Wednesday, July 11, 2018

You can stimulate curiosity for self directed learning


This morning I cycled in the sun to a school for higher eduction to a look back at a fun and successful project. A team of teachers and staff have organized a SPOC (Small Private Online Course), supported by me and Sibrenne from Ennuonline. Within the SPOC, on the Curatr platform, sources like short video clips or cartoons were shared as conversation starters on topics such as classroom atmosphere, structure, variety in lessons and attention to individual students. The innovative thing is that the focus is on exchange and learning from each other and not on learning new knowledge, more "how do you do that in your class and what can I do better?" Some 30 eager teachers were very active. It was noticeable that this is a well-known group, a group of knowmads who are curious and want to invest in their own professionalization and are able to self direct their learning activities. One of the teachers told me that she would get bored during the holidays after a few weeks and then engage in some distance education. At the same time, there is a group of lecturers who seem to invest less in their own professional development. 

For this type of online learning you need a certain level of capacity for self direction. 

How to stimulate the second group who will not spontaneously engage in a SPOC? How to stimulate self directed learning? 

Is everybody (unconsciously) a knowmad?


Accoding to Forbes there is a strong relationship between learning and happiness on the job.
"There's a strong positive relationship between how much people learn on the job and how much they love their job"
This shows that with a high level of learning in the workplace, the knife cuts both ways: innovation is evident and the professional is also happy. It raises (again) the question whether every professional has an intrinsic motivation to develop and learn. Or are some just happy to run the same lessons for years? In other words: is self directed learning for everyone? This is a question which keeps coming back to me. Can you encourage professionals to learn formally or informally? The crux may well be in curiosity.


Curiosity: the book 


In his book Why? What makes us curious by Mario Livio curiosity is analyzed in depth. A simple definition of curiosity is: the desire to know why, what and how. It is a craving for information. Everyone is curious, although the degree of curiosity varies from person to person. In Why, the lives of Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman are described as examples of extremely inquisitive persons. Feynman even seems to have been lying in a coma on his deathbed and said: "This dying is boring, I would not want to do it again!" Curiosity is a feeling: it can be a feeling of excitement (for discovering something new) but it can also be a feeling of discomfort or even fear. To a certain extent, uncertainty about a subject leads to curiosity, but if the uncertainty becomes too great, it can become so overwhelming that it feels uncomfortable. If something is totally overpowered, the uncertainty can become so great that people would rather avoid the subject than dive into it. This reminds me of a question Ger Driesen asked a few years ago: do we need to feel pain in order to learn?


What makes us curious? - excitement versus anxiety


Litman states that curiosity can emerge from two different emotions, an action to reduce a sense of insecurity, or an intrinsically motivated state of excitement to get to know something new. An example of the first one is reading the sign of an animal in the zoo when you feel stupid that you do not know this animal. The second may be my feeling of excitement when I discover a new tool. Furthermore, we become more curious when we know something about a subject and discover that there is more knowledge than when we do not know anything about a subject. Whether something arouses curiosity has also been studied by Berlyne: it depends on novelty, complexity, uncertainty and conflict.

  • New may be a new phenomenon such as a new species
  • Complex is when something follows an unexpected pattern
  • Uncertainty is when you can not predict the outcome
  • Conflict is the fact that new information is contradictory to old information, this makes you feel 'ignorant' and to remove that feeling you will look for additional information


Two different types of curiosity 


To be curious you do not have to be good at mathematics or the arts, but a condition seems to be the capacity to process information. There is a difference between perceptual curiosity and epistemic curiosity. Perceptual curiosity is curiosity triggered by things that happen around you that are different than expected, eg the curiosity of a class of children who get a new pupil in the classroom. It can also be a situation that you do not fully understand. Epistemic curiosity is a desire for knowledge and knowing, the driving force behind science. Furthermore, you can distinguish diversive (broad interest) and specific (looking for specific information) curiosity. An example of diversive curiosity is, for example, checking your phone for new messages. You are not looking for specific information but are curious about something. Berlyne hence put this diagram with four quadrants together.

 Source: Siobhancribbin.wordpress.com

Interesting: brain research has revealed that these two types of curiosity reside in different parts of the brain.


Strategies to satisfy curiosity: overview and from easy to difficult


Jacqueline Gottlieb has researched the strategies of the brain to satisfy curiosity through open exploration. 52 people were asked to choose a short computer game to play. There were two different series of games and the level of difficulty varied. The strategies of the 52 people were strikingly similar: they started with the easiest games and proceeded to the more difficult ones. In addition, they looked for an overview of all games. The games from medium to high degree of difficulty were played several times. Interesting for epistemic curiosity: people like to see the whole landscape. This phenomenon is called 'knowledge-based intrinsic motivation'.


You can learn to be curious or stimulate people to be curious


What is my conclusion? That every professional is curious, but the extent to someone is curious may vary. What I learned from reading Why is the focus on emotion. Ask people what they are curious for in their work, what new information makes them feel excited? What makes you feel uncertain in your work? This is a different set of questions than: what would you like to learn?

You can actually trigger curiosity in professionals and I believe with curiosity comes self directed learning, provided people have the information processing capacities. If you look at Berlyne, the perceptual curiosity is easier to stimulate than epistemic. Examples:

  • Introduce something completely new, for example a new theory or a new technology that will be of influence
  • Present data that shows an unexpected pattern. An example of this approach is benchlearning
  • Let professionals put their teeth into a wicked problem, a challenge for which the outcome is unpredictable  
  • Look for information that is contradictory to what people believe in the organization
  • Encourage curiosity. 
A side idea: I got away with reading this book with a large question for adaptive learning systems: within these systems, the learning will automatically receive new information or assignments. From the need to get an overview of the whole field (from easy to difficult) this can be rather frustrating. It coincides with a remark from users, that they would like to know what the subjects are that they have not received.

