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Jeff's 2008 Blog

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2008 turned out to be an amazing year! I shared the stage with some amazing speakers (See me with Sir Ken Robinson - right), I spoke to some members of Congress, and presented at international conferences in Spain, the UK, and Brazil. Not to mention, it was my first year of self-publishing in this blog! I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on education, communication, and general good stuff from 2008...

12.29.08

2008 was a good year.I can’t believe I’ve written 52 blog articles this year…my first year blogging.I proclaimed in blog #1 that 2008 would be the “Year of Jeff” and I did my best to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.While I don’t think I’ll get added to any Chinese placemats (I was always fond of the Year of the Rat), it was a pretty good year anyway.(Warning – this blog is ALL about me, my life, my family, etc.If that’s too much information that really doesn’t interest you…come back in ’09!)

 

Professionally, my year started with high hopes and a twinge of uncertainty.I was asked to speak to the US Congress about education and my company had recently been purchased by a billion dollar conglomerate.I launched a website to showcase my consulting business while trying very hard to earn the respect of my new leaders.I guess if I were rating the business experience, it would have to be 8 out of 10.Let me dissect:I started the year hoping to really make a splash with my speaking / consulting business.I typically bring in 2-3 “extra” jobs per year.In 2008, I had 6!I was a keynote speaker, led workshops, and (as mentioned) spoke to some Education Committee members of the Senate.All in all, a pretty good experience.

 

Of course, the culmination of my professional life in 2008 happened in early December.I was promoted to Senior Director of Teaching & Learning!I now report directly to the President of the company and have a role on the executive team. As exciting as the promotion was, the implications mean more to me though.I am in a position to guide our company in terms of aligning an academic message with our products, services, and technology.I now get to explain how curriculum integration can happen online.I am poised to teach our sales and marketing teams about learning outcomes and authentic assessment as we reach further into the education pool.It’s the marriage of two great things (to me): education and technology!

 

But as exciting as my life was professionally, 2008 will always be remembered for the things that went on in my (our) personal life.Keena and I had a big year…about as big as I can remember.Other than Addie’s birth in 2007, 2008 was a major year for our little family.

 

Addie grew like crazy.I know you expect that, but our “little” sugar plum fairy is in the 90th percentile for height, while only being in the 45th percentile for weight.She’s almost as tall as her 2 ½ year old cousin!Not only did she grow physically, but she met every major milestone about 6 months early.She started walking at 9 months, has a vocabulary of 50+ words, and uses sign language better than I do.(Ok, in fairness, I don’t get to watch Baby Einstein videos with the signs every day.)Out little baby isn’t a baby anymore.In 2008, she officially became a “kid”!

 

Of course, most of you followed the story of Keena closely in 2008.In October it became obvious that the Crohn’s was not going to be beaten by traditional medicine.Keena had a year that was mostly “downs” and she was getting worse by the month.So, in October, we decided to have the major surgery that I blogged about throughout December.November 24th Keena became “Colon Free” as her new t-shirt says.(Yes, we seriously have a t-shirt that says Colon Free Since ‘08, although she only wears it to sleep in.If you can’t keep your sense of humor about an ileostomy, you’ll go nuts!)

 

But the greatest part about that choice for ’08 is the possibility of what it brings us in ’09.We should have our life back.Keena is already feeling tremendous relief and energy with a renewed sense of spirit and purpose.Sure, there will be hurdles and issues, but all in all, she’s doing REALLY well.As I have told her for months now, 2009 will be the Year of Keena!

 

So, our little family has a lot to look forward to in ’09.We plan to travel a LOT – might as well use all of these miles, hotel points, and car rental credits, eh?We have plans for Addie – she is going to a kids gym, we’ll do some hiking and biking, etc.We might look for the final house that Addie will grow up in – somebody has to stimulate the economy, right?(Heard an interesting quote on NPR yesterday.A business owner said, “95% of the country has exactly the same money they had last year at this time.I wish they would spend it like they did last year…”)I’m also hoping to get back into disc golf next summer – I miss it!

 

I hope you can look forward to a new year as we are.I know the economy is scary and a new administration is taking over our nation.But remember that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing!I’m actually quite hopeful for the changes coming…I think time will prove them to be a good thing.Here is to a good thing!Cheers. See you in 2009!

 

Need someone to talk to your group about education, technology, or communication? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


12.22.08

Vision:I want to spend a few minutes talking about vision.It’s been on my mind a lot lately.I think you’ll see the tie in to Christmas, New Years, and the preparation for a new Presidential Administration on the horizon…you tell me.

 

So, as you look around for presents, do you have anything you really want?Maybe it’s that place in life where I find myself, but there isn’t anything (that anyone realistically can afford) that I want.And it’s driving my wife nuts this Christmas. (Speaking of Keena, she's doing GREAT this Christmas!) Oh, there’s the usual suspects – shirts for work, sporting events tickets, and iTunes downloads for my trips.But there isn’t anything like I had when I was younger.Nothing like a new trumpet or guitar is on this year’s list.No disc golf bag made the cut.I don’t even want a new truck…I got a new truck last year and I still love it!(Thanks Toyota)But I don’t blame my place in life…I blame the lack of vision of companies that you and I know and love.I blame Microsoft and Mac.I blame Brookstone and Hammacher Schlemmer.I blame “innovative” companies who are afraid to truly innovate.

 

Case in point.Let me give you a brief vision of my “iPod” world.Keep in mind this isn’t the 30 year off vision, this is the vision of what life could be…no, SHOULD be today with my iPod.(I LOVE my iPod Touch by the way…)So, my wife and I have a Bose docking station for the iPod.(Love that too)You just set the iPod in the dock and listen to rich music while the iPod charges, making changes with the handy remote.Love it.But, then I go downstairs.The speaker is plugged into a troublesome outlet, so the Bose stays upstairs.But I want to listen to my iPod with my home stereo.Ok…now, I have to add a headphone jack into my stereo.So while I can listen to music, I drain my iPod battery and dealing with volume and changing tracks is a pain.But then I want to go to my car and continue listening.Hmmm…even more difficult.Why can’t I just slide the iPod into my truck’s stereo and have the same effect as the Bose?Including all controls on my radio?Because it doesn’t exist today.(At least not in any catalogue I’ve ever seen!)Sure, I can use a radio frequency to podcast to my stereo.If I can find one that’s available…and if it’s working…and if…

 

Then, say I want to come home and watch my downloaded movies on my tv.Well, of course that’s possible too –if you have all of the right equipment, cords, and adapters.Ugh.My VISION of an iPod word is simple.Docking stations on the tv, the stereo receiver, and my car stereo.Boom, I’m now carrying my DVD player, Radio (with Pandora thanks to the cool Apps), and CD player in my hand at all times.Not to mention my date book, phone (iPhone), and email.1 tool for almost every electronic need I have.

 

Yes, my longer term vision of this iPod world includes doing all of this wirelessly / remotely, but I’m looking for a quicker solution.Is this possible today?Technically yes (except the car part).Of course, my wife won’t let me spend the thousands of dollars I would have to in order to make it come true, plus it doesn’t work perfectly.

 

My frustration with the lack of iPodness I experience today is what parents / educators / students experience every day too as far as school is concerned.Nuts.How fantastic would it be to give students of every level and every age the ability to learn whenever, wherever they wanted with utter strategic thinking and intentional learning assets?Imagine this kind of world…

 

A 12 year old gets sick and needs to spend 2 months at home, but is still capable of learning.The problem is that this 12 year old has some learning deficiencies.So, he needs to go online to take classes.But, that online system should be able to help ascertain his deficiencies and pull in new pieces of content for him that would help.The system should also adapt to his learning style for some (NOT ALL) of the pieces so as to help him learn how to make use of his learning style in non-learning style centric cases.

 

A 25 year old administrative assistant realizes that she doesn’t want to do this anymore.She wants to take classes at night and on weekends so as to take care of her family from more than an accredited ITT type of school.She wants to get a degree from her local University that she loves and is loyal to so she can wear the cool “Bears” sweatshirts with pride.

 

4 doctors want to get education around a new procedure from the “guru” in the field.She is in Egypt and they are in New Jersey.Unfortunately it won’t work to fly to Africa and she only has a day or two free here and there.So, they need a class using three dimensional holograms that show how to cut, cauterize, search, etc.This class would allow these images to be blown up, rotated, and split into parts.

 

Perhaps you see my dilemma.Very much like my wish for an iPod world, this educational model is technically possible to some degree.However, the road blocks are substantial.Forget about the cost for a moment…there are other issues at play here.

 

Our 12 year old who needs specific instruction with help from an online system is out of luck.Yes, it’s possible to create what is described here, but it doesn’t exist today.Not in a usable form for multiple subjects at various levels. True, holistic adaptive learning is a great idea, but not much more today. Plus, the time it takes to create these learning paths is tremendous.

 

Our 25 year old probably can’t get her degree in the fashion she would like.See, there are still accrediting agencies out there who have a “50% rule” – this means that students must complete 50% of their course work in person, not online.The schools who don’t have that rule to comply with, don’t often get buy-in from their full time faculty.Most online teachers are adjuncts (and some are truly better than their full time counterparts by the way…) as tenured profs don't care to learn a new way to teach.Plus, not all traditional schools offer every class a person needs to complete their degree at night and on weekends.Then there is Congress who just passed the Higher Education Act.This act requires an institution to know the person at the end of the computer is who they say they are. (Of course, technically that’s impossible and realistically the rule is ridiculous…if you’d like to debate the point, I can show you dozens of examples of in-person cheating and fraud that are not policed at all by Universities or the Government as well as several acceptable methods to secure user credibility.)And if she did find the courses to take and a school that works, the quality of the classes is going to be hit or miss every single time…

 

How about our doctors?What can they do in order to stay current and helpful?Nothing more than they do today.This technology exists, but the cost factor is outrageous.Plus, hooking up the SME (Subject Matter Expert) with an organization that presents content this way is very difficult.

 

In other words, my vision for the education future that could be today is hard too.But I have hope!I do believe it’s not only possible…but it’s coming!A landscape where Web 2.0 tools are merged into general curriculum and thinking without just being the ‘cool’ factor of blogs and wikis.(Conference speakers PLEASE help teachers understand that!)I see a future where interaction with multiple points are used to educate more effectively – interaction with tools, with peers, with content, with assessments, and with the instructor should be used to paint a realistic portrait of the learner.I see a time when objectives and outcomes actually mean something to the school, the teacher, and the learner.I picture technology bridging gaps in all classrooms.And I also see a United States education system that is once again on top of the world.

 

So…Steve Jobs, I hope you read this.Secretary Spellings, head of the Department of Education, I pray you do too.My entertainment vision isn’t important to anyone but me.My education dream is important to everyone in the world.

 

Merry Christmas everyone.But more importantly, may we all have a vision inspired New Year.

 

Looking for a conference speaker who can help you find vision? Need someone to talk to your group about education, technology, or communication? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


12.15.08

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

'Twas 10 days until Christmas and all through the Borden house

Everyone was stirring - from Jackson's bark to Addie's shouts

Three stockings were hung from the chimney with care

As Jeff graded final speeches, persuasion thick in the air

 

Addie was nestled all snug in her bed

While Keena took Percocet and tylenol, wishing for versed!

With mama in her pj's and dad in his boxer briefs

The cold arctic blast made them hope for relief

 

The economy in tatters, bankruptcy headlining the news

While some angry reporter tries to hit the President with shoes

(Come on...really? Who throws a shoe?)

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But a surprising amount to look forward to all of next year

 

Keena should be better, her life back again

Addie will grow more, learn more, and then

Jeff will take over his new post at eCollege

Spreading creativity, humor, education, and knowledge

 

This quaint little family will take on the world

With a smile, a laugh, and Addie's sweet twirl

So we hope that you all have just as much time

Enjoying life in spite of life, forgetting nickels and dimes

 

Remembering how to find all of the little joys

Like a sweet little girl opening her first Christmas toys

Like a mother with energy for the first time in years

Like a dad who just wants his girls to be near

 

So please hear me exclaim as you shut down my site

Happy Christmas to all (note the correct semantic choice per the author...)

Get to bed - it's really late tonight...

 

Happy Holidays and a WONDERFUL New Year to you all...


12.8.08

Things every teacher should understand and use: Before I begin, let me give one more Keena update.She’s doing…well…amazing actually!I haven’t seen her with as much energy as she has now in 6 years!And she’s still recovering from major surgery!While she can’t lift Addie yet (which is frustrating both of them), she is moving really well! She doesn’t have joint pain, no sweats, no fevers…she’s getting well!!!I know we’ll always worry that the Crohn’s will pop up in her small intestine (although there is no reason to believe it will), but otherwise, I think Keena has her life back!!!

 

There are some things that I think every teacher should know.I realize that most professors were never given any educational training, the assumption being that if they know their subject matter well enough to get an M.A. or PhD, they can teach.Unfortunately, that’s one of the big problems with higher ed (in my opinion). One of my best friends is an amazing juggler. There is NO way he could teach anyone how to do it - he's start them with an axe, a saw, and a bowling ball. It would go down hill from there! Good teachers know teaching principles – they know learning theory, brain research, and they apply it.The following 7 things are concepts that I hope every teacher knows.Even if you don’t know the technical name – it’s important to know the concepts!!!

 

  1. Transformative Learning.Mezirow (2000) suggests that all learning begins with a disorienting dilemma.This perspective transformation can start with something as simple as a question or as serious as losing a job.The catalyst is then reflected on, researched, discussed, and experimented with until a new paradigm is created.Many researchers believe this should be called “Human Learning.”
  2. Curriculum Integration.Curriculum integration is a philosophy of teaching in which content is drawn from several subject areas to focus on a particular topic or theme. Rather than studying math or social studies in isolation, for example, a class might study a unit called The Sea, using math to calculate pressure at certain depths and social studies to understand why coastal and inland populations have different livelihoods (McBrien and Brandt, 1997).
  3. Authentic Assessment.According to Mueller (2003), authentic assessment is a form of measurement in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills. Sometimes referred to as competency based instruction, student performance on a task is typically scored on a rubric to determine how successfully the student has met specific standards, outcomes, or objectives.
  4. Diversity.Education in a multicultural society strives for equity of opportunity to learn, largely through the convergence of three practices: heterogeneous grouping, highly interactive instruction that appeals to a wide variety of learning styles, and inclusive curricula. A constructivist understanding of education, in which learners are active architects of meaning, permeates this collaborative vision of education (Shaw, 1993).
  5. Varied Learning.“By definition, differentiation is wary of approaches to teaching and learning that standardize. Standard-issue students are rare, and educational approaches that ignore academic diversity in favor of standardization are likely to be counterproductive in reaching the full range of learners (Tomlinson, 2006).”Regardless of prior knowledge, attention span, retention capacity, or comprehension ability, students have varied needs in terms of delivery, interaction, and assessment.
  6. Backward Design.“Backward design begins with the end in mind: What enduring understandings do I want my students to develop (McTighe, 2001)?”Essentially, the backward (sometimes called universal) design model applies three steps: 1) Identification of desired results; 2) Determination of acceptable evidence; and 3) Planning learning experiences / instruction.Once you teach with the objectives in mind, the student paths to get there emerge!
  7. Collaborative Learning. Rothwell (2006) suggests that workers are in groups (teams) more than 70% of the time while students are in groups less than 7% of the time.With the uprising of corporate universities, some private sector and governmental leaders suggest that education is not meeting the needs of today’s workforce, sending under-prepared and uninformed graduates into society.

There is some overlap in and among these principles. And of course there are more than 7 things - but 7 seems like a nice number for this kind of list :-) Like any complex system, an educational model has independent and interdependent components.Some educators think of these elements as a safety net or a puzzle.I like to think of them as inter-locking bricks of a foundation to an educational pyramid.The top elements of teaching, student services, curriculum, program quality, etc., are supported by this foundation to make the educational experience effective at all levels: student, teacher, and administrator.Student understanding can be the mortar that holds these pieces in place, allowing schools to deliver effective, timely, and differentiated instruction.

 

Looking for a faculty inservice speaker? Need someone to talk education in both a theoretical AND (more importantly) practical sense at your conference? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


12.1.08

Work – Life Balance:Before starting and while I know it sounds like a broken record, let me say thanks again for all the emails and support with Keena.She came home yesterday and is doing pretty well considering… She’s got a lot of pain, but thanks to some nice meds, she’s not feeling everything she should.She’s happy as anything to be at home finally and is looking forward to getting better day after day after day for the rest of her life!

 

While Keena is recouping nicely, I’m tired as I’ve ever been.Between Keena, Addie, running errands, cooking, cleaning, getting up with whichever is having the current problem, I’m just beat.I took “vacation” for this time…but to call this a vacation would be like calling Long John Silvers a gourmet seafood restaurant.This does, however lead me to my blog this week.

 

Work / Life balance has been talked about for decades.The first time I really remember thinking about it was after reading Jack Welch’s book.The former GE CEO makes the point that this is a manager’s toughest trial throughout the year.People more and more are being selfish with their time, not wanting to spend any extra time at work if at all possible.Interestingly, he also mentions that managers and executives who want to do anything with their careers need to be exactly the opposite.They need to take work home every night to get a jump on the next day, the next week, the next project, the next…whatever.

 

I can say as a manager, I realize this is very true.About 75% of my employees are overly eager to head home, leave early, and never worry about a thing over the weekends.(And you should see the empty spaces in front of my desk around the holidays…I’ve got most of my team saving up their two weeks for Christmas time leaving few or nobody to handle issues and work that comes up!)

 

At the same time, I work my tail off for eCollege.I’m putting in 50-70 hours a week PLUS my doctoral work PLUS my adjunct teaching load.My days are spent at work until 5pm when I rush home to get some quality time with Addie & Keena before my little girl goes to bed at 7:30.Then, it’s on to my computer to teach classes and write mostly meaningless papers for my doctoral program (I’ll do a blog about academic hazing later).Finally, I check my work email one more time only to find fifty to one hundred new emails to get through before bed.(I get about 600 emails per day.)Work / Life balance?What balance?

 

As much as I love technology, I do have to admit that it’s created the ability to work from home WAY too easy.Madeleine Bunting in her book, "Willing Slaves – How the Overwork Culture is Ruling our Lives", says that from 1977 to 1997 Americans working full time have increased their average working hours from 43.6 hours to 47.1 hours each week. (Not including time required to travel to and from work).

 

I believe this.Although I didn’t always.When I was a college professor, I really didn’t have to worry much about work / life balance.I realize people don’t like to talk about it, but college professors have it pretty easy when it comes to time.I had worked my way into a coordinator position, so I could choose from a MWF or TTH schedule.I could choose late afternoons or early mornings to suit my tastes.Sure, I had some advising and some office hours, but if I wanted to, I didn’t have to be on campus but 20 hours any given week.Sure, I graded papers at home, but when all was said and done, I can say that my balance of work and life was just golden!

 

Of course, my bank account showed this as well.And there is the rub, right?I’m making 3 times as much now as I did then, plus bonuses (that don't exist in a college system) and with every promotion / raise, comes the expectation of more time and responsibility taken away from home.Ugh. (Try this work - life balance calculator!)

 

Yes, I know the studies that show how employees who actually take time off are more productive.I know that companies who help employees manage their personal lives effectively are consistently rated in the top 100 companies for both satisfaction AND productivity.But I also know that 99% of Presidents and CEOs don’t buy any of it.The majority of HR studies that show the effectiveness of working less never even make it to their desks.After all, these executives are Type A personalities who don’t need extra motivation to work 60 hours a week…why should anyone else? (Hopefully this sarcasm translated...)

 

So, here I am – left with some major decisions in my life.Do I work like a dog now and reap the benefits later with a solid retirement and nice home and the ability to do nice things for my family.Or, do I go back to teaching, spend a lot more quality time with my family now, but not really have the ability to provide like I want to?I have to say, I used to be the guy who did the latter and it came back to bite me several times.When Keena first got sick, we didn’t really have any “extra” to work with.I didn’t make enough to really go on nice vacations or buy special things for anyone just because.The purchase of a car was a major life consideration and I could never really afford what I wanted, having to settle for what I could afford.That’s not how we live now…

 

Please hear me!I have talked this over with Keena several times.We both have goals for our family and we both understand (most of the time) the sacrifices it takes now.I realize there are plenty of husbands out there who work their tails off including as much travel as possible so they don’t have to be near their families.I have worked with a few in my time.But I’m not that guy – I actually like my wife and enjoy my daughter.I’m the ultimate family man who happens to be lucky enough and (hopefully) good enough at what I do that my services are in demand but unfortunate enough that it means working like I do.

 

So, until an agent or publisher actually takes a chance and reads my novel (which should easily become a screenplay…come on – it’s silly to get the same form letters back saying you’re not currently accepting new authors!), I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.I do enjoy it and it suits me.And as long as people keep telling me that I’m good at it, there’s no other reason to quit!Maybe technology will begin to actually help us NOT work so much!Now there’s the web 2.0 site that I want to be a part of!

 

Are you a publisher looking for the next best seller? Are you an agent needing to find the next Lee Child, Stephen Hunter, or Greg Iles? You HAVE to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and ask to read the first 3 chapters of Judge & Jury! Remember, Jeff gives seminars on effective storytelling...Check out this query:

 

Judge & Jury : When a vigilante violently takes the law into his own hands, Detective Paden Campbell is tasked with his capture.But as the citizens of Denver, Colorado start to embrace and replicate the practices of the “Judge and Jury” killer, Paden is forced to come to terms with his own sense of justice.In a race against time, Detective Campbell must stop the killer before the city tears itself apart.


11.26.08

Keena Updates: I know I don't usually update mid-week, but most of you know how unusual this past week has been. So, to answer a number of emailers, here is a Keena update!

Keena has had a pretty decent two days. They say the first 72 hours are crucial and I would give the first 48 hours a 6 out of 10. She has had flashes of pain that scare her (and everyone). There is always the fear that something didn't stick in the surgery! But, so far it's always been a fleeting pain. Today she moved from a clear liquid diet to a full liquid diet (think pudding, tomato soup, and soda). Tomorrow, we're hoping that she'll have some mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving!

Everyone who sees her stoma talks about how "perfect" it is...we HOPE SO! She's learning how to manage it already and I think she's doing a great job. The big concern is still her blood loss - a transfusion isn't being ruled out any time soon. (Just remember, she was losing a lot of blood prior to the surgery, so she wasn't starting from "normal" by any means. Plus, it takes a long time to replenish blood in your system, so a transfusion may be the only way to go.)

Tomorrow may be the most thankful Thanksgiving we've seen in a while. She might get off her epideral, she might eat solid foods, and she might start walking on her own. On top of that, she hasn't had a fever in 2 days (she had 7 fevers the night before her surgery), she isn't achey in her joints, and her sense of humor is coming back full-bore!

We both hope that all of you have a wonderful day of thanks with your families and friends. In spite of her food limitations, the 16 tubes entering / exiting her body, and the stir craziness of being in a bed for so long, we are planning to enjoy some quality family time being thankful together. Thanks for all your support and caring these past few weeks - we appreciate it more than you know.

-- Jeff --

(Oh yea...go Cowboys!)


11.24.08

Keena Updates: I want to thank everyone for the thoughts, prayers, and even poetry they have sent. I'm currently in that worst of places...a surgery waiting room. Keena had the worst of nights last night - but if anything, it prepared her even more for this surgery! While I can't probably write as much as I'm feeling right now, I'll do what I can to update here often.

11am: Keena went in for surgery. Her thoughts were of Addie as I walked out of the room and she smiled through tears with her hand in an "I love you" sign.

1:20pm: The doctor's circulation nurse has called my cell phone twice! (I LOVE technology) This past call let us know that her intestine is out and that she's stable.

3:00pm: One more call - the surgeon has closed the incision, but is working on the ileostomy site. Keena is still stable.

5:15pm: Keena is stable, out of surgery, and heading up to her room!!! Things are pretty positive so far - a bit of blood loss (to be expected), but otherwise we are in good shape. YEAH!!

10pm: Keena is fast asleep with her mom at her side. I came home to watch Addie and give her as much stability as possible for a 17 month old who loves her momma! Keena did really well today. In between groggy sleep, she told a few jokes and asked about loved ones. I really believe that she went into this with the right attitude and it will only serve her well from here on out! While I'm exhausted, I'm so grateful to have Keena on a path to wellness - it was worth the exhaustion, effort, and sacrifices (I know...easy for me to say). But the toll of watching your best friend wither away and your daughter's mommy be unable to love like she wants to...well, it's been 5 years of pain that I'm ready to say goodbye to.

We both realize the road ahead isn't all sunshine and flowers - but we also know that the road she was on was all about decay and death. While we are hoping for a healthy, fast recovery we know there could be some bumps. But again, I go back to Keena's resolve and attitude. Some may look at her ostomy as an uncomfortable reality...Keena already looks at it as getting her life back. As long as this stops the Crohn's from manifesting in her body (and the doctors tell us there is no reason to believe otherwise), Keena is going to be back by Christmas.

My first blog entry this year stated it was the Year of Jeff. I was doing what I could to make a self-fulfilling prophecy! (I'll write my analysis for my final blog of the year including a WAY cool announcement that should be coming out any day now concerning my job...) But, I've already told my wife that 2009 is the Year of Keena. (She told me to stop pressuring her) :-)

Thank you everyone for the support, kind words, and emails. Keena should be up and around in about 2-3 weeks, gaining strength every day. Here is to that.

Amen.


11.17.08

Things Worth Knowing: : Before I begin, I’d like to thank all of you for the wonderful outreach of support and kind words.Keena is less than 1 week away from surgery and each day brings both hope and fear.I’ll keep you informed!

