Education, Learning and Development, Technology

Teacher Tools

Happy Quarantine!


While I am targeting this post to the many teachers who are figuring out how to reach their students through virtual classes, it is good information for anyone working virtually with others. There are a number of free applications and programs. There are even more subscription services.  For today, here is a list of things to check out.  This list was provided to me by a program coordinator at UNCC (The University of North Carolina at Charlotte). My favorites are in color.


PowerPoint:  Yes, I know. We have all experienced torture by PowerPoint.  Do not underestimate the power of PowerPoint!  It is a VERY simple tool to do so many things. You can create presentations of course, simple and fast infographics, and other things you may not have tried.  Sometimes I need an infographic to be animated in my video. Rather than build it in my video program, I create the graphic in PPT, add some animation, then save as an MP4!  It cuts the time in half.  

ScreenCast-o-Matic: Present your instruction and add yourself in the picture so students feel a little more connected.  

Animoto: Turns your photos and video clips into professional video slideshows in minutes.  (

Flipgrid: Students record short videos and can reply to each other’s videos. Educators are 100% in control with video moderation and access controls. (

HP Reveal (Used to be Aurasma):  Video; take document and record a video- record a video over text. (

Infogram: Helps with creating infographics (

Kahoot:  Kahoot! A free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages! (

Lucid Chart App that is available in a browser; great for charts to put in presentations or share. Sometimes you just need a good chart. (

Lumen PDF: Allows you to work with PDF documents, sign and edit. 

Pixton: Create comics and storyboards (

Pixtochart: Creating infographics

Post it Plus: Capture Post-It notes on a wall or flipchart with your smartphone, then edit and reorganize your notes in the app.

Takes the momentum from your collaboration sessions and keeps it rolling. Simply capture your notes, organize and then share with everyone. It’s that easy. When you’re finished with an arrangement, you tap to either share the board via text, email, social media or other apps you use like Dropbox or Evernote, or you can export the board to PDF, PowerPoint, Excel, .zip, or the Post-It Plus app’s own file type.

Powtoons: I love this one!  Use their free account – takes 5 minutes, can’t change characters, but very user friendly; create animated videos; combine characters, music, graphics; they will do voice-overs.

Sway: Microsoft and it’s free. A simple web-page style. Great to create and share interactive reports, presentations, stories.  Excellent for building an assignment and including all resources in one place. While I do not like the limited customization, I found it excellent to use for research type assignments. I used Sway to outline instructions, requirements, share related content and videos, and add questions on the research material- all on the same project page.  If you have used Discovery Education’s assignment builder it is similar in look and feel.  

Google Classroom and Google’s suite of products. It is much more user friendly than Microsoft and allows you to interact with those collaborating in a document or presentation.


Good luck teachers. I know it is difficult. I know you are being asked to do more with less. What else is new? Just remember a few things:  You can do it!  You are not going to break it. If it fails, you tried and that is a great lesson to teach too!  Hang in there. Stay healthy. Wash your hands.


Live life. Give joy. Be at peace…while social distancing.


Instructional Design, Learning and Development, Technology

ADDIE Infographic

Brief ADDIE infographic video, experimenting with assets and design elements of Doodly and Filmora.

Career, Education, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Self Improvement


If you’re not coachable, how can you be a good coach? When you think you can’t learn something from someone or an event, you won’t and that’s a dangerous place to be.

Coachability means employees have an awareness of those around them and how they impact them positively or negatively. Coachable employees are also willing to relinquish control to improve their work performance and accept feedback without becoming ruffled, angry, or dejected.

According to coachable people share five different traits.

  • Humility
  • Willingness to action
  • Purity of purpose
  • Willingness to surrender control
  • Faith

Coachable people recognize they still have something to learn and they can’t always learn it on their own. They are willing to make changes and are more interested in personal growth for the sake of growth rather than pure financial or power gain. A driving force for the success of a coachable person is the willingness to accept being coached, even if they can’t immediately see results. They accept that change and self-improvement is a journey and have faith that the time and effort will be worth it.

According to a Huffington Post article by Laura Di Franco, What it Means to be Coachable, coachability is a key element of success in health, happiness, and attitude. We’ve all experienced those who feel they have nothing to gain from a workshop or they’ve been doing something so long that checking for a new way isn’t worth the time. The negativity is frustrating. It can also be contagious.

Being coachable doesn’t mean you have surrendered and don’t have an opinion of your own. It means you have the awareness, perseverance and determination to seek out someone to help you be better.

