Silliness: The Magic K-12 Ingredient

I recently had the opportunity to meet and play with two kids who are being home schooled in the Pacific Northwest woods. The boy is 12 and the girl is 6 going on 20. Both are wicked smart, very polite and delightful to goof around with.

I was given a new nickname, Ingrid of Mystery. I haven’t taught public school for a while now so jumped on the chance to do some educational play through the mail. With their parent’s permission, I sent them a Box of Mystery, that also contained a Letter of Mystery.  The box is designed to make learning “effortfully effortless” because it is not coercive and is done with silliness.  This is formal learning that feels like informal learning.

The letter is below. (My printer/scanner is quixotic, so I used my phone camera.)  There are writing prompts for cursive, as well as opportunities to learn about Geology, Ecology, Biology, History and maybe a little English Literature.  It contains vocabulary words that are also hints.  I created the box for both ages as well as both genders (although I am NOT NOT NOT a proponent of gendered education, the 12 year old is very gender conscious which is expected for his stage of development.)

They have the choice to complete whatever they want.  Hopefully, they do everything.

If the reaction to this prototype box is positive…well the next question is one of scale. 😉

Woman: Grisaille and Glaze Medium

So…retardant additive sucks. All it does is make the paint sticky which messes up my mojo. I also figured out that if I paint the eyes first, it helps me choose values better. (And no, I didn’t paint the eye first with this one.  This one started with the sticky acrylic.) I’ll post pics as the piece progresses. Original photo by Mark Shaiken.

Grisaille in Progress

Glazing Stage

Glazing isn’t the word I would use for what I am doing. The reason is because the white in the next layers of paint raise the darker values. This is more like overpainting using the grayscale version as a guide.

JJ: Acrylic Grisaille and Water Glazing

I’m reheating my technical art skills by doing some acrylic painting using traditional academic methods. I’m a bit rusty.  I will use retardant on the next painting so the acrylic behaves more like oil and blending is easier.  Unfortunately, there are limitations in my “art space” right now, so I can’t actually use oil.  Everything I use has to be water soluble.

Finished Piece


Water Glaze at Various Stages

Josh Bersin on LinkedIn: A New World of Corporate Learning Arrives: And It Looks Like TV

Josh Bersin has published an article on LinkedIn called “A New World of Corporate Learning Arrives: And It Looks Like TV”.  He makes some interesting points about how learners will find and consume learning content.   In particular, he brings up the problem of aligning “…TV channels to …job architecture, skills taxonomy, or career paths.”  I will write more about the possible solution to this problem later but for now, there is lots of juicy information to absorb in his article.

I will be at Ignite

LeX Portrait-1bsm_cropI will be at the Microsoft Ignite conference this year running a couple of sessions:

Flipped Classroom for MCTs

On the Pre-Day, Sunday, September 25th, LeX Day Zero, Saturday, September 24th,  I will be running a session for Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs) called “Flipped Classroom” which will discuss the benefits of “front loading” your learners with training before they come to an on-site, instructor led training session.  There will be small group guided discussion giving MCTs a chance to talk about how this learning model can benefit them, and/or what the blockers might be. Maximum participants: 40. 

Rose, Bud, Thorn

On Tuesday and Thursday of that week, I will be holding Rose, Bud, Thorn sessions in a conference room near the certification testing area.  These sessions are for gathering your feedback about what Microsoft Learning Experiences (LeX) is doing well (rose), could do in the future (bud), and isn’t doing well (causing you pain, thorn).  They will be one hour long each and will include small group discussion.  The sessions are open to all learners and trainers.  Maximum participants: approx 20 per session.

There is no registration for these sessions, so plan to be at the door.

I will also be sending out a link to a survey that will provide us with valuable information on how you learn, when you learn, and what you want to learn.  Stay tuned.

New Courses from Microsoft Learning Experiences

Microsoft Learning Experiences (LeX) has published some brand new courses: Computer Science Committed Learning
  • Accelerate Software Delivery Using DevOps Gain hands-on experience in DevOps tools and practices for quick delivery of high-quality software and learn how to lead the DevOps transformation at your organization.
Exploration and Readiness Core Infrastructure Exploration and Readiness
  • Preparing for Exam 70-398: Planning for and Managing Devices in the Enterprise Shore up your knowledge and skills in planning and designing cloud and hybrid identities and supporting identity infrastructure for managing devices in this helpful exam prep course.
  • Introduction to Azure Security Center Learn how Azure Security Center helps you prevent, detect, and respond to threats with increased visibility and control over the security of your Azure resources.
  • Windows 10 IT Pro Essentials Support Secrets (based on the writings of Press author, Ed Bott) If you are an IT Pro supporting Windows 10, or if you’re the person that friends and family call on for help, this Windows 10 support training is for you.
  • Data Analysis with Excel (based on the press book of the same name) Join Dr. Wayne Winston, who has been teaching the most effective ways to use Excel to solve business problems for more than 18 years, for an in-depth and practical look at the details.
  • Mastering Microsoft Certification Exam Prep (Currently the most popular course on MVA) To become a Microsoft Certified Professional, having the requisite content knowledge is only part of the complete picture. You also need practical, hands-on technology skills as well as strong test-taking strategies.
  • Hybrid IT Management Part 3: Automation Join a team of Microsoft experts to explore a number of key hybrid IT management areas. Learn how OMS Automation helps you to Automate all those frequent, time-consuming, and error-prone cloud management tasks.
Data and Analytics Committed Learning
  • Data Science Professional Project Showcase your data science knowledge and skills, and solve a real-world data science problem in this project-based learning experience.
  • Applied Machine Learning In this data science course, you will explore the theory and practice of select advanced methods commonly used in data science.
Exploration and Readiness

Pet Peave of the Day: Competency, Skill, Proficiency and Keywords

In many conversations I have with my co-workers about what our content contains, I hear the word “skill” get used in many different ways.  I think it is important as a learning organization to speak the same language – the language of instructional design.  So here are the definitions of the words that I use as an instructional designer:

Competency – Set of skills.   For example, Database Administration.

