What I Learned in September: What’s the Point of Sharing, Really?

In a way, I’m glad that this month is nearly over as I learned about myself.  There were happy times, angry times, frustration and elation.

The highlights of the month was attending the LearnX Conference in Sydney with two colleagues as it was an opportunity to meet others in Learning and Development in Australia, but also remove ourselves from the turbulent work environment in the throes of a restructure that centralised the Learning function.

Despite the anxious time, there was an underlying excitement.  Something was bubbling underneath that created a stir.  While I was at LearnX, many people had read my post on “Sometimes You Need to Meet Your PLN Face-to-Face” and this resonated with many of them.  I underestimated the message of this blog post as people were coming up to me to ask about organising tweet ups in Melbourne and Sydney.  It became obvious that the Australian learning professionals on Twitter had already established their online connections but now it was time to meet as a group in some social setting.

The idea of the tweet-up appealed to them.

At the same time, I had posted that same blog post on Yammer and I got positive comments about it.  Once again, the question was asked, “Can we have a Yammer meet up so that we get to meet the people we have been connecting with online in our organisation?”  This month, out of that Yammer post,  I have met up with three people who are interested in connecting with their “enterprise learning network” using the tweet up idea.

For some time now, I’ve had many people in the business tell me that I have been a ‘mentor’ for them. Others seek my help and assistance to find them appropriate development opportunities or to put them into contact with people in my network.  They have learned something from me that they have applied to their work, their professional or personal development.  In particularly, my Yammer groups of “Connected Workers” and “Twitter for Professional Development” have gone a long way to share what I learn to others – and it’s made an impact.

I have inspired people to get onto Twitter, to blog, to share their work.  There’s no doubt about it. It makes me feel good and I’m humbled by their belief in me but I don’t think I’m doing anything over and above to what any learning professional should be doing.

So with these wonderful sentiments and comments by people, I have been mulling an idea in my head since my return from the UK.

I wanted to create a ‘space’ where Melbourne-based learning professionals who had connected with each other online could meet in a social and informal setting close to work and just chat.  No agendas, no structure, no formalities.

So I left that idea stewing in my mind while I dealt with the anxieties and frustrations at work.  I’ll come back to this.

In the meantime, this week was one of the lowest weeks I’ve had at work.  I left permanent work some years ago as I was tired of the constant corporate restructures which I find unproductive and mentally draining.  I figured that if I undertook fixed term contracts, I would not be involved in the internal politicking and the constant changes. Instead, I would be hired to do a job for a period of time where I could design, develop and implement the program – and have some control over the outcome of that program.

Unfortunately, this week showed me that I was naive to think this way but it was the first time I felt that I was not in control of my own career.

In the past, I apply for roles myself, I go to the interviews, and it’s up to me to create a good impression on potential new employers and compete for the work.  This time around, I was slotted into a role I did three years ago (and different to the role I’m doing now) and I considered it a step backwards.

However through this emotional time I questioned the point of me being ‘open’ or ‘sharing my work’ online:

I felt undervalued, unacknowledged and my work discounted.

But what changed my mind was looking around me and seeing others who were in exactly the same position.  I wasn’t alone feeling this way but it explained the disconnect between ‘openness’ and working within current work systems.

In particularly, while all this was happening, people who had approached me through Yammer or Twitter to meet face-to -face were telling me the opposite.  They were genuinely excited about something that I had mentioned in a post online, shown on a video or directed them to.

So it was quite timely that I read Euan Semple (@euan) recent post where he mentions that he is attracted to the idea of  radical transparency as more openness in business and government would speed up the evolutionary process.

From there, I explored this idea further and came across this article by Janet Choi, “How Radical Transparency Kills Stress” in it mentioned that “sharing isn’t stressful” and that “humans don’t become diamonds under pressure“. In particularly this quote which hit a nerve with me:

“It is very hard to work and get anything done around here today. . . . I feel like an abused spouse that will not leave the abuser. I keep giving them another chance and they keep socking us in the face. . . . Instead, I sit here and wait for them to decide my fate.”

Euan Semple also has another video called People Tweet: State of the Net 2012 and highly recommended.  By watching these videos, reading the articles and watching the behaviour of people around me in this time (and reflecting on my own behaviour through this time), I am now coming to terms with what happened.

My realisation is that L&D is in a “weird time”.  I don’t know how else to explain it – it’s knowing that something is going on but you don’t know exactly what or why or how but that you’re in the thick of it.  It’s like being in a quagmire and there’s a mist settling in and you’ll soon find yourself in trouble if you don’t get to firm ground soon – but you don’t know where that firm ground is.

