Tuesday, July 26, 2016

6 Uncommon Reasons to Create an Online Portfolio

If you're like me, life gets really, really busy and there are some things that go unattended. Aside from my LinkedIn profile, my online presence has been one of the things that has suffered over the past couple of years.

Don't get me wrong. I've continued to stay connected with professional and personal friends, engaged in relevant conversations online, written a few articles, presented at a few conferences, and in general been a pretty consistent digital consumer over the past couple of years. What's been suffering is my role as an active content creator and curator. Most of my curation has happened inside the walled garden of the company I work for--an important audience, to be sure, but a much smaller audience, and therefore, a much smaller conversation.

And I think I've got important things to discuss with you! My recent thoughts and explorations have been pushing on the edges of some exciting spaces, including the social construction of learning, effective use of mobile for learning and performance, and the incidental capture and use of learning/performance data (as a catalyst for decision-making, selection, and professional development). I'd love to talk with you about these things!

As I've been thinking of sharing some thoughts around these topics, it's occurred to me that articles and presentations, though an important part of the conversation, simply aren't enough--they are one-directional. Because I'm really interested in sparking asynchronous conversations, I want to share (and receive) more. I need to more effectively articulate my thoughts and internal conversations about these topics.

Don McCollough's Art Work Panorama Photo
Photo by Don McCollough

I think I need a portfolio--something that can help convey the twists and turns of the ideas themselves, as well as ideas about ideas. I want that portfolio to foster conversation with others. I know the only way for that to happen is to make it easy: easy to consume and digest the basic ideas, and easy to engage in conversations around them. I envision a space that frames the conversation and then invites responses by video, text, tweet, posted response, or comment--all hosted on the preferred platform of the respondent and aggregated in the portfolio.

I may set out to build a framework to accomplish this or I may find one to adopt, but before I venture into tools and solution designreasons I would use a portfolio. Of course, someone looking for a job (internal or external) could immediately benefit from a portfolio, but here are some other reasons I think a portfolio is the time investment:

1. Help spark a conversation. As mentioned above, I want to have conversations around the ideas I'm exploring. By showing samples and illustrations of concepts, frameworks, and models, others interested in engaging in that conversation can pursue deeper engagement in the topics. It's a key benefit to what Jane Bozarth refers to as "Working Out Loud" in her book Show Your Work.

2. Actively cultivate design skills. Design, especially visual design, is a skill that requires hands-on practice. Connie Malamed does a great job coaching learning designers (which I am at my core) in visual design in her book Visual Design Solutions.

3. Work through ideas. Sometimes, something I think I understand completely becomes rather difficult to explain without the context I hold almost as tacit knowledge. This is particularly true of inventions and models. The process of portfolio-making requires us to think through conveyance of ideas and to meet head-on those sticky points where others tilt their heads and raise their eyebrows.

4. Get feedback and critique. In addition to leveraging your portfolio as a catalyst for conversations, you should try to get feedback on your work. Designs of all kinds need user feedback at all phases. By the time you get your idea ready to share in a portfolio,

5. Self-critique. As you pull your ideas into some semblance of conveyable thought, you'll sometimes find holes in the idea itself. The portfolio is a way to quality-check your own work, and to work through issues on the way toward sharing and conversing.

6. Actively develop new skills. To work as a communication and conversation tool, a portfolio needs to have a dynamic nature of its own. You'll need to use different media to effectively convey different ideas, and you'll need to use tools to inject the right level of interactivity. Of course, in this process, you'll acquire new skills.

In the end, some of what you get out of life results from what you put into it. The economy of ideas is a tricky space sometimes, and its important to consider what is ready (and appropriate) for sharing and what's not. Finding the right balance can be challenging, but a portfolio, I'm convinced, is one way to get there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

xAPI Privacy Questions with Aaron Silvers

Aaron Silvers has been a leader in the Experience API (xAPI or 'TinCan') community for years. In fact, if you know about xAPI, it's a pretty good guess that Aaron had a hand in you learning about it.

But even if you don't know about xAPI, you should care. It's one of those big-dot-deals that will let learning practitioners drill to the crux of things: performance.

For the past couple of years, Aaron and others in the xAPI community have guided me along the road to better understanding the potential xAPI has to be a truly transformative technological framework for the Learning and Performance community.

But I have questions.

As we arrive in a world where data increasingly has power and value, I imagine my own experiences being captured and analyzed and exchanged as part of a bigger data set--a sort of currency that describes the path I took to performance, along with minute details of my life. While I have no concerns about employers or others with whom I've entered into agreements using this data, what happens when a third-party analytics company gets ahold of it? Do they have a right to use it? Do others, who legitimately captured this data for reasons I agreed to now have the right to sell it?