Overall, it reassured me that everybody has a native type of curiosity and that with the right stimuli this can lead to self directed learning.

Friday, June 08, 2018

(Microlearning) tool of the month: Guidiance

Microlearning is a trend in online learning, so the tool of the month is a microlearning tool: Guidiance. Microlearning originated from the idea of learning on the fly, via your mobile. Just as you do a game on your mobile in the train or waiting for the bus, you could also quickly learn something via your smartphone. Some people do that with the Duolingo app, for example, quickly learn some words in a foreign language. Microlearning often consists of several bite-sized chunks of content of limited size, which can be a video, a short text or an infographic


When to use the microlearning concept?

Microlearning can be linked to a training programme as a follow-up activity. It can also be separate, standalone for example microlearning replaces protocols on paper. What I see around me is that microlearning is used as an approach in three different ways:


  1. Performance support (so can be accessed at any time)
  2. Mini-course (then the subject must be well-defined)
  3. Part of blended learning design before or after a meetup

Of course, you can not achieve the same depth with microlearning as with a course, e-learning module or training. So you have to think carefully about what you use it for. It lends itself to short delineated subjects such as 'Wash your Hands' or a 'Latte Art for Baristas' course. For inspiration for applications, read our dutch blogpost with examples such as onboarding and the example of micro-learning about kingdom affairs.

Personally, I use the word microlearning as a didactic approach, I hear that many people also use 'microlearnings' as a noun, then it's about the content, the bite-sized chunks.


Microlearning tools

You can implement microlearning with the tools you already have available. For instance, using a newsletter by mail and Moodle. You can offer it via Whatsapp. Or it can consist of short videos via a video platform. New tools are also available that specifically focus on microlearning. I thought it would be fun to test one of these tools. I choose Guidiance because it looks nice and you can test it for free with a group up to 10 people.


Guidiance

Guidiance.com has the bad luck that Google is on the outlook for typos. Google thinks you make a typo and mean guidance, so pay attention to the i :). So go directly to guidiance.com, not through a search engine. You can create a free account and you can easily set up a micro-learning mini-course yourself.

After creating your first course, add content via 'Add', which can be a video, text, photo, quiz or link. You can indicate when your participants receive the content and if you want to schedule it over a certain time (day 1, day 2 etc). I got 2 test mini-courses: one to become a barista and wash your hands course.

You invite participants by mail after creating a group. Participants must download the (free) Guidiance app and receive the content via the app. This means that you make your own mini-course via laptop or desktop, but participants take part via the app.

What else can you do in Guidiance as a host? You can also create events and view the activity in your group via statistics. I find it very simple and clear. You can easily create a mini-course, add people. I also think it looks attractive. You can indicate whether participants can comment on the sources. I would not call it a social tool, it is really focused on sharing content and quizzes. Recent development is that you can easily place courses where you want: on your website or in other software. See an example here

More microlearning tools and apps

Besides Guidiance there are many other microlearning tools en apps. For instance:


Want to experience a microlearning course? 

Join in some free options to experience what it is. Here are two possibilities:
PS. Guidiance now has a partner program: this program is aimed at trainers who serve a clear business target group. During the program Guidiance helps you to create a successful scalable training product. In this way they guide you from creation to marketing and sales, so that you ultimately generate a continuous turnover stream through online training. For more information, please contact Guidiance via info@guidiance.com.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The skillset of a blended trainer or facilitator: technology is overrated

This week I co-organized the #Trainingtrends2018 session in Utrecht (the Netherlands) with some 90 participants. It was fun. Amazing that we are already working on blended designs for 10 years and for some this a really new area. I think the change is relatively slow because it is shift in mindset.

The current mindset


Which of the following arguments for not investing in blended training do you recognize?
  • For learning, intimacy is needed which you can only achieve face-to-face
  • I feel completely energized when I am standing in front of a group
  • I am quite technophobe/ I have little interest in working with technology

Why would you invest in blended training?

Blended training and coaching is becoming the norm. This means that clients are increasingly asking for it. The problem with standalone training days is often the transfer to practice. Karin de Galan describes a nice research example in which a blended trajectory provides better practical results. Students learn osteopathy and practice the treatment of a shoulder complaint in the classroom. However, they do not feel equipped to apply these skills in practice. When the design is blended and the students receive two more online assignments with feedback, they have more self-confidence to apply what they learned.
Clive Shepherd heeft een mooi voorbeeld van een blended onboarding programma. Who has not experienced an introductory program which consist of your first day. You have a program of briefings by all departments which pour a lot of information on you. In this blended onboarding case Nicole is joining a new organization. She starts online, hence she is already well prepared when she enters the organization and conversations with colleagues are more interesting and relevant. She has mentors during the first six months. That way she can get up to speed. 
Another example which I experienced myself: I recently received an explanation from a barista how we could make delicious cappuccino. Unfortunately, I did not volunteer to do it and I have forgotten about it. If I would have some videos available about preparing the milk I would watch them right before preparing the cappuccino.
A blended program has more contact moments than face-to-face training sessions. This implies that your participants are more likely to engage with the topic (spaced practice). I am hence convinced a good blended program can therefore achieve more effect. But .... of course there are also bad blended programs!

