Monthly Archives: March 2008

Batman Gotham Knight

The Dark Knight is coming out on July 18th. Everyone has heard of that. And I can’t wait.

But did you know about Batman Gotham Knight, the animated DVD (also downloadable) coming out on July 8th? Oh, yeah….. Batman gets the “Animatrix” treatment (well, sort of).

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9I5744WCaxA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Yes, Kevin Conroy will once again put a voice to Gotham’s caped crusader:

Conroy set the standard for modern day Batman voices with his performance in “Batman: The Animated Series,” “The New Adventures of Batman and Robin” and “The New Batman Superman Adventures.” He reprised the role as an aging Bruce Wayne playing mentor to a new Caped Crusader in “Batman Beyond.” Animation legend and “Batman Gotham Knight” producer Bruce Timm said Conroy was the obvious choice for both widespread fan approval and to provide an overriding sense of continuity within a film in which Batman appears in so many new, visual variations.

For more on Conroy and the Gotham Knight project, read this Slice Of Sci-Fi entry.

The six anime-style stories will delve deeply into Bruce Wayne’s transition to becoming Batman. It’s not clear if the Batman Begins storyline will play any role, though I doubt it.

So July 8th, we get ahold of some great Bat-animation, just in time to stoke the flames for The Dark Knight. Until then, here’s the trailer…

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/WaIR9dAZRR0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Batman = cool.

Limits of Responsibility – ASTD’s Big Question for March

The Learning Circuits Blog: Scope of Learning Responsibility

What is the Scope of our Responsibility as Learning Professionals?

That’s the question of the month, and it’s clarified a bit in the above linked post:

  • Do educational institutions and corporate learning & development departments have responsibility for supporting Long Tail Learning? Do they have responsibility for learning beyond what can be delivered through instruction? If so, what is their responsibility? Where is the edge of responsibility?
  • Similarly, does the instructor have a responsibility to help students make sense of or deal with content he or she did not teach the students? In other words, if a student finds information on the Internet or some other place, how much time and attention should the instructor allow for the discussion of such content? Should it be discussed at all if it is non-conventional or generally thought of as not credible or contradicts the instructor? Who determines credible research? Is all non-referred research questionable?

I’m taking “Long Tail Learning” as meeting the ever expanding niche development needs of ever smaller populations in an organization. For most organizations, the training department is stretched pretty thin and has to concentrate on those development needs that either meet the needs of the largest populations or have the biggest impact on either costs or sales (that’s currently where the line of responsibility is set for most organizations). That means some departments are on their own for development needs – sometimes even their most important needs – because the training department doesn’t have the bandwidth to help. Then you’ve got the training topics that fit into that large group, but have variations for each sub-group within the larger population. Where does the training department’s responsibility fall for these groups? How do you design (and should you design) training that covers those needs?

Ideally, obviously, the answer is that in a perfect world the training department would be able to support the learning needs of everyone in the organization at all times. So I’m taking that as my starting point. Ideally, everything an employee needs to know in an organization, from literacy to how to run a business unit, would be the responsibility of the training department.

Realistically, that’s not going to happen, but that would be my ideal goal.

Now, we need to consider what “responsible” means. To some that might mean the training department directly owns and delivers all the content. That’s not what I mean. I mean that the training department is responsible for enabling the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and abilities through any and all means necessary. That could be as simple as making sure an authoritative source for a given topic is available to someone – a book, a website, a mentor, a trainer, a vendor, etc. – to as complex as training a person or persons to be that authoritative source or creating a new course. If someone has a question about where to get training on something, the training department should be able point to a source for that training, whether they created it or not.

This is where the power of community software (or Web 2.0) comes into play. The training department obviously can’t keep track of all those training needs for themselves. Once you reach a critical mass ratio of training professionals to employees, the job just becomes too much to track for the training department by itself to meet the ideal goal. But if the training department can work with the IT department to create and structure community/networking software to enable those connections to be made with input from other departments, with oversight by the training team, then you’re suddenly much closer to the ideal. It’s important that the individual departments feel empowered to make contributions to this site, otherwise you’re back to the training team needing to come up with everything. If someone has a question, you look it up on the community-driven “solutions” site and either point to the right resource, if it exists, or begin to create the plan for getting it.

