Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The filtering professional

This blogpost was originally written by me for the NVO2 blog, for HRD professionals Statement: professionals should learn to digest more information and improve their filtering skills.. This is necessary to increase their general awareness of what is going on in their environment. Develop antennas for what's new in their profession, trends, customers, students (for teachers), competitors. This is part of professional2.0.  IMG_1360.JPGFirst let's talk about my bicycle (that's how my first blogpost started though you can see how my bicycle changed!). In november my accelerators broke down. First I felt like I was peddling like crazy.. But it took me a long time to make an appointment for repairs (for several reasons: bicycle repair shop had disappeared etc.). So after one month it seemed like completely normal to pedal in first gear only, I had completely gotten used to it.

Now let's make the link to organisations and professionals. Many people don't have time to explore the usefulness of social media for their work because they are already overwhelmed with email. Email has become something terrible yielding negative energy ("I still have to do my email"). They associate social media as being worse than email, even more messages, even faster flow of information. You will be even more behind!

I used to feel that you don't have to embrace social media, but I changed my thinking. Now I am convinced that as a professional you have to digest a lot of information: be able to scan, prioritise, make sense and contribute. It is part of being a creative, learning, improving, exploring professional. So they have to learn how to digest and filter information. A person I and other have frequently cited is Clay Shirky ("I study the effects of the internet on society") who said "it's not informatie overload but filter failure". In a presentation I once asked whether people also complain about too many books in the library, which made people laugh. In the library you know how to search and filter, using your favourite authors, search engine etc.

Professionals can use a 3 - step strategy to filter:
  1. Know your knowledge domains. I read a book about personal branding where they used the term icloud - a tag cloud with words of interest to you, your interest areas. This seems more logical for freelance consultant, but not for all professionals in organisations. I think you should define 3- 5 core knowledge domains (eg I have a focus on social learning, social media, communities of practice). Within organisations this is something to be discussed. Not only your tasks but also your knowledge fields should be clear. (why not include those in job descriptions?)
  2. Choose your networks- focus on the communities and networks that matter to you. I'm sure if you know your domain and find relevant networks you will not stop following them. Don't follow too many networks that are nice to know of. Focus and engage in a few. If you have the capacity to filter many more- fine.
  3. Use handy tools that help you scan rapidly and filter. Think of Twitter lists, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to sort out information flows and set up a dashboard. RSS readers like Google reader are good to follow many feeds. I'm sure there are lots of other tools, but it helps to exchange with colleagues and take the time to test things and try something new every once in a while.
Here's a presentation in prezi in Dutch language about the 'filtering facilitator' I will use tomorrow in a training session for facilitators of a learning trajectory. 

Do you agree that professional have to filter? Or are there professions that you can perfectly perform without this new compentence? Might be! So let me know in a reaction

Friday, December 09, 2011

New media, new practice

I have to confess I read my mail on my biclycle (using my iphone). Two years ago I didn't have mobile internet yet. Twittering and mailing was place-bound to my computer. As a result I was using the first hour behind my computer to work through my mail. Now I can also read tweets and blogs. A good reason for me to read mails while travelling on the bike or in the train.

Visiting a friend I discovered reading bedstories to small children is not the same anymore. Now there are all kind of nice apps for children, with things to click on and sounds and noises. Or you can have surf for youtube videos (like   this one of the princess and the potty. Comes in handy when you need to do something for yourself.

The workfeud app has made scrabble a favorite game again.

Sylvia Witteman (a Dutch writer) wrote a column about her fixed telephone line. Everybody is calling on their mobiles, except her mother who says:  "I just like to call you without knowing who will pick up the phone". Unfortunately nobody answers, since they only answer their own mobile phones...

In gesprek met iemand die niet veel achter de computer wilde zitten stelde ik voor dat zij meer met mobiele apps zou kunnen doen. Even een snel twitter of Yammer berichtje sturen kan ook van je mobiel (met internet verbinding) en dan hoef je niet meer achter de computer te zitten. Helaas bleek ze een oud model te hebben waar je net mee kunt bellen.

