Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"If what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?"

Schermafbeelding 2015-03-25 om 16.11.23(This post was first published on my dutch site ennuonline.com)

Jane Bozarth is the writer of the book Show your Work. She is really a multi-talented person, she can talk without stopping, play ukelele and she can work outloud...We experienced all these talents in the webinar with Jane. Though she started by saying  "I don't have anything to talk about" she continued talking  for 1,5 hours :)..

What is Show your Work? "Show Your Work" = working out loud, it is about narrating your work. She did her dissertation about communities of practice and discovered that there is a gap between what we do at work and what we report in staff meeting. We have a lot of information about what colleagues do, but not exactly HOW they do it.Sharing makes it possible for others to learn from you. Knowledge workers have a lot of tacit knowledge and can use the tools available, for instance a phone with camera to actually share how they are doing a certain job. Sharing doesn't necessarily have to be through digital tools, however, the digital tools available make it much easier to share something rapidly and widely. We're coming to an age where we can't know everything alone. We are now dealing with a more complex environment and it becomes harder to do things alone.

Why do people share how to fish and not how they fix things at work? Jane is also puzzled when people don't think about sharing at work. She observes that some people record a video on how to fish and share it on Youtube in their free time but don't do the same at work. One of the reasons may be that "How to" information is easy to find on internet and complex issues, the tacit knowledge are much less shared. Brown and Duguid have written extensively about this aspect of tacit knowledge. Jane illustrated this with the example of a person who got a lot of things done within her organization and documented his work before he retired. However, nobody every became as good as he was despite the documentation. The reason is that the little tricks of the trade are very important and those are not easily captured in documentation. Interviews and questions may help to get tacit knowledge out. However, we are not very good asking the right questions to colleagues either, we don't probe on how somebody managed to do something. We talk about our work all the time, but rarely about 'how did you do this?' Visuals can be helpful too, a cookbook with recipes is explicit knowledge, videos or pictures already provide a view into the tacit knowledge.

"if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" We all have the experience of doing something and afterwards finding out somebody has done that before. Often in organizations people don't take the time to share. The reason for this is that people don't have the mindset of sharing. In fact in every project you should take a pauze and reflect whether there are other people who might be struggling with the same issues? This doesn't mean that you share every pencil you sharpen.. but "if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" (a quote from Steve Nguyen working at Yammer).

Starting Working Outloud in organizations In an organization you may start by identifying the people who are already doing it. We may help management change the questions.. "what was your most difficult, successful phone call today?" "what did you learn this week?" in stead of "what did you learn from this project?" A big challenge of working outloud in organization is making sure everything is findable. It helps to have some known spaces like Yammer. It is good to get better in tagging. A search function is also important. Within an organization you may help people in their decisions what to share where; what to share via mail, something else via the internal Yammer and other things in public.

Sharing successes or failures? Sarah Brown Wessling was teacher of the year and got video taped during a lesson when everything went wrong in a drama/literature class. She didn't stop the video but continues and later explains what went wrong. She published it publicly on a teacherchannel. This may be very useful for new teachers. It was possible for her to share this in public because she is very confident, she has been rewarded. It needs quite some courage to do this in public. Doctors who organize a morbidity and mortality meeting to discuss a patient who died also talk about failures, this is part of their professional culture. It is part of working and learning outloud, however it is not share publicly.

Tooling It doesn't really matter what tools are used.Virgin media provided everybody with snagit to take screenshots. Yammer can be a great tool. There is the example of copying machine repair persons who send pictures to others. Even email is possible. Hurray!
A last tip from Jane before she ran out of words: "Remember- it's about showing the WORK, not necessarily photos of your face. That might overcome shyness."
Tip: read also the blogpost 'zoek the learnnuggets' by Marjan Engelen..

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Multitasking, Ritalin and online mindfulness


I have watched a documentary about 'our distracted brain'. I hardly dare to say it outloud but in between watching the documentary I was chatting on Skype, answering emails. Nevertheless I enjoyed it and it made me think about singletasking and focus. It is interesting that I still see myself as a very focussed person but I know my habits have changed a lot since I'm working a lot online. I really think that I can multitask at times and that this is very efficient. I will try to improve this by being more aware of when something needs my full attention. However, I am good in focussing I believe because I was always capable of studying with the radio on. When there is a party, I only know what the person I was talking to was saying and missed everything else in the room.

1. Multitasking only works for routine tasks 
A wonderful multitask exercise is to count from 1-10 outloud. Thereafter, say the alphabet from a-j. Then try to combine the two: A1, B2, C3, etc. You'll find that it takes very long to count in the last exercise because combining the two is more complex. With complex tasks, it is not efficient to multitask. Multitasking works especially if one of the tasks can be performed routinely. Therefore, many people think that they can drive and phone. This is also true in itself, however, driving and phone becomes problematic when the driving gets tough, then you should focus all attention on the road. There are many situations where multitasking is OK and can work smoothly, eg driving itself is multitasking - you have to worry about traffic, foot pedals, turning etc. Multitasking works only with more complex tasks if you are a supertasker. However, this is only a small group of people (2% of the population). Furthermore it is a pity, you can not train multitasking.

2. The influence of social media - we get more and more stimuli We now have to deal with much more media stimuli as before. The information that we can swallow (but not digest?) has grown tremendously. In social media, f you've been absent from Facebook or Twitter for a whole day you have the feeling that you are missing something, there are many new messages. You got to go to learn that it is never 'finished'. In the end you have to learn to balance between being distracted and concentrate and focus amidst all those stimuli. I have to say that I am really relaxed. I follow so many people on Twitter that I simply dip in when I have time. I never feel like reading all the messages.

3. How do you force yourself to single-task? With all the social media stimuli, it is much harder to force yourself to single-task. The single-tasking is more difficult nowadays because you have to turn off all distractions. People with lots of dopamine in their brains can concentrate well. The Ritalin / Concerta medicines prescribed for ADD-ers ensure that more dopamine is available in your frontal cortex so that you can focus better. The number of prescribed pills for ADD has lately tripled over the past five years. But other students are already sometimes taking Ritalin pills to study well. A survey of 1,500 students in the Netherlands indicates that approximately 2-3% does take the pills to improve their capacity to concentrate.

