Archive for November, 2009

Social critics have ruminated for decades about U.S. students’ continually falling science and math scores when compared to the scores of students in other countries.  The most recent international comparisons place the U.S. in about the middle of 50+ participating countries in science, and worse than that in math.  One thing is certain.  Scores aren’t falling because educators are stuck in their ways.  One of the only consistencies in the American educational system is that yet another reform is assuredly just around the corner.

There is finally emerging, however, an approach to teaching science and math that is based on the most recent research in neuroscience about how the brain learns* in addition to examining what is working well in other countries.  The two sources of potential guidance point in the same direction:  1) You’re never too young to learn, and 2) Students should spend more time repeatedly studying fewer topics.

Never too young 

It has traditionally been believed that students need to reach a certain level of maturity (generally around the age of 12) before they can understand science (as opposed to observing science or memorizing scientific facts and findings).  However, research has shown recently that even first graders are capable of working in pairs to “do” science, that is, to design ways of testing their ideas and to progressively improve those tests and their understanding of the ideas being considered.  Other research has demonstrated that doing research at younger ages helps students “get” the idea that science doesn’t just uncover the “truth” in one shot – a common misunderstanding among U.S. students.  Rather, it takes a progression of studies, ever refining the theories that they test, to obtain improved answers – but never to obtain an absolute and final answer. 

Learn more from fewer topics 

This is where neuroscience research has been a major influence.  Objective studies of brain functioning have shown that students develop a much deeper understanding of science when they study only a few major scientific ideas in a progressively more sophisticated way.  Recent reports from the National Research Council (titles below) recommend that science teaching should focus on a small number of core ideas such as atomic-molecular theory, evolution theory, cell theory and force and motion.  Learning about these core topics would be “scaffolded” from grade to grade by adding progressively deeper “doing science” experiences with the same topics.  This contrasts sharply with many current approaches that emphasize learning about as many scientific facts or fields of study as possible. 

Of course, all of this is very much easier said than done.  The new approach calls for nothing less than a complete make-over of science education from grade k to grade n.  Is it worth the effort or would this be just another passing fad?  Worth the effort gets the B&B Blogger’s vote.  This view didn’t just pop out of some academic’s head.  It’s based on objective evidence of what is actually going on in students’ heads.


 *Three reports from the National Research Council compile these results:  Taking Science to School,” “Ready, Set, Science!” and published in 2009, “Learning Science in Informal Environments.”


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Keys to Giving a Good Demo

I’ve been giving quite a lot of technical demos lately, so I put together this quick list of what I’ve learned. Some of it came from working with people who have a heck of a lot more experience than I do in demoing to potential clients. And some of it came by “learning the hard way.” Coming from a programming background, live sales demonstrations to groups of people may not come naturally. But with a little bit of preparation and experience, they provide a great opportunity to learn about what needs are really driving clients, and how your solution can (or will!) meet those needs.

–          Have a script. Prepare for and practice the best way and best order to access the features you’re going to be showing.

–          Know your product. You have to be willing to jump off that script to answer questions as they come up, so you have to know the product inside and out. Don’t get too far off script though – be sure to come back to what you planned after answering a question.

–          Understand your audience. Some audiences are technical and want to be focused on specific capabilities. Some audiences are more “idea-people”, and they want to be focused on possibilities. They don’t know specifically what questions they want answered yet . Some audiences are more focused on making sure that your team has the technical capability to build a large, capable system more than the features of any existing system. Knowing what your audience is hoping to get out of a demo will help you decide what to focus on.

–          Provide a context. Showing off features and functions doesn’t mean anything unless the audience can visualize how those features would be useful in a specific setting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the specific context that the client plans to use the product in, but they should be able to see how your product was utilized to solve a specific need. Then, talk with them to help map the solution’s capabilities to their specific needs.

–          Listen. Don’t dominate the discussion. Don’t try to have a slick, completely pre-built speech. Clients don’t want to be “presented to”, they want to have a conversation.

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In today’s social media craze, using these networks for business is the latest trend. Here is the age breakdown of the audience your message is reaching.


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In full disclosure, I unashamedly borrowed this blog title from the WSJ article that inspired it by Sue Shellenbarger. I figured if it were good enough to ensnare me, that it would capture some TiER1 followers just like you as well!

Building upon my previous post about personal knowledge management, this article discusses Shellenbarger’s experience trying out three time management systems. Two you might be familiar with, Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen and Focus by FranklinCovey, but one you probably are not: The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. If putting a plastic, tomato shaped kitchen timer on your desk doesn’t sound like time management, think again.

The Pomodoro Technique forces its followers to work on tasks in 25-minute intervals, called a Pomodoro, with a small break between tasks. Essentially, this technique draws attention to all the distractions that can derail you throughout the day. By working exclusively on a defined task during a focused period of time, we could all accomplish more. Whether you need a tomato timer or not is up to you.

