Monday, November 09, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Teams, technology and change

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-16 om 15.22.52

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Usage data are the quantitative data (see illustration)

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day One for visual journalling

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

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

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forbidden to learn (socially)

verboden te leren

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Those little stress moments caused by technology hurdles...


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

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

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Network skills in the 21st century

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

Questions were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

denk ik.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"If what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?"

Schermafbeelding 2015-03-25 om 16.11.23(This post was first published on my dutch site

Jane Bozarth is the writer of the book Show your Work. She is really a multi-talented person, she can talk without stopping, play ukelele and she can work outloud...We experienced all these talents in the webinar with Jane. Though she started by saying  "I don't have anything to talk about" she continued talking  for 1,5 hours :)..

What is Show your Work? "Show Your Work" = working out loud, it is about narrating your work. She did her dissertation about communities of practice and discovered that there is a gap between what we do at work and what we report in staff meeting. We have a lot of information about what colleagues do, but not exactly HOW they do it.Sharing makes it possible for others to learn from you. Knowledge workers have a lot of tacit knowledge and can use the tools available, for instance a phone with camera to actually share how they are doing a certain job. Sharing doesn't necessarily have to be through digital tools, however, the digital tools available make it much easier to share something rapidly and widely. We're coming to an age where we can't know everything alone. We are now dealing with a more complex environment and it becomes harder to do things alone.

Why do people share how to fish and not how they fix things at work? Jane is also puzzled when people don't think about sharing at work. She observes that some people record a video on how to fish and share it on Youtube in their free time but don't do the same at work. One of the reasons may be that "How to" information is easy to find on internet and complex issues, the tacit knowledge are much less shared. Brown and Duguid have written extensively about this aspect of tacit knowledge. Jane illustrated this with the example of a person who got a lot of things done within her organization and documented his work before he retired. However, nobody every became as good as he was despite the documentation. The reason is that the little tricks of the trade are very important and those are not easily captured in documentation. Interviews and questions may help to get tacit knowledge out. However, we are not very good asking the right questions to colleagues either, we don't probe on how somebody managed to do something. We talk about our work all the time, but rarely about 'how did you do this?' Visuals can be helpful too, a cookbook with recipes is explicit knowledge, videos or pictures already provide a view into the tacit knowledge.

"if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" We all have the experience of doing something and afterwards finding out somebody has done that before. Often in organizations people don't take the time to share. The reason for this is that people don't have the mindset of sharing. In fact in every project you should take a pauze and reflect whether there are other people who might be struggling with the same issues? This doesn't mean that you share every pencil you sharpen.. but "if what you are working on is not worth sharing, why are you working on it?" (a quote from Steve Nguyen working at Yammer).

Starting Working Outloud in organizations In an organization you may start by identifying the people who are already doing it. We may help management change the questions.. "what was your most difficult, successful phone call today?" "what did you learn this week?" in stead of "what did you learn from this project?" A big challenge of working outloud in organization is making sure everything is findable. It helps to have some known spaces like Yammer. It is good to get better in tagging. A search function is also important. Within an organization you may help people in their decisions what to share where; what to share via mail, something else via the internal Yammer and other things in public.

Sharing successes or failures? Sarah Brown Wessling was teacher of the year and got video taped during a lesson when everything went wrong in a drama/literature class. She didn't stop the video but continues and later explains what went wrong. She published it publicly on a teacherchannel. This may be very useful for new teachers. It was possible for her to share this in public because she is very confident, she has been rewarded. It needs quite some courage to do this in public. Doctors who organize a morbidity and mortality meeting to discuss a patient who died also talk about failures, this is part of their professional culture. It is part of working and learning outloud, however it is not share publicly.

Tooling It doesn't really matter what tools are used.Virgin media provided everybody with snagit to take screenshots. Yammer can be a great tool. There is the example of copying machine repair persons who send pictures to others. Even email is possible. Hurray!
A last tip from Jane before she ran out of words: "Remember- it's about showing the WORK, not necessarily photos of your face. That might overcome shyness."
Tip: read also the blogpost 'zoek the learnnuggets' by Marjan Engelen..

