Friday, December 13, 2013

The shoemaker and his (own) mould

For years I have been wearing orthopedic shoes. The fun thing is that you may design your own shoes. The first pairs of shoe pairs it was quite frustrating that they do not look out exactly as you designed them... Since years I know that the final shoe will not look exactly like my design and I think it's fine. I'm going to switch from one shoemaker to another shoemaker. So I asked the shoemaker if he could send the mould (do you call it like this?) to the new shoemakers, which seemed logical and efficient. Something about not reinventing the wheel or doing double work ...

The shoemaker did not want to send his mould to his colleague He explained that every shoemaker has his own way of working, there are subtle differences in how you approach it. He would never want to work with a mould made by his colleague, but rather create a new one. His mould of the same foot will be quite different. This surprised me, it seemed so logical to share the mould as an outsider. It got me thinking again about how hard it is to share materials between professionals, and learn from each other's unique way of working. I once taught a course with the curriculum of another teacher, but found myself adjusting many things and almost wished I started from scratch. Although the practice of trainers, for example, looks alike for outsiders, there are many subtle differences that make the work of a professional unique. With a colleague we like to make prezis together and I notice that it is still hard to explain a hard made by a colleague you know really well.

This week I facilitated the third session of a community of practice. One participant told me that he had really connected with two other participants. They share a lot with each other and talk about all their projects. I strongly believe it take a sustained interaction over a longer time frame in order to be able to really learn from each other. This is the only one way to learn how another professional tackles the same challenges. Though I had the impression this shoemaker did not really want to learn something from his colleagues - he knows just how how he wants to work.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tools for social network analysis from beginners to advanced levels

This year I've been drawn to the power of social network analysis. Monday I'll be taking my exam of the Coursera MOOC about SNA. Even though this is quite a scientific course, you learn new ways of looking at networks and for instance using Gephi with all its possibilities. Tomorrow I have a webinar with a group of people interested in social network analysis, interested in the tools. What I'm doing in this blogpost is classifying some tools for network from EASY through INTERMEDIATE to DIFFICULT.

It's good to distinguish between EGOnetwork analysis and whole network analysis. An EGOnetwork analysis is mapping the network of relationships of one person (usually your own network!).  In Network analysis you identify a network, a friends network, a LinkedIn group or a community of practice, or in the course a dolphins network. There are some simple tools which can help you map your own social media network.
Tools in level 1 are the Egonetwork tools which are available on the web and which make it possible to analyse your network in one click. You may do this in 1-2 hours.
  • With one click you can map your LinkedIn network (except if your network is too small or too large. It automatically colours the subnetworks. It is a good exercise to name these subnetworks. What kind of people would you like to have in your network.
facebook netwerk nov 2013facebook netwerk touchgraph nov 2013

  •   You can do an Egonetwork analysis of your  Facebook network met Touchgraph - see pictures above. Just like with LinkedIn maps you can see subcommunities with different colours. Mijn main networks are my old IICD network and KM4dev/CPsquare networks. My friends network is the tiny part in green. That explains why I'm not that active on Facebook. You can actually do a lot of things with touchgraph, more than with linkedIn maps, like you can zoom in on your most important network, choose to show picture or names etc. See the examples above.  

Level 2 are tools that take more time to understand and work with. You may need a day or so, even though it is possible to learn it with tutorials from the web, or ask someone who knows the tools. Niveau 2 zijn tools die je wel even onder de knie moet krijgen. Nevertheless the tools are free: Gephi and NodeXL are both free and open source.. NodeXL is for windows and works with Excel.

  • You can download your Facebook network with Getnet then import it in Gephi. The difference with touchgraph is that you can do more analysis for instance look at the most influential people in your network.  

  • twitter netwerk toekomstglban interesting way of doing Network analysis of social media is with NodeXL you can import for instance Twitter Hashtag tweets, or a network of a twitter account (@joitske). I haven't tried a lot yet with NodeXL, I have been struggling a bit with the labels. Importing at times takes long because Twitter only allow a certain amount of data to be downloaded, so be prepared to set it up and let it run for a couple of hours. 
The highest level of difficulty is doing a whole Network analysis with tools like Netdraw and Gephi. It is important to understand network measures like centrality measures and sub communities. It takes investment in knowing network theory and software.
  • Network analysis with Gephi. The SNA course used Gephi and I find it impression what you can calculate and analyse like average shortest path, modularities etc. I think it takes a good comparison with other networks to interprete these kind of overall network characteristics. See below a  Gephi example. Screen shot 2013-11-26 losmakers gephi
  • Similar to Gephi you can do Network analysis with Netdraw. So far I am very impressed with what you can do in Netdraw, especially the way you can visualize parts of the network and zoom in. For instance, if you have a network with agriculturalists, policy makers and advisors, you can plot the network of the advisors separately if you like. We did that for a large network zooming in on the provinces which was very useful to have a view of the network at provincial level. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Design of blended learning: inspiration from a book about design thinking

I read the Dutch boek De Ontwerpfactor, written by Marguerithe de Man. She did a sabatical studying urban planning and landscape architecture which inspired her to write this book about design of learning and change trajectories. Marguerithe is part of our trajectory leren en veranderen met sociale media which makes it extra nice to read.
...ontwerpfactor What I liked most about the book is that it provides the space to look at the design process in different ways. In our own book we have four design stages for designing a blended program. After reading this book, I think we could have make more room for the individuality and personal style of trainers and consultants in the design process. It also helps me understand that at the end of the day about blended learning design most participants were not yet ready to really put a design on paper (or ipad). The actual design process is quite messy and needs time to ponder and mull things over. A beautiful sentence from the book: "The challenge is to discover your own design issues and process. There is not a single design process.." I remember we did a design session with roughly 10 people before our learning trajectory in which we wrote down the main issues to deal with. At the end we hardly looked at this list when designing the trajectory....

