Thursday, April 03, 2014

Brent Schlenker Joins the Litmos Team

Today I announced on the Litmos blog that I am now the Chief Learning Strategist for Litmos.  This is an amazing opportunity that I've been looking forward too for quite a while.  You can read the post here.
I've been less active on social media over the last couple years, with a couple attempts to jump back into the game only to fizzle out shortly after (re)starting. But now I can say with certainty that you will be seeing a lot more of me on the internet and at industry events. And, of course, with my new friend Lenny.

And I'm certain some of you are scratching your heads and wondering "why Litmos"? the post on the Litmos blog first.
But the REAL reason is that any company willing to let me bring a magician/entertainer (the amazing +Brian Brushwood ) to their booth and drive a nail through his nose...well...those are fun people I want to work with. :)
Brian Brushwood and the amazing nail-in-the-nose trick!
I look forward to meeting the Litmos customers and continuing to help the industry move forward in new and exciting ways. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Twitter Conversation Types and Learning

I've often wondered how much learning really occurs via twitter conversations and can the learning be measured. Twitter is fabulous for supporting your loosely joined networks.  And many in the eLearning community list Twitter as one of their favorite "Learning Tools".  But can we really say its Twitter that's truly responsible for the learning, or is it the ongoing conversations and connections to content that matter more?

I saw a tweet from @eGeeking (Bianca Woods) today with a link to the new Pew Research report (Mapping Twitter Topic Networks) that identifies The Six Structures of Conversation Networks. Of course my first thought was, how does learning fit into these structures.  And then I started wondering if learning even SHOULD fit into these structures.

It's a very interesting read and will no doubt spark conversations for a while, and supply information for many social media conversations to come.

Friday, February 07, 2014

If School was Like a Jam Session

If only enterprising entrepreneurs would build an authoring tool that enabled the creation of real world work simulations.

I started down that path in the mid '90's and got close with some pretty cool simulations for manufacturing and logistics activities, but my coding skills could only get me so far.  What I ended up creating was the interactive 3D version of "click next learning".  Don't get me wrong, it was awesome! and effective! But what I really wanted to create was something a little more dynamic.   A simulation that changed inputs/outputs based on user inputs or predefined work procedures.  This is not hard to do. The hard part is financing it...productizing it.

What I'm looking for is the authoring tool equivalent of Jammit.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Career Reflections: Alex Lindsay and Digital Media Literacy

This year I've committed myself to blogging each month about influential, inspirational, people that have had an impact on my career...or life...or both.  In January I wrote about Tom Peters and how he influenced my career path.  Tom had recently appeared back on my radar via twitter... and he responded to me.  That was cool.

The special sauce of social media is connecting with people you don't know, but you have a connection with their thinking, their work, their life, or perhaps just the words they a non-stalker sort of way of course.  It gets even better when those you follow actually respond and choose to connect back.  This is what I learned about the power of social media back in the early 2000's and it changed my thinking significantly about the future of learning.

Alex Lindsay, Chief Architect
DVGarage & Pixel Corps
Part of that journey in the early days included learning about RSS feeds and the power of audio in the form of podcasts.  And as a big fan of both media and Apple, I was drawn to the MacBreak Weekly podcast on the TWiT network. This is where I was introduced the media genius of Alex Lindsey.  Later, I discovered that he was the same guy that did guest appearances on Call for Help and TechTV in the late 90's with Leo Laporte.  (I'll highlight Leo in another month.)

Sure, MacBreak Weekly conversations focus on Apple products, but what I actually enjoy most is the amazing creativity and project work the hosts of the show do in their day jobs...with Apple products.  As founder of The PixelCorps, Alex always has great digital media studies really...of practical uses of new tech.  And it was only a few years ago that I really started to hear Alex talking specifically about education, corporate training, and elearning projects.  And so began my obsession with stalking him until he agreed to give a featured session at DevLearn back when I was programming that event for The eLearning Guild.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Next Big Learning App! - not really

C'mon people! Where is it? The kids are leaving (have left) Facebook for Snapchat. Normally when this happens, some enterprising capitalist jumps on the bandwagon with some sort of copycat app aimed at education.