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Multitasking, Ritalin and online mindfulness

I have watched a documentary about 'our distracted brain'. I hardly dare to say it outloud but in between watching the documentary I was chatting on Skype, answering emails. Nevertheless I enjoyed it and it made me think about singletasking and focus. It is interesting that I still see myself as a very focussed person but I know my habits have changed a lot since I'm working a lot online. I really think that I can multitask at times and that this is very efficient. I will try to improve this by being more aware of when something needs my full attention. However, I am good in focussing I believe because I was always capable of studying with the radio on. When there is a party, I only know what the person I was talking to was saying and missed everything else in the room.

1. Multitasking only works for routine tasks 
A wonderful multitask exercise is to count from 1-10 outloud. Thereafter, say the alphabet from a-j. Then try to combine the two: A1, B2, C3, etc. You'll find that it takes very long to count in the last exercise because combining the two is more complex. With complex tasks, it is not efficient to multitask. Multitasking works especially if one of the tasks can be performed routinely. Therefore, many people think that they can drive and phone. This is also true in itself, however, driving and phone becomes problematic when the driving gets tough, then you should focus all attention on the road. There are many situations where multitasking is OK and can work smoothly, eg driving itself is multitasking - you have to worry about traffic, foot pedals, turning etc. Multitasking works only with more complex tasks if you are a supertasker. However, this is only a small group of people (2% of the population). Furthermore it is a pity, you can not train multitasking.

2. The influence of social media - we get more and more stimuli We now have to deal with much more media stimuli as before. The information that we can swallow (but not digest?) has grown tremendously. In social media, f you've been absent from Facebook or Twitter for a whole day you have the feeling that you are missing something, there are many new messages. You got to go to learn that it is never 'finished'. In the end you have to learn to balance between being distracted and concentrate and focus amidst all those stimuli. I have to say that I am really relaxed. I follow so many people on Twitter that I simply dip in when I have time. I never feel like reading all the messages.

3. How do you force yourself to single-task? With all the social media stimuli, it is much harder to force yourself to single-task. The single-tasking is more difficult nowadays because you have to turn off all distractions. People with lots of dopamine in their brains can concentrate well. The Ritalin / Concerta medicines prescribed for ADD-ers ensure that more dopamine is available in your frontal cortex so that you can focus better. The number of prescribed pills for ADD has lately tripled over the past five years. But other students are already sometimes taking Ritalin pills to study well. A survey of 1,500 students in the Netherlands indicates that approximately 2-3% does take the pills to improve their capacity to concentrate.

4. And if you want single-task without taking Ritalin? For those of us who want to improve single-tasking without Ritalin, there are other possibilities.
  • Mindfulness training and meditation. These are forms to learn to shut your brain or part of your brain down. You learn to concentrate better. What you do with mindfulness is give your brains a rest.
  • Turning all the stimuli in the form of bleeps, pop-ups etc. off. Turn off your phone, email notifications off. Use special programs like MacFreedom to block your internet if you can't control yourself and know yourself.. 
  • Take control over your time back into your own hands. Through better planning you can focus better. Or use the pomodoro technique to concentrate. 
  • Read from paper (this advice will not be a fun one for organizations that just introduced the paperless office :). The advantage of reading from paper read is that there is no distraction. You may choose to read a paper book or article so you can focus more easily. I sometimes go downstairs with a printed article to read as a sort of mental break in my work. 
  • Unplug. Make sure you find a balance in your offline life. Go into a digital detox. Or like Clay Shirky- unplug your students while you are lecturing. 
5. Does our brain change as a result of all the media stimuli? Our brain is overloaded with daily whatsapp, emails and tweets. We get a lot of information and often we respond quickly. What does this do to us and with our brains? Does it changes our brain and will our children's ability to read a longer text suffer? "I am convinced that our brain is changing" said Roshan Cools in the documentary. Our brain is plastic, flexible. Think for example of what happens with addiction to drugs; as a result of heroin or cocaine entering our body, the brains change. The brains learn to cope with drugs. This demonstrates the plasticity of your brains of an individual. We adapt to our environment. Everything we learn is changing our brains. Whether and how this influences ithe brains of future generations is not yet known. It is likely that the brain adapts to the circumstances, but it is quite possible that the brain will become better at focussing among all those messages.

