Building the Bridge to Performance in the Brain

Isn’t it interesting that neuroscience has become a buzz topic of the L&D space? The brain itself has always been a part of learning and yet there has been a resurgence of research regarding learning, memory and cognitive approaches in neuroscience. There are many neuroscience tools that we can use to assist us in designing better learning and I find that the best come from science, not vendors trying to sell you neuroscience. Read on.

Everlasting performance

Knowledge retention is a huge factor when designing learning. It can become a challenge because we have to come up with ways for successful knowledge transfer. There needs to be techniques that shorten the transfer rate from learning to application. Once employees retain this information, it can be retrieved quickly when they need it to perform. Thanks to science we can rely on some cognitive learning strategies that can be applied to the learning solutions we are creating.

Repeated Retrieval

This is an approach where learners will recall information from memory. The learner does this a few times to help strengthen the connection of the information stored in memory. This allows the curve of forgetting to become more gentle.  An example of this is bite sized pieces of Q&A being sent to learners to reinforce what they learned. This enables them to practice retrieving the information while they are in their jobs rather then taking them out of the contextual environment. This could be an app on their mobile device or even an email to them.

Duolingo is an app that does this very well. It starts out the learning with an assessment and asks questions upfront and based on the answer either moves them to the next question or provides them with remedial training until they are successful. It also requires them to use the language in all modalities, speech, reading and writing for full comprehension.

The Spacing Effect

Also known as spaced practice, this proven method has a learner review the same information or slight increase of information in specific period of time. We all know how cramming is the college method, this is the antithesis of that. I have seen many solutions where the learner is given short bursts of information for as little as 5 minutes a day. Then the next burst will be the same information to help strengthen that connection so it can be stored into long term memory. This also allows the learning to be embedded into their work day, keeping them in context.


The process of reflection allows learners to stop and digest the information they were given to learn. So perhaps after taking that elearning course or session they will be given time to review what they learned but also will create their own understanding of it as it resonates with them. When you can understand something in your own way, there is better encoding of the information. It’s easier to retain your own understanding than someone else’s because you’ve re-wired to your brain.

These are a just a few of the areas that I am working on implementing into my work everyday. I continue to do research on various neuroscience topics in the areas of memory, learning, cognitive load, and theories.


LIVE on #LearnHaus: Using Periscope for Learning Indian Cuisine

If you have been following me on social media, you’ll know my latest hobby is growing my cooking skills with Indian cuisine. I find it exciting since I haven’t been exposed to it much and still in the honeymoon phase. As I work through the different recipes, I’ll share photos on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages, but what I would really like is to educate those who have not experienced the cuisine. Anyone that asks me about Indian food will know that I rattle off like a SME. I am going to start a blog soon to start to share what I have learned. I wanted another way to educate people and I actually found this solution by accident. Enter Periscope.

I first used Periscope at ATD ICE 2015 during Erik Wahl’s performance/keynote and found it great to share what I was experiencing with people all over the world. I thought about how streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat could help leverage learning and extend reach. Soon I realized I would be using it for my own purposes in my Indian cooking when I decided that I would share some recipes I was working on.

Before I share my experience with Periscope, a little about how to use it. Periscope is an app that connects to your Twitter account and allows you to stream live to your folks on both Periscope and Twitter mobile apps. You can also view through web browsers on Twitter. When you load the app the first thing you see is live streams of anyone you are following. You can also explore around the globe what other top streams are. Lastly, you can start your own stream of course!

Before you actually start your broadcast you can give a title to your stream, enable chat for people so they make comments or ask questions, and even tap the screen to give people “hearts” to show you enjoy the broadcast. I think preparing for it somewhat, depending on what you are sharing is key. I had to figure out how I was going to have my phone standing when I would need two hands to cook with. I came up with turning a drinking glass upside down and putting a coffee mug on top and had my phone sitting in there. It was great because you saw the whole landscape of the kitchen and exactly what I was doing. If there was a certain cutting technique I turned the mug upside down and laid the phone flat on top of it so the camera would be down on my hands.Preparation is a good idea before you start streaming so you don’t lose your audience.

