Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blogging from hospital

No, not me fortunately!

I have a friend whose two-years old son was admitted to hospital with a rare auto-immune disease. He needed a lot of blood transfusions. The friend asked me to open a blog for his son so that he could share all information with everyone interested. Which is what I did. I added an email subscription feature, because most readers would not be familiar with RSS readers. They did not want comments online. They posted daily, or even twice daily, and included videos too. It made it a lot easier to pick up conversations on the phone, because you already had an idea whether there had been good or bad news lately. I felt better prepared to phone while knowing the latest news. The boy is back home now and doing fine. Now and then there is still a blogpost with some news.

The blog made communication with a wider group much easier for the parents than emails, because it is not a push, but a pull medium. They would not have sent daily mails to a wide group. With the blog, even not-so-close-friends would send each other the URL, so that they could read and follow the ups and downs and decide how often to read. It was also good, to have an online space where all information could be found, and you could scroll down to compare the writings with earlier accounts.

The interesting thing about this story for me is that he knew enough about weblogs to be able to use the tool (amongst others by reading my blog I guess). Yet, he never had the urge to start his own blog. I'm the last person who thinks that everyone should blog by the way. But when a situation occurred where a blog could be useful he was able to see its application. Had he not known enough about weblogs, he would probably not have been able to see this as clearly as he did. So that's what technology introduction is about for me: making sure people know enough about the available tools so that they can design their own application for the tool when the situation calls for it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My first self-made widget

I'm proudly presenting my first self-made widget! I have built it with Sproutbuilder, which I got to know through Beth Kanter.

I have used the example of a conference about communities of practice in the Netherlands, that we'll be organizing on June 2. I particularly liked the countdown feature. You can do much more like adding audio or video to your widget (though it already seems heavy for non-broadband internet users). If you want to know more about widgets, you can read one of my earlier blogposts.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The difference between communities of practice and action learning

Tomorrow I'm going to present the difference between the theories of communities of practice and action learning (and between the communities themselves and action-reflection groups). I haven't found any materials comparing the two, so I had to do some brainwork for myself. This table summarizes what I intend to present. (CoP = community of practice, AL = Action Learning). Any input welcome!

IsA theory, little information on methodsA methodology, less detailed theory
GoalStewarding a knowledge domainProblem solving
ParticipationVarying levels of voluntary participationFixed group over period of time
ActivitiesMix of learning activitiesFocus on reflection and questions
ExpertiseDistributed Expertise LeadershipPeer-to-Peer
PeriodCoP life stagesDetermined period of time

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How can blogs support communities of practice?

(Cartoon via tangwailing blog)

I observed that Stan Garfield blogs about questions he receives or overhears about knowledge management. That made me think that I could blog some of the questions I get (+ the answers). One of them was: how can blogs support communities of practice?

1. A community of practice can have a public teamblog. An example of a teamblog is the ecollaboration weblog . It works for the community to document face-to-face meetings, and makes it publicly known. In a discussion about the future of the community, it came up as an object of identification with the community. It is not easy to keep it going. For instance, it would be great if members would post more blogs sharing their experiences with ecollaboration and reflections, but it's not priority for people.

2. A weblog with summaries of discussions can be a repository for the community. An example is the weblog Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development . It is a weblog from ICCO capacity building advisor. The discuss cases in a password-protected environment. The cases are summarized in a depersonalized matter. Besides a repository, it is also a boundary crossing tool, as it is publicly available. In this case, the first posts were done by me as a facilitator, since this was a new way of working for the group and hard to explain. When they saw it, they were enthusiastic and were inspired enough to continue. It feels like a 'product' of discussions which may seem intangible.

3. Individual member weblogs can stimulate individual practice reflections, but can also act as means to open up practices to others. CPsquare offers an RSS feed that aggregates all blogposts by its members. This can be a way of making the weblogs more visible.

4. Blogging communities have blogs as their main means of communication. Nancy White has written an article about blogging communities called: Launching a new paradigm for online community. She distinguishes 3 types of blogging communities:
1. The single blog/blogger centric community with the power vested in the central blogger.
2. The Central connecting topic community which is a community that arises between blogs linked by a common passion or topic.
3. The boundaried communities like myspaces or multiply where members register and join and are are offered the chance to create a blog.

For more about blogging communities you can watch Nancy White presenting on this topic (she is talking through webcam!) in this video

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Second life secondary experiences

I've never spent time to understand or experiment with Second Life. Somehow it seems more part of gaming than general online interaction and that seems like a whole different specialization. When I was checking feebs (Dutch site with videos for quote "ICT-ers and professionals" - so ICT-ers are NOT professionals :) I found this tutorial for Second Life by Thorley Linden. Besides using it as tutorial you can use it to get some feel of how it is to walk in second life with an avatar. It feels a little like walking in a fairytale.

