tips

Meet the Storytellers – Free Template

The Articulate challenge this week was to create an interactive org chart. Since I am writing a series on storytelling with several guest bloggers, I created a “Meet the Storytellers” interaction.

storytellers_intro

It’s a fairly simple interaction with one little frill – when you click on a person to view more, the information slides in, and then slides out when you are done.  Also, the person’s image stays in front of the sliding information the entire time.  Click the image below to try it out.

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This effect can be accomplished pretty easily using slide layers.  Below is a quick explanation, then a download of a template you can use to create a similar interaction.

  1. Create the layers that will appear for each option – these are your entrance layers.
  2. Give the objects in this layer the appropriate entrance animations.
  3. Duplicate these layers – the duplicates become your exit layers.
  4. Give the objects in the exit layers the appropriate exit animations and delete the entrance animations.
  5. Create an exit button on each entrance layer that navigates to the corresponding exit layer when clicked.
  6. Shorten the timeline for the exit layers to .75 seconds.
  7. Trigger the exit layers to hide when the timeline ends.

That’s it!

If you want an image, like the faces in this example, to stay in front of the information that slides in and out, just copy the image to each applicable slide layer and make sure it has no associated entrance or exit animations on those layers.

You can download the template by clicking on the image below.

2014-07-24_12-35-57Use the comment box to let me know if this template is helpful or if you have any questions on how to personalize it.

Tell Me a Story – Part 1

As a kid, I hated history class. I loved to read, I loved to solve problems, I hated to memorize. And, while I know I had some great history teachers, I always felt like I had to memorize too much.

Except in the 7th grade when Ms. Gautier (Go-chay) was my history teacher.

28045daca56e4caca3451f5bf642e2e8Ms. Gautier recently passed away, still teaching history to lucky kids in my home town. When I heard the news, I spent some time reflecting on why I enjoyed her so much as a teacher and why I was so sad that she was gone.  I realized that it was because she made history come alive.  We weren’t focused on memorizing dates and figures, but on learning and telling stories.

File:Ivy Mike H Bomb.jpgAlmost every student who had her class remembers one assignment in particular – we were each assigned a “year” from We Didn’t Start the Fire and had to learn about and tell the stories of the headlines for that year.  I was given 1951 – Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom, Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”. I still remember the H-bomb pinata I made for the class. Most of us who had her class still know all of those lyrics.  But most importantly, we all know the stories behind the lyrics.

I know now, as an adult, that history is full of really great and amazing stories. But I think my experience is not uncommon. Often we, as learning professionals, focus on what facts are needed to pass tests and move to the next level. We forget that storytelling can be an extremely powerful way to help learners remember facts within context, or to infuse emotion into a classroom, or to help the audience understand another person’s point of view.

Over the next few weeks, I ‘ll be writing a series on storytelling, with a little help from some friends. I’ll write another short post this week on the types of stories we can use for learning. Then, you get to read some really great writing from two good friends of mine who are amazing storytellers, Melissa F. Miller and Jake Hinkson. I’ll write a final post with some tips on storytelling for learning.

A little about my future guest bloggers:

Melissa is in another profession where storytelling is important – she and her husband practice law at their firm in PA. She, naturally, writes a series of nail-biting legal thrillers that center around some kick @$$ women… I can’t wait for her next novel set to be released at the end of the month. Melissa’s debut novel won the 2012 National Fiction Writing Competition for Physicians and Lawyers and she is a USA Today bestselling author.

Jake is a storyteller of the southern variety. He hails from Arkansas and I could listen to Jake tell stories all day long. Jake knows more about film noir than anyone I have ever met – he’s literally a scholar on the stuff – and writes in that style of noir/pulp fiction. He has published a book and 2 novellas and is a prolific blogger/essayist/short story writer. Jake also holds private writing workshops online if you are interested in honing your storytelling skills.

I may also have some additional surprise guest bloggers so stay tuned!

Celebrating Independence from Cognitive Overload

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!  I am looking forward to a long weekend of food and fireworks (and trying to soothe frightened dogs).

In an early celebration, I participated in David Anderson’s eLearning Heroes Challenge this week with a quiz on avoiding cognitive overload in multimedia learning. (and, now that I am writing this I am wishing I had given it a fireworks theme… hindsight…)

Anyway, I had fun making it and think it is kind of a cool quiz.

principles

The setup

The quiz asks the person taking it to create a Storyline slide with minimal cognitive load.  Yes, the learner is “creating” a Storyline slide within a Storyline project.

