Category Archives: ADLT 641

Learning Live Yet From Afar

I participated in a web-conference at work today with a potential new email service provider (ESP).  The ESP company provided a live demonstration of their software online via  The technology they used is not new to me as I have participated in live webinars and online software demonstrations before.  What was new, though, was my appreciation for the preparation the presenter must have gone through leading up to our meeting today.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the presenter had read Lori Reed’s blog post 10 Lessons I Learned From Delivering My First Synchronous Learning Session.

Lesson #1 – Plan, develop, practice, then plan some more.  It was apparent that our presenter had done all of these in advance of our meeting.  Well, maybe not for our exact meeting, per se, as this training is something she provides to any company who is evaluating their service.  She had obviously done some work to tailor the presentation for us by having our logo image available to drop into her demonstration of creating an email template. She also had multiple browser windows open to allow for easy movement from one to another as she showed us different features of the product, including how easy it is to bring in copy we have on our website.

Lesson #3 – Silence is not golden!  Our presenter may have taken this one a bit too far, as it was sometimes hard to “cut her off” when we had a question.

Lesson #5 – Have a producer.  It wasn’t exactly a producer, but she did have a colleague on the conference who was able to answer more sales-related (vs. product-related) questions.

Lesson #8 – No one knows when you make a mistake, so don’t call attention to it.  Actually, I could tell when she made a few mistakes, such as when she highlighted our logo and replaced it with our website’s url instead of embedding the link in the image, but if that was the biggest mistake she made all day, she was way ahead of me.  As Reed suggested a presenter should do, our presenter just rolled right on with her next point as if there had been no hiccup at all.

Lesson #10 – Have fun!  It’s always an added bonus when the presenter gets you as excited about the software as she is.

In Reed’s post she writes, “It’s about the people and the learning and not the technology.”  In the case of our web-conference today, it really WAS about the technology, but considering I will be the main point of contact for our company with any new ESP, establishing a relationship with the people and knowing they understand how to guide you through the learning of their product is key to having them get my recommendation.


Posted by on November 13, 2012 in ADLT 641


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Neuroplasticity, Lifelong Learning, and Meditation

Just a quick follow up to my post from Sunday and the reference to neuroplasticity.  I created a playlist on YouTube to show you how neuroplasticity can lead to lifelong learning as well as how neuroplasticity can be enhanced through meditation.

The first video in the playlist (after my fun little intro slide which is, I guess you could say, my first original posting on YouTube!) is the one I stumbled across during my exploration of YouTube that got me thinking about neuroplasticity, a topic we’ve discussed in my meditation class.  That led me to wonder if there were any TED Talks about the topic, which of course there are.  Sara Lazar is a neuroscientist who discusses studies about exercising your brain and how meditation can slow down the natural loss of cognitive ability caused by aging. These studies are also referenced in the third video with Rick Hanson, also a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom.  The foreword to Buddha’s Brain was written by Dan Siegel, M.D., and in the next video in my playlist, Dr. Siegel gives a technical description of how the brain can rewire itself through experience.  He goes on to introduce his concept of mindsight, which is “focusing attention… harnessing the power of the mind… to change synaptic connections and… stimulate the growth of new neurons.”  The next video in my playlist offers a more detailed description of mindsight by Dr. Siegel.  And finally, the last video is… well no, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.  Enjoy!


Posted by on November 6, 2012 in ADLT 641


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DistribYOUTUBEd Learning

Everybody knows what YouTube is, right?  It’s where you watch those crazy cat videos (or in my case dog videos), video replays of awesome sports clips, or videos of an artist you like.  But this past week, I learned a few things about YouTube that I never knew or even thought about.

While I was exploring areas of YouTube whose links they keep tucked away at the bottom of the page, I discovered:

  • CitizenTube — YouTube’s News & Politics blog.  I’m not sure this would be the best place to stay up on current events since the last post here is from May 2012.  There has been a bit of political news since then, right?
  • TestTube — YouTube’s Idea Incubator where they try out new ideas before deciding whether to make them a standard feature on the site.