I read the book with the design of blended or online learning trajectories in mind. Some things I definitely take away from the book for the design of blended learning programs:
  • The metaphor of concrete and timber trees. What part of your design is crucial and need to be concrete and what aspects can you leave more open-ended? For a blended program: can the participants help shape and detail the goals of the trajectory? Is the platform a private online platform or is er openess to use online side-walks using other media? I think as a designer you have the choice to put everything in concrete but you can also design for flexibility. A nice example in our own district: people created all kinds of new paths because the route to the mall was not logical for walkers and cyclists. Are you going to build a fence (see picture) or customize your design? hek
  • The agent design (is this the right translation for middelontwerp?). For me this is a new concept, it prescribes how to manufacture the product. In a blended program you have no prescription but it may be necessary to clarify a number of assumptions - how independent you expect people to be... how much you're going to help if they get stuck. You can do this in an intake interview. For instance we are now more explicit during our intake that we are available for support when people are stuck in their cases but it is their own responsibility to call upon us. It can also include instructions for online platform construction if that is outsourced. It's new for me! Will need to think more. 
  • Working with personas. This is something I recognized from my own experience-it is very powerful to work with personas - when youare designing. I did this in a project with a design team. When working with personas you create an image of a user that you give a name. It is not a person but a number of people in the 'meat grinder' (as the book calls it). In our project it worked very well because every time we had new ideas we thought how Marjan and Kees would like it. When designing a blended program working with personas is a very strong approach because you can choose personas with different preferences and skills in working online. Why I have not used more often? - Perhaps because it is still a step that extra time seems to cost?
  • Design/ atmosphere. How important is the attractiveness/atmosphere? This is also something we can learn from designers - attraction is also important. I often tend to work with the tools out there, such as Sharepoint, or LinkedIn because I love working with the well-known tools, which is also an important consideration. However, I struggle with the attractiveness/atmosphere. After reading the book, I feel design considerations (attractiveness) is a little higher on my list of criteria in choosing tools for blended learning. 
  • Interface. Architects also work with the spaces between buildings - the interface. In blended trajectories you will have to switch between online and face-to-face. You will also have to space activities. Are you for instance planning weeks to rest with no activities? This is another example where I learned to be more explicit about our design. The first trajectory people complained that little was happening during the 'off-weeks'. 
Sorry, the book in only available in Dutch!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Making the invisible visible with social network analysis

Together with Koen Faber, Josien Kapma and Niels Schuddeboom we have an informal dutch group who want to learn about social network analysis. Our learning curve is quite steep I would say! It helps me a lot to have likeminded people around me. For instance I signed up for the MOOC about social network analysis which started 4 weeks ago and which is interesting but also very scientific. I almost forgot about it during the first week but Koen telling me about the assignments (analyzing your own facebook network) stimulated me to dedicate more time and I even signed up for the signature track for the certificate.

We first got together somewhere before the summer and all blogged about our questions:
  • Josien wondered about the focus on the images versus the conversations amongst network members. It is good to have conversations about a network. What is the role of  'a true picture' of the network? The interpretation is more important - hence is it necessary to do all this effort to depict the network or could it also be a simple drawing? (costs less effort!) Read her blogpost in Dutch here. 
  • Koen wondered how to use maps effectively as reflection tools? and also Can network mapping show which people influence the course of the network? Whose influence is tipping the opinions in a network setting?
  • I also blogged about my learning questions here and I had 3 questions: Is it possible to do network analysis without collecting data by using social media connections? How much is the time invested in doing the SNA and does it justify the results in terms of surprises and new insights that would not have been possible to gain in other ways? Would it be possible to make the process more participatory? 
Since then, together we were engaged in 3 network analysis. Interesting was the diversity already in the 3 network analysis - the number of respondents ranged from 55 to almost 900, the purpose ranged from understanding and growing the network to evaluating the network. We used onasurveys to collect data and export and analyse it in Netdraw. I also used NodeXL to analyse a twitter hashtag and a twitter account. In the MOOC we are working a lot with Gephi to analyse data. Interestingly most tools are free or low cost (onasurveys is paid). 

I learned a lot and it is very timely that next week Friday (the 8th of November) we'll share our experiences with a group of network professionals in Utrecht. If you happen to be in the Netherlands and are interested you are very welcome - more information on this page. The title is: 

Social Network Analysis: just a bunch of nice images?  

I am very positive about social network analysis and it potential to gain insights into a network

* Social network analysis can give a different view into a network, which can be revealing and help to make strategic decisions on how to strengthen a network. First a short story to illustrate how social network analysis can give a different view with a more scientific basis. Koen came to my place by public transport and I told him that he could take the train and then take the tram, alternatively take the train to the central station and then the so-called randstadrail. When he arrived, he said he took the bus! I never thought about the bus because I dislike buses and they always tend to keep me waiting for long. So I discard this as an option. However, he used the public transport planner and the planner found the bus. This is an analogy to show what social network analysis can do for network members or facilitators. Though network members always have their own observations and may understand the network quite well - it helps to have an images constructed from the information given by the members which may reveal things otherwise unseen. Though this is also a case of rubish in rubish out, if people do not respond honestly or do it in a hurry, there may be biases in the data too. In one case, a sponsor to the network was invited. Though interesting for network members, they saw a lot of their impressions confirmed. However, they felt very proud that the sponsor could finally SEE the network...

* The invested time is not too much, it may not always be justified but in many cases it may be. As a rule of thumb I am now calculating 5 days of work including designing the survey with the network coordinators, testing the survey, sending it out, analyzing data, preparing visuals and interpreting the visuals. I'm amazed by how much you can do with the free software programs, though the more you use it, the more you realize how much is possible and which you don't understand. I never used Ucinet for example and there are so many ways to calculate overall network statistics. That's a whole new world to me. Besides it is very easy to import a twitter network into NodeXL or a Facebook network into Gephi. This is far easier than I imagined. So in half a day you could already analyze some social media data. 

