What are some easy-to-use Service Design Tools…? Part 3 – Customer Journey Maps

Customer Journey Map.001

Customer journey maps are another simple but powerful tool from the Service Design toolkit.

These sit nicely with the other tools I’ve been looking at including Stakeholder maps and using Personas.

The idea is that you map out in a highly visual way the experience of a person (or persona) over time. You can do this for different purposes. Some of these might include:

  • Collecting real-life stories from users. In my case, this might include learners or tutors.
  • Understanding how services work – don’t work as the case may be. A journey map might help you identify pain points and roadblocks or potential inefficiencies that you want to target.
  •  Envisioning future services.

All you need really is a bunch of sticky notes and a decent wall space. I like the style below where you also map the emotional ups and downs of the user journey as well.

I haven’t used this one yet, but I’ve been thinking through how I could use it in the implementation phase of the current project.

Customer Journey Map.002

What are some easy-to-use Service Design Tools…? Part 2 – Using Personas


Another easy to use and super helpful tool from the Service Design toolkit is to develop and use personas.

Here’s an alternative definition to the one in the image above from this great website:

Each persona is based on a fictional character whose profile gathers up the features of an existing social group. In this way, the personas assume the attributes of the groups they represent: from their social and demographic characteristics to their own needs, desires, habits and cultural backgrounds.

Personas can be assumption-based or research-based. And sometimes one leads to the other.

For my project, I needed to develop personas that were composites of different kinds of tutors, educators and other support personnel working in the foundation education sector.

My process for this evolved over time and I would modify it based on each group I worked with. But the basic idea was this:

  1. Get a group of tutors together who share common attributes. An example might be that they all work in an ESOL context with refugees and migrants, or that they work with Māori learners in a particular special character context.
  2. Talk about my project in a way that makes sense to the participants. Often this involved telling the story of the most recent personas created from a previous group. And then drawing out differences or similarities to their own contexts.
  3. Set up a task with two or three key questions. In this way, they were able to describe the kind of work they do and evidence that they might bring to the table.
  4. Facilitate a discussion around the emerging categories. Usually, I’m finetuning the categories with each group. By the end, I had a good idea about what categories would encompass all of the different kinds of responses I was likely to encounter.

My questions were specific to the context of my project. For example, we were looking to create a draft professional standards framework for educators and others. This meant that there were three key questions to ask.


Responses didn’t give me the broad categories I needed for the framework. Rather, the responses allowed me to play with different categories and see how the responses fit.

The result: Now I have a selection of personas that I can use to tell stories about different kinds of tutors who may be affected by the new service that we are looking to design. This cuts across a lot of technical jargon and needless education-speak.

And that makes it easier for me to pitch the work to others when I need to in a very user-friendly way.

What are some easy-to-use Service Design Tools…? Part 1 – Stakeholder maps

Map 2.001

The idea with a stakeholder map is that you can visually represent all of the various groups involved in a service. This might include organisations, staff, experts and others.

I got to this late. So the image above is one that I did retrospectively after I did the Service Design course at Auckland Uni. I’d already made a start on my project but it was still helpful. The context for me is education service provision.

What it made me realise, is that when I encounter difficulties it’s because the network of relationships in my field is complex. No kidding, right?

But this helped me realise that it’s a bit like an ecosystem. Which is a polite way of saying that it’s really like a swamp.

Here’s how I mapped my stakeholders:

  1. I started with my project in the centre.
  2. Then I listed all of the key organisations or types of organisations that I needed to work with or talk to.
  3. Then around the outside, I added other influences.
  4. Finally, I added questions that I needed to think about.

What I haven’t shown on here – that some people like to add – is arrows showing linkages and relationships between organisations and groups.

If I did it would start to look like a crazy wall very quickly.

The way I’m using this now is that if I need to, I can structure discussion or thinking around one or more aspects of what I’ve mapped. And at the same time hopefully not lose sight of the bigger picture (which sometimes has a habit of slipping away when you go down a particular rabbit hole).

Key to acronyms in case you read this far.

  • TEC = Tertiary Education Commission.
  • SME = Subject matter experts.
  • ITP = Institute of Technology and Polytech.
  • PTE = Private Training Establishment.
  • WPL = Workplace literacy.
  • NCLANA = National Centre for Literacy and Numeracy for Adults (Now defunct).
  • ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages.
  • ITF = Industry Training Federation.
  • ACE = Adult Community Education.
  • NZCALNE = New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education.
  • NZCATT = New Zealand Certificate in Adult Tertiary Teaching.
  • NZQA = New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
  • PLD = Professional Learning & Development.
  • HEA = Higher Education Academy.