We underestimate the required skills 

In order to design a strong blended program, you need new skills. On the one hand, this is sometimes underestimated. For example, a trainer starts working with a online platform from the idea that it can not be that difficult. After all, you also taught yourself how to LinkedIn isn't it? On the other hand, there are trainers who fear the technology part, get paralyzed and do not venture into blended learning. They think: "this is not for me". I believe the needed technology skills are overrated, but the other skills underestimated. 


The five most underrated skills of blended trainers 

  1. Being able to ask participants questions about experience with and interest in online tools. This is necessary to decide the toolset, the learning curve of participants in using these tools and support for onboarding participants online. Without this you risk the empty online platform and subsequently everybody saying: "it doesn't work, we need to get together".
  2. Being able to design a strong blend instead of a one-off event. This requires experience with online and blended trajectory. Spacing is new, online activities. Think from the participant perspective which combination of online and face-to-face learning activities will be powerful.
  3. Choosing the right online learning activities. It is my experience working with trainers and facilitators that they are great at this once they realize that you can also translate face-to-face training methods to online. I never understood why this is not logical for everyone. 
  4. Online facilitation. Here, too, trainers already have a lot to offer. However, there are new dimensions to learn: online you have to ensure that people find their way online. You must also be present in a different way. More often and shorter. Sometimes you need to be more directive.
  5. Last but not least: being able to choose a toolset from different platforms and online toolset. This is often a whole new area for trainers and coaches. It helps to realize that a good blended design can work in a variety of platforms. 

(image throug wikipedia)

What you see is that the latter skill, the technology, is overrated (and feared). However, the other four are equally important or even more important. The blended trainer is actually an amphibian. He / she can work on land (face-to-face) and in water (online).

Besides skills you have to believe in it

More important than skills is perhaps the mindset. You have to be convinced of the added value and the power of a well-blended design. Once you experience how you can have a huge effect on supporting the learning process of your participants you will definitely start to enjoy it.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

How is learning organized in a self-managed organization?

Every month I read a management book. I am very curious about learning in self-managing organizations. How is this organized? Is self-management also self-directed learning? In April, therefore, I have read the much talked-about book by Frederic Laloux about new ways of organizing (reinventing organizations). I started reading 70-20-10 boek van Jos Arets, Vivian Heijnen en Charles Jennings but this is not an easy book to take with you on the train. So Laloux got priority.


Does a knowmad want to work in a self-managing organization?

I see more and more self-learning professionals around me, knowmads. A knowmad wants meaningful work and is using online networks and resources to learn. Many are looking for space and opportunities to develop themselves and to deal with difficult job assignments, I read a funny blogpost about a manager of a law firm who googled how he wanted to reorganize his office.
George looked around for alternative ways of organizing. “Until that time, I was only aware of the traditional pyramid. This was a problem. So I asked myself: What do we do now?”Geoffrey’s confusion didn’t last long. He adopted a very pragmatic approach. “I just went to Google and searched for things like: Do you need a management structure? Do you need to do performance reviews?
How knowmadic?  I am very curious whether organizations with self-management are places where people learn selfdirected. And how? With this question I  read Laloux. Laloux regularly mentions
Buurtzorg in the Netherlands and AES in the UK as examples he studied.


Be yourself

First some figures about meaningful work. Within Buurtzorg, absenteeism is 60% lower and turnover 33% lower than in comparable home care organizations. That means that people certainly want to work with Buurtzorg. In Laloux there is a chapter about 'wholeness' = I think it's the least down to earth chapter. However, I think 'wholeness' is an important aspect of knowmadic working: being able to be yourself, bringing your own identity and not playing a completely different role at work than at home or at the sports club. "Every time we leave a part of us behind, we cut ourselves off from our potential and our creativity and energy". A knowmad expresses all interests, does not pretend to be different than he/she is. The example of 90 employees and 20 dogs at the office is quite funny. Your dog is also part of your identity :).


Training and coaching

There is little talk about training in the studied organizations. New teams receive training on 'problem-solving approaches' and learn techniques for decision-making within teams. They learn the basics of collaboration, communication, meeting, coaching and other practical skills for self-managed teams such as conflict management. Training programs and workshops are often provided by colleagues. 

Instead of training there is a stronger focus on regional coaches. These coaches develop their own role. A coach supports 40-50 teams. An important (unwritten) rule is that a coach does not provide solutions, but allows the team to make its own choices.


Knowledge versus management hierarchy

A self-managing organization has no hierarchy. A team within Buurtzorg does not have a team leader, but this does not mean that everyone is the same. Nurses take on extra roles based on their expertise or interest. They become experts in a specific area. Someone can listen well and becomes a coach for colleagues. Another person knows everything about a certain disease. They are asked for advice from colleagues from all over the country. The intranet 'BuurtzorgWeb' is needed to find others with expertise. This creates a knowledge hierarchy instead of a hierarchy based on function.


Peer to peer from team to team

Within Buurtzorg, all information is actually openly available on the intranet. Information about the functioning of teams is also available. For example, a team that struggles with something can start looking for another team that performs well and ask how they do it now.


Learning and knowledge creation in working groups

If there are new challenges, a voluntary working group can be set up of professionals who will investigate, experiment and start building expertise. An example is a working group within Buurtzorg investigating new legislation. In another organization, AES even states that people invest 20% of their time in this type of workgroup on a voluntary basis. People develop a second role or expertise. Research in the work groups is also a form of apprenticeship because experienced and less experienced colleagues work together. A working group does not sound dynamic, but I guess the way of working in different than in a committee in a hierarchical organization. 


