Saturday, December 5, 2015

Messages and Messengers

Messages and Messengers
The words that I say, E-mail, or text are messengers.

The question is:  Am I sending out angels or devils?
In a digital world where nothing is ever deleted, it is something to consider.
Many of the angels shown on these pages are from the collection of Herm and Connie Walters.
The Precious Moment angels are from the collection of Marni Frank.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jack-o-Lantern or Pumpkin Pie?

Pumpky Pumpkin is a happy pumpkin.
And do you know why?
Cuz he's a jack-o-lantern
Instead of being a pumpkin pie!

Happy Halloween,

Monday, October 19, 2015

Getting it Right

My Brother Was Wrong: My big brother was one of the first people to watch our Microsoft Office videos. He then offered several hours of “helpful,” unsolicited comments about the narration.
<Really? I don’t recall asking for advice.>

 Getting it Right: We struggled with the voice and narration. We wanted to record the narration the way it is taught in a live classroom. Something about the presentation and pacing is very effective.

We Succeeded. From one of our students: “This course was excellent. It was extremely efficacious in that it was designed to be hands-on, task based, with an incremental and coherent progression that clarified each skill that was to be developed in a manner that created a deep tacit understanding of the material. This was crucial because learning by rote, a teaching methodology I have encountered with other material, evaporates in the mind very quickly over a short period of time.

“In addition, Ms. Nofs' personal teaching style, evidenced in the course and in her online persona "The Computer Mamma," proved singularly useful in helping to highlight essential points and sustain interest in the material at hand.

“Her variations of intonation and stress combined with her use of pace, repetition, discourse markers, asides, rhetorical questions, etc., kept the material fresh and facilitated retention of the intended key points. It also made one feel as if a dialogue were being created between teacher/specialist and student. Her teaching style was very effective pedagogically.

“I highly recommend her courses – in person and online.”

P.M, Ph.B., M.A., A.D.V.S.






Teachers Pay Teachers

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Digital Design Theory: The BEST Job in the World

Digital Design Theory: I am really lucky. My job lets me color outside the lines and be creative. We had a blast with “Go, Blue” the video for Beginning Microsoft Word. Every screen has something animated.

Little Video Shows: I’ve wanted to do this since 1995 when I first figured out how eLearning would work. I saw that the story should be fun and educational. However, the story, or teaching, was only the top layer of many layers that linked to online content: reference links as well as up-sell links.

For our product, Microsoft Office, the story focuses on successful women and men who get the job done well. Our lessons show real world examples of practical solutions. I could draw it all out on storyboards, but how could anyone produce it in 1995?

The Computer Mama on PBS: I picked up the phone and called WFUM PBS in Flint. I announced (nope, didn’t ask) that I was going to do a program on computers. I had no television experience, no portfolio, not even a good suit. I was amazed when the Station Manager, Mr. Leon Collins, invited me to create a pilot program.

What fun! The hardware, the teleprompter and the editing software fascinated me. I remember Leon trying to explain the details of the co-production agreement but I just wanted to play with the talking Barney puppet and watch it interact with the program on PBS.

What did I learn? You should turn off the mic when you take a break. Everyone in the sound room heard me mouthing off to Mancini.

Great Software Works: Fast forward to 2015 and look at the tools that are available to teach and tell the story. The best shows can be produced on a desktop. The videos can have hyperlinks to more content online. The software is robust, affordable, and easy to use. The results are professional.

To my University of Michigan colleagues: Go Blue! Good luck, Coach Jim Harbaugh.

As Garrison Keillor sang: ”I’m, I’m from MICHIGAN and you’re from someplace else.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Digital Design Theory: Badges and Recognition

Designing a course at Udemy was interesting. After a teacher creates a course and uploads the videos and course materials, the course is reviewed before it is published. The review is thorough: video and audio quality, curriculum, approach. The reviewers’ comments included recommendations to improve the product.

Learning to Draw Between the Lines: Creating the videos was fun for about five minutes. Getting a professional product takes a little longer. I struggled with the sound: you have seen my posts here. Again and again the reviewers flagged the audio and made suggestions for improving the narration. It was frustrating to revise the work, but I couldn’t really get maaaad if all of these changes should make the product better…. 0_0

Mastering the Objectives…Finally:  Udemy uses digital badges to recognize major achievements and milestones. Badges are emailed when teachers finish various steps in the course design process.