So, there’s no question that there is a LOT of content on YouTube, a fair amount of which you can use for educational purposes.  If all this information is out there for the taking, who really owns the content? Enter Margaret Gould Stewart, former head of user experience at YouTube (now head of product design for Facebook).  She gave a Ted Talk (one of her “bucket list” items) in 2010 about what she calls “the digital rights ecosystem” and specifically the Content ID system at YouTube.

As an original content owner, you can register your material with YouTube in their Content ID system.  As the owner of the rights, you can also determine what policy you want YouTube to apply if and when someone tries to upload the same content. Surprisingly, or maybe not, Stewart says most rights owners allow copies to be uploaded because they “then benefit through the exposure, advertising, and linked sales.”  The example Stewart gives of why an artist, for example, might be okay with his work being used by someone else is the video of the wedding party making their entrance to Chris Brown’s song “Forever,” which had come and gone from the charts 18 months before the wedding.  Not only did this “little wedding video” get over 40 million views, but Chris Brown’s old song went back up to #4 on the iTunes chart.

You can search for copycat videos and spoofs of the wedding party entrance, and even NBC “borrowed” the idea from the video for an episode of “The Office.”  (I was going to link to a video of that, but that WAS copyright protected.)  NBC’s high-profile takeoff on the amateur wedding video proves Stewart’s point about digital rights being an ecosystem because “it’s not just amateurs borrowing from big studios, but sometimes big studios borrowing back.”

Stewart’s advice to content owners is simple.  “If you have content that others are uploading to YouTube, you should register it in the Content ID system, and then you’ll have the choice about how your content is used.”  She goes on to say that by allowing your work to be reused, you’re opening it up to all sorts of new possibilities, including new audiences and new distribution channels.  And isn’t that what distributed learning is all about?


Posted by on November 4, 2012 in ADLT 641


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A Connectivism Story

“Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity.”  ~ George Siemens

This week I had one of those connectivism a-ha! moments.  It started when I gained a new follower on Twitter.  When I checked out his profile to see if I wanted to follow him back, I found a recent post that read “How people are using e-learning and crowdlearning to change education” with a link to the article of the same name.  The article touched on many of the topics we’ve discussed in class including MOOCs and wiki-based collaboration, and it contained a link to a site called Learnist, which was described as “Wikipedia blended with Pinterest and Storify with more stimulating and constructive subjects.”  Intriguing, yes?  Yes!  So, I clicked on it.

Blah, blah, blah… fast forward to this week’s assignment to create a screencast and post it to our blog.  What better way to introduce you to Learnist than to show you!

So this brings me to yesterday when one of my classmates retweeted a blog post about connectivism (with which, if you’ve been following my blog, you know I am enamored). The blogger summarizes some of the main tenants of Siemen’s theory, writing “connectivism argues that digital media have caused knowledge to be more distributed than ever, and it is now more important for students to know where to find knowledge they require, than it is for them to internalise it.”  That’s when I had the a-ha! moment.  Learnist seems to be a wonderful example of that distributed knowledge, and one that I stumbled upon through a new, weak tie in my network. How seemingly random that that individual saw something in my profile that caused him to follow me, and how serendipitous that upon exploring his profile I found that particular post.  (And yes, I am now following him, too.)

What connections have you made in your PLN that have led you to cool, new discoveries?


Posted by on October 28, 2012 in ADLT 641


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How My Personal Learning Network Sent Me Over The Edge

A few weeks ago, there was a comment made in class by a student who worried she’d be frustrated in other classes by not being allowed to use her Personal Learning Network (PLN).  That comment confused me because I think of my PLN as first and foremost my personal network that I can tap into for anything at any time.  The people in my PLN come from all walks of life and from all walks of my life.  They are my friends, family, coworkers (past and present), fellow students, roommates from college, marathon training buddies, dog rescuers, educators, consultants, friends of friends, neighbors… okay, you get the point.  Much the way we read about how Suzanne used her PLN to complete coursework, find an upholsterer to fix the sofa the puppy chewed, and score a photo of the Galapagos for her daughter’s school project, there isn’t much I do without tapping into the resources of my PLN.