Where's SnapLearn? Or SnapSkool? Or perhaps SnapClass?

Hey, SnapClass! That has a nice ring to it. That might have some legs. I get all cynical and preachy about how silly education versions of popular apps are, maybe I should give this one some thought?

How might a SnapChat-style app be used in a classroom?  Or better yet, maybe SnapClass becomes part of the popular MOOC movement.  Oh yeah...wait for it...


Here comes SnapMOOC! 

Perfect! Somebody has GOT to do this. It could become the standard communication tool during a MOOC. Why not? Let's do a Kickstarter and fire this baby up.  Who's with me?

Had MOOCs been around in 2005 that app would have been called MOOCr for sure.

Wait where was I? Oh yea, SnapClass and how that might work.  I suppose the first thing we need to address is the main feature of SnapChat which is your posts are temporary. You heard me right. Each post has a short shelf life. It is seen and them it's gone...forever. So, no record left behind of your contribution to the conversation.  Hhhmmm...

Now this could be troublesome to be sure.  We WANT to save the conversation to share with others, right? I mean, that's why digital collaboration is so cool. You get to go back through the archive and review, and others who weren't even part of the original conversation can read the archive and learn something from the event.

So, the question is "Do people really go back and review archived conversations or even video sessions, like we want to think they do?" And then the next question is "does that even matter"?

What if people used a SnapMOOC app when they were engaged in LIVE online events or when a collective from the mass consumed asynchronous content...well...synchronously...together. Since it's pictures, would that be silly? Perhaps it would totally depend on the content.  I guess most MOOCs are still so academic that it's mostly about sitting and watching a lecture, reading a book or article as a group and discussing.  
But if there was an experimental element to the course content that is analog, like maybe Drawing, you could SnapMOOC pics of your sketches.

I'm just thinking out loud here, so don't mind me.  I'm stuck on a plane with no connectivity so I'm practicing writing even when I've got nothing on my mind to write about.

Well, apparently I do :)

Oh! And if you're serious about creating that "learning version" of SnapChap you might want to consult this 16yr old who figured out weaknesses in their code

Friday, January 24, 2014

Twitter Founder Launches New App - Its a Jelly, eh?

I have a hard time NOT thinking of this movie whenever I see doughnuts.  And I have been known to bribe my kids with them.  Of course, they never knew why I would always say, "It's a jelly, eh?"

So, Imagine my reaction to the new mobile app, Jelly, from the co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone. Read this TechCrunch article about the app.

Spoiler alert: Biz Stone says the app is more about the users giving answers than it is about the questions. 

The gist of the app is to use photos to ask questions.  The app is very well done, however I can't seem to find a use case for it. I still find Google Search to be quite helpful in my quests for answers. And I tried to spend time getting something out of answering questions too.  But alas, there was a lot of craziness being posted: Lots of users "testing" out the possibilities.

However, it didn't take long to start thinking about what this "could" be used for within Corporate eLearning.  I could see this being a white label enterprise Q&A app with employees asking and answering questions.  In order for this to work in the enterprise it would need to be hosted behind a firewall for security to approve it.  Because the bulk of the questions and answers will most likely be of a proprietary nature, it's important that these conversations are not held in the wild.

As training departments begin to transition their focus from event based training to Performance Support models, I can see tools like Jelly becoming more and more popular.  I'm so convinced of this that I am predicting that before the end of 2014 we will see an app similar to Jelly launched to specifically target the corporate training industry.  Unfortunately, it will probably be called something like, Jellearning. 