During the stream I quickly realized that for cooking at least, you want it to be as streamlined as possible because something that normally takes 30 minutes to do  might take 45 because of the attention to the stream. Also, there are times when you are waiting for something to cook that might take 10-20 minutes. How do you fill empty time up? One thing you can try is to end the stream while you are waiting and then start a new broadcast to continue. Another way is to use that time to answer questions or educate the audience. I decided to teach about the different spices that are used in the dishes and the different kinds of chilis. Overall it went pretty well for a first try. One major tip: just because it’s a live broadcast doesn’t mean you should fly by the seat of your pants, you should have an overall idea of how the broadcast will flow so there is some structure. You want it to be casual in conversation too. This is not a recorded training session!

What I think is most important is after the stream you can see the total time the broadcast was, which is easy to forget about and also the retention rate. You can see what the average time someone spent viewing your broadcast too. The retention rate is really helpful because you can benchmark your training to keep people engaged. I plan to improve my retention rate as I plan the broadcast out better.

The next thing I’ll try is giving folks the recipe to be broadcasted a week or two in advance so they have time to get the ingredients and then we can all cook together during the broadcast. Take it from just being a viewer to being involved in the broadcast and actually learning something new. Can’t wait to share!


What Does Lady Gaga Have in Common With Today’s Learning Design?…Performance!

I was thinking about how much the industry has changed for those of us in the learning and performance (L&P) arena. Now I will tell you that I was able to get on the ground early and skip a lot of what this article is mostly about, but I feel that I should address it anyhow. So what do I mean by the title of this blog post? Well a few things…

One is that I see a parallel between the music industry and the L&P industry in that they both have had to grow up a little bit in terms of what they stand for. If we go back to 1999 when Britney Spears and N’Sync were all the rage we were so dazzled (some of us anyway) by how they were “performing” with all the lights and back up dancers we didn’t miss the most crucial piece: they weren’t actually singing.

During that time “trainers” were delivering mostly classroom instruction and printing lots of workbooks for our “trainees”. Most of them had a corporate account with Trainer’s Warehouse. They handed out the smile sheets at the end of the class. The best part? Just like when Britney hit us one more time, the training department was in awe and excitement when their attendance rate was greater than 50%.

While both of our industries were excelling at the time, I feel that now both of our industries have changed. As learning professionals we are moving in the direction of what real performance looks like and how we get our organizations there. We are designing for performance while keeping learning in mind. We are all becoming increasingly innovative in the discoveries and strides we are making to progress forward. We are rejecting the fakers like the smile sheet for a better outcome, better performance.

In the music industry the same thing is happening. Singers are being criticized for their use of autotune on their records and the fact that 80% of their live shows are lip synced. Now singers like Lady Gaga (personal bias) have arrived pushing what it means to be a performer. Singing live, carrying a message, and keeping fans engaged. Our equivalent of that is making the learning experience real and measuring performance all while providing them with the tools and information they need for success.

So the need for real performance in both industries is very much alive and is the new norm that is expected among “supporters”. What it ends up being is the proof that we are all the real deal in our respective professions.

I was always taught to know better regarding performance because I stayed current in the industry and applied it to everyday life. It’s interesting when you start working with people who are not there yet. I sometimes ask myself “Why are they doing it that way, don’t they know it’s outdated?” Then you have the people that know what they need to do but for some reason they don’t change their behavior…

I hope that this helps to elaborate on how far we have come in the L&P industry and shed some light on what we are now expected to be working towards for now and especially the future in our profession.


My Encounter With 70-20-10

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a Fortune 500 company about their learning strategy. Like many companies, they adapted their strategy from an existing model and used it to fit their organization. One of those models was the 70-20-10 rule of thought. While I did like their use of the model I didn’t like the misconceptions the model gave.

It wasn’t the first I had heard of it, but the first time that I saw it being used in an actual organization. As I discovered more about it I realized that I liked the recognition of all the available learning means to a learner and not necessarily the model itself. I decided to do some more research about it just to back up my own opinion.

There is a whole backchannel of articles and information that I found on 70-20-10 from Guy Wallace that you might find insightful.

