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While I will continue to update this blog with thoughts on educational technology related ideas and information, I will be updating more frequently on Twitter.

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OSS Guide to Simple Sabotage

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the predecessor to the CIA.  In 1994 they published a ‘Simple Sabotage Field Manual’ explaining how ordinary people could sabotage organizations with “no destructive tools whatsoever” simply by adopting a “non-cooperative attitude” or by “creating an unpleasant situation among one’s fellow workers”.  The following sabotage ideas are taken from the section called “General Interference with Organizations and Production” (page 28).

  • Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
  • When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
  • Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.
  • Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
  • Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
  • Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
  • Work slowly. Think out ways to in­crease the number of movements necessary on your job
  • Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
  • Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

These examples of “sabotage” should make us think carefully about how destructive ineffective processes, risk-aversion, and selfishness can be to any organization.

View PDF file of OSS Guide to Simple Sabotage

Microblogging and Learning

I love blogs.  They are a great way to keep on top of news and events that are happening in the lives of members of my professional network.  Unfortunately, some of my friends are prolific writers, and keeping up with all of their blog postings can take more time than I have (no offense to anyone).  Microblogging allows me to stay up to speed by receiving shorter professional or personal updates from my network in real-time.  There are 3 tools that I have found to be particularly useful for microblogging:

This is the most popular microblogging tool with many apps for accessing twitter feeds on iPhones and other mobile devices.  Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters.  For a excellent directory of learning leaders who use twitter, check out

This is a twitter-like tool, but it is optimized for use in educational settings and includes other features like upcoming events and activities.  Go to for more info.

This is a corporate version of EdModo.  It links microbloggers from the same company or organization and focuses on posting about job-related topics.  Go to for more info.

For a quick video on how microblogging works, visit

Collaborative Writing Online

If you’re haven’t had a chance to use online writing tools, consider this your invitation to do so.  Google Docs ( is the most popular online writing tool, but Adobe Buzzword is also very good (  These tools function like a normal word processor, but you access it through the web broswer instead of installing on your computer.  This gives you two major advantages:

1.) Your documents are accessible from any computer with an internet connection.  Earlier this month my hard drive crashed and I lost everything I had been working on.  Since I now use Google Docs for all of my writing projects, I simply borrowed my wife’s computer and continued working as if nothing had happened.

2.) You never have to send documents as attachments again.  If you want someone to read or contribute to your documents you can just add them as readers or collaborators.  This means you never run into version problems from multiple people working on the same document (which is especially nice if you are working collaboratively on the same part of a document).

If you’re already familiar with Google Docs, here are a couple of things you might not know:

  • Documents can be accessed and edited even when you don’t have an internet connection (such as on a plane).
  • Every revision of your document is automatically saved – if you deleted something you liked from a couple of weeks ago, you can still retrieve it.

Happy writing!

Organizational Change is Everywhere

Today I had an experience that proved yet again that certain elements of organizational change exist no matter how great or insignificant the change may be. It started when I stood at what I thought was the front of the sandwich line at the cafeteria at work.  After a long time of waiting for someone to take my order, I realized that I was standing at the end of the line instead of the beginning.  This was particularly confusing because the entrance to the cafeteria is exactly opposite the exit of the sandwich line, making the flow of the sandwich line exactly opposite the flow of the rest of the traffic moving through the cafeteria.  So my friend Mike (who was standing at the end of the line with an equally perplexed look) and I decided to save hundreds of people confusion and unnecessary steps and switched the “entrance” and “exit” signs.  The process was dramatically improved (Steve Krug himself would have been impressed).  Yet the funniest part was to hear the roles that emerged during our change initiative…

First we had the conformers – people who saw that the current system wasn’t working but figured that they were the ones that were wrong and then decided to get in line.  In fact everyone in the line first stood by the “exit” sign waiting to place their order, but eventually realized that the line was backwards and moved to the other side.  Next we had the change agents, in this case Mike and I, going against the odds (and several direct threats from the lunch lady) to fix a broken process.  Then on to the nay-sayers.  Several people that were already in the line actually turned to us and said, “you know you’re not allowed to change the signs like that, right?”  And of course no change effort is complete without the dinosaurs.  Shortly after we changed the signs two guys walked up to the new entrance of the line, one turned to the other and said, “the sandwich like has changed – but it’s always been the other way!” and then decided that it would be easier to get a salad than to adjust to the change.  And finally, the natives – people who showed up after the change had occurred went right to the front of the new line as if it had always been that way.