Skill – Tasks or application of concepts that correlate directly to learning objectives, especially if they are written with Bloom’s taxonomy verbs.  It is a sentence that at least contains a verb and an object. “Use thing.” (where “you” is implied). For example, “Design a relational database.”

Proficiency Level – Beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert as in Microsoft Virtual Academy levels.  (See course filters on the left.)

“Database Administration” is a competency.
“Design a relational database.” is a skill.
“Design a basic relational database.” is a skill with a proficiency level of beginner.

Keywords/Tags – these are words that are associated with course ware, either online and/or content management systems designed for search engine discoverability.  Keywords and tags are NOT skills.  The set of keywords and tags associated with a course can contain skills, but are not inherently skills.

In other words, “vanilla”, “patio”, and “dogs” are not skills.

“Decide when to use vanilla in a recipe.” is a skill.
“Lay patio bricks.” is a skill.
“Walk three dogs at a time.” is a skill.

Marketing materials usually use the word “skills” in general to mean all of the skills you would get in a competency.  Skills is easier to say than competency because it has less syllables.  This is fine in marketing materials or on resumes but not fine when designing or discussing content or content management, especially when deciding on the taxonomy for your metadata.

Just sayin’.

How to study for the Microsoft Team Foundation Server and Application Lifecycle Management Exams

My organization Microsoft Learning (LeX) received an email recently about study materials for a few exams. LeX doesn’t update it’s learning materials based on the release of an exam or even the release of a product or a product version.

In fact, we don’t teach to the test anymore.  We focus on creating learning based on the skills included in a specific Developer, IT Professional, or Data Science role.  So you won’t see updated materials based on a product or exam release.

The best way to find study materials for exams is to look at the objective domains of the exams on the exam page.  For example on each of the following pages you will see collapsed sections below the Skills Measured heading.  If you expand those sections you’ll find detailed objectives or things that you have to learn in order to pass the test.  You may also find some links to some study resources, but NOTE: they may not be updated for the new software release.  However, that doesn’t mean that the content won’t be helpful.

Here are some exam pages.

Exam 70-496 – Administering Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server
Exam 70-497 – Software Testing with Visual Studio
Exam 70-498 – Delivering Continuous Value with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management

If you take a look at the Exam 70-498 page, you’ll find this under the first overall objective:

Define an effective end-to-end Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) (15‒20%)

  • Understand the value of an end-to-end view of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tools and practices
    • Understand that an observable problem may be indicative of a more general process issue; explain the difference between optimizing a piece of the ALM process, such as manual testing, and optimizing the entire ALM process
  • Explain the benefits of fast feedback
    • Explain the importance of fast feedback related to communicating requirements, explain the benefits of end customer feedback to early software iterations
  • Implement strategies to reduce end-to-end cycle time
    • Identify bottlenecks in the delivery process, identify metrics that highlight bottlenecks, create potential solutions whose effectiveness can be validated, understand the relationship between work in process (WIP) and cycle time
  • Implement strategies to improve software quality
    • Identify process steps that introduce defects, understand the end-to-end quality process, bring quality efforts early in the development cycle
  • Implement strategies to reduce waste
    • Identify wasteful activities, create strategies to eliminate waste, measure the effectiveness of waste removal activities
  • Create a process improvement plan
    • Create strategies for implementing organizational change, identify key metrics to be tracked during the improvement effort, create consensus for the change

Preparation resources

The above resources were not created for Visual Studio 2015, however, they contain content that addresses the philosophy, benefits, strategies and processes of Lifecycle Management which is not a Microsoft only thing.  Here’s a wikipedia article about it.

The next section looks like this:

Define the ALM process (15‒20%)

  • Role of different ALM processes
    • Understand the cost and benefits of the key ALM processes, including agile, scrum, waterfall, and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)
  • Implement a scrum/agile process
    • Establish self-organizing teams; holding a scrum/agile planning meeting, hold daily scrums/stand-up meetings, hold retrospective meetings, hold scrum review meetings
  • Define a scrum/agile process for a team
    • Establish criteria on when to cancel a sprint/iteration, establish tooling and process for scrum/agile artifacts, establish the scrum definition of “done,” determine sprint/iteration length, determine how to handle backlog items/user stories not completed in a sprint/iteration, determine how to monitor sprint/iteration progress, use collaborative tools
  • Implement Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) for CMMI process improvement
    • Establish project drivers (scope-driven, date-driven), assign product requirements to iterations, manage changes, manage issues

Preparation resources

In this case, only one objective addresses a Microsoft specific process that is Implement Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) for CMMI process improvement. Look at the objective that mentions it.  It says Establish project drivers (scope-driven, date-driven), assign product requirements to iterations, manage changes, manage issues.  It should more properly be written as an ordered or unordered list:

  • Establish product drivers (scope-driven or date-driven)
  • Assign product requirements to iterations
  • Manage changes
  • Manage issues

So you search for “Implement Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) for CMMI process improvement” and you get this article contains the following bullet points, which map pretty closely to the above bullets:

  • Aligning business and technology goals
  • Establishing clear project goals, roles, and responsibilities
  • Implementing an iterative, milestone/checkpoint-driven process
  • Managing risk proactively
  • Responding to change effectively

This article will give you the overview, but won’t give you the specific tasks you need to perform to “assign product requirements” or “manage change”.  That’s because we haven’t gotten to the actual tasks yet.  First you have to understand the specific goals of the activity you are performing – the philisophy, the process.