My friend, Aaron Silvers, has a perspective on this. I feel quite fortunate that he was willing and able to share it with me:

Aaron can be found at many learning industry events, and online at http://makingbetter.us/blog/.

You can learn more about xAPI at adlnet.gov.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Visual Communication is a Core Competency

e-Learning expert Tom Kuhlmann recently posted an article called "Essential Guide to Visual Thinking for E-Learning" in which he shared links to a number of great resources on Visual Thinking. 
Tom's post got me thinking about the importance of visual thinking and how so many of my influencers would probably consider visual thinking among their most valuable competencies.
These are people who are tops in their areas of focus: consultants, authors, speakers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and true thought leaders (not self-proclaimed). It makes a lot of sense that visual thinking would be so consistently prized among them. They are, after all, thinking beyond the norm; connecting ideas and concepts that may have never before been connected. Having a visual way to do this is bound to facilitate the kinds of expansive thinking in which they so often engage. 
I've heard it said that people can generally process pictures and symbols faster than they can read and interpret words. What's more, if you're explaining something and you show an image that visually conveys your ideas along with your words, isn't it easier for people to understand the ideas and concepts you're sharing? We need only to look back on our own experiences to confirm this is true. 
So why not invest in our own visual communication competency? And where better to start than visual thinking? 
Reading the article reminded me of the "40 Days of Doodling Challenge" posed by a number of my friends. It essentially works like this: 
1. Learn something about visual thinking and visual communication (that's where the article comes in, but there are many, many other resources to draw from). 
2. Every day for 40 days, draw something to convey a concept or idea that you would normally express in words. 
3. Post your drawings to social media. (This helps you get feedback and encouragement, as well as encourages your friends to improve their own competency as well.) You don't have to post them all, but of course, if you do, you'll create a handy visual reference to your progress.
The thing is, you don't have to be an artist to do the 40 Days of Doodling Challenge; it's not about drawing pretty pictures, but rather, using simple images to convey ideas. 
an example of doodling; guy with a though bubble showing two photos

Why 40 days? The idea is that if you do something for 40 days, you'll get comfortable enough with it to form a habit. I do, however, know some folks who are doing 100 Days of Doodling, and it's easy to see that their skills are improving even more, and they seem to be having more fun! 
If you read this article and watch the linked videos, you'll have been exposed to the basic concepts you need to begin your own 40 Days of Doodling Challenge. 
In the end, you'll never regret improving your own visual communication and visual thinking competencies, and you'll find that you use these skills virtually every day and in almost every aspect of your life.

Visual Thinking and Design Books I Like: (from newest to oldest)


Sunday, January 25, 2015

xAPI Privacy Questions: Who Should Own My Experience Data?

Years ago I was involved with a company that dealt with medical informatics. Among other things, this small firm was building an innovative Electronic Health Record (EHR); this was not too many years after the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the design team faced some interesting questions about the data they would be capturing. While the need to manage the privacy of the data was not in question, the ownership of the data was.

Think about it: I'm a patient. The data is just representations of my health, so in a sense, I generated the data. Shouldn't it belong to me, almost in the sense of a unique composition of music belonging to the author?

Experience data is or can be as personal as health information. It is, after all, a reflection of life choices, thoughts, and performance. While a company paying me to take an e-learning course may have some de facto right to use the captured scores from assessments, as we move toward a more distributed model of experience information capture, who else should have the right to see that information?

Does a prospective employer have the right to scan my xAPI records and infer certain thinking patterns and qualities based on an analysis of my choices, learning outcomes, and other experiences? Could that be part of the application process they require of prospective employees? Will they need a waiver from me--a HIPAA-like consent document?

A simple illustration of experience data in action:

Google is capturing a lot of information about my behavior. Here's a map of where I traveled one Saturday, courtesy of Google location services on my Android phone and Google Location History (https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0).

Between the timestamp, GPS, and distance information, I can quickly see a picture of how "fast" I rode my bike in the morning. And there's pretty good evidence here that I went to watch the Norfolk Tides beat Pawtucket 3 to 1.

I choose to share this information with Google. I see a fair exchange. I'm getting value from their network collecting detailed information about my activities when they turn that into information I can use. And they extract insight from my data that enables them, on a grander scale, to identify patterns of human behavior, which they use to generate revenue through targeted ad sales, marketing insights, services, and much, much more. Information is the currency that fuels their business model. I'm sure they'd like to get their hands on the details of performance that will someday be generated by my xAPI data. And yours.

The questions that linger with me are: Who will be able to sell them that information? And in the end, who has the right to decide if and how they can use it?

Other thoughts on data ownership:

My friend, Aaron Silvers has been quite involved in xAPI for years; you can read some of his recent thoughts on this topic here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Is "Forty Days of Dating" the New Soap Format?