To read the full article, including more about GTD and Focus, go here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704538404574541590534797908.html?mod=loomia&loomia_si=t0:a16:g4:r3:c0:b0

What time management technique(s) do you use? Let us know!

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Covington, Ky. – TiER1 Performance Solutions announced today that they received a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) award from the 711 Human Performance Wing, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The Phase II contract, totaling $750,000, will develop a comprehensive training system using innovative accelerated learning methods and an interactive environment to train military supervisors to recognize potential insider threats.

According to Dr. Terence Andre, Principal Consultant for TiER1, “Our solution will provide a comprehensive training delivery platform that employs serious games and instructional support features for supervisors to practice skills in cyber threat detection.” The project, known as XL-CITR (Accelerated Learning for Cyber Insider Threat Reduction), is designed to properly teach military supervisors to detect and prevent insider threats to cyber networks. XL-CITR will efficiently decrease time required to meet learning objectives while tracking learner performance for certification.

This is TiER1’s first Phase II award and represents a growth area for the company. “Winning this highly competitive award provides a strategic entry into the fast growing field of Cyber Security, and positions TiER1 as a leader in training solutions required to combat these threats to our national security,” added Normand G. Desmarais, TiER1’s Co-Founder and Chairman. 

About TiER1 Performance Solutions  

Founded in 2002, TiER 1 Performance Solutions provides end‐to‐end on‐line learning and knowledge management solutions to large distributed organizations.  Its core service offerings of Learning Solutions and Knowledge Management are supported by a suite of technologies that act as solution accelerators for clients in solving human performance challenges.  Visit TiER1 on the web at http://www.tier1performance.com   

About the Department of Defense Small Business Innovative Research Program   

The Department of Defense (DoD) SBIR program funds a billion dollars each year in early-stage R&D projects at small technology companies — projects that serve a DoD need and have commercial applications. This program encourages small business to explore their technological potential while providing the incentive to profit from its commercialization. For more information, visit http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/overview/index.htm

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About IITSEC and the Conference: The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) promotes cooperation among the Armed Services, Industry, Academia and various Government agencies in pursuit of improved training and education programs, identification of common training issues and development of multiservice programs. Initiated in 1966 as the Naval Training Device Center/Industry Conference, the conference has evolved and expanded through increased participation by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Industry. In 1979 it became known as the Interservice/Industry Training Equipment Conference.

Title: Medical Simulation: Solving today’s needs with tomorrow’s technologies

Logistics: Wednesday, 2 December • 1400 – 1530 • Room 202, Orlando Convention Center / Demonstration Area will open 1300 and remain open until 1630

Abstract: The role of simulation in medical training and education is growing and questions remain as to the efficacy, situations, and level of fidelity required for efficient and effective use of simulation. In this special event we have four recognized experts who will discuss the current situation, requirements in their area of expertise, and opportunities for using simulation. The intent of this special event is to provide a description of the complex environment and to paint a picture of the future of simulation and training going forward. The experts gathered here represent the best minds from Emergency Medicine, Surgical Simulation, and Pandemic. They are:

  • Dr Stephen Barnes MD, FACS, is Associate Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Acute Care Surgery Division at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to departure from active duty, Dr Barnes served as Director of the Critical Care Air Transport Team training platform, Director of the Advanced Clinical Simulation Program, and Tier I site coordinator for the Disseminated Human Patient Simulation Program at the USAF Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (CSTARS) Cincinnati. His extensive simulation experience includes product development for traumatic brain injury training. He remains active in clinical care, surgical education and research at mid Missouri’s only ACS Verified Level I trauma center.
  • Emergency Medicine: Dr. Mark Bowyer, After 22 years of active duty military service as a Trauma and Combat Surgeon, Dr. Bowyer remains the Chief of Trauma and Combat Surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (the military medical school) in Bethesda, MD. In this role, he is responsible for the training of current and future military doctors learning to care for those in harms way. As a faculty member of Advanced Trauma Life Support, Definitive Surgical Trauma Care, Definitive Surgical Trauma Skills, Emergency War Surgery, Advanced Trauma Operative Management, and Anatomically Based Surgery for Trauma Courses, Dr. Bowyer is an international force in trauma education.
  • Pandemic: Karen Ngowe, Center for Disease Control (CDC) Training Services Division. Before coming to the CDC, Karen served in the Michigan Department of Community Health Office of Public Health Preparedness as the education and training (Focus G) coordinator.
  • Surgical Simulations: Dr. Rick Satava, MD, FACS, is Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center, and Senior Science Advisor at the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command in Ft. Detrick, MD. He is currently a member of the Emerging Technologies and Resident Education, and Informatics committees of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), as well as on a number of surgical societies. He has been continuously active in surgical education and surgical research, with more than 200 publications and book chapters in diverse areas of advanced surgical technology, including Surgery in the Space Environment, Video and 3-D imaging, Telepresence Surgery, Virtual Reality Surgical Simulation, and Objective Assessment of Surgical Competence and Training.