Basically what I found was that 70-20-10 is really a prescriptive remedy for managers to be developed into senior managers & executives. But I don’t see it useful for daily learning workflows. It really separates each modality into sections and pushes the use of staying in line with those numbers. I don’t think that you should follow this as a rule of thumb with today’s learning strategies. To conform to these numbers would be, in the words of Will Thalheimer, making it more bogus and dangerous.

Another interesting thing that I didn’t think of was the Amplifier Effect which says that formal training actually clarifies and boosts the 90% of informal training. Then I think of the role performance support plays in this. I think that it supports that boost and clarification to translate to actual use of the training on the job (formal training should also relate to the context of the job if you have designed it effectively, but that is another story). To me it seems that this is more of a reflective trend in learning versus the go-to model to follow. All three work together, it doesn’t make one more important than the other. Is it simply the state of learning or is it an actual validation?

I will end this post with a quote from Michael Stanford in his article, Curse of 70-20-10.

“70-20-10? How about 100. Every learning experience, whether it takes place in a structured setting or in the chaos of every day work, should apply a disciplined learning mindset to real-world challenges.”

I agree with this statement because now more than ever learning should be embedded into the context of the actual work that is being done. I also think that learning in an organization, as we know it is still evolving more and more each year as we are discovering new ways to make learning more nimble for the workforce.


Sharing by Learning

For a little while now I have been trying to put together a learning technology portfolio that really showcases my skills in the best way possible. On top of that there is also many things that I wish to do deeper research on, (xAPI, UX, UI, neuroscience and learning) but I haven’t had the time to do any of it. Probably because my schedule is out of order now that I have client projects that I am working on. No excuses Will!

So last night I returned home from a NYC dinner with Trish Uhl and we had a great discussion about the state of the industry in learning and a various array of topics. I was a little wired from having two cappuccinos and the conversation so my mind began to wander. I had an insight to not only build my portfolio but also research deeper in the process: sharing by learning.

If we flip that phrase to learning by sharing it means we can learn from other people in the context of community-based learning or a PLN (personal learning network). By having open discussion we can learn from other people about not only how to make something better, but we also help others by sharing knowledge. Another resource for knowledge sharing and management is from Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work.

So what is sharing by learning? The way I see it is you have a topic that you want to learn more about or a skill to learn. As you are learning, you not only keep track of how you learn the skill, but also keeping in mind that while you’re learning you’re going to share this with your network of people so they can learn from it. So not only do you learn the skills you need/want, you can also share your findings with your cohorts.

For example, as the upcoming president for Northern NJ ATD I conduct board meetings, naturally. One of the skills that I know I lack is following Robert’s Rules of Order or Parliamentary Procedure. I have a little booklet that tells me how to follow them, but it seems to be all over the place. So one of the ways I’ll learn to use the rules is by creating a mobile solution so I can access it when I need it during the board meetings. There is so much more that will go into that and as I begin to create I will show my work with everyone.

By creating this solution for myself, I not only will learn how to use the rules, but then I can share what I have learned through this mobile tool. As a second point, I also will build my skills as a learning technologist by creating this mobile solution.

This gives me a new perspective on learning in general because if we start to think about learning and how it is distributed this shakes the cage a little bit. Imagine starting out to learn a new skill or concept knowing that you will be sharing it with someone in the future. How will that change our attitude towards learning? Would this help knowledge sharing and performance improvement?

I have a bookmark in my browser that allows me to use xAPI to track everything that I am learning (That is if I remember to click on the bookmark!) and it will add the resource to my learning record store (LRS) for later review or analysis. That could potentially be where we source the content for the learning in which we are going to share. Alternatively, what if our LRS can be viewed by people other than ourselves? How does that fit into knowledge sharing?

It is an exciting time in our industry because we are shifting our thinking away from traditional methods that are a sign of the times and moving toward a more open and community supported learning network. There is definitely more to expand on and I will continue to share as I learn!




Adobe Captivate 8: Rollover Highlight Text Caption

I know I have promised this over the weekend, so here is the little nugget I have found.