Now, how do you make sure the sources/solutions derived from the site are authoritative? To some extent you can probably rely on the community to police that itself, but that’s why the training department has oversight of the community site. They should validate the sources, or have the sources validated by a Subject Matter Expert.

To get to the second bullet of the original questions, how much time do you spend discussing information found on non-approved locations? That’s a pretty hard question, because it could be perfectly valid, and possibly even superior, information. I would say that if you’re in a course, you’re generally on a schedule and are teaching a “standard” practice of some kind that has been vetted and agreed upon. Challenges to that standard should be welcomed, but shouldn’t interfere with class time. If a short discussion isn’t enough to smooth over any discrepancies, I’d drop it into a “parking lot” or into the discussion forum or community software for evaluation and validation. If a change to the standard is warranted based on the new information, it should be implemented with thanks.

The really short version of what I’m saying here is that it’s the training department’s responsibility to enable learning, but it’s the individual departments and employees who truly have the responsibility for learning. The training team should make avenues available, but it’s up to the individuals to use the tools and opportunities provided to take responsibility for their own learning.

I think there’s one other thing implied in the original question: how do you prove that you’re meeting your “responsibility” to provide quality sources? What’s the measurement? It’s certainly not “butts in seats,” which is what many executives ask for. I honestly don’t have a quick answer for this part, though. I’m more in the camp of, “if it’s working, you’ll know” but that’s not generally enough for most executives.

Oprah’s Online Training – Part 3: The blog

I had the opportunity to visit the blog connected to Oprah’s “A New Earth” course on Eckhart Tolle’s book. I’ve been looking at this training experience over the last few weeks from the perspective of a corporate training professional. You can see my thoughts on the recorded sessions and the live sessions as well.

Something that is hard to get across to executives who see blogs as strictly online personal journals is how a blog can be used in a training setting. I’ve not found any good examples of blogs being used for corporate internal (or external, really) training either — probably because those blogs would be internally accessible and blocked from outside access, but I’ve also not seen much usage indicated in industry surveys, so I think blog usage in training is relatively small, unfortunately.

Oprah’s course is the first example I’ve seen of a blog being used for training purposes, so I finally have an example of at least one method of using a blog for training. The method they’ve chosen seems to be a “summarize the session” format, though it’s a bit early to tell how it’s going to go long term.

The good

  • They’re using a blog! The advantage of this over just a discussion board is focus and (hopefully) expertise – at least the way it’s being used here. While a discussion board has it’s strengths, a new reader can get overwhelmed with the number of new topics and responses potentially created at any given time, and it may not have an acknowledged expert participating in each thread. A blog has a focused “article” written by someone who has some involvement with the course, or at least subject matter. So a new user not only has a relatively linear path to follow, but a set of expert thoughts along that path.
  • They’re pulling some of the comments from previous entries to incorporate into subsequent posts. This is a key to involvement and investment of the student reading the blog. If there is no acknowledgement that the author is reading the comments, they run the risk of becoming faceless and uncaring in the student’s eyes. Using reader comments pulls the readers into a community where they’ll feel more like openly sharing because they’re involved in the conversation.
  • They keep the posts at a reasonable length. This is obviously subjective, but the longer the post, the fewer people will read the whole thing. Posts that are too short are meaningless. Finding that middle ground of covering the points you need to hit while not blathering on is hard to do.
  • The writing is conversational. Cold, impersonal writing, of the kind typically found in many training materials, frequently saps the energy from the material and makes it harder to read. People like to feel like they’re in a conversation, so they’ll typically pay closer attention to relaxed writing and will forgive a grammatical mistake here or there. (Won’t you?)
  • They are extending and expanding on the main points of the session being covered. This serves both to provide more ways to think about the material, and simply as a reminder of the main points.