4. And if you want single-task without taking Ritalin? For those of us who want to improve single-tasking without Ritalin, there are other possibilities.
  • Mindfulness training and meditation. These are forms to learn to shut your brain or part of your brain down. You learn to concentrate better. What you do with mindfulness is give your brains a rest.
  • Turning all the stimuli in the form of bleeps, pop-ups etc. off. Turn off your phone, email notifications off. Use special programs like MacFreedom to block your internet if you can't control yourself and know yourself.. 
  • Take control over your time back into your own hands. Through better planning you can focus better. Or use the pomodoro technique to concentrate. 
  • Read from paper (this advice will not be a fun one for organizations that just introduced the paperless office :). The advantage of reading from paper read is that there is no distraction. You may choose to read a paper book or article so you can focus more easily. I sometimes go downstairs with a printed article to read as a sort of mental break in my work. 
  • Unplug. Make sure you find a balance in your offline life. Go into a digital detox. Or like Clay Shirky- unplug your students while you are lecturing. 
5. Does our brain change as a result of all the media stimuli? Our brain is overloaded with daily whatsapp, emails and tweets. We get a lot of information and often we respond quickly. What does this do to us and with our brains? Does it changes our brain and will our children's ability to read a longer text suffer? "I am convinced that our brain is changing" said Roshan Cools in the documentary. Our brain is plastic, flexible. Think for example of what happens with addiction to drugs; as a result of heroin or cocaine entering our body, the brains change. The brains learn to cope with drugs. This demonstrates the plasticity of your brains of an individual. We adapt to our environment. Everything we learn is changing our brains. Whether and how this influences ithe brains of future generations is not yet known. It is likely that the brain adapts to the circumstances, but it is quite possible that the brain will become better at focussing among all those messages.

6. Let's not ignore the art of dialogue .. Sherry Turkle is wrestling with the same questions. She is a psychologist and excited about the potential of social media in the hope that it helps us advance in learning about our online identity. At the same time she warns in her TED talk for short messages and the effect on our communication. She is excited about the new opportunities, but they also see the bizarre appeal of smartphones. People go online during a meeting but also during funerals. Parents send mails during breakfast. She warns of the effect on our way of reflecting. She calls it the 'goldilocks' effect. We communicate mainly in small, short messages via SMS, tweets, facebook and LinkedIn status updates. If we are not careful we are losing the art of conversation and really engage in dialogue. If we loose the art of dialogue forever we are not on the right track.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Let's improve our learning language as learning professionals

If the Sami eskimos have 180 words for snow - how come we as learning professionals have only one word for learning? OK, we have learning and development (L&D) so we have two words. I think we are way too sloppy in talking about learning. Improving our language- being more precise- would help advance the practice. I understand why the Dutch have only one word for snow, because we had only one day of snow this year (see picture) and rather thinnish..  but why do we keep on talking about learning without being precise what we are talking about?

Why this idea about sloppy language? I am currently in the Exploring Social Learning MOOC by Curatr and it is great. It is the first MOOC which keeps me engaged because of the content and the people (and the leadership board?). There are many interesting articles and videos to explore, including the twitter chats. The MOOC really makes me think more deeply about what I understand by social learning and how I translate it into practice. For instance it made me think about the importance of individual thinking and individual experience in social learning. I observe how sloppy we use the term 'learning'. It is not to blame the organizers, I am also guilty myself. I feel somehow that over de last years my use of words has grown sloppier because of my personal online network. Just like my English has deteriorated when I lived in Ghana because you start to speak Ghanaian English (which has its charms ofcourse :).

The objection by learning professionals may be that there are almost 180 forms of learning - informal learning, social learning, workplace learning, formal learning, non-formal learning, e-learning, multimedia learning, online learning, bench learning, mobile learning, collective learning, invisible learning, networked learning, a live long learning. brain learning, whole brain learning etc. However, this is often about the form of supporting learning processes, and not about the learning process itself. We say e-learning but basically we talk about e-teaching.

Some observations about sloppy language (not from the MOOC but also in general) and please react if I'm wrong!

Learning processes and learning interventions
Is all learning social? This was for instance a question we dealt with. This question confused me, because it may be about the learning process, as well as the intervention. The difference is that a learning process takes place in a learner's head or within a group and a learning interventions is undertaken by learning professionals to stimulate learning processes. It is almost like intervention is a dirty word like teaching or lecturing. Interventions can be assignments, but also facilitation of workshops and communities. Even doing a social network analysis and identifying thought leaders is an intervention. Often people talk about learning and it is unclear to me what we mean. When we talk about formal learning - I think we don't talk about learning but more about the formal learning interventions.

Social learning = not learning with social media
People often equate 'Social learning with Learning using Social media' which is a very narrow definition. Social learning's definition from wikipedia is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers. It may or may not lead to a change in attitudes and behaviour. Well we can debate about the exact definition but it can definitely take place face-to-face too. You get weird conversations if two people exchange about social learning from two different angles.

Social learning is not the same as a group process and interactive methods
I notice many people also use the term social learning when they talk about group processes and interaction. If we simplify social learning to interaction within a group - it is better to use the word group learning. Social learning is a theory about how people are influenced by social norms and learn how to act from their social-ecological systems. At times I also use social learning without explaining what my definition is because it is not easy to explain. An understanding of social learning will lead to different interventions with more attention to for instance, building social capital.

Single, double and triple loop learning
Is it old-fashioned to use single, double and triple loop learning? The terms are first coined by Argyris and Schon. Here's a nice explanation in one page. Single loop is learning within the current frame of work for instance, how to use a new software program. Double loop is about changing the way you think, your frame of mind. Triple loop is about learning to learn. We had a nice discussion about critical thinking, but when we talk about single loop learning - critical thinking may not be necessary at all. The paper states "key breakthroughs in helping people understand the dynamics of learning are the concepts of single loop, double-loop and triple-loop learning." I agree but somehow we moved to 70-20-10? Is single, double and triple loop not practical enough?

E-learning 
I often hear - "I want to buy an e-learning". Somehow we should forget the term e-learning (I try to avoid it at least) because it has become synonymous with page turner modules and courses for individual use. I see e-learning as any process supported by technology but don't think I will every be able to change the definition.

70-20-10 versus directed/self-directed learning 
The usefulness of 70-20-10 model is that it brings attention to the 70% informal learning processes, learning on the job. However, people are talking sometimes about 'moving from the 10 to the 70'. It has become the norm to support the 70. And even if directed, instructional learning is moved online it is seen as part of the 70 whereas in my opinion it will still be part of the 10 because it is still a formal learning intervention. The discussion in my opinion should be more about self-directed learning processes within the organization versus directed learning interventions and compliance training. There is a nice blogpost about the importance of formal learning interventions by Ben Betts which you can read here. Especially the last part is important where he argues that putting efforts in formal learning interventions may speed up the informal learning processes lateron.

More sloppiness?

Friday, February 13, 2015

(almost) Everything about video for learning professionals

January was our #videoleren theme on Twitter with the Ennuonline twitter tips. In this blogpost I will try to wrap up this theme. There is a lot of attention for video and use of multimedia online, after all youtube has almost 300 million view hours per day...Gemma Critchley talked about the importance of involving our emotions while learning: "people will forget what you said but they will not forget how you made them feel". Another nice quote on the Learning en Technologies conference in london was: "online learning at times seems emotionless and video is covering that niche". That partly explains the recent attention for video as a medium for learning. Video is thus an intriguing medium and very popular. Furthermore with smartphones, filming something and uploading film is within everyone's reach. First, a mindmap of the main elements of importance in 'video for learning'. Mapping the field.