So if you’re considering an organizational change effort but are afraid that perhaps it would cause too much stress on your team, realize that they would be just  as bent out of shape if you changed the direction of the sandwich line (and everything falls back into perspective).

My favorite free software apps…

Some of the best software that I use on a regular basis are free open source or web 2.0 aps. In addition to being free, they rival and even surpass the 800 pound gorillas of the commercial software world. If you haven’t tried these out, you really need to take a couple of minutes to follow the links…

Web Editing
Kompozer – A great open source tool for web design that supports templates (compare with Adobe Dreamweaver).

Word Processing
Google Docs – An online word processor with collaborative writing features – I’m writing a book right now using only Google Docs (compare with Microsoft Word)

Financial Planning
Mint – An easy way to track personal finances and budgets with some great visualizations and notification options (compare with Intuit Quicken).

Web Browsing
Firefox – ok, this one isn’t new to anyone – but if I’m making a list of my favorite free software I have to include Firefox (compare with Microsoft Internet Explorer).

Media Conversion
You Convert It – A great web-based media conversion tool – even converts videos without installing anything on your computer (compare with Sorenson Squeeze and a whole bunch of other file conversion aps).

Audio Editing
Audacity – The easiest tool for doing audio recording and editing (compare with Sound Studio).

Page Layout
Scribus – A powerful, open source, page layout tool (compare with Adobe InDesign)

Power of Simulations – JetBlue Landing

Today I had the opportunity to hear “the rest of [a] story” which reaffirmed my belief in the power of gaming and simulations for learning. Several months ago we all watched an amazingly perfect landing of a JetBlue flight landing in LAX with broken front landing gear. In fact the landing was smoother than many that I have seen with working front landing gear. When the pilot was questioned as to how he pulled off such a perfect landing he simply responded, “well, I’d done it 8 times before (and only crashed twice)”. The pilot was referring to the simulations he had performed previously to make the task so automatic that when the real event occurred he knew exactly how to land a plane, even under very strenuous circumstances.

As teachers it’s important to think about finding ways to allow our students to fail (in a safe environment) so that they will have the necessary experience when perfect performance is required. For more information, check out gaming and simulations

Google Docs

If you haven’t become converted to Google Docs yet, take a minute to create an account and play around. Google Docs is more than just a word processor, it is a tool that has the ability to change the way we interact with others. Google Docs was built from the ground up as a collaborative tool. Here are two examples of how Google Docs can enhance collaboration.

1. Think of how many times you’ve written a document and attached it to an e-mail to send to a friend for feedback. If you’ve ever co-authored a paper you’ve probably done it 100 times. Even if you are using Track Changes in Word, you can only really collaborate with one person at a time before the versions get out of sync (and you can’t work on the document yourself until the feedback has come back). With Google Docs you can simply drop in the e-mail address of someone you want to work with and they will have access to view or edit your documents.

2. Once you’ve written something, the next step is to share it. By using the “Publish” feature in you can also publish any doc you’ve written to the web. Google Docs connects directly to just about any blog so you can actually post to your blog right out of Google Docs (in fact that’s how this post ended up on my blog).

For more information, visit Google Docs.

The Onion on Wikipedia

Two of the most informative resources on the internet collided. I just found an article in The Onion (in my opinion some of the world’s finest reporting) on Wikipedia (the world’s best encyclopedia). I thought you might enjoy it as much as I did.

The Onion on Wikipedia

Starting the learning experience

As I’ve attended classes and presentations and conferences over the years, I’ve come to realize how poorly many learning experiences begin. Typically a learning experience starts with a brief welcome to those who are present and then jumps right into the first lecture or demonstration. Clearly no thought is given to how to set the tone for the event. Perhaps even more frustrating is the idea that the learning experience can’t start until everyone arrives physically in the same place. I’ve reflected on how much more valuable face to face learning experiences could be if we would put some thought into preparing our learners for the experience before they come together in person. Today I saw an approach to starting a learning experience that DID take these factors into consideration. To launch the Learning 2006 conference, Elliot Masie created a video-based orientation segment to prepare the learners for participation in the conference. Take a minute to look at this orientation and think about how much more effective a learning experience can be by taking the time to preparing learners ahead of time.