6. Let's not ignore the art of dialogue .. Sherry Turkle is wrestling with the same questions. She is a psychologist and excited about the potential of social media in the hope that it helps us advance in learning about our online identity. At the same time she warns in her TED talk for short messages and the effect on our communication. She is excited about the new opportunities, but they also see the bizarre appeal of smartphones. People go online during a meeting but also during funerals. Parents send mails during breakfast. She warns of the effect on our way of reflecting. She calls it the 'goldilocks' effect. We communicate mainly in small, short messages via SMS, tweets, facebook and LinkedIn status updates. If we are not careful we are losing the art of conversation and really engage in dialogue. If we loose the art of dialogue forever we are not on the right track.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Let's improve our learning language as learning professionals

If the Sami eskimos have 180 words for snow - how come we as learning professionals have only one word for learning? OK, we have learning and development (L&D) so we have two words. I think we are way too sloppy in talking about learning. Improving our language- being more precise- would help advance the practice. I understand why the Dutch have only one word for snow, because we had only one day of snow this year (see picture) and rather thinnish..  but why do we keep on talking about learning without being precise what we are talking about?

Why this idea about sloppy language? I am currently in the Exploring Social Learning MOOC by Curatr and it is great. It is the first MOOC which keeps me engaged because of the content and the people (and the leadership board?). There are many interesting articles and videos to explore, including the twitter chats. The MOOC really makes me think more deeply about what I understand by social learning and how I translate it into practice. For instance it made me think about the importance of individual thinking and individual experience in social learning. I observe how sloppy we use the term 'learning'. It is not to blame the organizers, I am also guilty myself. I feel somehow that over de last years my use of words has grown sloppier because of my personal online network. Just like my English has deteriorated when I lived in Ghana because you start to speak Ghanaian English (which has its charms ofcourse :).

The objection by learning professionals may be that there are almost 180 forms of learning - informal learning, social learning, workplace learning, formal learning, non-formal learning, e-learning, multimedia learning, online learning, bench learning, mobile learning, collective learning, invisible learning, networked learning, a live long learning. brain learning, whole brain learning etc. However, this is often about the form of supporting learning processes, and not about the learning process itself. We say e-learning but basically we talk about e-teaching.

Some observations about sloppy language (not from the MOOC but also in general) and please react if I'm wrong!

Learning processes and learning interventions
Is all learning social? This was for instance a question we dealt with. This question confused me, because it may be about the learning process, as well as the intervention. The difference is that a learning process takes place in a learner's head or within a group and a learning interventions is undertaken by learning professionals to stimulate learning processes. It is almost like intervention is a dirty word like teaching or lecturing. Interventions can be assignments, but also facilitation of workshops and communities. Even doing a social network analysis and identifying thought leaders is an intervention. Often people talk about learning and it is unclear to me what we mean. When we talk about formal learning - I think we don't talk about learning but more about the formal learning interventions.

Social learning = not learning with social media
People often equate 'Social learning with Learning using Social media' which is a very narrow definition. Social learning's definition from wikipedia is learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interaction between peers. It may or may not lead to a change in attitudes and behaviour. Well we can debate about the exact definition but it can definitely take place face-to-face too. You get weird conversations if two people exchange about social learning from two different angles.

Social learning is not the same as a group process and interactive methods
I notice many people also use the term social learning when they talk about group processes and interaction. If we simplify social learning to interaction within a group - it is better to use the word group learning. Social learning is a theory about how people are influenced by social norms and learn how to act from their social-ecological systems. At times I also use social learning without explaining what my definition is because it is not easy to explain. An understanding of social learning will lead to different interventions with more attention to for instance, building social capital.

Single, double and triple loop learning
Is it old-fashioned to use single, double and triple loop learning? The terms are first coined by Argyris and Schon. Here's a nice explanation in one page. Single loop is learning within the current frame of work for instance, how to use a new software program. Double loop is about changing the way you think, your frame of mind. Triple loop is about learning to learn. We had a nice discussion about critical thinking, but when we talk about single loop learning - critical thinking may not be necessary at all. The paper states "key breakthroughs in helping people understand the dynamics of learning are the concepts of single loop, double-loop and triple-loop learning." I agree but somehow we moved to 70-20-10? Is single, double and triple loop not practical enough?

I often hear - "I want to buy an e-learning". Somehow we should forget the term e-learning (I try to avoid it at least) because it has become synonymous with page turner modules and courses for individual use. I see e-learning as any process supported by technology but don't think I will every be able to change the definition.