So how have I turned all this around?

Well I went back to my original doubts of “what’s the point of sharing really?” and I recalled my PLN tweet up, remembered my meetings with others I met on Yammer and the comments that people had made to me at LearnX and in my workplace and it was obvious indeed, my sharing did make a difference.

I could wallow in the self-doubt, keep quiet and get “back in my box” but I simply don’t roll that way.

Besides it’s hard for me to turn back now.  If anything, it’s time to “up the ante”.

Remember what I mentioned about a ‘social space’ for learning professionals?  Well out of all this emotional time at work, I revisited my idea to make it a reality.  How I got there is a blog post for another day but as of this weekend, “Third Place” is now a reality.

Third Place

More to come about that soon because how I got to ‘Third Place’ warrants a blog post in itself.

Here’s to a wonderful new month!

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What Did I Learn Today?

LrnToday

This morning I saw a tweet from @MattGuyan who had forwarded a tweet from Nick Leffler (@technkl) about promoting What did You Learn Today? #lrntoday

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I thought, “why not!?” What a great way to be mindful of what I do in a day and take note of what I learn at various moments of the day.

So here it goes…

08:30

My colleague exclaims, “Our SharePoint site seems to work faster this morning“. We had issues with it slowing down especially in the afternoons, so I made a mental note to use it more often in the mornings so I don’t end up angry in the late afternoons when I’m so desperate to get home.

A win already and it’s only 8:30am…YES! *fist pump*

(Okay, I know you’re thinking “but aren’t you going to find out the reason why SharePoint is slowing down…” yes, alright, I know…. *kicks dirt*)

09:10

I learned that some colleagues aren’t as comfortable with social networking such as Yammer as I am and not to expect the same level of enthusiasm of this tool as I have. This morning I coached a colleague to upload a post on an upcoming fund raising event.  I coached him on tagging posts and using images for visual appeal to capture the readers attention.  He was fascinated with the idea of ‘tagging’ or in Yammer it’s called ‘Topics’  (“What a fantastic idea, I like that!” he said).

My secret goal of getting everyone to tag their posts in Yammer is slowly (ever slowly) becoming a reality *fist pump*

10:50

Colleague taps me on the shoulder.  He has a SharePoint issue.  What’s with SharePoint this morning?  I couldn’t exactly figure his problem out so I needed to learn how to do this first before coaching him.  I make a time to see him at his desk later that afternoon with a solution. He walks away.

Now I need to learn how to solve his problem in SharePoint. But first, my teleconference…

11:00  

Business Bank client on telephone raves about Webex and one of our Learn How to Learn Online virtual classroom sessions.  She wants to know how she can use it to do their training, learning and business meetings as frankly, she’s tired of driving long distances.  I give them advice on how to get their licence and how we can help coach her to use the site and train her people on how to use it.  She’s chuffed. I hang up and go back to my SharePoint problem.

11:30

I turn to my colleague, a whizz in SharePoint who prefers not to tell me how to use it but encourages me to explore “free form Learning“.  I click left, right and centre. Site Actions, Page Views, Permissions, Web Parts….oh so confusing.

As we were talking about ‘Permissions’ in SharePoint, another person near me overheard my conversation and it turns out that he’s a bit of a SharePoint boffin.  He too, confirmed that permissions may be difficult to understand in SharePoint.

Mental Note: I learned to solve the problem but at same time resolved to learn more about SharePoint…oh and never use the Back button.

11:40

I show the same colleague Horrible Histories Viking Song because for some reason in the last few days – although I’m not questioning it – I can now view YouTube videos through the firewall.

I explained that I learned English history through watching these YouTube videos  and reading the Horrible History books while travelling around the UK, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on our Trafalgar tour recently.  (Really, who wants to read hefty historical books when you’re travelling?)

He loves the music clip so much that he puts it on Yammer for the wider organisation explaining how L&D can use creative and engaging techniques.  I add to the conversation and steer people to the work of Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) too through her History for Music Lovers YouTube channel.  Okay, we don’t all need to be singers, comics, musicians but a bit of creativity didn’t hurt anyone. Certainly makes learning more interesting…

Strangely no one comments in Yammer but I’m fast getting used to this. Or they think we are mad.

I learned I can be a bit obsessive with Horrible Histories but obviously not as much as this guy.

