Monday, January 16, 2017

10 Story Metaphors to Lift Your Learners’ Spirits - Tip #116

I wrote this while starting this blog.

Metaphors are poems. They speak to a part of us that we often leave barren and hidden from the light. Metaphors reach us and our souls. They hit us deep and we swallow, stay quiet and feel that side of us that shines and sparkles, when the right combination of words is so well chosen they touch us.

Lessons using stories do not have to be negative. You can uplift learners by “teleporting” or “transporting” or “delving” into that part in them that is touched by a song, lyrics, or rhyme that reminds them of their humanity.

“There's just something about music — particularly live music — that excites and activates the body,” says Joanne Loewy, director of the Armstrong center and co-editor of the journal Music and Medicine. So many songs contain metaphors and as we listen images come into our minds.
1. Anticipating joy

When most people say “I could jump for joy!” they’re not actually jumping. People use this metaphor when they’re very happy and everything is going their way.

For instance:
Jack: I could jump for joy right now. My boss just gave me a promotion. Wohoo!

Reflective question: What can make you jump for joy? How do you respond to someone who is jumping for joy?
2. A flight to somewhere
When workers have a challenge or problem they need to solve, they go on a journey or quest. It’s like climbing a mountain. The solution is the summit; it is every learner’s goal. On this journey, learners may need guides (company leaders), climbing partners (different departments to support them), or a map (training and development).

SMEs also go on their own journey or quest in developing and delivering content. In micro-learning, SMEs must go through the jungle of content and take only what learners need. It’s not an easy task because they may be tempted to take all they think are important for the learners. But they must stick to taking only what the learners need; otherwise, the learners drown from too much content.

Reflective question: What other challenges hinder SMEs and learners from achieving their goals?

3. A discovery within

When learners discover a new insight, it’s like switching a light bulb. This is what we call the “Aha!” moment. This is the precise moment when learners make the connection between two previously unrelated concepts. There are really no new ideas but only new connections of existing facts or notions, according to David Jones.

Reflective question: What two unrelated concepts have you connected recently to come up with with a new idea or insight?

4. Connecting with another

Throughout our lifetime, we establish many relationships with other people. There are many metaphors about relationships but these two appeal to me the most: a relationship is both an investment and a journey.

A relationship is an investment in cases when couples deposit into a joint account. These deposits are “assets of affection.” Difficult times may lead couples to withdraw from this account. The focus here is on reaping mutual benefits.

On the other hand, a relationship as a journey emphasizes the process. It’s the trip that matters. New discoveries can lead to changes in paths or destination.

Reflective question: What do you compare your connections or relationships to?

5. Profound beauty of nature

Training and development is like planting flowers or gardening. SMEs plant a small seed (lessons, truth, wisdom) and nurture it. They give it water and sunlight so that the seed becomes a plant and blooms.

Comparing learning to planting flowers or gardening implies the importance and need for time. Growing things take time. Gardeners and farmers know growth cannot be rushed; they wait for the right season for their plants to bear fruit.

Reflective question: It’s the same with learners. We need to continually nourish them to help them grow.

6. Overcome, conquer

In business organizations, people say one is “climbing the corporate ladder” to mean they are going up the ranks of the organization. It's likewise implied that someone climbing the corporate ladder is doing so alone. But what if others try to climb the same ladder with you?

Another metaphor used to describe career growth or progress is “career path.” This comparison emphasizes choice. Paths can go one way or the other and there are forks along the way. This implies that learners need to make a decision about which way they want to go, so there’s really no right or wrong way. You choose your destination and what you think is the right path to reach it.

Reflective question: Which metaphor do you relate with?

7. Falling in love
Love has given birth to many metaphors. Some of them include: “love is a many splendored thing” and “love is a disease.”

This line from Celine Dion’s song “My Heart Will Go On” is especially poignant. It tells of a very special love that lasts a lifetime. Have you experienced this?

Reflective question: Remember a time when you fell in love? Use a metaphor to describe how you felt.

8. Peace and quiet

I think of peace as a fragile dove. Some think of peace as calm weather, a gentle breeze or still watersWhat comes to mind when you think of peace?

Reflective question: What’s the one thing you do to bring peace inside you?

9. Surprise

She was beside herself with surprise and just stood there speechless.

Surprise is a pause button that “makes us stop what we’re doing, hijacks our attention, and forces us to pay attention.”

Reflective question: What can you tell learners to bring surprise and splendor?