The bad

  • Only one post a week? I’d like to see a little more reinforcement of the points than that. Not a whole lot more, but one more post a week would certainly be an improvement. Keep the conversation and reinforcement flowing.
  • No involvement in the comment threads. They pull some of the comments for the next post, as I said, but it would also be nice to hear from the expert mid-thread, just to let everyone know you’re invested. Especially if you’re only posting once a week. There’s no need to respond to every comment – that would be overkill once you pass a certain number of comments – but hit a couple every now and then.
  • Formatting is not used well. In fact, there is virtually no formatting in the posts beyond paragraph breaks. Don’t be afraid to use headings, bullets, italics, or something to help the reader scan the posts. This would be especially helpful for responding to comments – figure out some way to set off the quotes you’re pulling from the comments. Most blog software makes that automatic, so it’s not hard, and it’s disappointing they aren’t paying more attention to readability.
  • Use graphics. I fail miserably with this here, but the Oprah blog could benefit from something visual incorporated into the posts, too.
  • The title font should be bigger. This sounds kind of picky, I know, but the title should at least be the same font size as the body text. It appears as if the titles are a smaller font, but bolded, which throws me off when I’m scanning.

In all, I’d say they’re making a good effort, and hitting some important usage points, but there’s certainly room for improvement in some pretty simple areas.

My economic stimulus rebate is going to…

How should I spend my economic stimulus rebate?

Over at Gather Little by Little (link above), Glblguy reviews his decision with his wife about what to do with his economic stimulus rebate. All of us (in the US, anyway) have the same decision to make. There are, as he points out, about 4 options:

  1. Pay off debt
  2. Buy stuff
  3. Save/invest it
  4. Go on a trip/vacation

What do I want to do with it? Buy stuff. Between lawn care/landscaping and computer stuff, we “need” some things for this house that I either can’t afford at the moment, or don’t have a place to store (which leads into wanting to purchase a shed, which ain’t cheap).

What I really want to do with it is take a vacation, but that’s not even close to a realistic priority.

What are we actually going to do with it? We’re going to split it up a bit. We just bought a new vacuum cleaner (a rather expensive, but excellent, multi-purpose one) after our old one broke, so a big chunk of it will go to paying that off. The rest will go to paying off debt, unless my upcoming car inspection sucks the money first.

What about you? Any vacations in your future? Freeing yourselves from the tyranny of the credit card companies? Loading up on Wii purchases? Leave a comment and let me know.

That blowed up reeeel good

This is one of the “prettier” explosions I’ve seen. Love the compression wave.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://embed.break.com/Mjc1NjI4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The sound of the shrapnel flying past through the end just completes the goodness.

And one more… underwater boom…

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Woman grows onto toilet seat

Woman Has Two Year Relationship From Boyfriend’s Bathroom – Slice of SciFi

I don’t even know what to say about this. I’m sickened and saddened at the same time.

Apparently a 35-year old woman had a phobia that kept her in the bathroom 100% of every day for an undetermined period of time. And her boyfriend never called for help until she started acting “groggy.”

Emphasis added:

The case drew nationwide attention after Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said it appeared the Ness City woman’s skin had grown around the seat in the two years she apparently was in the bathroom.

That’s astounding. She actually stopped moving long enough for her skin to grow around the seat. I can’t quite get my head around that. Not only can I not understand what would drive someone to that, I can’t understand how her boyfriend would let it happen without getting help.

We live in a messed up world.

[tags]weird news, phobias, psychology[/tags]

Superman returns… again

Orci & Kurtzman Tackle Man of Steel – Slice of SciFi

Bryan Singer is in talks with writers for the next Superman movie, “The Man of Steel”. Unfortunately, we have to wait until after the Justice League of America makes its box-office run, but I’m excited to see the Superman Returns crew back at it. Singer has stuck to his previous promise of upping the action in this outing.

“The first one was a romantic film and a nostalgic film,” continued Singer. “I’ll be the first person to own up to that without making any apologies for it. I knew it was going to be that from the outset. And now that the characters are established, there’s really an opportunity to up the threat levels. … Clearly there’ll be a body count [laughs]. From frame one, it will be unrelenting terror! All those teenage girls who found the movie and mooned over James Marsden or Brandon [Routh]? Well, I’m going to wake them up!”

