Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2015 #LTSF15

In a week where I ended up being in the office for a mere 1 and half days (part of which I was in the classroom), I attended the learning technologies summer forum at London Olympia.

I was there less for the technologies and more for the learning & development sessions. I went because my manager couldn’t go but it was possibly one of the best conferences I’ve been to. Fingers crossed that she’ll be unable to go next year too!


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Deborah Frances-White 

An uplifting, hilarious, engaging and relevant keynote. 

She questioned, ‘When does our childlike need for ‘go’s disappear?’ As adults, we become more afraid and scared of failure; if we have a ‘go’ then it needs to be quick, painless and failure-free. In a professional situation, more ‘go’s generally give us more chance for embarrassment and failure so we avoid taking risks and just having a ‘go’.

Your brain is like a search engine- if we’re given nothing and we have to think of something then a whole host of useless things are thrown back at us. Ideas generation needs fuel; food for our thoughts.

We were all given 10 seconds to think of the outline for a thriller film plot. She then posed the questions, ‘How often do we censor ourselves?’ ‘How often do we decide that our ideas aren’t good enough?’ Initially, I had decided that in the pressure of the situation, I hadn’t thought of anything. In fact, this wasn’t true. When I thought about it later, I had thought of things but very quickly dismissed them as being no good: a man running away, a woman trapped in a hotel room with someone coming through the window, a building under threat…It made me fear how many other times in my life when I may have dismissed perfectly good thoughts and ideas. Deborah asserted that: there’s a reason the editor doesn’t follow the director around on set. The director needs to be creative, follow instinct and try things out. The director doesn’t want the editor assessing his every move: you don’t want to do that, that’ll never work, not that way! We need to get rid of the editor from creative processes: useful advice in many contexts but especially for teachers and learners alike.

Deborah then demonstrated that by turning the creative process into a game, we relaxed much more and we were better at it; or at least the editor of our minds had disappeared. She asked us to:

  • Create the thriller version of ‘When Harry Met Sally’
  • Create the RomCom version of ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’
  • Play A-Z Thriller! She helped with the story and we came up with the names, descriptions, behaviours, actions and events until we had a whole plot. If you’re interested it was a butcher who made pies from women but got his comeuppance in the end from a crazy lady who was reminded of her ex (X!)

During the creative process, if you’re sitting on your own thinking of ideas- you’ll struggle.

When we’re leading a collaborative creative process, we should never say, ‘all ideas are good ideas’. They’re not but that’s ok. Playing games is conducive, as is posing scenarios:

  • Ideas we can’t afford and never could!
  • Ideas that would get us fired!
  • Ideas if we had no budget at all and we had to do it right here and now.

We then take part in another activity. We’re asked to draw a picture in pairs. This doesn’t generate creativity. Instead, it’s a memory exercise: of something we thought we used to draw as a child. When we decide what to draw, we want to go for something ‘good’. When we ask ourselves, ‘What does good look like?’ It’s usually, ‘What does safe look like?’ Changing the creative process and adding gamification elements is where we get brave ideas and opportunities are created. In the second paired drawing, no talking is allowed and we have to take it in turns to draw shapes and lines. In the first activity, there were houses, cars, trees and flowers. In the second activity, they were all entirely original creations. Not all of them were good but they were in new territory.

Play is deleted from our lives as we grow older as we’re told it’s all about hard work. The same is said of relationships; when things are going badly, the advice is that relationships require hard work. If you think about the start of a romantic relationship, it’s not anywhere close to hard work, it’s all about flirting and fun: play.

Play is better for creation and collaboration. If we work too hard at it then we worry about still having control over the end product.

The final activity was designed to change the energy of the room and indicate the impact play can have on mood and interactions people have. We played rock, paper, scissors in pairs but when we ‘lost’ we didn’t sit down, we cheered the partner who’d beaten us as they played someone near to them. We then cheered the winner of that battle and so on until the entire theatre room were two halves, each cheering one person or another in a final battle: we were essentially a bunch of losers just cheering a room. She plays that on a Monday in the office and the winner gets the trophy; it reminds them of that moment of play and energy for the rest of the week. Deborah’s message was that we control the energy of where we work. If we’re prepared to play and have fun then the climate will change to fit that. If we want to just work hard then the climate will reflect that too. We are responsible for the culture and no-one else. Teach people to get on the winning team because it’s more fun.