* Working with the network members needs to be the core of the work. As we already thought, the interpretation and discussion with a representation of network members is very important. In all 3 cases we had a debriefing ranging from 1,5 to 3 hours, in which the images guide a discussion. I think it would be even better to have 2 sessions with the team. One session in which you show the images and what they represent - then sending out a short summary, followed by another session to talk about interventions. On the other hand, I realized that the work of the person designing and interpreting the survey is very important. He or she has an important part to play in choosing the right questions and filtering the images to show and interpret. 

* It is an art rather than a science. It is very important what kind of questions you ask and wording matters. It also matters a lot what you analyze and how you represent it. You have to develop a sense for the right questions and the images that will help the understanding. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Learning in times of Google: two personal experiences

foto (6)See here in the picture Kiekeboe our new hamster (or do you say chipmunk as in Alvin and the chipmunks?). Our Kiekeboe escaped and my search in the house was in vain. I decided to Google and found some good tips:  (1) search in the evening/ at night because in daytime he is hiding and asleep. (2) put food in different rooms and watch where the food is gone - that's the room where he is hiding. So this is what we did and we discovered only the food in the living room was gone. Late in the evening we saw him running across and were able to catch him (though technically speaking it is a her).

Another experience: I wanted to learn social network analyse (SNA). My first step was to follow an e-learning course. The course was very disappointing because they were four online lectures, no exercises and no possibility to ask questions. After that I went looking for like-minded people - by coincidence I found four professionals with a similar interest to learn SNA and to discuss and elearn together. This led to a lot of inspiration and support (and a few blogs), and the idea apply SNA and to start learning by doing .. Furthermore I am a member of an international facebook group titled "Network weaving' where I could pose some of my practice questions. One of the members offered to Skype and help with analysis in practice- which was awsome. Now I am read the bookAnalyzing Social Networks which was advised in this group. In october I am participating in a MOOC about SNA which I found by following the hashtag #sna on twitter. We'll reflect on our learning in practice by presenting our experiences in November with a Dutch network of networkprofessionals.

I see around me that technology influences the ways we learn - it's quite normal to use youtube videos in training, teaching and so the world enters into the classroom. There are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) where people are free to participate and learn new things (if you are disciplined enough). Professionals use handy apps, twitter, LinkedIn groups or social media to keep up with development. The new media offer new opportunities to learn. Jane Hart thinks we need learning 'concierge' within organisations to help professionals exploit all opportunities.

Are you Dutch and would you like to learn more? Look at our website Ennuonline, we have a new upcoming learning trajectory leergang leren en veranderen met sociale media. CPsquare organises an online event about 'supporting the independent online learner' from 16-19 october. If you are interested send me a note and I can invite you.

Monday, July 01, 2013

4 ways to use Instagram in learning trajectories en training

This is a guestblog by Lyset den Blijker.

How to use Instagram for learning? 
That was the central question for the group of LOSmakers, a group of learning professionals interested in social media. Instagram is a photo app for the smartphone. The LOSmakers had a skype to discuss Instagram and as experiment Joitske Hulsebosch asked everybody to install instagram on smartphone or tablet and to post one photo each day using the tag #losmakers. The photo should tell the other participants something about yourself. Via web.stagram you can watch the pictures via the web and you can also react online, as long as you sign in.

In the Skype 3 questions were central:
  1. How were your first experiences with Instagram? 
  2. What are the pros and cons of the tool?
  3. How could Instagram be used in a learning trajectory or training?
How were the experiences with Instagram?
The experiences were very positive. What struck me was that pretty soon a group process developed, because people adding commentaries and also responded by their choice of pictures. Without typing long documents or introduction you still got a picture of the other participants. The images tickled the imagination. What happened was that a picture of one person led to the emergence of a series of photos on the same theme, we had the themes 'books' and 'fear of heights'. For instance, one of the participants placed a picture of her bookcase, which other participants followed.  It was concluded that we all are active online, but fortunately also cherish our books on paper. The participants quite regularly look at the pictures of the others, which was fueled by a kind of curiosity and being drawn into the exercise. The hashtag (#losmakers in this case) was important because it was the binding factor. It felt safe to share an image without (much) words to tell something about yourself. On the other hand it was partly perceived as unsafe, because everyone can see the pictures. One participant said, "I chose different images because I knew the pictures are in a public place". If your photos on Instagram is private they are unfortunately not visible when others searching on the hashtag.

Pros and cons
What are the pros and cons of the tool Instagram? The app is very easy to use without any instructions. Via 'discovery' you can easily check whether there are any new pictures with your hashtag. The power of instagram is that you only use images (with short commentaries). It is very easy to share the pictures on other platforms too, for instance to your facebook account. You can use web.stagram or wegram to watch the images online and add commentaries if you wish. Via de app Instacollage you have even more options to make photo collages.

There does not seems to be a separate app for the iPad, but the iPhone version works well on the iPad. You just have to make a conscious choice whether you want an open or closed profile. If you have a closed profile, then your pictures (even though they have a hashtag) will not be visible to other participants, unless everyone accepts you as a follower. That's quite cumbersome process, to make sure everybody follows everybody, hence following a hashtag is much more convenient, but then you need to have your profile public.  

A major drawback is that you cannot create a group.  Of course you can switch to other alternatives as a private Facebook group, or a private Yammer group. But, you'll benefit less from the power of only photo sharing, the instagram experience

Most important is that you'll have to considering whether everybody can easily participate because you need a smartphone or tablet. Though you can view the photos and respond through websites like web.stagram the participation is different. Furthermore, if you have another platform for your group, how open will your participants be to create an instagram account? Hence you may check upfront how many have a smartphone/tablet and already have an instagram account. 