It focuses on the use of Mayer’s 10 Principles of Multimedia Learning. You can use the “hint” link on the player to access more information about those principles.

I initially wanted to do this with drag and drop, but in the interest of time decided it would be best to just use some buttons.

choices

Why keys?

keysWell, when I was creating the buttons for the Image category, there were two key pictures – one with a single key and one with a bunch of keys.  To me they very simply illustrated the difference between the necessary information and extraneous context.  I decided that this would be a great simple image and topic to run with.

The choices

Again, in the interest of time, I decided to limit the number of elements the learner had control over.  3 elements were key (pun intended) – the audio, the image, and the text.

For audio, I started with just a simple On or Off choice.  However, since timing is an important element of Mayer’s 10 principles, I switched it up.  There ended up being 3 choices – Audio on with image/word syncing, audio on with no syncing, and audio off.

I used the image to touch on the idea of only including essential information.  This could have been done in other ways as well, but I figured this would be the simplest.  So, there were 3 images choices – basic (one key), with context (a whole keychain), and no image.  In a drag and drop scenario, you could have more control over placement, but for simplicity the image placement is set.

The text got a little more complicated. There are so many ways to include text on a slide! I broke it into 2 categories that covered most text options: amount of words (key words vs. longer descriptions) and word placement (with the picture or standing off on the side). You also have the option of including no image. This gives the learner 5 different text options.

example

The logic

There were lots of triggers with lots of conditions in this project. With 45 different possible set ups, I had to be mindful about how I set up the slide logic.

One way I minimized items on the screen was to make good use of states. The audio had 2 visual states (on and off), the image had 3 (bare bones, with context, and hidden), and the text had 7 (hidden, a paragraph, bullets, key words for both image states, and short descriptions for both image states).

states

I also needed to make sure that all the buttons changed the states of any elements they affected.  So, for instance, if you have set up a complex image with key words, then changed to the simple image, the placement of the key words needed to change.

The logic for allowing the learner to preview the slide they created and for giving feedback got a little tricky, but I won’t go into detail on that here. However, if you would like to see the project file, just drop me a line or comment below.

preview       feedback

Give it a try! 

Click the graphic below to test our your knowledge of Mayer’s 10 Principles of Multimedia Learning.

intro

My eLearning Story

 

Image Credit: David Anderson
Image Credit: David Anderson

I am jumping back in to the Articulate eLearning Challenges this week!  David has asked us to do a short interview with ourselves, answering the following 10 questions:

1. Tell us a little about yourself and the types of e-learning projects you most enjoy.
2. How did you become an e-learning or instructional designer?
3. What are the essentials of good e-learning design?
4. Tell me about your most successful e-learning project.
5. What are the most important criteria in evaluating e-learning?
6. What are some common mistakes new course designers make & how can they avoid them?
7. How is designing mobile learning different than designing for the desktop?
8. How do you evaluate whether your course was effective?
9. How do you keep up your skills and stay current in the industry?
10. What is the future of e-learning?

A little about my process:

Script: I didn’t fully script out my answers, but I did consider each question and make some notes for myself before starting.  I find that when recording audio for eLearning I prefer this method unless there is a specific script I need to follow.  When I do have a script, I always read it out loud a few times to note any phrases that feel unnatural and try to edit those if possible.

Hardware: I almost always use a Logitech headset for recording. It’s comfortable, easy (it’s always plugged in to my computer), and produces a pretty good quality sound.

Software: I recorded each answer as a separate track in Audacity and used the noise removal function to minimize any background buzz the headphones didn’t cancel out. I only allowed myself one take for each answer as I didn’t want to sound scripted and wanted this to be an honest reflection of where I am at this moment. (I did have to start one track over after some crazy dog barking started a few seconds in… the perils of working from home while being married to a professional pet sitter!)

Sharing: Once everything was recorded, background noise was removed, and I had exported the files, I uploaded them to SoundCloud so they could be embedded here.

That’s it – the whole process took less than 30 minutes.

You can listen to my eLearning story using the player below.

I hope you take a little time to share your story as well!

Swim-Bike-Learn

Yesterday I signed up for my third triathlon.  I did my first tri a few years ago and became hooked.  I don’t have the time (or money) to do more than one a year but I look forward to these events with great enthusiasm.

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My friends and I after last year’s Iron Girl Rocky Gap Sprint Triathlon

To celebrate round number three, I’d like to write one of those cheesy “what my hobby taught me about life” kind of posts. So, here are 6 things that triathlons have taught me about instructional design and, well, life.

