Wednesday, October 05, 2016

7 tips to engage introverts in social learning

Introverts love to stay indoors and have difficulties expressing themselves, while extraverts are outgoing and enjoy telling all their stories. That is the image we often have about intro/extraverts. How does this relate to social learning? Can introverts engage in social learning? It could be that introverted professionals prefer to go through individual e-learning models and more extroverted professionals in social learning activities.  Maybe extroverted learners are especially active in a community of practice and the introverts read along and 'lurk'. But is that true? 

With these questions in our minds we, Annet van der Hulst and Joitske Hulsebosch, have investigated this theme, using articles, blogposts and doing a mini-research. Our aim is to find out what the difference is between both groups and how you can use this in your design of social learning processes. Here's a pinterest board with resources. An important source is the book Quiet by Susan Cain.

The definition of introvert and extravert

A third to half of the people are introverts. From Cain's book: “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. Think of an introvert like: reflective, bookworm, sensitive, thoughtful, modest, friendly, risk-averse, avoiding conflict. The extrovert is action-oriented, assertive, active, outward looking and feels comfortable in the spotlight. And all without generalizing :). Do you know if you are introverted or extroverted (or ambivert)?

Everybody is social

In this infographic about introverts we immediately find an important conclusion: introverts are not antisocial, they have just as much need for interaction as extroverts. In other words introverts learn socially, but may like other types of learning activities. Susan Cain draws the same conclusion: “Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity”.

What are learning preferences of the introvert and extrovert professional?

We have already concluded that everybody engages in social learning. But let's go back a step: do introverts have different learning preferences? In Kolb's learning cycle he distinguishes four learning activities. Two of them (reflective observation and abstract conceptualization) would, according to him more fit an introvert dimension and the other two (active experimentation and concrete experience) more extrovert. That does not mean that introverts can not or will not perform the other activities, but that introverted and extroverted learners have different preferences. For social learning would mean that activities that are invoked to reflect on the skills and thinking are more attractive to the introvert learner and you can expect more activity and input.

Karin de Galan from the School for training has written in Dutch about training introverted participants. She finds it difficult that the introverted participants provide less response while they are happy with the content of the training. According to her it is easier to engage the introverts if you give time to think, build in one-on-one conversations instead of only discussions in plenary, and in work assignment go at a slower pace. Translated to (online) social learning, this means that you do not always expect an immediate response in an online debate, but offer space to formulate a response (for example, send prior to a Webinar or online meeting some questions to think about). It is also good to get together in smaller groups or to work in pairs  (in a separate room during a live webinar for example, or in a subgroup on LinkedIn or Yammer). In Quiet we read about examples which support this line of thought. Avril Thorne did an experiment with women in conversation in pairs. The surprising thing was that the introverted women talked no less than the extroverted. However, the introverted pairs talked about one or two serious issues, while the extrovert discussed much lighter and wider issues. Another observation which confirms our findings is that introverts really like collaborative learning, but have a preference for groups of 2-3 with clear roles.

Online preferences of introverts and extroverts professionals: "it's a level playing field"

How about sharing online? Online seems just right for the introverted professional, because of the delay in communication. You can think as long as you like about your answer.  Heidi Cohen: Social media engagement affords introverts the ability to engage for short, strategic interactions on their own terms. introvertspring notes that online is perfect for both groups: "It’s a level playing field online".  Susan Cain: “Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.” However, online we have to deal with information overload and extroverts seem better at coping with information overload. The reflection of introverted professionals namely takes a lot of cognitive space. If we state our cognitive capacity as 100%, then 75% of the introvert capacity is task-oriented and they use 25% to reflect. For extraverts these figures are  90% versus 10%.

Mini-research (n=8)

We are curious what we ourselves observe with regards to preferences within social learning activities in introverts and extroverts professionals- and especially online. We held a mini- survey (N = 8) within our online course. The result is as follows:

Some tentative conclusions we can draw from this mini-research:

  • The extrovert professionals prefer activities such discussing statement in conversation, face-to-face meetings, a lot of interaction and synchronous online workshops. These are activities where the direct and synchronous social contacts are more central. Also, the more 'do-oriented' activities.
  • The introverted professionals have a preference for activities like a webinar with an expert, discover and experiment with tools and work on their own case. These too are part of social learning, but they contain almost all an asynchronous aspect or an aspect where finding out by yourself is a part. Again, we notice some 'do-oriented' activities, but the thinking and reflection activities are note-worthy. 

At first glance, the results of our little research seems so to confirm the learning activities that Kolb calls more introverted.

Seven tips for designers of social learning processes

Thus we arrive at seven tips for the designer and facilitator of social learning processes that take both groups adequately into account, so that everyone feels good and can actively participate.

Tip 1. Know yourself and your audience. How many introverted and extroverted professionals do you expect? And what are your own preferences? If you know your own taste, you can program the opposite: try to see your program through the eyes of the others.

Tip 2. Blended is a good way to serve both types of professionals. Face-to-face extroverts may take the lead and can be overwhelming for introverts. One seems perfect for the introverted type. A 'level playing field'.

Tip 3. Maintain a good balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning. Synchronous speaks to the extroverts more, asynchronous more to the introverted.

Tip 4. Vary between larger, smaller groups and plenary. Work in pairs of two can provide a secure space for introverts to express themselves.

Tip 5. Find a balance between hands-on activities and reflection. Introverts love to go in depth. Be sure to find the space for it.

Tip 6. Make sure all types of learning activities are covered: reflection, theory, active experimentation and experience, in this way you cater for all preferences.

Tip 7. Help introverts professionals to direct their attention. Extroverts can better cope with information overload. Online, overload is hard to avoid. Help introverts to deal with it by directing them to the most relevant discussions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book instead of blogposts

My last blogpost is almost 4 months ago. I admire people like Richard Millington who blog faster than I can read.. The reason that I did not find the time to blog is that I have written a book with Sibrenne Wagenaar called 'Leren in tijden van tweets, apps en likes'. You can almost guess what it means: Learning in times of tweets, apps and likes (and yes we have driven our editor crazy with the amount of English terms in the book).

We have written for almost one and a half years. It was great fun to do, but it costs a lot of time, in addition to ordinary consultancies, our courses and private life. It was certainly a difficult book to write: more difficult than our previous book called 'En nu online'  which gave tips on how professionals, teams and organizations can use social media. Learning in times of tweets, likes and apps is more descriptive and examines the changes in society as a result of social technology and its impact on professionals, the opportunities for organizations and what this means for learning professionals. What I really liked is that we had a group of 20-25 people who wanted to think along for instance with a facebook exchange and/or reviewing the models.