 

One of my best friends likes to call me a Renaissance Man.I’m flattered by the spirit of the remark, even though it suggests Jack of all trades, master of none…but I’ll get over that.However, as a flourishing college professor, a renounced stand-up comic, a wanna-be musician, an undiscovered writer, and a fairly successful business person, one of my favorite past times is dreaming up courses to teach at the college level.You know, the kind of course you’ll never see at ITT Tech because it’s not in the intended curriculum or program of study to help students design games for a living.The kind of course that just makes you a better human or a better _________ than you are today.A course that should be as interesting for students as it is fun to teach by professors.

 

Often these courses (in my mind) infuse communication with media, history with music, or education with film.I think they could be powerful and successful.But lately I’ve had another one on my brain.You know those lists of “10 things every student should know” or “The Top 5 Things Every Parent Should Teach Their Children?”It’s along those lines.

 

I have heard a lot lately (I go to way too many conferences…) that education is behind the times.To hear some talk, it’s WAY behind the times.But a lot of people note that education will never be current and should never be “bleeding” edge.That’s because education is about critical thought – we can teach students to think the way they need to in order to get current.But my course might help bridge the gap a bit.See what you think.

 

I think every college should offer a seminar called, “A Decade Of Innovation Worth Knowing.”As I see it, every decade has information that changes the world.Things happen that educated people should not only be aware of, but actually study to see how to use it or make it better.What’s great about a class like this would be the potential research by students to create and find life-changing, world-changing events.So, in the spirit of open-source education (Open Source would be something worth studying in a course like this…even as it is starting to relate to things other than technology.See Crowdsourcing) here are a few “nuggets” of information that anyone trying to make it in the world should know.

 

  1. The Tipping Point.Malcolm Gladwell introduced us to a concept that we all probably understand on a basic level, but nobody had thought to turn it into a focus for business.The TP essentially explains how trends are created and, more importantly, take hold.Moving words like “stickiness” into everyday business vernacular, The Tipping Point is a must-read for anyone who wants to do anything at their company besides stay put.
  2. The Semantic Web. Web 2.0 is over...sorry. Trying to stay out in front of technology is tough.Most people don’t have time to dedicate to it and even if you do, what good is trying to figure out what’s really going to work and stick?(I’d recommend reading Wired on a monthly basis juts to keep you grounded…)But most experts agree that we are moving out of Web 2.0, a wonderful marketing term created by Tim O’Reilly that really resonated with people, and into the world of the Semantic Web.Effectively, the Semantic Web will be a technological world where computers not only help us do things, but help us use technology to do it!It’s creating semantics in and around the tools to allow computers to search, locate, and inform us about which technologies to use or incorporate.It’s an extension of artificial intelligence that ultimately could make our lives a lot easier.
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy.For anyone with a “Big Idea”, this is a concept you should know.Blue Oceans are the new, untapped, often niche markets that need to be created.Essentially, Blue Oceans create a market for a product or service, rather than filling an already present need.Blue Man Group, Nintendo Wii, and Home Depot are examples of Blue Ocean Organizations that were quite successful.

 

So there are three…out of a decade of impressive thoughts, ideas, books, and concepts.What else should go in a course like that?Well, hire me to teach it and we’ll talk…

 

 

Do you want to hear more about how innovation ties into our daily lives? Need someone to speak about past, current, or future ideas at your organization or conference? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


11.10.08

Keena’s Story: Many of you already know that my wife, Keena has Crohn’s disease.It amazes me how many people I talk to know someone with Crohn’s or very similar diseases like Ulcerative Colitis or IBD.Rates are definitely on the rise…theoretical causes are another blog (or ninety).But, as I write this blog entry today, my heart is heavy as Keena’s disease has finally brought us to a really serious decision – namely surgery.

 

To say that someone has Crohn’s is similar to saying someone has cancer.It’s a big concept that can manifest itself in various ways.For example, Quarterback David Garrard (of the Jacksonville Jaguars) has the ability to continue playing through his disease.Keena, on the other hand, has difficulty keeping up with our little girl on a daily basis.Because of where the disease lives in her system and the types of drugs she’s on, lethargy for Keena is an understatement.She could no more quarterback an NFL team than I could run 100 miles…at least in my current state of physical health! (By the way, Keena is David Garrard's biggest fan!)

 

Keena first exhibited symptoms about 6 years ago.It started with a mouth full of canker soars – I’m talking 20-25 at a time.She started losing weight simply because she couldn’t take the pain of eating!So, our journey began by trying to diagnose the symptom.It led us all over the place.Every friend, co-worker, and family member had a home remedy or “knew a person…”It became a litany of futile attempts at controlling a symptom instead of looking for the cause.This was followed by Google searches, WebMD searches, and on and on.Doctors had no clue, hypothesizing allergies and such, but offering no help at all.Finally, we started down the holistic route.Herbalists, acupuncturists, and other guru’s gave her ointments, lotions, capsules, and therapies that would “surely” work.

 

Within six months, Keena started noticing some issues in the restroom.Again, these abnormalities were dismissed by the physicians we saw and the holistic group tried to deal with problems that were not the issue.Not to mention our own web searches went into overdrive.Keena tried five major diets – she performed the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for almost a year with no help. We spent hundreds of dollars on Jordan Rubin’s (Maker’s Diet – I’m NOT linking to this diet as I will not promote it – more on that later) diet which Keena followed for a year with no letup in symptoms.Meanwhile, she began losing major amounts of weight.At 5’6” and 130 pounds normally, she was soon 120 pounds.She had to stop teaching her First Grade class early and was soon unable to leave the house.By the end of the second year, she was down to 110 pounds and was now using the restroom almost twenty times per day.Again, medical personnel were stumped, telling Keena to go on “bowel rest” by not eating, religious friends prayed vehemently for a miracle that never came, and while holistic practitioners gave us plenty of answers, they ended with no results. (Unfortunately, these holistic folks often scared us into distrusting Western medicine and traditional hospitals.)So, we were left wondering and wandering through our own path.

 

Finally, weighing 95 pounds, I carried Keena into a doctor’s office in Boulder, CO. I will never forget bending down to the couch that had become her bed for the past four months and hearing, “Face, don’t let me die.”(I’m tearing up as I write this!)So, the doctor listened to our story and sent me from the room to “confront” Keena about having AIDS or being bulimic.Finally, he agreed to admit her to Boulder County Hospital where we were told her vital organs were hours from shutting down.For the first time in months, we both felt a sense of hope.We let go of the fear of hospitals and they went to work!

 

Within three days, they were fairly certain Keena had Ulcerative Colitis, which turned out to be pretty close.We had an assembly of physicians and nurses working to help Keena get well.Within a week, she had put on 10 pounds and she was eating solid food again.Seven days after entering the hospital, Keena walked away (hobbled is more like it – she had such iron depletion, water pooled in her feet by the pint!) from BCH with a few answers and a new hope.We had an idea of what we were fighting; now we had to figure out how to do it.

 

Keena started on several medications that did help at first.She was on major doses of prednisone, flagyl, and azacol.Over time, we came to understand there was a continuum of medications, from benign (think Aspirin) to potentially lethal (Tysabri - viral infection of the brain...yikes!).Keena started on level three of this continuum and began working her way up the scale.Along the way, she discovered a bit of relief in veganism, we were told not to expect the ability to have children, and she had to quit teaching due to entering the hospital at least once per year for a week or so each time.She began infusion regiments, self-injections, and treatments that would make a torturer blush.The one real time of respite came in late 2006.Her body seemed to even out for a brief period and Keena’s GI doctor told her that if she wanted to have children, we seemed to have a window.The biggest blessing of this time – of ALL time - came almost exactly ten months later in Addie (yes, apparently we’re both quite fertile…).

 

That was a year and a half ago.Unfortunately, Keena’s disease appears tied to her hormones pretty solidly.About 4-5 months after a baby, a woman apparently has a flood of hormones that release into her system.Keena’s release of hormones put her into a tailspin that she has not recovered from even slightly.This brings us to today.Despite the best efforts of doctors and the heaviest hitters on the medicine spectrum, Keena is spiraling back towards where she was before the first hospital stay.She can’t take care of our daughter like she wants to…heck, she can’t take care of anything like she wants to.So, two weeks from today – one week after her birthday and four days prior to Thanksgiving – she is going under the knife to remove her entire large intestine.It’s a decision that brings fear and hope at the same time.It’s very permanent and potentially life saving, but it’s the hardest decision we’ve ever made.

 

During the past half decade, I think it’s safe to say my wife and I have both grown a great deal.Here is a sampling of lessons most people probably learn at some point, but which have been particularly impactful for us:

 

  1. We can more easily spot a con-artist who is selling a product while preying on people’s fear and despair.A good litmus test: try contacting the person who is making the claim – can you easily setup a phone consult or do you just get an 800 number for a company?(We were never once able to find Jordan Rubin and speak with him despite letters, phone calls, Google searches, etc…)
  2. We found that there is no such thing as a standard issue person.The claim that something will work for everyone is ludicrous.There are very few “laws” in the world (like gravity) – I feel confident in saying that people are different.They react differently to medications, they need different support models, and they have to have unique options for their case.As well, some react to specific foods, others tolerate environmental things better, and some people are healthy despite treating their bodies like a subway restroom.
  3. Doctors don’t know everything in spite of how they may act.It took us years of wading through doctors to find some that will work with us instead of around us.It was hard to find someone who wasn’t a know it all, who actually treated Keena the person, not Keena the patient.I cannot tell you what a difference Dr. Erik Springer has made for Keena.He listens, he researches, and he is not afraid to admit it when he doesn’t know something.He’s not just a good doctor, he is a great man.
  4. Life is comparative.It’s so hard to hear people complain about “trivial” problems in contrast to what Keena has / is going through.But that’s what life is, right?You believe your problems to be significant and therefore they ARE significant.Once again proving that perception determines reality.(Keena actually had a friend visit her in the hospital only to cry because the dog had peed on the carpet that morning…)
  5. Life really is quite short.When you butt up against mortality, it changes your perspective on a lot of things.Time is a big one.I look back at my life and realize I wasted a LOT of time on things, people, jobs, and processes that weren’t worth 10% of the energy I put into them.Had I cut ties sooner, I could have moved on to more worth-while ventures.
  6. As a PK (pastor’s kid) I was raised in a very anti-money culture.This isn’t to say that money wasn’t valued, but it was perceived as a “necessary evil.”So, growing up I tried hard to make it to a place where I didn’t have more than I needed.Then, when Keena got sick, I soon realized that not having “more” meant not having enough if the chips were down.Now I work my tail off to make sure we’ll be ok no matter what.
  7. Family is important.I’m sad that it took Keena’s illness to show me how valuable family is, but it did.I always had the impression that counting on family too heavily was dysfunctional, but I was wrong.I love my family dearly and would do most anything for any of them. Nobody is on their death bed saying, "I wish I'd spent more time working..."

 

I know this blog is fairly long.I think it was cathartic.I have actually spoken at an Immune Disorders fundraiser and it was therapeutic too.I think Keena’s story is powerful, inspiring, and a healthy balance of hope versus reality. I am nervous and excited for the chapter that begins in two weeks time.

 

 

Interested in a motivational story for your conference? Want a world class speaker to discuss medicine, diet, or life? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


11.03.08

Politics:So, I had my first request as a blogger.Someone actually asked my opinion of the race for President based on my two areas of expertise: communication and education…so, I guess I’m going to play pundit for a day.I don’t know that I’ll always respond to blog requests, but for the first one, I’ll give it a shot!

 

Let me start by saying that I am a registered Independent.I realize that some people think that’s a joke – especially those who are dyed in the wool for one side or another.But, I actually register this way for two reasons.First, it takes me off of several call lists!I hate those calls from pollsters when I sit down to my vegetarian pot pie and cheap red wine…it ruins the ambiance!

 

Second, I honestly mean it when I say that I try to pick the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation.I have already voted (love the mail in ballot…I can’t wait for Internet voting to become a reality!), and my ballot was almost even between Democrats & Republicans.And if we had a legitimate third party (I WISH we had one!), I’d vote for them too.As it is, I can’t get past feeling like it’s wasting my vote to check the box for someone in the Green party…but maybe someday that will change!

 

Next, let me assert that I think we are voting for two good men.I’m not going to vilify someone solely on the basis of their party affiliation.While I don’t necessarily appreciate specific political tactics, I think at the core, these are two good men we’re dealing with.(If you think one of these men is “evil” – turn off your computer, drive to your local shoe store, buy a good pair of walking shoes, and just start hiking.Don’t stop until inauguration day in January.See if you still feel the same way…)

 

But when it comes down to it, I think there are marked differences we’re dealing with here.True, all Presidential candidates talk as if their campaign plans will come to fruition once they are sworn in when in reality only about 1/3 of the promises they make will happen.(Remember, we have other bodies of government who have to agree….)But the ideas they represent are what it’s all about anyway, right?

 

I will also say, in the spirit of fairness, that both candidates promise to lower taxes and yet spend more money…it’s really unfortunate.I’m dying for one of them to say, “Look…here is what I WANT to do, but I will likely only get X, Y, and Z passed by Congress.I’d also like to stop spending so much ridiculous money on $1000 dollar toilets for the Pentagon and raises for Congress every year but one person can only do so much.Finally, I will do everything in my power to reduce your tax burden, but remember that we do have to pay for roads, cops, water…so we’ll do the best we can!”

 

Yes, I realize that rhetoric will never work with the average American, but I long for the day reality is allowed a seat at the big person’s table!Wow…I just realized this is a page of context – maybe I should run for office.Let’s get to the meat of it, shall we?

 

Who is a better communicator?While Senator McCain is “of the people” when it comes to public speaking, you have to give the edge here to Senator Obama.He is more eloquent, more polished, and less rattled during debates.(Remember, perception determines reality!Being a better speaker does not mean your more able to do anything, it ultimately just means you’re a better speaker…) Some people say that Sarah Palin is the best speaker in the foursome, but I disagree.While she has flair, I don’t think she has presence…yet!She will.Something important I tell my public speaking students is that the more you practice, the better you get.Governor Palin will eventually be just as effective with straight talk AND spin as these other three one day, but that day is not today.So the communication edge absolutely goes to Obama / Biden.

 

Who has a better education plan?I have to say, I don’t particularly like either candidate’s plan around education.I feel like we’re not asking (and therefore answering) the right questions about this highly complex issue.And with the economy in such a shambles, unfortunately the only element of school that has been discussed at any length are the economic factors associated with it.While tax credits for college students (families) are important too – I’m more interested in fixing the problem that is education!Both candidates would revise No Child Left Behind, and both believe in some form of merit pay for exemplary teachers – two ideas I think are excellent.However, after that it comes down to the voucher / public school debate in K-12 and the financial aid help in college.

 

What about student learning?What about outcomes, competency, or problem-based assessment?We should discuss tenure, teacher training, and technology use in the classroom.We need to hear about plans for revamping old curriculum, incorporating brain / learning research into teaching today, and reaching all learners at every age.I want to hear about plans to create, innovate, and generate ideas.I certainly don’t feel that education simply needs money “dumped” into it – we need a plan for how to fix it.I can take $1 million dollars to my father and ask him to fix my car, but it will just sit there forever…he knows nothing about cars and therefore would have no plan to fix it!

 

So, based on my terribly uninformative message here, Obama wins by sheer eloquence.Of course, it’s much more complicated than that.The economy is crucial do the discussion.The military is an essential component of a Commander in Chief’s job.Healthcare is something near and dear to all of us – more so at certain points – and should be discussed in detail.But I do rank education up with these other important issues.Unfortunately, for me, I had to make my decision for President based not on education, but other things.So, to the man who gets into office next Januarycall me.It’s time we fix education itself and I can at least help you ask the right questions!

 

Interested in Jeff's opinions about Education or Communication? Want a world class speaker for your next conference or event? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!

10.27.08

Story: A lot of businesses talk about quality customer service.They even get plaques printed with, “The Customer Is Always Right” and “Go The Extra Mile” on them.However, when the rubber meets the road, very few companies actually have excellent customer service.The following story is in the Nordstrom’s manager training manual.It “proves” to the employee, that Nordstrom is serious about Customer Service.

 

An elderly woman walked into a large department store (Nordstrom) and approached a manager. She explained that she wanted to return an automobile tire she felt was unsuitable for her car. The manager knew that this woman had been a longtime customer of the store and that she and her friends spent much of their time there.

 

But, she said, she was unhappy with the tire she had purchased. The manager was surprised, but asked if she had the tire with her. She told him she had the tire in her car’s trunk, but that she had lost the receipt.

 

“Well, that’s not a problem,” the manager said after a moment of thought. “You can return the tire. Would a store credit be okay?”

 

The woman agreed and the manager gave her a store voucher for the full value of the tire.

 

You may think there’s nothing extraordinary about how this particular manager handled the situation. After all, he worked it out so that the woman would still end up spending her money in his department store. And she would probably tell her friends how fairly and respectfully she was treated there. So it was just good business, right?

 

Well, yes. But there’s something else you should know. This incident occurred in a Nordstrom.Nordstrom is a store that doesn’t sell automotive equipment—not even tires.

 

The power of story is underrated. Stories create context for culture, paradigms for life, and a tapestry for work like no other medium. People connect with stories by picturing themselves in the situation described. For example, I disliked the movie "The Firm" not because of the change in ending...but because of the lead actor choice. Do you know who would have been a better Mitch in that movie? ME!!! When I first read the book, I was the one running through the Caribbean, kissing the girls, being chased by the mob, etc. That's the wonderment of story.

 

If you want to be a good manager, teacher, President, parent, or leader of any kind...learn to tell stories. Stories work.

 

Do you want to become a betterstoryteller? Need help as an organization creating your own story? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!

10.20.08

Games:During the past 9 months, I’ve been asked to present a Serious Game session to 15 different audiences.I’ve delivered it at conferences, as a workshop, in keynote form, and more.We start by actually playing a game and then follow it up with practical examples of game elements in various disciplines.

 

But every time I present this, I’m left wondering how much the audience really got.It’s highly entertaining and I’ve been told it’s very engaging.The idea is to provide example after example of various games in educational settings to “spark” the imagination of teachers.I hope they say, “That school did X…I’m sure I can change it a bit and do Y…”And of course I try to find websites and resources they can plug into.

 

But as creative as I believe teachers to be (this is the reason I believe many people are teachers…they have the ability to figure out how to present information in an unusual way), for some instructors the concept of gaming is still too “out there” to grasp.It’s not concrete enough for them.They have trouble tying games to learning objectives or outcomes.And so, I’m afraid that games in the classroom fall by the wayside.

 

So I wanted to start at a basic definition of games that might give us a place to work from.Unfortunately, definitions of games, especially of “serious” games are ambiguous at best.Often the definitions include marketing terms and analogies like “edutainment” that really put off some teachers.After all, the moniker of “serious game” was only created to try and break through the wall many teachers have regarding games intersecting with education.The thought was that the word “serious” would open the door to thought about gaming.(I hope it has done just that…)All of that said, here is my first stab at a working definition:

 

Serious Game Definition: A competition (against others or self) with defined rules and goal(s) that signify an ending.The purpose of the serious game is not entertainment as the primary, but instead as the secondary objective.The primary objective is to aid in education, training, comprehension, retention, etc.

 

But it’s also important to talk about why games even matter at all.Why take a chance on serious games in your own classroom?To do so, let’s play a game.I’m going to make several statements that are backed by research.However, if you can prove me wrong, I’ll retract this and give you full credit for your work.Up for it?

 

  1. Games raise retention rates.Students actually remember game elements longer than through traditional means.
  2. Games raise interest (attention).Students actually find learning to be “fun” when they are contextualized as games.
  3. Games provide much less negative pressure than traditional presentation and assessment do.
  4. Positive emotion by the learner equals better perceptual maps.Games provide a more satisfying and enjoyable environment which research shows to help cement concepts and information – basically, any positive emotion associated with a learning concept helps solidify the experience and understanding.
  5. Games provide an easy way to incorporate team work.(If you don’t know how important this concept is, read several of my blogs below)

 

Serious gaming is serious educational business.Large quantities of information can be passed to people through gaming contexts.Unfortunately, too many teachers are ignoring the power of games in their classrooms…at ALL levels.It’s time to change that, don’t you think?Google your subject matter and the word game to see what pops up.You might be surprised at what’s out there and even more surprised at the results you get.

 

Do you want to play a game? Need someone to show you how games work and give you (or your teachers / trainers) some practical content ideas? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


10.13.08

Learning About Learning: So I was speaking at a conference this past week when a professor asked me something I hear a lot! I was talking about how we need to involved technology for our students in their education. We need to provide varied, engaging learning objects and assets to promote learning style interaction (both individual & generational). This professor asked a simple question...

 

"...So how do I learn about all of this stuff that I'm supposed to incorporate into my teaching?"

 

Fair question! Let's see if I can help you figure out where to start and how to approach it...

 

  1. Leave the excuses at the door. I work a 60-70 hour work week for eCollege. I teach 2-3 speech communications classes every semester to keep me both grounded and current. I am taking a full load in my Doctoral work each term. I have a 15 month old child and a wife with a chronic illness that makes normal life impossible. I travel 100,000 miles each year. Please don't say that you don't have time to learn about web 2.0, technology, curriculum integration, learning theory, etc. We have time for whatever we prioritize! If you want to learn about how to incorporate technology...then make it happen!
  2. Set specific times. Just like any appointment, give yourself 30 minutes on Tuesday morning (or whatever) to read blogs, search the Internet, view videos, etc. Make it a part of your routine and it is FAR more likely to happen.
  3. Use the technology for you. Please tell me that you are following a blogger or two - those who have specific blogs about your specific discipline. Use social bookmarking to "follow" experts and thought-leaders for their ideas and favorite selections. Follow them on Twitter, YouTube, del.icio.us, LinkedIn, etc.
  4. As valuable as a Google search can be, try a YouTube search instead. Want to see how social bookmarking even works in the first place? What about Wikis, Blogs, social networks? Check out the "In Plain English" series available on YouTube. The great thing about videos is that you can SEE something in action and not have to read about it every time. That can save you time and energy.
  5. Talk to your colleagues. I guarantee someone you know is teaching something in their classroom creatively. What is it? How might you adapt it to your needs?
  6. Take baby steps. Just try one thing at a time and you'll be much more able to keep up. Pretty soon, you'll be in the habit of trying "one new thing" per semester and you'll notice that 10 out of 12 of your past "new things" have stuck!
  7. Finally, be creative! I can't tell you how many instructors wait half a year until they see me again to find out a website I mentioned during the last speaking engagement. The beauty of Google is how easy it is to use! Get those research juices flowing and find it yourself!

 

It's not hard to figure out technology in the classroom...it's just intimidating to someone who hasn't done it before. Make it a part of your teaching and it won't be hard anymore. It will be just another thing you do to help your students. Isn't that why we're teaching anyway? Just like staying on top of your subject matter is essential, so is understanding how to teach. The mode, the effectiveness, and the reasons can always change...as long as we understand how to make that happen in a way that benefits our students and our classrooms. This is teaching you know...this is why we're good at what we do!

 

Good luck...and good teaching.

 

Want to hear more about great teaching? Want to jump start your program with ideas and concepts the lend themselves toward technology and varied learning? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


10.06.08

Helpful Internet Sites: Back by popular demand, it's my top 10 favorite websites right now. I'm in a pretty cool position as I travel around the country talking about online education with online teachers and administrators. And during my time, I get to see how people use the Internet in various ways. Some of the sites out there are quite amazing actually. Let's see if I can share some of them with you! So, in no particular order:

  1. Woman From The Inside Out - I spoke with an elementary school Art teacher recently. She's a good friend of mine from my doctoral program. I was commenting to her that I don't have the first clue how to draw, sketch, paint, etc. In fact, I told her that I just could never learn art! She replied with something I'd never heard. She said, "Art isn't about learning to draw - it's about learning to look. Art is about perspective, not lines on paper. Your teachers should have shown you how to look at the world and then at the paper..." This website might teach a budding artist perspective (which they say can't be done online...).
  2. Great home page - If you are looking for a handy website as well as an innovative website, look no further. AllMyFaves is ideal as a homepage because it lists about 100 of the top visited websites around. From banking to travel to maps to social networking, this site has the big guns. But my favorite line on the page is at the top. The "Weekly Faves" lists 5-7 sites you have never heard of before. Stay in the know with cool stuff each week - or check the archives and look at the year's coolest websites. Great idea!
  3. The Planet - This highly interactive website shows some fascinating statistics, facts, and figures about the Earth.
  4. American Rhetoric - You had to know I would have at least one communication website. This is one of the biggest sites to house videos, transcripts, and audio files of speeches - both political and movie based. It's a WONDERFUL site for students too!
  5. Interactice Microscope - Can't teach science online? Then you aren't really trying. This amazing tool can show animal, plant, and other real slides in an interactive form. The only difference between this microscope and the real deal is not needing to squint to see this one.
  6. My favorite Eye simulator - I know this has been on my fave's list for 3 years now, but it's just so amazing! Think of 2 important things. 1) it would take months in a clinic to see all of these illnesses and eye problems. 2) you can never harm this patient with a poor diagnosis!
  7. Discover Babylon - How do you cram months (possibly years) of learning into a few weeks? Easy...games. This fantastic collaboration between the Federation of American Scientists and Sony Playstation is nothing short of spectacular. And, can you say curriculum integration? How about history, anthropology, money, sociology, politics, geography, and more!
  8. New Math Video - So, 1/4 of YouTube should be on this list. Of course, in 2007 YouTube had as much data as the entire Internet did in 2006, so that list would be a bit more than 10! So, here is proof that education can be fun and that YouTube has educational stuff galore. And it's about math of all things...as a liberal arts guy, that's impressive to me!
  9. The PDGA website - Please tell me you don't stay inside reading blogs and Googling stuff all day. Remember that great big, fun world out there? Try enjoying it from time to time. Get some sun. Have some fun. Disc golf is a GREAT way to do all of that for almost no money! Get 1-2 discs (~$10) and go play 18 "holes" at a park near you. This website tells how to play and also has a directory of courses around the country.
  10. eCollege Blog - So I have to give a shout out to my team. The best thing (to me) about eCollege is that we hire faculty members and teachers to train, instruct, and consult on all things education + technology. This is the team I currently direct and the diversity, innovation, and sound pedagogical elements will come through in our blog we release every Wednesday.

