Thursday, September 18, 2014

Immerse yourself in learning at #DevLearn 2014

It's almost DevLearn season! A few weeks ago, I wrote a reflection on why I go to DevLearn each year that was posted by the eLearning Guild, "Something New."

DevLearn 2013
This will be my 7th DevLearn in a row. Wow. My first year, in 2008, my fledgling company Tandem Learning attended as a new vendor. The conference was in San Jose and we had a booth out in the hallway, showing off 3D immersive environments for learning and our demo of a Virtual Territory for pharma sales training. We also hosted a wine reception, and it was there that I met many of the people in the learning industry that I call friends today. 

Over the years, I ran ARGs at DevLearn, hosted the Emerging Tech stage for a couple years, did pre-conference sessions, concurrent sessions, and even did the closing Ignite! keynote wearing a fabulous fascinator (the conference had moved to Vegas by then and I wanted to channel my inner showgirl).
DevLearn 2009: Dr Strangelearn ARG
I'm particularly excited about DevLearn this year. While there are lots of reasons, not least of which are getting to see Neil Tyson Degrasse keynote and the new location at the Bellagio, the main reason I'm excited about DevLearn 2014 is because this is the first year I'll be attending as an author. It was a long road to publishing my first book, Immersive Learning, and I'm really proud and excited to share the key themes of the book at DevLearn this year. 

Ignite! Closing keynote 2011
There's a few ways you can join me in exploring immersive design at DevLearn this year. First I'm hosting a concurrent session on Thurs, Oct 30th at 10:30 am to share real-world examples of how organizations are using immersive learning to improve performance. If you're attending DevLearn, I hope to see you there!

If you REALLY want to immerse yourself in immersive learning, please join me on Tuesday, October 28th for a full-day pre-conference workshop. We'll spend the day digging in to the immersive design process and you'll leave with an actionable design document. You'll learn how to do a thorough analysis which is critical and serves as the basis for your design, we'll walk through how to make decisions on theme, character development, storyline structure, feedback and scoring. 
We'll explore all of the different technologies available to deliver your immersive training. I'm really excited about this session, and hope you'll join me!

Other places I'll be at DevLearn? Look for me signing books on Thursday after my concurrent session (time tentatively set for 12:30pm) and maybe even a Morning Buzz session? Otherwise, I'll be attending sessions and looking forward to opportunities to connect with all of the brilliant people congregating at DevLearn this year. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#draw21days Day 18: Cardboard doodles

Despite my solo-parenting weekend, I'm actually finding quite a bit of time to catch up on my drawing. As I'm getting to the end of the challenges, I'm starting to wonder what's next and how I can keep this practice going. I've never thought of myself as an artist, but I'm starting to not be able to picture NOT drawing. Maybe it's time for some art lessons? Maybe I should check out the other courses on :)

Last night I was checking in with the littlest Pagano and my husband before their bedtime. The little guy was describing his "invisible friend" who lives in California while he's away. His name is Burn and he has a fiery tail and likes to give you sunburns. Doesn't sound like a very nice guy, but I decided to try to draw what he might looks like for my Day 18 challenge. Here's Burn:

I still had a lot of cardboard left and time to kill while I worked with my 6th grader on math homework, so I also drew Burn's nemesis, Cooly McFishy.

I've also decided that I'm not that excited by doodling, but at least this was a chance for me to practice the graphical/cartoon style that I've been struggling with.

I did like working on the thicker cardboard as opposed to paper, and working with pen instead of pencil was a little unnerving...I'm still not that confident! But at least I'm taking chances!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#draw21days Day 16: Drawing design & Day 17: Window to the soul

I'm back in it!

After getting past the dinosaurs on Day 15, I broke out my new sketch pad and pencils and worked on the next two challenges this morning.

Day 16's challenge is to draw an iconic image of an owl, using photo references to guide your drawing. Graphical style drawings are not my strong suit, or at least I don't feel super confident in those drawings. I took a couple passes to try to get more "logo-like" but I also wanted to take my new pencils for a spin, so I still did some shading.