12:21

@LearnKotch sends me a direct message asking to use bits of my LearnX post to brief is L&D team in his company.

What? I learned that my blog posts may be useful to some people?

12:30

While munching on baked beans for lunch in a comfy booth filled with cushions (yes our workplace is like that), an ex-colleague whom I hadn’t seen in a while sat down opposite me. She took me by surprise and there was a bit of baked bean dribble that I wiped away embarrassingly as I struggled to remember her name.

“Oh hello ummm….. how are you…..yes….long time no see, how have you been?”

This was just enough time and her name popped into my head. Phew.

As an enthusiastic, exhuberant Gen Y, she mentioned how her work was boring and unstimulating.  “I feel that I’m not developing in my role,” she said.  Instead in her own time she is taking German lessons for some mental stimulation.  When I asked her the reasons, she talked about her passion for living and working overseas – possibly Berlin because she wanted somewhere avant garde, something a bit new and exciting.

I made a mental note to keep quiet about the fact that I was watching Rammstein clips last night on YouTube.  I was fascinated with their spectacular pyrotechnic display at one of their concerts.  I don’t think she meant this type of ‘avant garde’.

She said how she was passionate about exploring roles in conservation and the environment.  I asked her if she has networks in the space whom she can speak to.  Alas no.  Instead, I suggested she look into www.goodcompany.com.au a great site that links business professionals to not-for-profit organisations and that her skills may be needed somewhere. Maybe she can use her IT skills for a NFP in the area of conservation?    She was so happy and exclaimed, “The gods have put you in my path Helen! I was meant to see you today!”  (that’s a lovely comment).

1:14

I write an email to a fellow I met who recently fixed my laptop .  He’s an IT geek.  It’s good to have friends like this.

Recently I saw him looking stressed with folders and books around him.  “I’m studying towards a Diploma of Financial Planning and I just don’t get it!”  His studies are important to him so that he can get out of IT support and become a Financial Planner. Another Gen Y.  I couldn’t help him with his question of Statement of Advice but I knew who would.  I asked him if he knew any financial planners. He knew none.  “But we’re in a bank!” I exclaim but follow it with, “let me find someone to help you!”  One quick email to a few financial planner mates (handy to have those friends as well!), they come back that they’re only too happy to tell him what he needs to know rather than decipher it from hefty academic material.

I learn that he has organised meeting them and looking forward to it. It’s handy to have a network.

1:30

I have a meeting with the head of the new department of the new restructure.  I applied for a role in her area and explain my interest in the role of Future Skills Capability Consultant and why I believe I’m the best person based on my knowledge and experience.  I realise that much of my knowledge and experience, learning and networking has occurred OUTSIDE of normal work hours but they have made an assumption of my knowledge and skills based on what they see me do DURING work hours.

I quickly learn that there’s benefit to networking within the organisation and not just outside of it.

People within my own L&D team don’t know who I am or make judgement based on my current role.  I learn that they call me the “Yammer Lady” or the “SharePoint lady” or “the one that has a pretty good LinkedIn profile”.

Mmm. Double edged sword.

2:07 

I bound up the stairs and locate the person with the SharePoint issue.  I pull a chair over to his desk and coach him through the problem.  Within a few minutes, it’s sorted. He’s happy. We both learned something.

His boss on the other side of the cubicle mumbles something about SharePoint.

3:24 

Uploading a MP4 file to our video channel sitting outside the firewall was creating issues.  It was failing to upload.  The client wanted to distribute the podcast to her business today.  After a few attempts, still no luck.  My colleague pulls out a Turbo card.  “Time to use our own turbo card, log off the network and see if this baby loads outside the firewall.”  

Within seconds the file is loaded.  I shake my head in disbelief that sometimes our work systems simply don’t allow us to work efficiently.  I transcode the video, send the URL to the client, she’s happy. She sends me a smiley face.

I learned that sometimes you just need to do what you have to do to do your work.

So that’s it – my day with various learning nuggets.  Most of all I have realised that my knowledge is valued by people and I’m pretty helpful and approachable.  It was a good day today and this task got my mind away from the restructure and gave me an appreciation of my value and service to others.

So what did you learn today…literally?

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Week 1 of How To Teach Online MOOC – Everyone’s a Teacher…

It’s a tenuous time at work as we await the announcement of repoints to roles so the MOOC work outside of work hours has been providing me with the mental stimulation I need.