What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 3: Tools


Tools for your (mostly) digital toolbox

The other day I outlined some of the ideas, approaches, and tools that I’ve started using in my work in education that have made my life easier and more manageable.

Mostly, I’ve borrowed these concepts and tools from the world of start ups, entrepreneurship, and design.

Then I suggested a short self assessment activity that you could do if you were interested in pursuing this direction yourself. The purpose here is just self awareness.

If you’re perfectly happy doing what you’ve always done, then please carry on. In fact, click away now and look at some more cat videos.

However, if you think that there might be better ways of working and you’re curious about what some of the tools might be to help you with this, then please read on.

Project and task management



  • What is it? Basecamp is a web-based project management tool.
  • How do I use it? You create projects that are based around groups of tasks that you can assign to different people and dates. You can also use it to store emails, attachments, and documents. It’s simple to use and extremely powerful.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I haven’t tried it but it looks like you can get basecamp free as a teacher if you have a look here. There are many other different kinds of project management applications available.

Moleskin Notebook


  • What is it? It’s an overpriced, but very durable hard cover notebook with an elastic band around it to hold it together.
  • How do I use it? Because I do so much work online, this is my attempt to make sure I keep using paper. I use my notebook for managing smaller day to day to-do lists and tasks as well as for ideas and taking notes.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Of course. Any notebook will work, or make your own out of scrap paper.

Cloud-based productivity tools

Google Apps for Work


  • What is it? Custom email, cloud-based file storage, shared calenders, word processing, spreadsheets and more online from my phone, laptop, and iPad. Basically, this is Gmail, Drive, gDocs, and gSheets.
  • How do I use it? 4 dedicated ALEC email addresses used by my team, Drive for shared documents, gDocs and gSheets for collaborating and writing.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Your basic gmail account is free and includes most of this, but you have to pay if you want to deploy across and organisation.


Screenshot 2015-07-02 13.44.37

  • What is it? Online storage and notes.
  • How do I use it? I use Evernote like a virtual filing cabinet, particularly for things that I’ve finished with that I don’t want to delete, but I don’t need paper copies lying around for. It’s also a great task manager and place for compiling research or notes for projects. I also use it for clipping documents from websites that I want to save for reading later. Evernote is massively powerful and I like it, but I have run into issues trying to use it which I’ve written about here and elsewhere.
  • Anything free or cheaper? It’s already free, unless you go premium for more storage.



  • What is it? Online file storage.
  • How do I use it? I use Dropbox as an alternative to Google Drive and for file sharing with others that I’m collaborating with. It’s also my archive for lots of old course materials and hard drives dating back about 10 years.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Basic account is free but you’ll need to pay if you want increased storage. I pay US$100 per year for a TB of online storage.

Other digital creative tools

USB Microphone

Yeti mic

  • What is it? It’s a microphone that is designed to connect directly to my computer via a USB cable. I like the Yeti Blue USB mic shown here which I’ve reviewed before. But I’ve also been coveting this one for a while now as well.
  • How do I use it? I use the mic for recording audio for podcast style recordings and for laying audio tracks over slideshows that I can then upload to YouTube.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Chances are that the computer you are using already has a mic built in. Also, so does your phone. The quality on these may vary as well. Have a look online – there are plenty of USB mics cheaper than the Yeti.

Audio editing software

Screenshot 2015-07-02 16.54.50(2)

  • What is it? Here I’m referring to software applications that allow you to record, mix, and master digital audio.
  • How do I use it? I use this kind of software to create podcast style audio tracks like these for the training I do and for this blog.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Yes. I also use and really like a free piece of software called Audacity. It doesn’t look quite as racy as Gargeband, but It’s very powerful and as good as anything you can buy. You can download it here for free.

Tablet and stylus

tablet and stylus

  • What is it? It’s a drawing tablet and pen made by a company called Wacom. It’s expensive, but it’s fantastic to draw with.
  • How do I use it? I use it to draw illustrations for slides, blog posts, and other print or digital content.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have an iPad or other tablet there are all sorts of cheap or free drawing apps you can download and use with just your finger or a cheap stylus. If you want to buy a stylus you can get one for around $20 from an office supply or computer shop.

Drawing software

Screenshot 2015-07-02 16.30.17

  • What is it? A software application that you use with the tablet and stylus. I’ve just made the shift to Adobe Illustrator which is now a subscription-based service as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • How do I use it? I use it for creating and editing vector-based graphics and illustrations. It has been, and still is, a steep learning curve.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I started with a free drawing and digital mark up app that I still use called Skitch that you can download on your computer, ipad or phone and that integrates with Evernote. From there I went to a free, open source Illustrator equivalent called Inkscape which I used for a long time.

