Thursday, November 17, 2016

DevLearn 2016 Update - Where ya been, live blogger?

Busy, Busy, Busy Bee

Maybe one or two of you have noticed, but likely not:  I have not been on here as much as I typically am. Well, for once, I don't have to blame it on my inherent laziness or preoccupation with retro gaming...I've been BUSY!  To bring you up to speed, and maybe to pick your brain a little bit about what you saw if you went, here's the sessions I've been delivering, complete with a mini recap, as best as I can remember it:

Docenting...If That's A Word

Professionally rewarding and honored doesn't even begin to explain the fact that I've gotten to be a docent at this DevLearn.  It'd be easy to look at it as another thing I've done, but when my head is the size of a movie screen, displayed next to one of my favorite colleagues (Tracy Parish) and professors (Karl Kapp), sharing the same honor, I can't help but feel awesome about what I'm (apparently) doing right in this field.

Being able to reach out with my message of Community Having Its Privileges was definitely the high note, here, for me.  I know the look...I've worn the look and I've written about the look: The "What Am I Doing Here With These More Talented People" To see this break down in a shared roast of our old elearning materials was amazing.  Plain and simple.  I just said to Julie Dirksen, when she asked me how being a docent was - "I would do this every year, every's fulfilling to an immeasurable degree.

Session 411 - eLearning Dirty Secrets: Our Worst Examples

I can say, without a second's hesitation, that this may be one of the most amazing panels/group gigs I've ever been a part of.  And the main reason for that is probably the opposite of what anyone with functioning logic would think:  It's because of how much WRONG with my work I was able to show, along with my peers.  It's because I was able to use my flawed work to allow a group of people to breathe a collective sigh of relief and accept that their work IS and CAN BE flawed like mine.

The four of us: Me, Brian Dusablon, Judy Katz, and Sarah Gilbert took turns exposing our early efforts, while the rest of us (along with some hearty audience participation) tore it apart.  And it was was almost like a Roast of the four of us.  The audience felt like they were a part of it instantly, and isn't that one of the great things:  That veterans like us always try to get folks new to the conference to chat up, but they typically hesitate due to not being sure where they fit in.  we've all had our work torn up before, we've all been through QA, and it was the perfect gateway to give folks a level of comfort and belonging they might not have had before.

Session 507 - Ukulele Learning: Exploring the Relationships Between Music and Learning

The more I do this session with my guru, Jane Bozarth, the more I fall in love with it.  Part of it is the ability to perform and truly have fun, all while pursuing learning.  But the other part is, again, not to be a one trick pony - But, the Community it creates.  The room was PACKED, standing room only in the back, and everyone joined in...clapping beat patterns, realizing the impact of music on learning, and making music.  Beautiful, educational music...

It's rewarding, too, because you get to see otherwise 'serious' learning professionals drop their guard for a moment and hum into a kazoo, strum a newly discovered chord, and, really, try something that they're likely going to fail at...all in front of their peers.  To allow yourself to fail, to enjoy it, all in the pursuit of new knowledge...that's one of the things I've, professionally, struggled with the longest  and certainly the most intensely.  Funny how a 4-stringed instrument, a dear friend, and a session can shake that right out of you...


Hey, did I mention I like Community?  I've been camped out at the ceremonial, end of conference indicating set of four tables that indicate it's time to do #lrnchat LIVE and in person.  This is where the sad starts to hit (Yes, Jane, I'm an easy crier) and, yet, the professional closeness shines the brightest.  It's almost like a "one...last..." whatever, before I begin the long wait till next year.

And that begins soon.  And I don't particularly care for that fact.


So, there's that - Where I've been, what I've been doing in case you were looking for my live blogging.  You probably weren't/didn't notice, and that's okay, too...expected, even.  Just know this:  I'm glad to be an ever-increasingly busy part of this whole beautiful picture, and seeing the Community I believe so firmly in continue to expand and solidify.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Session 301 - Communities of Practice (Jane Bozarth)


She gave fair warning, so I should, as well:  This is going to be somewhat fanboyish, as I will go on record as saying I respect/admire Jane significantly.  I stand nothing to gain, aside from friendship, from this.  I just do.  Moving on...

OK...Everyone Get Together and Share Now

Jane's not here to argue semantics, but she's here to present her definition of Communities of Practice.  If you want to improve practice, she's going to share some things with us that will help that happen.  Seems simple enough.

A lot of Wenger's initial work, from which she drew, centered around apprenticeship: How does a practitioner learn to be one?  It's by living in the environment, it's by working in the's not about just hanging out, it's about living it.  "Communities of practice are group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it..."


A body of knowledge, methods, stories, cases, and documents. 

"Collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor" = Tribe learning to survive, Band of musicians perfecting a sound, Surgeons exploring new techniques, M&M Conferences...all these are examples of a community of practice where both successes and failures are discussed to determine how to practice.  Two guidelines re: Practice (and enhancing knowledge):

1.) Knowledge is embedded in practice.
2.) You learn to practice by interacting with good practitioners.

Wenger discovered a basic framework with four aspects to it: Meaning, Community, Identity, and Learning:

1.) Meaning - Participation, Reification, Duality
2.) Community - Joint Enterprise, Mutusal Engagement, Shared Repertoire
3.) Identitiy - Negotiated Experience, Membership, Trajectory
4.) Learning - What the community gains over time

NC Train

A group of educators identified shortfalls in existing practices and began to meet and grow organically to discuss these points.  It was a self-started, organic CoP.  No one was in charge, there was no board, no management - they just wanted to do this.

Early on, the mailing list was snail mail including around 100 people, most meetings having 40-60 people attending.  Grew to 300...still 40-60 attending meetings (see: theoretical membership).  They had membership presented meetings.  One person would say "Hey, here's an improvement to X", while another might say "I'm struggling with Y", and they would all share feedback.  They were working together in the same environment around the enterprise of figuring out what, exactly, is good training.  Social learning before social learning was cool...

Over time, and of their own volition, they created their own train the trainer program, across the gamut of this CoP.  It's evolved over time, but it's maintained its core purpose.


So, how does the group make sense of what it's talking about?  You talk about Participation (Mutual recognition beyond specific activities/people), Reification (Points of focus negotiated), and Duality (Partic + reif = symbiosis, DO things vs. GET THINGS done).

Without participating, it's very difficult to make sense of what to include/to do/etc.  People get together and talk, and talk, and talk, but unless you're actually DOING, nothing will ever happen.  Without understanding how someone else works, you can't really understand that concept.  One of the things that some of us know is that a lot of organizations BUY workshops.  Over time, Jane's group bought a bunch of them, but they all did the same - Hold marker, stop video at time mark, etc.  But until you actually see someone deliver it, you will never make a significant change to your practice.

"Remember the person from the State Lab who taught us about handwashing.  We tried it and then looked at our hands under a blacklight and saw all the germs we missed..." = Active Member

"...just training techniques and stud, I mean I can't name anything off the top of my heade or anything but techniques and styles and little activities and games from the more concrete..."  = Inactive


Helps to hold each other accountable and aware of what we all considers Joint Enterprise (Negotiated, Mutual Accountability, Indigenous), Mutual Engagement (enabling engagement, Satisfies motivation needs), and Shared Repertoire (further negotiate).  This is the "step" in the process where the pain begins - The uninvolved didn't bother learning the repertoire, but they still take the output back and never change their practice.


This is the company you keep...the people you align with.  In it are considered Negotiated Experience (Own markers transition, Particip refined), Membership (Competent membership, Mutuality engagement, Accountability to enterprise, Negotiated repertoire), and Learning Trajectory (Identity is temporal).

We've all seen this...the people who don't belong.  Which do you want to be?  An entertainer or a bona fide, excellent, effective trainer.  This is the point where Jane's group started to see a wide rift form between those who could and those who want to pretend they can/look good.  One day this group realized that they're going to be able to stamp out bad training but wouldn't be able to do it alone.  They needed help.  Enter the train the trainer program, and communities focusing on service. 


This is what the community takes on and learns over time, with three focuses: Evolving engagement (Members gain CoP-wide awareness of subtelties of relationships), Tuning enterprise (Aligning engagement w/ enterprise, learning to hold each other accountable, Defining/reconciling what enterprise is about), and Developing repertoire (Practice "handed down", Tuning repertoire (remember/forget).  You see people come and go, stories get forgotten...

Why Did People Participate in This?
Not everyone cares about getting better (soul crushing fact to some), so why did the people who got in on this do so?  Pride, commiseration, assisting others, fulfillment...and more:

- Makes the job habitable
- Satisfies motivational needs
- Reduces isolation
- High performers
- CoP is place to excel and feel valued for it
- Passion...pure and simple

How can we use CoP as a motivational a developmental tool...


Here's the deal: No one cares if they learn anything...they're perfectly happy to play the same songs, week in/week out.  They don't necessarily care if they learn new songs, it's about a sense of belonging...a sense of community itself.  But is it a CoP?

