Archive for January, 2009

Lessons for grown ups from Sesame Street

January 30, 2009

I love this video.  I’ve watched it hundreds of times trying to work out what makes it special, even if only in that Sesame Street/supplementary education way. 

But whatever the secret ingredient is I’m sure there are all sorts of keys to good learning here.  Take a simple idea, use a familiar song, change the words and you end up with a fun piece of learning.  

So I looked for more examples and found how the same idea, similarly executed, can go so wrong.  Take a look.  Sorry James.

I suppose we need Paul Weller to do ‘That’s Edutainment’ to make it right.


Until then, and purely as part of my research, I came across this piece featuring Elmo and Andrea Bocelli. No real learning – just indulgence.  Enjoy.

Andy H


Americans…doncha just love ‘em!

January 28, 2009


Sam and I have been out on the road for the last couple of days in the freezing cold North East, experiencing legendary Geordie hospitality, doing a lot of listening and just a tiny smidgeon of talking (!). 

We’ve been visiting organisations that aren’t yet members of the Learning Pool Club.  Yes, dear reader, believe it or not there are some people out there that haven’t yet folded to peer pressure and signed up for the many benefits  that a Learning Pool subscription brings.  I can almost hear you gasp in disbelief.

It’s always great to get out and chat to people, listen to their challenges and issues and be inspired by their innovation, motivation, enthusiasm and achievements.

 This week has been particularly interesting for me as I’ve had a rare chance to watch our very own Sam Barbee operating on the closest possible parallel to his home turf.  Yes, rather unbelievably, two of our meetings this week have been with ex-pat American citizens who are now lucky enough to be living and working in north eastern England.

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Sam, he is our very own piece of genuine southern Californian real estate, the surfer dude boy from the O.C. uprooted and miraculously transplanted to sunny Derry.  Their loss, our gain.

This week has given me the opportunity to watch him up close interacting with people from “back home” – Antoinette who left New York 30 years ago (but from her accent it could have been last week – truly lovely!) and Lola who told us that Sam is only the second American she has met since moving to South Tyneside five years ago and how mesmerising she was finding his accent. 

It got me thinking about what a rich and diverse place UK local government is to work in and what a mix of cultures it’s possible to experience without travelling very far at all – and how lucky we all are as a result.


You can take the boy out of Wales …

January 23, 2009

welsh-flagMaeve:  Hey Ben, I like the new tattoos on the inside of your wrists.  What do they say?

Ben:  On this wrist it says “Cymru” and on this one is says “Am byth”

Maeve:  What does that mean?

Ben:  Wales forever

Maeve:  What, as opposed to for 20 minutes?

Ben:  sigh

The History of Learning Pool by Donald Clark

January 21, 2009

learningpool-bubbleRead this blog by Donald Clark which talks about where he got the idea for Learning Pool from.

Interesting stuff to hear about our humble beginnings on the back of an airplane sick bag.

Read how Donald made the case for the IDeA to create Learning Pool and why the reasons for Learning Pool’s existence are just as important today, if not more so, as they were back in 2000.

Shared not secret

January 16, 2009

pierce-brosnan-as-james-bondThe James Bond classic ‘The World is not Enough’ was on TV again recently. 

Now I’m not a massive fan of the three digit daredevil but I do like the sequence where Pierce Brosnan and Robbie Coltrane’s characters are on a wooden platform in the middle of the Caspian Sea.  

A helicopter with a rotating saw is swooping down and Robbie Coltrane’s Rolls Royce goes into the sea.  Oops.

That platform was originally built during the first oil rush.  Apparently oil could only be recovered when it was near to the surface and at that particular geographic point in the Caspian Sea the water is shallow, and the oil not too far below the surface.  At one time a whole town used to live out there and they even had a Mayor.

Anyway, up until not so long ago a gas bubble was venting into the atmosphere just off the structure.  Natural gas worth $250,000 a day (and that was then) or $91,250,000 a year of natural resources was being lost.  And then a company called Pennzoil was able to cap the bubble, compress the gas and pump it onshore. Hey presto – everyone wins.