10. Prayer and communicating with thyself
There are many metaphors used in describing prayer, the most common of which is that prayer is a phone call to God.

The passage above, from poet Czeslaw Milosz, likens prayer to a velvet bridge. How would you feel crossing a velvet bridge?


Metaphors make it easier for us to grasp the meaning of stories. They have the power to stir our emotions and to engage us in whatever we do.

Can you remember a metaphor or two that really stirred your emotions? Do you have metaphors that you want to share?


Amy Novotney. “Music as medicine”. American Psychological Association: Nov. 2013, Vol 44, No. 10, p. 46

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. “Metaphors We Live By”. University Of Chicago Press; 1st edition (April 15, 2003)

Tania Luna. “Surprise”. Psychology Today. March 26, 2015

Lisa Hickman. “Call Me, Maybe? 9 Images for Prayer Beyond a Phone Call”. The Huffington Post, Updated Sept. 29, 2012.

Tip #72 - Creative Musing

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, January 6, 2017

5 Success Strategies in Micro-Learning Implementation - Tip #115

Once a year I attend a truly exquisite dinner at the Caltech Athenaeum Faculty Club featuring the Escoffier Dinner. This is the closest that I ever get to experience Babette’s feast.

The French chef and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. The restaurateur also invented the five mother sauces - Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Sauce Tomat, and Hollandaise from which all of today’s sauces and their combinations originated.

The five mother sauces are analogous to the five core success strategies in the elements of Micro-Learning. They make learning enjoyable so that it stays in our memories as flavorful and artistic experiences. Simply put, implementing Micro-Learning is like finding the right sauce to spice up a dish.

Strategy #1: Nanos, Quiet, Seamless and Yet Impactful

Micro-Learning lessons are tiny and seemingly hidden from plain sight, yet at the same time, they are all around us. We experience them even though we don't always sense their presence. For example, when you watch a powerful short video, like the iPad and Dad video or the Apartment Manager, you are moved by the experience. We hardly even notice it's a lesson. In much the same way, we don't consciously think about our interactions with smart devices like smartphones and the internet fridge. I explained this in " How Micro-Learning Boosts 'At the Moment Performance' ".

In the practical world, Micro-Learning objects are like nano objects that bind together a fabric. In learning, they are tiny connectors and lubricants that make learning fluid.

Strategy #2: Insertions into Workflow with Surgical Precision

Like the mother sauces, the core success strategies add spark or curiosity and entice the learner’s palate, promising new discoveries.

In implementing Micro-Learning, we target specific results by identifying precise learning insertion points with the skill of a surgeon. Think of how doctors today use tools and scopes to guide their actions in performing non-invasive operations.

When using Micro-Learning, insert them into troublesome areas such as constantly changing work processes, often-referenced documents, rapidly-evolving policies, very new knowledge, unknown processes and highly-critical operations. In short, insert Micro-Learning in the workflow.

Strategy #3: “It” Finds You—Store “Memories” and “Footprints” and Add Value

The Internet of Things (IoT) is evolving rapidly in many facets of our lives. You can control your refrigerator, thermostat and alarm from your smartphone.The Roomba vacuum cleaner is self-directing: It will go back to its docking station when the battery is about to run out of power so it can recharge itself. The list is long: automated lighting, smart pills, connected baby monitors, electronic toll collection systems, natural disaster early warning systems and many more.

If you lose your car keys, the keys will find you by beeping when you are 10 feet away. "It" finds you; you don't find it.

Train your learners, so each time they use the information, they store favorites and make recommendations. This simple act, done persistently and consistently, SEEDS and WATERS the process so knowledge FINDS them -  the worker, learner. Learning systems can track and store favorites and recommendations. Then, when new knowledge is available, that knowledge can locate the learner much like the way your keys find you. This is called the “Store Value” of learning systems.

Strategy #4: Embed Learning through Experience Sharing

Sharing insights from experiences on how to fix and change things are invaluable learning opportunities. Experiences are “fossilized” or “cemented” knowledge stored in our memories and emotional experiences. Micro-Learning facilitates sharing by allowing learners to forward, link and annotate tiny learning objects. This action intensifies memory creation and helps learners learn from each other.

Strategy #5: Speeds Up Actions

The end result of Micro-Learning is fixing, changing and creating new solutions faster and at lower costs.