I received several Badges for creating the Microsoft Excel 2013 video Guides.  This is my first experience getting positive feedback for completing a difficult task. Usually design and production includes cussing and crying, not colorful kudos.

This new approach is good. The Computer Mamas are going to include Badges with our courses.

The Computer Mama Guides to Microsoft Office Certification Training

Microsoft Office Specialist 2013 online at 

Microsoft Office Specialist 2010 at Cengage 

 Order the Books at

Teachers: Download the lessons at

NEW! Videos  Microsoft Excel 2013 at UDEMY

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Digital Design Theory: Look Who's Talking

Digital Design Theory: When I started teaching Microsoft Office, I was surprised how many people recorded my classes and how many audited the classes a second time. Who would want to hear eight hours of Excel Formulas…again?
We wanted to capture the spirit and action of the live classroom into videos. We also wanted to link all of the video lessons to our Microsoft Office Specialist certification training: 100% video coverage.

Now Appearing: Trying to capture the Live Performance into little video lessons has been challenging. Speaking in front of an audience is different from writing a textbook. The Computer Mama is a dynamic speaker: humorous, engaging, and knowledgeable.  Live classes have a relaxed pace: there is time to wait for the laughter or the a-ha responses. The videos seem to hurry-up. I find that I am editing the lessons and making them simple so that we can complete the steps in less than 10 minutes. The books have far more details and examples of how the software could be useful.  
Movies vs Books: Writing a textbook in the same manner as talking live in the classroom does not translate very well. The language of certification books is formal. The material is specific: “Click on Cell B2.”  However, even with the constraints of technical writing, the Computer Mama books have an author. There is someone with a voice and an attitude.  Students enjoy the sidebar comments from the Computer Mama and the picture stories in the margins. In comparison, many of the Microsoft Office books used in colleges are institutional: a collection of various writers with different methods of teaching.
Look Who’s Talking: We are working on different approaches to the narration on the little videos. Our BETA videos are available on YouTube. Keep in mind that publishing on YouTube flattens the video and removes the links to the online certification topics.  
The Computer Mama Guides to Microsoft Office Certification Training
Microsoft Office Specialist 2013 online at  
Microsoft Office Specialist 2010 at Cengage  
Order the Books at
Teachers: Download the lessons at
BETA YouTube Channel: The Computer Mama Guides
Outstanding Certification Training:

It is possible to cover technical material in a methodical, concise method… and still have fun.
This course offers you detailed, effective instruction to guide you through multiple lab exercises. Instructionally, you are provided with consistent and logical content, opportunities to practice the skills presented.
- November 11, 2012 ProCert Labs certifiies the Microsoft Excel 2010 Advanced Guide for the Microsoft Vendor of Approved Courseware program.
I did it! I passed the PowerPoint exam! She said it was the highest score she has seen. I scored 967 (required: 700) and I got 100% on everything but Working with Visual Content which was 89%!” - Student 
Emmitt Kelly Jr., Pt Barnum Circus from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Digital Design Theory: Design and Layout Matter

Ann Arbor is one of the “book capitals” of the world.  My favorite boss, John Lazaars, Typographic Insight, used to brag that there were more printing presses in Ann Arbor than in Heidelberg, Germany. The senior staff at the Computer Mamas grew up in the publishing industry. Jeanette was a proof reader for Edwards Brothers and I was one of the highest paid key liners.

Typographic Insight had dozens of typesetters who entered manuscripts into the system. The typesetting machines handled most business Fonts and sizes: Arial, Franklin Gothic, Helvetic, and Palatino. Specialized fonts were inked by hand and enlarged in the dark room.  

Rolls of Type:  A key liner was responsible for creating the actual books.  The type setting came out of the machines as long rolls of type. One roll would stretch across the office floor if you knocked it off the drawing board.  The key liner cut and pasted the type, chapter headings and graphics together into pages. These pages were actual size, ‘camera ready ‘for printing.

Printed Books:  There is a purpose to the layout and design of good books.  The font sizes and page layout are visual landmarks.

All chapters begin on the right page, not the left. The first page of the chapter is embellished, so it is easy to recognize and find again. It has been this way for over 500 years: This is our common history and experience that we have all shared.

Scrolls Online:  The early days of the Internet were interesting. Many people who had little or no publication experience were creating web sites.

