4MAT at ASTD Techknowledge: Cool e-learning tools

While many of our 4MAT friends were experiencing a storm of “historic” proportions, some of us were lucky enough to head to San Jose for the ASTD Techknowledge 2011 conference. Techknowledge is ASTD’s elearning-focused train the trainer event. On Tuesday, I led a session on designing outcome-based 4MAT elearning training designs and had a chance to connect with a great group of instructional designers, training managers and corporate university directors.

As part of the session, participants shared tools and resources being used to create elearning. Here are some highlights from the sharing session:

How to create screencasts the easy way: The 4MAT team frequently uses Screenr-it’s a no-brainer for quick screen capture. Screenr allows you to record screen movement and sync automatically audio. Great for quick, how-to videos or short web demos.

How to create avatar dialogue in minutes: One of our workshop participants, Carl, shared that he recently created a movie using Xtranormal.com. Xtranormal allows you to convert text into dialogue using pre-designed avatars and settings.  I created this  using Xtranormal in 10 minutes, using the free version of the tool:

How to stay up-to-date on rapid elearning design tools: Subscribe to the Rapid E-learning blog by Tom Kuhlmann. We love Tom-he will be joining us on our 4MATion web education calendar delivering examples of how to use Articulate to design powerful 4MAT opening activitities. Here’s a recent post by Tom with 75 Free Rapid Elearning Tools

For more elearning tools, you can visit our post from our visit to the Elearning Guild’s DevLearn.

4MAT Train the Trainer: Games and Simulations

The 4MAT model focuses on leading all learning styles through a complete learning experience. We know that each learning style may prefer to linger in one of the four parts of the 4MAT learning cycle. The Type One learning style particularly enjoys dialogue and reflection. We focus on this in the first part  few examples of Engage strategies that are effective in generating dialogue.

Below you will find a few examples of training activities that work in Engage.  The last one, “Simulations”, is often missed as powerful tool for creating shared experience. If you are thinking about incorporating games and simulations into your training more frequently, you’ll enjoy the TED video below.


Quotes are powerful because they express an idea or concept from a personal point of view. Encouraging learners to reflect on a well-chosen quote invites deep thinking around the concepts being shared.


Share 4-5 quotes related to your course content from different authors. Invite learners to reflect on their own experience around the course content and to choose a quote that best aligns with their experience. Ask learners to share their experience and chosen quote with a partner.

Intriguing Statement

Open with a compelling statement that grabs the attention of the learner. Invite them to reflect on the statement and their reaction to the statement. Invite learners to share in small groups.


You might share a surprising statistic such as “Despite potentially fatal consequences, 7 out of 10 heart attack survivors do not maintain their commitment to lifestyle changes.”  Connect the statistic to the content and invite learners to reflect. “Change can be difficult, even when the stakes are high. Reflect on a change you have struggled to make. What factors make change difficult?”

Individual Reflection

Inviting learners to reflect on a personal experience that relates to the content being shared allows the learner an opportunity to explore what they already know about the content.


Invite learners to reflect on a recent experience related to the content. In a conflict resolution workshop, you might share something like, “Reflect on a high point in your career when you were particularly engaged in the work you were creating. What was present that contributed to this state of engagement?”

Personal Storytelling

Sharing personal stories related to the content is an excellent way to explore the knowledge the learner brings to the learning experience. Invite learners to reflect on a previous experience, related to the content.


Reflect on an experience you had on “above and beyond” customer service. Share your story with a partner.  What commonalities do you notice in your experiences?

Provocative Questions

Learning begins by seeking the answer to a question. A well-chosen question can invite reflection and draw out learner perceptions and previous experiences. Begin the session by posing a question or series of questions.


In a first-time manager workshop, you might begin with a question such as, “What inspired you to want to become a leader in our organization? What do you most hope to contribute? How has your experiences working with different types of leaders influenced your answers?”


Games or simulated experiences are a powerful way to create a shared experience amongst learners. When you begin with a simulation, you create a point of reference for the remainder of the course content delivery.


In a workshop on accountability, a game or simulation that involves groups of 4-5 learners working to accomplish a task under challenging circumstances would illustrate the need for individual and team accountability. The remainder of the workshop could be focused on debriefing the simulation insights.