Video_&_Leren

On the one hand video for learning is a theme with lots of practical questions that deal with searching, editing and creating videos for learning situations. On the other hand, there is a strategic perspective on the changes in learning initiative launched by the fact that there are so many videos are available to learn from / to imitate and the fact that everyone can now film.

Does video change the way we learn and facilitate learning? 
Even monkeys learn from how-to video's So we can not really stay behind ... You can learn a lot today itself by following instruction videos or a MOOC. Tie a tie? That is simply answered on Youtube. But besides do-it-yourself learning video is also a means which now gives everybody the power to make a video with your phone and put it on Youtube. Seth Godin formulates it very neatly 'video is driving culture' and 'this culture-driving ability now belongs to everybody who can make a video that the right people choose to watch'.

An example: Jasmin Patheja, is the initiator of the Blank Noise project (in India), fighting eve-teasing by putting videos of eve-teasing online. In this way they created a whole movement, see the blog.

Within education and training a lot more is done with video. The lowest use of video by teachers is probably motivating the class with choosing a nice song on Youtube when they finish their tasks. The didactic approach is a challenge, an example of didactic approach is the well-known "Flip the classroom". View Salman Kahn's TED talk Let's use video to reinvent education below. He has a clear vision realized in the Khan Academy. Video changes the role of the teacher or trainer/facilitator. Instead of explaining theory, you can refer to videos and you therefore focus much more on the practicing or individual support.



Some interesting links:
Video's zoeken, inkorten, pimpen en bewerken
It's an art in itself to find the right videos for your learning purpose. One idea is if you watch television and relate it to some of your topics you might bookmark them after searching them online. Some fragments you can find them right away on Youtube. See my example of the burger eating Remi at Expedition Robinson. There are also many cool tools that will allow you to add content to existing videos, eg. Questions. Zaption is such a tool that lets you ask a question at one time that viewers must answer before they can continue with the video.
  • Good source are Youtube,  but also Teachertube and Tedtalks
  • Cut youtube videos with Tubechop
  • Start a dialogue with Vialogues, or a lesson around a video with TedED
  • Educanon allows you to add information just like Thinglink allows you to add links. 
  • With huzzaz.com or a Youtube channel you can make a video list, a library of videos. 
Producing videos
When you want to produce videos you have to choose between professional or 'the beauty of imperfection' = amateur video. The advantage of the amateur films is that they are spontaneous, accessible and inexpensive. There is of course a lot to say about producing videos. For this blog I suffice to say that you can screencast (make a movie of your computer screen), on-the-fly videos (amateur quality with iphone, ipad or simple camera), professional videos, web lectures and live stream (let online follow a meeting by people who are not there). Of course there are also vlogs, video blogs. I almost forgot that there are also new tools with which you can quickly create an animation as PowToon. A number of sources if you want to dive in one of these topics:
Video in meetings: webinars en videoconferencing
Almost all webinar software, Google Hangouts and Skype will allow you to use video/webcam in your online meetings and workshops.
Innovative uses of video
Finally, a few innovative applications and questions about how video is changing our world.
  • Augmented reality videos
  • Filming with drones. Look at the below drone video of the Dom in Utrecht. This use of drones has been forbidden in the Netherlands. A beautiful video! 

Please add any other interesting resources or perspectives. Want to scroll through more resources? Have a look at our Pinterest board about learning through video.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Sharing our inspiration from the Learning Technologies conference with links to all our liveblogs

Sibrenne and myself arrived last Friday at Rotterdam airport with a head full of inspiration from the Learning Technologies conference and fresh air from our walk along the Thames. In this blogpost we compile some reflections and provide links to all our liveblogs, so that you may choose which ones to read. Something which struck us when we reflected on all different sessions:
  • People are aware of 70-20-10 and talk about it as if everybody should just know what it is. 70-20-10 is the model for learning in the workplace by Charles Jennings. However, the understanding of the 70 varies. For some doing things online means moving to the 70%, for me an online course is still in the 10%.
  • There were a lot of instructional designers in the group; professionals analyzing learning questions and developing learning programs. I was very much interested in their ideas about whether technology changes the work of instructional designers? Because I do think that people have much more influence on their own learning environment. Nowadays we are not that dependent of a course of training, anymore. When we have a question, we start googling or asking our network. My impression from this session and some conversations is that the core of instructional design (from needs analysis to training development) is still there. But the focus has become more on online, e-learning and in that sense on developing attractive assignments in a visual and creative way.
  • The big buzz is about 'beyond classroom training'  and companies are taking various directions to go beyond classroom training. The directions are: social learning, mobile learning, learning from sharing videos, blended learning and serious games. Personally I've attended sessions with the experiences of larger organizations like Qualcomm, Marks & Spencers and Peugeot, and they have really moved beyond the idea of offering standard courses.
  • There are valuable case examples to listen to. In order to learn from these cases, I'm always curious to hear more about the underlying concepts and principles. From what learning perspective is an online learning initiative designed? What were important design principles? And I missed this level of reflection. Is that typical Dutch?
  • Interestingly, whether organizations invest in social learning or mobile learning or video doesn't seem to be driven by a thorough analysis but by a vision by somebody or a group within the organization. In some cases there is proof it works, in other cases the approach is to experiment.
  • A new topic is the use of wearable technology in a learning context. Think about digital watches or Google Glass. The technology is there, and now we have to think about the wat we can use it in our learning approaches. I found it inspiring and I truly believe in the fact that the technology is already there. What we need to do is experiment with it and think about possibilities to apply.... go!
  • Another topic that popped up in several sessions was the issue of big data or learning data. Many organisations are using a LMS in some way, and all these LMS's (as well as wearable technology) collect data. But what do we want to do with this data? How to link it with other data available? And how can we use data for performance improvement?
If you'd like to read our liveblogs, choose one or several of the 13 liveblogs below:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How our learning theories shape how we use technology for learning

I read a paper called Perspectives on learning and technology: A review of theoretical perspectives"This paper provides a review of literature pertaining to theoretical references on educational practice and technology from perspectives of learning theories of the 20th and 21st centuries."


A learning theory (or theories) helps understand how people learn, thereby assisting educators, trainers and facilitators reflect on their educational practices. The three major prominent learning theories are known as behaviourist, cognitivist and constructivist, though Siemens later developed the connectivism theory as a learning theory for the digital age. The graph displays more theories and some of the major terms used.

The paper caught my interest because I am a fan of social constructivist theories of learning (think: learning by conversation) and always amazed at how differently people can think about what learning is and what it needs. For me it is obvious that Twitter can be an important learning instrument but if see you learning as acquiring new knowledge it is less obvious. 'Twitter is not about learning. How can you learn from 140 characters?! I blogged about the difference before in: twittering= learning? I know my preferences but more and more I start the see the learning theories as all saying something about realities, in other words as pieces of the same puzzle. Depending on the situation a certain theory (and practice) may fit better. Interestingly the practices of people with different ideas may be pretty close...