How to use instagram in training and learning trajectories? The participants in the Skype brainstormed about 4 ways to use instagram.
  • as a getting to know eachother exercise
  • as a ramp up to a discussion about any topic (face-to-face or online in a webinar)
  • as entry to share your practice
  • as means to reflect / evaluate
The getting to know eachother exercise was our own experience and worked really well. The use of images was very powerful. The great thing is that with a prompt to place your photos about yourself, the choice is yours to determine what you show and how personal you will get. The images stimulate imagination and questions. In our case it was a very creative process.

Instagram can be used to start discussions.
For example, to discuss the topic 'innovation', you might ask participants to share places that they associate with innovation. In a follow-up session you can then elaborate on the pictures and associations that are made. Again, the strength of Instagram make the use of the imagination and associations of people, then it operates in the same way as the working association with tickets. If you ask for a week every day to put a picture people properly dealing with the subject.

If you want to bet for participants to give each other a look into their daily practice you can ask to photograph some parts of their worklife. This can be a picture of colleagues who give you energy or for mechanics special problems you bump into examining engines

Finally Instagram can be used to reflect / evaluate. An example that was mentioned was asking service engineers a photo from their workplace locations which need improvement. That way they can exchange experiences with service engineers in other locations.  

The conclusion of the discussion is that Instagram is a tool that can be a used very productively in learning and training, provided that the thresholds for the users are not too high.

Do you have any questions after reading this blogpost ? Do you have additional ideas to use Instagram in learning situations? Leave a comment if you wish!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flip your class or training with video

DSC03663-HatCotWbanquet-hangop-culiblog.jpg(foto hangop door Debra Solomon) 
What do you do if you want to prepare 'hangop' (see picture if you don't know what it is!)? Do you ask your neighbor, call your aunt or are you looking for information on the Internet? Friday's session about use of video for learning things showed that a mother look for it in a cookbook and her son  looked on the Internet for a movie. The clever use of video was central, to our session: how can you use video in learning and education? The afternoon began with a conversation about changing use of video which immediately yielded new insights about the power and the important place of this medium:
  • A student of high school fount a guy on youtube a guy who explains mathematics very well. This helps her understand it. 
  • How to tie your tie? : just search on Youtube for a convenient explanation.
  • A special knife bought but ultimately not know how it works? Instead of reading the manual a movie will help you out.
anneliesHow can you use video in education or learning? From two case studies - one from higher educationcollege and another one from a government organization, we examined (and watched) how video is used in different ways. Annelies Ranzijn (see photo) shared the experiences of Inholland with weblectures and I shared the experience of En nu online with the use of video within an online learning program, together we covered a beautiful range from professional to amateuristic use of video and everything in between. Some examples of how you can use video:
  • Weblectures of 5-7 minutes on general topics such as language.
  • How to- instruction video, for example, how to change email subscription explained in 1 minute. 
  • Tedtalks     
  • Screencasts by experts or teachers using a powerpoint or prezi with explanations
  • Recording Skype interviews and webinars so that others can watch them later
Professional videos or amateur? Although there is a difference in use of professional staff and equipment within the college and use of cheaper tools in the other case, one is not beter than the other. An investment in professional production lends itself more to larger numbers of students and in situations where content remains fairly constant, such as the comparative stages (vergelijkende trap) in the Dutch language. Amateur recording are perfect because they are low cost in situations with smaller numbers of participants and content changing rapidly, eg policy. Of course sometimes it is simply the available budget which determines whether you go for professional or amateur recordings!  
A number of lessons and observations from the two cases ... The interesting thing is that there are some lessons that are similar for both cases.
  • For example, in both selected cases, a choice was made for videos of around 10 minutes or shorter. Inholland started by recording all lectures, but stopped this practices. In some cases, a choice is made for a slightly longer video like a TEDTalk of a maximum of 20 minutes.
  • In both cases, a choice was made to work with own staff / teachers in the lead for designing and featuring in the videos, instead of professional actors or external persons. This increases the ownership and you make use of the existing knowledge from within the organization, which matches the context of the learning trajectory or module best. Not every teacher or professional is immediately excited to feature in a video, sometimes people do not feel secure enough to act in front of a camera or webcam. What you can do is start by inviting the people who are immediately excited for the new media and opportunities, then show the results to others and try to interest them as well. Producing a short weblecture requires you to know the core of your content.
  • Video allows you to bring situations from outside the classroom inside (interviews from overseas via skype, filming on a building site), which make a good link to the practice possible.
  • The learning outcomes of the videos is good. In both cases, watching the movies is optional, not mandatory. For example,  in the language classes, students may also choose to join the class without viewing the videos. Participants indicate clearly that they learned from videos, albeit in combination with assignments and discussions (there is no final test). In higher education, the test results have gone up. 
  • Finally, the statistics of the number of times a video has been viewed have proven to be very useful to know what works.   
Do you like to learn how to screencasten and live in the Netherlands? In September we offer a new screencast workshop by En nu online.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Help! - the professional2.0 is coming...

 professional20That professionals can be wilful and opiniated we already knew (only look at house!): several authors have written extensively about this phenomenon (such as the Caluwé, Vermaak and Weggeman). With the recent technological developments such as social media and social intranets, professionals have even more spaces to profile themselves. Who are these new professionals living in our era of social media and what does this process of empowerment of professionals mean for organizations? During the learning trajectory 'learning and change with social media' we made a drawing of the new professional (see picture). She (in this case it was a woman) has at least one smartphone in her hand and apparently on the move (running). She is an independent thinker in her field, she takes initiative and is capable of finding the balance between different polarities, such as online and offline, private and professional, inside and outside the organization. In addition, the basis of her works and passion is from a connection with her own personal experiences, which gives her the drive to excel.

