Category Archives: The Learning Business

Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools


It’s time once again to contribute to Jane Hart’s annual survey of tools for learning. I was the first person to take part in this project some nine years ago and now it’s an annual ritual. It’s enlightening to review what’s best in the toolbox.

My top tools for learning are:

  • Experience. Extracting the lessons of simply living my life.
  • Friends. My colleagues in Internet Time Alliance and colleagues.
  • Books. I have an extensive library and am in the midst of looking back through to refresh what I’ve learned from them.
  • Journals.  I buy a new black book at KaDeWe in Berlin every year to draw and write in.

These won’t be on my submission to Jane, because for purposes of the survey:

A learning tool is any software or online tool or service that you use either for your own personal or professional learning or for teaching or training.

      1. WordPress. My blog is where I reflect on things and share them with others. I’m still old-school on this, writing whatever I feel like. One reader complained, saying “I thought this was a blog about L&D.” Well, no, my blog covers whatever grabs my attention and that’s less and less about L&D.
      2. Twitter. I learn new things every day, following the links offered up by the 250 people I follow. I have 9,000 followers who provide feedback or answer my questions. (Jane has 26,000 followers.)
      3. Skype.  I like to see the person I’m talking with. Also, Skype’s great for talking with a group of people at once.
      4. Google. Many times I’ll be searching my own sites. I really enjoy using Google to search images. They are very useful when I’m trying to get different perspectives on a concept. If I need to remember who someone in a photograph is, Google will tell me about 80% of the time.
      5. YouTube. I tap YouTube for entertainment and publishing videos. YouTube also showed me what we wrong with my fridge and taught me how to create 300 dpi imagery with Photoshop,
      6. Flickr. Flickr enables me to enjoy memories of times past. Since 2001, I’ve posted 32,000 photographs.  I’ll admit to revisiting Monterey Car Week half a dozen times.20018082444_08f995c1e3_z
      7. I curate five topics on (example). You really learn something when you share it with someone else. As master curator Robin Good suggests, you need to give your opinion to add value. It keeps you on your toes. Plus, searching for fresh content puts you in touch with the latest news.
      8. Diigo. Bookmarks are my external memory. In the course of researching two books, I’ve created nearly 3,000 bookmarks. (Here are the current bookmarks related to my book on DIY learning.) A side benefit is the ability to share your bookmarks with other.
      9. SurveyShare. I take surveys to find out where groups are at. One is currently collecting feedback from people who read my new book.
      10. The cloud. I store all my files online, in Dropbox, Google Docs, and iCloud. Since I work on three or four different computers, it’s great to have all my stuff available no matter where I’m signing in from.

Honorable mention:

VLC. This little freeware tool plays just about any video format you can throw at it.

iMovie. As movie editors go, this one’s simple as can be. It has its limitations, especially if you want to edit multiple tracks, but the output is excellent and it’s free on Macs.

PowerPoint. I’m not your conventional, bullet-pointed presenters. I use PPT for making simple diagram, for storing visuals, and keeping up with visual models. Every year I start a new PPT of general graphics.

neuronsPowerPoint image for Aha! book


Think for yourselves, plagiarists

informalIn 2006, Jossey-Bass published a book of mine on Informal Learning.

The book describes informal learning as “the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs”

It compares formal learning to riding a bus and informal learning to riding a bicycle.

The book says that “Work = Learning; Learning = Work.”

For the second time in a week, I came upon words I had written, unattributed, in an infographic and  a presentation on the web.

I put “unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu” and “informal learning bicycle bus” into Google and found those three words, verbatim but unattributed, in these works:

huffpostThis infographic on Informal Learning appears in Huffington Post.

ASTD InfoLine: Designing for Informal Learning by Bruno Neal, Linda Hainlen. “Informal Learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs….”

The most blatant rip-off is by Brainshark‘s Audrey Polce who uses my bus and bicycle analogy and wording without attribution in a webinar entitled Using Brainshark for Formal and Informal Learning. From her slides: bus:bike

[Update, from Twitter August 27th:

  1. How is informal learning like riding a bike? Apologies to , the original source of this great analogy:

  2. (3/3) It is never our intent to misappropriate information, and we apologize for the mix up.

    Brian also Tweeted me that this was completely unintentional. I don’t understand how Audrey could have unintentionally presented several paragraphs of my ideas as her own when clearly they were not.

    I’ve accepted their apology because feuding’s not fun.]

Informal vs. Formal Learning: What’s the Difference? by Brendan Cournoyer, Director of  Content Marketing, Brainshark. Cournoyer thanks her for this knowledge in another post. “We can liken the difference between formal and informal learning to travelling on a bus vs riding a bike (thanks to Audrey Polce for this metaphor.”

Most of this next batch use the words “unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs.” Often that’s the only transgression, although to my way of thinking, that’s enough. When you quote someone word for word, you need to acknowledge your source.

Informal Learning Management, Evaluation, Regulation by Brian Swisher on the “eLearning Heroes” site. “I am writing a paper for my ISD Masters Program on informal learning. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs.”