This is one that I might come back to and try to get more graphical, but I do like how my owls turned out.

Day 17...eyes! Yay!

I used to doodle eyes constantly, so the biggest challenge with this challenge was not falling into my old doodling patterns. The challenge was to do 2 drawings, 1 realistic and 1 graphical. I used a photo of John and I as a reference and drew John's left eye. I really like how it turned out.

Coming off the realistic eye, I had to do a couple "in between" drawings before I got more graphical. One of the things I was thinking of was how difficult being a cartoonist would be for me, as I really struggle with simplicity and consistency of shapes. This is definitely something to work on!

A few more challenges to go...I'm already wondering what to do once the 21 challenges are complete.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#draw21days: Day 15: Boxing Dinosaurs

It's been well over 21 days, but I'm not giving up on the drawing challenge! I could tell you all about how busy I've been (true), but the abbreviated story is: :)

Tonight my house is full of teenagers and I'm down a spouse, so while I chaperone, I'm drawing. 

AND! I got myself actual drawing supplies! Nice art pencils, colored pencils, and an honest to goodness sketch pad. I don't think they will help my drawing skills much, but since I've really started to like drawing, I wanted to get some supplies better than whatever I could scrounge from my kids' school supplies.

A confession: I haven't wanted to do the Day 15 Challenge. Like, I REALLY didn't want to do it. I don't even know why. I don't have anything against dinosaurs, and it didn't seem that hard. Still, every time I thought about completing the challenge, I'd think, "no." I even considered just skipping it and going on to the next challenge, but I'm stubborn and wanted to do the challenge in order. 

So here it is. I drew dinosaurs in boxes, and one having tea. The T-Rex is sitting at my 8th grader's request, who told me as I was finishing up the brontosaurus that he always pictures T-Rexs sitting (he doesn't know why).

Now that I've broken the Day 15 barrier, I'm hoping the rest of the 21 days come more easily. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Learning by trying

Even though I wrote a book on immersive learning, one of the main premises of which is that failure is an excellent and meaningful way to learn, I still hate failing. Hate it.

I mean, come on, who likes failing? We like to win. We like to do well. We want praise and accolades and admiration, not a side-long glance that screams "do better next time" or being dismissed or worse, pitied.  Failing sucks, the consequences of failing suck, and all the "we learn the most from our mistakes" reassurances in the world don't really soothe the sting of failure. 

At the same time, we know on some level that it's true. We DO learn a lot when we fail. It makes us reflect, take stock. It makes us really look at and question our own behaviors. It makes us re-evaluate our decisions. Failure is without a doubt a teachable moment. 

I'm not talking about passive failure here. It doesn't count if you didn't actually try or if you quit. Failure without effort only teaches you that if you don't try, you can't succeed. Quitting is a completely different dynamic than failing and influenced by a number of things...quitting is a teachable moment on it's own and should supercede the associated failure. 

I'm talking about good old-fashioned "I gave it my all and it still wasn't good enough" failure. I've had a few of these in my life, as most of us have. Some of these failures taught me things about myself, some have taught me things about others, some about human nature. Some of the lessons were tough ones. 

I'm in the reflection phase of a big failure right now. This time it wasn't a personal failure; this was a process failure, a failure of a system...specifically, the legal system. 

I firmly believe you have to do what's right, even when you know you're up against the odds, even with high cost and high risk. When you know you're doing what's right, it makes the decision to try easy even if the task isn't easy. Sometimes you just have to tell the truth, even when no one believes you and even when it doesn't make things better. Sometimes you just have to jump in, try, and do your best.

This summer, my family made a decision to trust the legal system and confront a terrible situation. We knew what we were doing was right. We knew we'd have to listen to lies and that ultimately, someone who doesn't know us or anything about the situation would make a judgment. We lost. And it sucked. I want to wallow. I want to fight back. I want to scream at the universe and shake my fist in anger. I don't understand how liars win. I've spent so much time thinking about what we could have done differently. The truth is, we did our best. 