That got me thinking that there is generally a huge amount a resource out there, if you just know where to look.  That’s the secret.

For those interested in e-learning in the public sector there are lots of different projects that your fellow L&D professionals are working on.  Plus lots of ideas for treatments of difficult topics, creative use of images and so on.

That’s one of the great things about being in my role as a Learning Pool technical trainer – I get to chat to people about what they’re up to and find out about some of the really interesting things going on.

So instead of keeping your own ideas, projects, questions capped, why not release them into the Learning Pool community so that everyone can win?  That would be an emission that is good for the environment, I promise you.


What does Donald Clark think of Learning Pool?

January 15, 2009

donald-clark1One of our favourite e-learning gurus, Mr Donald Clark, praises Learning Pool in his latest blog on why he believes the web is the real pedagogic engine. 

I quote “I love the excellent Learning Pool, where users create content then willingly share it with others. In the public sector, this should be the norm.”  We agree.

Calling the web evolution on steroids Donald compares it to traditional learning institutions and talks about the elements that have made web such a revolutionary force. 

Highly recommended reading.  And we think you’re great too, Donald!

Tackling the crunch

January 14, 2009

tightening-beltsIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was how Charles Dickens opened ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ and he could easily have been talking about the e-learning industry during the current credit crunch.


All around belts are being tightened as prices rise, long established shops close and employment figures fall.  And it’s not just the private sector that is feeling the pinch.  


It’s time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst but the good news is, from most quarters at least, that councils appear to understand that being leaner is not the full answer.  Cutting staff is one thing but those left behind need to be more efficient and spend their time more effectively.


Having spoken to lots of local authorities over the last couple of months I am pleased to report that the majority view e-learning as a way to reduce the costs of training whilst increasing the flexibility of delivery.  Those who had already embraced e-learning are growing their portfolios and increasing its use.


Some people have said that e-learning can be a rather cold experience but I don’t think so.  My suggestion is that if you use the tools available in our DLE (Dynamic Learning Environment) and wrap them around a learning activity (be that an elearning module or a face to face event) you can actually create a much warmer, richer experience.


For example, take a traditional face to face course on Recruitment and Selection.  Here’s what you’d do:


1.      Take the policy, chop it up, make it legible, make it engaging and deliver it as an e-learning module.

2.      Add a test to prove that people have read and understood the policy before they set foot in the classroom.  This should allow you to reduce the face to face time needed as your delegates have proven they know the rules so all they need now is to practice the skills.

3.      Now put the trainer’s notes online and make them available only to people who attend the classroom event.

4.      Add a forum so attendees can discuss issues raised or get support after the event.

5.      Maybe add another e-learning module for learners to complete with some simple scenarios to work through.


And, voila!  Suddenly, what was an event has become a full learning process.


By reducing face to face time you should have also made it easier for delegates to attend that event as well as freeing up the trainer to do other work and cut down on waiting lists


Delegates can tap back into the learning at any time for a refresher (after all, you are not likely to walk out of the classroom straight into the interview room).


The DLE also improves your management and monitoring of the learning so if something should go wrong, and an industrial tribunal is called, you will have strong evidence of who did the training and how well they showed they knew the policy.


So it may well be the worst of times but in e-learning we should be looking to get stuck in and show where efficiencies can be made and where value can be added.  For those that do, this it may just well be the best of times instead.



Who says local government is 9-5?

January 8, 2009

elvis-presley2As a team that prides ourselves on being there for our customers at all times we thought long and hard, in the run up to the Christmas break, about what cover we would provide whilst the office was closed.

 We decided that we would be on call throughout the festive season and have all calls diverted to my mobile.  Even though we were closed, we said, we’d pick up any emergency calls or queries that may arise.

 So the plan was in place and I was primed and ready for the three working days in between Christmas and New Year when we thought our customers may be working and therefore may need our assistance.

Fast forward to Christmas day itself.  The presents were opened, the turkey cooked and dinner devoured (yum).

 Now it’s customary in our house for the family to congregate in the lounge and play whatever family game has been received, and this year it was Singstar, a competitive karaoke video game. 

