Sole Trader? Not really...
I had to fill in a form recently that asked about my employment status. I ticked the 'sole trader' box as technically that's what I am, but really I'm part of an amazing team.
Since I sat down at my desk on 2nd January this year I have been lucky enough to be busy almost every day but it's not been without the help of some very talented people. I thought it was time they got some recognition too.
Zahra Conway, Salia Mogensen, James Richardson;
you have been the most helpful and hard working subject matter experts. Your input has been invaluable in creating the e-learning you wanted and thank you for the very generous reviews.
Lester Cockerill, Louise Baynes, Kevin McCarthy;
creative e-learning developers who have worked to bring my storyboards to life. Your turnaround times are truly incredible!
Neil Hoskins, Linda Hoskins;
instructional designers and developers in their own right. Thank you for all your help and for being on the end of a phone when I need to talk something through.
who helped me work out what I needed in a Virtual Assistant and
for taking on the role.
It's only with the help of this great team that I have been able to achieve what I have this year. I've also been able to take a couple of breaks and know that everything would run smoothly while I did.
Sole trader? Technically yes, but ticking that small box means so much more than that!
Business goals and personal dreams
Back in 2010, an e-learning company asked me to act as the Instructional Designer on a project to develop a safeguarding module for a Children’s Safeguarding Board. I was really excited as, like most people, I feel completely powerless when I hear on the news about another child that has been hurt. Finally, this was my chance to make a very small contribution to help.
Time passed, the e-learning was written and amendments were made but I always felt that the final version was nowhere near as effective as it could have been.
It’s been the one that got away for me and a personal dream to create something better.
Fast forward to 2016 and a conversation with a family member led me to meet Sarah Harris, Early Help and Safeguarding consultant. Together we discussed our business goals and realised that we had common ground. Sarah has a wealth of experience in Children’s Services and has just set up her own business and we were both looking for a way to generate an additional income. Sometimes you just need to meet the right person to help you towards your goals!
We have now spent the last four months designing and developing our Safer Organisations e-learning from Sarah’s face to face training and incorporating all the elements of Keeping Children Safe in Education 2016 Part 1. It’s been a labour of love so far but now we’re ready to release it.
Wish us luck!
Published 27th April 2017
It was September 2014. I was at a client meeting, we’d just stopped for lunch and I was admiring the view from one of the top floors of the highest buildings in Basingstoke. On checking my voicemail I heard this message. ‘Hi, this is Kelly from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. I know you only applied to do holiday cover but we have a little gold cocker here who needs a permanent place, will you take him?’
There were so many reasons to say ‘No’.
I’m in a meeting and I need to speak to my husband first…
I’m going on holiday in three days…
I have meetings booked when I get back, who is going to look after it…?
Do I actually want a puppy full time…?
I said ‘Yes’.
Roll round to September 2015 and Hearing Dog Willis was now 14 months old and ready to go into training. On a home visit from Kelly I was asked, ‘How would you feel about home training Willis?’
Again, so many reasons to say ‘No’.
I don’t know how to train a Hearing Dog…
How long will it take to train him…?
If he stays longer I’m going to be more attached to him…
Will I ever be able to let him go…?
I said ‘Yes’.
On Monday, Willis leaves us and starts his new adventure with his recipient. It will break my heart to let him go but I am so proud of what we have achieved together. He has made me smile every single day he’s been here, I’ve made fantastic friends, learnt that I actually have a natural talent for dog training and even got to meet royalty.
And all because I said ‘Yes’.
Try it! It could be the start of something amazing.
Published 16th June 2016
Bright Shiny Things
I was lucky enough to spend Christmas and New Year in South East Asia and it was on a visit to see the Monks collecting alms in Luang Prabang, that I took this photo. If you check out the statistics, 75% of the population of Laos live on less than 2USD per day. Education is expensive and hard to come by.
I hadn’t realised that when the monks collect alms, they also give to the people waiting along their route. This little girl had been brought down from her village by her mother and placed along the route with her collecting bucket to get food for the family. She may never have seen a book and will probably never get an education.