Huffpost:What it Means to be Coachable

Self improvement is hugely satisfying and can have both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. By being coachable one can improve their own coaching. Coachability is not just for those starting out, it is a trait to be embraced at all levels of an organization. Everyone has something they can teach you, and everyone has something they can learn from someone else.

Instructional Design, Learning and Development, Reviews, Technology

Doodly do or Doodly don’t?

Doodly software is an easy to use tool for whiteboard animation creation. I created the above in a matter of minutes- start to finish, render, and upload to YouTube. Simple.

What I like:
– Software, no extra hardware needed. No pen. No big clunky board. No projector.
– SIMPLE to use with drag and drop functionality.
– Easy interface for basic entry/exit customization.
– A number of useable assets for just about any project.
– You can add your own images if you want something more.
– Great royalty-free audio tracks.

What I don’t:
– Limited options for entry and exit.
– Limited ability to manipulate the timeline.

Doodly is a great tool for basic whiteboard animations. The biggest plus is its simplicity and no need for extra hardware. If you can use PowerPoint, this is even easier. Anyone who knows the basics of using a computer and Office software can learn Doodly in minutes. The lack of advanced functionality is limiting if you want to take your creative view to the next level. If you really want something more powerful and technical, Adobe has great tools to challenge you. If you want to create a quick whiteboard animation, Doodly works.

Career, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Life, Motivation, Self Improvement

What motivates?

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino

Motivation is your general willingness to do something. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but WHAT compels you to action?  Simply wanting something is not enough. One has to be motivated to walk the path to pursue goals.

Reaching the next level in one’s career or getting in better physical shape sound worthwhile, but they are much harder to turn into reality in the absence of meaningful goals. – Psychology Today

Motivation changes over time. Two major factors influencing this is maturity and stage of life.  What seems important in our younger years is less important as we mature.  What drives our career at the beginning is not what drives our career as we advance.  Relationship status and parental status can drastically change one’s goals over time.  Money isn’t always the driving force of our decisions. outlined nine factors that motivate employees. Below are my thoughts on their nine listed factors.

  1. Trust: Employees desire trust in their workplace and managers. Clearly communicated expectations are essential.  Feedback must be direct and valuable.  Trust and consistency go together.  If an employee never knows what to expect from a manager, trust will be hard to establish.
  2. Being relevant: Employees want to feel like they matter and they have the opportunity to remain relevant in their jobs.  They desire opportunities for continuous improvement, opportunities for professional growth in their roles.  Employees also want to utilize their strengths.
  3. Proving others wrong: This one is rather odd.  It is better explained as having a drive to achieve and exceed expectations.  “Never underestimate an employee’s need to perform until you have properly evaluated and tested their abilities and potential.” ( Managers should embrace innovation in their team by being open-minded and willing to listen.  While specific ideas may not be 100% on point, those ideas can lead to greater discussions and progress.
  4. Career advancement: Employees need opportunities to grown in their jobs and advance.  There is no joy in just spinning your wheels.  If they can’t advance in their current role, the motivated employee will find a place where they can.
  5. No regrets: The journey for personal success is made up of failures, successes, and changes.  Having enough perspective to value all three is an important motivator.  We learn from our failures as they are opportunities to grow and succeed.  Success and change also provide opportunities for growth, but our failures are hard lessons learned.
  6. Stable future: Change is inevitable.  However, constantly feeling like your time is limited or feeling that your job is always on the block–very much a de-motivator.  On more than one occasion I have heard “good employees don’t get let go” and that is just not true.  Due to decreased funding and reduction in force I’ve seen good teachers lose their jobs because they didn’t coach.  I’ve seen employees let go because they were the most recent hire and someone had to be released due to budget cuts.  If a company is always in the news for their cuts, potential candidates are hesitant to accept a position. Candidates who will accept the position expect more in compensation and they will always have an exit strategy ready.  With an exit strategy in place, that means they are a greater risk for accepting a better offer if it comes along.  They’re the one’s who are always looking.
  7. Self indulgence:  It would be unrealistic to not include personal goals.  Personal goals are a driving force.  However, perspective is required to balance short and long-term benefits, or repercussions.
  8. Impact: Employees want to leave their mark, they want to make an impact.  Want to deflate an employee?  Ask for their opinion, and then tell them what will happen not even taking their thoughts into consideration.  Please, don’t bother asking if it doesn’t matter. That’s insulting.
  9. Happiness: Self-esteem and self-satisfaction are fueled by happiness.  It’s important to enjoy what you do. Happiness isn’t just a smile. Happiness radiates.