The next section looks like this:

Define a software iteration (15‒20%)

  • Plan a release
    • Identify a flexibility matrix, identify releases based on priority items in flexibility matrix and release criteria, resource planning (scrum team is responsible for allocating team members), identify techniques to optimize a team that is geographically distributed, select a project methodology, risk management
  • Define a project-tracking process
    • Plan and manage a portfolio of multiple projects, identify a project tracking tool (How is this even in here if we are saying they should use Visual Studio?) and an associated process (triage process, bug management), define how to manage effort, determine team forecast management, define a prioritization scheme, determine how to validate project health
  • Scope a project
    • Scope the effort for a release, define an architecture design process, define scope boundaries (is/is not list), determine the definition of “done,” define a process when effort estimates are significantly inaccurate

Preparation resources

Again, these are not product specific objectives.  You could watch the video listed under the preparation resources, but the instructor doesn’t like the first objective under Plan a Release so refuses to cover it.  So where do you find that info? Well I started with the next two links, which were okay, but didn’t talk specifically about a flexibility matrix.  (What I found about that had to do with flexibility and stiffness in beams in building construction.)  Anyway, most of what is in the objective domain above is about project management related to Agile and Scrum.  I won’t insult you with links to that stuff.  You already know it right?

So I’m going to skip the rest of the objective domain for this exam. This exam is about software project management.  There’s not a whole lot in here about actually using Visual Studio to accomplish these objectives.  As an instructional designer, this is a pet peeve of mine.  These objectives are written as conceptual topics rather than stated as tasks that the exam taker must be able to perform with Visual Studio.

Disclaimer: I have not taken this exam.  However, if you are going to put a product in the exam title then you have to assume that the questions are going to be designed to test you on your knowledge of the product workflow. Your assignment: take the project management concepts and turn them into tasks in Visual Studio.  Here are the two workflow articles you need to transfer the conceptual objectives into tasks in Visual Studio:

Adopting Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server for Application Lifecycle Management

Here is the Visual Studio 2015 workflow.


PBS Idea Channel: This Episode Was Written by an AI

I just watched this episode of the PBS Idea Channel called This Episode Was Written by an AI.  Below the video is my “translation” of the script.  I haven’t watched this show at all, so I have no idea what Mike has said before.  I found the video through a third or fourth party.

Here is the transcript and my interpretation in a side-by-side table. Admittedly, this was an exercise in Gestalt, and the joke is not lost on me.

Transcript My Interpretation
Here’s an idea: Even some of the universe belies the only way what seems and something. Here’s an idea: Some people on the Internet seem to believe that there is only one way to do something or be some way.
Here are program mentions of first, or a comment of a sorta speaking. The most power to know is all makes are the of the fact. Effect of whole not a complete. The both in the mind of actors, because of a seemingly more to consider it can some of the characters in the personal event.


The program hints that knowledge is power and then makes it a fact.  Some people have experienced this as a personal event, and so agree that it is fact.
The great into the series the metaphors car of the world in just the one in a universe of the idea, and though community of the same, authors and the like, of something violent. The vehicle of metaphor is understood by the people who understand the symbols of the metaphor.  Violence is promoted as a universal solution to problems throughout the world.
Faces of, actually… what it would and sense of the faces… and state: they learn. And universe of the seems to do in the former things. People are capable of empathy.  They understand other people’s state through their facial expressions.  They learn to act accordingly…which they learned during socialization or above mentioned training.
A used and a selected person in general, ears from the has the first of shows… that and all still into comment the Deeply. Maybe we could be about terror can up in the night constructed. A person who has seen this show is likely to think about it deeply and comment vehemently.  Maybe they, or we, will give each other nightmares.
Which marked science on the grand in a characters, from not make is so longer of the face in the comprised, and person is what the world on the country of have the construction of the Mike. Could to person in front are. And how they deal to part of them. This the subject of Dumbledore. The construction of comments of the posting on the works are some of them. Science may not change a person’s mind because of their worldview, and the culture they identify with.  Dumbledore was a philosopher and a teacher who threw curve balls to his students.  Cognitive dissonance may or may not change the person.  Therefore, the comments will reflect this.
For make of swap the thinking of the something. How it way all the process of some, so like…Face for the four, the books are the rest of history, but reasonized. This is a completeness, and death the lines and connection of deconstructs. Truly things a subject and the back in some constant of they do. The content of a same, and being like personal… like Marthstandider Fillion.


We may change our minds from learning from history.   There are constants – the more things change the more they stay the same.  What do we learn from deconstructing history? But again, some views don’t budge if there has been personal experience that has cemented their memory as fact. Like Marthstandider Fillion, whoever that is.
Of the world, they’re ailing such is some. And they say is this “idea” the considered process of a game, as how posting became of the matter. Some can telling The Water even space a different back, backness to may new with vicinity of the produces, the grow, that the sense of understand of clear. The same, he watch the goals, computers and computers and power the surf of a body. About the contracts… and seeming good world… in which world that in much Achosson of the stuff it is not a source. People are suffering and they believe that the world behaves like (or life is) a game.  Posting a comment is their only voice. Some posters will disagree or contribute with more “factual knowledge” in an attempt make the other posters’ understanding more clear.  Both will surf the Internet looking for facts that confirm their bias. There is no reliable source of information.