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Learning Strategy- Reactive or Proactive?

Nigel Paine and Andrew Jacobs

L&D Professionals need to become engineers and not shopkeepers. 

They asked us what we wanted to get from the session and I spoke! It looked like I was beginning to get a taste for making my voice heard!

Empowerment, Skills, Motivation are inextricably linked to one another:

  • If you empower and motivate without the skills then it’s a total disaster
  • If you empower and give skills but don’t motivate then it won’t happen
  • If you have skills and motivation but no empowerment then staff won’t be able to achieve what they want to

Goal alignment is at the centre of this triad.

Barclaycard won learning development award: a bit of effort was made around skills- let’s work with you on your skills WHILE we motivate you AND empower you to do your job better.

Listen to what staff are struggling with and solve it.

Your job is to trigger learning not to ‘deliver’ learning.

We will always be seen as second class within an organisation if we don’t adhere to this principle.

A vast majority of people will create a course rather than a learning opportunity that empowers people.

Can you measure a happy environment for learning? Let’s count everything people do and we can prove learning- we can’t do that- It’s not possible- the picture of motivation and enjoyment of work is far more complex than that. We can’t measure happiness either. Tin Can App idea measures everything- not possible! If metrics don’t matter, why do we count them? We count inputs because it’s easy. Counting outputs is easy too. Outcomes is close to impossible so we leave those and choose to count the easy stuff.

We align our learning and development outcomes with the business strategy instead of creating the business strategy in line with learning and development outcomes we’d like.

We fall into a commissioning box where we do actions and commission the latest thinking. Training is Mexican food- it’s the same food but rolled differently!

Gaming and play is the way to deliver.

Test scores and happy sheets won’t make us happy about development in the long-term.

We keep having to manage the politics: find your early adopters and champions- we need sponsors and supporters to achieve what we want. It’s the only element of an organisation that gets to do this. We are being supported to do things for free but anything beyond that won’t be supported because it isn’t essential and it’s not seen as necessary/valuable because it can’t be measured easily. Fear drives data.

Learning is lovely- it’s not- learning is a distraction and it’s hard- that’s why there’s resistance.

We need to become engineers not shopkeepers. L&D isn’t the place you go for a course. We should be looking at the cause and trying to fix that instead. We need to be part of the conversations about treating the cause and not the symptoms. Education CAN be very guilty of tending to the symptoms and not the causes.

We’re finished if we keep engaging in conversations with senior leaders about courses that contain learning aims and outcomes. We fail because it’s won’t work and it won’t fix the cause. It just plasters over the symptoms. We need to offset some of the responsibility and engagement in discussion with the senior leaders.

The strategy and tactics are vital in achieving learning and development effectively. Don’t forget about these things.

HR do the day-to-day stuff and they’re not able to make the leap into learning and development because they’re not the engineers- they can’t find and offer the solutions. They shouldn’t be leading development.

You begin real development when people have a nagging anxiety that they’ve got it wrong. If they think they’re doing things brilliantly then movement towards change and development will be slow because they don’t recognise it.

Challenge what people think they need and how they think they want it ‘delivered.’

What’s in it for me? Tactics for selling development opportunities are important.

If staff can see a pathway through an organisation, even if it involves an exit- if it has great experiences along the way then it’s empowering and motivating and they’ll bring value to the business.

Data about what frustrates people in the organisation is rich and useful for learning.

Have better conversations about the business. It’s about the relationships we have.

Find the people who have done it, can do it and are doing it. Find the Trojan mice in the organisation to do the pilots with you and find the way to do things differently!

Capabilities to support the delivery of a strategy and a plan. Capacity and ability- capability (find the author of the book that contains this!) Play doctor- don’t treat symptoms but explore the causes.


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The role of technology in enabling a values based culture

When a change strategy occurs- we can’t leave people at the bottom of that process.

‘This change has happened and it’s not the organisation it was when I joined two years ago.’ This is a likely occurrence with the level of change that occurs within an organisation.

How are the company values reflected in the people around me and the interactions we have? Performance management processes, succession planning, personal/career development and learning and development.

Paying lip service to the values won’t work- the values need to permeate everything we do. Run an assessment on the values of the organisation to see how well they understood- especially with the middle managers.

We need to point out the cultural changes within the organisation often as the people at the top are out of touch and they won’t be able to recognise where the need to change is.