This week marked the end of the first week of the How To Teach Online cMOOC.  Reading some of the blog posts, many of the MOOC participants come from an education or academic background and have written their posts to the exact requirements of the activities.  Me, my mind doesn’t work that way.  It wanders.  Meanders. Goes on tangents.  It links to  other posts, articles, videos that I have seen on the web that week and then I try to make sense of it using my own workplace situation by asking the following questions:

  • How is this relevant to me?
  • How can I apply this to my workplace?
  • Is this something my clients would be open to? Why? Why not?
  • How will this solve business performance problems in our workplace?

We were asked to view this excellent Australian video called “How To Teach Online” on how universities are dealing with the move towards blended learning.   They are seeing that the way we learn is changing in society and this impacts the way they have taught for years.

Some of the concerns they voice are similar concerns of many Learning and Development professionals.

However blended learning is not new to our organisation.  70-20-10 is integrated and part of the vernacular and all of our courses in our curricula have been redesigned to reflect the blend of education, coaching and on-the-job experience.   Many of these courses are owned by Learning and Development and indeed, we still have facilitators running some face-to-face workshops but who are also dual specialised to run them as live online learning events too.  The challenge is not the facilitators (who coincidentally love the live online environment) but it is soon to be something else.

I’m now seeing the increasing trend of business subject matter experts becoming the teachers. 

And that’s a good thing (I think so anyway) but this is now changing the control outside of L&D hands and into the business.  They are taking charge of their own teaching/coaching/learning in the business but not overtly calling it “training” or “learning” or “courses” or “training events” like L&D do.  Instead, they are integrating it with their own work and using the technology such as Webex, Sharepoint and Yammer to connect with others within and external to their business to do business.

The mere fact that they’re talking to each other about work and collaborating on their projects is learning.

Therefore it’s becoming apparently clear to me that in open, shared and collaborative workplaces, coaching, feedback and inquiry skills are becoming critical – as is the need to be savvy with technology.  So subject matter experts need to have ‘e-facilitation’ skills so that they can seamlessly share their knowledge and expertise to teach others within the contexts of their work.

I’ve now been in this role for a few months and I’ve been reflecting on the question, “What Have I Taught?” (and not the ‘how have I taught‘ as the MOOC activities asked for).  Apart from teaching these subject matter experts to use Webex, podcasting and using Sharepoint and Yammer, much of what I have taught is outside of work hours.  I have openly shared my work through my blog, Twitter, Yammer and learning events. Through this sharing, I have met some wonderful people both within  (who share my passion for learning) and external to the organisation.

Over the weekend I stumbled upon this gem promoted by a tweet from David Hopkins https://twitter.com/hopkinsdavid).   It’s Kid Presidents message to teachers on “What are you teaching the world?”.  He’s adorable but his message goes to a wider audience than just school teachers.  It can be applied to anyone as he says, “everybody’s a student and everybody’s a teacher” and it’s what resonated with me this week with my work with my business subject matter experts and this MOOC.

What do you think?

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From Paper to Pad – iPad Caricatures

What do you think? Does this look like me??

 

Caricature

A toothy grin. A digital caricature from Kumar (www.cartoonistsydney.com.au)

At LearnX, B Online Learning had asked Kumar, a caricaturist to come along and draw caricatures of delegates attending the conference.

“We go to conferences and get little take aways, knick knacks but we wanted something a bit more memorable and something that you can use for a longer time and this was the perfect idea,” said Ruth McElhone (@ruthmcelhone)

It certainly was.

Vendors were were glaring at Kumar for the amount of people he had queuing up at his stand.

Now I had a bit of a dilemma.

You see, my father is an artist but he says, “people are more likely to part with $20 cash than a whole lot of money for a painting” so he draws caricatures too at local markets.  He is also a traditionalist.

The difference with Kumar was that he draws it on the iPad.  He freely waves his stylus over the iPad and gently taps the functions to change the colour, texture, line and form.  At one stage, he actually replaced his stylus and took a new one out of his shirt pocket.  That simple action made me curious. Momentarily I moved my head and he asked me to sit still.

This was not a pencil nor a brush! How can he treat it like a pencil?  I see my father toss aside pencils that are of not the highest quality which result in scratching the paper.   A pencil I can understand (as my father did explain in quite a lot of detail of how pencils are made) but a stylus is a stylus.  They’re all the same aren’t they?

So my dilemma is, do I show my father the caricature and tell him it was drawn on a new medium?

I think I’ll let sleeping dogs lie.