 

Remember, this is just 10 sites. Do you realize there are more than 160 million sites today? Hopefully you have become quite adept at searching through them. If not, here's a little query for you teachers: Type in your subject matter + applet OR your subject matter + simulation OR your subject matter + game. You are bound to find some great stuff you can use every day to enhance learning for your students...

 

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9.29.08

Rhetorical Questions:So it’s that time again.Speech time.My students are all turning in speeches.One set of classes are on their persuasives and the other are performing informatives.That means I get to hear about 100 introductions in the next few weeks.And that means I also get to hear about 30 rhetorical questions.Can anyone guess if I like rhetorical questions?

 

The problem with these figures of speech is multi-faceted.Mostly, it comes down to strategic thinking.The average rhetorical question isn’t put forth with any kind of thought behind it.It’s a semantic afterthought.It’s the word-smith equivalent of cuddling.

 

Why, when there are so many other idioms, would you choose the rhetorical question?Do they ever elicit the kind of thought provoking engagement they are supposed to?Unfortunately, after viewing thousands of speeches by students AND professionals, I can say that they do not.I would guess that 99% of the time they are mindless filler. Mental fluff. Rhetorical questions are to speech introductions as Long John Silver's is to fish. Do you know what the other 1% of the time is?And that brings me to my first main point.

 

1. Rhetorical questions that aren’t actually rhetorical.Ugh – I’ve heard questions asked of the audience that, upon really thinking about it, needed an answer!They may be trivia or they may simply be interesting, but either way they are NOT rhetorical. Let me share an example from a student: “Do you know how many men play fantasy football each Sunday?”If you read my blog a few weeks ago, you would know that I am addicted to FF.So, I would LOVE to know the answer to this question!It’s not rhetorical, it’s informative! But now, I'm stuck thinking about the question you asked and wondering if you're ever going to answer it. Nice going.

 

2. Rhetorical questions that might not be rhetorical.“Can anyone tell me how the economy got so bad?”This recent opener for a speech was responded to with two raised hands and one shout out.Unfortunately, the speaker had no intention of taking audience feedback during the speech.Uh oh…now what?If you must use an RQ, make sure the audience knows it’s rhetorical!

 

3. Questions that SHOULD be rhetorical, but the questioner waits for a response making everyone feel oh so comfortable.“How many of you have ever been pulled over?”(Pause.8 hands in the room slowly go up.)“Interesting.Well, today I’d like to tell you about…”WHAT!?!?How did the audience member’s admission help anyone?How did it impact the speech?It doesn’t look like a poll was being taken, but surely they’ll use that little survey later, right?(Answer: probably not…)If you aren’t planning to do anything with the information, my first piece of advice would be leave it out of your presentation.My second would be to turn it into a rhetorical question and move on!

 

4. Rhetorical questions that nobody cares about, nor do they elicit any kind of thought provocation. A recent student pondered aloud, “Do you know what makes up a quilting bee?”(Cricket cricket…)A better question would have been, “Does anyone care what makes up a quilting bee?”The answer would have been a classroom full of ,”NO” responses.

 

5. (My personal favorite) Rhetorical questions that actually alienate the audience from the start.“Have you ever wanted to learn to shoot so you could butcher your own dinner?”Amid dozens of raised eye brows and horrified audience members praying the visual aids don’t involve organs or blood is a scream of brain activity shouting, “NEVER HAVE…NEVER WILL!”But at least all of these audience members know that this speech will have no redeeming value and be a total waste of their time, so there’s that.

 

Ok…so hopefully I’ve made my point.Is it possible to create a rhetorical question that works?One that elicits thinking and personal reflection?Sure.Is it rare?Absolutely!So, my best piece of advice is to just stay away from them.They’re more trouble than they are worth!

 

I know they are VERY popular attention getters, but come on.You can do better!There are significantly better ways to get the audience to listen to you.Stories, statistics, quotes, jokes, video clips, audio clips, and even “Thanks for coming today, my name is…” is a better attention getter than a rhetorical question. (By the way...don't start with thank you or your name...but that's another blog.)Don’t you believe me?

 

Want a better attention getter? Need someone to teach you how to use figurative language effectively? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


9.22.08

Politics:You may have read some of my blogs about the RNC and DNC.The race for the Presidency is a fascinating one this year for so many reasons!But I have to admit, I’m really hopeful that the media will take their job in this process seriously.So far, it’s been a bit disappointing.

 

Case in point – I heard an interview of Virginia citizens on NPR the other day.One person said, “I don’t know who I’ll vote for.I don’t think either guy can fix Washington – the whole system is too corrupt.”The interviewer responded with a tremendous non-sequitur.“But you realize this is an historic election!?”


What?What does one have to do with the other!?This guy – this American voter – was expressing his frustration with the political system in the USA and the media wanted to focus on the “hype”. The interviewer might as well have asked, "So are you going to vote for Sarah Palin because she's pretty or will you take your lunch to work today?" Ugh.

 

So, in the spirit of good communication, here is short a letter to the media around the coverage of the Obama / McCain political race.

 

ONE: Please let them talk to us.Stop worrying about how well Sarah Palin can speak.Please quit doing the puff pieces on McCain’s military service or Obama’s mother.It’s time to really talk turkey here!Let the people hear about their ideas, their decisions, their records, etc.Let them…no, FORCE them to talk to us about the important things that everyone is worried about.The economy comes to mind.I’d like to hear what they plan to do about the lack of financial oversight that got us into this mess as big companies insured ridiculous claims, mortgages, etc.The war is another important topic.Oh, how about energy?

 

TWO: Please hold their feet to the fire.If a candidate says something that is untrue or an exaggeration, report it.Report why you say so.Give us the facts.And don’t let them explain their lie by telling the same lie again in a different fashion.Be responsible to the people, not to a party and not to an ideology.

 

THREE: Make the debates actual debates.As a debate coach I know what a real debate is.We haven’t had one in years when it comes down to senior level politics.Make them debate real issues against each other and then get out of the way!Let them duke it out.And if an audience member’s question isn’t answered, confront them.Or, if the answer is a lie, confront them.Come on…this is too important to “play nice” with.

 

FOUR: Nobody cares about what kind of first lady anyone will be.If the wife of the President chooses to tackle a social function, that’s great.But it’s not important yet.Let these women support their husbands as they see fit, but focus on the two men running for office.That’s what is important today. (Besides, if anyone is voiting for a candidate based on their wife, we're in deeper trouble than anyone imagined...)

 

FIVE: Do your homework.Please stop waiting for one side or the other to give you talking points…it’s obvious and it’s annoying!It seems sometimes that journalists don’t have the same research tools I have in the Internet, etc.(In fact, shouldn’t you have more than I have???)

 

SIX: When it comes time for the actual vote, PLEASE be responsible.Quit “calling” states for one person or another.Last time you did that, several thousand people didn’t vote.Then it turned out there were errors made and those votes could have changed history.Be responsible about your journalism.Exit polls don’t work with enough accuracy to consider them valid!!!

 

Okay, that should do it.I hope someone in the media reads these suggestions.(Tom Brokaw – aren’t you facilitating one of the debates?Man up and do this right!)Everyone else, it’s time to listen.It’s time to watch.It’s time to learn.Our country and our future is at stake.Happy voting.

 

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9.18.08

Brazil: BOM DIA! I think this is the first week I've missed my self-imposed deadline for my blog. But I hope to give you a good reason...I've been in Sao Paulo, Brazil! While the conference I was speaking at (ABED) had great connectivity, unfortunately the same couldn't be said of my hotel. So, my few minutes of Internet connection per day were spent doing stuff for my day job and my night job, vs this blog...my weekend job. :-)

But, as a teacher of inter-cultural communication, I found some fascinating things about my Brazillian friends and their cities! I thought you might be interested in some fo my findings. Some are academic, while others are just interesting...at least to me :-) See what you think!

  • 3 deaths PER DAY for motorcycle couriers in Sao Paulo - the city licenses 800 new cars every day. So, you can imagine the traffic and congestion! Hence the need for motorcyclists who deliver everything from documents to organs. But as speed is also assigned to these people, they tend to cut corners, drive in between cars, etc. And 3 of them don't come home every evening...wow.
  • Education is highly academic - this is much like Europe. There really isn't a notion of private colleges there, other than those in organizations. No UoP in Brazil! This tends to make their decisions all very traditional and very facutly centric!
  • Guards at every door, every floor of dept store, and every lobby - This is much like my experiences in Central America. The need for guards is prolific.
  • Sun dried tomatoes & white cheese is good - the spread which I had every day for lunch is a simple blending of the two ingredients...but is SO tastey!
  • 11 million people in Sao Paulo + 4 million more each week day for workers - can you say metropolitan area?! Wow.
  • Portuguese doesn’t sound like Spanish - I must admit that I was absolutely lost there. I know enough Spanish to get around in El Salvador or the Dominican Republic. But having now been to both Portugal AND Brazil in the last 3 months...I had NO idea what anyone was saying - EVER!
  • People here love the Beatles! I heard Lennon & McCartney all over the place!
  • Home feels far away from halfway around the globe - I was shocked to see that DC to Brazil was 4 hours LONGER than DC to London. And being so far away from Denver, my wife, and my baby girl was hard to take!
  • The Ministry of Education is governing online education - without their buy-in, real growth is giong to prove quite difficult for educators who understand both the power of and the need for distance education.
  • Small soccer fields (with 16 foot fences) are everywhere - much like tennis courts in the states and about the same size.
  • The people are beautiful, friendly, and varying in appearance - I was wonderfully surprised to see people of every look and color in Brazil. What a true melting pot!
  • Mobile (phone) learning could benefit the poor / disenfranchised tremendously - with only 50% of people in Brazil owning computers, yet 90% owning phones, what better place to take mobile learning? Plus, with so many poor needing education on everything from reading and writing to farming and business...it's a big market!
  • The voice over guy for Brad Pitt made me happy - anyone who can make Mr. Pitt sound like a geek or a pip squeak gets my vote. While he's a great actor and ridiculously handsome (yes, I said it), it's just good for us normal guys to come out on top once in a while!
  • Simultaneous translation is extremely hard - I now understand what it's like tp speak at the U.N. I would catch myself saying words or phrases that I just knew the translators didn't get...it's tricky!
  • 18 wheel truck tires can’t be shot out due to continuous air pumps attached to wheel centers - this ingenious invention was created to stop truck hijacking that was commonplace. Wow.
  • Sunday afternoon sports tv was soccer and horse racing - that's right. No NFL. Not on Sunday morning, afternoon, night, or even on the ESPN Latin America feed Monday night. (See my Fantasy Football blog to understand my problem with that...)

  • McDonalds is as easy to order from inBrazil asAmerica – and it tastes the same. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. Better living through chemistry, right?

  • I was interviewed on tv, radio, and by 3 magazines! (Brazil1- or Brazil2- or Brazil3- or Brazil4)

  • Finally, a HUGE thank you Mavi, Marco, the translation students, and Dr. Litto - I appreciate your help so very, very much.

 

Want someone to talk with your group about intercultural communication? Need a speaker for an international conference on education, communication, or distance learning? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!

 


9.08.08

Language: So last week was all about the way the Democrats used inoculation during their convention.This week, let’s give the Republicans a look, shall we?Once the convention got rolling (after the Hurricane Gustav scare slowed down), the language elements were certainly something to hear!Who doesn’t like listening to Fred Thompson talk?The professional actor has one of the best “grandpa” voices in the land.Just simple, and straight – there is a reason he was cast in The Hunt For Red October, only one of the best movies ever made!And as a political advocate, that voice was added to some interesting language about the Dems…

 

Adding to the magnitude of the event was of course Governor Palin.The former Miss Alaska runner up, sports commentator, mayor, and current leader of the 49th US State caught a wave and rode it pretty well, I think.As a speaker (which is ultimately what I look at), she was polished, eloquent, and seemed to understand timing like a seasoned veteran.Regardless of what you thought of her message, she did exactly what they wanted her to do…she impressed some people.

 

But I wanted to focus on the language of the speeches here. Mayor Giuliani’s speech, which was highly pointed against the opposition seemed to set the stage (in my mind) for the rest of the event.Let’s see if we can deconstruct it a bit.

 

Semantic Assimilation:One of the problems I thought existed with the Republican speeches had to do with this concept.Semantic assimilation is when you hear a word so many times, it loses it’s meaning.Ever try to tell your dog or your kid to stop doing something by saying, “no?”After the 10th time, they ignore you like you’re speaking another language, right?They’ve reached assimilation.It’s just like when you buy a house and you start wondering if you are signing your name correctly.You see it so many times in a short period of time, it actually starts to look wrong!

 

It sure seemed like someone should have told the Republicans about this concept.They seemed to use certain words a LOT during the convention.Particularly, the word “fight.”Senator McCain will fight for the economy, he’ll fight for healthcare, he’ll fight to defend our country…so, in other words, he’ll fight.It’s so much more powerful to use multiple ways to get at the same message with an audience.The word fight in and of itself isn’t bad.But, after the 15th time, it really wasn’t powerful anymore.This is where a thesaurus becomes important.What about attack, battle, assault, etc?In fact, imagine how powerful it would have been to start with the word fight and finish with the word assault?Don’t get stuck in a rut with any word…or the audience will get stuck trying to remember what your message was!

 

Relational Phrasing:Have you ever sat on a jury?Notice how the prosecutor refers to the defendant?It’s usually as, “Now the defendant will have you believe….”Notice they don’t say, “Now, Mr. Smith will have you believe…” or better yet, “Now, Eddie will have you believe…”Why?Because they don’t want to humanize this person to the jury.They want you to think of them as a machine, a feeling (like evil), or a crime.

 

The Republicans did do a pretty nice job with this during the convention.Rarely did you hear “Barack Obama” mentioned using his whole name.(Although it did happen – but a whole name is quite formal – you didn’t hear just “Barack.”)Typically, you heard “Senator Obama” or even more often, “My opponent will have you believe…”BUT, when the Republican hopeful was discussed, he was “John” or “husband” or “friend” etc.He was a person instead of the untouchable celebrity on the other side of the ballot.

 

The language used at both conventions was fascinating.(They usually are!)But both events gave students (of communication) something to look at regarding language, persuasion, ethics, and communication in general.I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.If the pollsters are correct, the convention speeches moved about 2% of the population to a place where they feel they can now vote.The debates will likely move more than that.I can’t wait to see what happens then…

 

Need to figure out how to use language effectively in your speeches? Trying to argue a point for your business, your career, or your innocence? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


9.1.08

Inoculation: Are you as fascinated by the political conventions as I am?The DNC was last week and the RNC is this coming week (unless Hurricane Gustav changes that…).But the rhetoric is flowing like tequila shooters at Spring Break in Cancun.“I promise to do this” or “He’ll never do that” or “This will be an historic event as…”

 

Quite frankly, I’m in semantic paradise.I love watching both sides of the debates.I enjoy hearing the candidates, the supporters, the pundits, the antagonists, and even the spouses get into the mix.I try as hard as I can to watch and listen to every speech with an unbiased ear.(It’s not always easy…I’ve been approached about a possible job if one candidate were to win so…)

 

But, since the Republicans haven’t had their turn yet, I really have a week of Democratic rhetoric to write about.And I wanted to talk about one of the important factors of going first!Argue Primacy versus Recency all you want, there is one extremely important aspect of persuasion that many people forget or ignore when they are first up.It’s the important concept of inoculation.

 

You probably are much more familiar with inoculation as it relates to a shot, right?You get “inoculated” against getting the flu or Polio in the future.That’s exactly how it works with communication – you inoculate the audience against the future comments they may hear or against future thoughts they may have.It’s LAW 101 in the courtroom.Any prosecutor or defender who doesn’t understand the concept is not going to be a trial attorney for long.It is just as critical in everyday situations, if you want to be persuasive!Think about it…

 

Education – Teachers, how many times when you were in school did you think to yourself, “When am I EVER going to use this?”(It’s probably easier to measure that per class rather than per grade…)You know they’re thinking it, so answer the question!Inoculate them against their own thoughts and against the lunchroom discussion where they ridicule the content AND you.(Leave it at just you and you’ve done your job.)

 

Sales – what is the key to selling anything?Convincing a person that they need it.How do you do that?By inoculating them against any other thoughts or arguments.“Now, I know you’re thinking that $1000 is too much money, right?BUT, if you think about it, you’ll use this every day for the next ten years.That means you’re paying 30 cents per day, every time you use this!”

 

Business – how do you get an idea up to (or past) your boss?You inoculate against the cons of the idea.Every idea has a downside.Talk about them up front to show you aren’t afraid of them and then explain how your plan will mitigate them.

 

Politics – Barak Obama is more than a skillful presenter.He’s a rhetorician who gets inoculation.By bringing up specific topics he essentially accomplished 1 of 2 things.First, he may have taken the argument away from John McCain.“You’re going to hear John McCain say that…”Suddenly, if John McCain says it, some audience members will think to themselves, “Wait a minute.Senator Obama told us that we’d hear this!Senator McCain must be wrong!”So, the Republican strategists must find another way to say it or take it off the table altogether.By going first, you can show that you know what the opposition will say and why it won’t work – suddenly the opposition looks defensive and (potentially) wrong.

 

Second, by talking through the opposing arguments before the audience hears them, the Senator lessened the blow dramatically.Suddenly people who are on the fence aren’t as easily swayed by Senator McCain’s comments as they would have been without knowing that Senator Obama already knows them and has an argument against them.

 

Taxes, healthcare, Iraq, education, leadership experience, and the economy were brought into the Democrat’s rhetoric to inoculate against what would happen at the Republican convention.So, the Republican’s have to find ways to combat the “already known” with ideas and concepts that take away the preset notion.They may need to rethink their strategies on specific policies and character elements.

 

Will the Republicans do that?Of course they will.And next week, I’ll talk about important strategies when going last.But for now, the inoculation is setting in with many Americans.Only time will tell which side deals with it better.

 

The only other thing I’ll bring up here, as it’s probably best suited for an entire blog entry, is that Senator Clinton really didn’t help Barak Obama with her own rhetoric.She originally talked down both his leadership ability and his policies.However, at the convention, she seemed to only mitigate her comments on his policies.The communication point here?Be VERY careful who you get to speak on your behalf.Whether it’s for your character, your idea, or your goals, you will likely always say it better than someone else.

 

I'm not saying that I always want to go first. There are definite advantages to going last! But, if you do end up starting things off, remember the importance of inoculation. You not only look smart, you also cement your own ideas and philosophies in the minds of your audience!

 

Want to learn more about inoculation? Trying to find a strategy for persuasion? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


8.25.08

Fantasy Football: Okay, so I’m COMPLETELY diverging from my usual topics of communication and education this week to give some insights and tips on FF.(Hey, it’s my blog, right?)For those of you not interested in FF…WHY NOT?!?!Just kidding – I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.Check back next week when the topic will be plenty academic J

 

So here is the deal. (There’s a deal?Yep, there’s a deal!)I’m not a professional Fantasy Football guru by any stretch.That said, I am a researcher.I LOVE to to research numbers, facts, statistics, trends, and the like.(I know, it’s either part of my charm or one of the many things that makes me weird.)

 

As well, I’ve played Fantasy Football for about 10 years now.Over that time, I’ve learned some tricks and traps that I’m happy to share with anyone who cares.I’ve won a few years (although in ’99 I picked up Kurt Warner because Trent Green went down – I needed someone fast…who knew?) and I’ve lost my fair share, but I’m always in the hunt!Finally, last year I played in the new “Pay The Fan” tournament.It’s a $70 buy-in with a possible quarter mill payout.Not too shabby…They paid out the top 20 spots and I took 28th.Again, I felt ok about it!So, if those credentials are good enough for you, read on.

 

If you don’t even know what FF is or how to play it, you should really check out another site first.There are some great ones out there!www.fftoday.com, www.cbssportsline.com, and on and on!They all have nice tutorials about the many ways you can play.For everyone who’s drafting, let me share with you some insights I’ve gleaned from some “pros” out there during my research!

 

My Best Secret – Look for consistency first, fantasy points second.You may get a stud like A. Peterson (of Minnesota, not Chicago smart aleck…).But, if you look at his numbers last year, he would have only helped you win about 50% of his games.He had a few stinkers, not to mention being hurt.When he scored, he scored huge!But when he didn’t, he was a dud.So, before you get all starry eyed at the pick, you might look at someone who is more likely to give you 20 points per game, rather than 43 followed by 4.You’ll be glad you did.

 

Secret #2 – check out your Superbowl week.The Superbowl for my current league (okay, I’m actually in 3…please don’t tell my wife – no she doesn’t read my blog as she gets enough of the “magic” at home) is in Week 16.I plan to be there!So, I’d better try and make sure I have some guys playing in games where they have a great shot!That likely includes finding a Kansas City Chief or two.Why?They’re playing against Miami who will likely improve their defense from last year, but not by much.(They can’t get worse, right?)

 

Secret #3 – Watch for coaching moves.Where is Mike Martz going?(Answer: 49ers)It’s important to know where he’s heading because their air attack will likely improve.Then, when you see that he’ll be in San Francisco, you might notice who else will be there.A certain receiver who played for him in St Louis all those years.True, Isaac Bruce is getting up there in age, but when you look at the other receivers he’s competing with, he’s still probably the #1 target.What does that add up to?A likely steal in the 12th or 16th round (depending how deep your draft is) that nobody else will notice!That very late round pick could net you some very real, very consistent points throughout the season.What a great 2nd string WR during bye-weeks!

 

Secret #4 – This is specifically for total points league like PTF.Play the best match up you have instead of waiting for later!I kicked myself last year for “saving” Ronnie Brown.I figured out when he’d be up against a sieve of a defense and waited for it.While I was waiting he left the NFL for the season!Instead, I had 3 or 4 great opportunities that I should have used him for.Plus, there were always good match ups without my needing to “plan” so much.

 

Well, that should do it.With the Olympics over, I hope you’re all gearing up for some awesome Football!Want my pick for the Superbowl?(Why not….everyone else does it!) I’m going with San Diego vs Dallas.I thinkSan Diego will finally beatNew England in the playoffs and I think Romo will finally get over the hump – Terry Glenn will have something to do with it.

 

Good luck sports fans!I hope you have a great season where you don’t have to play too many guys from your 1st Fantasy team against players on your 2nd Fantasy team…doesn’t that blow?

 

Want to learn more about Fantasy Football? (Don't call me...what's wrong with you?) BUT - Looking for a great, funny, motivaitonal speaker for a FF event? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


8.18.08

Audience Analysis (part 2): The late, great PT Barnum said when asked of his success with audiences, “Give ‘em what they want.”Yet, isn’t it amazing how rarely that seems to happen?How often do you come out of a movie thinking, “Hmmm…they had such a great opportunity there and they blew it!”Or what about when buying a big item.Doesn’t buying a car really stink?You know what you want, you’ve researched a fair price, but you still have to spend agonizing hours with a salesperson (and their manager) trying to “get you” into a car that day…they don’t give you what you want.

 

But on a level more close to home for me, why is it so hard for communicators to figure out this principle.I realize there are times when a persuasive argument is actually in opposition to this belief.A lawyer doesn’t always give the audience what they “want” – but rather tries to give them what they “need” according to their client.But, the majority of speakers in business and in general should find ways to live by this principle.Unfortunately, they don’t.What gets in the way?Ego?Naivety?Ignorance?Let’s see if I can give you a few suggestions about when and how to give an audience the right stuff…

 

Make it timely – I’ve been traveling a lot this past week.And as I’ve spoken to over 200 faculty in various sessions across the USA, I’ve heard a LOT of comments about the Olympics.Everybody is blown away by Michael Phelps, the Redeem Team has some great buzz, and women’s gymnastics has certainly caught their attention.But more than any of those things, I hear about how annoyed everyone is with NBC’s coverage.They can’t figure out why events that took place 12 hours earlier aren’t shown in a timely fashion.NBC chooses to show puff pieces on the stories of athletes from other countries during prime time, only to show medal races and matches long after most people go to bed.And fans are frustrated!

 

This definitely applies to speakers and communication events.Don’t waste everyone’s time with fluff, hoping they’ll stick with you until the end when the “good stuff” comes out.Get to it!Consider Primacy and Recency as you put together your presentation.Yes, you should probably end with your best stuff.BUT, your SECOND best stuff should likely come first!And by all means, don’t waste people’s time with stuff that doesn’t matter anyway!If you can’t figure out whether or not a group will care about something, do some research.Create a focus group of audience members ahead of time and run the ideas past them.Always remember this important concept: the audience’s time is MORE valuable than yours.

 

Leave your interests at the door – Have you been to a conference lately?Does it amaze you how bad 90% of conference speakers are?It astounds me.In fact, I’ve gone to several conferences for Speech Communication teachers in my lifetime…wow, they’re the worst.Not only is the delivery beyond poor, the speaker could care less about what interests the audience.It seems they would rather share what interests them.What’s amusing to me is that you can even hear participants who are speaking later in the conference complain mightily about this concept.Yet, when it’s their turn to speak, nothing changes!