This is also the goal of “democratizing content,” focusing on context as a strategy for content creation and distribution. In essence, we can improve the speed of Micro-Learning Implementation success.
  • Spaced - space learning opportunities to allow quickly applications
  • Accordion effect - chain micro-learning snippets as a course but keep the snippets accessible as separate components separately accessible
  • Uninterrupted - never interrupt learners with “finish this slide before you continue” (these are killers, by the way)
  • Self-driven - train learners to drive their own learning; give them freedom to jump around, fumble through and immerse themselves in their learning 
  • Barrierless - unshackle barriers; don't allow content to be tied down to curriculums or programs
  • Borderless - make Micro-Learning lessons part of the steps but don’t force learners to study step-by-step
Unbounded learning behaviors and skills become a reality and benefits will be realized when the 5 Success Strategies are in place in your Micro-Learning Implementation.


Because the 5 Success Strategies of Micro-Learning make learning fun, memorable and encourage knowledge sharing, they can motivate learners to achieve superior performance.


Wikipedia. Babette’s Feast

Wikipedia. Auguste Escoffier

Gallary, Christine. Do You Know Your French Mother Sauces?. Oct. 20, 2014

Kobie, Nicole. What is the internet of things? The Guardian. May 6, 2015

Schupp, H. T. et al. Newly-formed emotional memories guide selective attention processes: Evidence from event-related potentials. Sci. Rep. 6, 28091; doi: 10.1038/srep28091 (2016)

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, December 23, 2016

How Micro-Learning Boosts “At the Moment Performance” - Tip #114

At work, how many times in a day does someone ask you “How do you do this”? I bet several times. You answer it in the shortest possible way and go back to what you’re doing.

Now, how many times in an average day do you check something online? So many times that we lose count. It's like breathing; it's become a part of you.

Essentially, we are performing something at every moment.

For the sake of our discussion here, let's define "at the moment performance" as acting instantaneously in response to a situation that needs to be fixed or changed.  It happens within seconds or minutes or hours. The action is immediate and occurs quickly. It's a natural thing to do. Everyone in one way or the other,  do "at the moment performance" everyday.
We can say with confidence that the goal of leaders, managers, and learning professionals is to help workers achieve optimal "at the moment performance."  Then as learning professionals we converge at the moment of performance.

I think the two hurdles to shifting our minds to “at the moment performance” are momentum for traditional practices and active inertia. Donald Sull describes active inertia as “an organization’s tendency to follow established patterns of behavior—even in response to dramatic environmental shifts.” He further explains that “market leaders simply accelerate all their tried-and-true activities. In trying to dig themselves out of a hole, they just deepen it.” We are a function of our past. Before we plan to make changes in the future and when we achieve these changes, we hang on to the momentum for traditional practices.

Specifically, in the past, our momentum in learning and training is “teaching something.” Teaching was based on rigid curriculumstestingdesignmultimediapresentationsretentiontrackingtraditional learning styles and many more. What was at one time solutions to problems are today barriers that hinder us from focusing on "at the moment performance." Tests to prove knowledge retention delay performance of an action and “curriculums and certifications often focus on the eventualities (aimed at the future) when skills and knowledge are needed.”

I propose that much of what we currently know and do are old solutions that do not support today's "at the moment performance."
An example of old teaching practices that can hamper learning is “rote learning”. A learner has to memorize information by repetition. Ben Orlin calls memorization “a frontage road: … It’s a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding.”

How do we break the momentum for traditional practices and focus on “at the moment performance”?
We Are the Big Experiment in “At the Moment Performance”

We, as learning professionals, are the experiment in “at the moment performance.” It is an experiment we do each time we move from one momentum stream to a newer momentum stream.

Are we recalibrating our goals and focus, seeing the trends or watching people learn? Are we thinking of a snapshot or novel? Can we focus on a moment of need and moment of performance?


Someone sends you an email requesting your help. What is your instant reaction?

[   ] Write an explanation and email it back.

[   ] Find a link and send it to the person.

[   ] Tell the person to use keywords and search online.

Your answer provides insight into your habits and your frame of mind.

Look at the illustration below. (I used an oversimplified example to stress the smallness of actions.) The requester sends an email and the response was a link.

What is the nature of the conversation?

This exchange of emails probably happened in 1–2 minutes.

I (Ray in the email) made the request by doing a screen capture of the problem. It was faster for me to use Monosnap, a tool that allows me to instantly capture screens, annotate them and get a URL. The image explained the context of my need.

Ed, my team member, responded only with a link to a YouTube video. Ed had no other words.

To further dissect this illustration, let's compare what we do today with what we would have done in the past.