Another revelation was the fact that many of the novice monks don’t have a religious calling. They become monks to get an education at the Buddhist secondary school in Luang Prabang and to learn to speak English. Often, one child from a family ‘volunteers’ to become a monk for the duration of their secondary education, they are then able to go back and teach the rest of their family.
Back to reality and it was time for Learning Technologies. I learnt from my mistakes at World of Learning and really planned my visit. I downloaded the app, marked the exhibitors I wanted to talk to and checked out where they were on the map. It was much more effective and I achieved a lot. In between, it was great to catch up on the latest in e-learning but it was while checking out the Bright Shiny Things that I remembered the little girl.
I think we often get caught up in the latest, biggest and best that technology has to offer and forget the true value of what we do as L&D professionals. It’s easy to dismiss some of the simpler options but sometimes simple is what is required.
So I’ll try to keep that little girl in mind in future and make the e-learning I write and develop as good as it can be, even when the design requirement is very ordinary. It might not be exciting but it will certainly be valuable.
How about you? Got any New Year resolutions? I’d love to hear from you.
Published 12th February 2016
Seven times seven
2015 has been a year of changes for me. I have always found that my life changes significantly every 7 years and as this is my last day of being 7 x 7 it seems appropriate to take a bit of time for reflection.
It’s the end of my first year of regular blogging. Enormous thanks to anyone who has read it and especially to those who responded and joined the conversation.
I’ve overhauled my marketing with the help of Alicia Orre and found out the personal qualities I would most like to bring to my business are:
warmth, honesty, reliability, imagination, fun, calm, artistic, creative, supportive and helpful
Thank you to all the friends who responded to my request for things you love about me and I’m humbled by the very kind things you said about me.
In a return to e-learning development, I’ve updated this website to include a portfolio of working examples as well as the static image samples. Two of them were part of the Articulate E-Learning Weekly challenges and I plan to complete more next year. Thank you to the clients who have given me the opportunity to stretch my creative side in a more practical way.
I still don’t think I’m quite where I want to be but that’s all part of the fun. To help me in 2016 I’ve ordered a different kind of planner. You can see which one here. One top of that I need to finish training Hearing Dog puppy Willis so that he is ready to go to his recipient in the New Year, fit in some dance lessons to take a Bronze medal in ballroom dancing and finish the Couch to 5K running program.
Have a fantastic Christmas however you celebrate it and let’s see what 2016 brings.
Published 21st December 2015
At a networking event at the end of 2008 I met Jane Sheehan, the UK's leading foot reader.
Foot reading, what’s that?
Foot reading (or Solestry) is analysing the structure and texture of the feet to understand emotions and personality.
After successful seminar tours in UAE, USA, and Australia, Jane was frustrated to note that on her return to the UK, there were potential students contacting her to say they’d missed her visit and when would she be returning. From 2009, Jane’s business strategy became to reach all the potential students who wanted to learn foot reading and to harness the latest technology to achieve this aim.
What Jane offers is unique and so my first step was to attend one of her seminars. It became immediately obvious that it was Jane’s personality and enthusiasm for the subject that brought the seminars alive. To capture this, we recorded Jane delivering a seminar live and then incorporated these recordings into the e-learning.
Although holistic therapists are not naturally drawn to new technologies, the foot reading e-learning has proved that this method of learning works and is commercially viable. It is very unusual to have “live” audio included throughout an e-learning course, most are scripted, and it is a testament to Jane’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject that this was possible.
Jane recouped her investment within the first year and continues to offer the e-learning today. The e-learning has now been approved for CPD by the majority of reflexology associations. We’ve updated it a few times but maintenance has been minimal. It’s given Jane a passive income while she continues with the face to face workshops and other areas of her business.
So what did she say about my feet?
Apparently my little toes indicate I am a closet rebel. Very true as I don’t often do anything I don’t want to do but I prefer to express my opinions quietly.
Do you offer something unique? Would an e-learning solution suit you?
Drop me a line; I’d love to have a chat with you about it.
Starting off right
Everyone in L&D knows how important it is that your learners be in the right frame of mind before they start learning. As part of the process, ideal joining instructions should help to eliminate any concerns learners might have.