The advice rule

An important rule within AES is the advice rule. You can be fired if you violate this rule. Anyone can make a decision, but must seek advice from anyone who has an interest or has relevant knowledge. Why is this rule so important that you can be fired for violating it? Firstly, it is good for the knowledge flow: the right people come together and develop new insights. People who advise feel honored. It creates a bond and confidence. The professionals asking are open to advice and do not become arrogant about their own knowledge. It stimulates creative solutions and good decisions. I am curious to see how this rule remains intact under work pressure.


Collective reflection

There are differences between the organizations studied in their emphasis on reflecting. Heiligenfeld is strongly committed to this. Every week on Tuesday there is a reflection of more than one hour with all 350 employees. Every week another topic is on the agenda. They start them with a short introduction and exchange in groups of 6-10. It takes a lot of time but they think it is worth it.


No HR and no talent management required

Interesting: none of the organizations do talent management or career planning. There is no HR function. People have so much room to grow, to take on new roles, to develop expertise that no talent management programs are needed. It grows naturally, in an organic way. Everyone is responsible for his or her own learning process. This often translates in a budget for teams or individuals who can decide to engage in training programs if they want.


Experiment and experiment

Someone in AES said: "everything is constantly changing here!" And so it is. The way of working is focused on improving and experimenting. That is also a way of learning in practice. Every problem is a challenge to learn further. Making better mistakes than doing nothing.


Conclusion

I am very happy that I read Laloux. I find the practices and principles surrounding learning and development in self-managing organizations very interesting, such as the advisory principle. I think that 'ordinary' organizations that want to be agile can copy elements from this. A knowmad will gladly work in a self-managing organization. On the other hand, in these self-managing organizations you will automatically become a knowmad. You are always challenged to learn new things and take on new roles.

It may sound too good. What are the dark sides? It requires a lot of the self-learning ability of the employees. I can imagine that not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to do something new. Some people leave such an organization because they do not like it. It sounds like I would enjoy it though!

I have read this book with pleasure. Do you have any tips for books that I definitely need to read this year?

ps also interesting: the practices of learning at Kessels and Smit described by Nancy Dixon

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

March was my month of exploring virtual reality for learning and development.

We are the proud owners of 10 Virtual Reality (VR) cardboard glasses. We use them in our learning trajectory. However, we get stuck playing with a roller coaster and walking under the Eiffel Tower. When my daughter started working at the supermarket, she got an introduction course via virtual reality. I think I enjoyed it more than my daughter playing around the various departments of the supermarket :).

I doubted for a long time whether I should dive more into virtual reality, because I do not see myself designing virtual reality applications in the future. In the end I decided to learn more about virtual reality because I can advise organizations about it. Hence March became my virtual reality month. First I was at the meeting of the Spindle with Thomas Baars of HumanityX. For NGOs, storytelling via VR or 360 degree video is interesting. A brainstorm about storytelling via VR provided a long list of ideas. However, you should continuously consider the  added value of VR over ordinary video. An example of storytelling is Clouds over Sidra about a refugee camp in Jordan. What I read a lot about is that VR storytelling helps to develop empathy for, by example, the refugees. However, researcher Jeanine Reutemann warns against thinking to easy about VR= empathy. More is needed than a VR app to develop empathy. 


A meetup about VR

I co-organized a meetup with the LOSmakers. Robin de Lange was our expert and inspirator during this meetup. What I have learned here is that it is precisely the sector of training and education which has a lot of potential for VR. Here the video that I made during the meetup. Robin states that the added value of VR for learning is the fact that you can bring a variety of situation in-house via VR. 


Finally, I interviewed Ronald Christiaans of the Police Academy in the Netherlands. You can read the whole interview on the site of ennuonline. Ronald is pioneering intensively with a multitude of simulations for the police, such as shooting simulations.


What did I learn in March? 

I see that there is a lot of development in VR applications. It is still in its infancy but there is a lot of potential for training applications. It is ideal for practicing difficult or dangerous situations, for example situations such as fighting hooligans, fear of heights, or on patrol in Mali. The immersive nature of VR makes it fun, but also sticky. It can have a huge impact.

You can see that SAMR is at play too. What is just substituting a video with VR and what is really innovative?  there is a lot of substitution going on: VR application developed with a face-to-face training mindset. The first VR applications have been conceived from our current way of thinking. Jeanine showed an example of a VR application in which a powerpoint presentation was given :). Conversely, Robin had brought an application where you could draw in VR. That does turn the idea of ​​drawing upside down.

What I also learned is that VR can range from very expensive to almost cheap. It is also close to augmented reality (AR) and simulations and sometimes it is hard to draw the line. AR has a lot of potential for performance support. VR is not new, think of the flight simulator that has existed for a long time. What is new is that it is becoming cheaper and more accessible. So you can start photographing situations with a 360-degree camera of 300 euros. 

Because VR is so new, there must be room to experiment. Both the Police Academy and HumanityX have this space. If you do not experiment and deliberately set your mind to explore VR you will not wake up in the morning and think of a VR learning solution. Think of our old slogan "If you can not cycle, walking is always faster". Ronald says that you will also invest some money in applications that will not work. You have lost that money or you can also see it as a learning money. Go on a discovery tour to get a better picture of what VR is and what it can accomplish, visit companies or meetups to increase your knowledge. Check with yourself what you want to achieve, and maybe start small. Or big?


