What I Learned in December

I’ve decided to write a blog post every month on what I learned for that month so welcome to the first installment.

The idea came about recently during one of my nights of insomnia when the brilliant blog posts swirl around in my head only to have the words abruptly halt when I’m in front of the computer screen.  But then, it is 4:03 am and this is not surprising. I should be elsewhere at this time…

But let’s start.  What did I learn in December?

1.  I’m a MOOC Dropout.  

It had to happen. I’m now one of the thousands of people who eagerly signed up for the How to Reason and Argue MOOC on Coursera and within 2 weeks and 18 videos later claimed defeat.  I’m a MOOC Dropout (and not proud).  Despite the amusing snippets of Monty Python videos to explain concepts, the course was simply too heavy going for me with my commitments and I had to give in.  Although one saving grace is that this is my second MOOC, the first one, Gamification was completed successfully (so there).

So much so that Ryan Tracey, the eLearning Provocateur created The MOOC Dropout tee-shirt to promote it.  It puts another spin on Geek Chic.

2.  Wrestled with Mahara…Unsure if I’ve Won This Battle

I’m half way through the Professional Learning Portfolio (PLP) online program through the Social Learning Centre.  

Within two days of starting the course, my mind was ticking as to how to use PLPs in my current work to meet the need for a manager request to capture all of the 20-70 (informal) learning that is occurring in our workplace.

(I didn’t see it as my role to capture the 20-70 activities completed by others: this was the responsibility of the individual themselves but that’s another story).

The concept of PLPs initially confused me because I couldn’t see the difference between recording learning on an LMS versus recording your development activities and reflections on a blog (like this one) and also through sites such as LinkedIn (where I’m fairly active) which also has sections to include your projects and qualifications.  Of course, it also brought up questions around portability of PLPs if they are going to be used in corporate learning and the issue around privacy and security of information and work that I’m working on for my employer.

I also started hassling other parts of the business asking questions like, “Do we have something like this in our organisation?”, “Can we create something like this in Sharepoint?” or “Why have we switched off these functions on our LMS, how can we turn them back on to capture informal learning in our workplace?” and “if we did switch them on, how can we get everyone to use the LMS to capture their learning and development into the LMS which frankly, is only seen as the means to drive compliance courseware and nothing much else?”  and “Is the LMS the right tool to capture all this AND reflections/sharing AND be portable when I’m working with another employer?”  And the questions went on… (of course with no response but with a lot of eye-rolling, shoulder shrugging, looking away and coughing).

I’ll write more next month about my reflections on this course and my outcomes with the LMS teams although I swear I must make their life a misery with all my questions…so many questions…

In the process, one of the requirements of this course is that you work on your PLP on any tool of your choice.  I chose Mahara (Folio For Me)  simply because I wanted to learn the tool.  I could have  also used WordPress (and customised this site slightly).  Of course, I make things more difficult for myself too so that I can play with a new tool.  So Mahara it was (besides the name sounds exotic and can be used as a psuedonym for a spy mission).

It may as well been a spy mission using it.

You can see my PLP here.  But like a spy, what you see on the front page is not what is behind it and I’ve been having trouble publishing components of it.  In the back end, there are more developmental activities, much more content but for some reason it’s not displaying. I have spent many hours on it trying to figure it out to no avail.  Still, at least it’s a start but the more I think about it, LinkedIn is the way to go because it’s the one place that I have kept current and my ‘one stop shop’ for all my professional development and networks.

(Later…as I was writing the section 5 below I came across this Informal Learning Report by the OECD through the Learning Cafe website so I think this is going to be a blog post for next month as I delve into this for my Christmas reading).

3.  The Case of the Missing Comment Section in my WordPress Blog

Like a Nancy Drew novel, Dave Ferguson alerted me to the fact that he couldn’t make comments on my blog.

I didn’t know what was more surprising: that the comment section was missing or that someone wanted to comment on my blog.

With many direct messages and lots of hints by Dave, “have you tried this?”, “what about that?” I finally figured what the issue was and it was as simple as clicking on Screen Options and checking the Comments section.  So thank you Dave for alerting  me to this because I would have otherwise not known.  (The function used to be there but as I’m constantly tinkering around in the WordPress dashboard, who knows what I turned on and off).

As  a result, I spent over an hour inserting comment boxes into each blog post not realising that I had automatic Twitter and Facebook notifications that had sent out tweets of these old blog posts.  This possibly caused more annoyance to my followers and picked up new ones in the process.  Oopsy daisy…

4.  Tour of a Melbourne Organisation and Lunch with Fellow L&D Colleagues

One of the best development opportunities comes from meeting like-minded people in various organisations who do similar roles.  Yesterday I was delighted to be asked along to go on a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of a well-known (but dreaded for some) organisation in Melbourne.  I saw how learning and development was done in this organisation and the successes and challenges they had as well as be introduced to Nigel Paine.