Serial mastery

Lynda Gratton, the well-known professor of management practice at the London Business School, has written a book with the title 'The Shift' about the global changes that are influence the workplace. She marks important changes for professionals: professionals will become what she calls a 'serial master' rather than a generalist. A master is a professional who possesses deep knowledge and skills in a variety of domains. The serial aspect of serial mastery consists in that the relevance of these domains will change and the professional during his / her career will have to venture into new domains, building on old topics, she calls this 'sliding and morphing'. It is therefore important that the professional can quickly learn and is a good networker.

Self-organised learning

Hans de Zwart (Senior Innovation Adviser for Global HR Technologies at Shell) is posing the following question online: can you design a curriculum for the professionals when their work is so dynamic and is changing all the time? Or should there be more focus on self-directed learning (do-it-yourself-learning, self-regulated learning)? There are currently more and more complex problems to be solved by professionals - and complex problems can not be solved with routine answers and best practices. In a complex situation you have an emergent practice, and you should work with trial and error, try things, reflect and adjust. So apart from the fact that professionals need to move into a new domain they must learn to solve complex problems. They do this in daily practice.

Online branding

Online communication is becoming increasingly important in finding the right professional for the job or project. If you a professional and you are not on Twitter and LinkedIn, you have been fairly invisible. Internally channels like Yammer or other social networks are becoming increasingly important to be visible within the organisation, especially in larger companies. Professionals should therefore clearly know what makes them distinctive and unique from other professionals. A professional2.0 will build an online reputation and that reputation is more durable than the job he / she has. The organisation only 'borrow' the reputation of the professional.

Organisations and the professional 2.0

What does this imply for organizations, strong, initiative-taking autonomous professionals? I have spoken several youngsters who are surprised about the slowness of communication in organizations and the lack of adequate resources and support. Professionals are 'serial masters', who design their own online brand, and be young and old. For me, these technological and social developments have the following implications for organizations: 
  • Look for new models of working in collaboration with professionals, not only in fixed employment, but also in networks
  • Develop new '21st century' skills such as dealing with social media, online networks etc.
  • Encourage and social learning within (online) communities instead of organizing training and education 
  • Provide a technological infrastructure within the organisation which works just as easy as social media
  • Support professionals by new and lighter forms of leadership: avoid too much hierarchy, give space and ensure that leaders themselves are professionals too, so avoid 100% managers
Interested in gift, skills and attitudes of the new professional? Read the blogpost on the portrait of a modern knowledge worker by Ewen Le Borgne. 
What impact of the various developments do you see for organizations? And to what extent is your organization already doing what I suggest above?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Voicethread: a creative way to use video online in training or workshops

With a group I explored the creative use of video by trainers and facilitators. Nowadays it is very common as trainer or facilitator to search Youtube videos and use in presentations. But what more can you do with this medium? Are there any creative forms?  We experimented with voicethread. One of us started with ​​a presentation recorded with screencast-o-matic. Voicethread is a paid tool. For $ 4.95 you can upload 3 videos. The experience is they are very helpful. Below you can watch our experiment in a.. video!
A few observations about voicethread
Participants think this a fun, interactive tool. In this case were used as the central content of the voice thread a video, but it may also be a number of pictures. It took us some time to figure out how to see where in the video everybody placed his/her reacion - you can see it when you scroll over the bar at the bottom of the page. Not everyone finds it attractive, it is quite 'angular' and does not look as a very dynamic tool, though opinions varied about the attractiveness of voicethread. It is an asynchronous tool, which means everyone responds to his own time, in that sense it is not a substitute for Skype or google hangout with video because those are synchronous video conferencing tools. The advantage of working asynchronous is that all contributions remain visible well traceable. The technique did not work for everybody, one person's sound was very low. So it may need some instructions how to use it. 

Working from the tool or the goal?
Working with online video requires a whole different way of working. You have to search and find the advantages of the medium you use. In a school setting, teachers noticed that a screen automatically attracts attention, and decided to use Prezi rather than powerpoint to make it more visually appealing. Based on the possibilities and limitation of the chosen technique you may be stimiulated to design other learning activities. The code in technology forces you to be creative. By getting to know the tool you can slowly make well informed decisions. A tool can limit you, but can also stimulate your creativity to come to new thingsAt the same time there is the eternal danger that he who has a hammer will be looking for a nail automatically. So stay critical about your choice of tools and avoid using voicethread because it seems fancy. The core characteristics of voicethread are its central use of video or photos, possibility of leaving reactions in any form you like (text, voice, video) and asynchronous use.

Given the core characteristic - how can you use Voicethread?
  • To get to know eachother, it is nice to hear a voice or see a face online. 
  • Use it to make sure people have already thought about the subject before a face-to-face meeting. 
  • Use it to flip your classroom. You can explain theory in a voicethread and use the face-to-face to practice.   
  • For co-creation. You may jointly develop an artifact or plan. People can keep adding things whenever they think of some new ideas to add. 
  • Center your voicethread around a question and ask input from others and allow people to react to each other.  
  • Film critical professional situations and ask people to observe and respond.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Social network analysis: how to use it for online networks using social media?

One of my huge interests is networks and how they can thrive online. Before the internet existed I was working in Mali with farmer organisations. We used to do Venn diagrams (by cutting paper or sometimes drawing in the sand) to find out how they collaborate with other institutions. It was always fun to do. The most interesting part was where the farmers discussed how big or small (= importance) and organisation should be. Very often the agricultural extension service was put us as a small circle because they were not very useful for the farmer organisations. By doing this, you could gain a lot of understanding about the collaborations and where improvements might be needed. For instance, we worked on sericulture in one district and found out that major institutions like FAO were not involved in sericulture development and hence organised a national meeting to engage national institutions.

BUT now.... we are all online. I still work regularly with networks and communities. Social Network Analysis seems to be the Venn diagramming of the online world. I know Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a whole field producing all these impressive diagrams, but I've never done an SNA because somehow it seems complex and time-consuming. Somehow these graphs seems to have their attraction because they look scientific, however I think back to how the farmers discussed where to put a circle and wonder how 'right' the answers are.