Writing this book was almost like sculpting a model (which I did once). We started brainstorming and writing to reflect on the main themes. This was supplemented by interviews, reading and case studies. I guess we have rewritten each of the five sections at least eight times! In this blog I would like to share in a nutshell what the book (of 250 pages!) has brought me in terms of new insights:
  • First, I got to love the term social technology. I want to use this more frequently and consistently. We started with Ennuonline almost 10 years ago talking about 'web2.0' then 'social media'. Followed by 'new media'. The beauty of the term social technology is that the word is social has return. That is our focus and passion. We are not experts in individual e-learning modules.
  • Secondly, I like the distinction we started to make between different types of professionals: Knowmads, Googlers, Followers and Hobbyists while we started with the Knowmads as an ideal type. I have used this typology already in several sessions and it helps to see that not all professionals are the same. I think it is a good framework which I'm going to use in my future work. You can facilitate the groups in a different way. Informally we already did that, I believe, for example, by always look for the pioneers.

  • I see more clearly or understand better why often the communications professionals and IT specialists are taking the lead concerning social technology within the organization. This is a huge frustration of mine. Many learning professionals do not yet have a social lens and have no affinity with technological developments. Despite the focus on 70-20-10! I think that learning professionals in the future will have a much higher involvement with social technology in the organization. I also understand that the technology has helped to put social learning into focus. When I started in 2005 with communities of practice, few organizations were interested. There is now much more buzz around learning in communities. 
  • We distinguish different stages of how organizations embrace social technologies, for instance organizations focused on online and blended learning versus social learning. It is still a question of where we want to focus our advisory practice. On both? Or should we specialize? At least this justifies reviewing the websites and our learning trajectories. 
  • Social Network Analysis is one of my passions, but I always felt it is an odd one out in my advisory practice. In the book I tried to find a place for it and found it. Doing SNA is a super important step in social learning. I'm looking for a situation where I may apply this in full. 
  • The chapter about the future made me dive into developments like artificial intelligence, machine learning, experience API. Areas that I'm not an expert in and more importantly I don't have experience with. My conviction is that I like to talk and giving advice on things I have experienced, I'm not sure what to do with this. Or is it the doctor's case who doesn't need to have undergone malaria in order to treat it? 
Enough lessons to justify writing 1.5 years? One way you can help is responding whether you think we should translate this book in English or not and what may be creative ideas of translating it, for instance by crowdfunding or crowdsourcing.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My social learning experiences

For a long time I organizing a blog carnival was on my bucket list and I finally took the plunge. I choose the topic: my example of social learning. Why this topic? I notice that there is a lot of confusion about social learning: is social learning about learning through social media? is social learning any process in which more than two people are involved? By inviting people to blog about examples you can start a conversation what social learning is (and what not). And maybe it means different things to different people!

I am currently reading the book: How we learn by Knud Illeris - He describes three dimensions of learning:

  • content
  • motivation (motivation)
  • the interaction (the external environment)
These three dimensions are always part of a learning process, and thus is in fact social learning is always learn a component, there is no "non-social" learning. That of course makes it even more difficult and confusing. It is true, however, that the social learning movement pays more attention to the social aspects of learning than others, for instance e-learning designers. Enough theory - now my own examples. I would like to compare two of my own examples. An example of the social media era and a pre social media experience, so the difference is clearly visible.

Sociaal leren van adviseurs West Afrika

A good example of what is still an inspiration to me and was a transformative experience is the community of practice of SNV's consultants in West Africa from 2000 to 2003. I worked in Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana in an advisory team. Advisory work and working in autonomous teams was new because SNV used to carried out development projects before 2000, so this was a major shift. I had a role in coaching the team in the new way of working as consultants. About 15 people were part of the community of practice of advisors in West Africa. These were consultants who were engaged in the new consulting practice of SNV in other countries such as Benin, Mali and Cameroon. Albania was also part of it because they had no partners in Eastern - Europe. Through the exchange in the community, I began to see broader contexts, we found common threads in our experiences. I was encouraged to make a case analysis of my own team, something which led to many new insights for myself and hopefully also others. Also, we were asked for advice on strategy development. It had great impact on me because I learned a lot, felt heard for the first time in my career. I also think it brought a lot of innovations to the organization. The way we interacted was twice a year 2-3 days together. There was not much technology support, although we experimented with an email exchange in which we got a new question every hour only by mail, and a Yahoo Messenger chat. Interestingly, I still have four friends from that community whom I'm still seeing regularly.

Social learning about social learning

If we compare this experience to the way I learn currently about social learning, I notice I am currently inspired around social learning by all kinds of people but there is a less obvious group, a less obvious community with boundaries. My base is in Ennuonline where I work together with Sibrenne Wagenaar and a group around it. In addition, I was influenced enormously by a clearly defined group of people within CPsquare (CPsquare no longer exists), some of whom I also still interact with online. This is where I got my interest in social tools and first learned about LinkedIn and Flickr in 2005. This group stimulated me to start this blog too.

But actually my thinking and practice is now influenced by a huge fluid group of people whom I follow through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and MOOCs.  An example: I frequently use some of the models shared by Jane Hart in my work with clients. Important people which I always read blogs include Jane Hart, Beth Kanter, Harold Jarche, Ger Driesen and Wilfred Rubens. In addition, I add new people regularly to my radar through Twitter or feedly. Occasionally I collaboration more intensively, such as in organizing a teamhackathon or the thinktank around our book. The most powerful ways to connect are surely cooperation or engaging in conversations at a networking lunch, conference or meetup.

Social learning pre and post social media

If you compare these two examples, it is actually true that the interaction, the external environment has changed a lot. The number of people which influence me has become much larger. However, the investment, the commitment in the community in West Africa was much larger. The advantage of having a large fluid network is that you see a lot of diversity, but the pitfall is that you get less depth because it's faster and more volatile .. You probably need a bit of both. How do you organize this for yourself?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Social learning circle- new ways of learning at a conference

Last Tuesday I've facilitated a so-called learning circle about social learning at the Next Learning conference in Den Bosch. I really like the idea behind a learning circle - a circle is composed of a group of people interested in the same topic but who do not know each other meet. They meet and  exchange before and after the sessions, guided by a coach (me). I think this really helps for 'sense-making' and networking. Many of my circle people were people who did not know many others at the conference. This helps to meet people with similar interest and you get more out of a conference. I think the initiative super. You often hear at conferences that we are "not really applying our own learning principles". However, there are few initiatives like the learning circles.