 

So what interests an audience?Practical application of concepts is the key.Your research is great and there are probably five or six other people in the world that will really enjoy hearing about it.(Have them over for dinner!)But, most people want the “so what” to be talked about.How does your research matter to the crowd sitting before you?What will they do as a result?What SHOULD they change in their lives because of your findings?What are the ramifications?

 

Information isn’t a filler – Ever been to a company meeting?Two slides into the presentation aren’t you wondering if you can get away with opening your laptop and checking some email?Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of leaders don’t really get what’s important to the employees, instead creating a presentation of facts and figures that are (or possibly aren’t) meaningful to a select few executives.

 

What’s important to an audience of employees?I hope you don’t need me to tell you this, but here is a short list.Money – how much will I make this year, next year, and the year after that?Will I get a bonus?Benefits – is cost going up or down, will it be easier to take care of myself or my family, etc.?Competition – how do we stack up against other companies doing what we do?Are we “winning” as a collective?Vision – where is our company going?Where do you, leader, see us in 12 months?What initiatives are we / you taking?Contribution – how are you finding ways to listen to me?How can my ideas help the company, help my division, or help me?

 

The old way isn’t the right way – If you read this blog, you know that I’m getting my doctorate in Education Leadership.So, both as a student and consultant speaking to teachers and administrators most of my time, I have a pretty immersed perspective on how teaching happens.And it pains me to say that 8 times out of 10, it isn’t good.Yes, there are some amazing teachers out there - Instructors who put time, energy, and creativity into lessons - Faculty who make an effort to teach application as much as theory…but the percentage is way too low.They don’t seem to consider what their audience wants (and needs).

 

So what do students want / need?I actually have a 90 minute keynote address dedicated to this.But in the short space I have left, how’s this?Students need authentic assessment, realistic tasks, a place to fail, a place to succeed, multi-nodal learning, multi-modal teaching, immediacy, context, resource understanding, leadership, technology integration, innovation, creativity, humor, constructive criticism, appropriate praise, paradigm creation, paradigm change, and enough sleep…to name a few.

 

It’s time to take notice of your audience if you haven’t been.We all have perceptions of our message and ourselves.However, it’s our job to get the audience to buy into that perspective for themselves by applying concepts and information that uses what the audience wants to see and hear.It’s certainly tricky but it’s also as valuable as any speaking “trick” you can get.Give the audience what they want and you WILL be successful.

 

Want to learn more about your audience? Trying to find a way to connect better with employees, students, or colleagues? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


8.11.08

Objectives: So, I’ll admit it.I have Olympic fever! Since I was a pre-teenager, I’ve loved staying up to watch coverage of men’s volleyball, women’s gymnastics, platform diving, and track events.I cheer on the American’s I’ve never heard of whether they’re favorites, underdogs, or unknowns. Sure, Mary Lou Retton made it easier to watch consistently at 14...but that's another blog. So, I was interested in a conversation I overheard at dinner the other night regarding the “good” versus the “bad” Olympic sports. (I know mom...it’s not polite to eavesdrop – but it’s often quite entertaining!)What this man was explaining to his three children was that a sport with a quantitative measurement, final score, or objective calculation is a good sport, worthy of our time as fans.However, those sports requiring a judge to subjectively suggest that an athlete has won or lost is “silly” (at least according to this all-knowing father).

 

I must admit, I get what he’s saying.While watching the women’s gymnastics tonight, Tim Daggett, an expert in his own right, mentioned that one of the US athletes was ‘robbed’ on her balance beam routine.He said that the judging wasn’t completely fair based on the criteria as he understood it.

 

The battle between subjective and objective measures has always been an important educational question.For decades, experts have claimed that their ability to evaluate others within the category of their expertise should not be questioned.However, at the same time, finite objectives have always been desired by someone in the process, be it the student, the regulator, or any number of other stakeholders (hiring committees, managers, Academic Deans, etc.).

 

As a teacher of a “subjective” discipline, I understand this debate.A lot of students over the years have asked how communication can be effectively evaluated fairly.It’s a legitimate question that can have a reasonable answer.The answer is this: It’s possible to have a fair, unbiased rubric that includes both objective and subjective assessment.Let me try to explain.

 

How about optics?(That’s eye contact to most of the world.)As a communication professor, I have to remark on student eye contact during a presentation.Sure, I’ve seen rubrics that are simply: good, fair, and poor.(Yikes)But it’s actually possible to measure successful eye contact.Researchers tell us that mass audiences (groups of 15+) desire a specified amount of eye contact with “the group” to achieve credibility, likeability, and success.That measure is ~80%.60-80% is strong, but not quite what an audience prefers.And so on.Can I, as a speech teacher measure this in my students?Absolutely I can!Anyone can, actually.While I don’t feel it’s necessary to get out a stop watch (although one certainly could), I feel that I can gauge an approximation of 80% within a few percentage points.

 

90 out of 100 points on my grading rubric are just like that.I can give a number to credibility (source types, number, and usage) just like I can give a number to paralanguage (rate, volume, and pitch).But I choose not to make 100% of my rubric objective.Why?

 

I have my students watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s, “I Have A Dream” speech every semester.I have them rate the speech using the grading rubric for class.(In fairness, audiences today demand different things than those 40 years ago.)But the average score for Dr. King in the objective, 90 point section is about an 82.So, why do I save 10 points for a subjective?Because Dr. King’s speech is great.It’s truly one of the top speeches our country has ever seen. 137 of our country's speech and rhetoric experts not only agree, they rank it as the number one speech of our nation - see www.americanrhetoric.com for more info. So, within context, it deserves an ‘A’ don’t you think? I do. So, with my extra 10 points, I have no problem making that happen.

 

So, as you create your own objectives, criteria, and rubrics, decide how important complete objectivity is.Do you have an expert who deserves the ability to give subjective scoring to the event?(Keep in mind that not all teachers should be given this capacity.It’s not a right.)Or, is it imperative to have completely objective numbers?I hope my doctor was scored based on the latter.Although I hope my daughter, for the majority of her schooling, is based on the former.Of course that would require NCLB to be fixed, changed, or removed…

 

If someone tells me that a measurement has to be subjective, I will reply that you aren’t trying hard enough.However, if someone tells me that an event requires a completely objective measure, I’ll argue that point too.But either can be done in a way that is authentic, fair, and appropriate.Whether in organizational training, educational assessment, or Olympic measurement, objectives do not have to be completely quantifiable to be worthy.

 

(One last note…did you see the finish of the men’s 1X400 freestyle relay?Talk about an objective win!GO USA!!!!)

 

Want to learn more about outcomes, authentic assessment, or rubrics? Need to find out how to create subjective versus objective measures? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


8.04.08

Accessing Technology: I had the opportunity to speak with a “think tank” guy this week. He’s out “there” (wherever that may be) going to conferences, examining new online tools, listening to podcasts of innovators and creators, etc. We spent several hours talking about where education and technology have crossed, are combined, and will intersect in the future. It was a pretty good time!

But this future thinker informed me of a longitudinal study from England where “they” (I hate having no referent, don’t you?) surveyed students to see how they access eLearning. While many vendors were disappointed by the findings, this turned out to be a study that could filed under the category “duh” by anyone who knows a teenager. Students access educational elements using…well, just about everything possible. They use cell phones, computers, and PDA’s. They use social networking sites, LMS sites, email, instant messenger, and on and on.

The problem? No two students seem to access digital content the same way. It seems dependent on dozens of variables. Finances, micro-culture, disposition, learning style preference, and availability are just a few of the reasons students choose one method over another as they access digital content and information. Again, I’m not sure why this surprised people (think of how YOU access digital content…I’m guessing it’s even different than your spouse, kids, roommates, etc.) although I do see why it concerned vendors. When students choose not to use one modality, it makes it hard to sell a solution around that modality!

So just like learning styles that people have, digital content modalities are varied and extensive. We know that people learn in different / unique ways, right? Visual, audio, kinesthetic, verbal, active, sequential, reflective, sensing, global, intuitive, based on personality type, based on cognitive function, and many more learning style types exist! Do these learning preferences correlate to digital modality preference? Makes sense to me…hmmm, maybe a doctoral study is in there somewhere?

But the key takeaway for me here is around the idea of digital content or eLearning. See, learning takes place for almost every human being, almost every day. And at this point in our technological evolution, digital learning takes place for most people too. Dozens of future thinkers are salivating at the potential to use cell phone technology to teach, train, and otherwise educate peoples who until recently had been almost unreachable. Just about everyone these days uses technology to create meaning, to access information, or to share ideas. This is true in all educational settings. Formal (school or training), informal (professional development or continuing education), and non-formal (watching tv or talking with your co-worker) are all types of learning. And technology can (and should) play a role in all of them.

So what does this mean for you? Diversity is king! Creating content, learning objects, digital assets, trainings, curriculum, etc., needs to be done using a broad brush-stroke. Students (of all ages) need varied modalities just like they need varied teaching and learning options. Keep in mind that when we talk about students of all ages, we are talking about more than Gen X or Gen Y! We are also talking about the Boomers and the Busters.

EVERYONE has preferences. For some that digital content needs to be printed off onto that stuff…you know the material…what’s it called? Oh yeah, paper. A pretty tried and true medium for a couple thousand years is a great solution for specific people and in specific contexts. Other people will find much more value in wiki material or by shortening it to Twitter length. For some, a web page, bookmarked by the company is a great way to ingest information while some people would rather see a Camtasia tutorial.

Look, trainers, teachers, and marketers really need to know two things: how people learn and how people might access technology. Of course, this intersects with the best delivery method(s) for any learning asset. There are times that a paper-based flyer is all it is going to take! But, there are other times that training should be multi-modal to speak to different individuals appropriately. To ignore this is to purposely block access from various people who don’t contextualize the world as you do. And if we’re all life-long learners, shouldn’t everyone strive to make both learning and access as easy as possible?

Want to hear more about how to meet different learners with different technology needs? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


7.28.08

Travel Tips: A buddy of mine asked this week why the blogs were always so serious. I reiterated the importance of non-sophomoric content so as to gratify my constituents. Ok, so I really said, “I dunno…” Therefore, here is a less-than-education based blog about the upside and downside of traveling for work. Even though it’s not about communication and it’s not about online education, it IS about life. And I feel qualified as a 100 thousand mile flyer (Thanks United!) for the past 3 years. So, if you’re wondering about what it’s like to travel a lot…see if this helps.

Cons – I’ll start with the negative and work my way to the positive. (I’m a bigger believer in recency than primacy.) I realize some of you may think that traveling a lot is ONLY negatives. If so, skip to the PROS area now. You likely don’t need any more fuel for that fire. But, if you ever wondered why traveling a lot might not be fun, read on:

  1. Everywhere I go, it’s 72 degrees and under fluorescent lights. Yep, when I train in Hawaii in January, those are the conditions of the room. (Although Butte in January has the same conditions.) Just remember that if you’re going to “enjoy” the trip, it’s going to be when you’re not working. And the way my job works, along with the classes I’m both taking and teaching, my work often flows into my hotel-ridden evenings.
  2. Missing people can suck. I’ll admit, there is probably some good for every marriage when you can vamoose for a day or two. But missing 15 out of 31 days can be rough. And I can’t quantify it with a child. Now I realize some guys are more than happy to leave the family for business purposes. But I’m not talking about anyone who needs to run from the life they’ve created. I’m talking about good husbands, good dads, good wives, and good moms who really miss their spouse or kiddo. Hearing that your 1 year old said “dada” for the first time when your father-in-law came in the room isn’t a heart-warming sensation. And finding out the family went to Safeway where they were filming a movie and everyone got to be extras…it’s just uncool to miss out on memory making with the people you love.
  3. Eat like a piglook like a pig! So, your status on the airlines allows you to potentially upgrade to First class. Unfortunately you’re 4th on the list. Hmmm, should you eat on your layover in Chicago in case you don’t get upgraded? Sure. How about a slice of pizza and a beer? But when you get back to the gate, you find out that you DID make the list! Sweet! Now, on top of your early lunch, you get a later lunch too. But they’re out of the salad option, you’ll have to get the lasagna, with all the wine you can drink. So, you arrive in San Francisco at 3pm, having eat 3 solid meals today. And don’t forget the client dinner you have at 7pm! Ahhhh…four meals, one of which ended right before bed at midnight. 5000 calories, most of them carbs. Maybe you can get up early and workout. Or, maybe you’ll hit snooze to make it through the diabetic coma you happen to be in.

PROS – Yes, there are some nice perks to traveling. While it may not be the “adventure” everyone who doesn’t travel assumes it is, there are some good things that can come out of it. Read on!

  1. Points, miles, and rewards, oh my! I didn’t really become a big fan of United airlines until I reached Premiere status. See, as a 6’5” guy, sitting in the regular economy seats, my knees wedged into the magazine pocket of the seat in front of me really blows. And I ALWAYS end up behind the guy who needs to go all the way back so he can snore his way to Cincinnati. But, Economy Plus…now we’re talking! More leg room, quicker upgrades, and much better treatment! (I realize United is a business carrier. They have always catered to business travelers, which means 1 off travelers kind of get the shaft. I’m ok with that…now that I’m not a 1 off guy anymore!) Plus, as a member of Hilton, Hertz, Sheraton, etc., I get points for every dollar I spend, every mile I fly, and every rental I make. (BTW - you should definitely try a points specific credit card too. Getting double or triple points for normal travel? It's silly not to!) Those points add up. How much do they add up to? Well…I could go Jason Bourne for about a month. I could fly anywhere in the world, stay in a hotel, and rent a car – all for free for about a month. And by the end of this year, it will be about 2 months. Yes, my wife and I can take some killer vacations now…
  2. Money in, not money out. Think about it – when you travel for work, you are spending their money to do things you would normally do at home right? Who pays for your meals at home? You do. Who pays on the road? Your business, client, or partner. You’re not using your own gasoline, you’re not running up your hot water bill, and you’re not having to worry about the air conditioning bill. How much does that add up to for you? If you figure $50 / day for meals, $60 / week for gas, etc., you might be talking about hundreds in savings each month.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. There is a catharsis that comes with being out of the office, even for a bit. True, as I move my way up the company ladder, I have to remain connected most of the time. (Thanks trusty Treo!) But, when people can’t interrupt meetings by standing at my closed door window and gesturing, “just a sec” – it’s a little slice of sanity for me. Not having to put out every fire, not needing to go to every unimportant meeting (although missing the important ones can be trouble…), and not hearing every complaint can be nice. As well, connecting with the actual client is a great feeling. Hearing from other professionals at a seminar or conference can be uplifting. Helping others see value in you, your product, and/or your company can be downright amazing!

So, there you have it. Want to travel a lot for your company? Go for it. Will there be drawbacks? Sure. Long lines, cancelled flights, bad food, and having to find your way around new cities can be problematic. Missing your family bites. But it surely has an upside. Regaining some sanity, seeing new places (when you make time to do it), saving money, and getting free vacations…those are pretty cool. Want to be a road-warrior? Great. Think that life style is for the birds? Leave it be! The only thing I ask is this: When you get in line at the airline counter, try to remember there is a world of people out there other than yourself. I seem to always find myself behind the guy who is trying to make a 5 way flight out of a 3 way flight because his some of his bags need to stay in Seattle, while others will go on to Dubuque, even though the kidney he’s transporting will end up in Topeka. Good grief…

Want to hear more travel stories as you also learn about education, communication, or online learning? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


7.21.08

Repurposing Work: I get asked to do a lot of seminars on plagiarism and cheating. It’s a VERY hot topic for teachers today. The Internet has changed the landscape of cheating making it accessible, easy, and cheap if not free. My feelings about cheating aside, one aspect of this topic has been really hard for me to speak to passionately. It’s the idea of repurposing your own work as a way to plagiarize.

If you look at many resources on cheating and plagiarism out there (www.plagiarism.org, www.academicintegrity.org, www.turnitin.com, school policy sites, teacher blogs, etc.) you will find descriptions of what it means to plagiarize. One that seems to come up more than not is the idea of taking your own work and turning it in for another class…this is defined by many instructors and institutions as cheating.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I buy into this. Yes, I get the argument that teaching is about process and that if a student simply submits a paper a second time they are missing out on some process. However, I also feel that the “process” of writing has already been done once and there will be plenty of opportunities to do it again. That aside, let me explain my other difficulties with this concept.

  1. Outside of an academic context, when is this practice not acceptable? It seems to me that the only time repurposing your own work is wrong is when you sell your work to someone else. Reporters who sell a story to one newspaper cannot resubmit that story to another newspaper because it does not belong to them anymore. However, that’s just not the case with our students. It’s their work, not the school’s.
  2. How common is to repurpose work? I cannot think of a day that goes by at my office where this practice isn’t used. Everyone re-uses old content for manuals, statements of work, contracts, and even emails. In fact, most employees at a company are allowed (and even encouraged) to re-use content they did not create in the first place as they create new documents. People know to work smarter, not harder. Repurposing work is a prime example of that saying!
  3. Even in some academic contexts this practice is acceptable, if not suggested. In my doctoral work at Argosy, my cohort was TOLD to write papers for each class that could ultimately be pieced into our dissertations. (If only the class assignments made that possible! Ugh. Come on Argosy!!!)
  4. If an instructor’s assignment is so ambiguous that it can be used in other classes, why penalize the student for critical thinking? Economy of time is a valuable lesson for any student to learn. Should we punish students for making the most of their time and energy?

    I realize there are some purists out there who will disagree with me. That’s certainly their right. But this is my blog, right? I just think this is an example of the “ivory tower” mentality that so many people associate with education. Telling students that it is against the rules to re-use their own work seems irresponsible, irrational, and unrealistic.

    Why, instead, aren’t we showing students HOW to best repurpose work? To be effective, shouldn’t most papers be re-worked to some degree? How often is a “perfect” essay turned in? Plus, there must be some aspect of newness to the second assignment. Right? (Again, if your assignment is so ambiguous that any paper from any class works, you’re almost baiting students to this practice).

    Finally, I have to admit that this seems like something that I just don’t have time to police. It’s one thing to watch for stolen work. It’s another thing to try and track down work the student did already. And unless this is a school policy, I can’t see a lot of school administrators backing a teacher who puts it in their syllabus over a student (or parent…or LAWYER) who did not steal anything. I’ve heard enough stories of administration ignoring the theft of actual ideas and other's work – this seems 10 times more difficult to prosecute.

    Let me finish with a warning. If you ask me to come speak to your group on any subject, I can guarantee that I will bring ideas, stories, and visual aids that I have used with other groups. While the order may change and some ideas are deleted while others are added, I’m guessing you have hired me because of something specific you hear or see that you like. So, I’ll be sharing these tried and true ideas and methods with you and your group. If you consider that cheating…you really shouldn’t hire anyone to present to your group ever again. If you believe that a person can plagiarize themselves, you essentially should stop using anything but the first version or iteration of any product, idea, or service. Always drive the first version of a car, always buy the first release of a cell phone (like the iPhone v.1), and always use the original formula of soap. Everything else has been repurposed using previous work and knowledge so as not to cost ridiculous amounts of money…

    Want to hear repurposed work that others find fascinating? Interested in communication, online learning, organizational communication, interpersonal elements, or storytelling techniques? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!

7.14.08

For much of its history, the United States of America has not been so united. For instance, for a number of centuries, American society was racially segregated. From schools to buses, public restrooms to drinking fountains, restaurants to churches, the country was divided into black and white.

Hospitals were among the last institutions to desegregate. One reason for this is that people were afraid they might get the “wrong blood” during a transfusion. They feared that if they received blood from a person of another color or ethnicity, they might actually develop the characteristics of that race.

But all of that changed when Dr. Charles Drew came along. In the 1930s, Dr. Drew created the process we now use to make plasma. Plasma comes from blood, but it is not type-specific, which means it can be used to treat bleeding patients without the need for ‘whole’ blood.

Dr. Drew’s discovery was so noteworthy that he was asked to head the Blood for Britain campaign during World War II. After the war, Drew founded the American Blood Bank, which is still in operation today.

Ironically, Dr. Charles Drew died in 1950 at the age of 46 because he did not receive a blood transfusion or blood plasma in time.

Dr. Drew was injured in an automobile accident and taken to a hospital that was still segregated—a hospital that would not admit black people.

And since Dr. Drew was a black man, he bled to death.


As an educator, I feel that it is my responsibility to be a storyteller. I’m constantly scribbling down narratives and examples on napkins, paper sandwich bags, or whatever is available! Stories are the glue that hold together many of the important theories and philosophies I teach in the classroom. And often, I use the same story in multiple classes, while simply adjusting the meaning or message. For example, in the above story of Dr. Charles Drew, think of how many topics could be covered. Ethics, blood, chemistry, international relations, leadership, vision, research, racism, history, culture, and the list goes on. (For the record - this story is likely an urban legend of his death. See the link for more information.)

However, a problem arises when we apply storytelling to our classes. Time. Storytelling requires a lot of preparation, thought, and possibly data entry (for online) and can seem overwhelming. As teachers, we create and translate all kinds of lecture material--PowerPoint presentations, exams, and even discussions, but as I view hundreds of courses each year, I rarely see one translated story or illustration.

As teachers, we often leave out what is so easy (and important) for students: Context. How can we achieve context? Story. I am a huge history buff because I had good history teachers who told me the stories surrounding battles, discoveries, and triumphs. I learned and retained more about the atom in two minutes from a television sitcom where an ex-teacher (is there such a thing?) illustrated the atom by using a gang/neighborhood metaphor. (See: http://science.csustan.edu/stkrm/MISC/Atom-by-Venus.htm for the WKRP transcript.) Simply put, the best teachers I have had--whether in elementary, high school, college, or post graduate--were good storytellers.

Narrative helps us make sense of our world and the information presented to us in classrooms. Illustrations help us remember facts and figures. Examples bring us closer to our instructors as we find connections and associations to hold on to. Metaphors give us insight and analogies bring understanding to our minds. Plain and simple: stories teach. And, depending on your point of view, the time it takes to illustrate a lesson point might be less if you do it in your lecture. For example:

I recently spoke with an online instructor who has been teaching online for about four years. He found that he was having to spend a lot of time answering specific questions about his journalism lectures and readings through emails, discussion boards, or chats. These were on top of his prepared classroom activities and lectures. He soon realized that he was relaying the examples and stories he used in his face-to-face class for these “extra” materials and sessions. So, the following semester he began adding links to HTML pages, special text boxes, and distinctive colored text to his typical lecture items. These new “special” sections contained only stories, examples, and illustrations. He relayed that a few students ignored the new information, but he estimated that 80-90% of his students did not. He also noticed that his course questions were nearly eliminated. Students understood the material better and they even infused his stories into their discussions (“remember Professor Smith’s story about…”). Test scores increased, as did his teaching evaluation scores. He expressed to me that he had learned a valuable lesson.

Isn’t that the beauty of story? Learning a lesson without having to experience it ourselves. So… have you learned anything today? What’s your story? Your students would love to know…


Want to tell better stories? Interested in finding creative storytelling techniques? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


7.07.08

(Preface: This is a big week for me. My daughter turned 1 and I'm actually writing / posting this from London, Eng. I'm talking to faculty from 2 colleges moving into online learning for the U.K.)

Connections: As a comic, I enjoy watching “Last Comic Standing.” (It makes me wonder how many minutes I could put together…I think I have about 20 total minutes of straight stand-up in me!) I was watching the other night when a comic made a statement about college. He basically said not to bother going to college as you won’t really use any of it anyway...OUCH!

Ok – so I’ve heard this before. Heck, I’ve even thought this before. Yes, a college teacher had experiences wondering when or where I’d use the information I got in Western Civilizations or College Algebra. But you have to admit, the statement is funny. It’s just that the reason it’s funny is quite sad. There is an inherent humor in truth. Why is it funny that the airlines might start charging by the pound? Because it’s true…and it’s potentially humiliating! How did Seinfeld make a living talking about the differences between men and women, businessmen and blue collar workers, or restaurant versus diners? Truth.

So, the truth is that college “information” in and of itself is mostly useless. Whether or not I know the day of the month that the Great Depression started probably will not help me get a job. Understanding how to deconstruct a sentence will not likely get me a raise. The reason we go to school is not this ‘trivia’ – it’s much more than that. The reason that high schools, colleges, and universities exist is to teach something more important than these types of facts.

School is about thinking. And aren’t we in need of great thinking these days? Education should teach how to learn and think after you leave the institution, because that is how you will live your life forever. There are essentially three identified types of learning: formal (school), informal (professional development, continuing education, etc.), and nonformal (everything else from tv to talking with your neighbors). School should essentially prepare you for ALL of these learning events!

Please hear me – this isn’t to say that the topics and subjects aren’t important. I was once ‘accused’ by another professor of treating my subject as if it was the most important thing students would ever learn. I replied, “Of course I do…don’t you?!” And I believe it. If you read this blog, you know that I’m serious when I say that a majority of people do NOT know how to communicate effectively these days.

But I am equally serious when I say that school will NEVER be about currency. The most relevant topic we could tackle will always be ahead of us. The most practical resource we can provide will still be behind the curve. Not because teachers don’t try – some of them try VERY hard to be current and relevant. It’s because school isn’t about showing you the latest, bleeding edge tool or theory. School is about learning to think. Even the top schools…the ivy league schools or the fancy business schools – they don’t teach “stuff” people need to know. I have several friends who went to these schools. They’ll tell you that they gleaned 4 or 5 significant ideas after several years and tens of thousands of dollars. BUT…it’s not the ideas that matter. It’s connecting the real life dots.

Do you want to know how to succeed as a manager? Learn process. Figure out how to put together a process that people can follow, that creates fewer holes, that adds accountability, and that saves money (or time which IS money). And what’s the best way to learn process? Foundational principles that deal with teamwork, cost savings, time management, and quality assurance. Where do you get these foundational principles? Two places, actually. You can be a guru at process after fifteen years of significant experience or potentially after getting a serious management degree and a few years in a specific workplace! Yep, school actually speeds up the process.