So what am I learning from this failure? I've dealt with liars and manipulators before, so charming and convincing that they were able to maintain their lies for years, hurting everyone around them. I've believed lies with all of my heart. Each time I finally realized the truth in those situations, I'd swear that I'd never be duped again. But never is a mighty long time and one thing I know I don't want to learn is to become so cynical and distrusting that I close myself off to hope, love and wonder. 

I'm seeing a similar situation here in Santa Barbara county. My dear friend Becca Claassen is fighting to make fracking illegal and she is up against the oil companies who have more money, more resources and some really charming lawyers. She's fighting against their lies; she's fight for what's right. She's fought hard and got Measure P on the ballot for November to let the voters choose. I'm so proud of her. It's hard to face the opposition every day, especially ones who have the advantage. It's hard going into a situation knowing that the odds are against you. It's hard to try when failure is likely. Even though we want to believe the David vs Goliath stories, the reason why that story is so compelling is that it's rare. 

The hard truth, the one I haven't wanted to accept, is that there are people out there who lie. Worse, a lot of those liars are so convincing that other people believe them. And truly horrifying is that people will lie to their own advantage, even when it hurts everyone around them and the people they love most. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't tell the truth. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, shouldn't stand up for ourselves, shouldn't do what we know is right. Even if David had been defeated, he was still better than Goliath. 

Sometimes it's not even about telling the truth or triumphing over lies. Last May, my then 6th grader Jackson participated in the Santa Barbara Math Super Bowl. Saying this kid loves math is an understatement, and it was his last year of being able to participate. The previous year, he had went with his team but didn't receive any awards. This year he was confident and excited; he had been practicing extensively for the entire year in preparation. During the awards ceremony, as they listed the 6th-1st place winners first in 4th grade, then 5th grade, and finally the 6th graders, my anxiety was growing. What if he didn't get an award? How would he feel about the effort he had put in? What would the lesson be if he had done his best and it wasn't good enough? As the names were read, I could feel his anxiety too. I'm proud to say our nervousness was for nothing; he ended up winning with a perfect score, the last name read. But it could have gone the other way, and what if it had? He would have been crushed and defeated and sad and angry. I'm sure he would have looked back on his efforts all year and questioned if he should have tried at all if the end result wasn't a victory medal around his neck. Some of his teammates, and surely most of the kids in that conference hall, had to face that reflection. I hope they learned from their efforts, not just from the end result. 

When I started Tandem Learning in 2008, the odds were against me succeeding. I knew it, but I felt like we could be successful and more importantly that I had to try. There were ups and downs and successes and failures, and ultimately with our acquisition 4 years later, I closed that chapter thankful for the journey. And I got a tattoo, a modified quote from Teddy Roosevelt

if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly

We have to try. We have to risk failure. We have to know, on some deep level, that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to know that we can lose a battle and still win the war. We have to learn that sometimes, it's the trying, not the failure or success, that defines a person. It is in the trying and risking that we learn, not just in the success or failure. It's in the trying that we learn who we are.

Friday, August 29, 2014

#draw21days Days 9-14: Catching up

I knew when I started the 21-Day Drawing Challenge that my vacation was going to fall smack-dab in the middle of it. I also knew that I had planned my vacation with no cell service and no wifi for a reason. Still, I figured drawing was a perfect way to fill some low-tech time on the ranch, and that's just what I did.

Yes there were some challenges: I had to work in fits and starts, since I needed to go into town to get a signal to view the challenges I'd missed. I didn't have the ability to print anything, or take any reference sheets with me...basically, I had to try to improvise if there was anything I needed to remember to help guide me in the challenge.

I actually went into vacation a couple days behind, so I felt good that I could catch up and keep going. In fact, I did better on vacation than I've done since our return...returning to life, work and school starting have thrown me off my drawing tempo. Still, I'm plugging along!

