A Head of the Game

As a mother of three student- athletes, it was a dream when my son, Omahri Jarrett, received an offer to play college football for the Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) located in Atlanta.  Playing college football and receiving a top-tier education is something many parents and young boys dream about and few actually experience.  My family and I have witnessed him grow from a ‘tot’ playing Pop Warner football and learning the game to becoming a young man delivering (and receiving) big hits on the gridiron in high school.


Omahri Jarrett (left) fielding a tough catch during last season

The journey has been amazing and scary at times.  Omahri has played football for the past 11 years. Even after all this time, there still isn’t a game where I’m not concerned with his safety.  One hit and he could suffer life-altering injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, among children and adolescents, from birth to 19 years annually.[1] Nearly 4 million high school students nationwide suffer head injuries every year.

The violence of football has always been a matter of concern and the sport has seen periodic attempts at safety and reform.  To settle federal lawsuits filed by former student- athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) now impose strict new guidelines for diagnosing and managing players who suffer concussions and other head injuries – including the requirement that all athletes undergo a baseline neuro-cognitive test every year before entering competition. In fact, Virginia Tech researchers have conducted comprehensive testing on football helmets – both in the lab and on the football field.

That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the amazing work Banyan is doing to support helmet safety for athletes like Omahri.  Banyan has worked with CDC to create free tools that provide important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.  Some of these valuable resources include a free, interactive training for coaches; Heads Up to Parents, a website with resources for parents; an interactive helmet app; and resources for athletes, clinicians, and schools.

I know I’m a bit biased, but I think the work Banyan is doing in this area is phenomenal.  Not only does it raise awareness of an issue very dear to me, it also provides peace of mind.

It’s nice to know my son’s coaches have access to important information that can help keep him safe. In the fall of 2015, Omahri Jarrett will enter GA Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium knowing that his safety is a priority.  I’m proud to have played a small part in helping that happen.

Go Yellow Jackets!!


[1](2014, May 29). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/.


Storming the Beaches of Europe: A Parent’s Perspective

In early June of this year, I sent my teenage son off to Europe.  This was kind of a big deal because it was the first time that he had traveled anywhere without the rest of his family. It was a school trip that had been in the works for about 18 months – well planned and chaperoned – and one that he was very excited to be a part of.  His mom and I helped him pack, gave him lots of advice, and took him to the airport.  There, we stood around talking to other nervous parents about the trip, their kids, and our combined hopes that “nothing bad happens” while they are away.  This all happened on June 5th.

Next stop, Europe!

Next stop, Europe!

This date is important because 70 years earlier – to the day – young men, many of them the same age as my son, where lining up to board landing craft, airplanes, ships, and tanks to take part in the D-Day invasion of Europe.  There had been lots of media coverage in the days leading up to this anniversary, but as I stood there watching him walk away to board the plane, I had a sort of epiphany.

My Dad had been a solider in WWII, serving in the Army.  I’ve talked with him at length over the years about where he served, what battles he was in, what he saw, and how he felt about what he had witnessed.  I was (and am) proud that he made the sacrifice to serve his country when it needed him. But until that moment, as I watched my son turn and head down the ramp to the plane that would take him away into the great ‘unknown,’ I had never considered what it would have been like 70 years ago.  To be a parent watching their child go off to another part of the world – directly into harm’s way – and know that they may never return.

Now, I know my son was just going on an organized school trip, but it really struck me for the first time that there had been a whole generation of parents who had stood by and watched their sons and daughters go off to an uncertain future. Not knowing what lay ahead, but also understanding that action needed to be taken and that sacrifices would ultimately be made.  In fact, my grandparents had watched as four of their sons went off to war, and then had the strength to continue with their lives not knowing if or when an Army vehicle might arrive at their door bearing a telegram.

So next time you hear someone thank a veteran for their service, take a moment to also think of their brave parents. They also made a great sacrifice, one which should be recognized and appreciated.

By the way, my son came home safely.  He was so excited by his experience that, on the way home from the airport he wanted to know if he could go again next year.  My wife and I smiled to one another knowing we were both so happy and grateful that he had returned to us. In fact, we were so happy we were practically beaming as we turned to him – and in unison told him “no.”

