Tonight's #Lrnchat topic was staying ahead of the curve. This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

Image of hashtag lrnchat stating tonight's tweet chat topic is staying ahead of the curve

My belief is that if you're ahead of the curve you're in a no man's land of the unknown. It's also where the excitement is. Paul Shoemaker, author of Brilliant Mistakes, observes that making mistakes is an essential step towards success. What matters is for us to make the right mistakes.

For example, a pet project of mine involves developing a training program for learning Spanish. I'm asking lots of questions of language arts and Spanish teachers. I'm keenly interested in how teachers use content, learning strategies and presentation. How will I test what I come up with? By developing lesson plans and uploading them to Teachers Pay Teachers and then seeing what kind of response they get. One way or another I'm bound to learn something that will lead me to a better result.

So get out there in front of the curve where the fun is. Ideate. Design. Develop. Test. Thoughts?



Wiggle Room


I'm hitting a major milestone in a couple years. Over my life I've learned a lot and have forgotten tons. It hit me this morning how much I don't know that's right in front of me. A little earlier today I was browsing #dtlearning on Twitter. Its tweets came from participants of an #ASTD2014 conference on pDesign Thinking workshop. One tweet had a photo of several people writing on sticky notes and then posting them on a wall; the tweet said they were ideating, taking in all sorts of ideas while neglecting none. The first thing that popped into my head was “Wow! It's just like what we do at #edcamp.”


The first 30 minutes to an hour of an EdCamp involve networkng, moving about a space making connections, learning about others' passions and challenges whilst sharing your own. The thing is, butts-in-seats doesn't figure into the process. You have to, more or less, wiggle your way into conversations to meet, greet and learn.

Learning Spaces

In the courses I design or more often (lately) the many projects I manage I'm mindful of how people learn. Lessons, online or face-to-face, have to be engaging, brief and (ideally) have learners moving around and doing stuff. In the #dtlearning photo people are doing just that: moving around doing stuff. They're not sitting down passively or taking notes. Learning requires exposure to something new, practice and feedback from a knowledgeable source before anything like mastery can be attained. Learning in a space filled with other motivated learners provides the perspective of many minds. All this happening in real-time, over a short time, builds excitement.. which helps the new skill drive deeper into learners' minds.


Sometimes I like to think of the things I know as existing in a room. It's a useful analogy. Some things, old memories of my grandmothers house, the doilies she painstakingly starched and pressed for example, are off to one side: seldom recalled but something I know is near and I can draw comfort from. Other stuff, the day-to-day of family, chores and books I'm reading are nearer to windows: I can look in as needed; I can open a window and grab something or say something easily. The heavy stuff are near the doors to my things-I-know room. I see myself walking into my things-I-know room, walking along heavily tracked paths and drawing from skills and know-how on demand. It's easy to get in a rut though, walking familiar paths, reaching for the easy to get to solutions.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking for me means integrating empathy into the ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate) instructional design model/process or the other models I use like ARCS. Too often we analyze needs in terms of tasks and outcomes become abstract numbers that are easy to count. That we, training and educational professionals, serve humans is too often easy to forget. Reading the ASTD2014 backchannel, the learning space where physical attendees tweet their observations and perspectives, helps connect us all in a very human way. Mostly strangers to each other on Twitter, sometimes though not often ever meeting, we pick and choose what interests us. It's design thinking in action.


Being older now I spend more time reflecting on my life. Some things, like making connections with what I already know to what I need to know, come slow. I am happy to be a design thinker. EdCamps have really made that possible. It's amazing when I take a quiet moment to think about what just happened, what I just learned. Was it really something new? Or was it something outside myself that nudged me a step off a well-worn path into an insight I hadn't known existed?