Look at some of the best speakers out there. They learned in one of two places. They either spent years (often dozens) figuring out what to say and how to say it, or they spent a few years in school and a few more watching people implement ideas.

Will you use everything you learn in school? Well, yes and no. Does it matter how the cold war ended? Not on a test, but it does in terms of diplomacy. Does anyone care how to conjugate a verb? Only people who need to speak well enough to get ahead. Can I tell you one philosophy I learned from my Freshman Philosophy class that I attended so rarely, they actually had a room change and I had to find out from the registrar where it was? Hmmm…I can tell you that we might not all be here right now. These words might not really exist…but I digress. The answer is not really. But do I get how to implement my philosophy on my team of employees and how it shapes my own reality? Absolutely.

School isn’t silly. College isn’t a waste…at least not most of the time. Because school isn’t about facts and figures, it’s about thinking. From history to science, language to philosophy, school is all about HOW to learn, more than learning itself. True, a few college instructors need to remember this information. But, when you know it…things take on a whole new meaning. Just connect the dots between “real life” and school. It’s not hard once you try…

Want to make sure you are connecting student work to business reality? Interested in finding creative ways to tie content to real life? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


6.30.08

Talking: (It might help to read this blog out loud!) The English language is a difficult thing to learn. You will hear this from people trying to learn it. In fact, I have never heard that any language is more difficult to learn than the one you are reading right now. People of the world who speak multiple languages talk about how difficult English can be. It breaks all of it’s own rules after all! You know what I’m talking about. Take the word: rough. Sounds like “ruff” right? Add a “th” to the beginning. Does it sound like “Thruff”? Nope – now it’s “throo”. Okay, remove the “r” from that new word. Do we have “thoo”? Nope, now it’s “tho”. You get the picture. (Don’t get me started on the “I before E” rule…conscience, deity, either, feisty, foreign, forfeit, heifer, height, heist, neither, prescient, science, seismic, seize, sheik, society, sovereign, veil...all pretty weird don't you think?)

But, learning the language is one thing. Speaking the language…speaking it effectively is another. It absolutely astounds me how poorly many people speak or write our language! Is it education? Is it a lack of commitment to words? Perhaps they just don’t care. But whatever the reason, sounding professional, let alone intelligent seems to be a commodity anymore. Let me see if I can show you what I mean.

Let’s start with what I don’t mean. I’m not talking about dialect. I realize that “warsh” is some parts of the country is acceptable, whereas in other parts of our nation you would potentially be ridiculed. Ya’ll may not be acceptable in New York, but it’s a culture of origin issue, not a matter of stupidity or laziness. I do realize that accents can be seen, when taken out of cultural context, as odd or silly, but it is a misnomer to say that they equate to disfluencies. Yes, national news anchors can go to a school to learn how to eliminate a drawl or remove their east-coast accent in order to sound more credible to all parts of the country. But this is due to cultural bias, not education or intelligence!

So, what am I talking about? I’m talking about aks. Not ask mind you, but aks. As in, “aks me a question.” That’s just wrong.

Or how about the combination of two words? Irregardless comes to mind. Note that I’m not saying irrelevant and I’m not saying regardless. Instead, I’ve chosen a word that does not exist to convey my message. This way I get to say, “regardless, regardless.”

Another great in the pantheon of incorrect word combinations – flustrated. This one’s a classic cross between flustered and frustrated. Or, I might add a letter to an already correct word, like adding an ‘x’ to especially. Exspecially is a classic disfluency!

Have you ever been disorientated? Not disoriented mind you, but disorientated, which I believe is the disequilibrium of a potato.

How about supposably. To see what that means, you might check a libary. Look for the pecific book without pitchers!

You may be thinking, “so what?” Why should we care about these silly word issues? Because it robs us of credibility. Just like you wouldn’t trust a mechanic whose car didn’t run, why would you trust a speaker who couldn’t speak properly? Did you know that phone audiences assume from 7 to 10 elements of personality and status based solely on language and paralanguage? Why instantly rob yourself of credibility with anyone – your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your family, or even yourself just because of lazy speech? Remember, there is a crucial tenet of communication at work here: perception determines reality. If people believe you are smart, it doesn’t matter if you are…

Talk like a person who went through school. Talk like a person who is well read. Talk like a person other people want to talk like! The power of words can change history. Let them change yours.

Would you like to find out more about credibility? Interested in using words more effectively? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


6.23.08

Teams: The concept of teamwork is something I propose often. Organizations often do not know what this looks like or how to effectively implement teams within their structure. For some organizations, the team applies to the entire group, while for others, teams are groups within the body. Students are only in teams <10% of the time in educational settings, while being in some kind of group >75% in the “real world” (Rothwell, 2006)…I’m still waiting for someone to tell me where the real world is!

But I think there is a crucial piece of the discussion missing when we go into a conversation about teams. I believe that simple semantics gets in the way finding effective solutions when it comes to the team concept. Just like the staggering number of ways people discuss outcomes (standards, objectives, tasks, goals, etc.), people mean very different things when they say the word, “TEAM.”

So, it becomes important to level set. At the heart of any team discussion is the metaphor that people have in mind when they use the term. Obviously, a number of people are picturing a sports team, since the two words go together so readily in society. But even within that paradigm, there are VERY different teams!

SPORTS: Do you picture a baseball team when using that term? In other words, are you imagining a world where each member of the team is mostly independent of the others? There are not many sports where the better a single player does, the better the overall team does quite like baseball. Or, are you picturing a basketball team for the metaphor? In basketball, a single player with great statistics is often on a losing team. Why? Because the “selfish” or “alone” nature of 1 player in 5 comes to light. (Why did the Celtics win this year? They had 3 stars who all had less points, but more assists.) But in baseball, if a player has a batting average of .350, no errors in fielding, and has 15 stolen bases, his single performance helps the team regardless. So, what sports metaphor do you mean?

GEESE: The goose metaphor is interesting as it applies the notion of interdependence. When geese fly together in a V pattern, they actually have the ability to fly about 70% farther than if they flew alone. When one goose falls out of formation, they instantly feel significantly more drag than had they stayed “in line” with the others. The geese rely on one another to take turns as the leader, to stay in the V, and to watch for natural predators. The only thing nobody knows is why they fly south for the winter to stay warm…why don’t they stay down there where it’s ALWAYS warm?

SYMPHONY: I wonder if most “team” metaphors don’t actually include the orchestra. The notion that everything is richer with more and more sound, as long as that sound is played correctly and on time is appealing to many. The idea of a central leader guiding the musicians, even though there is a “section leader” who helps mostly during practice and tuning, seems to relate to people’s sense of a strong, charismatic person to guide them. And of course, when a symphony works as it should, beautiful music is created.

AIRPORT: What about a different kind of metaphor. This is much more in line with the mechanistic notion of organizations. Essentially, an airport is run by dozens of teams. Yet, very few of the teams interact with one another. Ticket agents have no idea what the ground crew are doing. Baggage handlers do not interact with flight crews. The wheelchair runners do not mingle with the fueling truck drivers. Yet, each team is essential to the airport’s success. Perhaps it is this metaphor that drives your concept of team?

The key to each of these metaphors is simply knowing that they exist. But more over, the importance of seeing multiple team metaphors is defining your own, and then defining the “team” concept within your organization. Until everyone speaks the same language and uses the same paradigm for teams, it’s going to look like the workers on the Tower of Babel…


Would you like to hear more about teamwork? Interested in figuring out what metaphor makes the most sense for your organization? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


6.16.08

Web 2.0: I just returned from speaking at the EDEN conference in Portugal. First off, I must say that Portugal is a beautiful country! I plan to blog more about the sites and sounds of Lisbon in a later blog, but it’s worth mentioning right up front – Portugal is worth a visit from anyone!

The conference was a HIGHLY academic venture with well over 500 representatives from 42 countries. While the majority were from Europe, there were others from the United States, Mexico, Brazil, etc. It was a fantastic introduction to online education throughout the rest of the world.

Surprisingly, the conference attendees seemed to present a picture of online education that was well behind the curve based on my experience and understanding of the American market, the Japanese landscape, and even the South American culture. Most of the online education taking place in Europe seems to be hybrid in nature with great suspicion still being placed on the effectiveness of computer mediated courses. How interesting when the Open University in the U.K. actually had what most people believe was the first fully online class ever…in 1976!

But instead of focusing on online programs or how online can help a school, their students, or their financial models, the conference attendees seemed strangely centered on the mysteries and magic of Web 2.0 tools. Essentially a marketing strategy introduced by Tim O’Reilly, many argue that the term is ludicrous. It’s essentially the evolution of the Internet. Some liken it to naming our current existence as Humanity 11.1. What is the point of naming an iteration of ambiguity? But, semantics aside, many educators (throughout the world – not just in Europe) seem to be entranced by Web 2.0 concepts.

I actually wonder if these educators, many of whom are extremely slow to adopt other useful and important technologies, truly understand the implications of Web 2.0? It seems rare at the conferences I attend to hear actual descriptions of the breadth of Web 2.0 tools and even rarer to hear strategic uses of these tools in an educational context. The majority of teachers seem to focus on wikis and blogs, leaving hundreds of other applications off the PowerPoint slides.

Please know that I am a big proponent of social networking – which many people confuse as the only interpretation of Web 2.0. I twitter (bordenj), I Facebook, I’m linkedin, and so on. I’m very excited to use Twine as my entrance into Web 3.0! (The semantic web could take us all to a whole new level…) As well, I have found many uses for the collaboration of the collective intelligence in classroom settings. But it’s important to know that I don’t use these tools or techniques simply because my students do or just because they seem “neat”!

I believe that creativity is a cornerstone of teaching. These tools open up more creative ways to reach students through multi-modal (and multi-nodal) means. And the data that can be generated with these new tools can be powerful. In fact, it might be considered too powerful by some educators…I was approached by a Scandinavian teacher who was concerned with the way my company data-mines student activity in order to help retention and completion rates. He explained that the student has a right to keep their activity private and data-mining this information is unethical. Hmmm. P-D-R, right? (See my Perception Determines Reality blog for more info.)

What it comes down to at the end of the day is the difference between Jeopardy contestants and Wheel of Fortune contestants. Have you ever listened to the Jeopardy introductions? John Smith is a PhD in Astro-physics who writes sonnets for the blind and is trying to find a way to reuse fish bones to power a city. Contrast that with Wheel of Fortune: Bill Edwards is an out of work writer who likes fast food and is fascinated by small, shiny objects! Web 2.0 seems to be a “small, shiny object” to many educators who have missed the point and become enamored with wikis and blogs.

As Web 2.0 tools start to make headway within the corporate setting, and people in general become more adept at using them, eventually education will catch up. But I sure wish we could lead the way instead of reacting. We have a responsibility to help our students see “the future” of their world and many of these tools will be prevalent in that world. But let’s start to really take a look at the forest instead of a sapling. Let’s see if I can help you get started…

Yedda, Congoo, Oyogi, Shoutwire, Egosurf, Feedity, Vimeo, Flagr – these are just a few of the hundreds of Web 2.0 (concept) websites. They might all have academic, strategic uses…or they may not. What do you think?

Would you like to hear more about Web 2.0? Interested in how to make practical applications out of Web 2.0 concepts? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


6.9.08

Work Life Balance: I was recently reading Inc. Magazine and a segment from an article titled, “Get Lost” stood out. The writer, a long time entrepreneur and CEO, Norm Brodsky was explaining how he took 3 months off a year (yes, you read that right…3 months!) to regenerate, recuperate, and revive. It was eye opening to hear him describe the need for time off, both for the individual and the company. But the line that really struck me was this:

"I haven't taken a vacation in five years," as if it were a badge of courage. I might once have agreed. Indeed, I might have said it myself. Now, increasingly, I saw it as a badge of stupidity.”

Countless HR reports, studies, and research (see www.webmd.com or www.worklifebalancecentre.org, etc.) show the importance of time off. Workers are more productive, they have better morale, and they get sick less. Again, I look to the top places to work lists – these places are described as places where the individual feels value. These are companies where the worker is allowed to enjoy the fruits of that labor. These environments know that happy families equate to happy employees.

But as obviously important as it may be to balance work and life, both for the individual and for the organization, it rarely happens. Job related stress is on the rise according to many studies like the one from C.S. Clark in CQ Researcher. And not just stress, but poor performance, sickness, and a lack of any entrepreneurial spirit fill the halls of our workplaces. Some researchers argue that people are happier at work because there is less job switching today than 10 years ago, but it’s important to factor in the economy and recession to that discussion. I do not think it is unfair to say that most people are unhappy with the amount of time they must spend working versus being at home.

As a corporate employee now (all of my experience in academia proves to me that a professor’s work schedule is exponentially better than a business counterpart), I see this “sausage grinder” effect from type A personalities who tend to rise to executive status. These men and women are driven to succeed professionally far more than they are driven to enjoy a home life. They have decided to sacrifice personal relationships, personal time, and personal well-being because work success brings them more satisfaction. (By the way, to each their own! This is not to say that these sacrifices are poor decisions – I am not Charles Dickens condemning these people for “scrooge”-like behavior. Life satisfaction is important for everyone.)

However, it is rare to find a type A, executive personality who understands the paradigm of the type B. As much as I respect leaders like Welch or Iaccoca, they both agree that people who put family first will not get to the head of the business class. But as a result, a great deal of talent, innovation, and imagination is lost because of a lack of priorities or perceived work-ethic.

I speak a lot about vision, paradigm, and perception. This is a message that I feel cannot be over-stressed. So, in that vein, it’s time for a new paradigm for many employers, executives, and CEOs. As we look back at the industrial age, as we leave the Service age, and as we head into the age of creativity, it’s time to rethink how we work. Telecommuting is getting bigger every day. Not only due to gas prices, but because technology is developing so rapidly, the concept of working from someplace other than an office is becoming more real. While this may present some challenges around outcomes and expectations, it is also important to look at ways to mine our off-site workers for talent and creativity. As people put other priorities first, it is important to realize that their value to your company may be underutilized. Don’t make that mistake! Often the more creative people on your staff are absolutely NOT type A…and if creativity really is a commodity in our current market, why would you ignore this commodity to your business.

The bottom line is this: forget the 50’s mentality that successful employees sacrifice their own time for the company. Time is not an indicator of success, it’s an indicator of planning. Input, output, and throughput are much better indicators of a person’s value. Maybe it’s time to give some of those type B’s a chance. It could help you change your world.

Would you like to hear more about paradigms, vision, or perception? Want to tap into your organization's creativity? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!



6.2.08

Leadership: The average person wants to be led at multiple points in their life. I believe this sincerely. As the son of a preacher and teacher, I have heard about leadership my entire life. As a Communications Professor, I’ve studied and taught this concept for most of my professional life. I’ve heard about the authentic leader who is trusted and empathetic. I’ve read about the comparison of horses to people needing leaders. I can visualize the “Be – Know – Do” attributes of leaders created by the Army. But in all my work around leadership, there is very little information about creating leaders who believe that people want to be led!

I run into this consistently. I would guess that 90% of the people I work with don’t feel comfortable “leading” people. “What if I’m wrong? What gives me the right to tell anyone how to do anything? Why would anyone listen to me?” These are the consistent mantras that I hear used to negate effective leadership. I think this is a shame!

It also seems to pit the leader against the salesperson. Sellers are noted as comfortable telling a person what to buy, how to live, or where to shop, right? Imagine a car salesman who didn’t want to explain about their car because they might be wrong! What if they thought the average consumer’s opinion about a car was just as valid as an expert’s? I’m afraid this person wouldn’t sell many cars. And deservedly so! I WANT a leader when I purchase an automobile. I WANT my teacher to tell me their opinion of the best way to solve a problem. I WANT to hear a politician tell me how to fix Social Security or the environment. I’m a big boy. I can disagree with any of these folks who are attempting to lead me in specific situations. I have faith in my own critical thinking ability and in my understanding of extremism to know how to handle being led. But I also realize that I am NOT an expert in cars, solving complex equations, or Social Security. I want someone to lead me effectively. Heck, I'll even buy a magazine or read a website that can lead me to a better purchase!

Leadership manifests itself in many ways. But it’s easy to spot a leader in most contexts by their communication skills. They have presence. They know when to facilitate and when to let people tangent. They have strong eye contact, a clear voice, and they make statements that sound sure while asking questions that are meaningful. Leadership is not just a mindset or a philosophy, it’s a way of being.

In my world, life is coming into focus around leadership. Most immediately is the NBA finals. The Lakers and the Celtics will play yet again. But I note this as a test of leadership. Kobe vs Garnett, Gasol vs Pierce, Fisher vs Allen – these are the tests of leaders who will inspire their teammates and make them better. More distantly, our country is heading into another Presidential election. What do people want? Who will they vote for? The vote will be for someone who can lead. Most Americans don’t care what Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken have to say. Most of us are mature enough to realize these are entertainers. Their extreme political jargon is ridiculously polarizing and doesn’t speak for most people. Most of us have ideologies that include conservative as well as liberal thoughts. My state is not red or blue – it’s every color of the spectrum regarding political, social, and cultural ideas. Our country is looking for someone to lead us, regardless of party or stigma. Good ideas are good ideas whether had by a Democrat or a Republican. A person who the people believe to be able to lead us will emerge. And as a people, we will be led regarding many things because it’s appropriate and what most of us want.

Please hear me. I’m not saying that leaders don’t need credibility, good ideas, or research to back them up. They DO! But I AM saying that too many people skate by not leading anyone for any reason, because they feel leadership is inappropriate. So I say again – people want to be led. Not led like sheep, but led like intelligent, thoughtful people. They want experts. People want assertions that are firm and well spoken. Teams need leaders. Families need leaders. Countries need leaders. Is it time for you to lead?

Would you like to hear more about leadership? Need a leadership seminar for your organization or team? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


5.26.08

Presentations: In the past four weeks, I’ve made presentations to groups of five to groups of sixty. These were formal presentations about education, learning, and technology. I’ve spoken in California, Montana, Michigan, and Georgia in the past two weeks alone. But my last presentation, in Atlanta, was miserable. It was a disaster. And it all could have been fixed with better communication.

Let me explain. My last meeting was for a group of administrators. It was to be a group effort. During the once a year gathering of these busy people, someone decided that it was important for them to hear 30 minutes worth of presentation about products and services. (I’ll ignore the audience analysis misstep as well as the situational factors here.) So, a group was assembled to make a presentation. (I’m not sure why a group, but that was the decision.) Our little band ascended on this southern city, ready to delight and amaze. All four of us compiled slides and compared notes to be sure we would say all the right things. (Yes, four people presenting in 30 minutes…)

So, timing would be crucial. Our introduction (both for the presentation and the presenters) would be handled in five minutes, a sales person would take ten, I would take twelve, and a wrap up would be done by a manager in three. 30 minutes later, we would be done, having all presented what we needed to.

Presentation problem #1 – prepare your technology. We entered the room of this group as the meeting was in session. There was to be no break to allow us to setup. We were simply supposed to plug our slideshow into the computer being used and go. We plugged in. The presenter previous to us finished. And then the computer went black. No lights, no sounds, just black. As an amateur helpdesk technician to my parents for the past decade, I of course checked the first important element – we had no power. So, we exclaimed that the computer, which had been running on batteries, was now dead. “Whoops” exclaimed the owner, who went to search for his chord. Unbeknown to us, our time had started.

Presentation problem #2 – capture the audience’s attention. Finally having power, slides, and a projected image, our introduction was ok, although not engaging per se. Your basic slides with plenty of words on them showed a lot and described little. The great hook of a story came three minutes into the intro, which made it too late to call it an attention getter. But, seven minutes later, the handoff to speaker number two (the salesman) was complete.

Presentation problem #3 – remember nonverbal communication. Our presenter decided it was too difficult to “jam” ten minutes of stuff into a presentation by using bullets and lists that he could key off of to know what to say, so instead he printed out a script and read it. Yes, I said he read his paragraphs to the audience. But don’t fret, at least he TOLD the audience he would do just that! “I’m not a great public speaker, so I’ll likely read a lot of this to you…” he said. Some of my public speaking students, whom I hope read this particular blog, claim every semester that they will not ever have to speak in public. They want to be game designers or web developers or fashion moguls… Apparently in their world, public speaking only occurs for politicians, Oscar accepters, and Tony Robbins. How unfortunate that this presenter hadn’t used basic public speaking principles in his speech to engage his audience and make a decent argument. Instead, it looked like a high school rendition of a bad play where the cast has to hold their lines on cards. Bottom line: if you have to present to a group, put on your big boy pants and do it right. There is no excuse for being a poor presenter. If you don’t know how, learn. If you aren’t sure where to start, CALL ME!


Presentation problem #4 – chronemics is important. Unfortunately, I haven’t moved off of our second presenter yet. True, his speech was very dull. But more importantly, this person who had been given ten minutes, instead took fifteen. (Remember how tight the timeframe was?) It cannot be stressed enough that time is truly a communication element. Chronemics is the study of temporal communication. Time speaks to people. If I tell you that my speech will take 20 minutes, I had better take 18. Otherwise I’m telling you that my time is more valuable than yours! And in a group speaking situation, him taking 15 minutes makes the last two speaker’s jobs almost impossible. Remember, we had slides already in place – there was no changing on the fly. If you’re unsure about how long you’ll take, set an alarm or plant an audience member to inform you that it’s time to stop. Time matters to people in this culture and if we ignore that, we will not be nearly as successful as we could be.

Presentation problem #5 – an emcee should be in control. Going back to our start, things might have been a lot different had someone in charge assessed the situation, knowing how long we had been told we could speak, and made a declaration. “I’m sorry our computer failed on you – we’ll start the presentation as soon as we get things back online.” That’s all it would have taken. As it was, nobody said a word. In fairness, someone from our group should have stepped up and tried to take charge of the event. But as soon as it was discovered that the computer was down, half the audience saw the opportunity to take a long needed break. So, after we got the computer plugged back in and looked up, most of the audience was gone.

I’m sure you’d like to know the rest of the story. I spoke VERY quickly, although I did what I could to be engaging and poignant. (I have no idea if that happened – you’d need to ask the audience.) But, with 3 minutes left in my presentation (I was trying to cut my 12 minutes down to 10), someone from the crowd walked up to the stage area. When I asked if something was wrong, she firmly said that our time was up. (Remember, the clock had started when the computer shut down.) Yes, we were done. The manager who was supposed to finish the event, never said one word. I never finished my point, which was essentially the “big” kicker we had been warming up to. And so, these administrators never heard what should have been a very important message. It was a message about their future and about how to succeed in a way that will be almost impossible without these particular products and services.

Presentation skills are vital to your success as a person in business. Whether you know it or not, people are watching how you interact with a crowd, whether it’s a group of 5 or a group of 50. About five or six past students go out of their way each year to tell me that they actually used the information we covered in speech class. (They’re always shocked as they write it.) But for those of you already in business you know what I’m talking about. You’ve had to sit in on horrible presentations that had little meaning and even littler delivery. It does NOT have to be that way. You can learn basic rules and concepts that will help you present significantly better. It’s not hard, but it is necessary. There are associations (www.toastmasters.com) out there, there are great books, and fantastic consultants who can all help you. It’s time to quit ignoring something this important and become better for yourself and your group.

If you want to learn how to give a better presentation, how to be a better salesperson, or use better communication skills, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. !


5.19.08

Learning: How many lessons have you learned in your lifetime? 1,000? 1,000,000? I guess we have to start with what our definition of “lesson” is. Let’s take a broad-sweeping approach. For example, my daughter just learned the lesson that walking on the dog will likely cause you to fall when he moves. (Dog 1, Addie 0) But, if we learn little lessons like that every day, in addition to the formal learning that takes place in schools…wow.

Now, how many lessons have we forgotten in our lifetime? Would you guess more or less than we’ve learned? Common sense suggests that more is not only likely, it’s almost impossible to deny by anyone, even the smartest genius. So how do we remember better? That’s what educators have been trying to tackle for years. We research, we study, we come up with theory upon theory…and we make predictions.

What are the theories that we hold to today? As an Education doctoral student, I hear the current theories first hand from researchers and experts. If we want students to learn and remember, we must give them context. We must give them practical application. And we should never, ever use rote memorization, right? It must be true when education scholars and Wikipedia agree! Here is part of the definition from Wikipedia on the topic of rote learning: “Rote learning, by definition, eschews comprehension, however, and consequently, it is an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level.”

However, psychological research would suggest something very different. Rote memorization as we know it today is ineffective. This is hard to dispute. However, there is a significantly better way to use it, which actually helps the process of both learning and retention. It’s called the Spacing Effect and it works. (If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who works for Rosetta Stone. They have based their multimillion dollar product sales on it.)

The Spacing Effect was identified by Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 1800’s. He proved that it was possible to significantly improve learning by effectively “spacing” practice sessions. This is more than just telling students about the ineffective nature of cramming. From its inception, psychological researchers have pleaded with educators to use this effect to accelerate our ability to learn. In fact, in the late 1980’s, Dempster published an article in American Psychologist called: “The Spacing Effect: A Case Study In The Failure To Apply Psychological Research.” He expresses that this concept is one of the most remarkable breakthroughs in human cognition. Yet how many teachers do you know who have ever even heard of it?

Piotr Wozniak took this concept and ran with it. He is the creator of Super Memo (www.supermemo.com) and he believes he can help you remember 95% of everything you learn. It’s all based on when you try to remember it. Try too soon and it ends up in short term memory, only to dissipate and wane later. Try too late, and you will have forgotten what you had to remember in the first place. So, there is a sweet spot. And Wozniak found a way to let computers create an algorithm that tells you exactly when that time is. (Hint: it’s different for everyone.)