A few things are happening in this small illustration.

The need is specific

My problem is small and my need is specific to that problem only. I may not know all other aspects of the FTP software, but at the moment, the help for my specific problem is all I needed.

Doing work

I was in the process of uploading a file to the FTP, so I was actually doing work, performing a task. I stopped since I recognized a gap in my skill and knowledge. I could not perform.

Asked Ed

Ed was the techie in the team. So I asked Ed.

Screen captured my request

Instead of a long explanation, I just captured my screen and stated my need. With the image, Ed instantly knew it was about the FTP software, and I described my need. No other words were needed.

Ed responded with a YouTube video

Ed sent me a link. No explanations. No “Hi or hello”. Ed was probably busy, or taking his lunch or using his smartphone. So he saved his keystrokes and only provided what was needed.

In Micro-Learning, “At the Moment Performance” Covers Doing, Using Tools, Experiences, Defining Needs

Although this may sound like splitting hairs, bear with me for a moment as I discuss what was going on in the previous illustration.

The new learners of today are seekers - they know how to look for and find answers

The new generation of learners comprises those who boldly ask questions. Inquiry is "a seeking for truth, information, or knowledge -- seeking information by questioning." The new learners built the habits of freely asking others when in need or searching for the answers themselves. Sources of answers may come from one’s own experience, from others (like Ed) or from a documentation (the YouTube) video. The purpose is very clear—get the job done. The seekers look for  instant answers. They may find more sources of answers for more complex problems, but more often than not they seek immediate solutions and fixes to the issues they face.

In what ways are you a seeker? In what ways are your learners seekers? Do they know how to define their needs, format their requests, look for answers to support “at the moment performance”?

The ability to define needs, format requests and look for instant answers are key elements of Micro-Learning. (see more on Instant Learning).In Micro-Learning, we help workers and learners fix or change something instantly. We help them find the answers they seek so they can continue "performing at the moment."

How is this approach different from teaching them in a classroom or in an elearning or coaching situation?

If we change our definition of learners from a captive audience to individual seekers, then we will need to design our learning in a different way.

Tools that enable “at the moment performance”

To make the request easily answered and save time for both the requester and responder, the seeker uses tools (e.g., screen captures) to convey the message.

How many times have you used Google Docs because it is faster to exchange ideas and comment at the same time? There are many tools that support quick conversations and instant collaboration that speed up our tasks. Some examples are: Google Docs ,Tilda, Dropbox, Facebook, Slack, Snagit, Maptitude, Adobe Acrobat XI, Google Sketchup and Wordle.

These tools are enablers. They are also continuous learning tools. They make it possible for “at the moment performance” to happen faster, easier and cheaper. These tools empower the learners to expand their capacities to help others and learn faster and continuously. Micro-Learning helps learners and workers perform faster with the aid of tools.

As a learning professional, what tools do you consider part of what your learners should learn?

I propose that in every training you design, you include tools that enable you to do “at the moment performance” and continuous learning.

Do we change behaviors and tools at the moment of performance?  I wrestle with this question:
Tools are provided “to generate performance and learning at the moment of need” (Gerry, 1991 cited by Stephen Desrosiers and Stephen Harmon). Tools do not dictate our actions. “At the moment performance” is an immediate decision to act in a concrete situation. Tools are provided to assist us in fixing or changing the situation.

Imagine the popularity of Fitbit. It is a device that measures personal metrics including the number of steps taken, heart rate and sleep quality.

The goal is for 2,000 steps a day, for example. Your body tells FitBit to count. Then Fitbit regularly alerts you how and when you need to do more steps. While we want to think that we accomplish 2,000 steps due to our own will power, we also know that FitBit has a role in this.

“At the moment performance” is made possible as we keep allowing workers and learners to use these tools. In the case of Ed, do we allow workers to access YouTube references or do we still bar them from accessing such resources from our corporate firewalls? Inside our firewalls, do we encourage workers to share their experiences by allowing them to use tools like video sharing, drawing, collaboration, instant messaging and many others?

Changing behaviors and helping learners build high levels of confidence with their tools are at the heart of Micro-Learning.


Micro-Learning is learning by doing. It enables learners to understand what needs to be done in a concrete situation and to act instantaneously. Put another way, Micro-Learning propels “at the moment performance.”