Bromford housing association: Be different- be brave- be good- be commercial

2 day induction took us through the visions and the value of the organisation. The above was the result of conversations with new staff to make it easier to recognise. The Working Manager helped with the LMS. Onboarding takes place online on the LMS. They get a link to page for completion. From day 1 they can hit the ground running.

At a 1-1 they rate themselves on the wheel. This is a 360 so the manager and the employee contribute and then a discussion is opened about the values of the organisation.

Staff are observed and assessed against the standards and these standards are fully aligned with the organisation’s ‘DNA.’

You know that you can…because…

Formal and informal learning are combined. They have learning communities where discussions and debates take place. They have badges for rewarding performance. Be Bromford mobile has been launched too- a mobile version of the site.

2 hour induction only. If colleagues believe in the ‘Be’s then they will be an asset to the organisation. Return on Excellence: Remove ROI- return on investment

The place these values die is through line management. If your middle leaders aren’t coaching staff to learn and develop (and they’re just focusing on data and performance) then they and your organisation will remain distinctly average.

The softer side exploration of impact should be listened to.  The numbers don’t tell you much in isolation.


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Designing eLearning- #LTSF15 #T2S2

Gill Chester, runs Little Man Project

This workshop offered structure to the design process. Content is not king…or even queen.

We need a new module. We need… If we create it then we win but we need to look at the why- why do you need that? What’s the problem? Identify the business problem…

Turn the why into your goal. Try to put some statistical value on it. There’ll be a 50% reduction in…so that your problem is reduced.

Action mapping

  • You put the measurable goal at the centre of what you want to do.
  • You then define the behaviours that will make that goal a reality.
  • Then find realistic activities they can do to achieve that- even if the eLearning part is merely for reflecting and sharing.
  • Content has not even been explored yet! It’s not about the content and the resources. It’s not about the ‘what’. It’s about the ‘why’ and the evidence they have for their ‘why’ (the cause of the problem) and ‘how’ comes afterwards.
  • Then and only then do you consider the content around the specific content required to tackle the problem itself.

We make assumptions all the time about what the problem is rather than actually finding out and then developing from there.

Use fewer subject matter experts and more practitioners experiencing the problems in order to use this model effectively.

Selling it to the learner- how is it going to improve your life etc? Don’t sell it in terms of what they’re going to be able to do.

Stories are the emotional glue that connects the audience to the message.

Explaining concepts in the context of a story helps learners integrate knowledge into their memory and actions.

  • Beginning- grab their attention and give the background
  • Make a connection with your learners and allow them to empathise with your character
  • Middle- challenge- take a trip, make decisions and witness the impact
  • The learners need to make a journey
  • End- resolution

Finding a story

  • Speak to the experts and see what stories they share with you- the consequences of actions taken- positive or negative
  • Find inspiration- look for other examples and read around the topic to find a way to rebrand your topic
  • Phone a friend- talk to creative friends/colleagues- you’ll get more play with the process
  • Ask your peers- other designers/post on forums/tweet

Being creative

  • Step away from your desk- stick to using whiteboards for moving around and scribbling
  • Even better with more than one person
  • Meet the expert- identify what the problem is and what needs to be solved. Discuss the stories that can bring it to life and the authentic activities that can bring the topic alive.
  • Sketch ideas- You’ve gone away from the meeting with everything you need so you can ‘play’
  • Do it large on whiteboard and then reduce to smaller sheets for each frame
  • Record and check- paper prototyping for series of clicks- use clip to gather together
  • Document and sign-off- Write the outline online
  • Build inspiration libraries- Pinterest- make a digital mood board for each project

Illustrated vs photographic design

  • Illustrated can be branded far more easily than photographic
  • Flat design- flat and simple shapes
  • By simplifying the design, graphics are smaller and easier to render for mobile devices etc.
  • Background blurred out or one made with shapes on drawing
  • Person on top
  • Three simple shapes with text/comments/questions
  • Dollarphotoclub and
  • Pixabee
  • Morgue File
  • PNG so background is transparent

Q. about online learning and- ‘what if they skip to the test?’

A. Don’t worry if they do the test first. It’s ok. If they pass then they never needed the training in the first place. If they don’t pass then they know what they need to look at content-wise now they’re about to work through the content.

I offered a suggestion when Gill asked what approaches to design others had. I won a mug for my contribution! This might be the positive reinforcement I need to make my voice heard more often!


