Blogs as a Learning Tool

A few weeks ago I released a podcast about using podcasts in learning programs. To keep with such a “meta” theme, today’s blog post focuses on using blogs as part of a learning program.

While I’ve come to love (and sometimes hate) that writing a post every week forces me to stay on top of new developments in learning and development just so that I have something to write about, blogs can be used for more than a platform for individuals to write articles.

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An L&D Professional’s Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday, and my wish for this year is that I get lots of presents. Since you’re just reading this now and not even Amazon’s same-day service will help you at this point, maybe you can give me a different kind of gift. For my birthday in this weird year of 2020, I’d love to get the gift of comments on today’s post. Specifically, I’d love the gift of knowing one thing – personally or professionally – that you’re thankful for this year.

I’ll start. Actually, since it’s my 45th birthday, I’ll share 45 things that I’m thankful for.

“But Brian, this is a column about L&D, instructional design and professional development… what does this have to do with any of that?”

I’m glad I asked. I’m a firm believer that work/life balance and mindful reflection are two essential elements to any professional development. Plus it’s my birthday, so you should do what I ask you to do.

Here are 45 things I’m thankful for…

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Top 200 Tools for Learning in 2020

Last week I shared several tools that I’ve found my children’s teachers using for online school activities that I thought could be helpful for those of us in the L&D field. Today I want to continue with the theme of tools we can use by talking about Jane Hart’s annual list of top tools for learning, which was released at the beginning of September.

New Technology in L&D

I’m always intrigued by Jane Hart‘s list because this is where I have a chance to see what technologies others are using, and I am sometimes inspired to bring something new into my daily practice.

miro whiteboard - top 200 tools for learningI was intrigued to see both Netflix (for documentaries) and Spotify (for podcasts) break onto the top 200 tools for learning. There are also a variety of new tools that made the list that may help with virtual staff meetings, strategic planning sessions and presentations, such as Mural and Miro, which are both online whiteboarding tools.

I’m kind of wishing I had written this post last week so that I could have discovered ilovepdf.com earlier. This is a quick and easy way to convert pdf files into editable documents such as Word, PowerPoint or Excel files with, as stated on their landing page, “almost 100%” accuracy.

There are also several new mindmapping, email and game/survey tools to check out as well.

Old Favorites

When you consider that this list of top 200 tools are tools used by both corporate trainers and classroom educators, there is nothing on highest ranked, most popular 20 tools that surprised me. YouTube, Zoom, Google Search, PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams, Word, Google Docs/Drive, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, Wikipedia, Facebook, Excel, WordPress, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Slack, Canva, Skype and Trello make the top 20.

Other tools that are still popular in use among the Top 50 (in case you were wondering if some of your old stand-by’s were growing out of date) include Kahoot (for games and quizzes), Prezi (this actually surprises me that it’s still so popular, coming in at #39), Snagit (for screen captures) and Vyond (for animated video creation).

Further down the list, at #182, you’ll find Pixabay. It’s a site I use every week when I’m looking for imagery for this blog or for my PowerPoint decks. If you haven’t stumbled upon it yet and you’re on the lookout for free stock images, definitely give it a look.

Tools for Learning I Plan To Try

mentimeter polling  in top 200 tools for learningMy favorite audience participation tool is PollEverywhere, though I was recently exposed to Mentimeter (which comes in at #26 on the list). I’m not sure if it’ll give me something extra, but I’d like to check it out and see why it’s so popular.

I mentioned Mural as a whiteboarding tool. When I’m in person, I love to use a flipchart, whiteboards, and sticky notes to help organize my thoughts and play with ideas during meetings. In this world of COVID and virtual meetings, this could be a handy tool.

I’ve also just downloaded Snip & Sketch, which appears at #86 on this list. It’s a free download if you have Microsoft Office on your computer, and is Microsoft’s replacement to their Snipping Tool.

If you have a chance to check out this list of top 200 tools for learning, I’d love to hear which tools you’re using, and which tools sound like they could help you with your learning and development programs!


Want to try out a tool that can help you generate training activities – whether you’re delivering virtual sessions or you’re returning to in-person training? Perhaps Soapbox will appear on this top 200 list next year.

What can trainers steal from online, k-12 instruction?

Back in March, schools abruptly closed and went online. It was a messy experience for students, teachers and parents. This fall however, many schools and teachers have done an amazing job finding new educational technologies and navigating their classes through less than ideal circumstances. As I sometimes catch myself spying on my children in school to see what online school looks like these days, I find that some teachers are using technologies I’d never thought to use (or hadn’t even heard of).

I think there might be some lessons and technologies we, in the world of learning and development, can adopt from these online school experiences. Here are two recent examples that I’ve seen my children’s teachers use.

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5 Good Books for Trainers

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to speak with a number of authors who have written books on various aspects of training and development.

In this age of COVID, with conferences and training events either being cancelled or going virtual, you may be looking for other ways to hone your craft, and one of these books may be just what you need.

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Stop Stressing About Virtual Training Activities

The United States went into lockdown mode as it responded to COVID-19 back around St. Patrick’s Day of this year. It’s been about 6 months since the world of learning and development has gone almost exclusively to virtual design and delivery, and there’s really no end in sight.

Are you still able to come up with original virtual training activities to keep people engaged?

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Are there instructional design lessons to be learned from Married At First Sight?

Perhaps I’ve been quarantined too long and have run out of “good” shows to watch, but when I recently stumbled across Married At First Sight (Season 9) on Netflix, I couldn’t resist.

As I began to watch it, I noticed something. I found myself rooting for certain people on the show. I wasn’t rooting against anyone on the show, but I definitely found myself rooting for a few of the people more than others. As I reflected on this more, I wondered if there was a lesson for us in the world of instructional design.

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Does that training need to be a full day? Does that elearning need to be a full hour?

My favorite teacher of all time was Mr. O’Laughlin, who showed the world what a 4th grade teacher should be. He was funny and always had us laughing. He was kind, smart, from where we stood he was effective, we seemed to learn things. He even had the patience to teach us chess. He was all of these things, that is, until someone broke a rule (which, as fourth graders, all us did at one point or another). Then he’d break out the dreaded punishment: a 500-word essay about what we did.

Legend had it that, several years before, there was a student named David Miller who, upon receiving his gazillionth 500-word essay assignment, sat down and wrote the following:

I was very, very, very, very (insert 493 more “verys”) bad.

In a way, he fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, although I’m not quite sure this was Mr. O’Laughlin’s intention. To some degree, the reminds me of how some training programs and metrics are still implemented.

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Virtual Training Design Lessons from a Weekend of Wine Tasting

Last weekend I had a chance to visit several wineries in Walla Walla, WA. A lot of people wondered why I was going to wineries if I don’t drink. Honestly, if I have an opportunity to sit outside on a gorgeous day, surrounded by beautiful scenery and amazing views while having fun conversations and learning about things I knew nothing about, then count me in.

As we sat in the final winery we were visiting over the weekend, I began to reflect on the experience and realized there might be some lessons to take away that can be applied to virtual training design.

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Survey Results: The Burden of Going All Virtual

In a post last week, I asked a series of questions to get a better idea of the effort that you’ve needed to apply as you bring training programs to a completely virtual/online environment. If you didn’t have a chance to respond, I invite you to check out the survey questions and add your own responses here.

I promised to share results, and after a week’s worth of data collection, there are some interesting findings, including the fact that one virtual meeting platform is being used FAR MORE than any other, and there is definitely more in-person training that is still happening than I would have hypothesized. Here is the way the survey results have come in to date:

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