Looking for examples and inspiration?

Here's a listly list with examples: https://list.ly/list/1rx5-virtual-reality-beyond-fun-and-amusement


Monday, March 26, 2018

Lessons on learning analytics from a taxi driver

I've been on a surprise strip. You book a trip for three day but without having a clear where you are going to. Very exciting! We had to be at Schiphol by 5 am and although we were still sleepy: the taxi driver was not. He talked a lot, probably to stay awake .... He was very enthusiastic about a new system with data in his taxi. His story reminded me occasionally of an episode of Black Mirror:  Nosedive with a society based upon likes. Everyone gives each other points/likes and you need to have a certain number of points to be able to live somewhere in a certain appartement. It does not work out well for the hero of the story.


The wonderful taxi system

The fantastic system of our taxi driver consists of a point system (it is called cicada) adopted by his taxi company. Every driver earns points with his or her driving style. At first, he first did not care about his score, until it turned out that a female colleague scored highest. Knowing this, stimulated him to want to improve his score. Our driver was already at 98. For a long time his scores remained at 96 and he thought you could never get 100, but ... by keeping his hands on the wheel he was able to increase his score. I asked him what you have to do as a taxi drive to score this high. It comes down to riding evenly, not accelerate or brake suddenly, but also keep your hands on the wheel for example. He knew exactly how many seconds he could be on the radio before his score went down. It became interesting when a training place was released to become an executive driver. Our (black) driver was not nominated. Then someone thought about the scores, and wondered whether the scores should be an indication. Since our driver had the highest score he earned the place in the training and became an executive taxi driver.


From taxi to learning analytics

Clive Shepherd discussed the new skillset that L&D-ers need to develop. One of the new skills is interacting with media, and that includes the use of data. L&D also has to deal with new data which are available because of working with online media. Just think of the data you collect in your LMS or during a webinar. Although I was on vacation, I could not help myself to think about the parallels between the taxi system and learning analytics. With learning analytics you use data to gain insight into how people learn and how to support learning. The taxi data are aimed at a better driving style. The positive thing about the points system is that our driver was not nominated for the training, but because of his points he could prove that he was the best. Could you also provide a more objective assessment using learning analytics? For example, looking for the real experts? What also worked really well is the gamification element. He wanted to get a high score and therefore changed his driving style. Tip is therefore to make learning analytics understandable for learners themselves.


People always tweak the system

One more thing: you have to pay attention to what you measure with your system / learning analytics. Know what you are measuring. Combine it with observations. In the black mirror episode the system has very bad effects because people are going to judge each other. So be aware of the effect on people. Who wins, who looses?

Your data are always indicators, such as the number of minutes hands off the wheel. It was clear that people are always trying to outdo the system. For example, a taxi driver can turn on the radio 5 times in succession for 30 seconds and in between put his hands on the wheel to avoid a lower score. The question is whether that is safer than changing the radio at once. So know what you are actually measuring and ways users may tweak the system. You should never just look at the figures and forget to use your common sense.

By the way our surprise trip took us to Rome!


Thursday, March 01, 2018

You can use Twitter to get new ideas to do your work in a better way

Would you like to show off at work with great ideas? This week I did some intakes for a course about learning technologies which is starting next Monday and I realized that actually very few people are using Twitter. Yes, they do have a Twitter account and may have a look at their timeline some times, but it is not helping them to do their work in a more innovative way. That's a pity, because Twitter can actually help you to generate better ideas.

Knowmads are innovative

I believe that we need to work more and more in a knowmadic way (see this blogpost about knowmad). Technology is driving innovation and new ways of working, but we need people to do this. New ideas can help to solve a recurrent problem or simply ideas which stimulate you to do your work in a different way which may be fun. It is not something I am making up, but something I have experienced myself and which is backed up by a study by MIT.  I read "how Twitter users can generate better ideas" by Salvatore Parise, Eoin Whelan and Steve Todd. The article is based on a 5 year research program in which they studied 10 employee groups in 5 companies. They linked internal brainstorm results to Twitter usage. 

The ideas of twitter users are of higher quality

Twitter users and non-users actually submitted the same number of brainstorm ideas, but the ideas of Twitter users were rated higher (the rating was done anonymously).  Furthermore, there was a correlation between diversity of the Twitter network and the quality of ideas. Loose Twitter networks are better for ideation. 


Become an ideas scout and idea connector

Just being on Twitter is not enough. 205 interviews revealed what skills are necessary to be able to find ideas and be able to translate to your work context. You need what they call an individual absorptive capacity. Two activities were correlated to this capacity: idea scouting and idea connecting. Twitter users who performed both roles were the most innovative. 

An idea scout is an employee who looks outside the organization to bring in new ideas. An idea connector is someone who can assimilate the external ideas and find opportunities within the organization to implement these new concepts

Idea scouting

So how to scout ideas on Twitter? Interviewees said: It’s not the number of people you follow on Twitter that matters; it’s the diversity within your Twitter network. A senior technologist who was interviewed said: “I don’t necessarily want to follow more people. I just want to follow people whose opinions don’t always align with my own, which is kind of an ongoing battle because after a year or so of following the same people, you find that your opinions shift and morph a little, and suddenly you are with a homogenous group of people again.” What I personally do is follow a wide range of people on Twitter. However, the flow is so large I can not read all. I may hence miss Tweets from the people in my network, therefore I  use Hootsuite to be able to follow my warmer networks via lists.