And says of a portanting technology: “different has a possible being literally with one of a characters to an internet”, he writes, and shows to do the particular of the retain that of the things. The first in the meaning in the suggests, which isnt in a shows. However, the Internet predicts that technology will change the way a person believes, and behaves, and therefore writes comments showing that they have changed, but this isn’t proof because the Internet helps us present a different face from who we truly are.
People opinion the faces of the speaking, succinctly, and failing states the truly shows with the top. Do you think a know is truly describing the luck of the profitting? The fund of the start to think fictions of a billions and some because a listicle says: “the violence of regions… right and experiences of back the person.” Do you think a “fact” is truly describing the truth? Or is the “fact” profiting the person (commenter, web site owner, advertiser) who is speaking it?  A listicle is not the truth, but we believe and need it to be so.  We need the confirmation bias to rationalize our beliefs and behavior.
In the presented demolition of the subject, like the Far, our pieces like the part of the meaning. Or something. Its not the technology–different may the experience of game and some art or the true–before on to might is a face. In a second the starts like the many internet…the one of the metaphor. It is because the artists, and the way they can’t. In deconstructing an idea, we only get part of the meaning. The meaning that suits the person who is reading it.  It is not the technology that dictates what a person believes, it is what that person has experienced as art or truth. Artists succeed in touching minds because they use their viewer’s experience to create truth.  They can’t change the mind of the viewer without some sympathy.  It is the construction of language – agreed symbolism.
Far and from not the incommunitication which fans a way the striped language, from says a more find and contraption of the dam construction. And Barcy Souls, the problems of the writer, truly so post as infinity of the one. In all the likelihood they become things, and reassemble sense and ending. A good as many always, even a think about the art for theory of construction.

And a minor, the same. Allow transience.

Silence strips away language (voice) and gives way to listening.  Honest and real listening allows for synthesis, reassembling sense and conclusions. Ideally, we would all agree.  In any case, it is good to think about how we think and change our minds. Even changing little thoughts will allow transcendence of suffering. (Mindfulness).
What do y’all think? That we because the actually exasperate, and generations where works a landways are called that the internet book a considered guess? Are the New Frontier called to say the material–and the success of the story–all the way in which emoji do on our Ricks?


Let us know in the comments…

What do y’all think?  Do we exacerbate the problems in the world by stating what we know as “the truth” (according to our own experiences)? Will we use new communication technology to change the world with emojis on our cellphones?

The Milkshake Question: Training ROI Part 1

The Milkshake Question

What did your company hire your organization to do? This is known as The Milkshake Question which is explained in this video featuring Clayton Christensen.

The first step in any rigorous instructional design is understanding what the company stakeholders expect training to do.  Some call this Return on Expectations (ROE) since the evaluation of training has historically been a fuzzy science.  It was hard to quantify the value of training programs – or so some said.

(By the way,  Cathy Moore’s Blueprint methodology is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to get better at determining how effective training is going to be BEFORE time and money is wasted.)

Traditional Training and Business to Customer Training (B2C)

Traditional training has focused on performance improvement within an organization.  Using Kirkpatrick, the effectiveness of a training program can be measured in terms of behavioral changes.  If a learner has better performance after training, then the training is deemed successful.

But what about business to customer (B2C) training? Let’s use a software company example.  Previously, software was hosted on-premises in a company’s own data center.  Customer training for installed software as part of a purchase package.   For example, I managed the purchase and implementation of a learning management system for a Fortune 500 company.  $15K of training for employees was “thrown in” to sweeten the deal.  Our employees sat in a classroom and were trained on the LMS’s use.  B2C training was not necessarily marketing, but more of a sales tool.

Fast forward ten years or so.  Software companies are building SaaS apps and putting them in the cloud.  The Internet has enabled eLearning which reduces the cost of training by keeping workers at their jobs and making training available on demand, and marketers have figured out that B2C online training IS marketing.

B2C Training is Marketing

When a software company creates a product, educating customers on how to use it is supposed to generate more sales, increase brand loyalty, and provide – especially in the case of cloud computing – more and more usage of the “Lego blocks” of the product suite.  This is the ROI of B2C training for software.  “Conversions” can be tracked by product downloads, subscriptions created during training, tracking the adoption of additional technologies used, etc.   Now a training organization can quantify its business impact, immediately and over time.

If you also have an Evangelism Department, online training can be used to give bootcamp or hackathon event attendees prerequisite knowledge. It increases the likelihood that they will be successful at the event and therefore – make them happy.  Happy users of software are more brand loyal and will speak favorably of it to others.  Not new news.

B2C Learner Segments to Customer Segments

Categorizing customers is part of any basic marketing effort – as identifying the needs of learners is basic to instructional design.  For any kind of  training, there are generally two segments:

  1. The New Learner – a brand new learner who has very little knowledge, who is pre-career, or early career. Competencies are few and proficiency levels are low.
  2. The Experienced Learner – an experienced learner has mastered some competencies at varying proficiency levels.  They are often upskilling, or plugging holes in their knowledge.

Depending on the resources and operating budget available, the B2C learning organization may have to limit the scope of what they do – especially if the company sees the organization as marketing. The training organization will have to justify their existence, as usual, but the measurements of success change as do the learner segments.  They become:

  1. New Customers – learners who have never used the product before.
  2. Old Customers – learners who have used the product, or a similar product who now need to transfer knowledge from the old product or similar product to the new product or additional product features.

In part 2, I’ll discuss how a learning organization can organize and manage content so that it meets the needs of Learner Customers as well as reduce the cost part of the ROI equation.


Sweet! LearnDash, GreenBlade xAPI and GreenBlade LRS

Alrighty then. I’ve just completed the setup of the LMS system on this WordPress site. I decided to go with LearnDash because of the review previously mentioned, and spent the money on both the GreedBlade xAPI plugin for WordPress and the GreenBlade LRS. I’ve spend about $250 in total for the entire setup. That’s a pretty low cost to get a working LRS on my WordPress backend. The installation took minutes and I also get support from both LearnDash and GreenBlade.

Of course, I haven’t messed around with any of it yet, but it is nice to know that I can now host my own LRS without having to pay for registrations. Additionally, I can use WordPress as a CCMS or LCMS and write about learning content reuse as well as tracking learning outside of an LMS!


Review of LearnPress: You get what you pay for.

I spent a lot of time today working with the LearnPress plugin for WordPress. LearnPress is a very, very low level LMS plugin for WordPress. It’s free, so there you go.