To learn more about SNA as a tool I decided to do the Organisational Network Analysis course by Patti Anklam. Unfortunately this is an extremely boring e-learning course of the traditional 'listen and do the test' type. There is no interaction at all with the teacher or other participants. So we set up our own little group of 4 to discuss after each module. Tomorrow we'll talk and agreed to start writing some thoughts in a blogpost. So far the course explains how you can use SNA in organisations, how to design an SNA project, the network patterns and metrics and and tools for SNA (UCINET and netdraw are discussed). If you want to read Josien's blog on the same topic you can find it here.

Questions I have after the first 3 modules;
  • Is it possible to do network analysis without collecting data by using social media connections? The course focusses on organisations and assumes you can invite people to respond to an online survey (or paper survey). Would it also be possible to analyze online social networks by for instance looking at Twitter links? In the book Netsmart by Howard Rheingold offers the example of analysis of people who participate in a Tweetchat using NodeXL software.What are examples of this kind of analysis (without collecting additional data).
  • How much is the time invested in doing the SNA and does it justify the results in terms of surprises and new insights that would not have been possible to gain in other ways? After the first 3 modules I get the impression that if you know very well how to work with the software it should not be too time-consuming but learning the software will take some time.
  • Would it be possible to make the process more participatory? The farmers used to have extensive discussions to visualise their reality in the Venn diagram. Would it be possible to do a SNA where you invite people to make their own models before presenting the diagrams and metrics that look so scientific that people may not dare to challenge them?
By the way, if you are interested in SNA - there seems to be an active community around the #sna hashtag on Twitter. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Facilitating the transition from online to face-to-face conversations and vice versa

Transition secretPhoto by sparkzy

I participated in the online facilitation course by Nancy White (long ago!) when we were practising a chat session, just typing without any audio. The flow was very fast, it was Friday, there were lots of jokes and I was enjoying myself. Suddenly Nancy said - shall we move to a teleconference?  So we all dialed in to the teleconference and we didn't know how to continue. The flow was gone... We had to start afresh with our conversation and the line of jokes was gone, because in a teleconference the threshold to throw in a funny line is much higher. It was a good experience to realize that all media have their own affordances. I also realized that the conversation doesn't flow naturally when moving to a different medium.

Blended trajectories
When designing trajectories with an online and face-to-face component you hence need to facilitate these transitions. I've been doing it - sometimes succesfully - but sometimes not at all. The most succesfull transition is in our learning trajectory on social media. We start with 2 weeks online and people are then really eager to meet face-to-face! The are also eager to start online, because they are starting with a new course and are very curious. I decided to ask for some more experiences with facilitating these transitions, on Twitter (thanks Anjet van Lingen and Ben Ziegler), and in the Linkedin groups of the LOSmakers and Virtual Facilitation where I also got very useful contributions. Ben has written a blogpost about the same topic with the great term 'choreographing conversations' and talking about fluidity.

Two examples of a blended design
Nancy Settle- Murphy offered a nice example asked for help in creating a new strategic plan for a 70- person department. She opened a virtual conference space where all employees were invited to answer a few open-ended questions related to strategic opportunities, threats, etc. and to assess their workplace culture. Then summary was used to jumpstart a 1-day working session face-to-face with  the executive team to come up with 7-9 strategic focus areas. Since she wanted all members of the department to be able to propose ideas and actions for all initiatives volunteers lead subteams to brainstorm ideas and propose action plans for each initiative, this was done face-to-face as well.   Each session of 7-9 people had a scribe, who keyed the ideas generated in each session ideas into the virtual conference space. Everyone was then invited to join the online conference area to view ideas, and submit their own ideas. This was used to create detailed plans. 

Vera Hendriks of Agri-ProFocus shared how they use online before a meeting to set the agenda together, then distribute flyers during an event with the web address. After the meeting they post reports and photos online, as well as discussions. People are curious to see the pictures, hence log on and may then contribute as well to discussions. 

Nice examples of how you can blend online and face-to-face elements... and make use of the advantage of both modalities. What I like about the example is that the steps are all geared to making optimum use of time and knowledge of participating employees. In other words - you can think strategically about participation in the process.

Commitment and a sense of urgency 
The hard part of a blended process is ensuring online participation. What is key to a successful transition is that people feel committed to the process and see and feel the urgency to continue online or start online. People may attend a meeting because they are invited but may more easily ignore an invitation to contribute online. Hence it is very important that there is a clear sense of urgency and that the topic is important enough to deserve more attention. Why would the group continue online or why start online? Without this urgency it might be better not to continue online to avoid disappointment with contributions and avoid that you end up 'pulling a dead horse' (is this an English expression?).

Equally there are ways to seduce people into participation online. A practical example is to post something of interest like photo's and people may be triggered to look at the photo's. You may also give out a price for the best contributors. And seduce by bringing your own enthousiasm.

Be clear about the ending
What is also important is that there is clarity about the online process and that it is not too-open ended; altough in communities it is often more open-ended and spontaneaous. For instance make it clear that you will collect arguments or examples for 2 weeks, then analyze the arguments and end with a poll to vote for the best arguments. Also state when the discussion will close and/or the online space will be closed down.

Some practical tips to facilitate transitions for facilitators
  • Think through the overall goal and various online and face-to-face steps and how they are linked. Point out how the steps are linked to eachother. This will help people see the urgency and logic.
  • When transitioning from face-to-face to online, make it attractive for people to participate online by offering a 'warm embrace' make sure the online space is attractive, be enthousiastic and be there yourself online. 
  • Develop a sense for the hot topics with sufficient urgency to attract people's attention for a longer period of time. Look for lead persons to help shape the topics online. 
  • When transitioning from online to face-to-face make sure you bring product or summaries from the online discussion into the face-to-face. Make that the basis for the next steps.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tips for online decision making

We started our fourth learning trajectory about learning with social media in the Netherlands 'Leren en veranderen met sociale media'.  It is amazing to see the energy of the people who dive into the first online block. They complain about the time it takes, but they are the ones investing a lot of time in all the assignments! One of the assignment is to work in a group and choose a tool, try the tool and present it lateron after 3 weeks.