Ugh! I so hope I'm wrong...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Twitter Changed the eLearning Community with Conversations

During the last #lrnchat session someone mentioned that was back.  In the early days of #lrnchat I used tweetchat heavily to follow hashtag conversations.  As I was thinking about it I began to remember other Twitter tools like the open source TwitterCamp we used at live events to display the twitter stream.  And of course that led me to the very beginning.

In the beginning

You can find out more about the start of twitter by just Googling it.  The Business Insider has a good article titled The Real History of Twitter. Here's another good article from SocialNomics titled The History of Twitter.  And, if you enjoy podcasts, I would highly recommend Episode 412 of This Week in Startups titled The Origins of Amazon and Twitter.

Twitter launched in 2006.  Which, for some reason, doesn't sound right.  It feels like it's been around a lot longer than that.  I signed up in January of 2007. And according to a fancy stats service I've been a user longer than 99.9% of all users.  Gotta love big data.

Twitter at eLearning Conferences - TwitterCamp

So, by early 2008 I began testing Twitter's usefulness in a conference setting at The eLearning Guild's Annual Gathering.  By the end of that year we had our first twitter monitor setup on the hallway of the DevLearn2008 event. You can read more about that and the power of back channel conversations here. And if you won't take my word for it that Thomas Stone did a nice blog post about it as well here. And since Thomas mentioned Michelle Lentz I will go ahead and post link to her post about DevLearn2008 as well. Twitter became a big deal.

The following year, DevLearn 2009, we were ALL IN with social media.  We launched a Social Learning Camp hosted by Mark Oehlert. It wasn't just about twitter, but if I recall we did have the event twitter stream running on 2 monitors this time instead of just one.

Twitter at events had become a big deal. I received many emails and calls asking how we did it.  I was happy to's no secret. And that's what community is all about, right? I found an open source app called TwitterCamp to display the tweet stream on big screen monitors.  While people were still unsure what the heck twitter even was, this was a good way to help them SEE it in action and not just hear about it from some of the speakers.

Now that Twitter is so popular, I'm not sure big screens are even necessary.  We now have iPads and Mini iPads to display our own custom twitter streams during events.  And most event organizers now have event twitter accounts, and predefined #hashtags.

The Backchannel

Twitter, in my opinion, was the one social media tool that really encouraged the idea of the Backchannel.  The backchannel is the stream of conversations happening on social media while a live event is happening.  Audience members are tweeting their personal commentary LIVE during general sessions, concurrent sessions, and throughout their event experience.  What? No morning coffee setup in the hall? Just tweet about it and I'll bet you see coffee their the next morning.  The backchannel gives you a voice in an otherwise loud and crowded social event.

In the early days I remember speakers being very upset about the audience looking at mobile devices and laptops during their presentations.  But the backchannel is here to stay and I don't hear the grumblings much any more.

One cannot mention the backchannel without admiring the work of David Kelly, King of the Backchannel.  Check out his post on What Makes a Great Conference Backchannel.


By early 2009 we had made our point and everyone started...well..."chatting".  Enter hashtags, and #lrnchat.  In the beginning #lrnchat was hosted by @marciamarcia@quinnovator@moehlert @koreenolbrish and @janebozarth. The official twitter account is @lrnchat

Here is one of my blog rants about a #lrnchat session on the topic of Subject Matter Experts.

If you aren't yet familiar with Twitter Chats then #lrnchat is a great place to start.  Check out to get started.

You can connect with +Jane Bozarth @janebozarth, who is one of the remaining original hosts, directly if you want.  That's part of what's so great about social media.  Go ahead. Send her a tweet. I dare you. You won't regret it.

Then Crazy Happened

DevLearn 2009 - #lrnchat LIVE Participants
I'm not sure how it all started.  But at some point those of us who had been early participants in #lrnchat thought it might be a good idea to actually all meet in one room and do #lrnchat person.  And yes, it's actually as weird as it sounds.

