Using Lucidchart for process mapping in our education organisation

We’ve just started using a new software application as part of our drive to do everything in the cloud.

We recently signed up for Google Apps for Business and shifted our emails into the Google Mail system, are integrating Google Drive for cloud-based storage and we’re starting to play with some of the other applications that also integrate with Google Apps.

One of these is Lucidchart – an online process mapping and diagramming application. I spent this morning playing with it and mapping out a couple of things for our local education programme which we call SMART.

The diagram below is the big picture for what we do with SMART in Taupo, through the inquiry stage, application and enrolment stage, and then into our teaching and training including needs analysis, literacy numeracy diagnostic processes, and several online learning platforms that we use with learners. The version below is several iterations on from the original that I brainstormed with our Taupo team.

SMARTILNTheBigPictureMy plan is to shift most of our quality management related processes into this format. The advantages seem to be something like this:

  • The diagrams and process maps in the cloud and integrated with Google Apps.
  • Our team can share and collaborate on these easily across Mac and PCs from work, at home, or on the road.
  • We don’t need a printed QMS any more… our new Google Drive including Lucidchart processes and diagrams will replace our old paper-based QMS.
  • The software is easier to use than what I used to do which was use the flowchart boxes in Microsoft Word. I don’t need or want all the bells and whistles available in Word when I’m mapping out a process so Lucidchart works well.
  • Rather than saving and re-saving a static document to Dropbox, I’ve got a dynamic browser-based document integrated with Google Apps.
  • Lucidchart is keen to support educational organisations so we have a free licence for a year. Thanks guys…!
  • And they do nice curvy arrows with no drama.

I’ll do the same thing with our NCALNE (Voc) and other business processes moving forward this year. I hope to transform our quality management system into something which is more dynamic, cloud-based, and alive. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Anyone doing anything similar? Let me know in the comments.

Setting the scene for tutor professional development with managers and others

How do you convince managers and others of the value of professional development for possibly resistant staff?

This is especially an issue for us when dealing with something that sounds inherently mysterious and difficult, i.e. embedding literacy and numeracy.


Here’s part of the approach I’m planning for this year as I get ready for a series of “Taster” workshops. What’s outlined below is what I think I need to cover before I even get into the whole literacy numeracy thing.

Setting the scene

  1. Discuss and then review what people already know (or think they know). This is necessary to tease out assumptions and expectations.
    1. Learners: Who are they? What do we know about them? What do they know? What kind of training do they do? What kind of training do they need?
    2. Tutors: Same questions
  2. Outline a model for educational business development. Briefly explain the three dimensions outlined below. Ask what percentage of time people probably spend in each. Our assumption is that it’s probably about 70% tactical (the day-to-day), 20% pragmatic (the system), and about 10% strategic (professional learning and improvement). Our intent is to develop all areas through the upcoming training.
    1. Tactical: Most tutors and trainers spend most of their time here. This is the technical and day-to-day focus of training and relies on an existing toolbox of teaching tools and strategies. We will introduce new tools and techniques.
    2. Pragmatic: Most tutors and trainers rely on a few good systems based on past success for managing their learners and instruction. Our professional development will introduce a best-practice system for developing and improving tutors and learners.
    3. Strategic: Most tutors and trainers have a limited vision for moving their training and their learners into the 21st century. Our training will allow tutors to learn, improve, reflect on what they do, and imagine future possibilities.
  3. Outline a basic version of the Educator’s Journey. Highlight the stages and connect to the professional development training on offer. Our job is to take participants, move them from resistant apprentices to motivated practitioners, and hopefully set up the conditions for mastery.
    1. Apprentice: The apprentice is an outsider and starts with a limited awareness of the issues; they may be resistant, needs to learn the rules of the game, and is often afraid or confused to begin with.
    2. Practitioner: The practitioner has begun to practice and this results in fluency and and increase in confidence. They are active and creative, observing and imitating best practice examples and mentors, overcoming problems and seeing the connections.
    3. Master: Mastery is an ongoing process but it starts to happen when the pracititioner internalises the system, begins to see the big picture, and tries out their own ideas. They begin to apply their skills in a deeper way, perhaps re-writing the rules as they go.

What do you think…? Have I missed something…?

The Educator’s Journey Revisited

I’ve written previously about the Educator’s Journey here and here and here. This is a shorter more visual version of essentially the same thing. This version is influenced by Robert Green’s new book Mastery which I’ve just started listening to.

Educator's Journey Simplified.031We see this progression in basic terms when we deliver our NCALNE (Voc) professional development.

Our focus is on helping tutors and trainers develop the skills and tools they need for embedding literacy and numeracy into their trades and vocational training. I guess there are different levels of each of these stages, but you get the picture…

With regards to Mastery, I like the idea that the tutor’s classroom is a kind of martial arts dojo and practice hall. The opportunities and challenges that present themselves are an opportunity for personal development… a place where we learn to master ourselves as we experiment with new skills, observe and imitate our mentors, play with and internalise new concepts and ideas, overcome problems and ultimately understand the connections between things, see the big picture, and apply what we’ve learned at deeper levels.