In all honesty, it’s a bit of fun but it is missing the ruggedness and the texture of having it hand drawn.  Dare I say it, it does look ‘flat’ with block colours.  You cannot tell the difference in colour that a slight of hand makes with a pencil does over grainy paper.

Still, it was a great idea for a laugh and it was something memorable to take away from the conference.

Kumar can be found at www.cartoonistsydney.com and for the record, he does do hand drawn caricatures too.

To top it all off, he wore EXACTLY the same Akubra hat as my father does.  Is this some trademark for caricaturists?

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LearnX 2013 – Best Bespoke Custom Learning Environment at Telecom New Zealand

Agents@Home project helped establish agents working from home model and presentedby Bridgette Dalzell who is Head of Alternative Resourcing & Learning at Telecom NZ.  Effectively, they had to create a virtual workplace and learning environment for agents who would never see the office environment!  Telecom NZ partnered with Inspire Group to create this program.

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Challenges was culture – how do you create camaraderie for a workforce that works from home? They didn’t create any rules but the workers created their own culture using different social tools.  They use their cameras and rely on social media tokeep connected.

How do you create a Virtual Learning Environment for these agents?

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Learning was split into phases: Onboarding – Induction – Transition – Business As Usual (BAU).

They wanted to create a “Customer Centric View of Learning”  by making learning relevant to their job using building blocks of learning towards proficiency.

The virtual solution used a Motion Graphic that set the context for Agents@Home to set the ‘why’.  These are short animated videos to set the scene. This was followed up with a Pre-Start Welcome and then the learning commences with 5 components to facilitate the learning journey through:

1. Modules
2. Topics
3. Scenarios
4. Research,Practice,Watch
5. Assessments

They used Cornerstone LMS as their ‘portal’ where agents at home accessed their My Community, My Learning and My Tools through a graphical  and visually appealing interface.

My Community has wikis, blogs, podcasts, forums, Q&A and Files.  Any reference material needed to learn and work in their roles.

Modules were developed in Articulate Storyline (Telecom has source files) because they were quick, easy and cheap to develop.

They created various Role guides in the form of Infographics – or Development Pathways to explain what they need to do and when.

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They had to train ‘Bricks and Mortar” facilitators to become online facilitators in this environment.

The agents at home prefer this environment and also have some ‘fun’ about it such as sharing “Pics of Your Kid” or “Pics of Your Home Workplace” to inspire an online community.

How did they sell it to leadership? They made it simple; they outsourced it; made it uniquely New Zealand;  showed a direct link to Alternative Resourcing strategy; showed how it met customer needs.

My personal observation of this presentation was that it was a great solution and one in which I will take back for consideration for our any potential projects looking at ‘agents working from home’ or call centres. I have already promoted it to our internal Yammer L&D community to explore if this solution is something that we can also use for our contact centres.

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LearnX Day 2 My New Source of Truth Dynamic Video Solutions

Bobby Sharma, Training Specialist from Commonwealth Bank talked about Dynamic Video Solutions and how they implemented it into the bank in particularly around business projects.

The CBA has 52000 employees with a domestic and international presence.  The Dynamic Video Solution (DVS) was brought in as a meansto train wide dispersed group of contractors who need training aligned to the bank’s needs and protocols.

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The videos provide just in time demonstrations for common user questions, in an instantaneous medium building towards a library of self help support.  All videos are less than 2 minutes.

The videos sit on the intranet through a list of links (my personal thought is that these are Performance Support Tools for the job).  There is also a counter for views as well as search capability.

When the videos were shown, they were actually sets of simulations that looked like they were developed in Captivate.

These solutions are not new and easily implemented into any organisational business process where you don’t need to create courses or assessments and are purely information or process based.   In my experience, in the last role, I was part of a Mortgage Service Business Transformation Project and we used the same method to capture business processes in Captivate simulations.  The links were then communicated through the intranet page but admittedly we could have used better search or reporting functionality.

1. Develop materials – capture screens in Captivate (he confirmed my suspicions that this was the tool!)
2. Review and Implement –  SMEs review it and approve
3. Upload onto the intranet – ensure the file format is right but keep it simple – short, sharp and simple AND make sure it works on all browsers
4. Channel- rely on the Coaches in the business to promote it in the business and to promote the context

They wanted to create a culture where people say, “Is there a DVS on that?” [Performance Support at its best]

(My blog readers would have seen my previous blog post on “Instructional Coaching” where I implemented a similar approach but I focussed also on the workplace coaches and subject matter experts who had to provide the context and the ‘why’ our mortgage service employees followed a process.  Performance support and job aids are excellent but we shouldn’t forget that employees need to know ‘why’ they process a mortgage application in a certain way and not just simply follow a simulation without knowing why they are doing that way – and the potential impact or risks in not following the process).