Just happened upon this really interesting project. The web design is compelling, but what really strikes me is the transition of the medium to the web: this is essentially a drama (soap opera) played out over time, and then formatted into a compelling story and released over time. Really interesting format to generate interest.

FYI, there is some PG-13+ language used in some parts of the dialog.

The content may not be representative of what we'll be watching in the future, but the format may be.


Take a gander; then come back here and let me know your thoughts.

Reminds me of Jason Merkoski's questions about the future of reading. Here we have a story, based on real experiences, that is primarily in written form, but played out over time. The authors are the actors (though they're not really acting), as well as the designers.

Is design skill the new essential for authors? Me thinks there is a change in the wind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jerry Seinfeld loves e-Learning!

It came to me in a dream last night, but it was just as real as the Gucci handbag I'll be sporting on my way into work this morning: Jerry Seinfeld absolutely loves e-Learning!

I first noticed him pulling bags from the trunk of his car as my son and a new friend we'd just met were walking down the quiet Manhattan street. I thought I recognized him from somewhere, but his name didn't immediately pop into my head.

"Joe!" he hollered out as we walked past the front of his nondescript sedan. "Jerry. Jerry Seinfeld." It all came rushing back. I had met Jerry at an e-Learning conference the year before. He'd inserted himself into every conversation about e-Learning that he could find, hanging out in the lobby bar until way past midnight to talk about practical, but fun ways to leverage social media for learning, how reusable learning objects may just have arrived before their time, and whether or not tracking informal learning transmuted it into formal learning.

"Hi Jerry, what have you been up to?" I piped back at him, turning to focus, at least for a moment.

"Oh, the usual, telling jokes to throngs of adoring fans. Nothing exciting, really. But what about you? What have you been doing? Have you built any new courses? Get your hands on any new tools? What about Storyline? What's that all about? I keep seeing references to it on the blogs and it sounds really exciting."

"Lots of questions, Jerry. Well, yes, I've been doing a ton of courses and my team--they've been really rocking the learning scene at Amerigroup, putting together really interesting stuff on clinical quality management topics like HEDIS, NCQA accreditation, and Continuous Quality Improvement. They did a course on Sickle Cell Disease and another on HIV. Actually, we just had a bunch of courses get national accreditation. But really, we're still up against the same challenges that we talked about last time. How do you crank out really good courses quicker and quicker?"

"e-Learning, Joe! e-Learning is the answer. I can't get enough of it!"

"Yeah, I remember you're a pretty big fan."

"Who wouldn't be? The infographics, the scenarios, the stories--and the jokes."

"Gotta have those jokes."

"No more page-turners!"

"Couldn't agree more, Jerry. Hey, it was great seeing you. We're headin' over to the park to hang out, so I'd better get going."

"Great seeing you too, Joe. We should get together again. Are you going to any e-Learning conferences next year?"

"Yeah, I've got a couple lined up. I'm going to the Guild conference in the Spring."

"I'm going to the Guild conference too--Learning Solutions 2012! I already registered and booked a flight! Hey, is Jane going to be there? Let's get together with Jane!"

"I'm sure she'll be there, Jerry. Why don't we try to set up a dinner one night and try to get everyone together so we can talk e-learning like old times."

"Awesome! I can't wait!"

As I turned around, I realized the kids (my son surprisingly younger in my dream than he is in real life) had already made their way to the park ahead of me, so I hurried off to find them hanging out at the monkey bars. "Who was that, dad."

"That was Jerry Seinfeld."

"Must be one of those e-Learning geeks," my son told his new friend. "My dad knows a lot of e-Learning geeks."

"Yep. He's one of those e-Learning geeks," I confirmed. I realized I was starting to think of him in the context of those friends I see a few times a year at conferences and online talking about the same things that interest me for the rest of the year. Seldom in person, but always very near.

As I reflected on the encounter, I remembered that Jerry was known throughout the world for engaging audiences, and that he'd only recently been drawn to e-Learning as a passion and a hobby. I thought of how the old, page-turner models we used to over-use would repel him just as quickly as really interesting e-Learning attracted him to the field. It reminded me that as we plan and design e-Learning solutions, it would pay us to consider how it would impact the average learner. It makes sense for us to constantly ask ourselves how they'll react to each part of the course or module. Before we go forward building any new design, we should ask ourselves: "What would Jerry do?"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Open Clip Art Library

Stumbled upon a fairly significant library of open source clip art at openclipart.org. Simple search features, vector images, and all in the public domain. What more could you want?

Here's a screenshot of a simple search I did that yielded a couple pages of presidential images:

The site, which was started back in 2004 boasts hundreds of thousands of images available. Maybe you have some you'd like to contribute too. :-)