Each expert will detail their experiences and their wishes for the future role of simulation and training for their respective area. This will be a highly interactive session with all participants having the opportunity to ask questions of the experts.

In addition to a highly interactive session there will be a demonstration area that includes the chance for attendees to view, up close and personal some advances in medical simulation. Displayed will include:

RDECOM – Virtual Sick Call definitely, TC3 game (ECS) and Moulage Kits (VRMC)
PEO STRI – METI ECS Patient Simulator with some moulage wounds
TATRC – Powerpoint slide of their initiatives
Florida Hospital – daVinci and Simbionix Surgical Simulator
STOPS – Tent and live actors for Hyper-realistic Training
Navy – working w/ them to get PULSE (a game) displayed

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Twitter – Why Should You Care?

(Scoll to bottom for tips on using Twitter for training.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of Twitter. When I first heard about Twitter, I didn’t know what the heck it was. Someone invited me to join, I logged in, created a free account and thought, “so what?” It really seemed like a nothing site to me, so I forgot about it. Then, six months later I began hearing about celebrities tweeting and politicians reading and sending tweets during State of the Union addresses. I cataloged it in my brain as another social networking site along with Facebook and LinkedIn, and I thought it seemed really intrusive and a bit narcissistic.

I still hadn’t tried it.

Mad Men Mania

What got me hooked on Twitter was the TV show Mad Men. Or rather, the ardent fans of the show, which have created a sort of 24-hour ongoing Twitter cocktail party. I am a huge fan of the show, so I decided to check it out. There was the suave Don Draper, his icy wife Betty, the uber-competent Joan Holloway—it seemed that every character was tweeting, using clever inside references to the show and to 1960’s pop culture. I wanted to join the party, so I created a new Twitter account using a character name (I won’t tell which one—that would ruin the fun.)

Unlike Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites that have cropped up, Twitter has a different flavor. When you have a Facebook account, people know your business (if you share, which is the expected norm). But Twitter is deliciously anonymous. You can be—or pretend to be—whomever you want. You don’t even have to be a person. Someone tweets as the Xerox machine in the office at Sterling Cooper.  Another is an ant from the ant farm that Don busted with a Jai Alai stick.

Twitter for Business

I know what you are thinking—this is all in good fun, but what does it have to do with my business? Plenty. The founders of Twitter see it as less of a social networking tool than an information tool, and this is certainly how it is being used today. Beyond the fun, party atmosphere is a deceptively simple, yet powerful way to communicate.

Here’s why Twitter is something you should be paying attention to:

  • It’s easy. There is something daunting about most social networking sites—with all the features, applications, and setup required. Twitter has none of this. The interface is simple, and signing up for an account takes about one minute. Use the search feature to find people you know, or people you are interested in. “Follow” them with one click. “Unfollow” them with one click. Block people you don’t want on your account with one click.
  • It’s free. All you need is a valid email account. That’s it.
  • It’s mobile. This is one of the greatest features of Twitter. People can (and largely do) use it from their iPhones or BlackBerrys. It’s portable, immediate, and with you all the time.
  • It’s public or private, depending on your needs. Most folks have public accounts, but if you want to “protect” your tweets, this is an easy matter as well. In order to follow protected accounts, you must have the user’s permission.
  • People are paying attention. Even if you’ve not tried Twitter yet, some people in your organization have. Yes, it may very well be a fad, and something else new and interesting will come along in a year, but why not ride the wave of interest?

Training With Twitter

Here are some examples of how you could use Twitter as a training or change management tool:

  1. Brand your training. Create a Twitter account with the name of your new training curriculum or change management initiative, and invite your staff to follow you. Then provide interesting updates and useful links to raise their awareness.
  2. Prework. Once you have a nice following of your new training initiative, send out thought-provoking questions or mini research assignments to folks who will be taking an upcoming class.
  3. Use it during class. This one is a little more unorthodox. Log into Twitter during your class and project your computer screen so that everyone can see it. Then invite people to post questions. This could be especially useful during presentations with large groups (where they will all be using their smart phones anyway!)  You can also have someone tweet main points of your presentation in order to bring their attention back to the front.
  4. Follow up. Keep interest and momentum going post-training by providing useful insights and tips on an ongoing basis.

In today’s post-media world, everyone has news and everyone is a reporter. Don’t be left out—join the conversation. Happy tweeting!

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