I also read a book by the writer Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer about his experiences in Second Life. He wondered around for half a year. He has chosen to be a woman in Second Life as a kind of sociological or antropological experiment. He/she earns some money with Pole Dancing (?) = paaldansen. One of the big attractions for him is the fact that you can fly and don't need a house in Second Life. However, most of the avatars in Second Life do build a house and some even sit on their couches in Second Life. Since there is no crime (you can't bleed, and your property can be taken- in the code of property the owner is written) he (or she rather) had to get used to the absence of danger. After a while, he was seeing the normal world through Second Life eyes, being amazed about the details and searching for the minimap where you can spot other avatars.

I think this could be a way of using Second Life in the context of learning- to have people experience a different culture and see how it makes them creative and look at their real life with other eyes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Video to explain Twitter

There's a new short video by CommonCraft, this time explaining Twitter. Since we organized a twitter experiment I've continued twittering. I'm not doing it fulltime though and may forget about it for even a few days. But sometimes I think it's fun to see what people are doing, and sometimes I find interesting new meeting rooms like Seats2meet or new wiks that are of interest to me like the etoolkit wiki. It's an amazingly new type of communication that reminds me of overhearing short conversations in the train (something I like too). It also ressembles the short conversations with friends and family in which you pick up an idea for a movie to see or a book to read. But this time you can broaden it to a larger group. I notice that the kind of activities I report are influenced by what I read from others, but that's very diverse from people reporting every step to people reporting their mood, or only their blogposts/what they read online (almost like a surflog). I've never liked the name microblogging, because it is so radically different from blogging, it has nothing to do with writing short blogposts!

I met Elmine Wijnia yesterday for the first time and she said she preferred Jaiku. Later I thought it is hard to change from twitter to Jaiku because it's dependent on where the people you are following are. It's as if everyone is going to the same pub and you are going to another. But it might be nice to try with a new group.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Jay Cross about informal learning

I just finished reading informal learning, the book by Jay Cross

If you want to see two more videos where Jay Cross continues his explanation, you can go to his blog. In youtube the second video has half the amount of viewers as the first one, which can be an indication that it wasn't interesting enough for half of the people, or it can be explained by the fact that people like to watch a video for 3-4 minutes, but not longer. Personally I dislike watching long videos, it takes up too long, then I'd rather have the text to scan through.

In the video and his book, he explains that 80% of learning budgets in companies are spend on training, whereas most of the learning (also 80%) takes place outside training rooms. He sees human conversations as the mail technology for learning and estimates that training will become obsolete. Though later he adds that formal training can be good for novices, comparing it to driving on a buss, where you the buss driver is determining the direction for you. Informal learning, though, works better for experienced workers. This is compared to biclyces, riding a bike you can decide where to go. It makes me curious why he hasn't chosen a car, which goes as fast as a buss at least... A bicycles is much slower than a buss.

To be honest, the book did not give me a lot of new insights, but maybe my expectations were too high. I had hoped to find more detail about levels of learning. I'm a little frustrated that we use the word learning for someone who asks for whether you want coffee with milk and learns that you like milk in your coffee. But we also use it for the results of deep personal reflections that make you decide that you want a major shift in your life. You learn what to do with your life.
It's a different level of impact.

The positive side is that the book explains informal learning in very simple, convincing ways, and gives lots of examples methods to stimulate informal learning like World Cafe, Bar camps, etc. I've come to realize informal learning may be a good term in itself. And he has very good account of the developments in the field of elearning since he was one of the first people coining the term.

I feel that Jay is using a definition of training in a somehow sterotype way. The way I know training is much more participatory and experience-based and may therefore not be diametrically opposed to informal learning. For instance, a training may even use a World Cafe method, a method that Jay labels as perfect for informal learning. Therefore it seems too black and white to me to talk about formal and informal learning and labelling training as formal learning. I will try to capture my ideas about informal/formal in a diagram in a next post. (I'm just realizing that this is the second blogpost with a cliffhanger, maybe the example of Jay about a waiter who only remembers something while unfinished and forgets everything when it's finished has influenced me after all :).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Dilbert discusses web2.0 or web1.0

Via Miles to go a cartoon from Dilbert (it was actually placed in the Intermediair magazine in Dutch). It's actually more about diverting attention in organizations.. It reminds me of two things: experts in eg. Netsquared talk about 'social media' rather than web2.0 (to avoid the dichotomy between web1.0 and web2.0?). And the eternal discussion about: is this a community of practice or not (or a learning community).

I've been asked to explain the difference between action learning and communities of practice, so as soon as I have a draft, I will put it up here.