Essential Lessons from Expert Performance Consultants: Miki Lane and Fanny Korman

As part of a course on consulting in educational technology, a number of performance and learning consultants have graciously offered to spend a few hours with our class sharing their experiences and offering valuable insight. As the third in a series of posts, I’m reflecting on the key lessons that I’ve taken from our interview with Miki Lane and Fanny Korman.

About Miki Lane

Miki Lane is a prominent Montreal-based performance consultant and a senior partner at MVM Communications.  He is also the former Director of the Educational Media Center at McGill University and a past president of the Montreal Chapter of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

About Fanny Korman

Fanny KormanFanny Korman is the President of FZK Performance Solutions through which she offers consulting, learning, and facilitation services.  She also specializes in coaching for leadership, and in addressing multicultural and multi-linguistic audience.

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Sharing the Vision

I’m extremely excited to announce the existence of a new project, and new blog. Some colleagues/friends and I have been developing the concept of an online community for the Ed Tech Students at Concordia University. Please join our discussion over there.


Essential Lessons from Expert Performance Consultants: Sonia Ribaux

As part of a course on consulting in educational technology, a number of performance and learning consultants have graciously offered to spend a few hours with our class, sharing their experiences and offering valuable insight. In the second of a series of posts, I’m reflecting on the key lessons that I’ve taken from our interview with Sonia Ribaux.

About Sonia Ribaux

Sonia Ribaux is a bilingual instructional designer based in Montreal, Canada. She has worked in various industries, such as health care, banking, education, and pharmaceuticals, and she specializes in using games and simulations to help her clients.  Sonia is also a graduate of the MA in Educational Technology program at Concordia University.

3 Key Lessons

Help Clients Step Out of their Comfort Zone

Sonia talked about building a simulation for a client. It was an unusual and unexpected solution for that organization, but they ended up really embracing the activity once it was proposed and implemented. Helping clients discover something new and interesting is what makes you valuable as a consultant.

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Essential Lessons from Expert Performance Consultants: Lorne Novolker

As part of a course on consulting in educational technology, a number of performance and learning consultants have graciously offered to spend a few hours with our class, sharing their experiences and offering valuable insight. In the first of a series of posts, I’m reflecting on the key lessons that I’ve taken from our meeting with Lorne Novolker.

About Lorne Novolker

Lorne Novolker is the co-founder and President of Prospero Learning Solutions, and an MA graduate of the Educational Technology program at Concordia (my program!). From its humble beginnings in Lorne’s basement, Prospero now provides consultancy services and custom learning solutions to an impressive list of clients, and is the recipient of numerous awards.

3 Key Lessons

Act with integrity

When entering a relationship with a client, you have to be prepared to say no if the solution doesn’t make sense.  Saying “yes” to every-and-all proposals helps you gain contracts quickly, but might damage both you and your clients in the long run.  Lorne recalled an instance in which he turned down a major client because, in his judgement, the proposed project was bound for failure.  After a competing company took the contract and did fail, that same client came back to Prospero precisely because they had the discernment to detect a bad contract and the integrity to stick to it.

Be ready to adapt

The rise of easy-to-use elearning authoring software, such as Articulate and Adobe’s Captivate, threatened many existing business models because it tempted clients towards either quick-and-dirty in-house authoring or international outsourcing.  This didn’t immediately fit with Prospero’s core values of customized training and technology solutions.  However, they found that by developing strong competencies in those authoring tools (i.e., using them better than anyone else), they were able to adjust to market demands while retaining their core values.

Create and join compatible cultures

When hiring people to join their team, Lorne looks for people who fit into the culture of the organization.  While experience and skills are important, they aren’t as valuable as possessing an ethic that matches the rest of the team.  Skills can be developed, but a common set of shared values is fundamental.

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Why I’m excited for the Games in Education Conference

I and a group of other Concordia students are going to be driving down to Troy, NY to attend the Games in Education Conference on August 1 & 2.  The conference features speakers from all over the United States and Canada who are doing fascinating work in the accelerating field of educational gaming.

Things I’m excited to see

Surrounding Commercial Games with Academic Learning — the numbers don’t lie. Evidence for game-based learning for standardized testing.

Presented by Brock Dubble, PhD

Can the way we think about education be re-invented?  What would school look like if it “played” like a video game? Beyond Gamification, the presentation discusses the practical and complete approach to throwing out the grade book, dropping due dates, developing individual learning paths for every student, and connecting to standards and expectations in ways we never thought possible.  Chris Haskell and his colleague Dr. Lisa Dawley at Boise State have created a system built on experiences points, badges, achievements, leveling, and student choice.  The presentation will demonstrate the tool, pedagogy, and share the results of a yearlong Design-Based Research project.

Why this is awesome

Through the demands of gamers and the influence of the free market, games have gradually refined a set of techniques for providing rewards and driving highly motivated participation.  Bringing these techniques into education settings has tremendous potential.  This presentation will be followed up by a second presentation by Chris Haskell, with more details about his gamified university classroom.

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Four Ways to Teach and Learn with Minecraft

Minecraft is being applied to education in some pretty interesting ways.  If you’re not familiar with it, Minecraft is a “sandbox” game where players are dropped into a gigantic, open world where they have to find and use resources (like wood or ore or animals) to help them survive.  The interesting thing about the game is that players can really get creative as they to build and reshape the world in many ways.  Players have made some absolutely incredible things, like giant globes, or even functioning scientific calculators.  The video below gives a pretty good idea of what the game’s about.

Four Ways to Teach and Learn with Minecraft

The game is very flexible, which makes it useful for educators looking for new ways to make learning interesting.  Here are just four general ideas of how to use the game.

