Sunday, August 30, 2015

Different way to look at chairs

Learners may express ideas differently,  not to our liking or not conforming to the trainer's goals. But there is a pattern, which is the key to understanding what they are saying.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Your Organization Losing Its Brain? Collecting Stories to Transfer Knowledge

Are you perceiving symptoms of your organization losing knowledge and expertise? Oftentimes, top executives are not aware of the wealth of knowledge that's lost as experienced employees retire and carry their expertise with them.

"In the U.S., roughly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day. And though not everyone who turns 62 or 65 retires right away, enough do that some companies are trying to head off the problem...Losing veteran workers is a challenge, even for big companies like General Mills...But the older-worker brain drain is a big concern for industries like mining and health care." says Yuki Noguchi in her article "Businesses Try To Stave Off Brain Drain As Boomers Retire."

"Not only would a huge number of employees become eligible for retirement in the next five to 10 years, the company had done little to retain the wealth of institutional knowledge they would be taking with them. From the intricacies of key client relationships to mainframe computer languages no longer being taught in school, many experienced workers possessed critical know-how that, if lost, would be costly-if not impossible-for the company to replace." says Douglas MacMillan in his article "Issue: Retiring Employees, Lost Knowledge."

For some organizations, systematically collecting stories is key to preserving knowledge and expertise. What is your organization doing to preserve its brain? What steps are being taken to retain wisdom and add more vitality to new knowledge?

Collecting Stories - The StoryCorp Story

The winner of the million-dollar TED Prize 2015, StoryCorps is a company that is in the business of collecting stories. They would bring together people who knew each other well and put them inside a recording booth for 40 minutes. For the allotted time, husband and wife, mother and son, father and daughter would have a real conversation which would dig deeper into the stories that they have inside.

"StoryCorps grew out of a very a simple idea: we wanted to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record their life stories. We built a soundproof booth in Grand Central Terminal and invited people to come in pairs and interview each other about their lives, with the help of a trained StoryCorps facilitator. Soon after starting the project, I knew we had created something pretty powerful. Many StoryCorps participants tell us that the forty minutes they spend inside our booth are among the most meaningful minutes of their lives." - Dave Isay, Founder of StoryCorps

Some of StoryCorps' Top Stories

Below are samples of some of the most compelling StoryCorps stories. These are real people who lived to tell their tales. View these videos to appreciate the power of real stories in conveying ideas and connecting to audiences.
Miss Devine
Marine Lance Cpl Travis Williams 

For trainers, designers and learning leaders, stories become a library for learning. What you have at your disposal are resource persons who really live through the stories. This carries an unquestionable authority because these are their stories and they are living witnesses to what transpired. When Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams talked about his experience in Iraq, nobody can question his account because he was there. 

Surefire Steps in Collecting Stories and Transferring Knowledge

Now that you know the importance of collecting stories, you must be wondering how in the world are you going to start doing it? The good news is, you already know how to collect stories! The bad news is, you're not aware you're doing it. We subconsciously collect stories all the time without us knowing that we are doing it. We talk to our colleagues about their lives, hobbies, favorite food, past relationships and we store these stories in our memories. Every conversation that we have with another person is a story in the making. Here are a few steps to make your story collecting process more systematic:

1. Talk to people 
You can't just expect people to come flocking to you with their stories, you have to talk to them. You have to show interest in their lives and make them feel that even their most boring stories are important to you. When people sense your interest in their stories, they will feel important and will open up. Stories will just come pouring out.

2. Ask open-ended questions 
Asking categorical questions is a good trial technique but it's the quickest way to kill a story. On the other hand, open-ended questions open the mind and scours the memory for stories.StoryCorps has some sample questions that would make the story flow. 

3. Listen to people 
Dave Isay added that listening is a form of generosity. Don't pull out your smartphone when interviewing somebody! This is being disrespectful and you will instantly cut off your connection with the person you are talking to. When you listen, you can make thoughtful follow-up questions and follow the thread of the story closely.

4. Training leaders and experienced workers on passing stories 
It's easy to assume many experienced workers know how to train, coach, mentor and pass stories. To transfer knowledge effectively, you can train experienced workers to be more effective with these skills areas. According to Jim Rottman, head of American Express' workforce transformation group, "One of the things that we've really focused on is paying as much attention to the person who's transferring the knowledge as to the person who's receiving [it]... That means getting phased retirees to learn new teaching tools like 'learning maps,' or visual representations of systems and processes, and interactive media like wikis, instant messaging, and audio posted on a company intranet."