70-20-10 versus directed/self-directed learning 
The usefulness of 70-20-10 model is that it brings attention to the 70% informal learning processes, learning on the job. However, people are talking sometimes about 'moving from the 10 to the 70'. It has become the norm to support the 70. And even if directed, instructional learning is moved online it is seen as part of the 70 whereas in my opinion it will still be part of the 10 because it is still a formal learning intervention. The discussion in my opinion should be more about self-directed learning processes within the organization versus directed learning interventions and compliance training. There is a nice blogpost about the importance of formal learning interventions by Ben Betts which you can read here. Especially the last part is important where he argues that putting efforts in formal learning interventions may speed up the informal learning processes lateron.

More sloppiness?

Friday, February 13, 2015

(almost) Everything about video for learning professionals

January was our #videoleren theme on Twitter with the Ennuonline twitter tips. In this blogpost I will try to wrap up this theme. There is a lot of attention for video and use of multimedia online, after all youtube has almost 300 million view hours per day...Gemma Critchley talked about the importance of involving our emotions while learning: "people will forget what you said but they will not forget how you made them feel". Another nice quote on the Learning en Technologies conference in london was: "online learning at times seems emotionless and video is covering that niche". That partly explains the recent attention for video as a medium for learning. Video is thus an intriguing medium and very popular. Furthermore with smartphones, filming something and uploading film is within everyone's reach. First, a mindmap of the main elements of importance in 'video for learning'. Mapping the field.


On the one hand video for learning is a theme with lots of practical questions that deal with searching, editing and creating videos for learning situations. On the other hand, there is a strategic perspective on the changes in learning initiative launched by the fact that there are so many videos are available to learn from / to imitate and the fact that everyone can now film.

Does video change the way we learn and facilitate learning? 
Even monkeys learn from how-to video's So we can not really stay behind ... You can learn a lot today itself by following instruction videos or a MOOC. Tie a tie? That is simply answered on Youtube. But besides do-it-yourself learning video is also a means which now gives everybody the power to make a video with your phone and put it on Youtube. Seth Godin formulates it very neatly 'video is driving culture' and 'this culture-driving ability now belongs to everybody who can make a video that the right people choose to watch'.

An example: Jasmin Patheja, is the initiator of the Blank Noise project (in India), fighting eve-teasing by putting videos of eve-teasing online. In this way they created a whole movement, see the blog.

Within education and training a lot more is done with video. The lowest use of video by teachers is probably motivating the class with choosing a nice song on Youtube when they finish their tasks. The didactic approach is a challenge, an example of didactic approach is the well-known "Flip the classroom". View Salman Kahn's TED talk Let's use video to reinvent education below. He has a clear vision realized in the Khan Academy. Video changes the role of the teacher or trainer/facilitator. Instead of explaining theory, you can refer to videos and you therefore focus much more on the practicing or individual support.

Some interesting links:
Video's zoeken, inkorten, pimpen en bewerken
It's an art in itself to find the right videos for your learning purpose. One idea is if you watch television and relate it to some of your topics you might bookmark them after searching them online. Some fragments you can find them right away on Youtube. See my example of the burger eating Remi at Expedition Robinson. There are also many cool tools that will allow you to add content to existing videos, eg. Questions. Zaption is such a tool that lets you ask a question at one time that viewers must answer before they can continue with the video.
  • Good source are Youtube,  but also Teachertube and Tedtalks
  • Cut youtube videos with Tubechop
  • Start a dialogue with Vialogues, or a lesson around a video with TedED
  • Educanon allows you to add information just like Thinglink allows you to add links. 
  • With or a Youtube channel you can make a video list, a library of videos. 
Producing videos
When you want to produce videos you have to choose between professional or 'the beauty of imperfection' = amateur video. The advantage of the amateur films is that they are spontaneous, accessible and inexpensive. There is of course a lot to say about producing videos. For this blog I suffice to say that you can screencast (make a movie of your computer screen), on-the-fly videos (amateur quality with iphone, ipad or simple camera), professional videos, web lectures and live stream (let online follow a meeting by people who are not there). Of course there are also vlogs, video blogs. I almost forgot that there are also new tools with which you can quickly create an animation as PowToon. A number of sources if you want to dive in one of these topics:
Video in meetings: webinars en videoconferencing
Almost all webinar software, Google Hangouts and Skype will allow you to use video/webcam in your online meetings and workshops.
Innovative uses of video
Finally, a few innovative applications and questions about how video is changing our world.
  • Augmented reality videos
  • Filming with drones. Look at the below drone video of the Dom in Utrecht. This use of drones has been forbidden in the Netherlands. A beautiful video! 