It is not possible to motivate someone who refuses to be motivated.  While motivating factors can be intrinsic or extrinsic, motivation is non-existent if one rejects it.

I recently heard a story referencing 3M’s approach to motivation.  With significant expense a study was conducted that resulted in 900 pages pertaining to employee motivation.  Deciding that was too long, the study was repeatedly condensed from 900 pages until it reached one page, then one paragraph, and finally one sentence. “Employees respect what management inspects, not what they expect.”  In other words, hold employees accountable.  This is not to be confused with micromanagement. Ask how things are going, follow-up, give feedback.

A few responses I’ve heard when asking people what motivates them:

  • At first it was monetary. Now, it’s doing a job that’s meaningful, making a difference, and doing something that I enjoy. I’m making a level of money that I’m comfortable with.  I’m not going to sacrifice everything else just to make more money.  It helps that I believe in the mission and goals of the company I work with.  For the most part, employees are aligned with the mission statement. 
  • Appreciation
  • I work for my family first. The paycheck is the prime motivator, because that’s how we keep food on the table and gas in the tanks.
  • I chose my profession so I could make a difference in someone’s life. 
  • Having the ability to be creative.
  • Freedom to do what I want is my motivator. Setting my own hours and being my own boss.
  • I want to leave my mark and when I walk away know that something I’ve done was a positive for the company.

While money is necessary it isn’t the primary motivating factor for employees. Most will leave a job if they can find a better work environment that pays just as well.  Many will even take a pay cut in order to have a better work environment or a job that aligns with their personal goals and direction.  A recruiter recently told me that potential employees were more interested in PTO benefits than increased pay. Personal time and personal satisfaction are increasingly important in motivating employees in the workplace. A toxic work environment will push employees to be on the lookout for something better. In today’s job market, employers can’t ignore the desires of a changing workforce. Flexibility and adaptability are important if they wish to motivate attract and retain quality candidates.



Education, Instructional Design, Learning and Development

Training: Manageable, Memorable, Measurable

Why have a training program?

It’s simple, employees desire opportunities.  Learning and development provides opportunities for employees to gain skills, acquire positive behaviors, grow knowledge, and become empowered in their jobs.  Effective training improves retention as employees feel that they can learn and grow in their role.   To be effective, training initiatives must clearly define goals and objectives, and communicate those to participants.

Effective training is manageable, memorable, and measurable and it starts before the training session ever begins. Design and Development of the learning program requires time and evaluation. Obstacles to effective training must be anticipated. Goals and competencies must be established before content can be created.  Why is the training important? Who is the audience? What is the desired result? How will the results be measured? What is the best format to use?  Does the content meet the goals and adjectives? Will the content and method of implementation achieve the desired result?  These questions should be repeatedly addressed in the development process.  After delivery it is important to evaluate the training from both a presentation standpoint, and receive feedback from participants. Review the feedback, document results, and strive to improve the next time. It should be a learning and development cycle and it does not stop.

Training can rarely be thrown together and effective without careful development, addressing the questions above.  The half-hearted approach will be recognized by the participant.  Training also should not be like drinking from the fire hose. There must be a reasonable schedule with time to digest the content. We’ve all sat through marathon learning sessions and walked away overwhelmed, retaining virtually nothing. A jam-packed agenda with no opportunities to digest content is counterproductive. Training sessions have to be manageable. Breaking content into chunks with breaks for both discussion and pause are essential.

Participants need REAL application of content and need to interact/reflect on it for the content to “stick”.  Interactive game based learning isn’t just more interesting and engaging, it works.  Blended learning strategies offer a show, do, review approach. The participant engages multiple senses, and therefore increases content retention.  In person training should have interactive components as well. Show/Do/Review makes training memorable.

Learners need to be engaged and able to connect learning to their day-to-day life. Building engagement involves building interest, identifying how to make the learning content relevant, and delivering content in a way that is appealing and promotes retention. If well executed the learning becomes authentic and important to the participant. They are then motivated to engage, seek further knowledge, and to implement what they have learned.

Learning must be measurable.  If you can’t or won’t measure effectiveness, what’s the point?  Just to say it is done?  So many times this is the case and employees know it and training completion becomes just another box to check, which leads to inattention and no retention. Without measurability there is no way to see what works and what does not. What may be fun and engaging, may not solve the problem.