Check out the Tom Chatfield on the “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain” on TED.


4MAT Perform Step: Getting “Pushy” in Training

The final part of a 4MAT learning intervention is called “Perform.” This is where learner performance is demonstrated and the resulting behavior shift impact the business drivers. In the classroom or formal learning situation, this is the step in which the learner refines their practice application and prepares to go out in the real world and apply the information learned. This is also one of the most difficult steps to manage because there are so many factors that influence how the information gets implemented.

Last month, I had the opportunity to facilitate two sessions, both focused on how learning professionals define the desired ROI (return on investment) and link learning outcomes to the design and delivery process. Some of the many barriers to post-training implementation raised by the training professionals that joined me in these sessions were:

  • Buy-in of the front line manager in coaching the learning
  • Skill level of front line managers in coaching
  • Buy-in of the learner
  • Conflicting learner priorities: the learning just isn’t as important as more pressing business issues
  • Lack of trainer access to learners post-training
  • Lack of trainer’s time to follow up with learners, post-learning
  • Unclear measure of success

Much of the excitement around social and mobile learning is based in how this technology can reinforce learning and enhance implementation. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways that technology can support post-learning impact:

QR Reader Job Aids

A QR Code is a two-dimensional code that is readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones. The code looks like black marks arranged in a square pattern on white background. Imagine adding QR codes to machinery parts, enabling service technicians to scan and pull up web pages with job aids on diagnosing and repairing issues. These codes could also be embedded in job aids with direct links to web pages.

Online Manager Coaching Toolkits

We have worked with clients in creating private learning portals  or “online toolkits” for managers and learners. These portals provide all the “how to” on setting up the learner for success pre- and post-learning. Imagine taking this further and pushing out daily coaching tips to front line managers through mobile learning, as a post-event follow-up.

Technology enables the possibility to push out content to learners. As learners are faced with more information, the need to push the content to them, rather than asking them to seek it out is critical.

Think push versus pull.

5 Ideas for Interactive Lecture

In an earlier post, we explored the importance of breaking lecture into smaller segments. I promised to share some ideas on how to do this and here are 5 easy-to-adapt lecture strategies:

Summarize key points

Stop periodically and encourage learners to choose 2-3 key points from the content shared. Ask learners to stand up and partner up with two other learners. Ask each learner to share their key points in their triad. Allow time for triads to share their key points with the larger group.

Big Questions

After introducing the content, ask learners to respond to the following question, “What one question would you like to explore related to this content?” Have participants share their questions in table groups. Encourage each table group to share their “biggest” question. Post the question on a flip chart and reference questions as they are answered throughout the lecture.

Putting into Practice

Pause periodically throughout the lecture and allow learners the opportunity to share how they might apply what has been learned. Allow time for individual reflection by encouraging learners to answer the question, “What ideas do you have for applying this information for immediate benefit?” After individual reflection, ask participants to share answers in partners or groups.

Idea mapping

Introduce the concept of mindmapping. Ask participants to map the major ideas shared throughout the lecture and be prepared to share their maps with fellow learners. Pause periodically throughout lecture and group learners to combine their individual maps into a group idea map. Encourage groups to share their maps. Post idea maps for viewing and reference throughout the course.

QA Recap

Pause throughout lecture and encourage participants to generate 2-3 “quiz” questions related to the content being explored. You can provide index cards for learners to write the question on one side and the answer on the other. Collect the cards and use for a review quiz, upon completion of lecture.

DevLearn 2010-part 2

In our 4MAT Train the Trainer courses, trainers often share that the Image step is one of the most difficult steps to nail in the 4MAT model. It is challenging to simplify content into a compelling image. At DevLearn last week, I was interested to see how Patti Shank approached visualizations in her breakout session titled “Getting the (Complex) Picture with Visualizations”.

Why Images? Patti summed up the power of images: they are concise, they reveal what is hidden, they illustrate complex relationships and they are generally more engaging than words. When choosing the appropriate visual, Shank recommends:

1-Begin by asking the question, “What question am I answering with this visual?” Articulate the question before you seek to find the right visual answer.

2-Answer the question, “What relationship am I trying to illustrate?”

Is the relationship of the data spatial? chronological? conceptual? qualitative?