Please add any other interesting resources or perspectives. Want to scroll through more resources? Have a look at our Pinterest board about learning through video.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Sharing our inspiration from the Learning Technologies conference with links to all our liveblogs

Sibrenne and myself arrived last Friday at Rotterdam airport with a head full of inspiration from the Learning Technologies conference and fresh air from our walk along the Thames. In this blogpost we compile some reflections and provide links to all our liveblogs, so that you may choose which ones to read. Something which struck us when we reflected on all different sessions:
  • People are aware of 70-20-10 and talk about it as if everybody should just know what it is. 70-20-10 is the model for learning in the workplace by Charles Jennings. However, the understanding of the 70 varies. For some doing things online means moving to the 70%, for me an online course is still in the 10%.
  • There were a lot of instructional designers in the group; professionals analyzing learning questions and developing learning programs. I was very much interested in their ideas about whether technology changes the work of instructional designers? Because I do think that people have much more influence on their own learning environment. Nowadays we are not that dependent of a course of training, anymore. When we have a question, we start googling or asking our network. My impression from this session and some conversations is that the core of instructional design (from needs analysis to training development) is still there. But the focus has become more on online, e-learning and in that sense on developing attractive assignments in a visual and creative way.
  • The big buzz is about 'beyond classroom training'  and companies are taking various directions to go beyond classroom training. The directions are: social learning, mobile learning, learning from sharing videos, blended learning and serious games. Personally I've attended sessions with the experiences of larger organizations like Qualcomm, Marks & Spencers and Peugeot, and they have really moved beyond the idea of offering standard courses.
  • There are valuable case examples to listen to. In order to learn from these cases, I'm always curious to hear more about the underlying concepts and principles. From what learning perspective is an online learning initiative designed? What were important design principles? And I missed this level of reflection. Is that typical Dutch?
  • Interestingly, whether organizations invest in social learning or mobile learning or video doesn't seem to be driven by a thorough analysis but by a vision by somebody or a group within the organization. In some cases there is proof it works, in other cases the approach is to experiment.
  • A new topic is the use of wearable technology in a learning context. Think about digital watches or Google Glass. The technology is there, and now we have to think about the wat we can use it in our learning approaches. I found it inspiring and I truly believe in the fact that the technology is already there. What we need to do is experiment with it and think about possibilities to apply.... go!
  • Another topic that popped up in several sessions was the issue of big data or learning data. Many organisations are using a LMS in some way, and all these LMS's (as well as wearable technology) collect data. But what do we want to do with this data? How to link it with other data available? And how can we use data for performance improvement?
If you'd like to read our liveblogs, choose one or several of the 13 liveblogs below:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How our learning theories shape how we use technology for learning

I read a paper called Perspectives on learning and technology: A review of theoretical perspectives"This paper provides a review of literature pertaining to theoretical references on educational practice and technology from perspectives of learning theories of the 20th and 21st centuries."

A learning theory (or theories) helps understand how people learn, thereby assisting educators, trainers and facilitators reflect on their educational practices. The three major prominent learning theories are known as behaviourist, cognitivist and constructivist, though Siemens later developed the connectivism theory as a learning theory for the digital age. The graph displays more theories and some of the major terms used.

The paper caught my interest because I am a fan of social constructivist theories of learning (think: learning by conversation) and always amazed at how differently people can think about what learning is and what it needs. For me it is obvious that Twitter can be an important learning instrument but if see you learning as acquiring new knowledge it is less obvious. 'Twitter is not about learning. How can you learn from 140 characters?! I blogged about the difference before in: twittering= learning? I know my preferences but more and more I start the see the learning theories as all saying something about realities, in other words as pieces of the same puzzle. Depending on the situation a certain theory (and practice) may fit better. Interestingly the practices of people with different ideas may be pretty close...