Video and image capture


  • What is it? Currently, I just use my iPhone for any and all images. I’ve used a much older Sony HandyCam for video work, but my iPhone can do this pretty well also, I’m at the stage where I need to probably upgrade. Currently, I’d like to get something like the camera below which would do high quality video capture as well as take excellent photographs. I’m also considering getting a dedicated video shotgun microphone to use this with. This is a significant investment and I’ve been putting it off.
  • How do I use it? I use the camera on my iPhone all the time. I don’t like using the Sony HandyCam as it doesn’t play nicely with the video editing software.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Most people have a built in video camera on their smartphone. These can be cheap and cheerful, but it’s a simple way to get started creating multimedia content. Using a good mic is probably more important. People will suffer through poor video content as long as they can hear what’s going on.

Image editing software


  • What is it? Software and apps for editing your photographs and digital images. I use an app on my iPhone called Camera+ and I also occasionally use iPhone which comes preinstalled on my Mac.
  • How do I use it? I use Camera plus for cropping and editing photos. It also comes with some nice filters which I also use. For example, the sepia tinged photo of my desktop with the Yeti microphone further up the screen was shot on my iPhone and edited in Camera+
  • Anything free or cheaper? iPhoto is free as long as you have a Mac. There are plenty of cheap photo editing apps for your smartphone.

Video editing software


  • What is it? This is a specific software application that I use to record, edit, mix and master my video files. I purchased Apple’s Final Cut Pro last year. It’s easier to use than the audio software and I like it a lot.
  • How do I use it? I use this for editing and mastering video footage which I can then upload to YouTube. The quality depends on the quality of the video footage captured. I’ve been a bit disappointed with what I got from the Sony HandyCam, but you can have a look at some video footage that I edited with this software here. Like with any of these applications, I’m not an expert and I tend to work out how to do things “just in time”.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have a device that can record video, you probably already have some built in video editing capability. There are plenty of apps you can download that will help with this for a reasonably low cost.

What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 1: Ideas, concepts, tools

Build dynamic content

Literacy and numeracy is a tough business to work in due to the increasing demands of… well, everything.

I have a conference workshop coming up soon and I’m going to argue that one of the things that has worked well for me (in terms of daily survival) is training myself to think and act more like an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs have to live with risk and uncertainty. They also have to make decisions based on incomplete information. And then there’s the fact that sometimes you just never get a return on your investment of time, energy, and other resources.

Just like a lot of us in education…

But also, entrepreneurs approach the world through quite a different lens to educators and bureaucrats.

This change in how I think has helped me with my teaching, my approach to course development, and with my business overall.

Keep in mind, I’m not against student centred approaches and all of that goes with that. I’m firmly on the side of student centred approaches and these are central to what we teach and how we work with our students.

What I’m on about here is taking stock of what I do and looking for what is going to help me stay alive and hopefully thrive in my work. So let’s get us-centred for just a minute.

Given that some days it feels like a knife fight, you might wonder why you (or I) keep on working in education. The answer has something to do with making the world a better place and changing people’s lives.

But that aside, here are some of the things that I think entrepreneurs do that I’ve tried that make my work in education better for me. I’m not saying that they’ll work for you. But they’ve worked for me.

Each of these sounds kind of simple, but it’s taken me years to understand what they mean for me. Feel free to adopt, adapt or ignore.


  • The customer: This is not as simple as it sounds in education. I know who my customers are.
  • Business model design: I know what’s under the hood. I know how revenue is generated. I’m very clear on how my business model works and how the components fit together. And by implication I know how the components can be taken apart, remixed, and put back together again.


  • Design thinking: I have my own version of this but when it comes to developing courses and materials, maintaining them over time, and updating them – I have very explicit processes including brainstorming, prototyping, and iteration. This allows me to create content that is dynamic and evolving.
  • Systems thinking: Over time I’ve designed a very effective system for managing the professional development and training that we deliver. In a nutshell, there’s a list of over a hundred things that have to happen from student enquiry, through the training process, up to when we digitally archive a student’s file after graduating… and these have to happen for every single person regardless of when they start. I have another system for understanding our quality assurance processes and others for teaching and explaining key concepts and various aspects of our training.