1. All big things are just made up of small things

I do sprint triathlons.  They usually take about 2 hours for me to complete. But the thrill of triathlons though is that you can really take each part individually and each piece alone isn’t really that bad.  And, when you’re training for that big day you get to start small and gradually big. In fact, just jumping into something so large can lead to serious injury so starting small is imperative.

So it is with instructional design. Sometimes our projects can take a really. long. time. But in the end, each piece is manageable if you have some small goals along the way.  The key is to make sure that everyone on your team (SMEs, graphic artists if you’re lucky enough to have one, etc.) is aware of those small goals and can celebrate when you reach them.  Not only will this help everyone feel like the work is progressing, but it builds camaraderie and can keep people on task.

2. Practice makes better

I don’t believe in perfect, but I do think the more we practice anything, the better we get. And it’s not just practicing the same routine over and over.  Eventually your body (or mind) will get used to that one thing and your fitness will plateau. Practice means stretching yourself and trying new things.  In triathlon training that means running sprints or hills, swimming quick drills and long distances, and biking new routes.

In instructional design it means continuously challenging yourself to innovate and then learning how to build out those fresh new ideas.

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Open water swim on Lake Habeeb

3. Practice with others makes much better

The best triathletes have coaches, as in any sport.  I am not nearly that good.  But I still need people to improve.  A running partner who is a little faster than me.  Someone to race up a hill on my bike. On some days I just need someone to give me the extra motivation to get in my workout.

I have talked at length about why community is important in instructional design and I mean it.  You can’t get better at anything without others to push you, motivate you, and give you feedback. Better doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sometimes practicing with others means reading books or blogs.  Sometimes it means getting inspiration from other people’s projects.  Sometimes it means collaborating or getting feedback on a project from someone else.  It’s not nearly as important how you incorporate others into your practice, as it is that you just do it.

4. Flexibility is key

Two types of flexibility are important in training for triathlons – literal muscle flexibility and some life scheduling flexibility.  It can be difficult to fit in the amount of training that is needed to practice three sports, and do some flexibility and strength training work every week.

Muscle flexibility is also important in instructional design – brain muscles that is. We need to make sure we aren’t getting too caught up in the rigid, power parts of instructional design (our models and theories). In the end, it doesn’t matter how much theory we know or how well we can apply a theory if those aren’t accompanied by some creativity, analytical thinking, and an influx of new ideas.

We also need to be schedule flexible. SMEs don’t always comply with our deadlines, technology issues can ruin a day, and sometimes life just happens. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stick to our deadlines, but rather that we should always build in a cushion when setting goal dates. I always love to under-promise and over-deliver, even on delivery dates.

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The transition area

5. Get the hardest things done first

In triathlons the swim always comes first.  Why? Because you are more likely to drown if you are exhausted from biking and running.  On the same note, the run comes last because, well, you can always walk.

I try to keep that in mind at work as well. I can be a terrible procrastinator, with the excuse that I work well under pressure. But recently I have tried hard to not put off the part you I’m dreading until that after-lunch-I-want-to-nap time. Use the time of day when you have most energy to get the hard things done.  For me this is usually until about 11 am.  In the mornings my mind is more flexible and everything seems a little easier.

6. The only goal that matters is the one I set for myself

Pressure to be the best is all around us and, for myself at least, often the worst of it is pressure we put on ourselves.

The thing is, I will never be a world-class triathlete, and that is ok. What matters is that I am constantly pushing myself to get better physically, mentally, and emotionally so I can handle the challenges thrown at me every day.  This includes making sure I have time with my family and by myself to unwind every day. It means letting go when I have too much on my plate and working harder when life is a little more flexible. It’s about knowing when a project is good enough and not driving myself crazy trying to get to perfect (which is always impossible). I have learned to find confidence in being my best, not the best. It’s so cheesy, and I would have rolled my eyes at this not long ago, but true.

My friend, Kate, looking strong at the finish.

I hope that you have something in your life that challenges you to be your best self.  What lessons have you learned?  Why do you love your hobby?  How does it pour over into your professional life?

And if you are looking for something to help challenge you physically and mentally, I would suggest starting with couch-to-5k program or a sprint triathlon if you already have s few 5k’s under your belt. Trust me, they are much more manageable than you think!

School’s Out for Summer!

Today is the last day of school for the kids in my town. For many that means the start of several months of forgetting much of what they just crammed into their brains for finals.  Admittedly, I was never that kid.  I read all the time, even really boring things like math text books (yeah, I’m that person).