 I think the implicit learning theories people use determine how enthousiastic you are about new technologies and shape which application you see. The three theories outlined in the paper with their use of technology are:

1. Behaviourist theory 
The main purpose of the behaviourist learning pedagogy is to accomplish the correct behaviour which focuses on achievable learning objectives. Behaviourist focus on learning objectives in 'to do' in the sense of describing observable behaviour. For instance, "when dealing with a complex problem X will contact relevant colleagues for input." The knowledge skills and attitude distinction is also used within this approach. In the context of online learning based on the behaviourist theory the focus is on delivering learning content with clear intended behavioural objectives, and drill and practice and ’electronic page turning‘. Somehow the traditional e-learning modules.

2. Cognitivism theory
Cognitivist views of learning recognize the importance of the human mind in making sense of the material with which it is presented (Harasim, 2012; Schunk, 2012). Cognitivists sought to understand what was inside the black box of the human mind and tried to emulate it computationally. Cognitivists developed educational technologies such as intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) and artificial intelligent (AI). "In addition, online learning based on a cognitivist approach is focused on a learner’s working memory and sensory system. This is done through utilising different multimedia modality (e.g. audio, visuals, animations, or video), the proper location of information on screen, screen attributes (e.g. colour, size of text, or graphics), the pacing of the information, and information chunks to avoid information overload." The cognitivism use of technology is hence very instructionally oriented, focussing on proper media to convey information. The recent focus on 'brainscience' may help to support the cognitivism practices.

3. Constructivist theory and social-constructism theories.
Constructivist learning theory views learning as a process by which a student constructs knowledge thorough interacting with more knowledgeable others; "learning starts by conversations". it is an umbrella term representing a range of perspectives on learning. Educational practices adopted the constructivist approach including situated and active learning, learning by doing, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, collaborative learning, personalised learning, the learning community, active participatory learning, activity and dialogical processes, anchored instruction, cognitive apprenticeship, discovery learning, and scaffolded learning. The constructivist learning technologies are often associated with learning environments and Learning Management Systems such as BlackBoard, WebCT or Moodle with characteristics including the following:

  • providing multiple representations of reality to prevent oversimplification and represent the natural complexity of the real world; 
  • emphasize knowledge construction and co-creatiom instead of knowledge reproduction
  • provide learning environments such as real-world settings or case-based learning instead of a predetermined sequence of instruction
  • foster reflection on learning experiences; 
  • online learning based on a constructivist approach including learning should be an active process; learners should construct their own knowledge

I was a bit disappointed with the explanation in the paper.. I had expected a deeper explanation. I would like to add social learning (probably part of the social-constructivism group) because this theory is really charmed by social networks rather than learning management systems. See Jane Hart's use your Enterprise Social Network for workplace learning.

What I notice is that in technology/ tools, there is a code in the technology (like DNA!) and the code is determined by the people who developed the technology. Hence it makes it hard for people with a different view to use the technology for a different purpose. This code in the technology is very implicit. For instance, we use Ning, a social network for our learning trajectories whereas we could use a learning management system (LMS). However, most of the LMS we tested are way less focussed on interaction and learners in the driving seat than we like. An example: when I work with Moodle the technology invites me to prepare the course with all sections in advance. In Ning, the technology invites me to start on the fly with new discussions. This stimulates a more flexible role for the facilitator.

Lesson? It is important to know your own convictions when choosing and using technology.. and try to find 'the code in the technology' you want to buy or try.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The 10 basic online tools every trainer and online facilitator should know

(photo by Kitty Terwolbeck) There are lots of online tools that you can use for free or for very little money. Every week I try some new tools (like this week vialogues) and honestly? Occasionally the high number of tools and possibilities make me restless.. I have a tools list (both in a booklet and online in diigo) to try out and I never find the time or have the idea that I've tested enough tools. I therefore completely understand that facilitators of learning and change processes and trainers/teachers can't see the wood for the trees. I have good news: I can recommend a group of 10 tools that are so useful that each facilitator needs to know them and should be able to use them. The bad news is that for every tool also is another alternative ...