5. Create a story database 
Keep the stories that you have collected in a storage where you can easily retrieve them for future use. In this day and age of audio and video recording it's a good idea to keep your interviews in an extra hard drive or a cloud storage as files grow in size. This way, you can access them anywhere.

Join a Beta Project on Small Bites Learning

At Vignettes Learning, we have different software models to help organizations build story-based lessons, create engaging content and assist your organization in collecting, storing and sharing stories and experiences.

The screen below is an example of a Small Bites Learning. Contact Ray Jimenez to be part of the Study Group.

With Small Bites Learning, learners, trainers, designers, workers and professionals can publish stories and ask their teams to share their own experiences. Small Bites Learning is easy to prepare and requires less time. Hence, it allows more time for participants to actively contribute and provide feedback.

Here are some more samples:

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Sound off in the comments section!

Rebecca Smith: StoryCorps Wins $1 million TED Prize: [March 11, 2015]

TED Staff: Announcing our TED Prize 2015 winner: Dave Isay of StoryCorps: [November 17, 2014]

Dave Isay: 7 StoryCorps stories that Dave Isay just can't get out of his head: [November 17, 2014]

Yuki Noguchi: Businesses Try To Stave Off Brain Drain As Boomers Retire: [January 15, 2015]

Douglas MacMillan: Issue: Retiring Employees, Lost Knowledge: [August 20, 2008]

Vanessa Chase: Story Collecting Tip - How To Collect Donor Stories

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Episodic Learning-Learning Like Watching Your Favorite Soap Opera!

Have you ever wished learning can be fun while at the same time in-depth? The current dilemma is that if you want to go deeper on the subject, you have to weather through the boredom created by traditional information delivery. But if you want to go the way of fun, well, you just have to scratch the surface. This shouldn't be the case! There has to be a way to learn and have fun at the same time! The good news for you-there is! Read on!

Following the Characters and their Stories

We all love to follow people's lives because we want to know what they will do next. Isn't this the normal way we learn? Isn't this the reason why we love the "Modern Family," "Jon Stewart," "Saturday Night Live," "Dancing with The Stars" or "Downtown Abbey?"

Episodic Learning AKA, Thematic learning is the natural way we learn. Since childhood, we immediately learn to follow life's episodes as it unfolds before us. What's daddy and mommy up to this time? Are they having a fight? Whose birthday is it? These are some of the episodes that we naturally follow at home and in the community around us.  In the words of John F. Kihlstrom in his article "How Students Learn -- and How We Can Help Them," "Episodic knowledge is essentially autobiographical memory, for particular events that have a unique location in space and time."

Then all of a sudden we join the classroom and we are bombarded with an avalanche of information which we can't easily digest! Wait a minute, this is not the usual way we learn! In one word-boring...

According to Bethany Bodenhamer in a blog post in Lesson Planet titled "Themes vs. Timelines" "Dates, names, numbers, and places are the facts that young historians are often required to memorize in their various history courses. Therefore, that is generally how and what teachers teach. However, what if there was a more interesting, intriguing, and captivating way to teach these same facts - a way in which students are taught the basics at the same time that they are making connections, discovering themes, and thinking at a higher level? This is all possible by teaching thematically." 

In short, what if there is a better way to go in-depth while avoiding boredom? 

Advantages of Episodic Learning

Episodic Learning enables learners to go deeper into the topic without being bugged down by the barrage of information coming in. Consider the following natural advantages: 
Heightens Curiosity 

Curiosity is the currency in learning. When you run out of it, you can't just expect to continue absorbing any kind of knowledge. The good thing with episodic learning is that it heightens our natural curiosity about what happens next. The "cliff hangers" that ends an episode in a story make us wanting for more episodes to come. Hence, learning becomes a natural process.

Allows Reflection

These cliff hangers make us mull over what's possibly going to happen next in the story. What will the main character do in this situation? Can he still pull more tricks from his sleeves? If so, will it work this time? These are some of the reflective questions that come to mind because you are left hanging by the last story episode. 

Enables Possibility Thinking

This mulling over enables you, the learner, to become a possibility thinker. "Thinking out of the box" is a learned trait in traditional learning but it comes naturally in episodic story based learning. It enables you to think in terms of "what if" instead of "what is."

Opens Up Other Scenarios 

Now that you have considered other possibilities by thinking out of the box, other scenarios open up. A world of possibilities is all of a sudden available to you instead of just copying existing ones. The well-trodden path is not always the best path. True learners try the path least traveled.