The 70/30 rule

One person had a 70/30 rule to blend serendipity into her Twitter network: 70% of the people she follows are directly relevant to her work, 30% are outside her comfort zone. Several employees mentioned virtual connections to the thoughts of individuals such as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin as catalysts for good ideas. What I do is follow people from other industries (like marketeers) and also writers of books I like. You could also think of having a core of strong ties (people you know well and work with) and weak ties (people who are unknown to you or move in quite different networks).

From weak to strong tie

You can use Twitter as a way to move from weak ties to strong ties, to get to know people better. Twitter is perfect to establish weak ties (by following them), you can start to engage by interacting (such as replying, retweeting) but may also organize face-to-face meetings. In this way Twitter helps you expland your strong network.

Idea connecting

Idea connecting involves translating the idea to the workplace and issues and sharing and discussing those ideas with the appropriate stakeholders. In the interviews people described their roles as listener, curator and alerter. One person said: “I try to sift through all the Twitter content from my network and look for trends and relationships between topics. I then put my analysis and interpretation on it. I feel that’s where my value-add is. I’m not just sending out a bunch of links. I think through what might be valuable to particular groups such as marketing or engineering. This leads to engaging discussion.” My personal experience is that there is also serendipity involved. I follow L&D trend watchers and read about artificial intelligence and chatbot. When I participated in a face-to-face method to reflect about mistakes in order to learn from them I was able to connect that idea to a confession bot idea. Hence Twitter does work for me as a source of new ideas.

Monday, February 19, 2018

(video) tool of the month: 1 second video apps for blended learning

Video is an important online trend. The tool of this month is therefore a video tool: the 1 second video app. Video is already important in online marketing, and learning and training follows this trend. I can hardly imagine an online course or MOOC without video. The classic way to produce a learning video is to hire a professional filmmaker ask them to record and edit the video. However, there are many (more creative) possibilities to use video in the design or facilitation of online learning like interactieve video's, animations with Powtoon, whiteboard animations like Squigl or livestreaming.

1 second videos


Cesar Kuriyama once started recording a 1-second video every day to capture a whole year of his life. After this project he decided to build an app that makes it easy to do this. The app is called 1 Second Everyday. You can record a video every day via a calendar, or choose a video from your smartphone. The app will ask you to choose your one second. After uploading for various days you can produce a video by selecting a number of days. Below you can see an example a video I made, filming my garden every day for a week.



Another example: a video of a student who recorded her life in 2017.



There are various apps to make 1 second videos:
 


  • 1 sec everyday (5,49 euros)

  •  


  • 1 second daily cam (free: you can remove the logo for 1,49 euros)

  •  


  • Leap second (free)


  • How to use 1 second video apps for online or blended learning?


    1 second videos are perfect to get participants active in a creative way. A number of ways you can use the app:

    1. To get to know each other 

    You can invite participants to record something about their lives for a week and then share this online, or show the results during a meeting. It is only a 7 seconds video and will give a creative peek into someone's week. This also reminds me of the introduction of the guests in the Dutch television program the quiz: the guests bring one photo of each day of the week.

    2. As a visual start-up of discussions

    Ask people to make 1 second videos of moments during the work that make them happy, and they will be very actively involved with this topic. As a follow-up you can share the videos and talk about what makes you happy. Making the video both engages people and leads to a visual result. It will give a different picture than if you start the conversation without this preparation.

    3. A look into daily practices

    Of course it can also give an image of what someone is doing. Let everyone, for example, every day at noon make a 1 second video of what he or she is doing. This way you get a nice picture of the actual practice. Or a second every hour of the day?

    4. As reflecting aid

    The research on the Rapp-it app showed coaching in combination with the use of a reflection app improved learning. The use of the app helped participants become more aware of learning moments, record and discuss more learning activities. Likewise, a video diary prior to a reflection session can help not to forget important moments (which your memory might do).

    This blogpost can be read in Dutch on Ennuonline.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    Use of Smartphones and exhaustion: the case against mobile learning?

    Last Friday I had a dinner with 3 colleagues, our yearly dinner. We talked about the storm on Thursday which caused the complete halt of the train system in the Netherlands. I was part of a group which exchanged via a Whatsapp group whether to cancel our dinner. The group had such a flurry of messages which made me feel very unproductive in my work because I had my smartphone lying next to my laptop, and every time I looked at the new messages.

    My personal app policy
    One of the colleagues asked me: well, you must have an awful lot of whatsapp groups? He was surprised when I answered that I try to avoid work-related app groups. The reason I avoid it is because I don't want to work continuously on all my client cases, but want to have specific times that I choose to work on these client projects. In our courses we don't start whatsapp groups, unless the participants take the initiative and have a clear purpose for the group. Last Monday I talked to a teacher who said the same thing about Whatsapp. He does not want to participate in the group of his students because it would mean an awful lot of questions about homework during the weekend or late hours.

    What's the influence of smartphones on work/life balance and stress? 
    I found a study looking at the influence of our smartphone use for work purposes and its influence on stress and burnout. The paper is called Smartphone Use, Work–Home Interference, and
    Burnout: A Diary Study on the Role of Recovery. The paper is written by Daantje Derks* and Arnold B. Bakker Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In this study 69 smartphone users completed a dairy questionnaire for 5 successive working days. All participants were required by their employers to use a smartphone.