I go to 20 conferences a year. I would guess that 19 out of 20 have at least one speaker who talks of the evils of repetition and practice in terms of rote learning. Even though we all do it foundationally (who learned to read without first learning the alphabet?). The key is not just the concept of rote memorization for foundational concepts. The key is how we teach and how our students practice these concepts. Of course context is important. I’m as big a proponent of application as any educator alive. But I’m also a lifelong learner. And I’ve learned something about learning recently. Holistic learning is much more than any one theory. Retention is deeper than practicality in assessment. Authentic tasks are only one side of the educational dice. There is much more to learning most of us realize. And by understanding one more piece of the learning puzzle…I’m a better learner today than I was yesterday.

(Thanks to Gary Wolf and Wired magazine for this amazing article on Piotr Wozniak that inspired this blog. As I write in the Cool Links section – you have GOT to get this magazine!)

(Need a speaker to talk with your organization about learning? Learning styles, generational learning, and modern practices in learning are just a few of the topics Jeff can present. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!)

5.12.08

Listening: Last week I was heading to work at 8am, listening to the radio and I was reminded about the importance of listening. In my never ending quest not to waste my time with commercials, I channel surf every morning between four stations. One of these four stations includes a morning show called Dom and Jane in the Morning. I like the content of the show for the most part – it’s typically about relationships. But I particularly like Friday mornings, when they will often have the head-lining comedian from the local Comedy Works on air. (I’ve actually met a few of these performers over the years when performing stand-up.) So, listening to them tantalize the audience into coming to the club that weekend is fun. You get to hear five or ten minutes of older material and it’s a good time. And this particular morning the show had on one of my all-time favorite comics – Jake Johansen – how GLORIOUS!


Unfortunately, this potentially great interview was really painful to listen to and my excitement over this amazing performer was squashed. Now before I rant a bit, I’ll concede that it’s the DJ’s show, and most on-air personalities who are successful seem to enjoy hearing themselves talk over callers, guests, etc. That’s the point. However, my frustration came when “Jane” – a DJ who I’m convinced is actually the voice of Milhouse from the Simpsons – continually interrupted the comic to try and be funny herself. NUTS!


For those of you keeping score at home, let me deconstruct a joke. (It takes all the fun out of humor…that’s what teachers do!) The real difference between telling “a joke” and being a comic has to do with structure. A typical joke has 2 parts, the setup and the punchline. However, a comic adds 3 other elements to the act: the pause, the tag, and the follow-through. In other words, the joke isn’t the end, they tie it together with commonalities to make it continue to be funny. So, here was Jake, setting up his jokes, trying simply to get to the punchline, when Jane would interrupt by talking about how her life related to his setup! ACK! Jake would get derailed, try to work his way back to the setup, but inevitably would get side-tracked or interrupted again. It was a painful interview. (On a side note - I was the professor to Dom and Jane's old producer "Little Jen" - she is now a TEACHER! Yeah!)

Anyone who ever watched Johnny Carson knew that he was a comics best friend during interviews. He helped them setup their jokes, asking the ‘straight-man’ questions, and giving them full control to pause, add expression, riff a bit, and finally deliver the punchline or follow through. How did he do this? He was a great listener.


“We often hear, but don't listen - Hearing is using our ears. Listening requires using our brain.” Peter Drucker (1994) Listening is possibly the most valuable life-skill a person can learn. It might also possibly be the rarest! According to Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, “listening is the primary element in loving another person, and it is also the hardest work in any relationship.” When we listen, we let another person know they are important. In typical social situations, listening to another person is an extremely high compliment. I recall learning in journalism classes how often people will call news stations in a panic because they “heard” about an emergency situation, only to find out that the story was about something taking place in another city altogether. They “heard” enough to panic, but didn’t listen well enough to know the whole story.


Listening can give you an edge in almost any situation. My father once gave me a piece of advice that I believe holds true. Spend 75% of your time listening and only 25% of your time talking. Because you speak so rarely, your words carry more weight and people assume you to be smarter. Listening is a perceptive element that not only makes you a better communicator, but when you listen it makes people believe you are a better communicator. (Remember, perception determines reality.)


So, be a better listener. How? Most of all, it takes focus. You actually need to engage mentally with whatever or whomever you are listening to. But, there are some nice tricks to help your brain along.
1. Use your eyes. Following along optically helps your brain know to focus on all parts of a message.
2. Face the person you are listening to.
3. Give typical, appropriate feedback signals – nod, smile, etc. The only way to do this is to listen – it’s a nice cycle.
4. Paraphrase (inwardly or outwardly) what you are hearing – this helps you synthesize meaning.
5. Sit close – students who have a problem listening to teachers often just need to move forward!

So, using our nonverbals can actually help us listen better. Practice listening in non-crucial situations. It will help you focus when it really matters. There are actually exercises you can try, books you can buy, websites you can go to…but it really comes down to you. Learn to focus and you will learn to listen. Learn to listen and you will find doors open up that never existed before. Remember, we were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking.

Would you like some more information for your company or group about how to listen well? Or, do you just need a speaker who makes it easy to listen in the first place? Contact Jeff! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


5.05.08

Life-long Learning (LLL): I am educated. I also consider myself an educator (although who doesn’t qualify for this really?). I guess the distinction is that I’m a professional educator. I believe solidly in the concept of life-long learning, sometimes noted as LLL or L3. But, I will also say that I do not believe in education for the sake of education. Keep in mind that I was taught by many teachers and professors who I would argue did believe this. But I am not that kind of educator.

In other words, I feel that there must be a reason to study, learn, remember, create, or assemble in education contexts. If you’ve read this blog before, you know my distaste for the fallacious idea that we do what we’ve always done because we’ve always done it! And so, education should be much more than learning for learning’s sake. How many people have thought or heard this following?:

Why do I have to learn…
• Geometry Proofs (http://www.math.sc.edu/~cooper/proofs.pdf for a great response to this question!)
• Poetry
• Pi
• Grammar
• The Civil War
• Cursive
• Aristotle
• Etc.

Come on…admit it. Everyone has thought something like this at some point. It’s what occupied much of my brain during high school when I wasn’t thinking about girls, music, or girls. Ok, so pretty much every time I sat down in any number of classes from algebra II to Humanities I played this argument out in my head.

So, as a teacher, I am now faced with 25 students in every class wondering the same questions. Why does it matter that there are 4 canons of rhetoric (mythos is the 4th often overlooked canon in my book)? Why do I need to know about the 7 elements of nonverbal communication? Why is storytelling important to my life? Why is it now ok to start a sentence with ‘and’? (Yes, this is legal now!) So I have to answer these questions. It’s imperative for my students that I do!

It’s essential for me to tell my students that school isn’t nearly as much about facts as it is about learning – facts can be found in any book, but learning is a skill that takes time and effort. Is my 10 question quiz on paralanguage going to make or break a career? Nope. But testing is important. Testing is something that will happen throughout your lifetime and learning how to study for a test is important. Is your understanding of semantic assimilation vital to living out your life? Nope. Lots of people have no idea what that means and live great lives. But, the comprehension and application of this concept can teach you a strategy for understanding far beyond the capacity of normal activity. And (see, I used the word at the start of a sentence!) comprehension is important to life.

Now don’t get me wrong. A colleague at Metro State once “accused” me of teaching my class as if it was the most important one on campus. I replied by saying, “Of course it is…don’t you teach yours the same way?” I believe in my discipline. This is true of Human Communication as well as Education where I’m currently pursuing my doctorate. But, I am enough of a realist to know that not everyone shares my passion for either subject. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth studying. Because both of my subject areas have significant abilities to improve life as we know it. Does that mean that every teacher does a good job furthering this knowledge and these principles? Heck no! I’ve had my share of awful instructors just like anyone else. I meet instructors on a weekly basis, some of whom are phenomenal educators and others who I wish would find a better suited career! So hear me when I say that not everything you learn is “worth” learning. And on occasion, something you learn is completely wrong. It happens. But remember, life-long learning isn’t about specifics, it’s about wholeness. I heard the following quote from Einstein. I’m not sure if he actually said it – it’s hard to check stuff like that unless he wrote it in a published record. But the quote goes like this, “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts, for that he doesn’t really need a college education, for he can learn them from books. The value of an education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think - something that cannot be learned from books.” I like that.

So, next time your boss asks you to figure out a new program or your daughter asks you why theorems are important, remember this. Learning is about life. I’m watching my daughter learn something new every single day. (She just learned to walk with the aid of a couch!) Will she ever need a couch to walk normally? Nope. But it’s a step in the evolution of her entire being. That’s what learning is. It makes us better. It makes us stronger. It makes us faster. It makes us more capable of learning other things that WILL impact our lives forever. Learning is life.

(Want to learn more about learning? Need someone to speak to your organization about learning in real life? Contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


4.28.08

Continuums: How well do you know technology? How well can you use it? Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten. Go ahead….I’ll wait. If you are realistic about your answer, and you gave any thought at all to an obviously rhetorical question (by the way speakers – rhetorical questions are horrible attention getting devices!), you probably gave yourself a 6 or a 7. Why? Because the word “technology” is HUGE. It could mean the Internet, computers, hardware, software, and a plethora of other things. Or, if you looked at technology in a literal fashion, it could include use of the pencil, a stapler, or the wheel. After all, these things were technological breakthroughs at one point.

I have genuinely come to appreciate the work of Chris Dede at Harvard. He suggests that learning today takes place on a technology continuum of sorts. He calls it media based learning. (Side: I heard Generation M at a conference recently, defining children born today as “Generation Media” or “Generation Multitasker.” I like that.) The great thing about his learning theory is that it isn’t about differences like audio, visual, or kinesthetic, but is more about similarities. We all have common themes to our paradigms, to our understanding, and in ways to make sense of our world. This common ground in learning is typically facilitated using technology of one sort or another and that becomes media based learning.

But to me, this concept of a continuum really applies to life in general. When I answer the question of how well I know technology or how well I use it, I think along this continuum. If Jobs and Gates are near the 10 mark of the continuum and my grandpa is at the opposite side, I think I fall somewhere near the 7 mark. Of course, the disparity (in my head) between 7 and 8 is pretty substantial. And it goes without saying that use of technology is highly contextual. I’m not programming databases because I have no need or use for one (that I know of anyway…perhaps if I were more tech savvy, I’d know differently?).

So I have been thinking about this continuum notion for a while now. Specifically since a conference session I attended by a person really “e”-vangelizing Web 2.0. The session was essentially full of ideas, with no recommendations around how or why. It was interesting for sure, exciting to some because the ideas were new, but for others, this demonstration was challenging…almost threatening to how they operate today. The crowd was full of educators, many of who would answer my original question about technological ability as a “3”.

One instructor at this session was concerned enough to ask a question: “How do you make sure your students do not use this technology to cheat?” I think this is a fair question. It shows where on the continuum this professor was. And without missing a beat, the session facilitator replied, “You can stop students from using technology, clamp down on quizzes and tests, use low levels of Bloom’s, or you can teach. It’s your call.” The crowd wasn’t sure what to do with that. The questioning professor was a bit stunned. And the presenter moved on.

Now, I will admit, as an advocate for technology in the classroom, I do get tired of what may seem to be paranoia by some educators regarding this question. It’s hard to remember that not everyone has evolved to the same place technologically as I have. As the son of a preacher, I understand the fallacy of tradition all too well. I heard once that only 10% of people embrace change. I think it’s more like 1% - everyone else is only willing to change things that are safe or they don’t care about. But most educators care about teaching. This may take various forms and displays, but they do care. It may be hard to see how a teacher who lectures all day and gives only rote memorization “cares” about education, but they could articulate it if they had to.

And change along the continuum is really what we’re talking about here. I was speaking at a national K-12 last year and I heard that there are 3 million K-12 educators in the U.S. and only 100,000 are using the Internet to teach. I don’t know if that’s true, or where the research came from, but I believe it. And if it is true, that means less than 3% of K-12 educators use a powerful, important, and highly usable medium to help students learn. And if it’s that few with the generation who expects technology, what is it in colleges and universities???

After the conference, I started checking in with this session presenter’s blog. He’s all over the place – twitter, a blog, member of various Web 2.0 boards and sites. But I also started noticing this lack of care about the continuum. A lot of boards were posted in what I describe as the “angry young man” syndrome. He doesn’t have time to deal with people who are behind the curve. He won’t acknowledge legitimate concerns by people with less understanding or evolution in thought regarding Web 2.0. He questions anything traditional with little regard for why it exists in the first place.

But people need more credit than that, don’t they? If we want a revolution of thought, don’t we need more than 3% in order to achieve any kind of legitimate tipping point? Should those of us who are leading the charge help people along the same continuum we had to traverse even if they are slower than we are? Sure, there will be some stubborn heel-diggers who exude the fallacy of tradition from their pores. But won’t average people want to weigh the pros and cons, the costs and the rewards, to see if it’s worthwhile to learn and use? Isn’t that ultimately how all technology works? I’m reminded of a Milton Berle quote, “The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other 3 was a genius.” Aren’t people looking to move along the continuum because technology helps make things easier, helps make us faster, or for educators, helps our students learn better? And essentially isn’t that the only litmus test we need? Using technology for technologies sake is silly. At that point it’s for the teacher, not the learner. But, when it is used with purpose and strategy, that’s when we can start to measure the benefits. Higher retention, better foundation of knowledge, stronger test scores, more satisfaction in the learning environment, and the list goes on…

Where are you on the continuum? You’ll never be as high as you’d like, but let me ask you this. Can you get to the next level? Do you have biases that you “know” to be true whether you’ve really researched them or not? Are you basing your beliefs on how your own life experience works, even though an entire generation of people has a different paradigm? That is how we deal with change along the continuum. For some of you it’s time to move up that mountain. For others, it’s time to stop, dig in, and reach your hand back to help others up to where you are. That’s the continuum of learning as a paradigm. Now get out there and start a wiki, post a blog, or use Google Docs…or whatever is the next level for you.

(Want to move along the continuum a bit further? Need someone to speak to your organization about the future of technology, education, or communication? Contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


4.21.08

Downward Communication: There are essentially 5 communication patterns for most organizations. There is a chain (most common), a Y (second most common), a wheel, a star, and all-channel. Essentially, each of these represent a “point” of communication within the company or group. And each has its rightful place in organizational communication for sure! Some are better for quick decisions (Chain & Y) whereas others are much better for holistic or long term solutions (star or all-channel). But, there is a fairly significant drawback when it comes to member satisfaction if the communication culture does not allow the pattern to function properly.

Ok…that was a lot of professor speak. Let’s see if we can demystify that a bit. You likely work in a company or organization that uses one of these approaches. If you are in education, trust me when I say that you are in a chain. Your department or team may function as all-channel, but the collective organization is upward and downward communication from one point to the next. If you work at a fortune 500 company, you probably work in a similar environment. You have a boss, who reports to his/her boss, etc. Any information you get from your boss has come down the chain, like a game of telephone. (Hopefully with better results, but not often.)

Now, if you’re lucky enough to work at a really progressive company like Google or Qualcomm, congratulations! These top 10 “best places to work” winners from Fortune are certainly deserving. And it’s not just because of fantastic benefits (100% health insurance, iPod give-aways, cruises, etc.) - it’s often because of the culture of downward communication. Think about it. When was the last time you got asked for your opinion regarding an important company decision? Isn’t it more likely that you heard about the decision after the fact? Or, even greater is the possibility that you found out about the decision because you were told to implement it! Why? Because (unfortunately) most organizations using a chain or Y pattern of organizational communication have leaders who don’t understand the importance of the downward message.

How refreshing would it have been to have worked at GE under Jack Welch when he implemented the retreats asking EVERY employee for his or her opinion, ideas, and suggestions? How great would it be to work at Kinko’s and hear about potential business moves well in advance as they come down from “corporate” only to work back up with additions or quality questions about merit? Your satisfaction as an employee, contributing to something greater than yourself would be significantly higher than the average employee. Why? Because the average employee does not believe they are valued. Their ideas and suggestions are never asked for. Even if they see trouble on the horizon, often times upper management doesn’t “have time” to deal with communication in a downward fashion. (And unfortunately, often times they don’t seem to care…)

Do you want to improve your company, your group, or your organization using simple communication? Focus on a culture of downward communication. What messages are going down? When do they reach “bottom”? What happens after people hear about new ideas, suggestions, or implementations? Once the top down culture of communication begins to change, I guarantee you’ll also see change start to occur horizontally. Suddenly, other departments realize their dependency on peers and co-workers. Thoughts and ideas begin to exchange naturally. It really does start a systemic change to your organization. You will also find that your employees are much happier in their position. After all…it becomes their company too.

(Want to hear other suggestions for organizational improvement and efficiency? Need someone to speak to your organization’s event? Contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


4.14.08

Audience Analysis: I was in an airport heading to a consulting engagement when a horrible thought raced through my mind. I was sitting at a table, eating a plate of hummus and veggies when I noticed a boy of ten or eleven. He was a very typical boy – gangly, unconcerned with the world around him, and in a constant fog. However, he was extremely proud of his clothing, specifically one accessory. It seems that he and his family had just come from Disneyworld and he was sporting a pair of blue, Mickey “ears” for all to see. As I bit into a tiny carrot, my first thought was, “How his parents must be embarrassed!”

The orange root lodged in my throat. What a horrible thought for me to have! This young boy, brimming with excitement over a trip with his family, wanted the world to know that he had been to the Magic Kingdom and he loved it. Who am I to belittle the excitement of a pre-teen over the happiest place on Earth? (Although there still is no alcohol at Disneyland making me wonder about that moniker, but I digress…) I HOPE that my daughter feels that kind of excitement for any number of things throughout her life. Heck, she already gets pretty jazzed about our soup ladle, so I’m assuming it will happen.

But it got me thinking about audience analysis. (Yes, I am really that geeky…) I wonder if it is SO very difficult for a teacher, speaker, or presenter to think about the audience’s point of view because they feel somehow that their audience isn’t entitled to think what they think?! I hear this from my Public Speaking students all the time. When we get to persuasive speeches, they want to present on abortion, gun control, and prayer in schools. These are some of the BIG GUNS of persuasive topics today and they think these would make for fantastic beginning speeches. Ugh. But, these same students can get pretty mad at me when I start talking to them about audience predisposition. For example, my abortion students often want to use Biblical references to defend one position. However, when I point out that much of their audience isn’t religious and therefore won’t give any credence to the Bible, they get quite upset with me. But as angry as they may get…it doesn’t make the audience any more religious. And so, audience analysis is lost for that student.

I’m also reminded of this when I speak at education conferences. Undoubtedly, someone approaches me and explains the dire situation that is education because students can’t focus, they like games too much, and they can’t learn correctly. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I teach for a community college. So, I use TONS of examples of things my students do and how they learn when I speak to other faculty at community colleges. However, during my last presentation, I had a teacher approach me after a session to tell me that there was no way his students were capable of the kind of learning that my students were. They were “too dumb for anything creative” (his words, not mine…) Wow.

Do you want to be a great presenter? Do you want to be one of the best teachers on campus? Then know your audience. Students today learn and think differently than I did, and completely opposite of how my parents learned. Does that make them inferior to me? How ridiculous. Your speech audience is filled with diverse backgrounds, complex thought patterns, multiple learning styles, and varied attention spans. Speak to them appropriately – not like you would have someone talk to you. You are not representative of the whole world…as much as my wife might disagree. (But that’s another blog…or at least some counseling.)

To that young boy who loved Mickey enough to don his ears, I say good for you! I need to find some stuff that I’m willing to show the whole world I’m excited about. My passions are for my family, disc golf, communication, guitars, trumpets, novels, and good movies. It’s time to find some good marketing clothes I think! Just remember that your audience, whether they are six or sixty are much more important than you are and you’ll be ok. Their time is more valuable, their opinions are more important, and their thought processes are what matters if you really want to reach them.


(Need to learn more about how to evaluate an audience? Want someone to show you how it’s done for your next conference or event? Contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


4.07.08

Vacation: So, I’m not going to blog much this week….I’m on vacation! I’ll just leave you with a few thoughts that I can’t get out of my head. In the hotel chain game (I’m a Hilton guy by the way…) why do the expensive hotels seem like they nickel & dime you whereas the discount chains give you every immenity? Don’t believe me? How about this:

  • Want an actual shower curtain liner? You know, the kind that doesn’t leak water like a sieve all over the floor, doesn’t cling to your body throughout the shower, and keeps the blinding light from over the mirror off you during your stress free water time? If so, avoid the high end Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, and many more. The low end places like the Garden Inn, the Holiday Inn, and the Super 8 is what you’re after…
  • Want to pay for Internet? Then by all means, go to the hotel where they charge you a premium for service and quality! While you’re paying extra, let them charge you for Internet too. It’s only fitting.
  • Want to pay for parking? Check out the best hotels for a good chance at getting to give them more money to put your car to bed. I just paid $25 / night at a Hyatt…
  • How would you like a nice, hot, basic breakfast? Don’t go to the expensive chains, unless you want to pay for it. (Plus 21% gratuity if it’s room service…) Try the cheap guys for the free breakfast - especially ones with eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc.
  • Want a bottle of water? If it’s in your room at an expensive hotel, it’s likely you’ll pay $5.00 or more. At a Motel 6, it’s probably free…

I guess I don’t get the whole thing…but it hasn’t changed in 10 years since I’ve done serious traveling, so I’m betting it won’t change anytime soon. Luckily there are plenty of people who shell out the extra bucks for a “nicer” hotel. My only problem is trying to figure out what “nicer” gets you. I can stay at a 4 Points Sheraton or a Hampton Inn, get the same bed, the same pillows, and the same service as at the Marriott or an Omni, except I get a bunch of other stuff free and my room is 1/2 as much. Plus, I still get Hilton points at any Hilton property, regardless of whether I’m paying through the nose. I guess “nicer” gets you a bill that they feel is a lot “nicer” for them…


(Need a speaker for your next event? Jeff will travel to you and NOT stay at an expenseive place, saving you money! Contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


3.31.08

Keynote speaking: In the past few weeks I’ve been inundated with keynote speakers. My own company (eCollege) had our biggest user conference ever – 470 people. And as you would expect, we bring in speakers other than myself ? (I do emcee the event all week.) So, I heard two different keynote speakers last week. As well, I was one of two keynote speakers at the Iowa Community College Online Consortium this week. Finally, I was able to attend a conference two weeks ago with yet another speaker.

While listening to these great colleagues, it occurred to me that a lot of conference planners don’t necessarily talk through the type of message they would like delivered by featured speakers. In fairness, some speakers don’t give that kind of option to conference planners, although if they were interested in true audience analysis, they would!

So, I have assembled a set of speech “types” that might be nice to think about from a keynote (or any speaking) perspective. See what you think…

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The specific subject matter expert – Ideally, every keynote speaker is an expert in something. But there are certain occasions when a conference, graduation, or speaking situation needs an expert in something quite specific. For example, at an engineering conference, they may be looking for a famous engineer or someone who has innovated engineering principles, versus a motivational “non-engineer” expert.

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The comedian – Sometimes, a group just wants funny. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with funny! Maybe there is a theme for the event, like music or an action (ie, sales). (Speaking of music, it’s my opinion that MTV is to music as KFC is to chicken…) Other times, there is NO theme – the audience just wants to be entertained. This can be through any means necessary – like this headline: “Miners Refuse to Work after Death.” They key for conference planners here is how “blue” they are comfortable with. They could hire a stand-up comic, but they may get more than they bargained for with language or allusion! But funny is always a crowd pleaser.

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The researcher – I had the pleasure of listening to Ray Kurzweil a few years ago. The guy is the ultimate futurist and had some amazing stuff to tell us about technology, where he felt we were headed, and how. His message was highly interesting for sure, although it lacked a certain depth regarding how regular people listen to an uber-geek. Some at the conference loved him while others felt the information was over their heads. The key here is to level set the audience ahead of time and match your presenter to their needs. Researchers can have amazing information, but that doesn’t mean they can present it effectively!

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The creative – This can encompass a broad range of speakers, from motivational to humorist to topical. They are often brought in simply to energize, focus, or entertain. They may incorporate magic, stories, jokes, costumes, readings, and video, but they are supposed to be entertaining to the crowd. Luckily there are some great creative types out there for almost any occasion!

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So, as you get ready to find a speaker or perhaps you’re getting ready to speak. These are important elements of audience analysis that should enter the conversation! What does the planner expect? What does the audience expect? What does the organization (read: money controller) expect? It’s good to know these things as you move into an hour of presentation that can often make or break your conference.

I have to end with a quick shout out to Mark Milliron and Ken Robinson – the speaker’s at our CiTE conference last week. Great presenters both, they are as different as night and day. And both of them hit the mark. Thanks gentlemen.

(If you are looking for a SME (Subject Matter Expert) around education, communication, or organization / if you need a humorist, a creative, or a storyteller / or if you just want someone to provide some comic relief for your event or conference, contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


3.25.08

Fallacies in Reasoning: Today I came home to find my wife in a bit of a tizzy. No, I hadn’t forgotten to take out the trash…I’m getting better at that! She had watched NBC’s Today Show about 10 hours earlier, and she was FUMING! The subject was a pretty touchy one for a lot of parents - although the Today Show didn’t really provide both sides of the issue, making it seem like it should be a non-issue altogether. The issue was regarding childhood immunizations.
As a family that has been leveled by chronic illness, and as a family dedicated to education, you can bet that my wife and I have researched a great deal about how to raise our daughter to give her the best chance at a healthy life. For those of you who don’t know, Keena (my wife) has a very bad case of Crohn’s disease - it almost killed her about four years ago. While we’re certainly not doctors, we have learned a LOT about medicine, the medical community, and advice in the past half decade. And unfortunately, a lot of that can be summed up by one word: fallacies.