Here’s a broad and largely unsupported generalisation for 2013 moving forward:

  • All education businesses (whether for profit or not) are now education technology businesses. Whether we (or they) like it or not.

Here’s another one:

  • Because most teachers and trainers spend most of their time doing the busy work of teaching and training they don’t maximise their ability to make a difference or improve.

Here’s what I think it looks like most of the time.

How most teachers work.029Most of what we do is largely uninformed by much in the way of any kind of forward facing strategy (x) about the learning and learners. We rely on a few trusted systems based on past experiences (y). And spend most of our time doing the technical work of teaching and training (z).

I’m not suggesting that it’s possible or even desirable to equalise time between these different aspects of teaching, but I do think that we need to periodically shift our focus from the technical, everyday work of teaching with it’s focus on managing the present reality of our learners, to both a strategic and systems-level view.

Really great teachers have great strategies in place for themselves and their learners. And just like any master craftsperson, great teachers and trainers use great systems that are continually reviewed and tweaked.

These strategic and pragmatic aspects of teaching are more critical than ever as we adjust to a teaching and training landscape where everything, including our teaching tools, becomes more integrated with technology. We need to envision new possibilities for ourselves and our learners, as well as the systems we need to teach, train, and facilitate.

Making time for personal and professional development as part of our own ongoing learning is not optional then. It’s necessary for survival.

Here’s my personal and organisational education technology business development plan (or #edtechbizdev for short).

#edtechbizdev 2013

#edtechbizdev 2013


My plan is to make 2013 the year that we:

  • Push most of our work and working processes online (*Cloud).
  • Make a concerted effort to document our evolving systems, processes, and results so that we can work on them (*Evidence).
  • Make a difference in the lives of our learners, staff, contractors, colleagues, and whanau everywhere (*Difference).
  • Look for opportunities to make ourselves and others happy as a result of the work that we do (*Happiness).

Do achieve this we’re not going to stop doing the tactical work that we already do, i.e. the teaching, training, facilitating of embedded literacy and numeracy.

But we are going expand what we do in the other spheres: the strategic and pragmatic. I’m just not sure what it’s going to look like yet. I’ll keep you posted though.

Thoughts and comments? Please let me know (especially if you’ve never commented before).



ALEC’s New Year’s Resolutions

I’m looking at a couple of new year’s resolutions for work in 2013. One is that I want to start the year with some key themes.



Being a vocabulary geek these basically break down into a list of verbs and nouns.

Verbs for 2013

  • Learn
  • Improve
  • Systematise
  • Simplify

Nouns for 2013

  • Cloud
  • Evidence
  • Difference
  • Happiness

The other thing is that I want to play with a couple of new software applications inside the business.

Three new software applications

In 2014 we’ll be due for our next External Education Review (EER) by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). We’re in pretty good shape but my plan is to tie together a bunch of things. So planning a improve all internal systems including how these are documented and how we generate evidence is a key driver here.

Another driver is to increase our internal learning as a small business. This includes my own personal learning. I’m looking forward to playing with some new online toys. One is Google Apps. I’ve been using Google to run my emails for a while now, but we recently did it properly by hiring a specialist to untangle it all and sort it out for us. This means that we’re now set up for the whole suite of applications available in Google Apps for Business so I’m keen to see how we can make these work. We’ve been using Dropbox for a while too, but I like the integration between Google’s mail application and Google Drive for online file storage and sharing.

I’ve also been hunting for a good application to use for business process mapping and general diagramming. I’m going to have a go with Lucidchart as it integrates with Google Apps and we can work on things collaboratively.

This is part of my drive to document the systems that we’ve been evolving but have them in some kind of dynamic format. But creating systems-related diagrams and flowcharts online that we can share and contribute to I’m hoping that these will become living documents that accurately describe what we do. And by trying to write them down I’m also hoping we can continue to simplify and streamline some of these systems.

Working in education there is always a tendency to let the systems get bloated and bureaucratic. We’ve always fought against this, but I want to make a concerted effort in 2013.

Finally, I’ve started working with Silicon Coach Live which is the online learning platform used to create Pathways Awarua. I hope to have a “lite” version of ALEC’s NCALNE (Voc) course available as a free professional development pathway soon.

I’m also convinced that we have an education business that does make a difference and does work to increase our own and others’ happiness in the world. However, by setting these up as themes from the beginning of the year, I want to make it more of a deliberate focus moving forward.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments…

Developing Writing Skills: Purpose and Audience

Here’s a set of questions that I might use as a generic pre and post activity for a portion of my proposed Writing Workshop that I’ve been thinking about.

Purpose and audience

Purpose and audience


I want to have various interchangeable parts that tutors can put together, so this is one attempt at constructing a set of questions that learners might use when assessing their own work or that could be adapted for peer assessing one another’s work with regards to one of the writing skills focus areas: purpose and audience.