I remember reading corporate web pages that seemed to scroll down through 20 feet of type. Sometime around the turn of the century people realized that the computer monitor, laptop, or iPad is horizontal, not vertical. Today’s webpages keep important navigation elements and headlines at the top of the screen.

Designed for Print:  Most books are still designed for print; portrait (the classic print layout), not landscape (the current digital layout). The eBooks, whether Adobe PDF or some online Reader, print out beautifully.

Reading an eBooks designed in portrait is a tedious task: scroll down, scroll right, scroll to the top of the next page. Repeat: scroll down, scroll right, scroll to the top of the next page. Repeat 3,146 times for the number of pages in the Microsoft Office Specialist certification books.

Design for the Device:  Our Computer Mama books fit on the screen. The ratio of height to width mirrors the current devices. There is no need to scroll left or right, up or down.

Our Users say they are easy to read. Imagine that: happy users!

“I have enjoyed updating my skills in general office procedures and learning new skills in Excel, Power Point, Word, and Outlook. I recognize the time and effort which was put into the text books for the MS 2010 software programs.

“The books are user-friendly and I liked the idea of adding a personal touch to the lessons by using pleasant pictures, words of encouragement, and extra information about an activity.

“I've had a very good experience and would consider taking more online classes in the future.

- T.L., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Emmitt Kelly Jr., Artist at Work,  from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank
Digital Design Theory: Observation, Orientation and Notation

Good teaching has a method for transferring knowledge. In math, students are taught theorems and proofs. The results may be written as a formula: a2 + b2 = c2. Chemistry has a specific language for teaching and documentation as well: H2O. Music has a written language, too, or we would have lost the works of Beethoven and Mozart. And so does computer technology.

Observation, Orientation and Notation: The Computer Mama method comes from years of teaching online and in the classroom.  We have been able to take a complex subject and teach it plain and simple.

Observation: Using the Words Each lesson explains the objective and how todays’ technology available can meet the goals. There are many ways to get the job done. Students want to know which ones work best.

Orientation: Thinking in Pictures Our Microsoft Office certification lessons include at least one image that shows the entire screen as well as a close up of the particular option. Menu Maps at the beginning of each lesson help the student focus on which Ribbons can complete the task.

Notation: Writing it Down Computer technology uses Breadcrumbs to document how someone can find one button among hundreds.  Breadcrumbs are printed above each image in our computer lessons so that our students can find their way back.

We teach the way you learn
"I did it! I passed the PowerPoint exam! She said it was the highest score she has seen. I scored 967 (required: 700) and I got 100% on everything but Working with Visual Content which was 89%!"- V.S., Student, Community College of Rhode Island

We write the way you teach
"Your instructions were great! They executed the skills with little to no problems. I was still able to help on some things which I enjoyed! Thanks so much!!”  -K.M., Teacher, TeachersPayTeachers

Emmitt Kelly Jr., Teacher,  from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank
Digital Design Theory: Watching a video does not make you an expert

We were late to my daughter’s birth at St Joseph’s Hospital because we were watching This Old House on PBS. My husband and I were avid fans of the programs that recycled old houses back to their glory days. However, watching TV did not make me an expert. My roof has a hole in it and I have no experience making repairs. I have lots of knowledge but my hands have never touched a hammer.

I would make the same comparison with learning computer applications: you can’t become a skilled professional just watching the videos. At some point, your hands have to learn the steps. Expertise is knowledge in motion.

Videos in a Flipped Classroom:  The best use of videos is to demonstrate a sequence of events. Students get to see the project from start to finish and how the instructor handled the options. 

I applied this concept to an Intro to Computer Productivity class at Washtenaw Community College. It is a required course that teaches beginning Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Here’s the plan I announced: If all of the students watched the videos prior to class, then we could walk through the 100 point projects together each Friday. Everyone would pass the course with high marks.

This worked out better than I hoped. As an instructor, I was pleased to teach students who understood the material. They were ready and informed. Students who did not watch the videos quickly learned that they were at a disadvantage when we worked on the various documents, spreadsheets and presentations. They did not know where to find the options so their progress was very slow.

Win-Win-Win:  This class has 97% attendance and their productivity skills are excellent. My students are getting between 90-100% on all of the assignments, including the quizzes and homework. Everyone wins: the students, the college and the future employer who gains an asset.

Emmitt Kelly Jr., Computer Whiz, from the Precious Moments Collection of Marni Frank