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LearnX 2013 Strategies for Applying the Flipped Classroom Model

Bob Lee and Jim Recker spoke on the Strategies for the Flipped Classroom Model for Business Learning at LearnX through a live online event on Go To Meeting so that we could see it in action…(although they did mention it was ironic that they were lecturing to us via this medium….)

“Business learning has replicated classroom training “warts and all” said Bob Lee.  He showed some old photos of classrooms that espouse a passive learning model which is flawed hence is why our business learning fails.

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He said that by using this traditional model we are missing out on “learning by doing things together” and we should FLIP it.  That is, more Discover, Practice and Apply, more Discussion and Collaboration and less of “viewing lectures”.  No time is spent lecturing. We must change our role from the ‘sage on stage; to guide on the side.” The model has 4 questions:

1.  What’s being learned?
2.  Why – enable reflection and discussion via social, collaborative tools
3.  How – Demonstrate and guide using live sessions
4.  Apply – Support on the job application with social collaborative tools

However, there are barriers to adoption.  These may be:

1.  Technology
2.  The Process – as it requires a total flip of what everyone has been doing up to now.
3. Culture – the culture expects training to be off site but this is rapidly disappearing because younger generations don’t expect this.

But the technology is here today.  Be daring! Use them!

He provided some case studies on how the flipped model worked and what the benefits and enablers were.

He provided a link http://tinyurl.com/flippedroom using their Podio platform (I wrote about Podio in a previous blog post back in 2012)  if you wanted to experience what a flipped model looked like.

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LearnX 2013 Strategies for Applying the Flipped Classroom Model

Bob Lee and Jim Recker spoke on the Strategies for the Flipped Classroom Model for Business Learning at LearnX through a live online event on Go To Meeting so that we could see it in action…(although they did mention it was ironic that they were lecturing to us via this medium….)

“Business learning has replicated classroom training “warts and all” said Bob Lee.  He showed some old photos of classrooms that espouse a passive learning model which is flawed hence is why our business learning fails. 

image

Bob Lee and Jim Recker from Citrix Online Present at LearnX

He said that by using this traditional model we are missing out on “learning by doing things together” and we should FLIP it.  That is, more Discover, Practice and Apply, more Discussion and Collaboration and less of “viewing lectures”.  No time is spent lecturing. We must change our role from the ‘sage on stage; to guide on the side.” The model has 4 questions:

1.  What’s being learned?
2.  Why – enable reflection and discussion via social, collaborative tools
3.  How – Demonstrate and guide using live sessions
4.  Apply – Support on the job application with social collaborative tools

However, there are barriers to adoption.  These may be:

1.  Technology
2.  The Process – as it requires a total flip of what everyone has been doing up to now.
3. Culture – the culture expects training to be off site but this is rapidly disappearing because younger generations don’t expect this.

But the technology is here today.  Be daring! Use them!

He provided some case studies on how the flipped model worked and what the benefits and enablers were.

He provided a link http://tinyurl.com/flippedroom using their Podio platform (I wrote about Podio in a previous blog post back in 2012)  if you wanted to experience what a flipped model looked like.

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LearnX 2013

It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to go to a learning conference with your colleagues. I jumped at the chance when I was asked as they were going to receive an award for the best accessible eLearn course at LearnX.

As it was in Sydney, a city I don’t like to visit often, it was more like an adventure for me. I like to see what other companies are doing in learning and development as well as meet more of my personal learning network – maybe even win an iPad mini too.

This year’s LearnX conference seemed smaller than the one in Melbourne last year. Sometimes I go to these expecting huge turn outs much like DevLearn and I’m slightly disappointed. I have to remind myself that our market is a lot smaller.

Our first guest speaker was Dr Gary Renker who spoke about the evolution of coaching. Admittedly, despite his content and talk being interesting around having a global mindset and being aware of the political agendas in an organisation, I think it didn’t hit the mark with this audience of trainers, instructional designers and learning managers. My interpretation of his content stemmed towards personal learning networks (again!) and I likened having a ‘global mindset’ as having an awareness of broader issues at play and this can come about when you are connected globally to people in a wide range of industries. However, I think he had a point. Coaching skills are going to be critical for everyone across the board. Think about it. If people are in an informal learning environment, the skills of effective questioning techniques and feedback is going to be needed. I think Dr Ranker may have needed to customise his talk to how L&D people can use this information to support their business clients so they could have put context on his talk.