What makes training effective?  Essentially, the little things add up.  A strong, well-organized learning program with sound principles and objectives is ineffective if the environment is uncomfortable and riddled with distractions.  If learners are participating strictly to check a box, little of value will be taken away.  Negativity breeds negativity. If training is poorly planned and poorly executed, it is a waste of time for everyone involved. The training environment must be conducive to learning. Basic human needs must be considered. Snacks and breaks are important. Goals, objectives, and implementation strategy work in tandem with participants and place to build an effective training.

Best Practices, Education, Learning and Development

A Few Presentation Tips

For years I attended teacher training seminars. Many were laughable. Someone who hadn’t been in a classroom for years stood in front of a room full of teachers reading a PowerPoint about how to teach. First rule of presenting, try not to insult your audience. Secondly, reading to them is boring.

Engage their mind, get the attention of your audience.  Start with a question or statement relevant to your topic. Try to come back to the introductory thought at the end.

If you are bored presenting, your audience will be bored listening. Speak in your natural voice, with confidence, and be yourself. Many of us are nervous when presenting. Remember this, your audience is not rooting for your failure. That would be very uncomfortable for them. Finally, care about your topic. Passion and excitement is contagious.  If you demonstrate how important your topic is, your audience will feel it and you will connect with them.

Another tidbit I learned in the classroom, everyone loves a good story- and story teller. Present your information. Don’t read to your audience. That’s boring. If you are the presenter, you probably know the content better than your audience so present with confidence. Whenever possible, provide a relevant example that helps to reinforce your content. I used to teach what many students said was a boring subject. When I could find a relevant story to tell about a particular historical topic, the students were riveted. At times it was alarming. I would realize they were listening and have a moment of stage fright. The story brought the history to life. They were able to make connections and the history became real, not just something that happened a long time ago and doesn’t matter now. Having something relevant to share engages your audience and helps them make connections.

Sometimes it isn’t our confidence, spelling errors, or information on the presentation that is distracting.  Sometime it is our body language and actions. Try not to stare at the screen. You’re speaking to the audience and if you do not look at them, they are not engaged. If you turn your back to them, you lose engagement. Also, don’t stand in front of the screen- especially if there is a projector that will make you glow or project content across your forehead.  If you are using PowerPoint, there is a presenter mode. If you use the notes section of each slide, your audience sees only the slide. You see your notes. Rather than facing the slide you can face your audience, and when necessary refer to the notes in front of you.

And finally…

Connect with your audience. Try to make eye contact, or at least pretend to. Look in the vicinity of your audience and move your eyes to different parts of the room.  When asking for questions, ask someone specific what they think of a topic, or if they have an example they could share. When appropriate, encourage your audience to participate and engage. You may have to encourage specific individuals. If you have questions you really want to answer and hope people ask, solicit assistance from friends in the audience to ask those questions at an appointed time. Someone willing to start participating will encourage others.

Best Practices, Education, Learning and Development

Be a Better Communicator

Communication is more than speaking your mind. Being a good communicator is not the same as being a good speaker. A good communicator knows how to listen as well as speak. In fact, listening is one of the most important tasks for effective communication.

It is not enough to just listen to what is being said. It is important to hear as well. Listening is being alert and attentive to the speaker, focusing on what is being said, not how you want to respond. You may not agree with the speaker, and that is OK. However, it is important to understand perspective. A good communicator is open minded enough that they listen and hear what is being said and seek to understand where the other person is coming from. Our experiences shape our views and perspectives. You do not have to agree in order to respectfully communicate!

When responding, think first. Do not say the first thing that comes into your head but instead take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. Be clear and direct, get to the point. Being wordy is not beneficial. Try to be specific and deliberate in your response. Say what you mean, and do not make someone try to figure out what you really mean. Do not assume your meaning will be understood. If you are giving instructions, give all of the instructions. Explain the details. You cannot expect someone to achieve the details if you do not set clear expectations. Time frames are also helpful. Saying soon, or within reason, does not help. What is soon or reasonable to one person is not the same to another. When possible, give examples, but keep it relative to the topic. If there are boundaries, state them. If there are not, try to provide parameters, or explain that creative license is acceptable. If expectations are articulated, even if broad, everyone stands a better chance of being happy with outcomes.

If you are on the receiving end of instructions, seek clarification. Reiterate for understanding and remember…listening is key to good communication.

Really, good communication is based in respect.

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.