 I think the implicit learning theories people use determine how enthousiastic you are about new technologies and shape which application you see. The three theories outlined in the paper with their use of technology are:

1. Behaviourist theory 
The main purpose of the behaviourist learning pedagogy is to accomplish the correct behaviour which focuses on achievable learning objectives. Behaviourist focus on learning objectives in 'to do' in the sense of describing observable behaviour. For instance, "when dealing with a complex problem X will contact relevant colleagues for input." The knowledge skills and attitude distinction is also used within this approach. In the context of online learning based on the behaviourist theory the focus is on delivering learning content with clear intended behavioural objectives, and drill and practice and ’electronic page turning‘. Somehow the traditional e-learning modules.

2. Cognitivism theory
Cognitivist views of learning recognize the importance of the human mind in making sense of the material with which it is presented (Harasim, 2012; Schunk, 2012). Cognitivists sought to understand what was inside the black box of the human mind and tried to emulate it computationally. Cognitivists developed educational technologies such as intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) and artificial intelligent (AI). "In addition, online learning based on a cognitivist approach is focused on a learner’s working memory and sensory system. This is done through utilising different multimedia modality (e.g. audio, visuals, animations, or video), the proper location of information on screen, screen attributes (e.g. colour, size of text, or graphics), the pacing of the information, and information chunks to avoid information overload." The cognitivism use of technology is hence very instructionally oriented, focussing on proper media to convey information. The recent focus on 'brainscience' may help to support the cognitivism practices.

3. Constructivist theory and social-constructism theories.
Constructivist learning theory views learning as a process by which a student constructs knowledge thorough interacting with more knowledgeable others; "learning starts by conversations". it is an umbrella term representing a range of perspectives on learning. Educational practices adopted the constructivist approach including situated and active learning, learning by doing, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, collaborative learning, personalised learning, the learning community, active participatory learning, activity and dialogical processes, anchored instruction, cognitive apprenticeship, discovery learning, and scaffolded learning. The constructivist learning technologies are often associated with learning environments and Learning Management Systems such as BlackBoard, WebCT or Moodle with characteristics including the following:

  • providing multiple representations of reality to prevent oversimplification and represent the natural complexity of the real world; 
  • emphasize knowledge construction and co-creatiom instead of knowledge reproduction
  • provide learning environments such as real-world settings or case-based learning instead of a predetermined sequence of instruction
  • foster reflection on learning experiences; 
  • online learning based on a constructivist approach including learning should be an active process; learners should construct their own knowledge

I was a bit disappointed with the explanation in the paper.. I had expected a deeper explanation. I would like to add social learning (probably part of the social-constructivism group) because this theory is really charmed by social networks rather than learning management systems. See Jane Hart's use your Enterprise Social Network for workplace learning.

What I notice is that in technology/ tools, there is a code in the technology (like DNA!) and the code is determined by the people who developed the technology. Hence it makes it hard for people with a different view to use the technology for a different purpose. This code in the technology is very implicit. For instance, we use Ning, a social network for our learning trajectories whereas we could use a learning management system (LMS). However, most of the LMS we tested are way less focussed on interaction and learners in the driving seat than we like. An example: when I work with Moodle the technology invites me to prepare the course with all sections in advance. In Ning, the technology invites me to start on the fly with new discussions. This stimulates a more flexible role for the facilitator.

Lesson? It is important to know your own convictions when choosing and using technology.. and try to find 'the code in the technology' you want to buy or try.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The 10 basic online tools every trainer and online facilitator should know

(photo by Kitty Terwolbeck) There are lots of online tools that you can use for free or for very little money. Every week I try some new tools (like this week vialogues) and honestly? Occasionally the high number of tools and possibilities make me restless.. I have a tools list (both in a booklet and online in diigo) to try out and I never find the time or have the idea that I've tested enough tools. I therefore completely understand that facilitators of learning and change processes and trainers/teachers can't see the wood for the trees. I have good news: I can recommend a group of 10 tools that are so useful that each facilitator needs to know them and should be able to use them. The bad news is that for every tool also is another alternative ...

10 online tools in the backpack of every trainer and facilitator

  1. Twitter - microblogging
  2. Diigo - or any other social bookmarking service
  3. LinkedIn - for networking and groups
  4. Padlet - a brainstorm wall
  5. Youtube - search and make your own channel/playlists
  6. Yammer - and other smart tools to create private conversation groups
  7. Screencast-o-matic - and other screencasting tools
  8. Bigmarker - webinar tool for free
  9. Google - and Google plus
  10. Ning - or another paid online platform/LMS
Do you know and work with the tools mentioned? A short description below.
Twitter is good for networking with colleagues, use and follow hashtags like #lrnchat.  But Twitter is also very useful in a learning trajectory - search and follow your participants who are on Twitter. It will help you to know better what they are doing. I think there are many facilitators already doing this. Furthermore, as a facilitator of a group you can create a list for others to follow, participants or around a particular topic. So no facilitator should not be able to manipulate Twitter!
  • Diigo - or any other social bookmarker
Diigo is very important to keep track off your online sources. An alternative to this bookmark tool is delicious. You may also use Evernote to store your resources, but I prefer diigo because its default is public.
Everyone knows LinkedIn . However, as facilitator, you should also know how LinkedIn groups work and how you can facilitate conversations in groups. Are you already an administrator of one or several LinkedIn groups?
Padlet is an example of a brainstorming wall where participants don't have to create an account. You can also export a padlet wall as pdf or photo (.jpg). There are many alternative brainstorming walls like stormboard or spiderscribe.
Everybody knows Youtube. However: do you have your own channels or playlists? It is useful as a trainer or facilitator to create your own playlists which you can later use whenever needed.
  • Yammer - or other tool for rapid, private conversations
Yammer is widely known and used within organizations, often not by all employees. If you have your own Yammer network you can easily build an external network in which people with different email accounts can exchange. Not many people know this but it is very useful if you intend to facilitate a week online before a meeting or workshop. Yammer is spontaneous, but experienced as chaotic and fast. It works well with people who use Facebook alot, they will recognize the logic of the conversations.
I think every teacher or trainer should be to make a so-called screencast video to explain one of your subjects. I use screenflow for mac, which is a paid screencasting tool. If you want to try screencasting, start with the free version of screencast-o-matic. One alternative is present.me.
I was tempted to write webinar tool, but the other nine are actual services... to make it very practical. Bigmarker is a webinar tool to organise online meetings. The better-known paid webinar tools are GoToMeeting, Webex and Adobe Connect.
Everybody can google, but you can always learn new boolean tips to Google better (did you know that if you Google video site: Ennuonline.com Google search for content on the website ennuonline.com?). Very handy are Google forms and Google drive to work together on documents. And let's not forget Google communities and hangouts tools to facilitate a group conversation.
  • Ning - or other paid online platforms
I hesitated whether Ning had to be included in the list because it is not a free tool. Well I think that as a trainer / facilitator you should have the experience of working with at least one online platform with more options then Yammer, a LinkedIn group or a Google Community. Ning is a social network, but it can also be a LMS (Learning Management System) such as Moodle. Ning is more focused on social interaction, works well and is affordable. Once you mastered one platform, it's easier to learn to work with another platform.