Should I use a diagram? chart? map? relationship web?

Is the interface static? interactive? animated?

3-Look for examples of visualizations that might work to show the relationships.

Shank shared many examples of images in her session that could serve as inspiration. One of the most powerful was the video, “The Civil War in 4 Minutes”. The video is displayed in the Lincoln Library and quickly tells the story of the Civil War.  If you watch the entire video, you will see how the context is created using the visual cues. There is much that can be learned the simplicity of how this visual story is told.

Here are a few more examples to get the creative juices going:

The power of context when presenting data can be seen in this TED video featuring David McCandless. David’s blog is worth a tour for visualization inspiration.

“The National Debt Road Trip” uses simple graphics and a road trip metaphor to tell the story of growing national debt. The road trip metaphor illustrates context brilliantly and visually.

Live from DevLearn 2010

Live from DevLearn 2010

The ELearning Guild produces an annual conference for elearning designers, DevLearn. Our team headed out to lead a couple of learning sessions and discover what’s new on the edge of elearning.  Here’s some interesting ideas shared during Day 1:

7:15 am Discussion on ROI

I was invited to lead a session on defining and measuring ROI in e-learning. I learned that there are some passionate e-learning folks who will get up for a 7:15 session to discuss metrics. One of the big themes of this conversation was a move from the term, “ROI”, to the term, “ROE”. “ROE” being return on expectations. What do the stakeholders expect? How do you narrow those expectations and clearly define the scope of work?

Keynote with John Seeley Brown, author of Push

The twitter dialogue (#dl10) that is  going on during this entire event connects the attendees and gives everyone a good sense of what is interesting . Kind of intimidating to a speaker, you can be “tweeted” off the island. The conference app was created using  Event Pilot.

Here are some big ideas being tweeted and re-tweeted on Brown’s presentation:

-Every 2 days we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. This is the context we live in today.

-There is a huge shift away from collecting knowledge assets, referred to as “stocks” as competitive advantage. The new competitive advantage is anticipating and creating on the edge of where the information is being created. Think social spaces for collaborating and creating together.

Mark Oehlert-Social Learning Camp

Mark and I served on an ASTD speaker selection committee a few years back. He designs learning for the Department of Defense. Check out his blog. For DevLearn, Mark created an online message board on social media. The online tool he used to create it, http://www.linoit.com is free and could be a cool add-on tool to online class management or collaboration.

BJ Schoen 25 Mobile Learning Tools in 60 Minutes

BJ quickly ran us through 25 tools we should be aware of in building a mobile learning strategy. Here is a link to his slide presentation. These tools can extend the learning out in the final 4MAT step, Perform. 

Green Screen Video on a Budget

John Gillmore and Andrea Stone from the University of Oklahoma shared how to do green screen video production on a budget. Think cut-out video of a live instructor super-imposed on any background. Here’s a wiki they created with all the how-to.

Great learning community here at DevLearn. Even the conference hotel Starbucks is getting  into the power of sharing.

Lecture: How long is too long?

In our 4MAT train the trainer live and web classes, we facilitate an exercise where each of the four learning style groups gives examples of painful learning situations particular to their style.  There is only one painful learning situation that is common to all learning styles: boring lecture.

We all recognize that boring lectures are painful, because we’ve all experienced the pain. As trainers, we want our audience to be engaged and we are constantly looking for ways to avoid being that boring trainer. This explains why two of the most frequent questions we get asked regarding lecture are:

-How do you make lecture interesting?

-How long is too long?

On his blog (which we love) Dr. John Medina shared the following:

“Peer-reviewed studies confirm my informal inquiry: Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out. If keeping someone’s interest in a lecture were a business, it would have an 80 percent failure rate. What happens at the 10-minute mark to cause such trouble? Nobody knows. The brain seems to be making choices according to some stubborn timing pattern, undoubtedly influenced by both culture and gene. This fact suggests a teaching and business imperative: Find a way to arouse and then hold somebody’s attention for a specific period of time.”

There are two points at which we naturally tune in during a presentation: the beginning and the end. Why? At the beginning, we are checking in to see if this is going to be interesting. We go to sleep in the middle and then wake up at the end to find out what we need to do and where the snacks are located.