Four questions to ask:

1.) Is (or is not) meaning being made?
2.) Is (or is not) this a community?
3.) Is (or is not) identity affected?
4.) Is (or is not) the CoP learning?

How you answer these determines whether or not you are a CoP and certainly indicates how your CoP (or group) performs.  If you're subject to the "bro crew" who high fives each other all the time reminding one another how awesome they are...just because they're probably means they're not a CoP, and they may actually end up doing more harm than good by not honestly critiquing and improving.


CoPs could be an incentivizing tool, but what else?  Stronger network, less duplication of effort and more...

- Help with challenges
- Access to expertise
- Confidence
- Meaningful work
- Personal development
- Professional reputation
...and so on...

Is there value?  OF COURSE!
- Immediate Value (Having fun, engagement, reflection, interaction (quality))
- Potential Value (Making good contacts, Inspiration, Tools/documents, etc.)
- Applied Value (implementation of advice, innovation in practice, use of social connections)
- Realized Value (Personal performance, Organizational performance/reputation)
- Reframing Value (Change in strategy, New metrics, New expectations, Institutional changes)

(On a personal note, these five bullets firmly solidify/concrete what I have known all along...that organziations like eLearning Guild are among the very best CoPs out there.  My journey from 2008 to today followed these very steps, in various degrees/progressions.  Wow.)


There's a reason Jane Bozarth has been one of the most influential figures in my professional development, and having an inside look into her dissertation was amazing.  CoPs, like so many other things in learning/development/etc., are a concept that can just become assumed.  But by drawing the line in the sand between workgroups and CoPs, showing what truly makes them different, you begin to see why there are tasks/things we LOVE and others we LOATHE. 

"We need a place..."

Find yours.

Opening Keynote - Penn Jillette

(Wow.  Wow.  This is happening...)


All of us and Penn have one thing in common:  We're liars.  Creative ones.  But liars.

Life does not have a narrative
Life does not have a beginning, middle, and end.

When you pick something to tell a story about, you are a liar.  You want to be an ethical one, but you're still a liar.  You're picking out a section of a bigger picture.

Jugglers and Science

Penn goes on to relate that he wasn't always a magician, but that he started as a juggler...the "piss bottom" of entertainment.  But he also liked he spent Junior High juggling and reading about science. 

When he was 13, he was watching Carson (maybe) and saw the amazing Kreskin doing an experiment.  I'm going to show you how you can learn ESP.  and he had a kit that he was marketing as an experiment (that we would call a game now).  He did a scientific experiment on thought transfer on TV.  World changing!  Mind blowing!

See, Penn's from a defunct factory town in Massachusetts, dad was a prison guard, but his parents supported his interest in science.  They bought Penn the ESP set (piece of shit, according to Penn).  His parents would do the 'kit' with him...ESP cards, pendulums, etc.  But they would sit with him and run experiments with him for weeks, and he was excited that he was doing science at home with his mom and dad.

Then, by a fluke of the Dewey Decimal System, Penn discovered some nearby magic books to the juggling books...and he just happened to pull a book by Dunninger.  Penn was reading the book about how he did tricks, read them, and after about an hour he figured out how to do the to lie.  And it was the one that Kreskin did as a "scientific experiment".  It wasn't mind transference, it wasn't was a lie.  It was a piece of shit based on a a way that can only happen when you're young and have Penn's personality type.

He felt humiliated by it and he wasn't able to say that Kreskin was an SOB.  The way it hit his mind was that adults and scientists lie to people.  And that science is all bullshit...and that performance was bullshit...thus started a downward spiral, academically.  Never again did he get a high mark in science for the rest of school.

As a parent now, he realized how strong the disappointment had to be for his parents.  He felt, as a child, embarrassed for his parents and personally.  He gave up science and went to juggling.

Meet TellerRight before Penn left high school, he met Teller.  A Greek/Latin teacher.  Teller told Penn he was a magician, and Penn immediately said he didn't like it because magicians lie to people.  Teller told him that it was a special kind of were telling them that the lie was not true.

Lying is okay in some ways...if Robert Deniro told you he was a taxi driver, he'd be psychotic. But he did it in an artful way in a little movie called Taxi Driver.  So long as you build the proscenium around the lie, it can be can be can do it for a living. 

Kreskin said "I have powers I didn't know I have" - If you rob a liquor store with a shotgun, the damage you do spreads to the community.  But with lying, you distort the universe.  You specifically gave information you know to be wrong.  so, trying to find a way as a storyteller to not feel bad about yourself is a very difficult thing.  So, what magic has become to Penn is a deep, deep look at how reality can be distorted. 