 How social  networks and Web 2.0 can support informal learning in your company or organization, EU Net Knowing Project,  funded by EU Leonardo da Vinci Programme in the framework of Lifelong Learning European Programme. “Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.”

Learning Networking through Mobile Apps, proposal defense by jepputeh iot. “Informal Learning: Unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way of us learn to do our jobs”

Informal Learning Context, EDU 09 – THEORETICAL BASE  OF  PHYSICAL SCIENCE EDUCATION – II by T.K Thankcom. “Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route.

Organizations and Cultures by dcarmona.”Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.”

A Study: Informal Learning & Formal Learning in a General Music Classroom by Joon Hwang WONG Raffles Institution, Singapore. Presented at the 32nd World Conference of the International Society for Music Education. “informal learning takes place in an unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. ”

The words pop up on at least five term-paper writing services (although they may all be drawing on the same batch of papers) but I’m not about to pay a fee to read my own purloined words.

My take on this
I don’t promote Informal Learning for the money. Believe me, it’s not lucrative. I spread the gospel of informal learning because I’m convinced it works and it feels like the right thing to do. I’m a true believer, but I don’t like to feel that people, especially LMS vendors, are taking advantage of me.

A couple of weeks ago, I came upon an LMS vendor’s site that described his company’s way of doing things with several paragraphs lifted directly from one of my white papers. The CEO apologized profusely and we had a lovely conversation. The fellow who wrote the copy said “I used your blog structure as an idea however must have published the wrong version with your text rather than mine.” Uh huh.


This is hardly the first time. Three years ago I blogged Where to Draw the Line on Plagiarism? and gave several examples:

This morning I looked at a presentation on SlideShare by the head of learning of an Irish insurance company. Eight of the 33 slides were copied from a colleague’s presentation deck without attribution. Another slide credits me but gets the numbers wrong and attributes the idea to Time Magazine instead of Internet Time Group.

One slide re-labels Charles Jennings’ examples of 70:20:10 as 50:20:30 — I guess the presenter couldn’t believe that formal learning had such little impact. Another slide quotes a Nobel Laureate but fails to acknowledge that the quote was borrowed from Charles’ presentation. The Irish presentation had been rekeyed. Hint: keying someone’s material into your presentation doesn’t make it yours.

It gets worse. Clark Quinn and I found an entire white paper we’d co-authored on an international university’s site. It reappeared word for word — except for our names, which were nowhere to be found. It looked as if the university had written it. When we called them on it, their first defense was that they had found it on the web and couldn’t remember where. I demanded an apology; the university said it was not at fault. I gave them a choice: I would out them as brazen intellectual property thieves or they would take down the article immediately. They chose the latter.

Last month an LMS vendor borrowed 200 words from my site without attribution. They told me it was a mistake. The post now acknowledges *research authored and compiled by Jay Cross at:

Marcia Conner once sent me a book, not a very good one, that printed 30 pages from my site without permission! These are not isolated instances.

I wrote a professor in New Zealand that “Your presentation presents words and graphics from three principals of of Internet Time Alliance (Charles Jennings, Jane Hart, and myself) without attribution and in violation of international copyright law.” He wrote back, “My sincerest apologies. I thought I had properly cited the work but it was not at all. Shame. I have removed the presentations. If you would like more recompense please let me know.” I told him “No need to remove the presentation. Just note sources for our material.”

I think I’ve been too much of a softie. I am fed up.

Future response
Maybe there’s an opportunity hidden here.

Henceforth, when I come upon plagiarism of more than a handful of words, I’m going to send the transgressor a link to this post and a bill for $1,000. If it’s a Fortune 50 company, it will be for $5,000.

If I don’t get a satisfactory response, I will out the company on Twitter and append the incident to this post.




Project Aha!

Aha! is a set of practices I’m developing to help pull-workers learn to learn. I’m investigating what it takes for a learner to become self-sufficient, to both learn and design learning experiences. I’d like to make that easier.


My bookshelves groan under more than 200 books on learning and development. (I’ve recycled many to get down to this.) They contain studies of learning from the frameworks of design, teaching, networks, tech, brain science, and positive psychology. How many books look at learning from the point of view of the learner? None that I know of. Nada. It’s time to design some self-help.

As corporations flatten and digitize, millions of people are being handed responsibility for their own learning, by plan or by default. Corporations that decentralize often leave people to sink or swim. Learning — that ultimate competitive advantage in a fast-changing world — is too important to leave to chance any longer. Besides, learning can be a fulfilling, nourishing aspect of work; folks need to know how to make the best of it.

As business grows ever more complex, fast, and confusing, the quality of learning must increase. Learning professionals know a lot about ideal conditions for learning and what blend of things works when. Rarely have they shared this wisdom with the greater enterprise community. Hence, there are a number of opportuities to tweak how people learn that can have profound changes in the level of “working smarter.” It’s virgin territory. Sharing the wisdom surrounding learning with the people who need it. It can be a game changer.


Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been told she’s responsible for her own learning. It’s like the dog that got on the bus: Now what do I do? I want to give her a helping hand and a few directions. (My monkey mind just whispered in my ear: Make it a comic book. Who knows.) I want this person to leverage networks, learn with the work team, and have a personal strategy for acquiring, interpreting, acting on, and storing knowledge.

People are becoming forced to act as their own instructional designers, plotting the best personal knowledge strategies and routines. This requires some of adult learning theory’s secret sauce, which we propose to boil down and include in our kit.

In 1978, I remember seeing my first copy of Training magazine and soon thereafter turning on to the work of instructional pioneers like Robert Mager, Gloria Gery, Malcolm Knowles, Joe Harless, and Ron Zemke. It was all new to me. I wasn’t aware there was an entire training industry. We didn’t deal with this when I went to Business School. Instructional design? Never heard of it. Nor have most business executives, and that’s an obstacle. They don’t yet understand the enormous impact of amping up learning in the workplace.

Before I saw that Training magazine, I’d been designing a large instructional system in the dark: I hadn’t been aware of the vast amount of evidence on learning the instructional design community had assembled. (I was a former computer salesman and Army officer.) I led a team that created 120 hours of interactive exercises to teach business and management skills. Design was 100% gut feel and watching what worked. Out of ignorance, I made a number of things less fun and more arduous than need be. That was a 1.0 curriculum, the adult students loved it, but I still feel negligent just knowing how much more it could have meant to them. A thousand people in the Bay Area took that course in the first 18 months; I’m sorry we could not have helped them learn more. Were I to do something like this again, I’d be able to take an enlightened approach. I want to share that how-to with workers everywhere.

The obscurity of Instructional Design outside of the L&D community compels me to provide a brief orientation to ID and a minimalist take on how to use it as part of building learn-to-learn skills.


I plan to write an eBook on learning for learners. Later this may morph into a playlist of experiential exercises; that generally works a lot better than books. But I have to start by pinning down the subject matter and examples.

This will be a Lean Start-Up. I plan to hammer out version 1.0 of the book mercilessly and a little Gonzo. I’ll price it cheap. If learners, not training departments, buy it, I’ll add research, collect the best examples, take polls, spiff it up, and continuously refresh the book.

What’s with the Aha!? I needed a short name for this project. Aha! is the sound of enlightenment. It’s what I hope to hear from the people who learn to learn.

I am open to collaboration on this project. If you’ve got something that works or suggestions, let’s talk.

Who’s the best at helping their people learn?

Do you know of anybody who has tackled preparing independent learners to master complex subjects?

I’ve opened a community on Google+ for articles and discussion. In the spirit of Working Smarter, I intend to work out loud on Aha! Please join in the shouting.






Find out what’s going on beyond your borders






If you want to learn what’s going on in learning and development worldwide, join me in Berlin this December for Online Educa.

You’ll connect with colleagues from a hundred countries!

This is the 20th anniversary of this forum of thought leaders in business, education, and government.

Is it worth it? I certainly think so. This will be my tenth Educa.




Online Educa Berlin

Brandenburg Gate
In two weeks I’ll be attending my favorite learning event, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2013, the 19th International Conference on Technology-Supported Learning and Training. This will be my tenth or eleventh year attending OEB. Joining colleagues from over a hundred countries and hanging out at Christmas markets has become a habit.Berlin, the day after Educa
Big data and analytics top this year’s agenda. I can hardly wait for the discussions of the ethics of the NSA and invasions of privacy. For my part, I’m going to focus on small data.
storiesMy session, the last event at OEB, Friday December 6, at 4:30 pm, will consist of eighteen personal stories from the last fifty years.

Inspired by French director Jean-Luc Goddard who said that “Every movie has a beginning, middle, and end — though not necessarily in that order,” the audience will select the sequence in which I tell the stories. Pick a number, hear a tale.

I plan talk about aborigines, Andrew Carnegie, Gloria Gery, Hans Monderman, George Carlin, drunk tank pink, the hills of San Francisco, founding the University of Phoenix, the birth of eLearning, the Oxford Union, a trip to the Morgan Motorcar factory, and more.

December 6 is Saint Nicholas day. Leave your boot by the door so Santa can leave you candy if you’ve been good this year.

Free-form responses on MOOCs+Business

Free-form responses. n=20, Business+MOOCS Survey 2/25-26/2103


What is positive about MOOCs?

Remote access to material/course heretofore unavailable

2/26/2013 3:48 PMView Responses

I had access to professionally presented information that I otherwise would not.

2/26/2013 3:16 PMView Responses

Available anytime and free. Ability to move at own pace.

2/26/2013 7:36 AM

Access to content, arranged logically

2/26/2013 5:22 AMView Responses

Update from Europe

Foreign environments exhilarate me. I just got back from Online Educa Berlin and a series of private conversations in Europe. Insights are overflowing my ability to record them and I’m having a ball.

Online Educa Berlin Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa always leaves a special afterglow. Over the course of three days, I conversed with hundreds of colleagues from forty or fifty countries. I used to say that after conversation, the most important learning accelerant was beer. I’ve changed my mind. Riesling is a more effective learning Continue reading Update from Europe