9 ways to get smarter if your bus (or subway) is running late this morning

Bus Stop

I was out of breath, but I had made it. I had just sprinted two city blocks up a (small-ish) hill, dodged oncoming traffic, hurdled a raccoon that just happened to waddle out of a neighbor’s hedge and firmly planted my two feet at the base of the bus stop sign. It was 7:03am, and I was on time. Barely.

Then I checked the OneBusAway app to find out when the bus would arrive and my blood pressure began to rise.

I had risked life and limb to catch the early bus, and it was delayed. Not just delayed… it was delayed EIGHT. WHOLE. MINUTES!

Suddenly a strange, Zen-like feeling washed over me. Instead of getting upset or indignant, I could be thankful for an 8-minute window I could use to get smarter or learn something new.

If you’re in a similar situation this morning as you commute to work, here are 9 articles, resources or videos you may want to check out in order to productively spend your minutes before that next bus (or train or plane or automobile) arrives: Continue reading

Would You Rather…: Read tons of magazines? Or follow this guy?


“Would you rather…?” is one of my favorite training icebreakers. If you’ve never played, here are 10 would you rather questions to help you get started (and 6 more would you rather questions once you’ve tried those).

Here’s a question: would you rather spend hours sifting through training magazines searching for one or two articles that may be useful… or would you like to simply follow one person via Twitter (or LinkedIn or WordPress or even Pinterest) in order to get a fire hose of useful, immediately applicable articles, research and tips?  Continue reading

Is it worth it to attend that industry conference?

I think conferences can be fun to attend. They offer an opportunity to see some big name speakers deliver keynote addresses. They offer an opportunity to meet new, likeminded people. They house breakout sessions which hold the promise to educate on hot trends or promising practices that can help me do things new or differently or better. And let’s face it, some conferences are held in some pretty fun cities and offer an escape from the daily grind at the office.

But are they really worth it? Continue reading

In honor of the Women’s World Cup goal-fest, here are 5 goals for L&D professionals…


Yesterday as I watched the US women make it look so easy to score five goals in the World Cup finals, I wondered if other people in other professions could ever make it look so easy to achieve five goals.

Here are five goals that learning and development professionals might want to consider. They’re certainly not easy to accomplish, but the key here is to make achieving them look easy. Continue reading

What I Learn From My Readers When I Blog

This is the 308th blog post that I’ve published, and one of the best part of my blogging experience has been the opportunity to learn from my readers.

Yesterday I received an incredibly nice note from a reader who wrote, in part, that this blog offered her “Such insightful and helpful information.” While I love the opportunity to share my insights in hopes that others may find them helpful, more than anything I love learning from Continue reading

My Next Job: Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor (Eat Your Heart Out, Snape!)

Defense Against the Dark Arts InstructorThis fall I’ll begin working as an instructor in a new Workplace Learning & Professional Development certificate program at the University of Washington. I can’t quite recall the formal title of the position, but I kind of see it as a modern day, Seattle-based Defense Against the Dark Arts sort of position. The Dark Arts being poorly designed learning experiences (obviously).

This is how I envision my first day:

“Interactivius!” shouted one of my pupils as he pointed his wand at the PowerPoint slide that was being projected on the screen.

Suddenly the clip art on the slide was transformed into… well, into an animated gif file. “Keep working on the Interactive Charm, young master Neville,” I said, “animated gifs can be fun creatures, but more often than not, they’re nasty little beings that simply make poor slide design worse.”

“Who’s next?” A red haired boy stepped up and as he was about to try his spell he suddenly became distracted. A little rat hopped out of his pocket and ran out the door. The red haired boy ran after it as the class burst into laughter.

The next student to step up was a young man with round spectacles and a funny little scar on his forehead. “Enumerate!” he shouted, and a bolt of light shot from his wand and transformed the bullet points on the slide into numbers.

“Nice start, Mr. Potter,” I explained, “numbers definitely make it easier to identify which point you may be talking about, but there are more engaging ways to present.”

“Step aside, Potter!” a little blonde haired boy shouted, then pointed his wand at the screen and cried: “Transitious!” Suddenly, the slide swirled off the screen, advancing to the next slide which dissolved into the next slide which evaporated into a series of random bars, and finally a checkerboard pattern took the last slide off the screen and left the class facing a blank image that said: “End of Slideshow.” The students who weren’t nauseated or dizzy laughed uncomfortably.

“Mr. Malfoy,” I tried to be as tactful as possible since his father was rumored to have been a very ill-tempered and powerful man, “let’s try to ease off on those slide transitions next time.”

“Hocus Poll-cus,” said a soft-spoken young woman in the class. The bullet points and text were suddenly replaced with a brief series of PollEverywhere questions.

“Brilliant, Miss Granger!” I exclaimed. “Where did you learn that particular enchantment?”

“It was quite an easy one to learn, actually,” she said. “It’s one of 100 different charms I learned from The Big Book of Technologies that can Transform Any Learning Experience! By polling the audience instead of talking at them, you can get them involved in generating content for the lesson!”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now that we’re warmed up,” I continued the lesson, “this will be the first and last time we play with PowerPoint in here. For even though there are a gazillion PowerPoint presentations given each day, it’s actually a very dangerous creature that’s been misused, overused and certainly abused for quite some time. It wasn’t born dangerous, but He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named transformed PowerPoint into a dangerous, perhaps even deadly (if you can die from boredom) creature long ago.”