DevLearn 2010 - #lrnchat LIVE
Imagine 20+ people in a room all staring down at various laptops and other devices virtually chatting with each other.  Like maybe we should have been using that time to chat with each other...for real? Maybe? I don't know?  But strange as it was kind of fun.  And so it became another opportunity for like minded learning professionals to gather around...and chat.

You can always find the #lrnchat -ers at Guild events gathered around a long table with a bunch of curious onlookers gathered around...but keeping their distance. The spectacle has the look of a strange new age digital prayer circle.

Face-to-face meet ups are great, but adding virtual attendees adds value for everyone.  While it does seem a bit strange to outsiders who've never participated, it doesn't seem all that strange any more to me.

Now the big question is how long will it take before this type of inclusive meet up becomes natural in work environments?  Does your have company have Lync? or Skype? or Chatter? or any of the other texting tools for the enterprise? Do you use it?

I'd love to hear other stories about how you came to be involved with Twitter and/or other social media.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Old School is History! Thanks to Hardcore History

I FINALLY enjoyed the experience of my son understanding the powers of new media.  After all the years of blogging and knowing that what the internet has become will change EVERYTHING about education, I finally had a real world experience that, while you might think insignificant, I thoroughly enjoyed.  

Sure I've fixed my cars by simply watching YouTube videos, and I've watched my kids attempt to find answers to homework using Google.  And don't get me started on Wolfram Alpha.  An amazing teaching tool that is not allowed in schools.  I'm still buying handheld calculators for my kids.  It's lunacy...but I digress...

So, have there been other moments of tech use in my home for educational purposes? Without a doubt, yes.  But none of them like this. Up until now it's been all about the homework.  Completing the random worksheet or quiz questions in a long outdated textbook.  The technology has simply been used to find the answers that fill the blanks, not for engaging their curiosity.  

But then it happened!

My son is a typical 15 year old boy.  He loves hanging out with his friends, playing video games, playing basketball, playing his guitar, watching stupid YouTube videos, etc.  He's a good student and he loves his teachers and his school, but I rarely see him being very passionate or excited about an academic subject. And I suppose that also defines him as a typical 15 year old boy.

I was driving him home from school recently and asked the usual questions: How was your day? How are your friends? Do you have any home work? He said he had some homework and one of the items was that he had to print a history paper.  Now this intrigued me because, coincidentally, I had recently swapped out my usual tech podcasts for Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. So, of course, I blew off the other homework items and began to dig deeper about this history paper.

Me: Is it already written and you just need to print it and turn it in?
Him: No. I still have to write it but it only needs to be one page. It won't be a big deal.
Me: Oh that's cool. What's the topic?
Him: Answering a question about the guy that started the great war.
So NOW I'm REALLY interested! Coincidentally I had just finished the latest Hardcore History episode, Blueprint for Armageddon, which started with this story. 
Me: So who's the guy?
Him: Pippin, or Pinpal, or something like that.  He killed a king or some other important guy.
Me: Was his name Princip?
I'm no historian.  I just like a good historical story.  But I felt pretty darn good about being the all-knowing father every kid thinks his parents should be. I got lucky. (Thanks, Dan!)

Him: Yea, I think that sounds right.
Me: I just got finished with a podcast that tells that story. Wanna hear it?
Him: Sure.
Now, for listeners of Hardcore History, you know why I'm started to get excited about this.  I can't imagine ANY teacher telling history stories better than Dan Carlin. It's like listening to the historical account of your last Call of Duty mission. Dan spares you no details. He paints a picture of the brutal realities of history's atrocities: Shockingly grotesque human behavior that you can't believe is real...and THAT's engaging! And PERFECT 15yr old boy stuff. (Sorry moms)

Hardcore History was one "now playing" tap away.  We've got about 15mins left in our drive so I restart the episode from the beginning...and the magic begins.  A few minutes into the story I asked if this sounded like the story he needed to write about. Before finishing my sentence he was nodding his head shhh-ing me.  We listened together with nothing else said the remainder of the drive home.