10 online tools in the backpack of every trainer and facilitator

  1. Twitter - microblogging
  2. Diigo - or any other social bookmarking service
  3. LinkedIn - for networking and groups
  4. Padlet - a brainstorm wall
  5. Youtube - search and make your own channel/playlists
  6. Yammer - and other smart tools to create private conversation groups
  7. Screencast-o-matic - and other screencasting tools
  8. Bigmarker - webinar tool for free
  9. Google - and Google plus
  10. Ning - or another paid online platform/LMS
Do you know and work with the tools mentioned? A short description below.
Twitter is good for networking with colleagues, use and follow hashtags like #lrnchat.  But Twitter is also very useful in a learning trajectory - search and follow your participants who are on Twitter. It will help you to know better what they are doing. I think there are many facilitators already doing this. Furthermore, as a facilitator of a group you can create a list for others to follow, participants or around a particular topic. So no facilitator should not be able to manipulate Twitter!
  • Diigo - or any other social bookmarker
Diigo is very important to keep track off your online sources. An alternative to this bookmark tool is delicious. You may also use Evernote to store your resources, but I prefer diigo because its default is public.
Everyone knows LinkedIn . However, as facilitator, you should also know how LinkedIn groups work and how you can facilitate conversations in groups. Are you already an administrator of one or several LinkedIn groups?
Padlet is an example of a brainstorming wall where participants don't have to create an account. You can also export a padlet wall as pdf or photo (.jpg). There are many alternative brainstorming walls like stormboard or spiderscribe.
Everybody knows Youtube. However: do you have your own channels or playlists? It is useful as a trainer or facilitator to create your own playlists which you can later use whenever needed.
  • Yammer - or other tool for rapid, private conversations
Yammer is widely known and used within organizations, often not by all employees. If you have your own Yammer network you can easily build an external network in which people with different email accounts can exchange. Not many people know this but it is very useful if you intend to facilitate a week online before a meeting or workshop. Yammer is spontaneous, but experienced as chaotic and fast. It works well with people who use Facebook alot, they will recognize the logic of the conversations.
I think every teacher or trainer should be to make a so-called screencast video to explain one of your subjects. I use screenflow for mac, which is a paid screencasting tool. If you want to try screencasting, start with the free version of screencast-o-matic. One alternative is
I was tempted to write webinar tool, but the other nine are actual services... to make it very practical. Bigmarker is a webinar tool to organise online meetings. The better-known paid webinar tools are GoToMeeting, Webex and Adobe Connect.
Everybody can google, but you can always learn new boolean tips to Google better (did you know that if you Google video site: Google search for content on the website Very handy are Google forms and Google drive to work together on documents. And let's not forget Google communities and hangouts tools to facilitate a group conversation.
  • Ning - or other paid online platforms
I hesitated whether Ning had to be included in the list because it is not a free tool. Well I think that as a trainer / facilitator you should have the experience of working with at least one online platform with more options then Yammer, a LinkedIn group or a Google Community. Ning is a social network, but it can also be a LMS (Learning Management System) such as Moodle. Ning is more focused on social interaction, works well and is affordable. Once you mastered one platform, it's easier to learn to work with another platform.

Which tool is missing? Please share it below! More tools? Have a look at the top 100 by Jane Hart.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Do you eat burgers? Do you meet online?

In the Netherlands we have Expedition Robinson. Some famous Dutch people go to an island and have to battle. Here is a very funny scene from Expedition Robinson. Remy gets a burger, but because everyone gets to eat all kinds of scary insects he can not get the idea out of his head that he's going to eat maggots or insects. As a result of that idea in his head he does not manage to eat the burger and fails. Watch the scene below, even though it is in Dutch it is a very visual scene.


I was reminded of this scene because an experience today made me think about the importance of beliefs for seeing possibilities of using new media. I had a consultation in the north of the Netherlands (only 150 km but still a 2 hours journey) and we proposed to do the meeting online. We had proposed this earlier last year, but the group thought it was very important to see each other. "it is really necessary for a good conversation." Finally we convinced the group and did a test using adobe webinar using a screen and individual ipads. I was especially proud that it went very well and everyone thought it was a good meeting. It took some persuasion to try this! My first experiences of working online was working with John Smith from Learning Alliances in 2004... At the time I didn't think it would be possible to collaborate without being face-to-face.

See below also the youtube video with interviews about cell phones from 1999 ... "I have an answering machine, and that's fine" "if people want to reach me, they can do so by letter and if it is urgent, I have a telephone at home" :). These beliefs about the need to have a mobile phone have certainly changed!


To introduce innovative ways of communication to improve effectiveness and collaboration in organzation need a number of people at least who see what is possible (who can eat the burger!). The belief that you do not always have to see each other face-to-face to have a meaningful conversation or to learn from each other is very important. What are your own beliefs? What is really not possible online in your opinion?