If you want to keep attention high, you need to shift gears every 10 minutes or so. When you do this the attention remains higher throughout the entire presentation.

In the next blog post, we’ll explore some ideas for increasing attention in lecture. Stay tuned.

4MAT Image Step: Using Metaphors to Create Training Impact

Many train the trainer programs encourage the use of games that serve as metaphors for the content being learned. Why and how does this work to enhance learning? For most people, metaphors are seen as a device to creatively articulate some idea. Poets, musicians and creative storytellers are often perceived to be the masters of metaphor. On the contrary, we are all quite masterful at using metaphors.

In Metaphors We Live By, authors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson share, “…metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”1

We think in metaphors. Lakoff and Johnson illustrate brilliantly the many ways we think in terms of metaphors:

We think of time as money2:

“How did you spend your time today?’

“There was just not enough ROI on my time on that project.”

“You need to budget your time wisely.”

We think of an argument as a container3:

“That argument has holes in it.”

“Your argument won’t hold water.”

As trainers, we need to understand that a difference in metaphor will create a difference in understanding and approach. For example, many people perceive conflict as a “battle” to be won:

“I’m prepared for battle.”

“I’m going to take him down.”

“He won’t know what hit him.”

What if that metaphor were shifted? What if conflict were viewed as a creative process? as a collaboration? as a dance with each party taking turns leading? How might that shift the way we prepare for, approach and resolve conflict? A shift in the metaphor we use to understand, shifts the way we think and they way we act.

As trainers, the metaphor is a powerful tool for understanding the concepts that guide the learner’s understanding and approach. If we want to shift behavior toward a desired outcome, we must identify what metaphor will best guide the thinking and action of the learner. In the 4MAT model, the Image step creates an opportunity for the trainer to explore and, if necessary, shift the metaphors learners use to understand and approach the learning content.

Imagine that you are leading a workshop for department managers on the strategic planning process. Which of the following visual metaphors would you use to create a shared understanding of the process you are leading the group through?

Telescoping spyglass-illlustrating how the individual, team, department and division objectives must be integrated and focused on the long-range vision

Mason jar with rocks, pebbles and sand-illustrating how we must allocate space for the big initiatives (rocks), then secondary initiatives (pebbles). Otherwise, all of our resources (the space in the jar) are consumed with low impact initiatives which generate minimal return (sand).

Pie-illustrating that there is a limited budget and limited resources (pie). Each department’s allocation of budget (slice of the pie) will be determined based on the merits of plans submitted.

What metaphors have you used in training design and delivery to shift thinking?

1Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. 1980. Metaphors We Live By Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, p. 3.

2 Ibid, p. 7.

3Ibid, p 92.

4MAT Train the Trainer: 6 Activities for the Perform Step

In the 4MAT model for training design, there are four parts of the learning cycle that the trainer leads the learner through. In the fourth part of the cycle, Perform, the trainer is focused on building the assessment and adaptation skills of the learner.  Let’s take a look at what is happening in this step:

4MAT model: perform

Source:  McCarthy and O’Neill-Blackwell, Hold On, You Lost Me! Use Learning Styles to Create Training that Sticks, ASTD Press, p 25.

In Perform, the trainer invites the learner to assess the practice application which occurred in the previous step, Practice. The learner is assessing and adjusting and the trainer is guiding this process. Activities that encourage the learner to assess, refine and adapt the content being learned are appropriate for this part of the training design.

Here are some examples of activities that fit well in Practice:

1. 10-10-10
Objective: Planning activity focused on implementation of the learning in the next 10 days, 10 weeks and 10 months.

2. “Co”+ “Labor”=Collaboration
Objective: Learners will devise an action plan for implementation of learning. This activity focuses on personal and team accountability around the learning.

3. Exit Interview
Objective: As a final “exam”, participants will interview each other in a reflective manner about the learning that has occurred.

4. Super Hero
Objective: Using a Super Hero as a metaphor, participants will reflect on tools and skills needed to implement the knowledge.

5. Reunion Web Call
Objective: Learners participate in a post-session call to review implementation or learning commitments.

6. Elearning: Branched Scenario Simulations
Objective: Learners assess the effectiveness of alternative applications of the content being learned.

Download the facilitator guide with complete instructions: