Tag Archives: Adult Learning

WOL concerns, blow-by-(glass)blow counters

2 Jul

I had the pleasure of being able to share some ideas and practices about Working Out Loud/Showing Your Work (WOL) the other day with a group of Pacific Northwest educators. I wanted to share my main idea with which I framed my talk, and a few really good questions that the teachers had about what I was pitching.

We’re all professionals and craftspeople (of a sort)

We began our discussion by considering this photo of a glassblower.glassblower_studio

This is not a blower among peers in a workshop. Clearly, this is a demonstration of how he forms hot liquid glass into shape. I have watched blowers perform their craft on numerous occasions and it is always fascinating. I posed the question: What’s in it for him?

The conjecture was that he adds value to his finished products by allowing interested parties to watch him work. He is a craftsperson, and he knows that people who see his work will more highly value his craft.

Similarly, there are people we call “professionals,” who are in practice: doctors, lawyers, accountants, veterinarians, etc. They “practice” because we expect that part of being a professional means staying current on latest trends, new discoveries, technological advances and best practices. I don’t expect my accountant to use 2006 tax law, or my dentist to practice the same way she did 15 years ago. Professionals are in practice—they stay informed, learn new methods, and constantly share across their fields of expertise.

I pressed the roomful of educators to think of themselves as professionals (as we all should, no matter our position) in their own education practice. They too should stay current, constantly learn, and share new ideas and methods. Working Out Loud is a great way to do that.

What about others “stealing” ideas and/or not assigning credit?

On the flipside of feeling like you’re a bit of a braggart (see below), concern about someone stealing your idea comes up a lot. If you’ve spent most of your life in a hierarchy (real or imagined), where advancement comes from recognition from superiors, this feels genuinely worrisome. The short answer is that your personal satisfaction from helping peers by sharing your ideas (and problems, successes, questions, and processes) should provide more gratification than praise from on high.

The longer answer suggests that we are all working in a new paradigm, one in which the power of the connections and the professional learning networks (PLNs) we create are chipping away at the very foundations of traditional workplace hierarchy. Once you realize that you don’t need your supervisor, director, or principal’s direction or approval to solve your problems and advance your practice, your need for recognition and approval will dissipate. At the same time, if your job is to supervise or direct, you are coming to the realization (some more quickly than others) that by empowering your people to connect and share freely you’ll advance your goals and achieve better outcomes.

How do we reconcile sharing with copyright and IP?

For this, too, there is a short answer and a long answer.

Short answer: Give credit where credit is due, lead with generosity, and publicly thank those whose ideas you advance in practice or synthesize with others. I have personally seen how an ethos of open sharing leads to an economy of ideas that seeks to neither “steal” the work of others nor hide the easily traceable digital paths back to their source.

Longer answer: The very notion of intellectual property and copyright is being shaken at its foundations. From music to books to art, I’m not sure what IP means anymore. In our networked digitized age, it is a very tricky

that's me, pointing out that email and files folders are where god ideas go to die.

That’s me, pointing out that email and files folders are where good ideas go to die.

undertaking to establish and maintain ownership over ideas. This is an especially important issue in academia, where people earn their reputations and living from their original ideas. Where the world of IP and copyright is headed, I have no idea. Bottom line: While WOL, be generous, give credit, and when in doubt ask permission.

How to overcome feelings of bragging?

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis

It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” — Mohammed Ali (or perhaps Dizzy Dean, or Bear Bryant)

If you think you share great ideas all the time, check yourself! You are either a very accomplished, talented person or you have an overinflated sense of yourself. Our approach should be that WOL practice is a place to ask questions, gather a diversity of opinions and methods, and test our ideas by their usefulness to others. There is nothing selfish or attention-seeking about that. And, if you think you have stumbled upon something original or particularly useful, sharing it is not bragging, it’s generosity. Why keep it to yourself?

Of course, you won’t really know until your network has had time to weigh your idea for themselves. In that case, they’ll be the ones to credit your breakthrough or expertise. Again, it comes back to the spirit of sharing freely and communicating transparently. Your many mistakes and false starts ought to sweep away any sense of bragging. It’s not about any individual, it’s about (mostly half-baked) ideas and people networked together and sharing experiences as they happen.

My new puppy

My new puppy “Chester.” Added for no reason at all (other than to make me smile).

It’s Our Move: All learning is akin to chess learning

16 Apr

Chess is a game of constant striving, where even the greatest mastery is put to the test in search of constant improvement. Shouldn’t workplace learning be the same?

If you are even a rudimentary chess player, I expect that this analogy will ring true. But even if you have never played chess, the idea of laying out vision, goal, purpose and context in which learners can apply their nascent skills is a critical component to any complex/compound learning design.

Vision

The learning game, be it chess, sales or facilitation skills, begins with a vision. If the learner can understand where their newly acquired skills will take them, they (hopefully) will develop the tenacity and trust to stick with the rudimentary practice that forms the framework for skill development.

In chess, that begins with the end. That seems an obvious statement, but I have often observed that people want to begin by explaining the pieces: The King, the Rook, the Bishop and Pawn. But those are abstractions to the novice, only meaningful as tactics and strategy is formed as part of understanding the game. Instead, start with the end vision: Check mate!

Starting Point: This picture has no relation to actual chess play, but it drives across the vision -- trap the other king.

Starting Point: This picture has no relation to actual chess play, but it drives across the vision — trap the other king.

Goal
Once learners have a vision of the game, next move on to the goal of chess (no, not how the horsey moves – not yet!), which is to move your pieces around in order to achieve the vision. An explanation of capture-and-removal can be introduced here, but only as an idea, not as a tactic (yet). Have the learners move the players—with no regard to actual game play or rules—so that they achieve check mate. That’s the goal: Trap your opponent’s king into an immobile position.

Purpose

Enter your opponent! Now the purpose of game play, of each move begins to take shape. Purpose translates into action in a way that goals and vision do not. Not only are you out to contain your opponent’s king, she means to contain yours, too: Offense and defense. Now the ways in which the pieces move, and how to strategically deploy them, how to occupy space on the board, and how to string strategy into tactics, begins to make sense. The purpose is to win the game by out-planning and out-executing the forces that align against your success (your opponent).

Context

With a grasp of purpose, each move is seen in the context of the whole, a stage in the game, the situation of each player now as a result of actions taken (or not). This is where skills are built, and learning becomes knowledge. Theoretical principles (goals and vision) are put to the test, and failure leads to success, leading to deepening understanding.

This (idealized) real version of checkmate only makes sense once you can identify the pieces and understand their properties.

This (idealized) real version of checkmate only makes sense once you can identify the pieces and understand their properties.

Practice

Play becomes practice, practice play. The only “real” way to learn something on a deep level is to make your own mistakes, learn from them, all the while building up your ability to apply purpose and context to the ever-changing conditions. Practice allows learners to demonstrate progressive skill acquisition and to show evidence of deepening understanding. Visibility, transparency, narration and inquiry are key to good practice. And all play is practice – the learning never stops!

Vision

Goal

Purpose

Context

Practice

Imprison opponent’s king Place your pieces into position on the board to capture the king Capture the opponent’s king while defending your king from capture. Make good incremental decisions to achieve goal. Your pieces have different properties, and you use those properties to defend and create an offensive strategy to advance your purpose. Think strategically at every decision point, align actions to goals, purpose and current context, iterate, experiment, fail, and succeed: In other words, learn!

So, starting with the end in mind: Do you allow your learners to demonstrate, narrate and explicate their actions in a supportive, non-judgmental learning environment? If not, how can you measure what they’ve learned? That’s the foundation on which everything else is built. Practice never makes perfect, but ongoing improvement is only achieved through ongoing visible practice.

Interesting extra information on the 70-20-10 myth

17 Oct

This is an interesting discussion. I still believe that the 70-20-10 structure is a good way to get folks who have historically relied on formal programs exclusively to think in new ways about their training needs. Informal learning — and developing a culture that honors it and skills for individuals to capture and retrieve it — is crucial in our always-on, data-driven workplaces. However, the writer here is correct that those numbers seem arbitrary and are probably meaningless. So, I guess I ride the fence on this debate, but am very interested to see more thought and research in learning, formal and informal.

From experience to meaning...

I really love blogging, and this reaction on my earlier post on the 70-20-10 myth with extra information by Michelle is an example why I like blogging so much:

Hi,
maybe a recent quote from an article by DeRue and Myers in The Oxford Handbook of leadership and organization (2014) can shed some light in this discussion:

The existing research on experience-based leadership development spans across a wide range of different types of experiences, including informal on-the-job assignments (McCall et al., 1988), coaching and mentoring programs (Ting & Sciscio, 2006), and formal training programs (Burke & Day, 1986). A common assumption in the existing literature is that 70% of leadership development occurs via on-the-job assignments, 20% through working with and learning from other people (e.g., learning from bosses or coworkers), and 10% through formal programs such as training, mentoring or coaching programs (McCall et al., 1988; Robinson & Wick, 1992).

Despite…

View original post 212 more words

Flipped classroom and Instructional Design: Flip me!

19 Jul

My workplace’s primary historical purpose was to improve, support, and supplement classroom teaching. And while Education Northwest’s scope has expanded over the years, there are thankfully still many very smart people steeped in the world of education and scholastic excellence.

I am not one of them.

My background, as you know if you’ve read this blog before, is in Instructional Design (ID) and e-learning, especially for adult workers (i.e., training). This is both a challenge and opportunity. On a day-to-day level, it means learning each other’s terms, nomenclature, and assumptions, so we are speaking a common language when we talk about projects and solutions.

A colleague recently pointed to th

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

Interaction is essential for class room learning.

e (terrific) trend toward “flipped” classrooms, where teachers spend most of the class time coaching hands-on activities while allowing students to watch the “lecture” online, suggesting that this was a step closer to what I do. Yes, a challenge and an opportunity.

While watching lectures, TED talks, videos, and other infotainment is all well and good, it is in fact not what we IDs and e-learning designers do. When instructors or trainers stand in front of learners, whether to lecture or to train, they have an immediate feedback loop: The learners are engaged, bored, eager, confused, frustrated, etc. Through conversation, application, and exercises, the instructor has an immediate way to judge success and failure. It is a true two-way give-and-take, and good trainers (and teachers) thrive in that environment.

When we think about e-learning, we start with the learner—alone, at a screen, hoping at best to have a useful and mildly engaging 15 minutes, but fearing pages of text that bore him to tears and from which he will retain next to nothing. (Well, there’s always email, solitaire or less wholesome ways to pass the time if forced to sit at a screen.)

An ID’s job is to design something to surprise, delight, and exceed those dreary expectations.

IDs think about the lonely learner: "How can I reach these kids?"

IDs think about the lonely learner: “How can I reach these kids (or adults)?”

How can we replace that human classroom experience with a learning experience that engages learners and, in its most elevated form, allows them to transfer the knowledge and skills to their work performance? That is our starting point. Creating that design is part science and part art. It requires a deep understanding of the topic, and then combines it with the science of how people learn, how they might apply what they’ve learned to real life, and what kind of activities convert a screen watcher into an immersive participant in his own learning. That’s what e-learning specialists do.

Anyone with modest proficiency can tape a lecture or throw slide sets online and call it learning. At best, it’s an interesting invitation that might lead to learning: The flip in the flipped classroom is where the magic happens. E-learning delivers the flip, not (just) the lecture.

Communities of Practice: No more CoP out!

27 Mar

I’ve been thinking a lot about Communities of Practice (CoP) lately. In large part that’s because folks I work with keep asking me what I know about creating and supporting online CoP. My initial answer has been, “Um… not much.” Followed by the voice in my head with, “Why are you asking me about that?” and “That’s not an e-learning or instructional design issue.

But both on practical and philosophical foundations I now think I’ve been wrong.

While I may not have used the term community of practice in the specific way it is used by my current colleagues, it has been part of my work all along. Learning is social: Learning itself is an act of membership in a community in almost all cases. Adult learning is also practical: Learning becomes knowing, knowing becomes doing.

It turns out I do in fact know about these ideas.

When folks ask me about supporting an online CoP, they are really asking me about are better ways to share best practices, disseminate new ideas and tools, support learner-generated peer learning, etc. I get it now! What you are asking for is some kind of framework to engage practitioners (learners) to facilitate their own learning. Now, that IS an instructional design and e-learning issue after all. Indeed, a CoP can be seen as part of continuum:

indiv - cop continuum

In the end, we need to be more attentive to learning solutions and less to training and e-learning in isolation (despite what job titles may say). CoP are definitely part of a learning solution.

I’ve still much to learn about CoP practice (Cop CoP?!), and even more about the new learning cohort I’ve been asked to support. But, after a few weeks of confusion and angst, I am much more at ease with my ability to contribute the positive outcomes that I’m being called on to deliver.

So, questions about CoP? Bring them on and let’s figure them out together.

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