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Tools of the Trade

  • By Conall Ryan
  • March 21, 2017

During this month’s SXSWedu conference, Dave McCool and I met for dinner on the patio of The Cedar Door in Austin to enjoy the weather and discuss the day’s events. We had just announced that Muzzy Lane offers individual licenses to our Author service (free to start; $29.99 per month for a personal license to create and deliver assignments to students).

Before SXSWedu, we had focused on institutional deals. In dining terms, we sold to restaurants and restaurant chains. Now we were ready to sell to the people who make the food.

As if on cue, two chefs walked out onto the patio with black canvas knife bags slung over their shoulders.

“Mind if I take your picture?” I asked.

“Uh, ok, I guess,” the tall one said. He had a beard and arm tattoos.

“As long as it’s not for social media,” the other added. Her hair was pulled back with a green headband and her smile asked who are these clowns?

They had the easy but intense demeanor of contestants on Chopped.

I promised I wouldn’t post the photo, which is why you won’t see them here, and explained that Muzzy Lane makes software tools that help instructional designers create active learning experiences; food for the brain instead of the stomach. That was enough to get the two chefs to talk shop.

Chefs are very picky about their knives.

“Which are your favorites?”

They rattled off a long list of names – too many to recall – but the enthusiasm in their voices was unmistakable. Both agreed that Misonos were the most versatile and held the sharpest edge. The chef with the green headband also likes Henckels and Wüsthof knives for their “everyday chopping power.” She carries both Japanese and German knives in her kit.

“Do you share them?” I asked.

They looked at each other and laughed. They share recipes. They share techniques. But no one touches his or her knives.

Both chefs frequently update the knives they carry. They value the opinions of their peers. But each knife has to prove itself over time to earn its way into their bags. A superior product could replace one of the “chosen ones” at any time.

What a chef looks for in a knife:

  • Affordable
  • Sharp blade that holds its edge over a long period of time
  • Helps you do your job faster
  • Balanced and easy to use
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Suited to a specific task

What a course designer looks for in an authoring tool:

  • Affordable
  • Makes it easy to slice-and-dice (and update) learning content
  • Helps you do your job faster
  • Balanced and easy to use
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Suited to a specific task

Of all the tools chefs work with on a daily basis it’s only knives that they won’t let out of their sight.

Chefs are protective and passionate about which knives they use because knives are the tools that translate their culinary skills into fine dining experiences. If they deliver enough of those experiences they will move on to bigger restaurants and better salaries.

If you’re making courseware instead of food, you carry authoring tools from one project to another. You might use an Adobe tool for one task; Articulate for another, reaching for each based on the benefits it delivers to your students. Such tools become an extension of your design thinking. You use them to put ideas into action. You need to upgrade your tools in order to improve learning outcomes for students.

At Muzzy Lane, we’re passionate about our Author service. We want to earn our way into your toolkit. Our goal is to help translate your course design expertise into engaging and effective learning experiences. We’ll sharpen the authoring tools and leave the content creation to you. It’s fast, cheap, and powerful. Please call or email us at sales@muzzylane.com if you’d like to learn more.