It is very hard to make decisions online in asynchronous discussions. In a meeting you propose something and ask around whether everybody agrees and it is done. Or you vote. indexAnyhow a lot of things can still go wrong face-to-face in decision making... I once did a course on it. Online it is even more complicated because you need someone to take the lead online. If you take the lead and do a proposal online, you are not sure when the others will read your proposal and will react to it. Do you want to make a decision democratically with the whole group, it might take ages. If you don't wait ages the danger is that you take a decision to which people don't comply. Hence a few tips for online decision making:
  • Propose something and give a clear deadline for input/reactions.You can also make a proposal to the group but make it clear when people need to respond and that the group will move ahead after this date. It is clear that those who do not respond to this call to participate in the decision loose the opportunity to participate.
  • Use an online poll to collect opinions of the whole group.  If you use a tool like  opinionpower or polldaddy you can quickly make an online poll. If you limit your poll to one simple question, people can react really fast. Again, don't forget to provide a deadline. If you use a poll you know much better what the various opinion in the group are.
  • Organise a synchronous call or chat. It is much easier to use a synchronous moment (when everybody is online at the same time) to make a group decision. Hence you might organise a synchronous moment. The disadvantage of this is that you have to find a date, which is a decision in itself :). But you may use a tool like meetingwizard for this. During the call or chat you can discuss the decision in-depth.
As you can see, the options from top to bottom are becoming more democratic and more time consuming. This is something to weigh against the importance of the decision. Furthermore, there are specialized online tools specifically designed to support complex decision-making processes. A handfull: 
  • Ideedropper - This is a new tool that works as an online suggestion box within an organization or project. Participants can over time add innovative ideas online. After a certain time, a decision may be taken where the decision line is also visible.
  • Weighteddecision - via the matrix you can make a ranking of all options and selection criteria.
  • Synthetron - allows you to prepare complex policy making decisions with larger group of stakeholders.
  • Liquidfeedback - for online referendum. 
  • Powernoodle - is free for small groups. You can ask questions and invite people to provide input. You can start multiple sessions. At one point you can close the question.
  • Uservoice - helps to gather feedback from customers (especially suitable for large numbers of customers). 1 forum is free.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The 21st century trainer: a paradigm shift?

For a client I working on transfering a face-to-face training into an online trajectory. It is a challenge and requires some creativity to not only 'translate' the training, but also improve it. Make use of the affordances of online communication to improve the training. I had a talk with a participant of the old training and she thought it was a pity that the training would be offered online. "previously the training was such a good chance to network and meet new people in the organisation". Talking to her I realized her conviction was that networking is only possible in a face-to-face setting. However, I think it is perfectly possible to network online - that's how I met most of my recent professional contacts.

21st-c-trainersA second experience was at a workshop for trainers. We had to design a training for a team to work more client-friendly. A days-training. Nobody seemed to think about having a longer trajectory with online components. I am convinced that the trainer of the 21st century will seamlessly weave together face-to-face and online conversations.

These two experiences inspired me to look at the conviction of the 'old' and the 'new' trainer or facilitator.  (image via allthingslearning). I am convinced that it is quite a paradigm shift, but one which is already taking place.

 Which convictions have already changed?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New ways of learning about the new Africa- an online interactive learning trajectory

An interactive online learning trajectory for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
A blogpost written in collaboration with Charlotte Staats, Sibrenne Wagenaar and Robert Dijksterhuis 

When you think about Africa do you think about lions, hunger, poverty and war? Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world, while Africa is the continent with 6 countries in the top 10 fastest growing economies. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is important that officials dealing with Africa have actual knowledge of this continent that is developing rapidly. A training day is easy to organise, but potential participants for precisely this subject work at embassies around the world ...  

How to support organisational learning in this case? Fortunately, modern technology is making it possible now to remotely communicate with one another. The Learning and Development Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was this time convinced that online learning should be organised. E-learning? An individual learning approach was not favored and besides, current developments and policy issues are changing constantly, think of the fact that we have a new government in the Netherlands. Experiences with traditional e-learning modules have shown this approach is too static, videos, descriptions and assignments. In the case of "The New Africa" however, it was of great importance to be able to adjust content easy and to co-create new insights with the specialists in the Hague and the embassies. 

Online, interactive and up-to-date In 2011, the Ministry organized a training day on 'the New Africa': 1 trainer, 20 participants, a physical space and a clear program of presentations, assignments, dialogue and two case-contributors. The day was well appreciated. But looking at the potential audience it seemed valuable to try and offer this training online and at a global scale. To this end, the Ministry organised a four-week online training. Important principles
  • easily accessible online from all over the world
  • Participants work within their own time to the training, within certain time period;  
  • Group assignments to promote the group feeling and engagement 
  • Once per week a synchronous activity to stimulate dialogue and engagement
  • Content easy to adjust depending on learning needs of the group; 
  • Objectives to be achieved through discussion and interaction  
  • Didactics tailored online learning: visual and interactive; 
  • Also available for local staff at the embassies: in English.

Design of the online training  moodle
We used Moodle as the main platform, it is an e-learning platform already available within the Ministry, however, it had never been used interactively. An important advantage of Moodle is that the online learning environment is quite easily to adjust without having any specific IT expertise. The team consisted of: a content expert- the strategic policy adviser Africa, an adviser Learning and Development from the Ministry and two external online facilitators who have experience with online learning (myself and Sibrenne Wagenaar). 