The Penn and Teller point is that NO ONE should ever leave their theatre believing something is true that THEY know not to be true.  It's the sawing in half principle:  If you see someone being sawed in half and there's no blood and guts, there's no one that believes it really happened.  You know it's a trick.  But P&T don't do the stuff that other more "mentalist" leaning folks do.


A lot of magicians try to use the word illusion...probably because of more syllables.  But this is more a term reserved for artistic interests.  A trick is more intellectually interesting. 

There's two things in magic:  There is the effect and the method.  The effect is what it looks like and the method is how we do it.  There's an effect called the bullet catch...American, but developed by Native Americans. Lead ball with initials on it, shoot at magician, magician catches in teeth.  12 magicians and 4 carnies have died doing this trick. 

P&T researched the ways these folks died (post mortem, anyone?).  Chun Ling Su (Scottish, no less) did a version of it with a gimmicked gun (2 chambers), didn't check his gun, bullet to face...good night.  Relays other stories of other ways magicians "ate it" doing this trick...

So, despite all these dangers...P&T go forward with it.  So, now what?

Once You've Decided to Lie...What's Next?You've decided to lie, you have to determine how.  When they do the bullet catch, they have three layers of security.  It is very, very safe...and Penn is okay saying that.  See, there's other magicians who want you to think that you might see someone drown, get shot, or get run over...and there's this lie that says the depiction of violence in art is a celebration of that violence.  Penn believes that the depiction of violence in art is a celebration of health and life itself.  Penn believes it's really important that anyone going to his show know that in 40 years, no one on their crew has EVER been injured.  And he is proud of that, while other magicians brag about getting close to being hurt.

...and for those who come to his show in the hopes he gets hurt? "Fuck you.  Stay home."

It's really hard to lie to smart people.  If Penn came out here and said he was going to do the bullet catch, we'd all INSTANTLY go "No you're not".  But then Penn goes through an explanation to make you suspend that support that lie.  The gun becomes the magic wand that aids the bullet in disappearing and reappearing in another place.  That's 100% true and that allows people to lie to themselves...because THEN they'll think the bullet truly can be shot across the stage and caught behind human teeth.  A lie is only moral when you inform the recipient it's a story.  Make the person lie to themselves.

And Now For Something Completely Different...and in conclusion...
Penn wraps the keynote with a heartfelt monologue...and fire.  I recorded it all and it was amazing to say the least (will update with the YouTube link as soon as I can).  But he closed with an amazing sentiment that I think we're all too NOT okay with...and that is: It's okay to not know.  It's just like DeGrasse Tyson, Savage, and now he said - Not knowing is an option.  It's a boundary.  And knowing that you don't know can make it even more enjoyable...even more okay.

I honestly could go on and on about how different yet incredibly amazing this keynote was, but I'll summarize with this:  When your audience knows what they're getting and you are up front about it, I believe the learning results are far better than trying to pull some elearning slight of hand.  Perform your act in the proscenium, believe in your craft, and be honest with your students/learners/users...the rest will follow.  I could not love this keynote any more if I tried...Amazing.

No bullshit.

DevLearn 2016 Opening Ceremonies - D Kelly

D Kelly takes the stage to thunderous applause...over 3,000 people...the's addictive.  But, really, there's only one question on everyone's minds:

Will Dave Kelly Mention His Kids During His Kickoff?

We don't know, yet...but Dave had an epiphany, that people expect it from him.  And he realized, he's becoming the overused elearning template.  He began to think about the elements of these stories - They're personal, they're ubiquitous, they're shareable.

But he wanted to flip the script and share about another topic that we can all relate to...what topic could there POSSIBLY be that we can all relate to that the media couldn't let us escape for the past year or so?  As everyone in the room gasps and thinks he's about to go political...

...only to transition to Brad and Angelina's divorce.  Well played, Dave...well played.

All kidding aside, Dave deviates but returns to discussing a central tenet to what we all do: Creativity.  But, what's more, we need to focus on the RESTRAINTS/CONSTRAINTS therein.  How could he talk about the political situation without ACTUALLY talking about it?  Same applies to us...we're going to gain a lot of knowledge over the next three days, but you have to be able to know how you CAN use be aware of your boundaries.  And boundaries are okay.

Great opening talk...good way to focus what can be an overwhelming scope of material.  Make it meaningful to you.  Well done, sir.