    The need to recover from work
    Our workload is going up. Many employees have a smartphone, which may or may not be paid by the organization. Organizations increasingly expect employees to immediately respond to work-related messages. The norm is becoming that individuals should be available to others anytime and anyplace. Employees feel a pressure to respond to messages coming through their smartphones (with plings!) and it derails their attention. Furthermore it blurs the boundary between work and private life, even more so when employees are highly committed to their work. The authors use the term Work-Home-Interference (WHI), defined as a negative process of negative interaction in which the employees experience pressure from work and private life which is hard to reconcile. This may be time conflict, role conflict or stress taken from work which makes it hard to relax at home.

    How to recover from work
    Smartphone users may find it even harder to find recovery time in the evening. A core component of recovery is the employee's sense of being away from work: to detox from work. It implies more than just being physically away from work. It suggests that the individual stops thinking about work and disengages mentally from it between work and home domains. In this study, two types of recovery were defined (a) psychological detachment or the ability to disengage oneself mentally from work; and (b) relaxation


    image via pixabay
    Enter: Smartphones at work 
    Smartphones are great for new forms of interaction and collaboration, like contributing to the social intranet or replying mails, and of course the numerous Whatsapp groups. Other positives often associated with smartphones are increased productivity, increased flexibility to work where you want, improved responsiveness, and the availability of real time information. However, checking your mail and responding may often seem like something 'small and quick' but may demand more time than you are aware of. You can only do one thing at the time, hence engaging in smartphone activities often implies not being their with your attention for your family or friends. There is an urge to respond when the smartphone indicates that there are new messages. This seems harmless but does demand attention. In addition, you can't control how many and how often you get messages.
    Hypotheses: The increased productivity associated with staying connected to work in the evening hours is often achieved at the cost of higher stress levels which may lead to poor recovery, impaired performance  fatigue, and sleep complaints. 

    Results of the study: smartphone use increases the Work-Home-Interference 
    The study found strong evidence that smartphone use during after-work hours impact on the work–private life balance negatively. On a daily basis they experiences Work-Home-Interference. This daily WHI is positively related to feelings of burnout operationalized as exhaustion and cynicism. For intensive smartphone users the negative effect is higher than for low- users of smartphones. When faced with high levels of WHI, intensive smartphone users are more exhausted than less intensive smartphone users. It leads to more feelings of exhaustion for the intensive smartphone user. There were also smartphone users who succeeded in experiencing psychological detachment and/or relaxation during after-work hours who experienced less WHI. This might be the opportunity for intensive smartphone users to protect themselves from the potential negative consequences of high WHIK by engaging more in sports or leisure activities.

    I often check my mails during evening hours too. It is actually shocking when you realize that it does create more stress. If people are not aware of the impact? All in all, there is a clear need for organizational policy regarding smartphone use. An organization may set boundaries for use of smartphones. I can imagine it is particularly important to monitor the intensive smartphone users and continuously discuss in teams how people use and experience the work-related smartphone conversations.

    No more mobile and micro- learning? 
    The implication for online and blended learning is huge. One implication is that this is a downside of mobile learning, especially for high smartphone users and highly committed employees. The assumption behind mobile and micro-learning: we always have our smartphones hence it is easier to bring learning content to the smartphone. Of course this may be easier but the risk is that it invades privates lives and induces Work-Home-Interference. Although it may seem trivial to watch a video for 5 minutes, it does have an impact as this study shows on feelings of exhaustion and cynism.

    It also stresses the importance of embedding online learning within workhours. I notice that in various organizations managers think online and blended learning can be done outside office hours (cheaper!). Even when employees are allowed to do it in office hours, it might not be seen as work by their colleagues. To avoid adding to stress online learning should become part of the job as face-to-face is.  

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    Three different views on social learning

    I am not the first to note that social learning is a confusion concept. Every Friday there is an interesting #ldinsight Twitter chat. I joined one Friday when the topic was about social learning. I struggled going from my tweetchat back to twitter and hootsuite trying to keep up with replies :). Any Twitterchat is hard work but it was worst to make sense here because I noticed that we all talked with a different view on social learning. For instance, people talked about groupwork and having time to read quietly. I often see social learning is seen any learning activity which involves more than one person. That's one of the views but not mine.

    I will write down the three main different views I hear when people talk about social learning. I see the social constructivist, the new social learner and the collaborative learners.










    Definition

    Learning is situated and knowledge is constructed through interaction with others. Knowledge is not constructed indivually but is influenced by others.

    Social learning combines social media tools with a shift in culture encouraging connections
    Social learning is learning with and from others
    Typical remark
    “You can not turn off learning” “Even reading a book is social”
    “I connect and learn through my online network” “just the technology is not enough”
    “We should add some social elements”  “It is all about sharing knowledge and experience”
    Online or offline?
    Both
    Online
    Both
    Typical interventions
    Scaffolding
    Communities of practice
    Social network inventory – looking for existing communities

    Introduce an Enterprise social network
    Stimulate use of social media
    Working Outloud

    Groupwork
    Peerreview
    Adding interaction to e-learning
    Result
    Collective learning

    Online networks
    Learning from peers

    Images through Robin Higgins on Pixabay

    Not any of these views are wrong. Someone said this distinction is putting ideas in boxes. Personally I think surfacing your underlying ideas about social learning can be helpful in a conversation. Otherwise you might not understand each other. I am a typical social constructivist because I look at learning as meaning making. However, I often adopt the new social learning definition because it is a much clearer definition. The collaborative learning approach is not wrong, but it does not focus on collective learning which is often very important in organizations. Mmm in networks as well in fact.

    Do you relate to any of the three views? Which one?