Case in point - Dr. Nancy Snyderman. She’s actually the NBC News Chief Medical Correspondent. So, you’d think that her arguments would be carefully constructred and would point out both sides of an issue, while explaining how one side was better or stronger. You’d think. Keena and I watched the webcast of the story tonight and Dr. Snyderman (as well as a pediatric hospital doctor) used fallacious arguments over and over again, with nobody there to stop them! (What happened Matt Lauer??? I thought reporters didn’t put up with that kind of thing?!) Here are a few fallacies from the good doctors in this particular story.

  1. There is no evidence to prove that immunizations can hurt children, therefore parents should get them. The Greeks would have cried, “Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance).” This is the fallacy of assuming something is true simply because it hasn’t been proven false. Does anyone remember when eggs were bad for you? Then, remember that they were good for you? Oh, and then they were bad for you again? I’m actually not sure where we are in that cycle. Or how about a high fat diet being assumed to cause obesity? Now, we know that you can eat an all fat diet and lose weight. (I realize you wouldn’t be healthy, but technically it can produce weight loss…) Scientists go with the facts they have at the time - as they should! We can only use the information we have. But, to say that immunizations don’t cause yeast overgrowth, bowel disorders, or Down’s Syndrome because we haven’t proven it yet…that’s not only fallacious, it’s ignorant.
  2. Dr. Synderman goes on to say that it is a parent’s responsibility to think more of the collective, than of their child. How unfortunate! Becuase I know there are mom’s out there who don’t know any better and now the Today show has just told them not to research this serious issue, instead going for the Nike slogan of old: Just Do It! Do you feel it’s a parent’s job to look out for the best interest of their child or of their neighbor’s child? (Ok, maybe this isn’t a fallacy - it’s just a bad argument.)
  3. The good doctors continue with their poor reasoning skills by explaining that there are more doctors in favor of immunizations than those who are against it. This would be the Argumentum ad populum (argument to the public). This is the fallacy that the more people who support or believe a proposition, the more likely that proposition is to be correct. You’ve probably heard this before, “Eat fish three times a day - 1 Billion Chinese people can’t be wrong!”
  4. Dr. Snyderman goes on to say that the Federal Government has said that these vaccinations are safe. Unfortunately, this could be classified as a red herring fallacy. Why? Because the government isn’t always right and to ascert otherwise is foolish. Plus, there are a number of other issues at play with the government. Imagine if they came out and said, “Uh oh…we were wrong! Stop giving the MMR to children as it causes autism!” Do you know how many lawsuits there would be against doctors, pharmacies, and the government?
  5. Finally, the Today Show itself proposes a Slippery Slope fallacy. They talk about an outbreak in San Diego of 12 kids with the Measles. Yes, I said 12. Is it strange to hear about 12? Absolutely! Is 12 statistically significant in any way? Nope. 12 kids in San Diego is less than .0000017 percent of the population of kids. Don’t even try to figure it out with regard to the US population of kids. But, the Today Show reports that number as if it were half the population. The one tidbit of balance in the story was a ten second interview with a doctor who describes the odds that a child in the US will have autism being 1 in 150. If you’re going to force me to play roulette with my daughter’s life, I like my chances with 12 out of 70,000,000 versus 1 out of 150.

Do you see how frustrating it is to experience fallacious arguments? They’re everywhere! But what’s worse is that sometimes they are convincing, even when they are wrong. I’m discouraged to think of the thousands of parents who watched the Today Show this morning and are armed with bad advice and no information the next time they take their kids to the doctor’s office for shots. It’s a serious issue that requires research, thought, and discussion with medical professionals that you trust, not a six minute video segment on a morning show.
With that I’ll leave you so that I can go calm Keena down. I think she’s writing a letter to the Today Show so I should probably just take her some tea…

(If you would like a speaker for your conference on persuasion, argumentation, fallacies, reasoning - or if you just need a speaker for your organization’s teaching / training needs, contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


3.17.08

Serious Games: So, I’m sitting on the 18th floor of my hotel room in Honolulu typing this blog. Wow, technology is cool. I can see a submarine taking tourists around the bay. I can see wind surfers jumping high in the air and crashing into white, frothy waves. And there are a group of vacationing children playing Marco Polo in the lagoon below.

Games are an interesting part of our culture, aren’t they? I was raised a game player. I can remember playing Scrabble with my dad late into the night on more than one occasion, my mom finally stopping play to make me go to bed. I played UNO with my grandparents as a kid. And to this day, I try to make a game out of my workouts because stair climbing and eliptical training with no purpose is also no fun.

But I’m not the only one with a game propensity. Just about everyone likes to play games of one sort or another. Maybe not organized sports, but mental games, psychological games, and unfortunately even emotional games…but that’s another blog :-) And games have finally started to work themselves into the way we learn and teach. Check out the Serious Games Initiative sometime. Or better yet, take a look at River City, Discover Babylon, or any other number of simulated, first person, educational games.

But I’d like to propose yet another, new twist to gaming. I realize that gaming is very new to education and some educators think it’s “silly” - just like people thought computers were “silly” thirty years ago….the afraid will be gone soon enough! But, to those who are really into creativity, integration, and interactivty - to people who want students to be enveloped by their subject matter, I propose the inclusion of another game element into our arsenal. It’s called ARG: Alternative Reality Games.

Basically, ARGs are used in marketing right now. There are probably 50 - 100 ARGs going on right now around the world (and the world wide web). The idea is that a marketer hides clues (like Easter Eggs) in the world. This can be a flash drive left on park bench, a YouTube video with a secret message, or various letters of a page highlighted to send a message. These clues come together to form a game that is absolutely enveloping to people. There is a sense of mystery, with small successes coming throughout the game as each clue is uncovered and understood. There is a wonderful sense of community that develops as people use personal skills to help the group solve each clue. And all along the way, there is tremendous opportunity for teaching moments!

Imagine trying to train your employees to learn a new software. But, the way to learn that software is to hide clues that can only be solved using the software. Suddenly it’s not training…it’s a game. (But it IS training, isn’t it?) Or what if your students need to fully understand various theorums in order to solve clues leading to a prize or extra credit? Suddenly it’s not math - it’s a game! And if a teacher were to include curriculum integration in the experience, allowing students to incorporate math, history, science, language…now we’re talking about innovation. This is the kind of education that our students are craving and this could be powerful when organized by a school, a college, a department, etc.

In two weeks, I’ll be leading a Serious Game meets an ARG at our CiTE conference. I’ll let you know how it goes. But, more imporant is a question for you. Do you want to play a game? Your employees, students, trainees, and children do…

CLUE #5 For the CiTE ARG / Serious Games Session:

Adjunct Instructor Frieda Jones, Stewart’s Freshman English Comp teacher had this to say about Stew, “He was a solid student for me. Not outstanding, but not bad by any means. He turned his assignments in on time and successfully. He got a high B in my class. He was your average blue eyed, blonde haired, American student and I thought he did a nice job.”

Professor Mic Brevin, Shirley’s Freshman Geology teacher had this to say, “Quite frankly I don’t remember Shirley. I had to look at her homework history which I found to be quite proficient. While I didn’t have essays in my class, she always turned her work in on time and it was always high B / low A work.”


(If you would like a speaker for your conference on gaming, serious games, ARGs - or if you’d like help setting up a game for your organization’s teaching / training needs, contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


3.10.08

Weight Management: I know what you’re thinking…this blog has been about communication, education, and other various “higher level” concepts. What’s up with the weight thing? Well, in the spirit of immediacy and transparency, it’s important that I discuss this. And, in fairness, I have used several weight-based illustrations in my speaking over the years. In fact, I have also spoken for the sole purpose of weight management and healthy eathing, so it does tie to speaking. (Plus, it’s my blog…if you don’t care about weight, come back next week!)

So I’ve been overweight my whole life. It’s affected significant elements of who I am as a person – my self-esteem, my dress, my choices of everything from food to women…it’s systemic. But what’s weird to me is that I don’t fit the “mold” of a lot of overweight people. First off, I’m a big guy (I hear this ALL the time). I’m 6’5”, so I “carry weight well” – supposedly. As a result, a lot of people have no idea that I am overweight, even though the BMI suggests I’m actually obese. (Of course, they say that of Holyfield, the boxing champ is too.) As well, I don’t have a “trigger” to my eating. A lot of people eat when they’re happy or sad or scared or depressed…I eat during ALL of those occasions and many more. Do you know how you don’t eat when you’re sick? Not me. Just exercised? I’m starving. Ate an hour ago? I could go for a burrito… I just don’t fit the normal profile. And it’s been disconcerting to say the least.

Like I said, I’ve been heavy my whole life. When I was in 7th grade, the typing teacher at my school came in to see his buddy the gym coach. We were all doing those tests where they count sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and rope climbing ability. I was trying to do one pull-up and I was struggling mightily. As the typing teacher walked into the gym teacher’s office, he glanced at me, snickered, and said, “Having a tough time tubby?” He and the gym teacher thought that was pretty amusing. (I must admit, there have been several occasions when I’ve thought of finding one or both of them and showing them how I grew up as well as out, but that’s a different blog.)So what have I done about it? Well…like most Americans I’ve tried just about everything. As a persuasion hound and a late-night tv junkie, I’ve gone for all of the info-mercial specials! Pills, machines, books, and the like have all come through my mailbox. I’ve gone to a fat-camp, I’ve tried every diet you’ve ever heard of, and I’ve even researched tape-worms bought over the Internet…yep, I’ve struggled with this for a long time.

So, what a crummy blog, right? Who wants to read a losing story? Well, I haven’t actually lost…yet. See, I’ve discovered some great things along the way. And, I’ve gone from 315lbs (about 10 years ago) to 245lbs today. My goal is to reach 235lbs sometime in the next month or so. But, what I’ve learned has actually transferred into many other aspects of life. See what you think.

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1. People are individuals. The thing about the pills, books, and diets that I finally get is that they will NEVER work for everyone. And when you hear someone say they will, you’re about to get taken. For example, some diets say to eat a small snack before bed to keep your metabolism going. But that doesn’t work for me. In fact, I can’t eat after 7pm if I want to lose weight effectively. Is that true for anyone else? Probably. Is it true for everyone? That would be ridiculous. Your body handles certain things in specific ways.
2. Portion control is out of control in our country. It’s ludicrous to need a plate of food the size of a football, but every restaurant in America does just that. People always wonder how other countries eat such fattening foods and don’t gain weight…while there are actually several reasons (more every-day exercise, better-rounded meals, wine consumption, more sleep, etc.), one major reason is portion size. Do you realize that your stomach’s natural state is to be about the size of your fist? Do you realize how much more than that you cram into it every meal? You do the math…
3. Speaking of math, essentially it comes down to numbers. Want to lose weight? Drop 500 calories from your resting caloric number and you’ll lose a pound a week. That’s basically true (of course there are specific people that have ailments making this not true…and you could eat those numbers in chocolate & potato chips and that might throw things off…). But, in base numbers, try to eat no more than your resting caloric intake and you’ll be ok.
4. Our government is wrong. The ideas, health concerns, and numbers that our government puts out regarding food, health, and weight are silly. Any organization that gets money from food lobbyists shouldn’t put any stamp of approval on anything food related. If you want to learn some amazing, but disheartening stuff about food as it relates to health, go to a better source. Try a few researchers and experts on food, nutrition, and health. Here are a few to get you started: The China Study (www.thechinastudy.com), Eat To Live (www.drfuhrman.com), The Food Revolution (www.foodrevolution.org), Fast Food Nation (www.amazon.com), or even SuperSize Me (http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=98). These references will show you that food isn’t just related to obesity – specific foods are linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, auto-immune diseases, and on and on. (BTW – just quit doing anything that involves high-fructose corn syrup. You might as well ingest Clorox on a regular basis.)
5. You need support. I have had many relationships over the years and very few of them were healthy when it came to my being healthy. I’m truly blessed right now to be in a relationship where my wife and family support the decisions I need to make in order to be healthy. This includes how often I eat out, exercising, and snacking. Without support, the job is a lot harder than with it.

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Why did I write this blog? Hmmm…partly because it’s cathartic. Partly because I wanted to help people see that there are things you can do to help yourself. You don’t have to be heavy – even when it seems like that’s all you’ve ever known. But most important for me is that I want the world to know that I’m doing my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Why is it important everyone know? Because I have a beautiful, life changing, wonderful little daughter now. And I will do everything in my power to be around to play with HER kids someday…

(If you would like a speaker for your conference on eating, weight, health, or any other communication need, contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


3.03.08

Training: This week, someone asked me what I look for when I hire a new trainer. Sure, there are the typical job posting qualities: must be a good communicator, must have good prioritization skills, etc. But the list is bigger than that. While I’ve been praised several times as a great trainer, I know that I’m not the total package. (You can fool some of the people some of the time…) I don’t possess some of the qualities that I look for in others. (Isn’t that what a good boss does?) Not everyone is a great speaker while still being a great consultant. Some people can listen and be respectful but don’t have the “big picture” attribute. But, all things considered, this is a good list to start from if you’re looking for someone to be a “trainer” at your company. Let’s see if I can crystallize them here for you. A good trainer is:

1. A good teacher. The mission at eCollege for trainers is unique. We try to hire trainers who deliver teaching tips as well as functional, system training. We think this really differentiates us from our competitors. In my past life, when I was solely teaching using the Internet, I sat in on trainings from our competitors and it was always, “Click this button - here is what happens…” Ugh. I try VERY hard to use learning style research, education theory, and brain research to make our trainings actually helpful. Adults need context - they need to know how with why. We try to provide that.
2. Someone who can handle a room. Good communication skills are essential. But presentation skills are not the only way to “handle a room!” This also includes listening, being respectful, good interpersonal skills, good nonverbals, etc. The best trainers aren’t on the stage the whole time and if they can’t relate 1X1, I’d rather find someone with who isn’t as strong with presentation, if they have great interpersonal skills. (I can always teach presentation skills to someone.)
3. Someone who can get to the “so what” of anything. When I took the main trainer role from a colleague who was moving on, there were several elements in our trainings that had no impact, because they didn’t really matter. People need things to be streamlined into what matters vs what doesn’t. Good trainers can do that after trying something just a few times.
4. Someone who is flexible. I have trainers today who are in trouble if they get to a school and are told, “We already know the platform…can you make this more of an ‘advanced’ training?” They freak out! But, we have some trainers who can absolutely handle that kind of curve ball without blinking. They think on their feet and it helps a lot.
5. A creative. A person who thinks out of the box can provide that extra “umph” that people love. Little tips, tricks, and special “secrets” that accompany the training are essential. They make the training “pop” and the audience feels like they know “special” information.
6. A good storyteller. 75% of your audience relates to story. So, I need someone who can tell a good, compelling, concise story to emphasize a point. (This can be taught to some people, but you need a good teacher who really understands the makings of a narrative.)
7. Someone who can follow up. The hardest thing for me (personally) is following up after the seminar. Good trainers are macro enough to get the big picture as well as micro enough to deal with the small details.
8. Someone who enjoys research. Good trainers have to know what trends are impacting whatever it is they train for. At eCollege it’s education, technology, learning, curriculum, outcomes, assessment, etc. So, we have to do our best to stay on top of what’s going on in the education world so we can provide really important, but correct insights for our participants.
9. Confident, but not cocky. Too confident feels “salesy” or “shmoozy” - I want genuine (as do trainees). This often comes from experience (on either side of the podium). Of course, the best way to acquire confidence is to do it, learning the mistakes not to repeat and the victories to include every time.
10. A strong leader. I have trainers today who are scared to tell people what to do, how to think, etc. People can always disagree, but often, participants want someone to say, “This is the best way to do it” vs “There are lots of ways to do it, pick your favorite.” There is a time for each of those messages, but some people are scared to death of option 1. I need someone who’s not afraid to be assertive! Ultimately, most training participants want the same thing…

Good trainers are hard to come by. A LOT of companies make the same mistake about this position that is made in several other positions. The assumption that somebody can train simply because they know the product, service, process, etc., is bad line of reasoning. Universities have made this assumption for years regarding their professors. Many companies install executives who are great at what they do, assuming that this also means they know how to lead, communicate downward, manage, etc. It’s a bad assumption for anyone to make and it’s bad for trainers. Often the best trainers are simply the best communicators. And there is a LOT of communication needed…presentation, interpersonal, intercultural, small group, nonverbal, organizational, etc. But, once you find a good trainer, treat them well. Because as helpful as that trainer is for your company, they are a show-piece that others start to want as representatives for their own organizations.

(If you would like more information about how to train effectively, how to be a great trainer, or any other communication need, contact Jeff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


2.25.08

Professionalism: Can you do your job? Do you do it well? Do you know how to do that job better than you are given credit for? I’ll bet for many of you, this is the case…I had one of those profound, life-changing, paradigm-shifting moments not too long ago. It was a moment that crystallized thoughts and feelings I had, but until then, had never consciously put into words. A mentor faculty member at Argosy University asked a simple question that clarified the notion of standardization, creativity, work ethic, and free thought. In reference to ‘No Child Left Behind’ he asked, “When will our government trust in our professionalism as teachers? Why is the assumption that after all of our schooling, all of the research, and all of our effort, that we must be micro-managed in how we act, think, and do our jobs?”

There was a conversation that ensued, but the gist of the discussion was that other professions are allowed to govern themselves and to create measures of accountability. But at the same time, these professions are looked to for research, innovation, and ideas around that same governance. So why does that not happen for education?

But it got me thinking more broadly than education. This concept applies to almost every profession in some way, but more importantly it likely applies within the walls of your office, your institution, or your organization.I know several sales-persons who feel like their job is not a profession. These men and women are good at what they do: selling. Many of them have been in sales for decades. Yet, the companies that they work for spoon-feed them exactly what to say, exactly what collateral to use, and exactly how to negotiate. Essentially, they are treated as rookies, children, or incapable adults in terms of salesmanship. At the same time, these companies are often losing out on sales. As any good sales-person will tell you, each situation is complex, unique, and requires various persuasive strategies. Some people respond to cognitive dissonance. Other sales situations require expectancy value. Sometimes, all that is required is use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But this “one size fits all” sales approach not only frustrates effective sellers, it also leads to missed opportunities that may have been there had a quality sales-person done what they do: sell.

As I talk with people around the country, this example seems to be the norm more often than not, rather than the exception. But, it begs some questions (at least to me), that need to be addressed.

First, if a person is not capable of making the kinds of decisions necessary for a job, why hire them? I’m not talking about their first week on the job. This is not about training. This is about allowing a person to do whatever it takes to do the job you’ve hired them to do! Of course there are guidelines and boundaries, but would you fire a chef because they cut vegetables with their left hand, rather than their right? Would you tell a surgeon how to sew up an incision and if it was not done to your specifications, find another surgeon? If a person cannot do what you need for a job, then isn’t it simple enough? Don’t hire them!

Second, this makes me question leadership. Why is it so rare to find leadership that gives control to appropriate people and groups? One of my favorite quotes regarding leadership is from Theodore Roosevelt. He said, “The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what needs to be done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” In reading articles and books by leaders of GE, Kinkos, and Motorola, and Google, it seems that there are people who get it. But it doesn’t seem to be the majority of leaders, whether you are talking about education, business, government, or private enterprise. Control seems to be an issue that hinders progress.

There are even some leaders who understand that even they don’t know everything about the company. How exciting it must be to work for a company like GE, where they take retreats over the year with several individuals from GE (line workers, managers, directors…just about anyone). These retreats are designed to ask essentially two things: 1) What don’t we do very well? 2) What ideas do you have that would allow us to do even better?

Haven’t we all worked someplace where the person running the show believed that they knew better than everyone else about every product, every job, every decision…and it’s frustrating! (Especially when they’re wrong - which can seem fairly often.) This really is business communication 101 – typically an elective in most Business programs. If you want to find out what you do well – ask your people. If you want to find out what is ticking off your customers – ask your people. If you want to know where there are holes in the process – ask your people!

And so, to all the leaders out there who don’t do this, it’s time to step up to the plate. It might bruise your ego, but so what? (Isn’t that what you think if you bruise somebody else’s?) It might also lead to better processes, better morale, and (bottom line) better profits. If you aren’t a leader and this frustrates you, I have two pieces of advice. First, get used to it. You don’t have to be a good leader to run a company or manage a department and I could poll you to find thousands of examples proving this point. Second, polish up your resume. There ARE companies out there that listen, that value, and that care what the workers think. Find them and apply.

(If you want some consulting around how to better communicate organizationally, how to treat your professionals professionally, or just how to motivate all things business, contact http://jeffpresents.com for more info!)


2.18.08

Outcomes: I have the honor of presenting information to educators all around the country every week. In my journeys, I get asked various questions about everything from, “How is teaching online possible” to “How do we fix what is wrong with education today?” But lately, many of the questions surround the idea of outcomes and/or standards.

In my thinking, I often break higher education and K-12 into two different categories. After all, adult learning (andragogy) and child learning (pedagogy) are different. However, the relevancy of context to the learner, the need for varied teaching methodologies, and the presence of several (perhaps dozens) learning styles is slowly blurring.

But I am not the only one making this distinction – the final “product” for which millions of students, teachers, and schools at the k-12 level are held accountable for are standards. In higher education, standards go by several names: outcomes, goals, standards, values, tasks, products, and more.

However, across every enterprise – from education to business, from government to science, the “end result” is almost always the name of the game. “The joy is in the journey” means very little against the bottom line, which is typically money. As a professional speaker, this is also true. The final result is what matters at the end of the night. Did the audience enjoy the speech? Did you persuade the group to act? If entertainment was the desired outcome, how did you do? Any speaker who does not go into a presentation thinking about the outcomes is foolish indeed.

But there are some important things to remember about outcomes. Things that our government should be advised to remember. Things that accrediting agencies would be remiss to forget. Things that educators had better master quickly, or forget about teaching. Here is the beginning of a very important list…a list that should not end with this discussion, and hopefully it never will:

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1. Outcomes need semantic clarity. It amazes me how often the words associated with outcomes are blurred. But there are, and have to be, differences associated with each “level” of outcomes. I am particularly appreciative of Jonathan Mueller’s work – I highly recommend checking out the Authentic Assessment Toolbox to help guide your understanding of terminology. But, to assume that goals and outcomes and objectives are the same thing is setting you up for failure in ever attempting to measure results. (For my purpose here, I’m using the term outcomes as the highest measurable task for a person. This is because higher education often uses outcomes as a term versus standards in k-12.)

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2. Know what is measurable and what is not. I saw a k-12 standard the other day that asked if students “understood the value of the dollar.” Really? Can anyone tell me what “understand” looks like? I’ll bet it’s different to you than it is to me. Stay away from the big no-no’s of outcome writing: understand, know, get, to do, etc. What can you measure? An explanation, a product, a synthesis of two complex ideas put into real world application. Essentially, you can measure a test question, a computer program, a model, or a portion of a speech.

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3. Know that outcomes are individual. When teachers bring up No Child Left Behind, it’s almost always with contempt. They are so frustrated with the lack of individuality associated with k-12 classrooms today, they are leaving the profession in droves. (The last figure I heard was that the average teacher coming out of college leaves education after 2 years of service.”) Why are the so frustrated? Because the assumption of No Child Left Behind is that every student is exactly the same cognitively, developmentally, emotionally, psychologically, and socio-economically. The assumption of the mandated Act (and the reason I’m guessing it’s been restructured year after year) takes away the notion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as well as decades of brain research, which is why it hasn’t gotten a lot traction from most educators. My wife was a 1 st grade teacher. She had students come in every morning who hadn’t eaten because their families couldn’t afford breakfast. Do you think they were invested in learning to subtract? Brain research tells us that at any given time, a person might learn to connect synapses never before bridged – this could happen (developmentally) at any age. In other words, some students understand algebra in 9th grade very easily while others will not figure it out until 11th grade. Uh-oh.

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4. The best outcomes are derived from pre-assessment. As a speaker, I wish that for every presentation I give, I could survey the audience. How much easier that would make my life! But, unfortunately, that’s not the case. So, I create sudo-surveys based on any demographic, psychographic, or situational characteristic that I know before stepping out onto a stage. (Presenters Tip: audience analysis is one of 5 keys to effective speaking.) However, in education, there is no need for sudo-anything! Loads of pre, a, and post-assessment can be done throughout any quarter, term, semester, or whatever you call it. And as vast amounts of research show us, assessment should drive instruction. Is it fair to ask a student who is 2 years behind another student to “catch up” to be equal? More importantly, is it realistic? Or, should we expect teachers to provide the equivalent of one year’s progress for each student? How would we do that? Assessment. We would set benchmarks and let professional educators take them to the next level without presuming other assumptions on them. By the way, this is as true for adult learners as it is for child learners. Unfortunately, most college professors have never had a class in teaching, education, or learning. That practice has to stop.

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5. Outcomes are measurable. Once you figure out the above concepts, it becomes vital to actually measure these outcomes. This is as true for accreditors as it is for State (and National) standards boards. And with technology, measured outcomes are not only easily attainable, they are easily reportable. (When accreditors finally figure this out, higher education should beware – this will change education as we know it.) Outcomes can be correlated to an individual student’s progress, how an instructor teaches the outcome, or how an entire program of students succeeds at mastering the concept. Outcomes can measured at the program level, at the course level, at the department level, and at the content level – even going down to a test item. Technology has actually gotten to a point where this is not only possible, it’s easy (comparatively).