For example, last December I attended a retirement party for one of my bosses at SunTrust.  A friend and former colleague introduced me to a gentleman from the Richmond office of Special Olympics, and we got talking about one of their annual fundraising events called Over the Edge.  The premise is that if you raise a minimum of $1,000 for Special Olympics, you earn the honor of rappelling down one of the tallest (maybe the tallest) buildings in downtown Richmond.  Not only had I never rappelled, I’d never raised $1,000 for anything, but that evening a seed was planted.  I kept that gentleman’s business card on my desk, and six months later, I made the decision that I was up for the challenge.

I decided to use Facebook as my primary tool to get the word out that I had finally lost my mind… I mean the message that I wanted to raise $1,000 for Special Olympics and be able to rappel down my former workplace.  While not all my friends are on Facebook, the majority are, and so it seemed the best way to blast out a request along with a link to my fundraising page.  Additionally, I sent a few emails and posted tweets about my endeavor, but the height of my fundraising was before Twitter really began to click for me, so I wasn’t expecting much from that effort.

To my surprise, I reached my fundraising goal in exactly one month.  Apparently there are a lot of people in my PLN who wish to see me step off a high building!  I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing.  I was a little nervous putting out such an ambitious request for donations for something other than my beloved Golden Retriever rescue group, but the first donation came from the president of the rescue!  In fact, the single largest group of donors were people I knew primarily though the rescue group.  Results of my fundraising as they breakdown in my PLN (by primary association) were:

  • People I know through the Golden Rescue: 7
  • Friends: 6
  • Current Coworkers: 3
  • Family: 2
  • Former Coworkers: 2
  • Other: 2
  • VCU classmate: 1
  • Undergrad connection: 1

My “Other” connections included a friend of my parents as well as a friend of my college volleyball coach who doesn’t know me at all but made a donation because my Coach promoted my fundraising page on her Facebook page.  True network in action!

Upon reaching my goal, reality set in — I was going to rappel down a really tall building!  Once again, my PLN came to my rescue, and I discovered that I know several people who are avid climbers.  Tremendous gratitude goes out to my fellow M.Ed. classmate Lindsey for taking the time to meet me at Peak Experiences and introduce me to climbing and rappelling.  Without that, I would not be able to say that this moment pictured below was when I stopped being nervous last Friday.  Yup, that’s me on the right, perched on the edge of the SunTrust building in downtown Richmond, some 400 feet above street level.

Over the Edge

And this is me — smiling — passing the windows on the 20th floor.

Passing the 20th Floor

An unexpected outcome of this latest installment of my insanity is that through this event, I was able to expand my PLN by making connections with other rappellers as well as strengthening some weak ties in my PLN who have now seen a different side of me and have become a more active part of my network.

I would say this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience – except I want to do it again!  I hope my PLN will continue to expand so I can continue to meet the donation challenge for Special Olympics and be rewarded with the experience of rappelling again… and again.You can do anything!

To tie this all back to my journey through learning, I hope that this story illustrates that your PLN is truly at your disposal for any new learning experience you desire and that assistance may come from a subset of your network that you had not expected.  Anything that you do can be an opportunity to use and grow your PLN.


Posted by on October 21, 2012 in ADLT 641


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Big Data? Big Whoop.

big data

Image sourced from

Score another similarity between marketing and adult education — both seem inordinately enamored with big data these days.

In marketing it’s all about dashboards and return on investment (ROI).  According to one marketing blog, big data provides “better insight about customers, the ability to more precisely segment customers into meaningful groups, and target offers with a higher degree of response. Big data is particularly relevant for predictive analytics where the goal is to model the intention or propensity of a buyer to purchase.”