The workflow, although pretty simple, requires a checkout process for course registration even if the course you are offering is free. There are many features missing. Additionally, I need a way to restrict user registration by a pay gate. A very low pay gate, but one that keeps spam bots from registering on my site.

I’m moving on to a different solution. Here is a great comparison of WP Courseware and Learn Dash. Both are paid solutions with a low entry price. Based on this, I’m trying Learn Dash next.

LearnPress: Turn your WordPress into a Learning Management System(LMS)

6/8/2016 Update after working with LearnPress for a day:

LearnPress is a plugin that will turn your WordPress site into a small learning management system (LMS).   You can even charge for courses using PayPal.  I like it!

Well, I like the idea of it anyway.  There are a couple of things that give me pause.  The first is designing for failure.  If you aren’t running your WordPress site with a fail over plan, you could lose all of your learner’s data or worse.

Second, what about performance?  What if I have a “success disaster” and the server where I have my WordPress site gets bogged down because I don’t have a plan for high availability?

Currently, I’m not running this site in the cloud, but I do have a great relationship with my hosting provider.  If you are not running your WordPress site in the cloud or if you haven’t implemented a fail over plan, disaster recovery, or compute scaling, I recommend talking with your hosting provider about putting those things in place. At the very least, make sure your site is backed up on a regular basis.

If you are thinking of using WordPress as an LMS, and want to run it in the cloud, you can easily spin up a WP instance on Azure. Bitnami also makes this extremely easy once you have an Azure subscription.  If you don’t currently have the designing-for-failure chops, start here with some Azure courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA).

So back to using WordPress as an LMS…I’m going to try LearnPress, but not before I talk to my hosting provider. 🙂

The History of Japan in Nine Minutes

My son is developing his gaming following (and Gamer God status) by creating gaming YouTube tutorials. We had a quick and efficient conversation about how much it sucks when teachers, instructors, gurus, and high priestesses go on and on about themselves or take forever to get to the point of a particular instruction. Millennials don’t learn, they grok. He showed me this. Learn lightly and easily the History of Japan – in nine minutes.

Learning about Machine Learning for Learning Learning

Machine Learning, AI, Big Data, Analytics are all very hot topics in the tech industry right now.  Some say that the Data Scientist is going to be the role in the highest demand and some say that with Machine Learning and AI, there won’t be a need for a Data Scientist.  This will happen soon, they say.

I’m more interested in what Machine Learning, AI, Big Data and Analytics can do for the learning industry.  How can learning content be curated based on a learner’s current skill set and the skills of job they want to have and the delta between those skills?  (I love that word, “delta”, it’s so STEM! It’s a magic word, delta. Use it, and people will think you’re good at Chemistry and The Maths! Here’s the symbol: Δ. Look how smartsy fartsy I’m gettin’ here!) LinkedIn bought Lynda and now we are seeing courses recommended for us on our LinkedIn feed.

ASIDE: It’s interesting that people will pay for courses that are also available for free. That’s probably not the only thing that determines the value of online courses. After all, it is a tenet – somewhere – that people value things more when they have some skin in the game, maybe a little money or a credential.

Before you can make Machine Learning pay off for Learning Learning, you have to know something about Machine Learning.  Here are couple of Microsoft Virtual Academy’s free courses on Machine Learning. Now if I could just set aside enough time…so much to learn, so few ways of bending time and space so I can be in several places at once…is that how it works? I don’t know…delta…Δ

Where to put competency based learning model metadata in Open edX courses

The Open edX Studio interface does not (currently) include fields for entering competency based learning model metadata. This post is written for people who manage courses in the Open edX format, who want to use competency based metadata and assumes you have a basic knowledge of metadata. It also assumes that you have exported an Open edX course and that you know where the referenced files reside. It proposes a solution for where the metadata could be placed in courses in preparation for improving search engine results both internally via an LMS search tool or externally via Google, Bing or other popular search engine.

Applying metadata to scripted (non-compiled objects)

There are three different approaches to applying LRMI metadata to scripted objects: microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD. The microdata method puts metadata inline in HTML documents. Most search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can process microdata already. This allows for much richer SEO and discoverability. Since both MVA and edX components end up in HTML format, this is what microdata might look like in general:

<h1 itemprop = “name”>Architecting with Azure Part 1</h1>
<p itemprop = “description”>This reading covers basic Azure architecture concepts</p>
<p itemprop = “publisher” >Microsoft LeX</p>
<p itemprop = “license”>Creative Commons</p>

Of course, each element can be hidden from the learner when some inline styling is used like so:

<p class=”MSmeta” itemprop = “publisher” >Microsoft LeX</p>

Or, CSS for the LMS can be edited so that all things tagged with a class specific to metadata would not be displayed. NOTE: The class “meta” is not currently set in the edX CSS. However, in the future it may be, so you might want to name the class something similar or prefix the class with the initials MS, as in “MSmeta”.

.MSmeta {
display: none;

<p class=”MSmeta” itemprop = “publisher” >Microsoft LeX</p>

Where metadata could be placed in Open edX courses while using Studio

As components on edX are literally child DIV nodes of the DOM, metadata can be entered there while using edX Studio.

As competency, skill and proficiency are not native to Open edX metadata, there are a couple of places that this information can be placed. Competency could be placed in the short_description.html or overview.html files at the course level. Skill and proficiency could be placed in a component under the parent node such as in a tag that is hidden by inline style. Then these values would be read by the content management system.

Course level example

<p class=”MSmeta” itemprop=”competency”>Source Code Version Control</p>

Component level example

<p class=”MSmeta” itemprop=”skill”>Use VSS and CVS/SVN</p>


For more information on using the microdata method see  See also my previous post on learning metadata.