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6. Outcomes need to be realistic and attainable. In the latest TIMSS report (Math & Science Government Report), it was discovered that our student’s textbooks have 175% more material than German textbooks and 350% more material than Japanese textbooks. Yet, they are continually measured against these other countries outcomes achievement by students. What a shame…I know that I have to “reel in” my outcomes for basic public speaking students, so as not to include more advanced ideas and concepts that really aren’t appropriate for novices. As a professional speaker, I need to edit my PowerPoint slides, my key ideas, my example websites, and my stories so that I do not saturate my audience with too much.

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I’m heading to Washington to speak with our government about these (and many more) issues regarding education. But this conversation needs to happen at various levels and with real (educational) thought and perspective. The bottom line is that outcomes do not have to be hopeful goals. Nor, do outcomes need to be assumed impossible. Both of these notions would be fallacious in reasoning. But, outcomes should be individual. Outcomes should be based on assessment as much as curriculum design. Outcomes should be understood by each level of accountability.My intended outcome of this blog? I want you to think about how you create and measure your own outcomes, regardless of industry…did it work? (Ask Jeff to present an outcomes strategy for your organization. Go to http://jeffpresents.com)


2.11.08

Email: Does it amaze anyone else how little thought goes into email. Specifically business email? Companies use this tool for internal communication, external communication, client facing messages, and so much more, yet nobody feels the need to talk about effective use of this communication tool… What gives? A lot of websites and experts give great advice, top fifty mistake lists, etc. So, rather than repeat what is already out there, let me put my own practical spin on it. (I don’t care how you use the bcc field - it’s either appropriate or it’s not!) What I do care about is how you communicate with this tool and how it makes you look. Here is what I mean…

  • Do NOT “Reply All” when simply thanking someone for something. Nothing fills up an inbox like unnecessary “thanks Bill” replies. If you want to thank someone, do it privately. If you want a boss-type to see it, just cc them!
  • Just give me the message. Do NOT ask me to search through a string of 10 emails to see what it is you’re talking about. It makes you look lazy and incompetent.
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    Easy with the forwards. I like a good joke as much as anyone, but please take it easy with the forwarding of collective messages, jokes, funny pictures, etc. If you send me more than 1 per month, you have too much time on your hands. (By the way, that’s what your boss will think if s/he gets wind of all the forwards too…)
  • Please read the entire message before asking questions. I can’t count how many times somebody got their mind all a twitter with potential problems because they didn’t read all the way through a communication piece.
    Preview the email if it’s long. If there are pieces for multiple departments or stakeholders, explain that in a quick, 2 sentence preview. (It’s also helpful to give various parts of an email unique colors.)
  • Enough with the receipts. You should know…most people are given the option to send you a receipt or not and most people say, “NO” when asked. Use that feature sparingly…like when you are delivering legal news or a financial statement. Otherwise, let it go.
  • Use some etiquette. I realize occasionally there is a need for a super quick email, but would it kill you to use a greeting and a signature? In most programs you can create an auto-signature, so it’s now just a greeting. “Hi Susan” or “Hey Gang” doesn’t take that much out of you, does it? And it looks so much more professional. (By the way, bosses…I know this is a great “power” move. Just giving direction with no “frills” makes you seem important and like you’re so busy that you don’t have time for trivialities. At least it seems that way to you…not to anyone else.)
  • In the name of all that is holy, use a spell-check and read over any external emails for grammar. Don’t look like a dufus because you misspelled something to a client. Don’t look like a 12 year old because you can’t capitalize “I” when talking about yourself. And don’t CAPITALIZE EVERY WORD because you don’t want to take the time to actually use proper grammar. All of these things make you seem…well…stupid.
  • Try to remember that emailed words have no paralanguage. Have you ever received this kind of message: “What is this all about?” Wow…is the sender mad? Are they frustrated with me? Do they simply not get it or are they confused? A bit of context helps everyone online.
  • Stop sending me stuff that I don’t need. What don’t I need? If you want to really get ahead, you should already know that…

The written word is sometimes as powerful an indicator of your ability as your ability itself. Use your head when it comes to email and it can go a long way towards ensuring that your boss, your clients, and your co-workers think you have something important to offer.


2.04.08

Lists: I’m a huge fan of Nick Hornby (http://www.nickhornby.net/). High Fidelity was a fantastic book / movie for myself and many of my friends. The integration of music into the narrative was copacetic but it was the lists that really got us going. If you haven’t ever had a list debate, you’re really missing out. I love working through the best comedies of all time with my wife, the best 80s band of all time with my best friend, or the best red wine region with buddies from work. I think the best part about it isn’t the nostalgia and it isn’t getting to hear, “Oh, I forgot about that…you’re right!” It’s the give and take of the human brain. It’s the imagination and determination that a person’s will produces when they want to share something valuable and important to them. And so…as a dedication to one of my favorite hobbies, here are a few lists, a few bests, and a few worsts. (This ties in to immediacy and transparency, but more than that…it’s fun!) They are absolute opinion. And of course, you can disagree! It’s you’re right to be wrong at any time in our country!

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  • The best fictional novel of all time: Point of Impact (Steven Hunter - www.stephenhunter.net) - This is the book that made me want to write books…
  • The best textbook I’ve ever found to teach communication principles (or any principles for that matter): The Persuasion Edge by Dr. Richard Crawford. It’s out of print, but you can find copies. Dealing with communication aspects of the courtroom (for lawyers, policemen, judges, bailiffs, etc.) it’s actually quite powerful for ANYONE wanting to learn how to communication and advocate just about anything. It’s worth searching for.
  • The best television show of all time: M*A*S*H (www.mash4077.co.uk) - I’ve seen every episode at least 5 times. It was irreverent, funny, psychological, and impactful. 11 seasons means I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
  • Top 3 80’s songs: 1) Take On Me by A-ha. (Pop up video says the Swedish band got their name because “a-ha” means the same thing in both English and Swedish…) 2) The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range (My first CD I ever bought…) 3) Owner of a Lonely Heart (Yes is still one of my favorite bands - they continue to release albums!)
  • The worst soda of all time: Ok…trick question. Soda is HORRIBLE for you. How has our country not figured that out yet? We slurp down gallons of high fructose corn syrup and CUPS of sugar each year.
    Top 3 movies of all time: I know it’s hard to do this without categorization, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m going with 1) Memento (http://imdb.com/title/tt0209144/) - one of the most clever, well established plots of all time. But you’ll need to see it twice. 2) Braveheart (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112573/) - this movie is just plain inspiring and it even has a love story sewn through the middle for everyone to enjoy! 3) The Shawshank Redemption (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111161/) - the best of King, Darabont, Robbins, and Freeman. Time to get busy livin, eh?
  • Speaking of…The best Stephen King novel: The Stand (http://www.stephenking.com/pages/Works/stand/) - King creates characters that you feel you’ve met when he’s through. And this one twists and turns to the end. (Plus, it’s cool that it takes place in Colorado…)
  • The top 3 Presidential Speakers: I realize it’s unfair as I did not get to hear many President’s speak prior to recordings from the 40’s, but I’m going to have to say - 1) Reagan 2) Clinton and 3) JFK – All 3 seemed to be able to capture the audience and persuade, charm, or inform them throughout their entire Presidency.
  • The worst time of day: 5am…tell that to my daughter. (Please!)
  • The 3 best places to visit: I traveled 147,000 miles last year. I’ve been to Hawaii, New York, Orlando, and a ton of other places. (48 out of 50 states!) I feel that I have some knowledge here - let’s see if I can help some of you out! 1) Louisville, KY - the place is beautiful in the Fall & Spring. 2) Flagstaff, AZ - close to amazing hiking, great parks, and cool restaurants. This isn’t a “fancy shmancy” place - it’s for normal folks. 3) Austin, TX - Keep Austin Weird…go there and you’ll see what that’s all about.
  • Worst thing religious people can say: 1) God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. (Really? Tell that to the pediatric AIDS patient dying in the hospital…)
  • Best guitar player of all time: A lot of people go with Santana or Hendrix, but for longevity, creativity, and chops, you have to say Eddie Van Halen!
  • Best list of all time: http://jeffpresents.com

Try a list discussion out yourself. There are countless ways to do it. Believe it or not, it can be pretty cool at parties, in the car, or the dinner table. Just don’t get too wrapped up in right or wrong! (Then it can become, “name the fastest way to lose your friends or get kicked out onto the couch…”)

  • Name your favorite writer.
  • Name the top 5 comedians of all time.
  • Name the best dog breed to own.
  • What’s the best dessert?
  • What’s the best line from a movie…ever?


1.28.08

Humor: I’m a pk (preacher’s kid). So, I find tremendous humor in the inappropriate. I always have. From whispering “urine” to my sister as we filled out a Mad-Libs in the back of the car (I used it as a verb no less…), to splitting my sides when my best friend caught his arm on fire trying to help me burn ants. But inappropriate or not, I have always liked funny. I think I get my love of humor from my folks. I can remember them sitting around with their friends doing nothing but laughing. Tears would roll down their cheeks and at times people would fall on the floor. It was amazing. I still remember a night in high school when a tremendous burst of wailing / laughing roared up from the basement. I flew downstairs to see that my father had fallen off the couch and was rolling around on the ground crying and laughing at the same time - he had just seen Clark W Griswold place his dead Aunt Edna on the roof of the Family Truckster station wagon and head towards California. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085995/)

So, what’s funny? Students always ask me how I got into stand-up comedy. Where I got material. Did people laugh? My mom loves introducing me at parties by telling people that I was a comic. She then tells me to, “Say something funny…” (I usually say something about Michael Jackson who is a punch line in and of himself.)

But I hear from people more often than not that they aren’t funny. “You should meet my uncle…now HE’S funny…” they suggest. But I think more people are funny than know it. There are LOTS of kinds of funny. Sure, there are Steve Martins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY8Mik06kvE), Brian Regans (http://www.brianregan.com/experience-av.html), and other comedians out there. Plenty of them! But there are lots of creative, humorous, funny people all around us. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if I can make you a believer:
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1. I got an email from my friend a few days ago. He told me he was in Houston, TX last week on business. As he was driving he saw a billboard that said, “CALL 1-800-777-7777 for immediate help from Jesus” - He couldn’t resist. So, at his next gas fill up, he called the number. A man answered and simply said, “Where are you?” My buddy told him. 5 minutes later a Hispanic man pulled up with a tow-truck…now that’s funny.

2. My grandmother was tickled with a bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you love Jesus.” My grandfather didn’t know she put it on the car and everytime someone honked, he flipped them off. Funny.

3. I have at least 1 student every term that explains they will miss a week of class and ask, “Will I miss anything important?” NO! We’re going to sit around trying to ascertain the proper way to tickle an armpit! Annoying, but funny.

4. My 6 month old daughter has a new favorite game. If you laugh at something she does, she’ll repeat it twenty or thirty times as long as you keep laughing! That’s FUNNY!

5. Maybe you’re a word-smythe. Surely you’ve heard Carlin’s “Baseball and Football” routine?! (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/humor7.shtml)

6. Like music to tickle your funny bone? Bare Naked Ladies “If I Had a Million Dollars” is amusing. Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” is now a holiday classic. HnP are starting to get a following - check out their Def Poetry Spam! (www.hardnphirm.com)

7. Maybe you write funny! Take a cue from Brocke Clark’s “An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England” for starters. (www.arsonistsguide.com)

8. My wife is a vegan - that’s 1 step more serious about it than a vegetarian. We’ve heard some great stuff when asking for Vegetarian fare at restaurants - “Um…we have turkey burgers…” or “I would bet the chef could make a tuna sandwich” etc. But my favorite has to be the waiter in Dallas, Tx who explained, “You bet we have vegetarian stuff. All of our beef is vegetarian fed!” Funny…or sad?

9. Perhaps you like sketch comedy - my personal favorite is the SNL classic with Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, and Garrett Morris. A sick child (Morris) is laying in a hospital bed when Babe Ruth (Belushi) comes in explaining he’s going to hit one out of the park later that day just for the little boy. Later, you see the doctors and nurses, along with the boy listening to the radio broadcast of the big game. The announcer (Akroyd) exclaims, “Here comes the Babe! He’s pointing to right field! He’s proclaiming to the world that he’s going to hit a homerun for the little dying boy in the hospital!” At that moment, Garrett Morris looks at the doctor and sayd,”What? I’m dying???” HILARIOUS!

10. Or maybe yours is a more subtle humor. You like the sublime. You enjoy a thinking man’s funny. Then just keep in mind what one of my speech students - a sight impaired student - said at the end of his speech. “Green is just a flavor to a blind man…”

Do you want to be funny? There are thousands of ways to make people laugh. From falling on a banana peel to writing a clever song. From telling a joke to jingling your car keys…ok, maybe that’s only funny to my 6 month old. But, you too can find your niche. Now go on…say something funny…(Want to hire a professional speaker who is funny? http://jeffpresents.com)


1.21.08

Transparency: Have you seen the YouTube video that caused the CEO of the company to come to a customer’s home? You know, the one that got a technician fired and created uproar among Comcast customers? If you haven’t seen it, check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvVp7b5gzqU Transparency is the most freeing and the most frightening of concepts for an organization today. The idea that a President or CEO would open themselves up to external scrutiny without the shield of marketing is a profoundly new and daunting idea to many. But in our world of quick snap cell phones, personal blogs, and instant messaging, transparency is often the best (and sometimes the only) way to truly deal with potential trouble in the marketplace today.There are a myriad of ways for the consumer (read: people) to collectively guard, watch, or protect each other from poor business practices, faulty products, bad service, or seemingly unfair corporate entities. http://fedspending.org is using the power (and speed) of the Internet to look into bills being shuffled through Congress with “fat” attached to them. Politicians are not happy about the public knowing of their spending habits. And there are dozens of sites like this popping up every month. Do a simple “watchdog” search sometime…watchdog lists for junk food production, personal privacy, doctor lawsuits, and even NASA spending exist today. And this accountability has rooted its way into most every facet of life: education, business, real estate, food, entertainment, and on and on. People can compare and contrast everything on the Internet. Who’s the best professor at your local college? (www.ratemyprofessors.com) Want to rate a common consumer product? (www.bizrate.com) How would you like to know what government office was the best place to work? (http://bestplacestowork.org/BPTW/about/) Need to find a restaurant, church, gym, or dentist? Not a problem with the World Wide Web. If you want to rate it, rank it, compare it, or research it, somebody has posted a comment, blog, chart, list, or grade on the Internet for all to see. From www.epinions.com to rating buyers and sellers on eBay, the consumer is becoming increasingly knowledgeable about what to buy, when to buy, and how other people experienced their product or service. But with so many citizen opinions and watchdogs out there, how can one possibly keep up? How does a company combat negative ratings and information? How does a savvy business leader effectively deal with this unprecedented level of communication regarding their product or service? Transparency.There are hundreds of popular blogs today. Most bloggers claim that information attained from a blog is more credible and believable than traditional websites. The entire notion of marketing seems diametrically opposed to transparent blogging. Spin versus disclosure – hype versus honesty. Blogging, social networking, and interactive web communication can actually cut problems off at the pass these days. But it takes a good communicator to create a blog worth reading. And a quality blog can be a tremendous asset to any organization. Don’t believe me? How about some experts? Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin believes blogging saved his company. Microsoft allowed Michael Scoble to blog for years, changing the perception of the company to anyone who read his comments in the “blogosphere.” Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems blogs apologies regularly. Even David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue tried to say sorry using YouTube after last year’s debacle that held hundreds of passengers captive on grounded planes for several hours. These leaders understand that the Internet is a fluid, salient, accountable place. It’s easier than ever to see how an organization tried to pull a fast one. Poor service detailed descriptions are a click away.

A few years ago soccer moms displayed information about politician spending habits that potentially hurt his ability to get re-elected. Last year bloggers uncovered plagiarism by thousands of college professors in their dissertations and journal articles. More recently, bloggers exposed a series of fake blogs by Wal-Mart’s PR firm proving that if you’re going to be transparent, you have to go all the way.But what does that mean? What are the rules for transparency? If you’re thinking about going out into the transparent world wide web, keep a few things in mind.

1. There are secrets you still have to keep. While open-source advocates will continually propagate giving away proprietary secrets, there will always be elements of the business that should remain yours alone. If nothing else, SOX rules are far more important than the Net.
2. Leave your ego at the door. My guess is this is where most executives run into trouble. One of the biggest problems with business today is the inability to ask what they are doing poorly. Blogging however, assumes problems exist and that they will be shared.
3. Communicate effectively. Check out the styles of other bloggers and follow suit. But avoid ghost-writers or marketing directors as your companies blogging officials. This has backfired too often.
4. Be real. It’s the desire for people to connect to your words, your ideas, and your struggles that makes this entire medium useful. If it’s all roses or muted truth, it won’t resonate with anyone.
5. Finally, don’t ignore the narrative. Brief tidbits of your life and the organization’s culture come out in story. Become a good storyteller and your transparency will be authentic. (Need help telling a good story? http://jeffpresents.com can help!)


1.14.08

Leadership: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from FDR: “A good leader is someone who knows how to pick the right people to do the right thing, then the sense to stand out of the way and let them do it.” Most people now understand and accept that there are natural (born) leaders and selected (assigned) leaders. The natural leader is the Sergeant whose platoon follows them up the hill instead of the Major. The natural leader is the VP that everyone goes to for answers or to get anything “real” done instead of the President. The natural leader is the Chair that faculty come to in order to get something past a Dean. Natural leaders are followed whereas assigned leaders are simply “in charge.” I also think it is important to note that people CRAVE effective leadership. People want to follow a natural leader. It’s the right thing to do. It feels good. It makes sense. This past weekend, I participated in a doctoral seminar around curriculum development. The instructor of our course basically charged us with going forth and leading educators, administrators, districts, CEOs, and Presidents with a message that ultimately is the best thing for every student. And as I looked around my class, I wondered if anyone would (or could) do that. The kind of effort it would take to “lead” our states or even our country regarding effective curriculum choices would be understated as intense. The leader must believe in this cause passionately or the fights and struggles would not be worth it. But belief isn’t enough…leaders have other qualities that are essential:A good leader is not a “squeaky wheel” - We all know who gets attention. The person who can’t stop talking about themselves, can’t tie everything back to their life, and can’t listen to others. But, that person is not followed by anyone. They are not respected. A wise person once said to me, “To most people, quiet equals intelligent. Try to hold your remarks at meetings until you have something really strong to say.” This is great advice. People want a leader to be smart, thoughtful, and someone who listens. It’s almost impossible to do those things if all you do is talk!

A good leader is charasmatic - This is the easiest area to “fake” quite frankly. Most elements of ethos can be tweaked based on nonverbal communication. 60-80% eye contact, mirroring, paraphrasing the speaker, gestures, thoughtfulness concerning time…all of these elements are what make people believe that you are strong, that you are “of the people”, that you are a leader. (Most of these principles can be taught in a few days, but they take considerably longer to incorporate naturally into life and a lifetime to master. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

A good leader is a team player - We’ve all worked with a boss who wanted it their way every time, right? Someone who forgot about input, stakeholders, etc? Sure, there are times that they make the tough decision for a ‘lose-win’ scenario, but a good leader knows there are also ways to help the entire team feel validated, important, and a part of something bigger than themselves. These are human needs, not emotional desires. People need to feel like they are involved in the process or they will tire and leave.

A good leader can take time to not lead - A company I once worked for had a CEO who was more than happy to sit down with employees and just talk. Friday afternoons were especially collegial with this leader. Sure, he could inspire the company in a rousing meeting, but he could also make you feel like you mattered simply by asking about your kids, your ski trip, and your new car. Effective leaders don’t sit up in the castle with the bridge up and a thick mote around them. They interact with their team, with their employees, and with anyone else who impacts their business (aka - everyone). Bottom line - a good leader should not only be seen or talked to at company parties or annual events!

A good leader is a communicator - Similar to charasmatic, good communication requires a lot of work, but is attainable without being a “natural” at it. Listening, condensing ideas, sharing vision, explaining potential pitfalls, and fine-tuning processes that allow internal and external communication are just a few of the pivotal things a good leader does. Being a good leader is not just about numbers. Nor is good leadership only about finance.

The best thing about good leadership can be summed up in a great line from one of my favorite films - “Remember The Titans.” When the captain of the defense had a glory-hound at one of the positions, he yelled at the player explaining that defense wasn’t about being selfish. The player looked at the captain and simply said, “Attitude reflects leadership…” Leadership can create an environment of creativity, excitement, and hard work. It can also create an air of frustration, discontent, and paranoia. This blog isn’t long enough to list every great attribute of a leader. But, as a good leader, if you’ve read this, hopefully you’ll look for more. That’s another thing about leaders…the process of being a better leader never stops.


1.7.08

Immediacy: One of the most powerful tools at the disposal of a speaker, teacher, preacher, comedian, etc., is immediacy. This has NOTHING to do with speed and EVERYTHING to do with disclosure. Research shows that people like to listen to others like themselves. Students retain more information from teachers the students believe they are “like”. People gravitate towards people they have commonalities with. Customers seek out businesses who are “like-minded” about values, the environment, or finances. The buzzword in e-business terms today is “transparency” - blogs, YouTube videos, and wikis are just some of the ways technology is encouraging immediacy in corporate America. But the simple fact is that humans like those who are like them. But this begs a question! How will people know they are like you, if they don’t know you?So, does this mean that it benefits a teacher to explain their surgical history? Is a company President remiss not to talk about the proceedings of their divorce on the company website? Will it help the credibility of a speaker to expand on an unnatural distrust for flamenco dancers? Generally no…and no person should make clicky noises like that when they move. It’s not natural…

However, if you were in an audience, listening to a motivational speaker talk about weight loss, it would be empowering, connecting, and meaningful to hear about crashing off a diet by eating an entire pizza while away on a business trip. It would help communicate a similar place to disclose the frustration of finding out you can no longer buy clothes at a normal store because your size (width) is only sold at Big & Tall shops. Explaining the embarrassment of being invited to a swimming pool would receive nods and understanding from your listeners as you then went on to explain how to overcome it! (Yep, once again 2008 brings a resolution to shed some pounds…more on that later.) Immediacy is often personal.

How powerful is it for a science teacher to explain chemistry by showing how they use that knowledge to cook every day? How wonderful for a finance instructor to illustrate the Free Trade Act by talking about a time that they lost money because they didn’t understand it?!

Immediacy is connection. It can happen nonverbally (simply placing your hand on someone’s shoulder) or verbally as we’re doing now. And it works. People will overlook discomfort and flaws when they know who you are. You may not like my take on educational accountability, but it’s ok…I drive a Toyota Tacoma just like your best friend. You may not understand my love for football, but my daughter’s picture reminds you of your niece or daughter. You might not understand my belief that those who can’t do should find something else to teach, but my blog on simulations may make up for it. But more importantly, immediacy can get you off on the right foot from the start. You may not need to overcome anything!

My father is a pastor - he is also one of the best speakers I’ve ever known. It’s not because of the content or the delivery either. Don’t get me wrong, he’s good at those too. But it’s because of the relational nature of his speaking. He’s a pastor who talks about how he blew certain things when raising my sister and I. He talks about failures in money, in relationships, etc. He talks about questions that have not been answered in his life. He talks about things that everyone relates to! And people listen. His students listened when he taught school, his church audiences listen when he preaches, and his peers listen as he explains how they can make an impact in their own congregations.

So, welcome to my blog. Now you know a little bit more about me. I’m a PK, I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, I drive a truck, my wife and I have a new baby, I like football, I love technology…the list will grow. And as we connect, see if you don’t start to make other assumptions about my likes, dislikes, and opinions. It’s human nature to assume even more connections exist, which helps you be a better teacher, speaker, counselor, preacher, father, mother, friend, boss…person. — See you online! (http://jeffpresents.com)

 


1.1.08

I’ve been thinking about this blog a LOT! What to say? What’s important enough to write down for the world to see? But I got an idea from my basics of public speaking students who reminded me that the need for a preview cannot be overstated. While advanced public speaking can start to break “the rules” - this is one that shouldn’t be broken often. So…a preview of the blogs you can expect from me. (In other words - here is what’s exciting and fun to me right now!)

  • ARGs - I’ll be putting on an Alternate Reality Game at a conference in March. The concept intrigues me beyond belief! The idea that entire collectives are learning, interacting, and discovering in a symbiotic fashion…wow. I think the implications for education are staggering and corporate ARGs won’t be far behind.
  • Serious Games - Similar to ARGs, the idea behind Serious Games is brilliant. The idea that life is a game is not lost on me and I think the role of simulation, strategy, and gaming in the near future will be significant in educational contexts (both scholastically AND in professional development arenas). The fact that the military is using the concept shows how impressive it is - I hope education will actually lead the way on this one rather than taking a back seat! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serious_game)
  • Immediacy - This tried and true concept applies in so many arenas. It’s the first thing I teach my communication students (well, top 3 anyway) and it is as valuable today as it was fifty years ago.
  • Media Based Learning - The concept of learning style based on similarity versus difference is brilliant…and long overdue. I highly recommend checking out Chris Dede’s (http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~dedech/)work, but I look forward to blogging more about this fantastic concept!
  • Professionalism - I believe that one of the biggest problems in both corporate America as well as the US Educational system can be blamed on a lack of professional expectation and professional credibility. This is the notion that people are not treated as professionals, but are treated as supplements (augmentations) to books, computers, processes, etc. I believe this significantly impacts debates around vouchers, vacation time, pay scales, standardization, creativity, and the list goes on.
  • Creativity - I believe the leaders of the future will be those who can manage creativity. That seems to be the next “age” we are entering into.
  • Outcomes / Standards Management - Accountability is going to be front and center as we head into 2010. This will be true in business, education, and most facets of life. Technology is definitely helping us move toward this reality. Will we be ready?

There will be LOTS more for sure, but this should be a good starting ground for the blogs that you will see here in the year 2008. I look forward to writing and as always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, don’t hesitate to send them to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - See you online!