Education, Instructional Design, Learning and Development

ARCS Model thoughts

It’s not enough to design great eLearning. Learners who are not interested in the topic, who do not buy into the goals, who generally resist change, or who fail to see the big-picture reasons for learning the new material or skill have what Guild Master Julie Dirksen identifies as motivation gaps.

Know your audience, establish relevance, and build confidence for the buy-in. Satisfaction is achieved and the learner does not feel time was wasted on another boring training.

Pamela Hogle‘s article on the website for Learning Solutions MagazineARCS Model Aids in Designing for Motivation is a well explained piece on motivation and barriers to learning.  As with most learning modules relevance, motivation, and usefulness are the primary frustrations designers must overcome in order to create an effective tool. Where the ARCS model differs from others is making confidence a key indicator. Applying new skills and implementing new strategies is a daunting task, takes time, and can be overwhelming. It is much more comfortable to keep the status quo, sticking with the familiar.  Reinforcing relevance and offering clear implementation strategies will build confidence necessary for a successful use of learning content. Establishing relevance is not enough. Many will be able to see how the training is relevant to them, but may be overwhelmed with precisely how to utilize the acquired knowledge. Concise examples, clear instructions, and modeling give the learner a vision for how the strategy can work for them. Sometimes the most difficult part of learning a strategy is visualizing its use in your own situation. Examples help provide clarity and the buy-in that what is being learned can actually be used.



Best Practices, Education, Instructional Design, Learning and Development

Bells and Whistles: Engagement


A few basics for creating an engaging lesson/learning module:

  • Plan. Don’t wing it.
  • Determine your objectives and desired outcome.
  • Establish how you will determine mastery.
  • Mine your resources.
  • Outline the lesson/course.
  • Build it.
  • Add the bells and whistles.

The course is just part of an overall process. For an instructional objective to be met and the course to be effective there must be ongoing performance support outside of the course. The learner must be motivated to engage in the content and to motivate the learner, relevance has to be clear.  Motivation can also be driven by opportunity. Meetings, projects, deadlines, task lists, family, and life in general are barriers to training. When categorizing tasks for the day training is not likely to be in the urgent and important category. Training is usually put in the “I will get to it when I can” or the “Oh my gosh it is due tomorrow” category.  If designers create training with time management in mind everyone’s life is made a little easier and training is more effective.  Compress activities and implement/suggest opportunities for practice to make training relevant to the participant. A few minutes here and there is a lot easier to manage than a sixty minute required commitment. There is a time and place for long sessions, but periodic required training is not it.  Saving progress is an essential feature. Chunk the module in such a way that there are natural breaks.

Planning is the key to breaking up the content into natural pauses. Story-boarding is an effective planning tool for planning. A storyboard is an organizational tool to establish the order of presentation, what resources are needed where, and where best to place learning checks. That is an oversimplification, but it explains the idea. PLAN for engagement. Preparing learning checks will chunk the material and engage the learner. Within the learning check, you have an opportunity to re-loop and review- TAKE IT.

Most understand that learning and presentation is a cycle. You explain what you are going to tell them. You tell them. Then you tell them what you told them.  I do not think of it in a circular pattern of instruction.  For me, loops are preferred.


In your loop learning, stimulate prior knowledge. Offering examples that relate to what the learner already knows can provide relevance as well as an opportunity to review prior material. Another opportunity to re-loop is by providing the chance to interact with the content.

Before building, gather all the resources necessary for success.  Mining of resources can take place before story-boarding or after. I prefer both. I gather the resources I know will be required. After outlining I usually find it necessary to add to my resource list.  Think of it like cooking. Before cooking you must check to see if you have all of your ingredients then purchase what you need. If you have all of your ingredients out, measured and ready for use you are not in a frantic rush to heat, stir, measure the next ingredient, and add it before whatever you are cooking is ruined by a delay.  Having all resources ready for use in an easily accessible folder or bank will make your instructional design process smoother and  less stressful.

When building your learning module, keep content frames clear, concise and uncluttered. Words, words, and more words is not necessary. Stick to the major points and add narration for explanation. Add images to enhance the topic and assist the learner in making connections.  While bells and whistles can be exciting and provide a tool to grab attention, don’t over do it. Too many bells and whistles become obnoxious after repeated use.  Keep in mind, just because the learning module is professional and serves a learning purpose, that does not mean it can’t be entertaining.  Lastly, if you are bored creating it, how will the learner required to complete it feel?

Keep it simple. Make it relevant. Plan and don’t wing it.