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Dr Ralphe Kerle, Founder of the Leadership Forum and The Creative Skills Training Council was the second speaker. I enjoyed his talk immensely. It was straight to the point, he told it as it was and the basic message was if an organisation isn’t creative, it’s irrelevant. He showed a slide with some research saying that in one company, he found more implementers than ideators (a term I have seen recently from Stanford Uni Design Thinking model) and that’s a dangerous mix. It got me thinking that I should come up with more ideas as I tend to the ‘implementation’ more. Sometimes my ideas work sometimes they don’t. I made a mental note to explore more of his notes and articles as this lies in future capabilities and development needs of an organisation.

Third speaker was Professor Laurie Burruss and she is the Senior Director of Lynda.com. Their videos put ours to shame although I can attest that some of our organisational podcasts by internal clients who have embraced the camera and film podcasts to present information and learning to their own business are brilliant. A certain senior business leader uses his to connect with his people around the world and integrated with his business planning team meetings. His people look forward to them every week. Even I enjoy transcoding these podcasts we receive from him because they are interesting, engaging and sometimes amusing. Of course, it’s not amusing when they use copyrighted music in the background and don’t understand why I ask them to remove it! Laurie highlighted an important fact. Video will become more important and critical with time but we need to be smarter with producing videos that are short and engaging. One book I can recommend on this topic is, “Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck”. (I like straight to the point titles don’t you?)

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Connor O’Keefe who is the Manager Interactive Learning of government organisation DEEWR talked about a mobile learning program that his team developed and its outcomes. There was trial and error along the way but through an app, they were able to develop a program for their fire wardens. Mobile learning is something that we would be keen to explore in our organisation.

Fifth speaker was my friend Con Sotidis, a Director of L&D at the Australian Tax Office where they have an internal team who undertake full evaluations for all their learning programs. His slides were quite detailed but rich in information and outlined the process of how they worked to ensure that the learning programs designed and delivered actually close business performance gaps. Hearing his presentation made me recall my days in Defence where evaluation of learning programs was a critical fuction. Many corporate organisations do not go to this level of detail, nor do they have separate dedicated teams to do this. In all honesty, in my years in corporate L&D, it’s only ever mentioned as Level 1 ‘smiley’ sheet evaluations which are ineffective. However when you do ask to do full evaluations, it’s always discounted because “it’s too expensive”. Con is more than happy to share his slides and experience if this is something you’d like to explore.

Luke Campbell is a Learning and Development specialist with a background in the Army. He spoke on how to identify, lead and educate innovation through problem based learning in the workplace. I would have loved to hear more of actual examples, case scenarios or situations – what was the problem, why was it a problem, how was it solved. I think this may have made his presentation that more relevant to a tough but quiet audience.

After lunch, there was a panel on Connected and Supported Learning and Performance with Denise Meyerson, Steve Young, Paul Rasmussen and Kathleen Bosworth. I don’t mind panels because that’s where people actually say their stories. Denise recounted a story of a lady who was a brilliant learner in one of her classes years ago. She did well, submitted work in time, attentive in class. But when they rang her employer to offer her an award, her employer said, “but we fired her because of poor performance!” It just goes to show that the workplace or the environment that you work in also affects your performance.

Last speaker was Alistair Box from TLC Solution who talked about accountability. This was interesting presentation for me because it linked with my question around differing motivations of L&D people – how we need to take charge of our professional development. Alistair didn’t say this exactly but I applied the themes of what he was saying to my own workplace context. He challenged the notion that you cannot create a culture when there is an absence of accountability in the workplace. Denial, blame, inactivity are danger signals and we need to explicitly call out expected standards of performance and quality and provide meaning and context in work tasks.

Our last presenter before the LearnX Awards were announced was Professor Michael Bernard who talked about High Performance mindsets are needed to drive high performing organisations and used the example of Collingwood FootballClub Coach Nathan Buckley. Much of what he said about the key attributes of high performers seemed logical and we all know people in our lives who demonstrate this mindset and don’t allow life’s little challenges get them down.