The Rationale for Using Metadata in Learning Content

What is metadata? (Types of metadata)

Metadata is a standardized set of variables and their values that tell us information about information.  It is usually part of an asset (video, audio, HTML file, audio file) and or a set of assets (files) such as a course.  There are many standards for metadata such as Dublin Core.  There are a few standards for learning metadata. LMRI is an extension of the Dublin Core and the base definitions.

Why do we need metadata?

We need to be able to know what our digital assets contain.  Without metadata it is much more difficult to manage and reuse digital assets.  This leads to duplicate effort as well as wasted time and money.  It is important however, that a component content management system (CCMS) of some kind is employed so that a library of reusable assets can be found during course creation. Without a CCMS, content reuse is much harder, if not impossible.

Additionally, metadata makes content more discoverable.  In the case of site search, instead of relying solely on the title of a course or course description, the metadata of files in a course could be searched for keywords in order to find courses that contain specific skills.  The return of the search would be much richer and allow the learner to choose to consume only part of a course.

Content goes stale, especially with the constant releases of Agile/Scrum methodology using in software development for SaaS applications.  Metadata and a component content management system could aid in keeping track of and announcing what content has gone stale so that it can be reviewed and replaced.

And finally, metadata will allow a content development team to map skills and proficiency levels to competencies and competencies to courses.  This will be necessary for Competency Based learning.  A curated learning path will start with a Competency Dictionary that includes a list of skills and proficiencies. Proficiencies map to difficulty level of courseware such as Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. (Numbering courses is US academic setting centric not a global standard.)

Modular Content

One of the effects of employing metadata is to inform the way that content is created.  Learners sometimes need only some of the information in a course related to a task they need to perform or to fill gaps in their overall understanding of systems.  If content is created in a modular way, creating one learning piece that maps to a particular skill or concept, the learners can consume the content as Just-In-Time (JIT) training.

When is metadata needed?

Metadata is needed throughout the content life cycle.

At content creation

When content is created the metadata is created.  This allows the CCMS to read the metadata and inform the content developer of what is available for reuse.

At content aggregation

If the content is created in a modular way (one learning objective mapped to one skill) then the metadata should contain the learning objective and the skill. When content is being aggregated into a course, metadata is read by the end user of the CCMS in order to decide whether or not the content is useful to the course.

At content search

When a learner searches an LMS for content, they will be able to decide if a course meets their need for obtaining new skills.  Google, Bing and other search engines read inline metadata. Additionally, use of metadata facilitates the creation of an interface for learners to decide how they want an LMS course catalog to be displayed.  Take this one step further, and you have the foundation of a course recommendation engine (Cortana, Bing Predicts, Machine Learning anyone?) that matches a learner’s already gained knowledge with the delta they are attempting to fulfill.

At content delivery and curation

As already stated, assets with metadata could be presented alone, outside of a course if JIT is wanted by the learner rather than taking an entire course.  Additionally, an asset (such as a video) can be presented when needed as part of a help system contained in an application such as any SaaS application that keeps track of how long the user spends attempting an activity.  Content creators have used RoboHelp in the past to achieve this goal.

At content evaluation

Ideally, a content development team is using ADDIE or SAM to review the freshness of their content.  Metadata can be used to keep track of versioning, product release dates, or cycles.  Again, if content is encapsulated and modular, it can be archived and replaced more easily.

Where is metadata?

Metadata is found at different levels of courseware.  It is at the asset level, unit or module level, chapter or section level, and course level.

By the way, some people call a section a module, some people call a lesson a module and some people call a single interactive activity a module.  It usually depends on whether or not they wrote textbooks or classroom material in a previous life. I am used to calling a single interactive activity a module which can also mean a lesson. It’s going to be important to have terms mean the same thing to all the people.

An asset in this case is an HTML file, an image, a SWF, in other words, the most granular piece of content. Asset metadata is can be found in the header of scripted documents such as HTML or it’s found by “reading” a compiled or rendered digital asset such as a video, audio or swf file.   It is not recommended that metadata in compiled or rendered assets be kept in a place decoupled from the asset itself such as in a database because if an asset is moved from one repository to another, the metadata will be lost.

HTML and other plain text documents

Metadata in plain text documents is usually found in the document header and can expressed with <meta> tags.  These are easily readable by content management systems and have traditionally been written using Dublin Core.  Metadata is also expressed as microdata in child objects of the DOM.

Compiled or rendered documents

Metadata is usually added to compiled or rendered assets on or after compilation or rendering depending on the tool used to create it.  For example, in the case of video creation, metadata can be added to a video file using tools such as Adobe Bridge after it has been rendered.

The content management system will then need to be able to read the metadata of the file.  There are open source, command line tools that can be used for reading metadata from these files such as ExifTool.  This tool can also add metadata to assets such as GIF, JPG, MP4, or PDF files.

Sample Metadata Dictionary

The following is a table of the learning metadata that a learning organization would need in order to be able to keep track of the content. Every line in the table describes a required metadata item.

The dictionary is based on the CreativeWork schema, as base definitions and the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) extensions.  Additionally, the IEEE Learning Object Metadata (LOM) standard has been consulted.  It is assumed that all Dublin Core metadata would be used where appropriate. A couple of the Dublin Core items have been called out specifically.  By using already established schemas, a learning organization would be in alignment with what the rest of the learning industry does with metadata.  In 2014, the LMRI schema passed stewardship of the schema to the well-known Dublin Core organization. By the way, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex contributed to the LRMI schema.

Competency Based Metadata

Since corporate learning organizations typically adhere to a Competency Based model, it follows that metadata should include competency, skill and proficiency on each object in the courseware.  However, the LRMI standard does not account for competency based learning, although many people in the learning industry have asked for it.  These are extra metadata items in the metadata dictionary. They map to a competency dictionary created for a role.

In the table, Standard, Dublin Core and LRMI items have been bolded in the table.  Extra metadata is not bolded.