We finished the last few minutes of that first part of the episode in the house.  When it was over, I asked him again if that was the right story, and what he would write about.  He said yes, and that the assignment was to answer the question did Princip complete his goal.  I asked if he thought he had enough info to answer that question.  The answer: "WAY more than what we read in the book."

Mission Accomplished!

Most of my experiences "helping" my kids with homework include a significant amount of prodding and questioning because I won't do the work for them.  This is quite often met with frustration and heavy sighs (from not just the kids). In this case, the paper was written and sent to the printer without ANY "Hey, Dad?" moments.  But it gets better.

The next day I was chatting with my wife about the kids.  She is usually the one to take our son to school and so I asked how the drive went. She said it went great. And Instead of me asking why, I was more excited about my experience and I jumped in with my story about our drive home the day before (its a stupid guy thing). She smiled and said he talked about that story the entire way to school...and that he was very excited about it.

My thoughts...

The best story tellers make the best school teachers. And in the workplace good story tellers make the best training instructors as well.

New Media is here to stay and impacting everything we do. The next generation entering our workforce will expect to find information quickly, easily, and as compelling as a commercial content producer.
Many will tell you that the new media generation has already entered the workforce, but I only see it in small pockets and specific, mostly technology, industries. I believe it's going to take until the next generation before it gets real.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Automatic: An Auto Accessory to Make You a Smarter Driver

Anything that makes you smarter MUST have something to do with learning, right?

In the Internet of Things (IoT) category this week I give you the Automatic Link.  Not the most creative name, but I'll let it go because it's time has come.

I've been waiting for someone to finally upgrade that connection under the dash to do something useful. Last year I bought the ELM327 dongle to retrieve the trouble codes in my cars but the apps that supported the standard were bad experiences to say the least, and basically only displayed trouble codes.

And I know I paid more than $99 for it.  So this is a no-brainer...if it's really as cool as it sounds.
Automatic: An Auto Accessory to Make You a Smarter Driver:

'via Blog this'

Monday, January 13, 2014

Career Reflections: How Tom Peters Helped Me Re-Imagine My Career

As I re-imagine my online presence for 2014 I'd like to reflect on my past and those who have influenced my career. My plan is to highlight at least one person each month that has influenced me in some way throughout my career journey.  You may already know may not.

I'll kick off this little exercise with someone who isn't in the eLearning industry, but who is a big fan of life long learning: Tom Peters.

It was a keynote at first big learning event.  I remember little about the event other than Benjamin Zander's "Do it on one buttock" and "Beyond the Fuck it!"...and Tom's entire keynote.  It changed my life!

Early Corporate eLearning Career - Burn out!

2000 was a big year for everyone in technology...for obvious reasons. Okay, maybe not obvious. GenZ may have been too young to care about "The Y2K bug". But it was big for me in that I was already tired of my job and saw my career going nowhere. I had already learned to design and develop training media in many different forms with my favorite being fully interactive 3D training simulations.  After building those simulations every other training project seemed useless and a waste of time, but I learned to find the joy in each project as best I could. The eLearning industry was still in it's infancy and I felt like I had already done it all.  I wanted there to be more.  I KNEW there was more to be done.  But how do I find it?  As a strong worker bee grinding it out, what's the next step?

2000 doesn't seem that long ago but you've got to remember that the internet had only just begun getting interesting. I had not started blogging yet.  Social media was not really a thing yet.  I was only a few years into my Intel career and starting my family. I think starting the family explains most of the feelings of "burn out", but the career burn out still holds.  I loved raising my family more than grinding the 9to5 at Intel.   As a young, distracted, low level employee I was not pegged by leadership as someone they wanted to groom and move up the corporate ladder.  I knew that, but didn't care.  I saw where that path lead...selling your soul to the corporate devil.  I loved, DOING THE WORK.  But the intensely rewarding training work I LOVED to do, was no longer what Intel wanted.  And blablabla...I hate the negative stuff of reflections... so I'll get on with it if you don't mind.