In education, the growing interest in massive open online courses, or MOOCs, seems to be generating as much stir about big data as it is about what students might actually be learning in these courses.  Nick Carr writes:

Delivering a complex class to thousands of people simultaneously demands a high degree of automation. Many of the labor-intensive tasks traditionally performed by professors and teaching assistants—grading tests, tutoring, moderating discussions—have to be done by computers. Advanced analytical software is also required to parse the enormous amounts of information about student behavior collected during the classes. By using algorithms to spot patterns in the data, programmers hope to gain insights into learning styles and teaching strategies, which can then be used to refine the technology further.

These quotes are just examples of a glut of writing on the subject — some pro, some con — but my point is simply this:  Big data is big business.  My goal is not to choose right or wrong or prove the value of big data, but I do want to caution you not to get too caught up in what Tim Suther calls “a tsunami of data.”  Pick your favorite idiom, whether it’s everything in moderation or don’t miss the forest for the trees.  Heck, there is even a country song about missing What Mattered Most.  I tend to call it analysis paralysis.  You slice and dice the data until it either says anything you want it to… or nothing at all.  And then what do you do with it?

Christa Carone is the Chief Marketing Officer at Xerox.  She was quoted in a recent article on saying, “I wouldn’t want to give up the data that helps us make fact-based decisions quickly. But I fear that marketers’ access to and obsession with measuring everything takes away from the business of real marketing.”  She went on to say, “It’s impossible to measure ‘squishier’ meaningful intangibles, such as human emotion, personal connection and the occasional ‘ahhhh’ moment.”

May I be so bold as to say she could just have easily been talking about teaching and learning?

I didn’t get into marketing to be a number cruncher.  I got into marketing because I had a decent ability to communicate a particular message to a particular audience.  It’s not that I mind having some data to tell me if I’m hitting my mark, but I don’t want to spend all day looking at the numbers and miss the opportunity to make that personal connection.  And as adult educators — whether continuing studies instructor, facilitator, or corporate trainer — how many of us would choose refining the technology over seeing a student have that ahhhh moment?


Posted by on October 8, 2012 in ADLT 641


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A Facelift and other Substantive Changes

This weekend, I decided to give my blog a facelift.  More than just an updated look, this change marks an important shift in my thinking about my blog.  Since my first post in January 2010, I have written my blog for me and me alone.  Even during those semesters when we were asked to comment on other students’ blogs, I never imagined as I was writing that the audience was anyone other than me.  But as I am now making a concerted effort to grow my personal learning network (PLN) and starting to feel as though I might have interesting things to add to the conversation, I hope that some in my PLN will find my blog and, dare I say, comment on a post or two!

In addition to the new visual theme, I’ve added a couple of pages.  One is “About me” which is a pretty standard kind of introduction about what I do and why I blog.  Hmmm… actually, it doesn’t say why I blog… mental note to make that edit soon. As I’ve been adding to my PLN and checking out interesting blogs, the about me page (or some variation of it) tends to be a page I look at to see what I can surmise about the author and his/her motivation for writing the blog.  I thought it only fair to offer the same consideration to anyone checking out my blog.

The other page I added was one I called “The best of…”, and it includes links to pinnacle writings from most of the classes I’ve taken in the M.Ed. program so far.  (I’m still working to find the right writings for some classes.)  These papers and projects demonstrate the breadth and depth of my thinking and include topics I’ve not covered in my blog. While it is true that part of the reason I added this page was because my blog is supposed to be an e-portfolio of all my work during the program, I must fess up to a more selfish (maybe even egotistical) reason, too.  I think they’re pretty damn good papers, and I would be tickled pink if somebody read them and thought so, too.

The final substantive change I made over the weekend was to change the website link listed on my Twitter account.  When I first established my presence on Twitter, I was out of work and not yet enrolled in this program, but I was a Board member of Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education, and Training, so I decided to give the rescue a plug and list that website.  Now that I’m using Twitter as a major avenue for building my PLN, I realize I need to give myself the shout-out instead.  Oh look, there I go being selfish again!  But a little self-promotion might be just what I need.

“To establish oneself in the world, one does all one can to seem established there already.”
François de La Rochefoucauld
French Essayist (1613 – 1680)

[Quotation sourced from]


Posted by on September 30, 2012 in ADLT 641