The writers are responsible for Transformers. Hmm… not sure if I’m liking that. Transformers was not what I would call a well-written movie. Lots of nice pretty fights, certainly, and I’m all for that, but character work was not what I hoped for, and the plot itself was kinda…. eh. That said, they were also involved in the TV show Alias, which by all reports was excellent (still haven’t caught much of it myself). They’ve also been entrusted with the new Star Trek movie, but that hasn’t been released, obviously, so who knows how that’ll turn out. They’ve certainly got the big-budget credentials, though…

Superman Returns - flying

So who’s gonna be the villain? No one knows. I’ve heard calls to give Lex Luthor a break. I understand that sentiment. On the other hand, I liked Kevin Spacey’s Luthor. I really want some mega-villain to show up, too. Darkseid would be great (that’s a big character to handle in a 2-hour movie though… he comes with a lot of other characters). It would need to be somebody who could take a super-punch. Just not Lobo… please.

Anyway… woo hoo!

[tags]Superman, Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Lex Luthor[/tags]

3 years in 8 minutes – BSG

Catch Up to Season Four | Battlestar Galactica | SCIFI.COM

Looking for a quick reminder after the two decade wait between season 3 and the finally about to debut season 4 of Battlestar Galactica? The video at the link above is 8 minutes long, hits all the right stuff, and is kinda funny too. That’s a lot to fit into 8 minutes.

If you have not watched the finale of season 3 (I’m looking at you, Pam), don’t watch this video. Watch the finale first.

Don’t miss the April 4th premiere of Season 4.

Battlestar Galactica’s Last Supper

Oprah’s Online Training – live experience review

Well, I was on the live session tonight (read about my experience with last week’s recorded session). For the most part, as I expected, the experiences were the same. There were some bumps in the data stream early on (and once later), but it got ironed out within about 15 minutes, so I was satisfied with the transmission itself. I was very worried at the beginning because the resolution was dropping significantly at times to the point where I couldn’t make out faces. They took care of that, but then there were instances where the audio and video froze and I lost part of the conversation for 5 seconds at a time. As I said, though, those issues were pretty well hammered out quickly.

I loved that they ran segments from the previous session prior to the live session, along with a countdown to the live session. Excellent reinforcement and review, and great setting of expectation.

It’s a seriously slick production, visually, and I really wouldn’t expect any less from a TV production studio. There have to be at least 3 or 4 cameras in that studio.  I have to imagine they’re using at least the same amount of production staff for this that they use for Oprah’s TV show – probably more to accommodate the internet interface.

Overall, all of the “good and bad” points I mentioned in my last post are still valid, except the audio for the commercials, which were included in the stream – and only at the very top of the show, instead of sprinkled throughout as in the recorded session – so there was no volume incongruity.

I was disappointed that there was no back channel chat, though it can be distracting.

The interface for asking a question was imposing. You had to enter your full name, full address, email address, and phone number – all required. There was no “email” link that I saw, so it’s very possible that the producers would call you to ask your question on the phone (a possibility with which I was uncomfortable). That’s one way to cut down on the questions you get, which I suppose would be important for an audience of this size.

Oprah did plug a follow-up XM radio show immediately after the session for members with access to that. That’s pretty cool that they are extending the conversation that way, but really, as I said before, why not promote the online interactive pieces? They’re more widely available and easier to participate in.

I did spend some time on the discussion board today as well, in the Aha! section. There was certainly plenty of participation. Much of it was on point, too. There was some noise, and arguments flared up here and there, but with a topic this controversial that’s to be expected. I haven’t gotten out to the blog yet. It should be interesting to see how that’s being run.

Overall, looking at this experience from the perspective of a corporate training professional focused on online delivery, it has been an interesting ride so far. I’m picking up some ideas for how I’d like to run a program internally that I hadn’t thought through previously. The online workbook is an “aha” experience for me, for example. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. There are obviously some things I’m not going to be able to do – the multiple cameras and nice studio, for example (heck, even live streaming video is out of my reach at the moment) – but there are also things I think our team can do better. Structuring the sessions and moderating the discussion forums come to mind.

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