Which tool is missing? Please share it below! More tools? Have a look at the top 100 by Jane Hart.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Do you eat burgers? Do you meet online?

In the Netherlands we have Expedition Robinson. Some famous Dutch people go to an island and have to battle. Here is a very funny scene from Expedition Robinson. Remy gets a burger, but because everyone gets to eat all kinds of scary insects he can not get the idea out of his head that he's going to eat maggots or insects. As a result of that idea in his head he does not manage to eat the burger and fails. Watch the scene below, even though it is in Dutch it is a very visual scene.

 

I was reminded of this scene because an experience today made me think about the importance of beliefs for seeing possibilities of using new media. I had a consultation in the north of the Netherlands (only 150 km but still a 2 hours journey) and we proposed to do the meeting online. We had proposed this earlier last year, but the group thought it was very important to see each other. "it is really necessary for a good conversation." Finally we convinced the group and did a test using adobe webinar using a screen and individual ipads. I was especially proud that it went very well and everyone thought it was a good meeting. It took some persuasion to try this! My first experiences of working online was working with John Smith from Learning Alliances in 2004... At the time I didn't think it would be possible to collaborate without being face-to-face.

See below also the youtube video with interviews about cell phones from 1999 ... "I have an answering machine, and that's fine" "if people want to reach me, they can do so by letter and if it is urgent, I have a telephone at home" :). These beliefs about the need to have a mobile phone have certainly changed!

 

To introduce innovative ways of communication to improve effectiveness and collaboration in organzation need a number of people at least who see what is possible (who can eat the burger!). The belief that you do not always have to see each other face-to-face to have a meaningful conversation or to learn from each other is very important. What are your own beliefs? What is really not possible online in your opinion?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How personal is your online personal branding?

My daughter thinks I'm a complete loser on Instagram. If I put a photo on instagram I have 1 or two likes. She and her friends easily get 100. Many of her pictures are about experimenting with your looks and a like is feedback. Whatever you think about this (it is also more preoccupation with looks) it is clear that presenting yourself online comes more naturally for that generation. I never learned it and I am still struggling with it. I want to make it personal but have some hesistance in showing too much of my private life online.

I share my background working with SNV in Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana. This is part of my work and important for my experience. I also share things about my daughters but mostly if it is relevant and illustrative for the use of new media by the younger generation. I don't share my scoliosis as it doesn't affect my work.. I read and reflect quite a bit on personal branding and it is part of our courses with Ennuonline. Here a few guidelines which may help you think through your own strategy.

Be authentic Authenticity has to do with sincerity, show who you are. So it is better to share less but being really engaged deeply in the topics you write about. In that way people get a good picture of who you are. What I struggle with is when my interests shift. For instance I started this blog about communities of practice, but now it is wider about online learning, innovation, social learning, learning as professional.

Don't share everything Being authentic does not mean you have to share everything. You can show who you are by sharing a portion of your work and thoughts. Ultimately, you want people to get to know as a unique professional. You can also share just a part of your professional life and yet enough to be interesting.

Don't share your whole private life You can perfectly share online as a professional without talking about your private life. You have your own vision as a professional in your profession. Of course your professional vision also influenced by experiences private. And it is also part of your identity. So of course you may at times explain how you come to a certain way of thinking.

Distinguish between professional and private accounts (or not) It is possible to create different accounts for different identities, for example, a separate account as a teacher on Facebook, and a private account for friends.  The great thing about social media is however that you get to know the whole person and you miss that when splitting. Besides, an extra account is more work.

Copy-cat A good exercise is to look down at a few of your heroes and copy / imitate. Who has way of sharing that is personal yet professional that appeals to you? Read again what he or she shares and try to write some tweets or messages in the same style. Is it different from your 'normal' style?

Want to read more?
How do you decide on what to share and how personal you want to be?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Working with visuals as powerful learning activity

Schermafbeelding 2014-10-16 om 11.29.27Talking about practice what you preach! -  This is really what we did during the webinar about using visuals with Nancy White. We were choosing images, discussing images, drawing pictures alone and drawing pictures together. It was an eye-opener that working with visuals is much more than selecting a nice image to illustrate your text: drawing can be a powerful learning intervention.

The power of visuals is that it involves another part of the brain, which influences the directions of discussions. Visuals are engaging, by engaging both emotions and invoking sense-making. Some visuals are culturally sensitive but there are also symbols which work across all culture, for instance the spiral as a symbol of change. Some people may feel resistance to drawing because it missing the structure they are craving for. One of the lessons we learned is that images without text will have a more open interpretation, an image with text is already interpreted by the owner. Hence you have to think carefully how and if you want to combine text with images. Visuals can be used a variety of function - to illustrate an idea, - to clarify (like a model), - to stimulate curiosity, - to negotiate meaning making. We have to be conscious about how we use visuals - is it simply about making the online page look more attractive, is it to contextualize, or to stimulate curiosity? For learning purposes as a facilitator you can use visuals as well for meaning making. Videos are also powerful. Having the voice of a certain perspective on video can lead to people taking in the information differently then when presented in text.

  Some interesting online exercises for trainers and facilitators - for inspiration
  • Ask people to share an image online on a topic before an online meeting (for instance in a padlet or boardthing). During the meeting you can invite people to group the images and invite a conversation about it. Especially inviting people to interpret images and to ask questions.
  • Ask people to brainstorm during an online meeting on a topic through text. Then regroup or ask people to pick an interesting aspect. Here you don't use images. However, you visualize the conversation because it is visible for everybody.
  • Do a visual summary of an online discussion for instance in a wordcloud, mindmap or with images
  • Ask people to draw individually on a part of an online whiteboard
  • Ask the group to draw collectively on a whiteboard
  • Use videos - a creative use of videos was shared where each stakeholder had a video.
A list of resources if you want to do more with visuals

Monday, September 22, 2014

Data is beautiful (but not many learning professionals believe this)

I read the book 'Big learning data'. I do like playing with data and always liked mathematics.  waarzegster

Learning data is a new topic - quite big and still evolving. In the book a referal is made to 1000 self-assessments by learning professionals rating their skill set. Data interpretation was one of the lowest scoring skills of learning professionals!. Much higher scored presenting, facilitating skills etc. In other words, learning professionals are usually not the first to dive into numbers. Most betas are not learning professionals.