How did it work out? Well... It was a fine example of a social process - quite unpredictable! I wanted to connect online (via a Linkedin group) but it was not a smooth and rapid process. Some didn't receive the invitation, others were unhappy that I had their email address. Not everybody introduced themselves. However it gave me some insight into the group, and their questions. A number of people who have applied for the circle never showed up, not even at the conference site. Some others were quite excited and there was a small core group of people who stayed afterwards for drinks. There were spontaneous initiatives for a whatsapp group and discussion afterwards.

We have put together a video around the topic of social learning - the instruction was to interview somebody about social learning for a one minute clip with your mobile phone. Four of us participated. Nice to see how every clip highlights a different aspect of social learning. Worthwhile to  repeat. It would help to have a little more time to agree this together, we had barely 20 minutes before the key note started and we had to do intros as well since few introduced themselves online.

If you don't speak Dutch here are some highlights from the interviews. Petra Peeters defines social learning as "making use of people's expertise and their sparring capacities". Marcel the Leeuwe concludes social learning is in the interaction and you can stretch people in the way they interact with others. Playing with media like video can sometimes help to dare to ask questions which they normally would not dare to ask. Kirste den Hollander is the mother of the 'biechtbox " a confessional boxa box to talk about your mistakes. She thinks that learning from mistakes is indeed a social process, you should talk about your mistakes so that others will avoid making the same mistake. In other to learn collectively from mistakes it is important that you are open to discussion and that people can listen without judgment freely.

Finally there is the input of Anja, a PhD student of Filip Dochy. Filip Dochy presented the High Impact Learning (HILL model). Anja is enthusiastic about the model and examines culture and learning environment. We should not speak about THE learning culture of an organization, this varies considerably from department to department. So social learning may look different in different departments of one same organization. A good reminder!

hill model

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Busy is the new smoking

My daughter in the third year of secondary school went on a three-days internship and returned with the observation: "They talk all day, I have a painfull ass from all those meetings!" That's why I'm so happy to work independently-  at least I don't have a shared agenda where others can plan my meetings. I like space to read blogs, even to test a new tool or even do shopping when I feel like it (and often get a good idea in the meantime).

Unfortunately I got too busy myself during the first three months of this year. I went to a conference, I am writing a book with Sibrenne, did design and facilitation of various online courses and events, network analysis and additionally we ran two Ennuonline trajectories. I immediately noticed that it affects my feeling good and my creativity. I hardly found the time to read blogs, still shared some Twitter updates but could not read much- let alone follow up on longer articles. Blogging itself felt like a job instead of fun to do. Fortunately, since this week things are better - and this blogpost is for fun and not a task.

This put my nose to the important aspect of TIME regard learning as a knowmad - and a knowmad being someone learning in online networks and active through social media communities. If I don't find the time while I have all the routines and see the added value, it is logical that many professionals in organizations fail in finding the time. Reducing workload is I think very important as a prerequisite for informal online learning. But super difficult to achieve at a time when professionals often have to do more with fewer people. Want to be less busy? In this article, 'Alleen sukkels hebben het druk' are great tips which you can try yourself like
  • Create concentration
  • Plan your time in big chunks
  • Dare to do nothing
  • Develop a morning routine and
  • Don't do anything
Personally, I'm very strict in the number of assignment which take on and what I do voluntarily. So I'm going to facilitate a table at the Next Learning event because it is good for visibility but have said no to an interview with students.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What is really changing in the way we learn as a result of new technologies?

Last week I attended the Learning and Technologies conference in Londen. Like last year, it was great. Inspiring talks and the Dutch delegation (almost 25 people!) offered a nice network to make sense of new ideas. Furthermore we had Friday to explore Londen.

Before the conference I attended a session about storyboarding. I wanted to pilot a video 'beyond the talking head'.  I'm proud of the result. I found out that using the fast forward function is very simple in iMovie! Unfortunately it still has talking heads, but it is already much more dynamic.

What is really changing in the way we learn as a result of new technologies?
That's the main question I took to the conference. Sometimes I feel everything is changing, sometimes when people say they prefer classroom training I feel nothing is changing. As you see in the video I interviewed 4 people in a one phrase interview form and am amazed that their answers differ quite a lot. However, they all talk about the consequences of the fact that information is now freely available on the internet.

"It is not about what you know but what you can find out"
David Kelly stresses "it is not about what you know but what you can find out". That shifts the power from people who have accumulating knowledge to the people who know where to find knowledge (and have networks). This has huge implication for power in organizations and even for which organizations (or networks) will survive. In fact Ger Driesen and Martin Couzins stress the same point - with knowledge flowing around what is the point in learning a subject for 5 years? Will learning disappear and turn into knowing where and how to access information whenever you need it? Mirjam Neelen emphasizes the need to learn how to learn in this world of information overload. Which neatly links back to David kelly stating it is about what you can find out. Ger's idea of learning disappearing probably refers to the rapid advances of artificial intelligence and the 10 things an algorithm can do which a teacher can't where our learning can be taken over by computers too. Should we all become data managers?

I wonder whether learning a profession or studying becomes obsolete as Martin states. What do you think? How to gather the tacit knowledge needed for a profession? When you study you also learn the core values and issues of a profession which goes beyond information. How about developing a unique vision? Yet I agree the focus will increasingly shift from learning as in learning facts to analyzing, synthesizing and searching. The idea that the way we learn can be done faster by artificial intelligence is a scary idea. I will definitely start to follow these developments more closely.

By the way Sibrenne and myself blogged about some of the session on so check it out if you are interested in particular topic like video for learning, artificial intelligenceusing your enterprise social network for learning (session by Jane Hart) or using heart and mind in online learning. Or check out the session with Rudy de Waele about new upcoming technologies.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shoot your own videos - beyond the talking head

Wednesday I participated in the LOSmakers meetup. The LOSmakers are a group of people interested in learning & social media. Cycling through the rain to the station got me soaked 4 times, but worth it, it was a very inspiring meeting. It was fun to meet and share with others who are also experimenting with video. In university I once made a film about pre-history and we could make use of a professional editing room.  (that was in the pre-historical time before the smartphone). With smartphones and tools like periscope and screencasting video is now within the reach of every lunatic / trainer / consultant. However, it is not easy to really come up with good materials .. I myself for instance don't want to edit movies because it takes a lot of time. As a result I often have the so-called talking head movie. I interview someone put it online.

Professional filmmaker or do-it-yourself?
An important question is: when to do it yourself and when do you turn to a professional filmmaker? Sometimes it simply depends on the budget but I try to at least look at how often you can use the movie and how quickly the content will become outdated. A nice quote from a fellow LOsmaker Matthijs was that "you have to spend hours in making videos yourself". It helps you to improve and to collaborate with professionals.

We got our hands dirty working on story boarding. Bart Wagenaar explains here what story boarding is (in Dutch). Next week I will attend the Learning en Technologies conference and we decided to storyboard a video from the conference.

It was fun to storyboard, you see that you may be using the same words but that you have completely different images. A nice way to also deploy other design processes. Before making a video it definitely helps to know which shots you want to shoot.

Beyond talking heads
My question is: what else you can do in a video instead of a 'talking head'.  My own case was about a video concerning assessment. What I picked up quickly was the idea that it is good to investigate the objective of the video and the target group and not to jam too many objectives into one video. You may also search for videos that already exist .. you can also pick an existing video from another field, thereby starting a conversation, in my case for example. for a video on assessment of a gymnastics competition. Other ideas that I have gained.:
  • Shoot a talking head video but provide some context before and after the talking head (as in the video above with Bart)
  • Use existing footage with and voice over
  • Screen Cast with a screencast program like Screencast-o-Matic record a powerpoint to tell your story
  • Use a series of pictures and tell your story
  • Work with images. A nice idea is to use and ask someone to draw images
  • Make animations powtoon of videoscribe
  • Film an interview
  • Film  2 or 3 mensen in conversation
Any good inspiring examples of do-it-yourself videos?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Monitoring informal learning with a Learning Record Store

I wrote this blogpost last year with Saskia Tiggelaar and Lisan van der Lee. It took me some time to translate it into English. It was written on the basis of a session with Ben Betts organized by MOOCfactory called 'Meeting more minds'. 
ben betts

Experience API, XAPI, Learning Record Stores, TinCan API do you know what this is about? It all sound rather technical. Last year I participated in a fringe event during the Learning and Technologies conference and it was funny to be emerged into a topic I didn't have a clue what is was. I didn't even know what to ask. Nevertheless I think this is interesting for all learning professionals working with 70-20-10. In this blogpost I explain what a Learning Record Store is, what the challenges are and why you should be interested as learning professional.

Point of departure: a diverse online learning landscape 
We face similar challenges in monitoring learning as learning professionals, which is no coincidence. In the past five years many organizations worked hard to make educational materials available to employees. These e-learning efforts have taken all kind of shapes, blended learning, tutorials, games and apps. Most organizations also have a rich learning management system (LMS) with herein (self) developed materials appropriate to the particular training needs of the organization. As organizations begin to develop their own content, a considerable body of material becomes available within the LMS. In addition, content on websites like Youtube, Vimeo, blog sites are increasing. We are therefore becoming increasingly conscious that the making of "new" content is not necessary, because it is already available elsewhere. Enter content curation. Why invest in creating if you can use existing content? By curating content I mean that you select existing content and make it available to employees so that they can access the materials whenever they want to. We may call this a learning landscape. The challenge for the design of a good learning landscape lies in looking beyond borders and use of materials outside your own LMS, such as websites and video's. The requires systems flexibility and implications for the way you monitor the use of resources.
Ben Betts: Use any platform which seems appropriate, do not try to connect everything together, but make sure you have collected the data from the different systems in one place- the Learning Record Store.
A place for collecting all results: the Learning Record Store
The  Learning Record Store is the place where you store about about the use of all learning resources, whether in your LMS or other platforms, or social media.
Ben Betts: “it is actually a quite boring piece of software because it is nothing else than a database”.
Below in the graph you see an example where the data is collected in one place. A condition is that the data from the different platforms use Experience in API (XAPI). The definition of xapi "a standard way of talking about our experiences in using data.
Schermafbeelding 2015-12-15 om 17.59.53
A practical example: children in a museum
Ben Betts shared a few practical examples The first is the Ann Arbor museum,  a children's museum in the US. The children visit the museum and get a name tag. The tag can monitor what the children do at the museum, and this data is stored on the LRS. The teachers can then see which answers are given and what is popular. The teacher may use this information to adapt his class teachings.

Do you want to have a Learning Record Store in your organization?
Good for the Ann Arbor museum but why would you want a Learning Record Story in your organization? It is interesting to see what a LRS can do for an organization. Especially if you have the ambition to monitor both formal and informal activities of employees it might be useful. The most important and innovative feature of such a store is that it can collect data about different activities and different platforms. The main purpose of the monitoring is to improve the learning landscape. However, this is still a very wide target. That leads us to the most important question you have to answer as an organization: what data do you collect and why? One can think of several reasons; you can collect data to:
  • Generate user feedback about the learning interventions (. eg e learning modules) that you have offered. Use this feedback to improve the learning interventions continuously;
  • Find out which interventions the users choose to meet their learning needs;
  • Predict what the needs / issues are a target group to arrive at advice for future interventions.
To answer the question what the purpose will be to collect and analyze this data, but there are some stepping stone questions. The question is: what is your vision on learning and development? This can be formulated in terms of competencies, but it can also involve social, personalized learning. L & D professionals are increasingly placing the learner at the centre, the learners must be able to take its own route and engage in workplace learning. So if you wish to monitor whether what you're doing as L & D department for your employees really works, formulate questions and hypotheses. This will help you get a grip on the data you will need to collect.

What about the privacy of employees, we can simply collect their learning data as an organization? Privacy and consent is an important issue on Learning Record Stores. On the one hand, there is no guarantee that the data is 100% safe. On the other hand, there are already a lot of data about employees in an organization. Sometimes these data are not or hardly used. Most important is to be transparent to employees on how to deal with their data. A good practice (which was also used in the example of the museum) is to anonymize the data. There is a  code of practice developed by JISC. This might give you some inspiration. 

In 10 years we might all walk with our own learning passport? 
Will the employee be better off with more self control and keep their own data? An interesting idea is that the employees themselves might have full control over their own data in the Learning Record Store- what we call a learning passport in this blog. It might gradually increasing the employee responsible. Ben Betts used the metaphor of a coffee card to describe the learning passport. As a coffee card is already partially filled, it motivating a customer to continue filling the coffee card. Our task for the passport of the employee to partially fill it with formal learning activities and the employee fills in the rest. This allows the employee to take its learning direction as much as possible in their own hands and the employee can decide which experiences are added to the passport. However, someone commented that many people have lost their diploma from school or university .. so how interested will people be in their own learning passport?

Where to start? Just start somewhere!  
The big question is the group was: where do you start? Do you start with a solid plan and legal support or do you start with smaller experiments? Should you form a data team or you can do it yourself as L & D professionals? On the one hand it is good to take an organizational perspective and to collaborate with other departments to also be able to link performance data for example. On the other hand, it is good to get going  for instance working with data that are already there. So you build a clearer case and you know better what you would like in the future.