Extra Metadata

  • UID – The UID has been included in the list as structured content usually relies on this identifier. It is not necessarily required for asset level objects.  However, it does exist for content created by the Open edX Studio.
  • competency – the overall competency of the course, and the competency that a skill fulfills.
  • skill – most closely aligned with a learning objective, it is the measurable outcome of the learning object (Bloom’s taxonomy).
  • proficiency – the level of learning offered, suggested values are beginner, intermediate, advanced
  • modifiedBy – last editor of courseware
  • replaces – the object that this object replaces.  For historical purposes.
  • tags – additional random information.  Included here because it is part of the MVA metadata and could be valuable.
  • prerequisites – at the course level only.  Content developers will have to pay close attention to this one, unless the LMS has functionality for associating one course as a prerequisite to another.
  • systemRequirements – included because it is part of MVA metadata and could be valuable.

Metadata Dictionary

Property Expected Type/Origin Description
name The title of the resource.
about (about property) The subject of the content.
description (description property) A description of the item.
dateCreated The date on which the resource was created.
dateModified The date on which the CreativeWork was most recently modified or when the item’s entry was modified within a DataFeed.
datePublished Date of first broadcast/publication.
version (version property) The version of the CreativeWork embodied by a specified resource.
author The individual credited with the creation of the resource.
contributor A secondary contributor to the CreativeWork or Event.
publisher The organization credited with publishing the resource.
inLanguage The primary language of the resource.
audience An intended audience, i.e. a group for whom something was created.
product (name property) The name of the item. In this case, MS product covered.
license Url or CreativeWork A license document that applies to this content, typically indicated by URL.
rights dublinCore/rights Information about rights held in and over the resource.
instructionalMethod dublinCore/instructionalMethod the way instructional materials for presented (self-paced, instructor led, weekly, blended)
educationalUse The purpose of the work in the context of education. Ex: “assignment” Ex: “group work”
timeRequired (ISO
Approximate or typical time it takes to work with or through this learning resource for the typical intended target audience. Ex: “PT30M” Ex: “PT1H25M”
typicalAgeRange The typical range of ages the content’s intended end user. Ex: “7-9” Ex: “18-“
interactivityType The predominant mode of learning supported by the learning resource. Acceptable values are active, expositive, or mixed. Ex: “active” Ex: “mixed”
learningResourceType The predominant type or kind characterizing the learning resource. Ex: “presentation” Ex: “handout”
isBasedOnUrl A resource that was used in the creation of this resource. This term can be repeated for multiple sources.
educationalAlignment An alignment to an established educational framework. For example:
alignmentType Text A category of alignment between the learning resource and the framework node. Recommended values include: ‘assesses’, ‘teaches’, ‘requires’, ‘textComplexity’, ‘readingLevel’, ‘educationalSubject’, and ‘educationLevel’.
educationalFramework Text The framework to which the resource being described is aligned. For example:
targetDescription Text The description of a node in an established educational framework.
targetName Text The name of a node in an established educational framework.
targetUrl URL The URL of a node in an established educational framework.
educationalRole The role that describes the target audience of the content.
accessibilityAPI Text Indicates that the resource is compatible with the referenced accessibility API. (WebSchemas wiki lists possible values).
accessibilityControl Text Identifies input methods that are sufficient to fully control the described resource. (WebSchemas wiki lists possible values).
accessibilityFeature Text Content features of the resource, such as accessible media, alternatives and supported enhancements for accessibility. (WebSchemas wiki lists possible values).
accessibilityHazard Text A characteristic of the described resource that is physiologically dangerous to some users. Related to WCAG 2.0 guideline 2.3. (WebSchemas wiki lists possible values).
uid generated unique identifier This comes from the method used by structured documentation, but it is also how Open edX references components of the course as seen in the XML files.
competency String parent competencies of the item
skill Array skill covered in item, learning objective
proficiency String: beginner, intermediate, advanced level of skill
instructor String Person owning and responsible for the item in the LMS
modified by UTC or other global person making the last modification
replaces String if the item replaces another item.  Useful for change management
tags Array tag cloud, may not be necessary
prerequisites Array Course level; requires curation of all courses mapped in curriculum matrix; course UID of prerequisite
systemRequirements Array Not needed as metadata for most items.

K-12 Games: Zumbinis Logical Journey

In the early 1990’s, I had the good fortune to be able to stay home with my son for the first two years of his life. I wanted him to be ahead of the game before he got to school, so I started “home schooling” him. I put that in quotes because I wasn’t really conscious of how this activity would end up shaping my life. That is a topic for another day, but as I was finding learning materials, I ran across the game Logical Journey of the Zoombinis. It was original published by Brøderbund as part of their Active Mind series. Compared to the other learning offerings on the market, which were usually just drills in digital format, or a combination of whole word recognition and Space Invaders, this game was brilliant. The game teaches mathematical thinking without using a single digit. It includes algebraic thinking, data analysis, data sorting, hypothesis formation, set theory, graphing, logical reasoning, data organization, pattern finding, sequential logic, statistical thinking, and attribute comparison. I loved playing the game myself, and I often wonder how much the game influenced my own professional development. At the time, I did not have a college degree, nor had I started working with web programming languages.

Later, The Learning Company rereleased the game in 2001 as Zoombinis Logical Journey. Today, you can purchase a modern version of the game at Steam.

Here’s a review of the game from Lazy Game Reviews.