My tale, I suppose, is quite typical of a career journey.  But I'm not sure everyone can pinpoint one moment in time that changed everything: The day you stopped waiting for others to tell you what's next, and you start telling them what you're doing next...with or without them.  I can.  And I've never stopped to look back...well, until now.

Tom Peters Transforms My Corporate eLearning Career

Tom was the keynote for the opening general session on day 2 of TechLearn2000. I remember being mesmerized and hanging on every word.  He was intense, loud, and PASSIONATE! He was confirming everything about corporate life that I had experienced to that point...IT WAS BULLSHIT! No REAL work gets done, and the corporate grind takes you nowhere.  But more importantly...

...he offered a way out!

His slides were simple and bold...STRIKING!  And this was before I had ever seen the, now famous, Steve Jobs presentation style.  Until that moment I hadn't really thought too much about my own personal brand.  

He was right! "The Brand YOU!" was a necessity, not an OPTION.  He challenged the audience...and this eager think of ourselves each as individual 1-person companies.  How would I brand myself? What's my marketing tag line? What VALUE does Brent Schlenker Co. bring to any big Fortune 500 Co.? And my personal favorite idea that he presented was the WOW Project! He wrote The WOW Project in a Fast Company article in 1999 following his 1994 book about WOW Projects.
The answer -- the only answer -- is the project. And not just any project, no matter how droning, boring, and dull, but rather what my colleagues and I have come to call "Wow Projects": projects that add value, projects that matter, projects that make a difference, projects that leave a legacy -- and, yes, projects that make you a star.
At that time in my career I began to realize that I had already done WOW projects. And if I wanted to continue doing them I needed to OWN THEM.  I needed to own my own destiny and if that meant leaving the security of a corporate gig, like Intel, then so be it.  But what Tom's message said to me was that you could still work in the corporate world...but with a Brand YOU mentality working hard at kicking ass on even the smallest of projects.  Make EVERYTHING a WOW project.

It was something I always "wanted" to do but never felt like I was "allowed" too. NOW, it felt okay to be the oddball.  I felt comfortable being UN-comfortable in the hell of status quo.  I was actually quite happy that I didn't fit the mold of Intel's "management track".  That left me free to be a leader, and define my own path, and blaze it with my own passion...and it felt right when so many said it was the wrong way to navigate a career.

The Brent Schlenker Co. Journey - It ain't over!

Before leaving Intel I had done a tour of duty in each significant training organization: Software Training, Manufacturing Training, Planning and Logistics Training, Warehouse Training, and the Corporate University.  I wanted to learn about ALL aspects of Training in the enterprise...and so I did...without anyone's permission but my own. When jumping around from group to group was frowned upon I did it anyways because I wanted to learn and experience how it all worked.

By 2005 I had already given many presentations featuring my Intel WOW projects at major industry conferences.  And in August of 2005 this blog was born with a simple post titled Welcome, and became the center of the Brent Schlenker Co. brand that Tom Peters had launched at TechLearn2000.

As my brand grew, more doors opened. I eventually became the Program Director for the largest Professional eLearning Organization, The eLearning Guild, and responsible for programming the largest eLearning Industry event, DevLearn.

So, what's my WOW Project today? As IO's Director of Product/Technology Training I am building IO Institute from ground up.  IO as a company is one giant WOW Project that I am proud and blessed to be part of.  If you haven't heard about will.

After well over a decade of influence from Tom Peters through books like The Brand You 50(Amazon) , and Re-Imagine(Amazon), I recently re-engaged him in a short twitter conversation that reminded me why social media is so incredibly powerful...and important.
No Tom! YOU sir, are THE MAN! Thank you! 
(Please note my spectacular use of the exclamation point :)