“He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? You mean, Lecture?” There was a collective, panicked gasp among the students.

“No Mr. Malfoy, Lecture is not the root of all evil, contrary to what many may tell you. There is a time and place for the kindly old soul of presentation delivery methods. No, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is…”

Just then, the bell rang.

“Nice job today. We’ll get into it more deeply on Monday,” I said. “Class dismissed.”

Think you know who He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is? Let’s hear your divination(s) in the Comment section.

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How Many Of These Tools Have You Used For Learning?

How Many Tools

Savvy learning and development professionals keep their eyes out for tools and technologies that can help make the learning process easier. Each year, Jane Hart’s Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4PLT) publishes a list of the top 100 tools for learning. Curious how many of these tools you’re already using? I’ve made a little calculator to help you quickly add them up.

I love exploring this list from time to time because it points me toward new technologies I’ve never heard of and otherwise wouldn’t think to test out.

It was from this list that I got inspired to use PowToon (#46 on the list). I also spent a little time exploring Socrative (#72) and Kahoot (#81) in hopes of finding an alternative to PollEverywhere (#70). In the end, it seems PollEverywhere is the best solution for my needs.

Overall, I’ve used 46 of the technologies from this list in some way, shape or form. I’m looking forward to examining many of the other 54 tools to find out what they might be able to do for me and my learners.

You may also want to take a look at Brian’s picks for new training tools from the 2017 list.

How experienced are you with these tools? Use this calculator in order to add up the number of Top 100 tools you’ve been using, then drop a line in the comment section to let us all know your count!

As a side note, if you want to have a say in which tools make the 2015 Top 100 list, go here and cast your vote.

5 Reasons I Got Involved With My Local ATD Chapter


ATDps Logo

Some professional associations offer little more than another line on your resume. Honestly, this was a big reason why I joined my local ATD chapter a few years ago. I had been a member of the national association for a while, I was beginning a job search and I wanted to show potential employers how connected and invested I was in the world of talent development.

As I’ve come to attend more local chapter meetings and more recently, as I’ve become involved in a more official capacity with the chapter, I’ve found that the benefits go much further than a simple line on my resume. Here are five benefits I’ve enjoyed as I’ve gotten more involved, and these benefits double as five reasons you should consider not just joining but becoming involved in your local ATD (or other professional association) chapter, too.

1. Networking. I continue to be surprised by what I can learn just by talking with others in the L&D field. Over the past week, I’ve had two conversations with two separate Board members of the local chapter, and I was introduced to two different sales models that their organizations use. Yes, I’m more of an instructional designer, but everyone in the training field needs to be able to sell their modules and resources to key influencers – whether at the executive level or line managers. If they don’t buy in, we don’t have traction.

2. Structured Learning. The chapter provides educational sessions on a monthly basis. Some of the speakers are great and talk about topics that I’m currently struggling with in my own work (free resources to make our LMS more user-friendly and engaging, evaluating training, creating a culture of learning). There are other times when I take more from small group conversations and other attendees. Sometimes a seed is planted and hopefully I’ll be able to use it at some point. Regardless, the monthly chapter meetings help remind me that I need to take a few hours out of the month to come up for air and sharpen my own skill set.

3. A Learning Community. I work on a very small training team, so being able to geek out on training ideas with other like-minded individuals on a regular basis is both energizing and helps open my eyes to a world of new possibilities.

4. Playing with House Money. Recently I volunteered to take on the role of “partnerships coordinator”, figuring: what do I have to lose? Stepping into a situation in which I have to seek out new relationships and approach potential corporate sponsors goes a tad beyond my comfort zone, and it’s a skill set I wouldn’t have a chance to work on in any other setting. Yay for personal and professional development!

5. The Lay of the Land. It’s so easy to focus solely on my work at my day job and not care about what others are doing or how they’re doing it. After all, in my day job, I have an opportunity to cure blindness. How cool is that? Except, I can’t do that to the best of my abilities if I’m not on the cutting edge of learning and development. Being more active in the local chapter has given me a much broader perspective on what people are doing and how their learning departments are organized and how their projects are managed. As part of the local chapter, I soak up insights on professional development from independent contractors, small consulting firms, large aerospace companies and huge technology firms.

And you? Have you found any benefits to getting more involved in professional associations in your local area?

Which Would You Prefer: Noise Pollution or Performance Support?

As I was waiting for my luggage to appear at the baggage claim in Delhi last week, a colleague pointed this sign out to me:

performance support at an airport

In a place where honking drivers navigate their way through the crowded streets seemingly by echolocation and sensory overload insights, sounds, tastes, and smells are everywhere, the airport did indeed seem oddly quiet.

If you can’t make out the fine print at the bottom of the screen, it says: “To know the status of your flight, please check the flight information display at various locations.”

It was brilliant. Someone at the airport must have decided that the “training” they were offering – a constant stream of announcements over the PA system – was ineffective. They also must have determined that passengers were probably smart enough that, if pointed in the right direction with good signage, they’d be able to find what they needed.

Continue reading