Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Nth Degree - what's in a name?

So after the last year or so of publishing my blog under the name the Learning Technologies Blog it dawned on me slightly ironic that in such a creative and inspiring world, here was my attempted words of wisdom with possibly the most dull and uninspiring sounding title since 'My Blog'.  The quest for a new title led me to look inwards - that's where the N comes from - but it left me several characters short of anything witty (but was more satisfying to my ego at least).  Anyway, cutting a short story long I went on to launch The Nth Degree - not yet a registered company for my awe-inspiring literary work (note; still to come) but hopefully a reasonable play on words that says a little bit about what this stuff is about and maybe shows at least a modicum of imagination if not inspiration.

That leads me to the 'what's in a name?' question the title of this blog poses.  The fact of the matter is that you will rarely find a more emotive subject than the naming of something.  It really doesn't matter what the thing is from the naming of your first-born and heir to the cat, car or even your LMS. Yes I know, the LMS gets its name out the box right?  I mean Total LMS is just that and SABA is SABA right?  But we deal mostly in the Open Source world and in that world your LMS isn't called Moodle (thankfully) or even Totara (although I like the big tree analogy of course); just like when you theme and brand it, you actually get to name it.  I'm lost in the number of i- or e- somethings (and no, now criticism if that's where you ended up) but I love it when an organisation truly starts to think about what their learning is all about and therefore what name they give to their LMS. 

Last blog I talked about one of my favourite subjects ownership, and I think naming your learning system is another way of taking ownership of the system.  If you get a new baby (okay I'm skipping some details here) you don't just accept the name the hospital gives you, it takes weeks and sometimes months to settle on a name (men; I realise the decision isn't yours but let's go along with it here..).  It's a big decision as you think about schools, life and what it would be like living that name (although if you're famous it's obviously a different criteria).  The same should be true of your learning systems; no-one expects to see their system reach into its twenties, but you are probably planning a few years of the system and want something that in two months isn't going to be a decision you (or even the LMS) wishes you hadn't made.

This is short and simple advice, but naming is best done with some others.  Like the best aspects of learning, collaboration is the key.  Bounce your ideas of others and test them out in conversation and be open to the suggestions of others.  I know one organisation that held a competition for the best name and logo for their system - a brilliant idea that got engagement prior to the launch and saved me heaps of time with designers!  One stage further would be to get those suggestions and put them out to the general vote - it's the sort of thing that's great for engaging stakeholders and a way of advertising without just saying 'look what's coming'.

Lastly remember that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet - that doesn't mean ignore what I said above, but remember that if you call your rubbish LMS a rose that's not what it may smell like to learners.  Likewise calling your LMS, child, cat etc a great name is no subsitution for raising it properly and looking after its growth and well-being.

Finally (like that's supposed to mean one more than lastly I know), if your LMS doesn't or can't really be named, give me a buzz when your 'licensing' expires in another 30 months and let's talk about how we can do this sort of thing better.