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Archive for October, 2009

Netbooks versus Laptops

It was interesting.  I was in a couple of Best Buys last week looking at netbooks.  Each of the sales assistants I talked to gave me all the reasons why I didn’t want one.  So I tried to do a little homework.  One thing I found is that in the stores you see only a small number of the available netbooks maybe six or eight.  I found at least forty from about 10 different manufacturers.  I’d be interested in other people’s experiences but here’s what I found.  Netbooks are not a replacement for your everyday computer.  You’re not going to be playing a game or watching video on them.  The screens and the keyboards are small to make them portable but on the other hand it doesn’t make them comfortable to work on.  One of the other downsides is that they don’t have an optical drive so you have to download any software and you won’t be using them to play a DVD on your next airplane ride.  They are light and very portable.  A netbook is a about 2 pounds while a laptop ranges from 3 to 7 pounds.  Some have a much longer battery life up to about 8 hours.  I think if you’re doing a lot of travel and like to work on the plane, these are a good buy.  When the person in front of you cranks down the seat, you’ll still be able to work.  Just like all computers, the processors will be speeding up and new features are going to be added.  So the question might be when to buy rather than if.

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Do you adopt new technology when it comes out or wait until there is no other choice?  Is resistance to change real and rational or is it just uncomfortable and confusing?  Try using the invention in reverse test to find out.

Here’s how it works.  Let’s take phones as an example.  If cell phones had been invented first, would corded phones ever been invented?  Would someone say, “you know I can’t always find my cell phone, what if it was attached to the wall with a cord?”  Would you toss out your cell phone and use pay phones again?”

Need a better example.  Today you can get news 24/7 as it happens.  You can look it up or sent to your computer or mobile device.  Would you say, “You know what I’d really prefer is to go out in the driveway on a cold wet morning and get old news so I can get that feeling of paper and ink in the morning?”

So think about the choices, computer or typewriter…organizer or PDA…voice mail or answering machines..voice mail or text messages…cars you could fix in your driveway or cars that go 100,000 miles with minimal care…IPODs or record players…HD or analog?  Try this test with anything.  If it makes sense to go backwards, resistance is worthwhile.  If not, you just might be a technology fuddy, duddy.

Photo Uploaded on October 19, 2007
by Mr 500

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In the old days, the output of any team work session was a pile of flip charts that needed to be typed up and sent out to the team for review.  This is a slow and unnecessary process.  With a little bit of skill with something as basic as Microsoft Word, you can project and then work on documents real time.  What’s nice about this for longer one or two day sessions, is that you can print out copies or share documents electronically as you go.

When you break out into small groups, instead of using flip charts, teams can use laptops and then share their work either through email or a flash drive.  By the way this method works just fine when using something like a Webex or Go to Meetings session.

However, as Shakespeare said…”there’s the rub.”  What prevents this from happening in a productive manner is a general lack of skill in using basic programs like Microsoft Word.  Most people still use this program like a typewriter.  I find this to be true even with administrative assistance or people who use the program all the time.

Here’s a quick test you can use to see if someone has the basics down:

  1. Can you generate and update a table of contents automatically?
  2. Do you use styles to format a document?
  3. Do you know how to indent or line or do you space over?
  4. Do you know how to use tables to make columns rather than tabs?
  5. Can you add and delete row and columns from a table?
  6. Can you change the type font of an entire document with two commands?
  7. Are there page numbers at the bottom of your documents that change automatically?
  8. Do you know how to get a new page without adding lines at the end?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you can dump the flip charts.  By the way, there are five or six ways to do everything in Word.  Do you know the fastest way or do you just do the one way you learned?

Photo uploaded on June 14, 2009
by Valeriana Solaris

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Ever since 1956 when Benjamin Bloom first published his hierarchy of education objectives, educators had an excellent tool for writing educational objectives.  Simply the list of action verbs provides a useful tool.  Over the years, it’s been update and revised to describe learning in action as shown in Bloom’s wheel.

The question is, does it go far enough for writing training objectives for today’s complex multitasking jobs.  Let’s take an example of preparing for winning the national spelling bee.  There are three basic things you need to be able to do.  1. Spell all words correctly.  2. Determine how to spell words from it’s etymology and language of origin. 3. Handle the pressure of performing in front of judges and a crowd.  You can work on all of these individually, but the real challenge is to do them at the same time.   So perhaps the objective should be written.  Recalls and spells correctly all words that have been memorized and figures out how to spell new words while handling the pressure of a crowd and judges.

I think there are lots of combinations on the job which should be kept together.  For example, operating a piece of machinery up to quality standards while following health and safety procedures.  Or..In a call center it’s using the phone, computer, policies and other information all at the same time.

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I hear it all the time when we build training objectives.  People will say, “you’ve got to understand the process,” “you need to know the features and benefits of the process,” “you need to be “aware of all the safety hazards.”  Words like understand, know and aware or all things that happen inside people’s heads.  It’s not a description of what they will actually be doing with this new knowledge, understanding and awareness.  In many cases, it’s nothing or something like retain it for a few weeks and then forget it.  It’s quite a leap between knowing how to do something and actually doing it.  You can know how to make a great presentation to a large group but that doesn’t mean you can.  You can know the features and benefits of a product but not be able to use them effectively during a sales presentation with a hostile prospect.

So to write better objectives, I like to ask the question “so what?”  If I have an awareness of safety hazards..so what?  What does it do for me?  How do I put that awareness in action?  It’s better to state something like, “recognizes all safety hazards and takes steps to avoid them.”  It’s a better sales objective to say, “presents products by describing the appropriate features and benefits to meet the customers needs.”

What this leads to is training the focuses on results and changed behaviors rather than knowledge acquisition.  It also leads to different ways to train versus death by PowerPoint and data dumps.  This is especially true when subject matter experts deliver training.  They tend to “tell” students what they think they should know.  They forget the part about how they learned to put that knowledge into action.

Finally cognitive objectives lead to paper and pencil tests..fill in the blanks, multiple choice, and true/false.  Easy to score but won’t tell you about what students will do on the job.  That’s way there is often little correlation between what happens on the test and what happens on the job.  Changing these objectives requires more observation do evaluate what’s been learned.

Photo Uploaded on April 28, 2006
by Imapix

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After 20 years of experience as a training and development consultant, Steve Rosenbaum founded Learning Paths International in 2004.  Steve has led Learning Path initiatives that have reduced time to proficiency for front line sales and service, back office fuctions, manufacturing employees and super- visors, software engineers, health care providers and call center personnel.  Steve has worked on projects in the U.S., U.K., India, Canada, Austrailia, Hungary and Poland.  As an author and speaker, Steve has written 5 books including: Learning Paths:  Increase profits by reducing the time it takes to get employees up-to-speed, Managing and Measuring Productivity, and Fair Employment Interviewing. He is also a contributor to the Trainer’s Protable Mentor and has written more than 100 articles and 400 blog postings on training and development topics.  He has spoken to professional groups including the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI), the Society of Advanced Learning Technology (SALT), the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), Minnesota Council for Quality, and the Association for Operations Management (APICS).

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DALLAS (September 8, 2009) – Roach Howard Smith & Barton (RHSB), a leading independent insurance brokerage firm and Assurex Global partner, announces the launch of an innovative, highly accelerated development process for Property & Casualty (P&C) Producers. This rapid development process is called a “Learning Path.” It will cut the time it takes new P&C Producers to become fully proficient in their role by at least 30%.  See the entire press release here

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