1) Create Immersive Learning Environments

For those with the time and ambition, teachers can create customized worlds for their students to play and learn in.  For example, the video below showcases the “Valley of Geography”, a world filled with geographical, architectural, and historical content, created by a teacher to coincided with the units in his grade 6/7 social studies class.  Students can do all sorts of things, like explore ancient China [11:26], cooperatively construct Grecian architecture [12:34],  climb the lighthouse of Alexandria [15:00], dig canals to irrigate ancient Mesopotamia [17:38], or  read up on the history of Kuwait in the reading chalet [18:20].

(Get help from MinecraftEdu)

MinecraftEdu is a really interesting initiative that is doing a bunch of things to help teachers bring Minecraft into classrooms. Maybe most importantly, they provide a mod that makes it much easier for teachers to create and control environments for their students. The mod includes…

  • easier server creation and configuration
  • a teacher mode with powerful abilities (such as teleportation or mute-control) to help manage student participation
  • in-game tools, such as more advanced text blocks Continue reading
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Math with Board Games: Revising the Dice Mechanic

Myself and a couple of classmates just finished up building a board game called “HyperSpace Explorers” that helps grade 1 students practice addition and subtraction.  It’s a space themed game in which players travel around the board collecting pieces to complete their space ships.  The full game board can be viewed here.

The problem

We set out to make a game in which every turn involved performing a small math operation.  In a typical game with 2 dice, you do have to add the two numbers together to determine your move.  This is only barely helpful for learning math though.  Obviously, most die only go up to 6.  But, the bigger problem is that you don’t actually have to do any addition at all.  If you roll a 3 and a 4, you can finish your turn by just counting “1 2 3”, “1 2 3 4”.  You never actually count to seven.  We suspected that young kids might do this a lot.

The Solution

The board has a 1-20 mode when flipped over.

We found a way around this problem.  When a 7 rolled, instead of moving forward 7 spaces, having players jump to the next 7 on the board.  This means, you have to finish the math in your head before you can move your piece.  This is a subtle change that has a big impact on what’s going on inside players’ heads.

Making a Game to Fit the Curriculum

By the end of grade 1, students are expected to learn addition and subtraction up to 20.  But, most dice have only six sides, and they can’t be used for subtraction withou adding complicated rules.  Instead, we decided to use a “digital die” that we called the “hyperjump controller”.  The device actually ended up solving a lot of interesting problems, and made the game much more useful for grade 1 teachers.

Advantages of digital die

  • scalable number range, for either 1-10, or 1-20
  • can display either addition or subtraction
  • game settings can adjust to player ability level
  • pre-recorded voice helps kids learn the rules
  • correct/incorrect responses can be saved and viewed by the teacher

Special thanks to Anton Kassimov and Juan Garcia for codesigning (and to Juan for producing the art in the post.)  Anton writes about games and music at, and Juan tweets on software development and education at @homemadecode.

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Working together through

Recently, I teamed up with a couple of classmates to create a presentation on electronic portfolios.  To collaborate online, we used, which offers free mind mapping software.  We had to do quite a bit of research for the presentation, and we used the map as the hub for all of our sources and ideas.  We each added to it on our own, and then we would refer to it when meeting in person, or over Skype. You can see and interact with the entire map here.

I recruited my teammates to help review the tool, Peggy Hartwick and Ronnie Marin.  They were both really fantastic people to work with, and I knew they would have interesting things to say.  We had a discussion about the tool, which I’ve posted for you below.

Peggy Hartwick is a language Instructor at Carleton University and specializes in English for Academic Purposes. Her research interests include diagnostic and portfolio based assessment, needs based targeted instruction and 3D immersive virtual learning.

Ronnie Marin is currently Assistant Director of Adult Education and Vocational Training at the Lester B. Pearson School Board. She is completing a graduate diploma in Instructional Technology. In her role, she is involved in decisions around curriculum and policy at the board level and is particularly interested in the integration of technology in the classroom.

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Using visual tools for group collaboration

Figuring out how to use tools–digital or otherwise–to help people work together is an important task for instructional designers.  Almost all human endeavours have some social component, and learning and working are no different.  The internet itself is becoming increasingly social and collaborative, and it’s important to figure out how to use it in productive ways.  The tools that we use can have a major impact on how we conceptualize problems, share our ideas, and find solutions.

For a recent group project, I and a couple of classmates used to hash out some of our early ideas.  It’s a free, online mind mapping tool that you can use for brainstorming, and I quite like it.  In an upcoming post, I’ll be talking with my partners to review the software.  I’ll also be posting the presentation we created as a group.

To help review the software, I was searching for some academic research on the use of collaborative visualization software, and came across this article by Bresciani, Blackwell, and Eppler (2008) that I really liked.  They created a model for assessing collaborative software along cognitive, communicative, and collaborative dimensions.

3 Theoretical Dimensions

3 Dimensions – Bresciani, Blackwell, & Eppler (2008)

Cognitive Dimension

How does a tool shape how we think?  Objects help us work by enabling, facilitating, or inhibiting different types of though processes.  For example, using a spreadsheet encourages us to think in terms of discrete units (stored in rows) that have a specific set of properties (stored in columns).  In contrast, a blank whiteboard with nothing but a marker facilitates divergent and open-ended thinking.  The properties of these very different tools are appropriate in different situations and for different tasks.  When assessing or choosing a collaborative tool, ask yourself, what cognitive processes does it facilitate or inhibit?

Communicative Dimension

How effective is the tool for sharing knowledge between people?  While the cognitive dimension describes the relationship between the user and medium, the communicative dimension looks at the impact of the tool on the transfer of knowledge from one person to another.  Again, different tools have different capabilities.  A database is useful for sending large volumes of information in an organized way, but a artistic drawing helps to share emotional and intuitive ideas. Continue reading

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