Read my former blogpost "from intuition to know for sure" about how you can start at the level of a course to analyze. If you want to read a basic explanation of  Xapi by Learnovate click here

Monday, November 09, 2015

Redesign of face-to-face learning programmes into blended learning - an example in the Netherlands

I worked with a team of an internal academy to redesign their learning programs into powerful blended products. The challenge is ofcourse not to make a programme blended because it is fashionable but to improve the programme. Hence the first step we took was to think about the value of blended in-house learning programmes. The training that we redesigned was a three-day face-to-face event. The added value of blended was formulated by by this team in the following manner:
  • Diversity in activities (videos, texts, quiz, face-to-face methods) will allow more people to learn in their preferred styles. This makes it attractive to participate.
  • Stimulating people to work in different ways makes sure that learning is solid (think of the brain principles).
  • By making the programme interactive and more geared to actual practice we want to have more impact on practice.
Getting started with three design models
After thinking about the added value and an introduction to blended learning we went into sub- groups to redesign using three different models (3P's Jukebox, SamR see video below). This worked very well. I had not asked who the original owner of this training was and from the interaction I could not detect who was the lead of this training. The models invite everyone to become a designer in a new way and really made it a creative process. It was remarkable that people without much explanation, just a handout about the model could work intuitively. Furthermore, a different model really stimulated a different design. 

Looking for similarities and differences
 Using the three creative designs, we started looking for the similarities between the designs but also the unique ideas that impress the other groups. A similarity was that everyone proposed an online start. The three training days were brought back to 1.5 or 2 days, with online activities in between. It became clear that everyone used online to activate learners. A number of face-to-face elements such as an informal lunch with management was considered very important to keep as a face-to-face element. Truly innovative was the idea to steer away from instruction and ask people for feedback instead of educating them. This called was the "teach-back".

How did the models help? The 3P model definitely helped to surface these kind of ideas. I think the Jukebox model stimulated that group to think about a mentor-buddy system. This was the point where I correctly identified the owners of this training - because of ownership of how things have been done. However, this lead to an extensive discussion and comparison of activities with the original plan, all ideas were scrutinized in detail by the team. The discussions led to a reformulation of the goals. The original formulation was knowledge- oriented, currently the focus is more on networking and knowing who to ask questions. Another innovation was thinking about a cohort group helping each other beyond the course. I think that the models helped everyone to think more out of the box.

Facilitating online raised a number of challenges which still need to tackled by the team. The first is the inclusion of management and subject matter experts in this new way of training. A second one is choosing a suitable platform. There are some platforms in the organization available but not a clear LMS. This will be the next step for this team - discussions in the organization and in search of the right tool.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Teams, technology and change

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-16 om 15.22.52

We organized a teamhackathon. Teams can make big steps in working and collaborating online in a smart way. The teamhackathon was really fun and I hope that many more teamhackathons will follow. In the picture it looks like it was a normal workshop, but is certainly wasn't.... The novelty of the Teamhackathon is:
  • People do not join individually but in teams of - 2-4 persons ...
  • They are working during the day on the basis of a concrete question around 'collaborate smarter online' ....
  • They get team coach throughout the day  ...
  • Can use six different experts ...
  • They work to produce a clear product, as in the case of my team an infographic...
I was a coach for one team and did a 15 minutes inspiration session. In my session we worked with the SWITCH model by now a known model from the book by Dan and Chip Heath (see below). It is a good model to use when you're dealing with a change in which technology plays a role. The key to this model is that you should work on all three levels simultaneously:
  • the rider (the vision, why)
  • the elephant (the motivation)
  • the path (make it easy)

What may go wrong? An example of what may go wrong if no or insufficient attention is paid to this element (the rider, the elephant, the path).

1. The rider gets lost. The rider of the elephant does not know which way to go to if there is no clarity what the intended change is and what effect the change should provide. In this case it is difficult for people to act. Suppose you have a social intranet, and you say that it is for "knowledge sharing". Knowledge sharing is too vague. This gives people no direction and you let them swim (or drown) guessing what exactly is expected of them. It could be that you want to encourage more innovative projects between departments. In that case, you can specifically identify this, brainstorming about possible projects, and provide a place for innovative projects on the social intranet.

2. The elephant is not motivated. If the elephant is not motivated, he will not move in any direction. And here you may change the word elephant for professional. Yesterday was mentioned several times how stubborn professionals may be. So really should think about the motivation of these professionals. What do they have in mind? Suppose there is a major re-organization under way in the organization, with layoffs and insecurity. Then you will not get people motivated to exchange openly online, it is too unsafe. You may get them sharing, but the question is how honest this will be. Motivation is often high if you have invented something yourself. So invent it together.

3. There is no clear or easy path. A clear path is about technology that is easy, not frustrating. It is also about easy ways of fitting the use of technology into routines. If it is not easy enough people will get discouraged. I got myself a new banking Reader and had my own moment of desperation. this old system was already hard. For a week it lay on my desk but I could not motivate myself to start using the new reader. Yet, when I had tried the new reader, I was euforic! It was a lot easier than the old reader. Another good example shared during the teamhackathon: every communication officer sends one tweet per day. Now that's a clear path. That's difficult to miss. :) If only it is clear why and the elephant is motivated.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The influence of social media for learning - technology is more than just a means to a goal

 I often hear: "technology is just a tool and should be the starting point, let's start with the goal and the technology will follow". "The tech does not matter if we achieve our goal." In this blog post, I argue that technology is much more than a means. Social technology is a driving force behind social learning. And even within organizations and networks the choice of (social) technology is extremely important and can be a factor determining success or failure.

Technology is means or a goal?
A known example is Henry Ford who built the first car in 1896. Ford had a vision of "a car that moved forward without horses". If Ford would have asked what people wanted they had probably asked for a faster horse. And if Ford would have started with the goal? The goal is to make sure people get from A to B which would probably lead you to horses ...  In education the Open University in this article argues like I do that technology may well be a target. The examples show that technology is not 'only a means' is to carry out what we want to do. Technology is an important driver for change. As new technologies become available our behavior changes after a period of experimentation.

The contraceptive pill as example of the influence of a new technologyThe pill is an example of a revolutionary technology that has caused changed behavior. Evert Chain shows the pill is an example of the right technology at the right place at the right time. When looking for 500 volunteers to test this contraceptive there were 5000 registrations. 10 years after the introduction of the pill in the Netherlands in 1962 it was already used by two thirds of women. Twenty years later, the use of the pill has become the norm A research in 1988 discovered a 16-year-old girl thought it was impossible to have sex without birth control pills, she did not know the pill prevents pregnancy. The major mindset change introduced by the pill is that sexuality was disconnected from pregnancies. Before the pill, there were already other contraceptives like diaphragms and condoms. However, the pill has become a huge success. One of the reasons is that taking the pill is independent of the sexual activity, and thus was respectable. And of course, the use lies in the hands of women. Finally, it is a more reliable method, so doctors also accepted it.