I’ve recently received my joining instructions for a tai chi seminar at the weekend and to be honest, they’ve not done a lot to calm my nerves. I appreciate the cultural differences but ‘stand when addressing him [the Master] and remain standing while he answers’ seem just a tad formal to me…
We have also been asked to respect the Master’s breaks and not interrupt him, stand in line and applaud at the start and finish of the seminar and learn the Chinese for ‘Good morning teacher Yang’, ‘Goodbye teacher Yang’ and ‘Thank you’.
When I was a face to face trainer, the introductions were so that I could get a small understanding of what each learner wanted to get out of the course. I was happy to spend my breaks answering as many questions as needed – usually with a sandwich in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. And the times I was applauded at the end of a course can be counted on the fingers of one hand!
All of which has got me thinking about the joining instructions for e-learning courses… How often do we really think about the learners we are sending them to?
How do we know if they have any concerns? Do we check that they are in the right frame of mind to take on the content?
I will be keeping this in mind as I try to learn 103 moves in 10 hours this weekend!
What do you do to help your e-learners to get into the right frame of mind? I’d be interested to hear from you.
Published 22nd October 2015
Stand out from the crowd
I visited The World of Learning exhibition at the NEC yesterday - as a freelancer, the conference fee has always been beyond my budget! It was great to meet up with people I hadn’t seen for ages and to catch up with the latest in L&D although to be honest, I could probably have got more out of it if I had planned my time better… Note for next year!
Two things struck me though. Firstly, cartoons are definitely the new black! The second thing was the reaction from exhibitors when I and my colleague said we were freelance instructional designers. Not so long ago, companies were not in a position to take on permanent staff and our business cards were eagerly taken. Now the economy is improving, permanent job ads are more frequent and freelance staff are not needed so often. It’s a sad fact that freelancers always do better in the bad times.
So the main message we took home was that we are going to have to market ourselves differently and stand out from the crowd. Everyone knows we are here to pick up excess work but we also need to let people know about our individual skills and the extra we can bring to a project.
Personally, I love to write scenarios, conversations for characters, photo stories, anything that brings the learning alive. I enjoy projects that are a little bit different and need a more creative approach. I’ll showcase some ideas for you on my blog and in my portfolio over the next couple of weeks.
What makes you different? How do you stand out from the crowd?
Get in touch and let me know.
Published 1st October 2015
Back to the start
In my last post I mentioned having been a tai chi student for around 7 years. Our group has remained fairly static during this time and we are all roughly at the same level. With our excellent teacher we have always practised on a fairly informal basis but real life in the form of rent and insurance have forced us to now work towards a more formal setting.
We’ve split the tasks between us and I have volunteered to work towards becoming a qualified tai chi teacher. It’s a long road and in the meantime I am working with my teacher as her demonstrator to a group of brand new students and it is proving to be a very valuable lesson.
In Learning and Development, we are all aware of the Conscious Competence model and the need to work through all four stages but I decided to go back and research this a little more. When a person comes to us for help to learn something, we assume they are at level 2, conscious incompetence. Research shows however that if the person doesn’t understand the relevance and benefits of the training they actually still at stage 1, unconscious incompetence. My teacher has shown me that we need to explain the theory of tai chi and how it will benefit the students before we even start moving. The expression on their faces when they ‘get it’ is amazing.
At the other end of the matrix, I thought I was at stage 4, unconscious competence. I can do a sequence of 88 moves without really thinking about it. Having to go back to the start and demonstrate the basics to new students has shown me how stage 4 could also be called complacency! I am finding out all the bad habits I have developed over time and am really enjoying going back to stage 3, conscious competence. I hope it will make me a better teacher when the time comes.
In tai chi, you are always a student. The purpose is the journey, not the destination.
If you reach stage 4, do you stop being a learner?
I hope not.
What do you think?
Published 10th September 2015
Learn from the best
Away from work, I really enjoy learning new skills. I have been a Yang style Tai Chi student for around 7 years and recently returned to my class after a break of a couple of years. I also go to latin and ballroom dancing classes with my husband after learning a dance for our wedding anniversary last year. Both of these hobbies have now given me the chance to learn from the best.