What is learning analytics? Learning analytics is about the use of data for learning and improving learning processes. In the cartoon above, for example, you see that the fortune teller used Facebook as a source of information to predict the the future. Smart of her ofcourse :). As a professional learning you can now do like the fortune teller using data (information) online. The book focuses on the use of big data in organizations to support, especially large-scale data learning. What I miss in the book is where you may practically start within an organization, even though they explain you can start with a training dashboard where you systematically collect data.

In this blog post I will try to propagate more use of data by learning professionals by making it small and practical and looking at three levels:

  1. the level of your own online learning network (also called personal learning network PLN) 
  2. the level of an online course or course 
  3. the level of an organization

I think that sometimes you have data available at hand that you are not  (yet) using as a professional but could improve your work. And on the other hand, there are new tools like Google Analytics or Twitter Analytics that you can use to start collecting data.

Level 1: the level of your Personal Learning Network (PLN) 
At the level of your own online network you can measure a lot, depending on what your goals are. Think of it as a form of feedback to collect and analyze feedback. For example: you can measure the number of retweets on Twitter. We have an en_nu_online account on twitter where we share a tip everyday. I follow the number of retweets with the aim to see which tips are populair. I do this mainly to with the "my tweets, retweeting." column in Hootsuite. Every month I try to gather the totals and assemble those in an excel sheet. I have noticed that a lot of very practical tweets are retweeted  - this helps me to focus the upcoming tips focus. See also my blog post "Do not follow your number of followers, but you mentions and retweets. New to Twitter is that you can also turn on your analytics. I did this yesterday and you get a lot of information about your tweets.

Level 2: the level of an online cursus or learning trajectory 
For the course 'learning and changing with new media, we use an online platform, a Ning platform. Within this platform, you can also make use of data. For example you can see which topics were given a lot of responses. We use this type of information as we go through redesigns. But apart from the number of responses you can see the number of views. I use this information when I receive few reactions. Sometimes people read it but it is still a heavy topic to respond to. Most platforms do have data, and you want more than you could make use of Google Analytics. Qualitatively you might analyse the content of a course for instance with a wordcloud (eg. wordle or tagxedo). In Moodle I often monitor the participants who have not logged on for 5 days.

Level 3: the level of an organization or network 
At the level of an organization or school learning analytics is a bit more complex. Within an organization or school is it really a major project since you also have to look at the performance data and dashboards which already exist. It is best when you can make a link between performance and assessment and training / informal learning. Who can play what role in such a project? Think of the Research and Development, Learning and Training (HRD), Data scientists and management departments. Perhaps a good start within an organization or school to see what data you actually use . Sometimes gathering data in an excel sheet can be a big step. Additionally, you can think about an organizational challenge to solve. How can you start collecting to progress in this issue? So start with a question. I actually think the book 'measuring the networked non-profit' van Beth Kanter en Katie Delahaye Paine  might be a more practical book than 'big learning data'. A quote from that book is 'deciding what to measure is 90% of the process'.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Changing with technology: the example of collaborating with slack

I find it fascinating to see how our habits change (or don't change at all!) driven by new technologies.



In the Dutch cartoon Fokke and Sukke are making bookcovers for their ipads on the Steve Jobs school

Yesterday Patricia called and because she is in my phone contacts I took the phone with a "Hi Patricia, this is Joitske, how are you?" the answer was "Hi this is Patricia" What a weird start of the conversation... Apparently you can not easily change your default phrase which which you start a phone conversation. The starting phrase "hi, this is Patricia" comes from the time when there was no contact name on the screen of your phone. A phrase or habit which is apparently quite deeply ingrained in our minds. I think it's a funny example of the influence of technology on our communication and how our habits are sometimes matching older technologies ..

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you had (until about 6 months ago) to pass a scanner as a visitor, so you had to walk counterclockwise. Three months after the scanner was removed I kept the same route walking to the escalator. Until I noticed that everyone in front of me walked to the right to go straight to the escalator which is faster! I felt pretty stupid that I had not noticed this before.

I have blogged earlier about my grandma from the North speaking dialect but who couldn't speak dialect on the phone. On the phone she would speak official Dutch which sounds very formal. One older manager I met did not want to read from the screen and had everything printed. He said he simply couldn't read from screens. It is like some of our habits are one step behind the new technology and can not catch up.

Sometimes it works the other way, and you can also use technology to stimulate a change in habits. In team of five people, we noticed that we mainly seek advice from those you work closely together with on a project and that the threshold for quickly asking advice from the others is quite high. My answer was actually consciously assigning a new role of  'advisor'. However, a colleague suggested to use slack as a teamtool. With slack you can create channels, ask questions and call somebody into a conversation by tagging his name.  We've been slacking a month now and it works! Interestingly, another team had a look at slack and thought it was too chaotic. The reason why it works so well for us is that this colleague already uses it in another project and helped us to get into the tool. Which is not too hard, but there are many small things you need to explore.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

5 Reasons not to work online as facilitator or trainer

doe het niet
We are working and living our lives more and more online, but within your work as organizational advisor, facilitator or teacher you can still focus on face-to-face activities. There are 5 good reasons to NOT go online:

1. The people you work with prefer face-to-face contact

Many people say they prefer to come together. Ultimately, it is the most enjoyable way of working together isn't it? Who knows you might be forced to really take an interest in a topic through an online process and have to focus on what you want to learn. It is much easier to schedule plain old meetings where you can go lean back and see what will happen. With a bit of luck you don't have to think to much.

2. You like to have your schedule full of meetings, which gives you an idea of control 

Imagine that you need to organize online activities, then you should spend more time at your computer. Face-to-face events are preferable because you can schedule them till you know your weekly agenda is fully booked. Online asks more of your abilities to organize your work. You would then have to schedule your work flexibly. That would give you the freedom to integrate your private activities easier into your schedule.

3. Face-to-face is needed to build trust to have real conversations

Real good conversations occur only face-to-face. Online is just a substitute for face-to-face contact, of much less value. The fact that more people are online dating and stay informed via Facebook and Whatsapp groups is crazy. That is only superficial contact, and may not have much impact. Real important conversations and new ideas happen face-to-face and not via chat. Online you would get nothing done and have no effect. Weird that politicians invest so much in their online presence on Twitter!

4. You are not working with youth

If you would work with youngsters, you'd definitely work online. You work a lot with 40 + ers and those people are not online. E-mail is just about it. "Do not teach old dogs new tricks." Fortunately that you work with a relatively older group then you do not have to go online and cope with all interesting developments for new ways of learning.