Sull, Donald. Why companies go bad. Harvard Business Review. July–August, 1999

Orlin, Ben. When memorization gets in the way of learning. The Atlantic. Sept. 9, 2013

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Inquiry-based Learning

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, December 16, 2016

Empathy: Helping Learners to Feel Others - Tip #113

Evan’s Story

(Please watch the video before reading)

I’d like to thank @JD_Dillon for sharing the Evan video. I just came from TedXLA and empathy was one of the key themes. From technologists to sociologists, from businessmen to philanthropists, all asked and shared experiences on “how we empathize with others and make a difference in other people's’ lives.” Evan’s video transported me into a real-life situation where we often miss the opportunity to empathize and suffer dire consequences.

Evan’s video is about bringing awareness to the Sandy Hook shooting.

My reflections on Evan’s video brought back to me three reflections:

  • the loss of empathy in learning,
  • deeper learning needs empathy,
  • and empathy starts with the way we frame our world.

Loss of Empathy in Learning

It was Sherry Turkle in her book “Alone, Together” that warned us that a growing number of people, though connected with Internet tools, are apart from each other and that many would replace empathy and warm relations with humans to computers and robots. Although we interact with many people through the Internet simultaneously, we feel isolated and lonely because we do not experience the warmth of genuine friendship that is formed through face-to-face interactions. Turkle shares the story of a girl who became so sad because the toy could no longer talk back to her. Similarly, this a known downside of video gaming.

In the physical world, in training classrooms and in schools like Evan’s school, it is easy not to feel and understand others (see exuberance of learning.) The challenge becomes even severe in online learning and elearning.

eLearning is such a “cold” place. Learners are alone and detached. They are connected with other online learners yet they are still isolated and lonely. They are resigned to the lack of warmth and interaction because this is efficient, faster, cheaper and a time-saver. Of course, there are benefits, yet the absence of the opportunities to empathize diminishes our abilities to learn (Mkrttchian Vardan, 2015).

Deeper Learning Needs Empathy

There are two ways to learn: by copying others and by showing others. Both require the presence of empathy.

We learn by observing and imitating people with whom we identify. For psychologist Albert Bandura, individuals do not automatically observe the behavioral model and imitate it. He believes that some thought prior to imitation occurs and is referred to as mediational processes. This occurs somewhere between observing the behavior (stimulus) and imitating it or not (response). He proposes these processes as 1) grabbing our attention, 2) the retention of such behavior, 3) reproducing the behavior and 4) the motivation to perform such behavior. (McLeod, 2011).

We also learn by teaching or showing others. An ancient Roman stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca said that “While we teach, we learn.” When we teach others we do our best to understand the material. We also remember the material as accurately as we can.

The lack or presence of empathy between learner and trainer or between learners dampens or accelerates learning.

Listen to this conversation:

“It is difficult to do this? - Mark

“Not really. I tried it with my boss, and it worked.” - Mary

“Why is it that I fail. What am I missing?” - Mark

“I needed the raise badly due to my son’s medical needs. I had to make it work.” - Mary

There are two levels in this conversation, empathy and knowledge sharing. Learning the knowledge is influenced by the intensity of the empathy between May and Mark.

In designing learning, we want to keep the exchange of feelings, context and meaning going in one level and the transfer of knowledge in one level. One way to do this is to use stories and emotions in elearning design.

In insight sharing, the transfer of knowledge is at the human and person-to-person level. There is a great moment of inspiration and celebration with mutually shared discoveries.

In the case of Evan’s video, we are moved emotionally by the characters while we learn a lesson about empathy. “No one noticed” is a lesson. “Evan looking for the person” is another lesson.”

Empathy Starts with the Way We Frame Our World

Where do we start in encouraging empathy? One method is “framing.”

Evan’s videos use framing as a technique.

Observe the following:

This is the start of the story. The frame is Evan’s writing.

An unknown student introduced herself or himself.  The frame is of the unknown student.

There are two frames here. (1) Two people talking to each other. They are having fun. (2) A man pulls out a heavy duty gun. 

A reflection statement. The frame is of the knowledge.

Flashback. The frame is reflection - “Why no one noticed.” 

Click here to watch the video again.


Our capacity to emphatize defines our humanity. As James A. Coan said: “People close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it's very real” (cited by Fariss Samarrai). Empathy has to do with our perspectives—how we observe, interpret, and act. It has to do with focusing on a given moment in time or focusing on events—“framing”. We can learn and change our frames so if you feel or think that you are unable to empathize, just change your “frames”.


McLeod, Saul (2011). Bandura—Social learning theory

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"