We found it important to offer a clear structure: what is the theme, what do we ask from participants because participants were not accustomed to online and self-directed learning. The design was eventually composed of four weeks, with each week having a specific theme. Each week started on Monday with a 10-minute explanation by video by the content expert. Participants could then exchange questions and ideas with each other on the forum. On the second day of every week there was a light exercise offered, such as a quiz where the participants were given a particular graph and had to guess what the graph was about. The third day of the week was reserved for a webinar at a fixed time. This webinar had a guest speaker from practice. The webinars were recorded so participants who could not attend the webinar could watch them afterwards. In addition to the weekly themes, the participants worked in groups on a specific theme of interest, during the last webinar they had space to present their findings to the rest of the group.

And how did it work out? 
A design is always beautiful, but practice is more complicated unfortunately :). A call via the communications channels of the Ministry got a number of 45 participants registered. An excellent start when it comes to interest for this new type of learning, compared to 10 to 15 participants who come to a training day in the Netherlands. Ultimately 30 of the 45 participants (a third from embassy, ​​a third from the Ministry in The Hague and a third from AgentschapNL) participated very actively during the four weeks online. Organizing the webinars took quite some acrobatics - because of the firewall of the Ministry and differences in time zones. As a solution we recorded all webinars, the first webinar got 31 views and the first video 78 views. Online learning is very demanding on the self-directed and self-organizing ability of the participants. The webinars are planned and you can put them in your agenda, but the other learning activities need protected space (time) to participate, which is difficult in the bustle of everyday life. This means that we in the design have deliberately chosen to work on an assignment, a group assignment which calls on mutual responsibility for a successful conclusion. This worked partly. For some it was a good stick and the last 3 days before the webinar a lot of activity was noticed. Others did not succeed in finding sufficient time to engage. In the design and supervision of this type of group assignments we would suggest some improvements for next time. In the evaluation the trajectory scored an average of 8 out of 10, which is actually quite high for the critical civil servants: "Actually it was the first time as I had such a course, I would say That it was more than I expected. It was interesting, interactive and very informative. I liked it. "" A very stimulating way of taking time to look into eevelopments in the most fascinating continent in the world and realizing, that you should more often take that kind of time. New developments put in perspective, That invites to further Top reading ". The design was very well appreciated as well as the expertise of the content specialist and the facilitators. At the lower end, someone who gave score of 6.5 for the course. 'Technology takes too much time "and" for me it was unfortunately very hard to combine with my other work. " It remains a challenge to learn and work online.


What contributed to the relative success of this trajectory? 

One of the factors was cooperation between a content expert from the Ministry of experienced online facilitators. Where the expert was interested in working online, liked to make videos and was involved in the online discussions. The facilitators had affinity with the subject and could so easily think along with the content to offer and questions to ask.Charlotte Staats, Senior Advisor Learning and Development: "My responsibilities as an advisor Learning and Development includes the design of e-learning. If potential participants have little experience with e-learning, it is difficult to determine how and where to start. A breakthrough was the understanding that sometimes you may not from the task side ("developing e-learning") but on the side of cooperation. I knew Robert Dijksterhuis was inclined to learning with social media and that he was eager to try something new. I also knew that the two external facilitators had a background in the field of Development. And my expectations came tru: the collaboration was a nice synergy, which iyielded a great pilot. "A second factor is that we had a fairly large group of participants worked, resulting in online discussions sufficient "mass" was to really make something happen. A large proportion of the participants worked at an embassy, ​​and this group, perhaps because they are quite used to it, had a high tolerance level for technical problems. Robert Dijksterhuis, content expert: "I thought it was a great challenge to start this online training. When you are dealing with a group can see your audience and during your presentation you adapt your speech to the reactions of the participants. This is not possible while preparing videos. This meant that we had to think longer about the presentations, the exact content and the possible questions that they could evoke. Once started, it was very interesting to see the discussions of the participants in the online environment. Nice to see that there really was extensive interaction, including space for critical reflection and deeper discussions. One advantage of online was that more people could participate in the posts, including local staff who rarely if ever participate in training in the Netherlands. Feedback from their daily practice was the route more depth. It would not surprise me if participants would remember this content better than after a days training, partly because it is offered in smaller chunks" Charlotte Staats:" Most important was how the participants experienced the end result. I received many enthusiastic responses ranging from "Finally a course tailored to the embassy! 'To' I learned more online than I thought." I think it was mainly the accessibility of the learning environment and the availability of teachers and facilitators which were the success of this pilot. '

Tips for your own design 

If we could do this online training again, we would have keep many of the design elements: clear rhythm, online discussion, substantive startup, facilitate working in groups. Looking back, there are also improvements to suggest. We formulate them into the tips below.
  • Make explicit that there are different ways to participate online. From very heavy involvement to lurking and reading only what you can use for your practice. Participants felt guilty if they could not participate online "Sorry for the silence but I was in the Netherlands and still have no blackberry / access to email." "Unfortunately I came only yesterday at 1 am home the airport. Online learning is different and thus makes it possible to invite different levels of participation, as in communities. A condition is that there is a large group of participants (30 +) so that there is sufficient activity.
  • For people who participate in a webinar for the first time a lot is happening at once: a conference, a presentation and a chatbox to watch, including the technique which occasionally fails. Attention to this aspect remains important: use the same tool every time, appreciate that everyone succeeds participate, facilitate very clearly all interactions, and during the webinar make a clear distinction between talk about content and technology.
  • Working online in groups deserve extra attention. It allows participants to get to know each other better, and that creates some responsibility. However, it is important to think about the guidance of this group work: to ensure that group members quickly find eachother and take off, facilitate online decision-making processes as much as possible, plan synchronous meeting  moments topdown for the groups.

To end an amusing anecdote of one participant: "I'm going to miss the weekly video on Monday! I really looked forward to it watching the video... while enjoying a cup of coffee! Good start of the week that was! "