Professor Saul Carliner was a guest speaker who challenged the 70-20-10 but I’m going to refer to his blog for more information as he drilled down what kind of learning could occur in the workplace. His key message was to “invest in quality content” which I interpreted as we need to have our ‘crap’ filters on or as L&D people help others turn on their ‘crap’ filters and not to accept blindly what is out there.  You can check out his presentation here.

I had a great discussion with him at the conference and asked what he sees was the difference between Australian and USA and Canadian learning and he mentioned our accreditation and training frameworks. Our education institutions are in the Top 50 in the world – maybe it is because of these standards?

Overall an enlightening day and it was nice to hear more on what companies are doing in their L&D space. However the focus was still heavily on eLearning content development and not demonstrable examples of performance support, informal/social learning and networks and collaboration.

I hope that we can also have some new people join Twitter and the conversation as there was only a handful of us actively tweeting or sharing thoughts.

Let’s see what Day 2 holds…

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Possibilities Are Endless in a Networked World

It’s 4:50 am on the morning of the Australian elections.  While our current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his contender, Tony Abbott are probably up at the same time anxious about today’s result, I have been tossing and turning in bed thinking about other things. Namely Jane Hart’s (@C4LPTSocial Workplace Continuum.

Now why would I be thinking about that?

For the past few months, our organisation has been through a major restructure that culminated this week with a centralisation of the learning and development function. The restructure itself wasn’t personally worrying.  As as an observer of what is happening in our organisation and in many others (and possibly, across Australia when a new government comes in today), it is clear that organisations and Learning and Development functions across Australia are in “no man’s land“.

They are stuck in the middle of a divide which sees them unable to go back to the comfort of the old ways but at the same time, they must press on into an unknown world and possible dangers.  Mark Britz (@britz) called it “Learning Helplessness“.

While the new organisational chart was communicated to our team, I kept thinking about two things.  Firstly, Jane Hart’s Social Workplace Learning Continuum sprung to mind.  It was evident that the new organisational structure was the ‘push’ that we needed to start to think differently about Learning.  It was akin to getting orders that take us out of the safety of the trenches of traditional learning and into a new world.  One where we were free to explore more innovative, flexible (dare I say this word, ‘agile’) solutions that focussed more on 20-70.

The second thought amusingly was Euan Semple’s (@Euan) definition of “Digital”which he describes as “the new fangled word which I don’t understand and am a little nervous of “. These two images in my head directly correspond to my observations and experiences of what many Learning and Development people are feeling in today’s workplace.

Through all that though, there are opportunities. You have followed my journeys on this blog to realise that once your mindset has been changed, there is no going back to the ways of traditional learning – and no, it’s not about the gadgetry either as they are merely tools that allow us to do the more important thing to socially connect with others so that we can hear their stories, learn from them and share our own.

But in order to enter the new world, Learning and Development need to be open to the change. We need to role model the way for our organisation so that learning is seamless – it’s not an additional activity that we do only at certain times of the day, or only when our employer pays for it – it has to be part of the way we work.

But this requires new skills for our own people which some may find confronting.

One of the personal challenges I have set myself is to be the role model for others in Learning Development.  To try and experiment with new approaches, constantly learn and share what I have learned in various social media through my blog, Twitter and Yammer to inspire others to come on that journey with me.

My first aim is for L&D to build their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to take charge of their own professional development.

For me, my PLN has been the source of all my learning.  Everything began from there.  I cannot tell you what was the most memorable course I have been on in my life but I can tell you the most memorable moments that I’ve had with my PLN and what was discussed, where they work, what they did, how and why they did it.

So with that I have set upon a challenge for myself to inspire other L&D people to create and build their own personal learning networks.  I believe this is the starting point for the organisational culture to change so that we can easily walk across ‘no man’s land’ and into a new connected workplace where Harold Jarche (@hjarche) describes it where ‘the learning is the work and the work is the learning.

I will throw my hat in the ring for one of the Future Capability and Professional Development Consultant roles in the organisational structure and see where it takes me.

I have ideas around what is needed for professional development of the organisation through creating a cMOOC experience around the new skills and capabilities that are needed for a connected workplace ; introduction of social learning programs through Jane Hart and Harold Jarche and programs that primarily focus on peer-to-peer learning which I implemented in my previous role.

As a start though, I will continue to get ‘out there’ at conferences and events and promote my Twitter for Professional Development sessions across Australia in the coming months.

So sometimes we need a push to move us out of our comfort zone but the magic will happen through our networks and opening our eyes to new possibilities.

Let this next phase begin.

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