Allows Open Discussion

Opened up scenarios allow like-minded learners to discuss them openly. There are no stupid ideas, all are given equal air-time in the discussion forums. Open discussions create an escalation of the available ideas contributed from all learners. Since all feel welcome to contribute, all possibilities are exhausted and ideas are collated to form a unified solution.

More Opportunities for Designers

This openness allows designers to insert more content pertinent to the stories. The possibilities are endless and you are not bound to any specific format. The only limit to content creation is your creativity.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Sound off in the comments section!



Bethany Bodenhamer: Themes vs. Timelines: Lesson Planet: May 10, 2014 

John F. Kihlstrom: How Students Learn -- and How We Can Help Them: Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley: March 8, 2011   

Margaret Rhodes: A New Way to Tell Stories That Outlive the Media's Attention Span: Wired: Feb. 25, 2015  

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, August 24, 2015

Learning in 30 Seconds-Learning ala The Matrix Style

How would you like to learn the way they do in the blockbuster movie "The Matrix"? 

Was there ever a time when you just want to download a whole bunch of information-minus the hole at the back of your neck-into your brain and viola!? When you want to be a musician, you just plug that "musician plugin" and all of a sudden you're performing in a concert. When you want to be a programmer, you just download the latest "programmer plugin" and you're set to write the next killer app.

According to Teemu Torvelainen in a newsletter entitled "What are nano-learning and m-learning?," "In the Matrix films, new skills were learned fast. Instructions on how to fly a helicopter, the characteristics of a motorcycle, and many other things were downloaded in a couple of seconds. This could be called nano-learning. Such training contents, or modules, are extremely short, take a minute or two, and focus on the point. Learning takes place at exactly the right moment and in the right place."

What is Nano-Learning?
There are different terms used in reference to it including micro-learning and small bites learning. However, it's all about breaking down huge chunks of information into small, bite-size, digestible morsels.  And this is not even a new idea. In the words of Elliott Masie, President of The Masie Center and the director of the Learning Consortium, "I am a nano-learner. What does that mean? Each day, I learn several things in small chunks. Really small chunks. A 90-second conversation with an expert triggers a huge 'a-ha.' A few moments concentrating on learning how something works leads to a new micro-skill. What's more, I am not that unusual. Most people acquire most of their knowledge in smaller pieces."

  • The video above tells us the basic of micro-learning. Using the cake analogy, it gives us the idea that we should not learn anything that doesn't fit our brains. Hence, "don't eat anything larger than your head."
  • The normal way people acquire knowledge is by learning in small steps. These bite-size morsels of information that we consume forms a broader and deeper connected knowledge.
  • The idea is to take a learning unit that takes seconds to learn or do. Micro content should not take longer than 15 minutes.
  • Make the information learned, a part of the daily routine. Acquiring this habit allows learning to really sink in.
  • Incorporate micro-learning in the virtual learning environment. This way, you can impart knowledge the micro-learning way too.
As it turns out, nano-learning is actually how people normally learn. It's not an event, a lesson, or a content, but rather a way of using the smallest ideas to get things done or get results. Knowledge is cumulative. This means that what we know at this point in our lives is just the sum total of all the micro-learnings in our entire lifetime.

How to Empower Your Organization Through Nano-Learning

Although the Matrix analogy is fictional, nano-learning is not. It has been effectively used in various scenarios to empower organizations. Companies have been using this technique to introduce new products or a new way of dealing with customers.

Another way nano-learning is used is in the creation of ads. You do not have the luxury of lengthy explanation about how your product can improve people's lives. You only have a few seconds to grab viewer's attention, so making use of that small window is crucial.

  • The video above showed how companies can systematically use nano-learning to empower their employees without sucking the life out of the learning experience. There are four stages in a learning journey namely, Prepare, Equip, Apply, Reactivate and Support. 
  • Prepare-four things occur at this stage namely Introduction, Orientation, Alignment and Inspiration.
  • Equip-another set of four occurs at this stage and they are known as Course, Campaign, Coaching and Cohort.
  • Apply-the four most important factors here are Practical Factors, Checklist, Certification and Active Coaching.
  • Reactivate-at the reactivation stage, the fact that the brain forgets a lot easily is taken into consideration and that's why four factors are important at this stage namely, Recap, Reflect, Reinforce and Repeat.
  • Support-taking into account that we can't contain everything in our head, at the support stage four factors are also taken into consideration. These factors are Performance Support, Help Desk, Expert Network and Community.
  • From the rest of the video, you can see that micro learning is used to deliver content in all stages of the learning journey.