Social media as driving force for social learning
    Like the pill social media is a technology at the right time in the right place. It fits into a trend of individualization and self-expression. Combined with the widespread use of smartphones and tablets it enables a continuous flow of communication with your networks, sports clubs and friends. It is an important technology-driven change in society. The influence of social media on society is huge because a new way of social learning is enabled by social media, in organization, between organizations and in spontaneous networks. Isaac Newton wrote: "If I can see far, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants." By publicly sharing work and ideas, considering the rate at which messages are spread through social media it is possible to stand on the shoulders of a lot of fellow professionals. Social media is a driving force that increasingly influences our daily thinking and actions. That is a huge innovation in learning driven by the technology of social media.

Technology to foster social learning in organizations 
Following our personal communication on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it will be easier to stimulate social learning in organizations, if supported by the right technology. At Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands Yammer was successfully introduced for knowledge sharing between departments. The technology was in line with what people already know (Twitter and Facebook) and there was a vision for the new communication that they wanted to see: faster and more participatory. Thus, a policy was developed with input from everyone on Yammer. KLM Airfrance introduced iShare. The community manager is the one with a strong vision of what is possible when people commit to share more - innovation in the business. He was looking for a platform with a vision of social sharing that corresponded with his own vision. The examples of Ford, but also Rijkswaterstaat and KLM Airfrance show that you need that vision. Someone who imagines the car that moves without horses. Or the bicycle for the team that used to walk. At the same time, technology plays an important role to stimulate and facilitate certain behavior. Hence, technology is not only a means but also major driving force for change.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Social media in organizations: the case of the ambulance services in the Netherlands


With great pleasure, I conducted a field research together with Sibrenne Wagenaar with one of the the ambulance services in the Netherlands. The ambulance service asked us to look for improvement in internal communication; driven by the fact that technological developments offer new opportunities for collaboration and communication within the organization. The initial question was: how can we improve communication within the organization using new media?

We went in search of new forms of internal communication that fit the organization. We did an action research which lasted five months and was conducted by a pioneer group of 17 people, accompanied by us. The action research consisted of internal reflections, research within the organization, visiting other organizations and an experimental phase. Experiences are interesting from the standpoint of how technology influences collaboration within an organization and are likely to be recognizable to other organizations.

Some conclusions
What was especially noticeable is that even if you do not use social media, these media still have an influence on the organization. In this case there was a static intranet, with information from management. At the same time, there were a large amount of Whatapp groups within the organization, often invisible to management. Communication in these groups was often not favorable to the organization in the sense that confusion messages were amplified. If management in an organization does not have an eye for this type of communication via new media, it may strengthen a culture that you do not favour. The outcome was that the organization may benefit from a social intranet, however, a lot of attention should be devoted to stimulate a new way of communication, both face-to-face and online. An experiment showed that people did not like to participate in open groups online, but really need the safety of a small closed group. A social intranet is a big step for this organization and will need a clear vision and several years of implementation.

Download the full article
We wrote an article about our experiences for TVOO in the Netherlands. You may download the article sociale media bij de ambulancedienst  which is in Dutch.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

From intuition to knowing for sure: a case of applying learning analytics at course level

Blogpost is written in collaboration with Francois Walgering from MOOCfactory and Sibrenne Wagenaar from Ennuonline.

More and more trainers and facilitators use online platforms for online interaction to facilitate learning. This is akin to face-to-face facilitation but also has its own dynamics. For example, how do you know if an online article is read? Or how much time a participant spends viewing a video or doing an assignment? Which participants connect online? How to judge whether valuable conversations place? In a face-to-face setting you can ask process questions to participants: "do you need more time for this discussion?" And "an extra assignment about ... seems to make sense." You can observing interactions and sense the group's enthousiasme. You may adjust the learning process gradually as a result.

In an online environment you miss these kind of observations. Online, some data can be helpful. Data collected by the system, such as degree of online activity, time spent viewing source, reached level, length of discussions. The value of these data is in analyzing and interpreting: what we call learning analytics. We recently experienced the power of learning analytics and gladly share this experience with you.

The case: the food and nutrition security course
Schermafbeelding 2015-09-17 om 13.28.54

We have designed and facilitated a five-week online course (a so-called SPOC- Small Private Online Course) "Food and Nutrition Security". About 90 people took part, and we have worked with them in Curatr, a learning platform that supports social learning. Four of the five weeks had a specific theme in the fifth week was reserved to work on practical cases, brought forward by participants and experts. The participants received a certificate after earning a minimum number of points per week and writing a case reflection. 19 people have received the certificate.

Online monitoring- using your intuition
During the course, uur most important source of information were feedback from participants on the online platform and e-mail messages, about content as well as the process. We had a picture of important issues, issues that led to discussion and effective learning activities. For instance, we received many compliments on the weekly interactive webinars. Another example: after an upgrade of the software technical problems arose which discouraged participants. And a number of participants informed us that they appreciated the content very much, but got in trouble with new ad hoc task at work. By following discussions and explicit interaction with a number of participants, we have developed a feel for the quality of the learning process. A group of enthusiastic participants began to emerge as a core group. Intuitively we felt that we were on the right track with this online learning program. But ... what can the data can tell us?

Online monitoring- analytics
Curatr collects behind the scenes lots of data using Experience API (xAPI). Beyond the general data such as name, surname, e-mail, organization and function you also get very good insight into the 'User'- and' Usage 'data. What is the difference between user and usage data?
progress analytics
User data is: all qualitative data you collect within the platform:

  • All threads are started by participants;
  • All reactions started in several discussions;
  • All sources (videos, PDFs, blogs, websites) which were added by participants;
  • Any responses to learning activities offered (eg reflection questions, quiz, open questions)

Usage data are the quantitative data (see illustration)

  • How many comments have been posted by participants;
  • How many resources have been added by a participant;
  • How many comments by those who have liked;
  • Who what when level has been reached;
  • Number of participants who completed the SPOC.