But, as an adult that has been a really great thing!  I am constantly seeking out new ways to learn.  The downside is that now I am the one responsible for paying for books, events, and other learning tools…  and that sure can get expensive.

Earlier this week I attended a local ISPI event.  Rick Rummler spoke on performance thinking and then we participated in several mini-sessions.  Deadra Welcome presented a great min-session on a program she used to keep her department learning (for free!) for a month.

So, in the spirit of keeping the school year alive here are some free tools and resources anyone can use to keep learning all summer long (any beyond!). I provide some examples below, but you can use your favorite search engine to easily find a resource in any of these categories that fits your needs.

Blogs

beach-84560_640You’re here so I figure I don’t need to sell you too much on this one. 🙂

Blogs offer a way to stay on top of current trends, interact with other professionals, and expand your horizons a little. I follow several and my advice is to find some authors you like and subscribe so you never miss a post (unless you are sitting on the beach with a pina colada in hand, in which case you should be ignoring everything digital).

Social Media

tweet-149813_640Twitter is a great learning tool.  Follow some folks who post interesting and useful things, and click on their posts every once in a while.  Online chats such as lrnchat (which happens every Thursday at 8:30 pm EST) are a great way to connect with and learn from other professionals interested in learning. If you can’t make the chats (I am usually having family time) they post the transcripts each week.

LinkedIn is also a nice place to stumble across news, blogs, events and other professional happenings in your field.  The more rich your network of connections (read not just large, but also quality connections), the better your news feed will be on LinkedIn.

Of course, every social media channel offers a chance to learn, but for the newly initiated I think these two are a great place to start.

Online Videos

I can waste lots of hours on YouTube watching videos of cats.  But for about every 3 cat videos, I also watch something that helps me learn a useful skill.  It might be a new workaround for Articulate Storyline or how to build a rain barrel (yep, I just installed some to help water our garden!). Other great online video sites include Screenr, TED, and Vimeo.

Apps

iphone-37856_640Whether you want to learn to code, need some inspiration for a course, or want mobile support for instructional design, apps can offer lots of support and learning opportunities these days.  And no longer is apple king of the apps.  Andriod and Windows app stores have bulked up considerably in the last few years.  And yes, there are tons of great educational apps for free.

If you don’t have a smart phone or tablet, never fear.  Lots of apps also have versions that exist online or can be downloaded to a computer desktop.

Podcasts

Podcasts exist on any topic you can imagine.  I recently participated in one called Eye on ISD. I also listen to several that don’t directly relate to what I do, but keep me listening to a constant stream of new ideas. iTunesU is a great resource for high level learning on specific topics.

computer-103577_640MOOCs

Massive open online courses require some dedication but can be quite worth it.  These online courses are often free and offer an opportunity to “audit” a college course online. There are lots of great places to sign up for a MOOC and it is likely a class exists on whatever you want to learn.

Learn Camp

This is one of the few resources that I am calling out by name for a few reasons: A) I think it is awesome, B) It doesn’t really fit into the categories above, C) I signed up and want to learn from as many awesome people as possible, so you should sign up too.

Learn Camp is a free, 12 week long self-directed program led by Mike Taylor of Articulate. Basically, it is an awesome way to experiment with technology on the web. It is geared towards learning and development professionals, but everyone is welcome to join in the fun. It doesn’t even take much time (less than 30 minutes a week, or 4-8 hours total over 12 weeks), so you have no excuses.

Feedback

I know that for myself, and several others I have come across, a community that can provide substantial feedback on your work is the tool that has helped me grow the most.  I am lucky to have several of these right now, my school community and the eLearning Heroes community being the primary ones.

If you don’t have a work or school environment where you can do thispeak-238488_640s, there are lots of forums and communities online where you can share and get feedback.

Conversations

Talking with folks about their ideas is a great way to learn whether it is face-to-face or virtual.  Ask questions, listen actively, and engage. I try to approach every conversation with the attitude that everyone has something to teach me.

Library

Yep.  Remember the library?

If you really hate making the trek, or don’t have the time, or just love technology too much, many libraries now how programs that will allow you to check out books through your e-reader/tablet/mobile device. There are also now lots of virtual library options like Textbook Revolution (books & textbooks), the Free Library (classic lit and periodicals), and Project Gutenberg (eBooks).

 

What are your favorite ways to learn for free?  Do you have any sites, apps, community or resources you would like to share?  Please do so in the comments below!