What Does this Mean for Designers?

Most instructional designers are not aware of the power that nano-learning packs in. It gives you the opportunity connect to your audience in an instant! No need to bore them with details, just deliver the meat of your topic in a creative and effective way. 

"We have a unique opportunity to stretch our thinking about the size of our average learning project. Right now, most learning modules start at 15 minutes and often cover hours or days of involvement. But most learning moments are teachable moments. Malcolm Knowles described the perfect teachable moment as the intersection of a small question with a great small answer. That is at the heart of nano-learning." Elliott Masie added. 

For your audience, it gives them the most of what you have to share without being bogged down with the details. It keeps them interested and connected to you. In short, nano-learning is a win-win situation for both you and your audience.


Elliott Masie: Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design: Dec. 28, 2005  

Teemu Torvelainen: What are nano-learning and m-learning?: Nov. 17, 2007

Cognitive Advisors: Nano-Coaching

Liz Stinson Design: An App That Tells the Fascinating Stories Behind 5 Fonts: Web: Sept. 24, 2014

Kerri Simmons: 10 Things You Should Know About Nano-Learning: Less Is More 

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Brain and The Stories We Tell: Top Reasons Why Stories Change Our Behavior

A sage was once asked by his students, "Master, we ask you the truth and you tell us stories," to which the master replied, "the shortest distance between you and the truth is a story."

So what are the things we learn from stories? Why do we hang on to every word that the character utters? Has the character changed our behavior? Suppose we replace the character with a lecturer, would you get the same automatic connection? Probably not.

Are Our Brains Hardwired for Storytelling?

An award winning storyteller who has performed for 6.5 million audiences and a prolific author who has written 34 books, Kendal Haven answers with a resounding yes! As a nationally recognized expert on story structure, Haven believes that our brains are hardwired for storytelling and that we're not just Home sapiens, we are Homo narratives. According to Haven, we prefer to remember stories better than non-story information.

  • People are willing to pay to be engaged. You want to buy their attention. They want to pay with their attention to be engaged. Attention is the currency in the exchange of ideas and stories to ensure that they are engaged.
  • Human beings have been telling stories for 100,000-300,000 years. The human species has relied on stories as a structure and has been used to convey and archive learning, history and wisdom. We are hardwired for stories and that's why it resonates with us.
  • According to EEG recordings, from sensory organs (seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and taste), information goes through the neural story net and are converted to story form before it gets to the conscious mind.
  • The story net automatically distorts and makes up its own version of the story to make sense of it. We need effective story structures to ensure the accuracy of the information being conveyed through the story.
Listen to the FULL Audio for 40 minutes here.

What Happens in the Brain During Storytelling Session?

The brain is not in neutral when we hear stories, its gears are engaged. It's ready to make its own judgments and is synchronized with the storyteller. "When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners' brains.", says Princeton researcher Uri Hasson.

We know that the experiences presented in the stories can be experienced by them too. This automatic connection or synchronization between teacher and learner is seldom achieved through traditional teaching methods.

What We Learn from Stories: Values, Morals and How to Live Our Lives

Stories have characters placed in a specific situation. We easily identify with them and how they cope with the situation that they are in. What is the moral dilemma that they are facing? Did their values in life help in achieving moral clarity? In short, how the characters live their lives become an example for us. 

So it's not accidental when we use characters in a story, it's intentional. There is a foundational theory that characters represent the teaching moments. And it is in our use of these characters that we can impart knowledge. Since stories are that influential, isn't this the best way for educators to embed technical compliance and other learning content?
  1. What is the goal of the main character? Did he manage to accomplish his goals? Every story is resolved when the character fails or accomplishes his goal.
  2. Conflicts. What is keeping the character from getting what he wants?
  3. Risk and danger keep the excitement in the story. What can possibly go wrong?
  4. What is the struggle the main character is facing? What is the main character up against? This keeps us glued to the story.
  5. Details make the audience add pictures to the stories. Designers can effectively use details to insert learning content in the stories.
  6. Motive explains why the goal is important and makes us identify with the characters. We become the character so to speak and we pay attention.

Emma Pearse: 17 Life Lessons From 'Stories We Tell': Web: JUNE 24, 2013

Michale Gabriel: Learning and Growing Through Stories: April 1999: New Horizons for Learning  

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"