Day 9: Man-made drawing

I had to draw 2 of 4: a house, an espresso machine, an airplane or headphones. I was NOT SURE about this challenge, but I finally decided on headphones and an airplane. I started with the headphones, and they were tough. I found myself revising quite a bit, trying to get the right angles and perspectives. I added some shading to help me see if I had gotten the angles right.

After I was pretty happy with the headphones, I moved on to the airplane. I found this one much, much easier, and I liked the straight lines.

After completing the drawing, the kids did an appraisal and raved about how good they looked. It reminded me of my 7th grade drafting class, and how much more comfortable I am trying to represent reality than being more creative. It's probably why I write nonfiction not fiction. It's probably why I like teaching and giving presentations, not storytelling and acting. Since I'm really trying to do this challenge to push myself to be more creative, I'm going to try to stay away from mechanical drawing for awhile, just to keep me out of my comfort zone!

Day 10: Doodle sheet

This is what I'm talking about! Doodles! I don't know about you, but I love to doodle. I don't think I'm a particularly interesting doodler, but I enjoy it. The only issue with today's challenge is that I had SO MUCH WHITE SPACE. I was trying to fill the entire sheet and I really only can draw so many flowers before I get bored. I started soliciting ideas from John and the kids, "what should I draw?" So some of the items on here were by request, like the bunny, roasting marshmallows and the waterfall. A lot was inspired by our vacation and things I was seeing, including the shooting star, the horse, the dogs and chickens and the bat.

Day 11: Drawing a monster

The Day 11 challenge was to make up a new monster! I approached today with no idea what I was going to draw. I started with a bunch of eyes and worked my way down. I think it ended up being some sort of swamp creature with a pot belly. Too many little kids eaten this week, I guess :)

I liked going into this with no idea what I was drawing. I also tried my hand at feet for the first time...even if they were flippered feet. All in all, really liked this challenge. And I loved my daughter's vampoodle drawing!

Day 12: Metaphorical or literal approach

When I finally got the wifi working in town and saw the video for this challenge, I kinda panicked. What's the opposite of mechanical drawings? Drawing something that isn't even a thing!

Anguish, hope, curiosity and mystery. I tried not to go TOO obvious, but this one definitely pushed me to think. Even though it's a little cliche, I love how "curiosity" turned out. In terms of metaphorical, though, I like my drawing for mystery. I don't really know what's behind that door, but I don't think I want to find out.

Day 13: Tell a visual story

This one was coming up on the end of our vacation. Every day of vacation, I sat on the porch and looked out at the land. Some days there were bison roaming, sometimes there were wild horses grazing around, and often I just watched the kids riding on the ATVs. My 7 year old daughter was particularly fun to watch, as she refused to tie her long hair back and it would fly behind her, whipping in the wind.

I don't know if this day's drawing is as good of a story to anyone else as it was to me: the story of our vacation.

Day 14: Reality is boring, so distort it

Another tough one, and tougher because I didn't have the reference page easily accessible. I ended up putting this one off until we were back from vacation, and even then had a hard time really getting into it. While the reference picture looks like Alfred Hitchcock walking in the rain, I ended up channeling Singin' in the Rain, but after the rain had stopped. My guy looks less like the reference pic and more like a friend of mine, but I won't call him out (just in case I'm the only one who sees it!).

I've been stuck this week on getting the reference sheet for Day 15, but I'm confident that with only 6 days left to complete, I've got this. More posts to come!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#draw21days : Day 8: Light Source

When you take on a 21-day challenge, you have no idea what events external to the challenge itself might transpire that make completing the challenge...challenging. Going into these 21 days, I didn't anticipate mourning the death of Robin Williams, sitting with my own experiences with depression, the shock and horror of the events transpiring in Ferguson, hasn't been an easy week.

And yet, here I am, completing my 8th day of learning something new. Appropriately, the 8th day challenge was about shading and light, with a varying light source. With everything swirling in my head, it was hard to focus on the light source. I found myself struggling to complete the challenge, but I kept at it. Here's the result.

It seems appropriate, given the last couple dark days, that I should practice focusing on sources of light. I'll take this timely metaphor, thanks :)