Delivering on the Promise of eLearning

“We believe that learning technology offers the possibility for creating uniquely valuable learning experiences. We also believe, with a sense of sadness and profound frustration, that most elearning fails to live up to its promise.”

Manifesto shield imageThis quote begins the Serious eLearning Manifesto, a declaration of a new set of standards for elearning. Along with other signatories of the manifesto, Banyan Communications will also be:

  • using these eight standards as guides in our development;
  • advocating for quality in elearning with clients and audiences; and
  • furthering the conversations happening in the training and development field about these standards.

The challenge to adopt the eight values of elearning as listed in the manifesto was an easy sell. Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer have all helped to inspire us here at Banyan and prompted our thinking in different ways about the challenges of engaging learners, on and offline.

Just like any other plan for improvement, setting goals and understanding what success looks like is vital. We are excited to join them in turning around the trend of elearning that fails to live up to the potential of all the new technology available.

Typical eLearning vs. Serious eLearning8values

The Serious eLearning standards are about moving away from “what you need to know” to “what you need to do.” At Banyan, we’ve been lucky to work with some great subject matter experts (SMEs) who have a lot of knowledge to share. But, we’re not trying to make experts out of our audience, and we’re only going to get so much of our audience’s attention. It’s important to figure out exactly what information supports performance and has meaning for the learner.

How the learner experiences the information impacts how easily and effectively the learner can act on this new knowledge. We have always valued the experience that most engages and motivates the learner during elearning. Learners need to see themselves, their work, and lives. It should feel made just for them.

Elevating eLearning

We are invested in looking back at what we’ve done with a critical eye toward making it better the next time. More than that, we start improving before there’s a next time. We are introducing processes that allow for testing and revising throughout development. We don’t wait until the end to think of everything we could have done differently if only we’d known.

It’s our job to show our clients how this type of development better serves their goals and bottom line. By keeping pace with the available technology and blowing them away with what’s possible, we create demand for high quality elearning.

Furthering the Conversation

Expect to hear more about what we are doing and learning. We’re coming up on our 20th year as a company, and we have a lot to say about what we’ve learned in that time. You’ll see more work in progress and some behind-the-scenes pieces on this blog and our social media.

Welcome to our first step on a journey, both organizationally and individually, to make elearning better.

Heads Up, World Cup!

As concussions and player safety became a major sub plot in the World Cup we couldn’t resist creating this visual summary of the most notable head injuries and outcomes.

Let’s hope FIFA will remember these faces in 2018!


New Era of Public Health

If you’ve read any of the headlines about the overall status of health in America, it’s easy to be aware that – generally speaking – we are less healthy today than our parents and grandparents were several decades ago.

About one-third of American adults and 17% of children are overweight or obese. These are the biggest risk factors for chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers costing our nation’s healthcare system billions of dollars each year.

According to Six Components Necessary for Effective Public Health Program Implementation, a journal article by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden, “public health communication efforts and strategies need to be timely, well-defined, and well-executed to ensure success and that messages are heard.”

Banyan's Jana Scoville (left) with Melissa Byers (right) at the 2014 NACCHO conference.

Banyan’s Jana Scoville (left) with Melissa Byers (right) at the 2014 NACCHO conference

Banyan Communications works with national, state and local entities to solve this problem by helping create awareness among people who most need this information. In the new media age, a challenge that these organizations face is cutting through the clutter, given so many messages compete for your time and attention on a daily basis. Banyan works with CDC and other organizations to help identify and implement solutions to challenges like this one.

This week, Banyan is attending the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) conference in Atlanta, GA. Melissa Byers and myself, along with our CDC colleagues, are here to present poster presentations on communications resources that help public health departments save time and money. We’ve also been able to learn about the great work being done by many dedicated public health professionals across the country to improve the health of their communities. I am inspired to continue this great work and hopeful that, as this year’s NACCHO conference theme states, we are indeed entering “a new era of public health.”

[1] Frieden TR. Six Components Necessary for Effective Public Health Program Implementation. Am J Public Health. 2014 Jan;104(1):17-22.