Followed by the tour, we went to a nearby cafe for a delicious lunch.  During the course of the meal, we talked about the trials and tribulations of Learning and Development in organisations; the challenges we had with getting IT onboard with many of the programs and technology we wanted to use and the constant obstacles put in our way just to get learning out to our organisations. We also learned that we liked Coke Zero as we all jumped in at the same time with our orders to a stunned waitress.

I used the opportunity to ask Nigel a question on PLP’s in particularly, “in his travels, has he come across any corporates using PLP’s?” (There I go with my questions again).  The consensus was that it wasn’t common but you could use the LMS for some component of it (but it’s not portable) or use LinkedIn.

5.  Learning Cafe Meetup at the Slate Bar

One of my Twitter followers, Jasmine invited me to a Learning Cafe meetup in Melbourne this month.  She organises these informal events for Learning and Development professionals in the city to catch up and chat about various learning themes.

The idea of Learning Cafe is that people participate in the webinar and then meet up socially to discuss the themes of that webinar and their application in their workplace providing some personal examples.  For this month, we talked about Learning Evaluations and Analytics however, we did learn a lot about each other and the places we work in and once again, the same themes emerged.

If you’re in L&D and want to come along to our next meeting for breakfast on Wednesday 30 January, let me know and I’ll send you details.

6.  What Do I Suck At?

This is a doozy of a learning this month.

I read a blog post by called Marc Ensign (love his surname but that’s the Navy girl in me) ‘What Do I Suck At?’ where he wrote to 50 people and asked them to list for him 2 or 3 areas of improvement.  This sounded like a great idea to me.  It would expose the ‘Unknown Unknowns’ or the ‘Blind Spots’ to me (thinking of the Johari Window) by getting some home truths about my limitations and where I can improve on my life.  This warrants a separate blog post on its own as already, responses have been emailed to me – many, not surprising, a few new ones and one scathing but I’d like to think that I’m big, bad and ugly enough to take it – besides I asked for it.  Still, despite this still in progress, I’m delighted that people have contributed and have supported me in my personal development journey – that was an eye opener and for that, I’m grateful.

And just for fun…

On a final note, I learned that if dogs and cats were human friends, cats would be nasty people to have in your life.  (What’s a blog post without reference to a cat).

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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2 Responses to What I Learned in December

  1. Hello Rebekah and thank you for your comment.

    Yes, in all honesty, I should have paid more attention to the blog as my focus was on writing and sharing the link. In the past, I did have the comments actioned but I think that during the year, WordPress created the ‘Screen Options’ section which meant that we needed to further customise each blog post or, I may have accidentally clicked the Comments and unactioned it. Regardless, it took a while and thanks to Dave Ferguson for pointing it out!

    Anyway, I had a look at your website and also the MOOC site link and it’s great! I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to post it in a reply in the Social Learning Centre PLP workshop so others can see this MOOC on ePortfolios. There’s a wealth of information in that and examples of others. I’m still working on mine but admit that the Mahara engine isn’t as intuitive (for example, I can’t seem to display certain information on the main page). Still, I think between this website/blog and my LinkedIn account, that would be a good record of my work. However, I haven’t uploaded any of my work for the public eye simply because it’s all branded with the organisation logo (and I need to have permission to display it from the Branding and Legal teams); or it’s sitting on the LMS or it’s paper based – and once again branded….

    I’m looking forward to meeting you too! I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and all the best over the holiday break. Have a fabulous 2013!

    See you then!

    Helen

  2. Hi Helen,

    I knew your comment setting wasn’t active as I’ve tried to use it but contacted you through Twitter instead. I should have said something to you. I’m glad it’s sorted because I really wanted to comment on this one.

    I’m a MOOC dropout too, having not completed the gamification course due to illness and work pressure, I really didn’t want to let it go but I just couldn’t keep up. I’m hoping to have another go at it in the future. If I had been paying for it I would have found a way to finish but the motivation just isn’t quite the same for me. I still felt it was a valuable experience despite not finishing. Love the T-shirt too.

    I’m also interested in the portfolio. I did a MOOC on ePortfolios last year (https://sites.google.com/site/epcoplearnspace/) and as a result have built a portfolio of sorts using WordPress (http://rebekahmbrown.com/). I’ll be interested to hear how you progress. I see that you have a science background, as do I, and have several qualifications I’d love to do, especially writing and editing and project management.

    Have a great break over the next few weeks and I’ll look forward to meeting you in January.

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