Learning Analytics involves looking at the data, analyzing it and acting on the results. We can perform learning analytics at different levels . The depth of analysis affects the reliability of the actions we arrive at. You could say that learning analytics roughly consists of five steps:

  1. Visualize: You are viewing the data, for instance, 100 participants who completed the SPOC, 20 participants in the test with a level one completed. This qualitative data is generally speaking easy to generate from a learning platform.
  2. Clustering: The data that you see, can be clustered: all activities of a participant, all threads which have been started, all the sources added. Together they form perhaps a cluster 'involvement' or 'quality'.
  3. Relationships: For instance "after a mail by the facilitator the activity on the learning platform has gone up." Or "the most important activity on the learning platform is to discuss with each other. "
  4. Patterns: activities that have repeatedly proven themselves. We see for example, by looking at different SPOCs that 80% of participants watching a video stop after three minutes. 
  5. Actions for the future: Based upon the pattern 'participants stop a video after 3 minutes' we may decide to use only videos within that period, or ensuring that the core of the message is transmitted within the first three minutes of the video.

Learning analytics in the case of the Food and Nutrition Security SPOC
Mooc score plaatje 1
In the case of the Food and Nutrition Security course we have taken a number of peaks at the data like people logged in and the leadershipboard during the course. Afterwards, we dived deeper into the data, with extensive analysis and interpretation. This proved really valuable and has given us new insights regarding the manner of participation of participants and the motion when it comes to social learning. A few examples:
  • Most of the participants who have ended high in the leadership board, earned points by contributing to the discussions. This group was also very visible to us and we had them 'spotted'. However, there appeared to be two participants who earned quite a few points, purely by studying sources. They had not responded online and had therefore remained invisible to us. While they actively participated in the course.
  • We were also curious to know about sources and questions that entice good discussions. 'Good' a qualitative concept and difficult to measure. But some threads stood out because of the large number of responses from participants. We have analyzed those discussions discovered that the striking aspect here was the contribution of an expert / coach: the fact that the expert herself was involved in the discussion by asking questions, giving an opinion, made the discussion very lively.
  • A diverse group took part in this course, and we were wondering if we would see differences in participation between certain "groups" (eg working in the Netherlands versus working in Asia, or working for NGOs versus working for government). This certainly was the case. Some "groups" had a much more explicit contribution to the social learning than other groups. Important to know when designing new courses! In the illustration, you can see the visualized total scores of the different groups.
Some of our lessons about using learning analytics as online facilitator
  • Using learning analytics can be very supportive of your role as an online facilitator. You can find confirmation for possible interventions. In the beginning as an online facilitator you may be scared or disappointed by the fact that not all participants are active online. Why is that? Is it unclarity, disinterest? If data show that they participants have accessed the available resources but have not commented on the platform can may react different and try to stimulate reactions. You might invite those who did not respond specifically to do so.
  • It is valuable to combine data from the 'system' with own feelings and observations, such as reactions of participants by mail. Thus observations and analytics can reinforce each other.
  • Before you start with the learning process make an inventory of your questions and possible indicators and numbers. What would you like to see? Are you happy with 10 active participants? What sources are you doubtful about? If you do this before the start, you will know better what information will help you to gain insights during the course. 
  • Make a plan for how often want to use and analyze data during the course. In 'Food and Nutrition Security' case we analyzed more deeply after the course. Of course we held an eye on the obvious data during the project (who log in and who contributed) but we could have put the data to better use. An exmple: afterwards we compared the activity in the various user groups. We could have done this even earlier and spend more energy to involve some groups. 
  • The learning analytics as described took place at course level. You can also go one step further and compare the data from the corresponding course with data from other courses. The results from such analysis can contribute to conclusions that fuel future designs.
  • Take time for accessing the data. Plan it in! Learning analytics is still a relatively new activity for many online facilitators. And certainly if you want to monitor during the course by means of data, it requires a regular look at the dashboard, analysis and opinion to determine your future interventions.
  • And ... start conversations with people involved to interpret the data! Check the data with curiosity and discuss it with those involved. Feeling and intuition are crucial. However, sometimes data offer new perspectives but often just confirms a certain intuition. This may then be a catalyst in order to take action. In our case we had weekly progress discussions, which might have benefitted from some data interpretation. 
Last but not least ... be careful about how you use your data. Be transparent about your intention with it. Tell participants very clearly what you will do with the data. After all, you are working with data on the performance of individuals in a learning environment.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day One for visual journalling

dayoneI went on holidays to Sicily with my family. Very hot (35 degrees) but very nice! I would like to go again during a period when it is less hot. Today back to work and that's always a weird day trying to get into the routines..

During the holidays I have used the app Day One to keep a diary. Very user-friendly, intuitive to use and attractive lay-out. A nice feature of this app is that you can receive a reminder and you can start your entries with a photo. It stimulated me throughout the day to think about a nice image which would capture the spirit of the day. It also encourages a quick daily update. I thought it was a shame you could not upload two photos per day, but I solved that by making two entries on one day. Other benefits from Day One that you can change the date, too, so if you've forgotten to journal, you can still do it the next day and change the date. Furthermore, you can create a PDF of your entries and it looks very nice. Here's my pdf if you want to see how that looks like.

The nice thing about this app is that you start to look out for images. Actually, that's also the charm of one photo per day. It acts as a reflection tool to ponder about the day - what stood out? Hence it would also be a nice tool to use for a team within a change process or learning trajectory. You could ask everybody to journal looking for specific changes. If you use it like this is comes close to the use of instagram in learning trajectories which I blogged about earlier. I think the difference is that instagram will make it more interactive because you share a picture with the group. With Day One you keep your own journal which at some point you might share and discuss but in the first place it is a personal reflection tool.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forbidden to learn (socially)

verboden te leren

On the train I overheard a conversation between two youngsters. One said he was an intern at a school. The internship went quite well but he was surprised that during the break time the teachers weren't paying any attention to the trainees. In the staff room the teachers were talking and exchange busily amongst themselves without inviting the trainees into their conversations.

At a meeting I got into a conversation with someone who was involved in facilitating online exchange through a knowledge platform. I enthusiastically told that they should go and meet with another organization, engaged in a similar process. She told me that she could not talk with that company at all because it is a competitor of her company .... Forbidden!

In both cases, it is as if you prohibit people to learn. In social learning, it is important that you can look into the kitchen, you chat and learn in conversation with other professionals. If you look at these two situations from a 'social learning' angle you miss significant opportunities to learn. The school's perception is most likely that trainees learn from practice, but I think they may learn a lot more by listening in from the way other teachers talk about their classes and students. In the case where employees are not allowed to talk to the competitor, they are afraid companyideas (secret?) flowing to the competition, but in this case you can just learn together how you shape knowledge and you may both go faster.

I was very surprised these kind of situations still exists. Do you know of more situations in which it is actually forbidden to learn?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Facilitation without frontiers: breaking boundaries of time and space with online methods

Last Friday I facilitated a workshop for the #iaf conference in the Netherlands. The theme was 'facilitation without frontiers'.