    Tuesday, January 09, 2018

    Bookreviews Kevin Kelly: mind artificial intelligence, attention and quantified self


     I read two books by Kevin Kelly about technology, one on my kindle and one on paper (not the same book by the way :). The first was What technology wants; the second the Inevitable. I found both through Twitter. Now that I think about it: I get most of the book tips via my Twitter network.

    I have read these two books because I want to know how technology is going to influence my field of work: learning and knowledge. I was also curious about what lens he uses to looks at technology. In my study Irrigation Engineering we learnt about various lenses. For example, you had the techno-optimists who thought that technological developments would solve all problems of developing countries, for example agricultural production would go up by invention of artificial fertilizer and pesticides. On the other hand, there are the skeptics. I was more skeptic because I saw how great the influence of culture and the way people react to technology is. At times people do reject technologies. Farmers in Africa did not make massive use of fertilizers and pesticides at all. Are there differences in visions on (learning) technologies? What lens can I use?

    Kevin Kelly ends his book The inevitable with a clear position: he sees that we are at the beginning of a new phase, the last chapter is hence called 'the beginning' since he sees that we are at the start of a new phase. In this phase we move towards a collective consciousness that he calls the holos. We can not imagine the holos because it is something unseen yet. Another phase change from the past was the invention of the language. The people before the invention of language could not imagine the world with language either. Through language cooperation and coordination got a boost, but also idea development and fantasy. Ideas and knowledge travels with generations through language. The holos is a connection of all people and machines via artificial intelligence. The holos arises because we increasingly share, track, mix, filter, etc. via the internet. He also mentions two different visions on artificial intelligence: hard and soft singularity. The hard singularity theory is that we make a superintelligence that becomes increasingly smart, solves all problems and bypasses us. The soft singularity's theory is based upon a complex interface between people and artificial intelligence.

    Some ideas I take from his books are: 

    • Technology takes an increasingly more central place in our lives. We sleep with the smartphone. My daughter sometimes sits with a laptop on her lap, ipad next to it and a smartphone in her hand. 10,000 years ago, a farmer only ran a few hours a day with a tool in his hand. The rest of the day was technology free. 
    • Apart from an addiction to a smartphone, for example, we may be addicted to what Kelly calls the 'technium', the technological innovation itself. This explains the interest in gadgets. The guild of French scholars has been able to delay the introduction of the printing press in Paris but could not stop it. Hence the general technology advancement seems inevitable?
    • Social changes in history are almost always driven by technology. He clearly recognizes that not all changes due to technology are positive. For instance the large-scale slave trade has become possible because of the sailing ships that could sail across the oceans. A quote from Karl Marx: the hand-mill gives you a society with the feudal lords, the steam-mill society with industrial capitalists.
    • The society and what we are working on is much more about intangibles (services, not tangible things) than about goods. 40% of US exports are intangible.

    the picturephone






    • According to Kelly, new technologies are sometimes inevitable, but every technology needs a momentum. He gives the example of the videophone. Already in 1938 there were prototypes at the German post office. Picturephones were installed on the streets in New York in 1964, but were discontinued because there were only 500 subscribers. Now we use Skype, Zoom, Facetime or use video to call Whatsapp. Often similar technologies are invented or tried out simultaneously in different places. Only if the supporting technology is right and matches the social dynamics is it widely accepted. There is often a point where technology seems to be an option to individuals but in fact society has already changed so that people feel compelled to use it, in fact it is no longer an option. I recognize this with Whatsapp and the chip card for public transport. My mother could still buy tickets, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. Also think about how difficult it is if you do not want to use Whatsapp?
    • He summarizes the major changes of our time in the inevitable: Our time is knowledge / information-oriented, flows of information such as in your timeline are increasing. Sharing, linking, tagging are all on the rise. 40% of the web is commercial information, however 60% is voluntarily shared, from a passion. Artificial intelligence is going to have a big impact. The time of huge influence of Artificial intelligence has arrived because we have cheap computing power, big data and better algorithms. These three are the optimal conditions for artificial intelligence.
    • Can you redesign the economy based upon attention rather than material goods? If information is no longer scarce, then attention is. What if I was paid to look at an advertisement? If information is not scarce, and we can work more efficiently through artificial intelligence, people will focus on actual experiences. They will become very expensive and a new industry. 
    • There is a whole movement of quantified self. There is so much data that you can collect and analyze about yourself. Does this really make us a better person?
    The books offer a lot of ideas about the influence of technology. It is quite overwhelming to me. On a philosophical level, I recognize the inevitably of technological advancements as in society. Being addicted to technology development in general by humanity would explain the focus on new technology and the 'shiny tool syndrome' that I often encounter. The intrusion of technology also gives me an uneasy feeling, as if you lose control. I am not happy about the inevitability. My own feeling says that we do not always need to get better from all new technology and that we still have to stay connected to nature because we depend on it (just look at black mirror). Nor do I believe that technology can solve all our problems, think of climate change, which is quite scary. 

    My question was: what will be the influence of technology on learning and sharing knowledge?. What I will take away from these two books is the increasing importance of information, we have to relate to information in a different way. We drown in information but does it help us further? Dealing with big data and information is becoming increasingly important. Attention is becoming scarce. Artificial intelligence will play a major role in this. The quantified self also comes back. 

    A conclusion is to pay attention to: (1) artificial intelligence (2) attention scarcity and focus and (3) learning through feedback about ourselves (quantified self). As far as the hard and soft singularity is concerned, I certainly believe in the soft singularity that we determine how artificial intelligence will support us. 

    What kind of feeling do you get from all these developments?