So there I was, relaxing on the sofa, brandy and baileys in hand, trying not to think about the sheer amount of food eaten not half an hour earlier when I hear the familiar sound of my phone ringing, albeit barely audible above my Dad murdering Dancing Queen by Abba.  How lovely, I thought, that’ll be the other half wondering how my day’s going and what family fun is underway.

Reaching into my bag for the ringing phone, and without glancing at the display or registering the fact that it was not my personal but my work mobile, I answered with a cheery “Hello!”

Straining to hear the caller above the noise of karaoke king that is my father, the confusion cleared and the penny dropped.  Oh dear God, it’s a customer. I bolted out of the room looking for a quiet corner of the house feeling quite panicked by the situation.  

The customer in question was a very nice Councillor.  After apologising for what could only be seen as unprofessional background noise, I did my best to resolve his query.   My caller seemed completely oblivious as to what day it was and was actually just interested in getting his password for Modern Councillor re-set.  

I commented on his commitment to e-learning even on Christmas day and wished him a very Merry Christmas as he went on his way.

At this point I turned the phone off. 

Probably a wise move from a customer service perspective as I had suddenly become very conscious of the wine I’d consumed at dinner plus the glass of brandy and baileys still in my hand which, it turns out, was now needed for medicinal purposes to recover from the shock of what had just happened, rather than its previous job of numbing my senses to the karaoke carnage in the other room.


Good resolutions

January 6, 2009

meatloafNew Year resolutions are funny things.  There’s something about the start of a new year that fills us with good intentions and ambitions. 

But there’s also something that’s a bit out of reach about them too, and therefore easy enough to dismiss by the time the decorations come down.

A quick straw poll round the office here at Pool Heights suggests that, like lots of other people, there are those amongst us who want to stop smoking, drinking, eating too much chocolate and get fitter.  And try out those retro blue and yellow roller skates around town without fear of looking uncool.

One wise soul said they don’t really believe in resolutions but would rather make a small pact with themselves to try something new this year.  That’s all.  Nothing too ‘all or nothing’ about it, just something small and achievable. 

After all, who wants to feel a failure?  That’s enough to get anyone reaching for the next bar of Dairy Milk.

Breaking things down into bite sized chunks (I’ve got chocolate on the brain here) makes things easier to digest (hmm) and much more achievable.  Just like our e-learning courses. 

It seems we all want to be a bit greener, a bit thriftier and a bit healthier.  And e-learning can help with most of this.  As Meatloaf said, two out of three aint bad.


Teaching new tricks

January 5, 2009

alfieI know it’s a bit of a cliché, but we got ourselves a puppy for Christmas – a four-month-old whippet called Alfie.

After a wobbly start Alfie is settling in well and even made friends with the vet on his first visit for a check up.

Now as you can imagine, from a Learning and Development perspective, Alfie is something of a blank canvas.

What an opportunity!  Where to start? Knowledge, skills, attitude?  He needs the lot.  The Training Needs Analysis has been drafted but has some way to go.

We are, however, progressing nicely with induction.  For example, yesterday was all about walking – or to be precise stair walking.

As with all good learning interventions we first identified a clear SMART objective: Getting to the Top of the Stairs with no Broken Bones by Bedtime.

We then prepared a training plan and instructional strategy: short bite sized chunks of learning, lots of opportunity for practise, positive reinforcement and of course reward.  And it worked!

Alfie is now at what I would call an intermediate level of stair walking, what he lacks in grace and co-ordination he makes up for in enthusiasm.  With more practise and confidence building he’ll soon be an expert practitioner!

So what next?  Well tomorrow Alfie will complete this first e-learning module, which I created in the Authoring Tool…only joking!

But that reminds me…

In December’s News Splash we made a call for more e-learning to be shared amongst our customers.

I have the pleasure of reviewing all new modules shared by Friday 23rd January and awarding a prize for the most engaging and interactive e-learning that makes the best use of the Authoring Tool templates.

So, whatever the topic, be it induction, health and safety, equality impact assessment or even dog training, why not start the new year off with creating and sharing some e-learning?

I look forward to seeing the results.

Happy New Year!