5. You are not good with technology

If you participate in a webinar is there is always something not working well. All those viruses on your computer. It's a good reason to stay far away from facilitating online. Before you know it you will be responsible for ensuring that the technology is working well. What if something goes wrong then you might be required to help people and to improvise. That's not part of your job, right?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Screenagers, generation X and technology

foto I went to an evening about generational learning and it was full of these kind of dialogues between different generations:
"How would it be to work in an organisation without the younger generations?"
 Older person: "It would be very boring!"
Older person: "how would it be to work in an organisation without the older generations?"
Young person: "I would miss the complaining..." :)

Edna Walhain and Emiel Nijenhuis from Koffie en bubbels provided some background information about 4 generations. The characteristics of a generation can be explained by looking at the formative period, the period when people are between 15 and 25 years of age. This is when their ideas and values are formed. Screenagers (born between 1985 and 2000, grew up with internet and lots of individual attention and self-esteem),  the Pragmatic generation born between 1970-1985, generation X (born 1955- 1970 - grown with fear of the bomb, cold war and oil crises) and babyboomers (born 1940-55, the protestgeneration, formative period the 60s).
 foto5

STATEMENT "Without youth, organizations do not keep up with technological developments" Technology was a recurrent theme in a lot of discussions. Young people are skilled in dealing with new technologies and flexible in searching good applications for their work. They don't follow and accept the organisational technologies, they go in search of the best programs, which clashes with a lot of organisational policies. Older generations have grown up with the idea that technology and software is expensive and scarce, while screenagers see technology everywhere, inexpensive and for anyone to use. An example was shared of an older employee who did a table in word instead of excel because the teamleader told him so. Younger people would question this and find an alternative solution. An important explanation that youth are embracing social media and collaboration technologies is deeper, however, it is the drive behind it. Social media fits with the way young people want to work collaboratively and fast. They want to seek knowledge and share within networks. They don't want to accept and work through the hierarchy but like to move fast through -constantly changing- networks.

An interesting discussion was also the observation that having youth around does not automatically lead to innovation within the organisation. It depends on the number of young people (1 trainee will not make a difference ) and the space the organisation provided to young people to influence the culture, the way of working. It is not clear that is going to be the case. Listened to junior in a hierarchical organization is not so natural because of the ideas and convictions about where knowledge is vested - in people with experience. This leads to the situation where you need experience in order to be heard and have influence in an organisation.

I certainly believe in the generational differences although I often encounter people who question it. I'm a living example of course, of the fact that the differences don't mean that older people are not clever using online technologies and are not in favour of online sharing.  However, I see the differences as well. I'm for instance much slower than the young. I'm at 4 hops with flappybird while my daughter is already at 150. I also recognize a number of beliefs like the importance of experience, and networking is not always my first nature. It was an evening with lots of insights and I will definitely try to work more consciously with different generations in some upcoming assignments.

More information about generational differences

Monday, March 24, 2014

The power of infographics for learning

I made my first infographic! It took my about 3 hours, including reading - and I'm very enthousiastic about the power of making an infographic for learning.

Knowledge sharing/ social learning within organization in the Netherlands


Let me first talk about the content and then explain how I did it. I was curious to see how organisations are using online social interactions, particularly for learning and collaborating within the organisation. I see a discrepancy between how people use social media at home and within the company. Here's the infographic (in Dutch) and it basically confirmed my gut feelings. 70% of people use social media in the Netherlands (source: CBS central bureau of statistics), almost regardless of educational levels. However, within organisations the marketing department is leading in innovating with social media. In 68% of the companies marketing is using social media. Only in 34% of the companies it is used for internal knowledge sharing. If organizations are investing in internal knowledge sharing tools, it is shocking to see that only 1 in 3 invests in community management and facilitation. It is as if social exchange should be spontaneous and would not need any attention. 36% of the organizations have nobody for community management and 24% rely on volunteers. This was quite a shock, but also not a shock because it actually confirms what I observe around me.

Sources

  • Het aantal bedrijven dat gebruik maakt van sociale media van het CBS komt dit rapport van het CBS, Sociale media en bedrijven, 2013
  • Interne sociale media in Nederland, de stand van zaken. Evolve, februari 2014


  • sociaal leren in organisatie



    How I made the infographic


    I used piktochart to make the infographic and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. It had been on my wishlist for long to make an infographic but I have been postponing it for long. What I did is think of a topic of interest to me and write it down on paper (social learning/ internal knowledge sharing in organizations in the Netherlands). I then searched for reports using google and my bookmarks. I always bookmark figures with the keyword statistics, which was now very useful. I found two reports and decided that would be enough as a basis. I read the report and jotted down the interesting statistics (about 6-7 graphs). Then I started playing around with piktochart and chose a theme. The theme I chose had 3 subsections and that helped me to focus. I looked at my figures and chose the 3 most compelling ones telling a story. For me the story was that people use social media at home, few organizations invest in social media for internal knowledge sharing and if they do, they ignore the important role of community management. I also noticed that both reports had different figures but decided to rely on the central bureau of statistics more. Piktochart allows you to start with a theme and adapt it easily, for instance change the background colour. After finishing you can copy the html code to embed it and download the graph.

    Ideas to use infographics for learning in (online) courses and learning trajectories


    Why I learned a lot is because I had to read both reports and be selective in what figures to use and make a story out of it. Condensing the story and summarizing it made me memorize it and draw my firm conclusions. If you'd wake me up at night I could tell you the exact figures of investment in internal knowledge sharing :). Normally when I read blogs and papers online I have a hard time remembering what it was that I read exactly. So how to use infographics? (some ideas but please add your ideas in the comments!)


    • Divide participants in a learning course in small groups per topic and ask each group to develop an infographic and present it in a blog or meeting
    • You might ask participants for an infographic as assignment for their portfolio
    • You could also ask one group to come up with good literature and another group to make the infographic based upon the literature
    • Ask each participant to make an infographic on the same topic and compare within the group

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Don't organise a workshop- go cycling...

    Last week I participated in a webinar by ASTD and got spontaneous feedback about Europeans. The webinar title was 'what makes multi-cultural training different?' and the topic was how to facilitate international groups online. One participant shared her observation that European 'are not used to 
    technologie'. If she spots Europeans in her classes all bells start ringing that they should give more support...  I recognize the difference as well. I see how most Americans and Canadians easily host a webinar or share all their life and stories online. In the Netherlands, I still see this happening only piecemeal.

      Amsterdam beweegtCreative Commons License FaceMePLS via Compfight

    It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine "if you don't know how to ride a bike it is always faster to walk" - Suppose as a trainer / consultant you are invited to help a team to improve time management. What do you do? You organize a workshop because you are so used to doing this (= walk). But you could do something different, for example by starting online, organize a game, or smart use of social media during the workshop to invite others (= cycle). Because you don't know how to ride the online bike as a trainer you are going to do so... Although you might if you don't live in Europe :).

    A good example from my own practice: I am asked to advise a team with teammembers partly based in Canada and partly in the Netherlands. The question was to organize an afternoon workshop in the Netherlands and then later the workshop could be replicated in Canada under the guidance of one of the participants here. After some period of thinking how I'd prefer to work, I decided that it was important to work with the whole team in order to make a joint learning process and to understand each other better. So I designed two weeks online with a videoconference session with the entire team of 3 hours at the end. I believe that many other consultants would have designed the afternoon workshop the client was asking for...  I am convinced this is a much better intervention, with more impact on the team and cooperation.