Tools and apps

  • Project and task management: I use a cloud-based project management software application to run all aspects of student and learning management. It’s highly customised and means we can work from anywhere with a small team. The software runs the system. And it’s scalable and I could duplicate it for other courses if I needed to.
  • Cloud based productivity tools: I use Google Apps now for all email, word processing, and most spreadsheets. These tools work across all devices and platforms and I’m not chained to any one computer, device, or physical location.
  • Other digital creative tools: This is a relatively new area for me. Here the tools move away from productivity and into graphic design and audio visual recording. I have a drawing tablet and stylus that I use for illustrations, a microphone for recording audio, a camera for video, and a range of different software applications for editing, mixing, and mastering various kinds of digital media.

I’d be interested to know what works for you. Let me know in the comments.

How do I get started on Literacy and Numeracy Diagnostic Assessment – and Assessment 4 of the NCALNE (Voc)


If you’re like a lot of people doing the NCALNE (Voc) literacy and numeracy professional development, you realise there’s a bit of what I call “heavy lifting” to do when you get to this stage.

This not because literacy and numeracy diagnostic assessment is any harder than any other part (well… it might be), but the main thing is that you’ve got to start working with a couple of learners that you need to track through the test-teach-test format of Assessments 4, 5, and 6.

For Assessment 4 on LN Diagnostic you need to actually go and do a bunch of things including using the TEC assessment tool as well as a couple of more contextualised assessments of your own.

This is also the point where you need to start thinking about learning plans as well, so there’s quite a lot going on.

With this in mind, I’ve tried to compile a collection of various links and resources that might help if you need them.

  1. As always, if you haven’t already, all of our course content is available for free in interactive modules on the Pathways Awarua literacy and numeracy learning platform. You can find the instructions on how to register here if you haven’t already. We have a unique ALEC join code so email us for it if you need it (assess@alec.ac.nz)
  2. Don’t forget to check what’s already in your ALEC Study Guide and Assessment Guide for this part of the course.
  3. We’ve also got a great one-page handout that summarises the connections between assessments 4, 5, 6 – email us for a copy if you haven’t got it already.
  4. If you need a refresh on what’s required, I’ve got a short audio-only podcast of me talking through the assessment requirements here.
  5. There are video clips on diagnostic assessment and Assessment 4 of the NCALNE (Voc) that you can watch on our Youtube channel.
  6. And then there are various resources relating to diagnostic assessment on this blog including:
  7. If you’re working on this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, your employer will need to have paid your course fee in order to unlock the assessment module.
  8. And if you’re a paid up student and you’re not completing this through the Pathways Awarua MOOC, you can email us (assess@alec.ac.nz) for the latest version of the template for assessment Task 4.
  9. Otherwise, give us a call to discuss (0800-ALEC-1-2) or email us anyway (assess@alec.ac.nz) and we’ll be in touch to help explain or clarify.

“Weaving” versus “tools for your toolbox” as metaphors for embedding literacy and numeracy

embedding = weaving

I’ve talked about metaphors before here. But I just wanted to add a few thoughts. My thinking behind this is that when I working with tutors, I often want to describe what we do in terms of something else that I think they already understand.

Since starting this work in 2007 the main metaphor that I’ve used is the “tools for your toolbox” approach. This metaphor works for trades because trades people use physical tools and they get it when I talk about teaching approaches, strategies, and activities as literacy and numeracy “tools” that go in their bigger “toolbox” of education and training tools.

But we also talk about embedding literacy and numeracy in terms of weaving. This metaphor comes from the world of Maori education. I wish it was original to me but it’s totally not. I’ve heard it used by many different Maori educators in different contexts and I’ve started using it myself.

It works really well. For one thing, it feels kind of organic. This is important, especially for educators who are looking for meaning outside of the more academically focused western intellectual model of mainstream education.

Another thing about the weaving metaphor is that it allows people to think of their teaching and training as a kind of real object with these mixed threads woven through it. On the one hand there are the the threads relating to content and context. And on the other, there are another set of threads relating to literacy and numeracy.

This thinking also underlies the Maori early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki which takes the woven flax mat as a metaphor.

Finally, by thinking of the embedding process, educators can see how they are also weaving other things through their training – often in addition to the literacy and numeracy which should now be business as usual. And here I’m thinking specifically of the Kaupapa Maori value system that really drives Maori and other educators working in this space.

For those new to this kind of thinking, if you see these values (wellbeing, contribution, belonging, language, exploration, for e.g.) as a further thread running though your training and interactions, you can do what we do with the literacy and numeracy. This is to make it explicit to your learners, have great conversations with them about it, and explicitly embed the value system.

I’m not saying that learners can’t learn these values or thrive in this kind of environment when they are more implicit, but our foundations-focused learners really need these values and given the chance can learn them explicitly. Just like with literacy and numeracy.

So there you go. Get the value system out of stealth mode as well and onto the radar.

Image 18-06-13 at 8.43 AM