, California and Washington, DC. It’s because I like the improv. Hearing about something cool I want to try it right away, or as soon as possible, before it gets stale. I view doing something that I just learned from teachers as improv because I’m flying without a net. I don’t know what the cues are. Not being a teacher means I’m not sure about context. So I give it a try and add or drop stuff as seems to make sense.


I hear now and then how we instructional designers need to be more innovative and creative. A lot of times the ideas that come back from “How?” involve advanced educational technology. Since EdCamp I prefer simpler more natural and humanistic approaches.

Photo of BREAKOUT EDU box

At CUEROCKSTAR Las VegasI learned about this Breakout EDU thing. The way it works is you get a box. But not just an ordinary box. Noooo. You get one with a sturdy hasp. About that hasp, it’s an electricians lockout hasp. There can be as many as six locks on this hasp.

Sketch of am electricians lockout hasp attached to a box

The teacher, or in my case instructional designer, crafts an engaging story. This is what teacher and author Dave Burgess calls “A Hook”. My name for it, after watching Jack Black in Goosebumps, is “The Twist.” Anyway, the learner or learners, once engaged, work to solve puzzles. The puzzles and their solutions are grounded in what the learner is being taught or trained on.


At AZTEA’s P3: Problems, Projects, and Possibilities conference I presented a session on designing interactive presentations. One of the things I demonstrated was the Breakout EDU box. There were “technical difficulties”, however, and I had to do some improvisation to get over the bump.

Here’s how it was supposed to go. First there was the trailer. Then the backstory. Lastly was the vital clue. Anyway, given technical difficulties I had to play all the parts live. I got to feel the learning. It was pretty cool. I have a whole new perspective on how to do it next time. I’ll definitely have some backup stuff, too.


One thing I need to work on, what teacher Chris Long calls Self-Development is the BOOS (Butts-Out-Of-Seats).


I think, and some research studies suggests, learning efficacy can be deepened when learners are actively engaged and moving around doing learning activities.


To review, why do I get most of my PD (Professional Development) from EdCamp & CUE? Because that’s where the teachers are.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Prototyping Guild Chat


I have an unscheduled trip later today. Two of my kids, Carly my grand daughter, and I are going to California. There's been a death in the family and we need to visit my sister. I don't want to miss tomorrow's Guild Chat so I prototyped what I'd share. In case I can't make it the prototype can be my input. If it turns out I can make the chat then the prototype was good reflection.


Plotagon is this 3D animation app available for iOS, Mac, and Windows. If you can type you can make cool 3D animation.

Collage of images showing the Plotagon user interface

As shown in the screen captures above Plotagon's interface has two areas: scripts and scenes. I first chose the scene and characters I wanted in my plot. Next I typed what I wanted the characters to say and do.

When it's all done I click Share (button not shown) and add some hashtags to make finding it easier.


Plotagon is an amazing app. It makes storytelling with animation easy and engaging. Here's the Guild Chat prototype.