Women in Tech Articles 5/12/2016

I’ll be posting links to Women in Tech articles as I find them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with them all, but more eyeballs on the subject the better. Here are yesterday’s articles:
  • It’s a Matter of Perspective: Being a Female Tech Exec
    Just this weekend, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a touching post about what it means to lean in as a single mother. As a female leader here in Silicon Valley, she’s once again opening everyone’s eyes to a different point of view. She’s setting forth a new challenge asking us all to “rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like.”
  • Best decision I ever made…
    Changing my major from Chemical Engineering to Computer Science is the best decision I’ve ever made. I fell in love with programming when I first watched “24”. Chloe O’brian (Jack Bauer’s best friend) made me fall in love with programming. I was so impressed by how she used her programming skills to solve serious matters.
  • Women in Coding. Our Game is Changing.
    There has been so much talk lately about getting more women into technology careers. Most of the focus in media, education, and interest groups is about guiding and educating young women so they choose the technical arena for their first career path.
Here is today’s article:
  • A story about not fitting in
    The joke among my female friends in engineering and product is that if you wear a dress or high heels to work, people will probably assume you’re in marketing or sales or recruiting. In fact, I’ve walked into interviews and had the candidate assumed I was the recruiter.

Website Overhaul

You know what they say, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”

I am in the process of updating this site and some things are broken…or wonky (legacy). The poor thing hasn’t been updated in about three years, ‘cuz I have been busy, busy, busy. I’m working on updating the pages to be mobile friendly with the exception of the portfolio work that I have done in Flash (thank you very much Apple). Although I would love to take the time to convert that stuff over to HTML5/JQuery, I am still busy, busy, busy. Until I get to it, thanks for taking the time to explore.

Using Adobe Connect for eLearning

  1. Adobe Connect calls a curriculum what instructional designers understand as a course.
  2. It also calls a course what instructional designers understand as a single SCO.  This is incorrect and will create problems with the way a course is designed, especially if you are thinking that your SCORM based content is portable.
  3. You also can’t nest curriculums in Adobe Connect.  It is the top-most object.
Multiple SCO manifests are not supported by Adobe Connect.  Instead, Adobe Connect is really AICC and is doing this band-aid thing to make you THINK you are using SCORM.  They provide a SCORM adapter of sorts, but I have also written a Flash object for a Captivate SCO which uses the ExternalInterface class and have been able to get student name out of the LMS without it.  I’m sure Connect is doing something on the back end that I don’t see.  I have yet to test all of the cmi function calls. So…technically, since I have to use Adobe Connect for reasons outside of my control, I have no curriculum object and therefore have to create a course (single SCO) with either a menu inside of it or an aggregator project that isn’t aware of completions, scoring etc.  Only my content flow would know that if I don’t provide a menu or some sort of graphic representation  for the end user.  An aggregator project menu (TOC) only gives a check icon that indicates that the lesson has been viewed to the end.  I could create a SCORM shell in Flash that reads the manifest XML file, but I don’t have time for that….headed to the ever reliable Philip Hutchison and Pipwerks.

Using DITA Learning Extensions with FrameMaker 10 Structured

It has taken me two days to figure this out, but to save others some headaches and time, I am outlining the workflow for using the DITA learning extensions in FrameMaker 10. Here is the workflow:
  1. Set FrameMaker to use the structured documentation version of the IDE. To do this…
    1. Click File > Preferences > General
    2. At the bottom of the dialogue box, select Structured FrameMaker from the Product Interface dropdown list.
    3. Reboot the program. You will now see structured documentation items in the main menu including DITA.
  2. If you click on the DITA menu item, and select New DITA File you will only see options for the standard DITA elements. You will have to change another setting to get the learning extensions instead. To do this…
    1. Click DITA > DITA Options then click the DITA 1.2 radio button.
    2. Select DITA_1_2_Learning_Applications from the Use Application Mappings dropdown list.
    3. Click Save.
You will now have the learning extension to choose from in the New DITA File menu.  HOWEVER!!!!! If you want to publish a DITA learning map to a PDF, say to make a printable version of your student manual,  you will have to change the Use Application Mappings back to DITA_1_2.  (See step 2.2.) Otherwise, you will get an error in the console.  *sigh*

Tin Can API – Part 1.1 and Trends in eLearning

As a pleasant surprise, I received an email from the Tin Can product manager at Rustici. She has emailed me the updated engine that includes support for the Tin Can API and I am expecting to get the guide when it is available…which should be very soon. In the meantime, I have been doing some research on trends in eLearning. A couple of things have happened.
  1. Mobile devices
  2. …and mobile devices.
(More about the reliance on Flash producing IDEs later. Being a Flash developer myself, I am feeling somewhat like a COBOL or Fortran programmer did not so long ago.) SCORM has LONG been behind the times when it comes to internet technology. One example is the use of HTML framesets and another is using JavaScript as the interface for sending learning data to the LMS which has the security of Swiss cheese. For high stakes or compliance testing it is just plain foolish. Many in the eLearning community have asked for a more secure way of sending this data. It looks like ADL and Rustici are on their way to making data transfer through SOAP or REST a reality…more on these things in the An ADL Perspective on Next Generation SCORM Requirements as Derived from Project Tin Can whitepaper. Kudos to Rustici for positioning themselves so effectively in the eLearning arena. With a SCORM standard that is a bit less pedantic and a lot more practical (read – rapid), Rustici is poised to literally OWN SCORM by making it a module easily plugged in to a learning management system. Having seen the back end of a learning management system or two, this is a very compelling reason for enterprise level systems to buy in. Portable? You betcha. Scalable? Without a doubt.

Tin Can API

Now that ADL and Rustici are working together to create a better and easier to use SCORM standard, I am ready to mess with it. I just got an account with SCORM Cloud and downloaded the SCORM Driver. The Quick Start guide includes the steps you have to take to test out the driver with SCORM 2004 content included in the driver package, but doesn’t seem to have updated content for the Tin Can API. Maybe I am being impatient. So steps so far:
  1. Get SCORM Cloud Account
  2. Download SCORM Driver
  3. Read Quick Start Guide
Next Step…Do the stuff in the Quick Start Guide and then upload it to SCORM Cloud.