I referenced our silent debate approach that I’ve used lots with learners and once in a creative process but that I would absolutely use again. The main advantage is that if all ideas are shared verbally to begin with then it’s likely that we’ll behave like sheep, one of us will latch onto an idea and we’ll begin to follow them and once one idea is too developed, it’s difficult to turn away from it and look at other ideas.

  • Problem posed (attendees will be well aware of what this is)
  • Masses of paper given. Each person silently writes down all of their ideas- no holds barred. Anything that comes into their head.
  • Rotate and still silently, write comments or further ideas on what the previous person has left.
  • Keep rotating until you, as facilitator, feel we’ve done it to death.
  • The discussion then begins- what ideas did people like? did they feel there was some substance in? What did they find shocking/interesting/new? what did they think we should discard?
  • The next steps depend on how the discussion has gone. If there are a number of ideas still remaining then these probably need fleshing out some more so cut them all up, rearrange them if there are similar ideas that link together and give them out to different people to look at (depending on the size of your team). The questions at this point are: how could we make them a reality? What resources would we need? Who would be responsible for what?


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More myths and facts about the brain and learning

Christian Jarrett

Most relevant evidence is currently coming from psychology and not neuroscience. Neuroscientists understand the brain but they can’t tell you how you can use that information to learn effectively. NLP and neuro-leadership are examples of sexing something up by using the science of the brain- just for the sake of it! We’re attracted to neuroscience superfluous explanations- they convince us and we’re persuaded by them.

VARK has no evidence-base. Neuro-leadership and Focus @will- no research to back them up. It’s like a cult! Music for learning or work affects different people, accessing different work, working in different contexts completely differently. Introverts vs extroverts etc. There is no way to measure what type of music works in a single situation. It can be both motivating and distracting.

The myth of mirror neurons- a book about communication and cognition

We were then given some science to discuss. How could it apply to us?

1- When giving negative feedback, criticise the process, not the person.

  • People with low self-esteem or who are socially anxious are more likely to withhold negative feedback- not giving it at all can be selfish and potentially dangerous
  • Not delivered properly, negative feedback can cause animosity and damage relationships
  • Those with a fixed mindset can respond sensitively and are more likely to lose confidence as they don’t see the power of ‘yet’

Look at- ‘Feeling better about self after receiving negative feedback: when the sense that ability can be improved is activated‘- a study to explore!

2- Revel in the process

  • Be less concerned with goals and successes- focus on the process and the means instead
  • What’s in it for me? Can be great to spark initial interest but reflecting on the experience itself is important.

Look at- ‘When thinking about goals undermines goal pursuit

  • gym goers- those who were asked to think about their experience more ran for longer as they were more focused on how they were feeling, enjoying the music etc. They were more mindful.
  • Those that focused on benefits of a class or course enjoyed it less because it was so goals and purpose oriented instead of absorbing yourself in the experience.
  • Goals are great to get started. Revelling in the process means you’re more likely to make it to the finish line.

3- Penalties rather than rewards can help people know what they don’t know

  • In some contexts, simply aiming to be correct as often as possible is not good enough- surgeons- they need to have insight into some sense of the probability of whether they’re right or wrong
  • Knowing the limits of our op knowledge is called meta-cognitive accuracy
  • We need higher risk when making decisions

Look at- ‘No pain, No gain- The positive impact of punishment on the strategic regulation of accuracy

  • They gave their best guess and then chose whether to submit- they would be shown that they were able to appraise their own knowledge accurately or not
  • Points system attached
  • The more times learners were tested in this way improved their knowledge as the ratios between selecting answers and then submitting them became more accurate- they trusted their instincts

Scientific research isn’t ready for real-world application yet. These insights are around incremental benefits rather than being ground-breaking. That’s why they might initially seem like common-sense.


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My takeaway key messages from the day are:

  • Play holds the key to changing the energy of a workplace.
  • We are engineers, not shopkeepers.
  • We need to behave as doctors; diagnosing the cause and asking ‘why?’
  • The conversations we have with SMT are vital. If they go well then they will change the level of weight given to L&D in an organisation. If they don’t go well then our status will never change: plan for this discussions and apply the behaviours above.

I have a vision of what the future could be and it’s exciting! Days like this have the power to make you believe in the vision you have and they provide the affirmation that what you’ve been attempting to achieve is right.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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