I started my workshop explaining that many facilitators and trainers immediately start drawing two boundaries when they get an assignment to facilitate:
  1. The boundary of the walls of the workshop venue (everybody who attends is in, everybody who doesn't attend is out). 
  2. Time boundaries (we set a date whether it is for half day, 1 day, 3 days or 2 weeks)
These boundaries limit the quality of the design of the process, because sometimes there are people who are not invited into the space whom could play an important role. You may invite them by skype or by open spaces like Twitter. Furthermore I do not believe in stuffing learning in a set period of for example 1- 2 days. Learn and relearning is a longer process. I am convinced that a blended process works better. Many facilitators already know this and work with longer trajectories but the funny thing is in between face-to-face they loose sight and interest in the process. It becomes like a black box. I believe learning and change processes are better facilitated when with blended approaches.

Below you will find my presentation with 7 examples of breaking those boundaries. It was in Dutch, but it might be visual enough for anybody to understand it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Those little stress moments caused by technology hurdles...


Here you see a picture of reduced pavement edge that makes me happy every time I cycle to the train station. On the way to my station, I had to move my bike high up on the sidewalk here. It seems a small nuisance, but when you are just in a hurry and oncoming traffic is stopping you it can be troublesome. One fine day I saw this reduced pavement step and I was really happy because now I can just continue to the station by cycling. Quickly maneuvering between the oncoming traffic. This pavement reduction appears to be a detail for mankind but makes my trip to the station as a cyclist so much more comfortable. There is one mini-stress moment less on every train travel.

Are you involved in online learning and collaboration? Whether it comes to design of blended courses, a social intranet or online workplace learning - you have to deal with technological annoyances. The mini-stress moments. Thus, the technical details sometimes become an obstacle, to yourself or others. I have once facilitated an online course in Sharepoint and that is where my own allergy from Sharepoint got its foundation. Every time I wanted to read an answer I had to click to open the answer. I was completely grumpy from there about sharepoint! Besides looking at functionalities it is hence important to (continue to) look for the so-called dissatisfiers, 'annoyances' things that make a tool that produces stress.

Herzberg has a model for employee motivation - making a distinction between satisfiers and dissatisfiers. We may tend to give more attention to the satisfiers (what's in it for them?) But also look at your dissatisfiers in using online tools. I think Herzberg is certainly right - in saying that you must work on removing the dissatisfiers as much as possible. They may be small but influential. In Ghana, we could not book a direct flight to cut costs and then had to change planes in London. This was such dissatisfier we had continuously discussions over this topic and the stories were getting worse. After this policy was changed there was room for attention for more important matters. How can you detect dissatisfiers in online learning / collaboration?
  • When choosing tools look for possible dissatisfiers. This is a reason for me to give priority to tools that people already know. No new tools = less chance for dissatisfiers. Testing with participants also helps of course. And self testing. A shiny new tool but clumsy because it does not work in the browser which most people are using? Forget about it. 
  • Make login easy. Log in can be an obstable. I'm very happy that you can send a webinar link with Adobe Connect to participants with the instruction; click on this link and enter your name. So simple. I have worked with a platform where you could not change your password. To me that is a dissatisfier which might put people off. In certain situations, you may therefore opt for a special tool without login. See 9 video conferencing tools without login.
  • Monitor dissatisfiers. You can not foresee everything while testing. Disssatisfiers can differ from person to person as well. So monitor what is easy / difficult try to remove obstacles. For instance, I noticed that with a series of webinars speakers were nervous for the technique. Employing someone who is helping 'take care of technology' takes the stress away. In another process, people were quick to lost the link to a platform. It helped to have a bookmarklet (icon) they could find in the browser and there but have to click. In an organisation, a pop up on the intranet was meant to help them pay attention, but was a major dissatifier. Monitor and adjust... 
Actually you looking for my lowered curb / reduced pavement edge but for the people you are working with online

Monday, March 30, 2015

Network skills in the 21st century

I did a session on network skills in the 21st century at a symposium for VOCUS, the students of pedagogy/education. I was the last one and wanted to put them to work rather than listen. I asked them to form groups of three to formulate a short question on network skills and put this question out to their own online networks, as exercise. See a short video ...

Questions were:

  • What is the value of (online) networking?
  • What skills do you need to network properly?
  • What can you share as a student?
  • Would you rather have a good online networker or a face-to-face networker?
  • Consists Facebook after 10 years still?
  • How do you deal with skills that do not yet exist?

I'm a fan of Howard Rheingold who explains in his book Netsmart 'how to thrive online'. (see an earlier blog post of mine about 5 essential online survival skills). He describes the basic skills you need as a professional such as managing your 'attention' (online mindfulness) 'crap detection (know what is nonsense) and online networking. I like the networking perspective because I believe in network learning - social learning. Learning and networking are inextricably linked.

In our book En nu online we already wrote about the half-life of knowledge. The half-life of knowledge is how long it takes before 50% of the knowledge you have gained during your education is no longer relevant. For instance, I have learned to work with wordperfect during my study using MSDOS prompts. I don't remember how it worked, but it doesn't matter because it is no longer relevant. I have also learned to survey land, manually. I have never used that knowledge anyway but I know it is currently done with laser technology. It was quite a surprise to the majority that our knowledge gained in an education is in less than 3 years obsolete (mmm 50% that is). While you can debate whether this is measurable - it is a clear trend that knowledge is becoming obsolete faster, if only because technology propels rapid changes. Hence the need to to learn continuously as a professional is very obvious. A lovely way to keep up as a professional and a way I really believe in is not by attending refresher courses, but by participating in (online) networks. I am convinced that this is a critical skill that will determine whether a professional will be relevant and attractive.

I think students do a point to address the question of whether it is more important to have online networking skills or general network skills. I think the basic skill is networks, learning and focussing and secondly how you can do this online. However, the online part of the networking skills is becoming more important because of the new possibilities such as participating in MOOCs, follow hashtags on twitter and ask questions in online professional groups such as LinkedIn. The scale and speed at which you can network is hugely magnified online. Plus, online it is much easier to look beyond the boundaries of your own discipline by 'lurking' in other communities.

After half an hour I asked people to check answers to their questions in their online networks. There were still few answers through the online networks of participants. I think this is both due to the fact that 30 minutes is quite short (fellow students did not respond even though they are normally very quick responders) as well as the online presence of the students. For instance very few students had a Twitter account. The next time I would rather ask participants in the audience to network face-to-face and practice professional asking of questions.

Here are the slides of the session (in Dutch). By the way - the students told me there is very little attention for digital didactics within their education. That is really shocking isn't it?

denk ik.

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

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.