Photo by Yashrg

On the photo you see the following quote: "Technology is not technology if it was invented before you were born". There is a difference in the way people embrace new technologies (or not). Developments in technology are also incredibly fast. Someone told me: "I don't have a clue how I can find my way through all the new tools, I don't understand how you do this!". The examples I shared show that new use of technology also brings new habits. And the habits sometimes inhibit adoption of new technologies. Think of sms, people have started to communicate more often or on the contrary call less. Hence it is sometimes not an improvement for all, think about the grandmother who would like to call being surprised by not knowing who answers the phone. Though this morning I read on Facebook of a granny using Skype to exchange kisses with her grandchildren. So it might also be an improvement. I wonder what determines whether you try something new? Some elements are: what your friends do (I was invited to wordfeud games and my daughters are fanatically using what'sapp while I don't). But also whether you like experimenting or whether you perceive the benefits. I have long resisted the microwave, feeling it is unnatural to radiate your food...

For organisations it is hence even more difficult to stay abreast with all new developments, like social media. Especially when the management team is slightly older or less experimental, after all management has a large influence on collective habits (culture- the way we do things around here). The way new media should be used may also be at odds with the way the organisation works. All this may lead to a situation where the organisation is missing new possibilities to network, innovate, profile themselves. One afternoon talking about social media is not enough to bring about change. In january we are starting a trajectory with a new organisation working during half a year exploring new media and how this may lead to new ways of organising within the organisation. I'm very excited and hope that we can manage to change some practices. I think 6 months is quite a short trajectory, but hope we'll get far.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Social media: 4 opportunities for secondary education

Not too long ago I went to an evening session about social media at the secondary school of my daughter. It struck me how the subject of social media is approached from fear. I was very happy when I was invited to do three sessions for the teachers of a secondary school myself. You can imagine that it was not about fear, but about the 4 opportunities that social media offer.
  1. Opportunity to learn in communities with other teachers - nationally and internationally

  3. Innovation in the way classes are conducted

  5. Adding 'mediaknowledge' (mediawijsheid) to the curriculum

  7. Opportunity for reputation management online - make your students ambassadors!

Below you will find my presentation in Dutch.

After the presentation there was the opportunity to explore tools in a 'tooltour'; sitting in small groups or individually behind a computer. Twitter was popular, but also RSS readers like igoogle were appreciated, to follow a few interesting sites or blogs. A group explored wikis and discussed the idea to put examresults on a wiki up for questions. Now a lot of questions are received by email. Using a wiki might be a more efficient way. We found out the twitter account with the name of the school was already taken, probably by a few students (10 students were following that account).

Docenten #varendonck over innovatie in de les met sociale media on TwitpicThe last part of the afternoon was World Café- like. The 4 opportunities were placed on 4 tables with a few questions. In two rounds, teachers could chose the subject they would like to discuss. It was impressive to see the topic was very much alive and touches something, even though not all teachers are happy with social media. The presentation was still quite overwhelming.

The table about learning in teacher communities started talking about education in the future. They thought it was slightly off-topic but I think it is relevant enough: your ideas about the future of education will determine the importance you attach to social media and social learning. The group discussing how to teach students about smart uses of social media discovered that many thought this is covered in other classes, but in reality the school was rather reacting to incidents instead of having a systematic way of incorporating it in the curriculum. 

What struck me in the informal conversations with teachers is that there are huge differences in the way teachers react to these opportunities. A minority are real pioneers, read edublogs, twitter, experiment and are excited. Others (the majority) are slightly sceptic and fear that they will have to spend more time behind the computer ("I prefer to make music and run!). Practical applications to improve lessons are appealing. A few feared that using social media in class makes teachers vulnerable. What if they play games or chat with friends on Facebook rather than doing their assignments? How to prevent teachers being explosed on the web in ways they do not like? I'd say you need to offer structure and make clear agreements on what to do and what not to do.

Lastly there seemed to be a need for some guidelines for teachers how to deal with social media (do you friend teachers, do you share? do you read?). Everybody is now learning and deciding on his/her own.However, such guidelines need enough freedom for teachers to develop a strategy that fits their personality and preferences.