These are for adult learners working on their literacy skills in an adult education context.

Front loading: Words about writing that I need to know

  • Purpose
  • Goals
  • Register
  • Tone

Possible questions to ask before writing a draft

  1. What is my overall purpose for writing here? In other words, why am I writing?
  2. Can I break down my overall purpose for writing into a series of purpose-related goals? In other words, what are my specific goals here with regards to this situation and audience?
  3. How can I use these goals to shape how I plan, compose, and revise my writing?
  4. Who am I writing for? In other words, who is my audience?
  5. What is (and is not) appropriate for me to say to this audience?

Possible questions to ask after writing a draft

  1. Purpose: Is it obvious why I wrote this? Have I achieved my purpose? 
  2. Communicative effect: Have I achieved the specific, purpose-related task goals that I set earlier? Have I oriented the reader? Have I supported the reader’s understanding? Have I influenced the reader?
  3. Register: Is it obvious that I know who I’m writing to? Have I addressed the reader in a way that is appropriate for the task? Does this have a written or oral “feel”? Which is more appropriate?
  4. Information: Have I provided enough information? Are there any gaps? Is the information relevant to the task here? Have I expressed myself clearly? Is my information easily understood?

What do you think? What else could I add (or take out)?

Writing Skills Workshop: Improving Literacy Learners’ Writing Skills

Another project that is on my mind for this year is a writing workshop for dealing with common kinds of writing texts and issues that learners face.


Here’s the basic idea:

Employ a structure that teaches a specific approach to writing

  1. Planning: Using free writing and mindmaps and other tools to generate ideas for writing; Organising and categorising ideas then outlining a structure.
  2. Composing: Writing well linked sentences and paragraphs incorporating relevant information or ideas.
  3. Revising: Revising the writing in terms of the writing skills outlined below.
  4. Editing: Proofreading using appropriate tools to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Create a bank of text types, scenarios, examples, and writing frames

  • Fill in a form
  • Write a note
  • Write a letter
  • Write an email
  • Write a handout
  • Write instructions
  • Write an advertisement
  • Write a response to situations vacant
  • Write an explanation
  • Write a short report
  • Write a long report
  • Write a Curriculum Vitae or Resume

Then develop a series of multi-purpose tasks and activities that focus on particular skill areas could be applied to any of the text types learners are working on.

Develop Skill Focus Activities with Specific Purposes

  • Purpose and audience: Achieving the task; using appropriate register and tone, providing relevant information.
  • Spelling: Knowing the words from the 1K, 2K, and Academic wordlists including lists of commonly misspelt words.
  • Language: Choosing words and groups of words appropriate to the writing context.
  • Punctuation: Using appropriate punctuation including simple rules for noun capitalisation, apostrophes, and commas.
  • Sentences: Using correct grammar; expanding and elaborating simple sentences.
  • Cohesion: Using correct links within and between sentences; following a clear sequence.
  • Ideas: Generating relevant, extended, and elaborated ideas with further detail including background information, examples, consequences, or results.

Initial set up

The first sessions would include:

  • Writing pre-tests including a sample of perhaps two short writing tasks
  • A brief survey on attitudes to writing
  • A short vocabulary diagnostics
  • The establishment of learning plans for the individuals or group.

All these resources would be templates created in advance with parallel tests for post-testing at the end of the training.


I’d like to have around 20 hours of instruction. And of this about half should be independent learning that extends the workshop and small group content. Over time, I’d like to build up enough examples and samples for different text types that would mean the workshop could be made to feel quite different each time it was run. The skills focus tasks would be generic so they could be applied to most or any of the different text types. Text types could be selected by the tutor, or based on learner needs analysis.

In terms of the workshop format, I’d probably do something like this:

  1. Welcome and lesson review including of independent learning tasks from previous session.
  2. Preview of today’s session and content: Discuss text type(s) under examination.
  3. Ten minutes free writing
  4. Self assessment relating to the day’s content
  5. Skills focus 1 (30 to 45 mins max)
  6. LN filler or fun practice activity
  7. Skills focus 2 (30 to 45 mins max)
  8. Extension or other complementary activity if appropriate or time allows
  9. Session evaluation and wrap up discussion
  10. Set independent learning tasks with clear outcomes due by the next workshop session.

The kind of independent learning tasks will vary depending on the text types and skill focus, but would probably be designed to encourage learners to use computers including the internet and a word processor to generate texts typically between 200 to 500 words long.

Workshop post-test

Following the roughly 20 hours instruction learners will undertake a post test in parallel to the pre-test they did at the beginning. There’s opportunity here for us in New Zealand to then line this up with the official writing assessment that is part of the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment (LNAAT) tool currently in place.

Connection to US 26622

Another opportunity might be to line the workshops up with Unit Standard 26622: Write to communicate ideas for a purpose and audience. This standard relies on learners generating a portfolio of evidence for assessment purposes and is part of the suite of literacy and numeracy unit standards that we use in New Zealand.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.