While I have been learning a lot about the advanced features in Adobe Captivate and the new features in version 8, I am also learning that if you think outside the box just a little bit, you can make some great discoveries!

I was creating a rollover caption for one of the projects that I am working on and as I added the rollover caption, I noticed that the rollover area was supposed to be placed on an object and the caption would obviously appear. When I previewed the project the word was not to be seen until the mouse had rolled over the rollover area DUH! This took me a minute to realize.

Here is what I wanted: When the learner rolls over text, the text should change to a different color to alert the learner to begin the course and also to grab attention to a plain, clickable text caption. So I sat there of minute and thought about how I could do it and then suddenly AHA! I put the pieces together to form the text caption that highlights when you rollover it. It actually is quite simple but thinking differently about what you have at your disposal is sometimes what you need to make new discoveries.

So I figure why not share my discovery with everyone else? It may be that someone has discovered this before but I don’t care because this was a small win for me. The small wins matter. Below are the steps that I took to create a rollover highlight caption. Enjoy.

In Adobe Captivate, navigate to Objects and select Rollover Caption.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.00.18 PM

Next add the text to the caption and set the size and the font color the learner will see when they rollover the caption.

Text Caption

Re-size the text caption to the desired position and  Copy the text caption.

Create a new Text Caption and paste the text from the rollover caption and change the color of the text to what you want the learner to see before they rollover the caption.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.13.00 PM   Text Caption

Re-size the rollover area to match the size of the rollover text caption text captions

Rollover Area Size

Follow the same re-sizing for the copied text caption so all 3 objects are the same size and in the same position.

All 3 in Same Size and Position

When you preview the file you will see the color selected for the dormant caption and when you rollover you will see the color when active.

Before Rollover          Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.52.57 PM

It is a small detail that can add a catch your learner’s eyes and get their attention. I hope that I can share more of these with you in the future as I continue learning more ways to use rapid development tools and other programs.



I Lost My Job and I Am So Excited!

5:30pm on a Friday afternoon I was called into a conference room with my direct boss and the CEO  of our company. I knew something interesting was going to happen. The CEO started out by saying how he had hired me for a training position and since that time my job responsibilities have changed. I went from training to a training/IT mix and then at the stretch of 2 months wasn’t really doing much of anything. Now we were having this conversation. I knew that something was going to happen. Either I was going to have my role changed or I was going to lose my job. It was the latter.

Meanwhile, during those 2 months leading up to this conversation I was becoming increasingly anxious because I found myself focusing on what I really wanted to do outside of the works hours rather than doing them in the office. I had contemplated how I was going to try and end my job there, but all the while my employer and I were in sync the whole time.

So we parted ways in a very positive manner. I understood the needs of the business and my role was not part of that. They apologized because they were preventing me from my passion. They were exactly right. My boss and I left on great terms. We are still going to attend professional events together and will talk. We looked at it as the beginning of a friendship rather then an end to a professional relationship. This may sound weird to some, but the relationship I have with my boss is extremely positive and always honest.

When I left the office I was overjoyed because now I get to do what I want to do. LearnHaus for me is my jumping off point. I at first saw it as a way to connect with people in the L&D community but now I see so much more potential now that I can dedicate the time it needs. There is much to do to get this puppy up and running but I am devoted to it. One of the purposes of LearnHaus is not just to grow myself professionally but it is to help organizations be successful. On a recent lrnchat that took place we chatted about what we were not willing to compromise and we all agreed that we were not willing to compromise the learner. This is what I am devoted to. Learning and performance. This journey now has become so much more meaningful to me because I can ensure it’s success. I am very fortunate to be able to know what it is that I want and have a plan to bring it to fruition. I hope the same for all of you, that your dedication and hard work is a behavior of your passion to the L&D field or elsewhere.

As I continue my research about the brain and what we know about it’s implications for learning and performance, I hope to add value to my learning experiences I create for learners. As I blend learning and technology with the brain in mind, I hope to really challenge the skills gap and also the way we look at the learning profession. This is why I am excited. So much change is happening and I plan to be a part of it all. The best part is that I will be learning too. LearnHaus.