    I wrote earlier the five beliefs of the old trainer and the trainer of the 21st century. I have worked at least 8 years online now.. I guess you must have quite some experience (though not 8 years!) before you can really cycle as a trainer/advisor.

    Are you Dutch and would like to learn more? Join the LOSmakers (a Dutch group) on LinkedIn or participate in one of our activities organised by Ennuonline.

    Monday, March 03, 2014

    Solving collaboration issues with technology is a myth

    Yvonne van der PolThis interview is also posted on our Dutch blog Ennuonline. Yvonne van der Pol has her own company called Luz azul trainingen, advies & coaching and works within the domain of intercultural 'craftsmanship' (not sure how it translates in English but the Dutch term vakmanschap is wonderful). She did our learning trajectory on learning with new media Leren en veranderen met sociale media where she designed a blended trajectory about intercultural effectivity, in-company as well as a course for open inscription. The core of her work is to improve working relationships from people with different cultural backgrounds. We live in a ‘global village’ because of internet - every country is one click away. I interviewed her because I am interested in learning more about working interculturally online... which I do a lot by the way.

    Where is the source of your interest in intercultural 'craftsmanship'?
    I've studied Sociology of non-Western societies and worked in international cooperation for 10 years. When I was 18 years old I went to the United States, I experienced that you enter into a different culture and you have to adapt. On the surface there appear many similarities, but beneath the surface there are major differences. When I was in Costa Rica for research later, I encountered other intercultural challenges. For example, I gave a presentation which contained criticism.. The next day the director refused to greet me. That made me think about the importance of communication and intercultural skills. In another culture there are very different assumptions and methods to decipher and interpret the world.

    Is collaborating interculturally a skill which is more strongly developed because of all the developments triggered by internet (eg. large gaming communities)?
    DeepCultureModel
    Indeed, it seems that we now live in a global village, the Internet connects the entire planet. However, that is only on the surface. There is a difference between surface and deep culture (see Deep culture model of intercultural adjustment of Joseph Shaules). Regarding surface culture: we are indeed coming closer. An online gamer may experience for example an American or Chinese situation in the game. Young people experience more different things and different cultures than before. However, the deeper understanding and skills you develop to work interculturally are not developed. It is an illusion to think that with globalization, intercultural skills come naturally. I'd say on the contrary, sometimes prejudices only increase. At the same time it is true that the development of intercultural skills is increasingly important as more work is international, from horticulture to retail, from science to education everything is becoming more internationally oriented. The question is: "how are you going to understand each other better?" Take for instance the cooperation to build wikipedia. That communication is very multilingual - but native speakers have an advantage over non- native speakers.  Native speakers may sometimes empathize less with people who can not express themselves with nuances. Another example is: the open data movement. There is much to do about improving transparency and making data accessible. This conviction also stems from a cultural belief. If you are born in a country where you're not safe, there can be a lot of anxiety around online sharing of information and experiences. If you do not take this undercurrent in your approach to open data serious, then the project is perhaps less effective than hoped ... If you want to read more, go to Yvonne’s blog.

    Do you think new technologies make collaboration internationally easier or harder? Why? 
    The new technologies make communication easier and cheaper for sure, you can work with Skype, webinars, email, Yammer, and other tools. This makes collaboration internationally more practical than 20 years ago. But you have organize this collaboration specifically. It is a myth that technology will resolve collaboration across borders and across cultures. Technology can also obscure the difficulties: everyone continues to work from personal and cultural assumptions. Importantly, it is always about creating confidence to effectively work together. The new technology is fantastic but you have to learn to use it effectively to work together. That's the same as always: you have to stay alert to human interaction, pay attention to non-verbal communication in virtual teams. Is there no answer because the technology does not work or because someone is disengaged for other reasons? And then how do you solve this?


    Can we learn something from the field of intercultural effectivity for learning to work with new media? Is there a parallel between learning to work in a new culture and learning to work with new technology? 
    There are definitely parallels that can be drawn between the use of new media and moving into a new culture. In both cases you enter a new situation where you do not know the codes- how to behave. You crave for knowledge about how it works. Knowing yourself and how you react in situations like this is important – how open-minded, curious, flexible, persistent, tolerant are you? Schermafbeelding 2014-02-24 om 21.26.23

    I work with an online assessment tool, the Intercultural Readiness Check, which is based on three areas: Connect, Perform and Enjoy. In the intercultural competencies (see diagram) you can see the parallels with dealing with new media such as how to deal with uncertainty? Some people enjoy jumping into something new, others much less so. How do you connect with each other online, and how to effectively work together?  So you could easily say that Connect, Perform and Enjoy are true both for personal intercultural skills as for dealing with new media.

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    Finding the 'elephant paths' of a community of practice

    I've been facilitating a community of practice about sustainable energy in the Netherlands over the past 3 months. I had a meeting with the convener of the community before we started. When we tried to 'design' for a community we stumbled upon a lot of questions like: who are we going to invite, what roles can we distinguish, should we use online media or not? It is not easy to make all these decisions upfront. We differed on who to invite: I wanted to invite a wider group of professionals and the convener wanted to start with an old working group. The convener wanted an advice from the group in 3 months and my worry was that it would not leave enough room to discuss their own practice questions. I worried a lot when we started and finally decided to give this a try and use the 3 months to see and observe the dynamics and what emerges.

    The community dynamics
    What happened during the 3 months was this:

    • A few people never showed up.
    • The convener got ill and hence could not participate in the meetings. Two other persons with a high stake in the topic took over.
    • A tied group formed of professionals who really connected based upon similar practice questions
    • One person realized after the second meeting that his work practice didn't fit it with the group and sent his colleague. 
    • The group was divided about the usefulness of exchanging online, so online was limited to email, but at some point one member took the initiative to create a LinkedIn group.
    • It was possible to balance individual interest with the request for advice. We made an inventory during the first meeting of practice issues and used online voting to set priorities. Hence we formed 3 groups based upon their major interest in a topic. I think it was actually appreciated that there was a question from a higher level for advice. This made it possible to merge individual learning with collective learning. 
    • 3 months was very short to come up with the advice but we were given the flexibility to take a little longer. 
    The elephant paths
    I already blogged before about the balance between design and emergence in communities. I didn't know the term elephant paths then, but I learned this term during a MOOC on change management organised by SIOO. Elephant paths are the shortcuts people take to safe time walking or cycling from A to B. Here's an interesting 14 minutes video in Dutch, showing that people are very persistent in following their own route. The 3 months has permitted me to see what the elephant paths are for the people in this community: for instance the key persons and core issues but also preferential ways to learn. 

    Design upfront versus self-organization
    I shifted a bit in my thinking about design of communities - I was always convinced that you should over-facilitate and allow for sufficient space for self organization. Now I believe that you can start with a clear design as long as you have eye for the 'elephant paths'.

    PS: just realized this is my 600th blogpost!