In October I will be attending a UK Tai Chi seminar delivered by 5th generation Grandmaster Yang Jun who began his study of traditional Yang family Tai Chi under the expert tutelage of his Grandfather, Grandmaster Yang Zhen Duo. Grandmaster Yang Jun is now the highest level judge in China. Grandmaster Yang Zhen Duo was the master of my own teacher and recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Later in the month I have the chance to attend a dance lesson and Autumn Ball at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. I am excited and terrified in equal measure! We have only been learning to dance for a year but again, it’s a chance to learn from the best.
There are so many ways to learn from experts now. You can read blogs, follow people on Twitter, listen to TED talks, watch YouTube videos, the sources are endless. But this also means that anyone with access to the internet can offer an ‘expert’ opinion.
I have a few favourites for different parts of my life but I’d be interested to know who you follow in Learning and Development.
Who is the best? Let me know your thoughts.
Published 27th August 2015
Imaginative and Original
My blog this week is inspired by a discussion on LinkedIn posted by the Creative Huddle Network. The question was ‘Why is being creative at work important to you? How does it make you feel?’
My answer was‘As a freelance instructional designer and e-learning developer, I feel I should be able to be creative in my work as I am not constrained by a company but working for clients can still be stifling sometimes. Following brand guidelines etc. can make a huge difference to the quality of work I am able to produce. A recent example was being told that some very powerful images could not be used as they didn't fit brand guidelines but removing them really watered down the content.’
It made me realise that being creative at work is becoming more and more important to me for job satisfaction and I am in the fortunate position of being able to work for companies that embrace creativity and imagination.
The dictionary definition of the word Creative is
1. To be able to Create
Funnily enough, it also defines Instructional Design; we create imaginative and original e-learning.
Do you? I'd love to hear from other creatives in the e-learning industry.
Published 13th August 2015
Today I am celebrating 20 years of self-employment and I can honestly say I wouldn’t change it for the world. But change has definitely happened along the way.
I began as an IT Trainer when a Word Introduction was a two day course. We were still running Windows Introductions and teaching people how to use a mouse! The PCs at the training centre had 40Mb hard drives and didn’t have the capacity to store all the applications we were training so on a Friday night, we had to delete applications and reinstall others using 3.5inch discs.
On the plus side, we weren’t bombarded with the information onslaught that we are now. A mobile phone was a very expensive work tool and the internet was still developing.
But two days to learn Word??
And that’s after waiting for the next scheduled course to come up. What did you do in the meantime?
Today I am sat at my desk with a PC, tablet, laptop and smartphone at my disposal. If I need to know how to do anything I can look it up instantly. In the last couple of weeks I have learnt things as diverse as visual thinking and how to fit a glass splashback in the kitchen. It’s truly wonderful.
What will happen in the next 20 years? I dearly hope I am sitting in the sun somewhere with a cocktail in my hand enjoying my retirement but I still can’t wait to find out!
What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you.
Published 31st July 2015
Scratch and sniff - the power of reflection
When I’m working with my hearing dog puppy on sound work we only repeat the action a couple of times before he wanders off for a scratch or a sniff around. It’s his way of saying he’s taken in enough for now and he needs to reflect on what he’s just learnt. Sometimes he may have seemed to ‘not get it’ while we are learning but given the right amount of reflection time, he can usually do it almost immediately the next time.
We all know that reflection is a valuable part of learning but how do we ask our learner to go for a ‘scratch and sniff’ in e-learning?
I’ve used a few different methods; Text entry fields which are stored by the LMS; Moderated forums where learners can interact and ask questions and reflective questions with considered feedback. But what all of these have in common is that they can be reviewed, tested and evaluated.
The challenge is letting your learners go off and reflect in their own way and their own time and trust that they will come back with the behaviour change that was the objective of the learning fully embedded.
So my challenge now is to trust the learners that I never actually meet, to make the e-learning I write inspiring enough to trigger thought and reflection and remember that:
We all need to scratch and sniff sometimes!
Published 16th July 2015