Tag Archives: digital

Working in the Age of (Digital) Exploration: Part I – Exploring our digital world

11 Aug

Ferdinand Magellan. Marco Polo. Leif Eriksson. Christopher Columbus. The big names of the Age of Exploration traversed land and sea in search of adventure, discovery, glory and wealth. Hong Kong. Amsterdam. Timbuktu. New York. Samarkand. Goa. San Francisco. Great trading cities of the last 700 years (or more), where peoples, cultures, ideas, trades and goods came together and combined in new ways.

We know even less about our digital world than Ptolemy knew about his physical one, circa 1470.

We know even less about our digital world than Ptolemy knew about his physical one, circa 1470.

I say we’re entering a new age of exploration. One in which we are all explorers pushed by digital trade winds to find a new type of discovery, wealth, culture and trade. This new exploration age (what I call The Learning Age) brings together three interrelated facets:

  • The Do It Yourself (DIY) movement overlaps with the “sharing economy,” the “maker movement” and the “hack revolution.” DIY arises from the fact that we don’t need permission to find and use whatever shiny object we happen upon. We can create our own processes, find our own learning opportunities wherever we find them, creating our own Professional Development paths. Intellectual property (IP) rights are in an upheaval, and artifacts that we find in abundance are there to be used, combined, repurposed or discarded—such is our new age of discovery.
  • Digital communities are emerging in ways that allow us to meet people that would have otherwise been impossible, and share ideas exponentially farther than was possible for all but a handful of very famous people in previous generations. The digital trading posts are everywhere, bringing ideas, cultures and wealth of knowledge (along with the same number of hucksters and swindlers, I acknowledge). When TIME ran its person of the year issue in 2006 as “You,” I thought it nothing more than a gimmick. In fact, they were prescient. Who would have guessed?!
  • Learning is the work (not the job): As is increasingly recognized by economists, technologists, strategists, learning professionals and keen observers, the traditional job-based economy is morphing into the “gig economy.” Tasks that require automation and repetition will increasingly become the domain of machines. Economic buoyancy depends on our ability to change, adapt, create and add value. That’s learning, my friends!

But that necessary learning doesn’t happen when we sit behind our desks performing the same tasks in the same ways, and relying on the same information and interpretation as we did yesterday and five years ago. Time to set on a journey of discovery! When we meet new ideas and people on our excursions near and far, traversing the marketplaces of ideas for novelty and gems, we are very much akin to explorers of old. The biggest difference is that we don’t risk our lives at sea, count on the generosity of the moneyed or monarchy, or rely on a crew of many to journey the globe. No, we don’t need the purse of monarchs and financiers to take our trips, nor will anyone command we leave port.

Marco Polo and the extension of the Silk Road into Europe.

Marco Polo and the extension of the Silk Road into Europe.

We are all able to set sail to New Goa or caravan to Nova Samarkand on our own exploration, to ride whatever winds we catch to carry us into unknown regions of knowledge, culture and application. In my next post, I’ll share ways to navigate this new world without knowing exactly where you’re going to land.

Why tweet, and who gives a hoot? What Twitter does for me

30 Jan

I read, write and think about learning, knowledge management and collaborative work — it’s a lot to keep up with.

My Personal Learning Network (PLN) and Personal Knowledge Management/Mastery (PKM) practice has become vital to my professional growth . Of all the things I do in support of these efforts — blog, write articles, read, synthesize (what PKM calls “sense-making”), share, meet, respond and react — it is Twitter that I get the most questions, doubt, and even hostility about.

I want to share here why I use Twitter, and how it helps me.

I begin by saying I was late to it. I was skeptical, and more than a little derisive about those tweeters constantly tethered to their phones. I did not dive in: I was hesitant, lurking, dipping my toes in one digit at time. So, to you doubters, I was there with you not long ago.

Now, in two-years’ time, I can’t imagine my professional life without it!

With that said, it is NOT about Twitter itself. Twitter is a tool, like a hammer or a saw — they are useless until used purposefully. Twitter will be gone in 5 (or 10?) years, replaced by something(s) else. While I have found great value in applying Twitter to develop my PLN, it needn’t have been Twitter. It just worked well for me. You might find another tool that works for you. Great! It is the practice, not the tool.

Some ways I use Twitter to propel “real” work:

  • Capture thoughts and notes in real time, often with a hashtag (#, as in #learning) to help categorize it for myself and others.
  • Share and “favorite” useful tweets to let the most pertinent comments rise to the top and become easy to find.
  • Find like-minded people across the hall, or across the globe, with whom to share and learn. I have built my PLN from scratch, relying on Twitter for 90% of it. There is generally a true spirit of generosity and openness that’s remarkable.
  • Follow and learn from experts and leaders, to see what they are thinking, reading and see who they are following. Because Twitter is a-symmetrical (unlike Facebook, for example) you can follow anyone without the need for that person to reciprocate. (This difference was articulated nicely by Harold Jarche, which — and whom — I found via Twitter.) I follow @BarackObama, but he doesn’t follow me… yet!
  • Twitter storms. A synchronous (live) twitter event around a particular topic, these are generally moderated in a Q/A format with some opportunity for intros and self-promotions. Twitter storms are extremely useful to share and hear ideas, “meet” new like-minded people, and enjoy some PD time. Best of all, the transcripts are available after to remember and reflect on the storm’s activity.
  • Like Twitter storms, tweeting during — yes during! — live events, classes and sessions proves to be very useful. It creates a “back-channel” to help make sense of the information, and adds instant and long-lasting value by providing insights into what others make of it. In addition, it is a great way for me to experience an event even if I’m not there. It is so valuable!

The most common reservations I hear:

Who cares what I think? I care what I think (or thought last week or last year). You also might. And if not, that’s fine too. It is a micro-blog tool, a way to share thoughts and activities. The value is in the stream to reflect upon later, to discover others who cared, reactions to forming ideas and activities as they grow. When you share an idea or thought, you never know how others — or even you, after some time passes — will react. I saw Dr. deGrasse-Tyson stop, mid-talk, to tweet a thought. If it is worth noting, it’s worth saving. And, if worth saving, it’s worth sharing.

What can you learn from 140 characters? It’s not enough! Enough for what? To jot a note? Or ask a colleague a question? Or refer your friend to an article or video you found? 140 characters is plenty. In fact, I have found over time that the space limit actually helps sharpen my writing — and thoughts — down to essentials. Remember: It is not a replacement for other forms of communication!

It’s a fad that’s going away. As I say above, it’s true: If we’re still using Twitter 10 years from now, I’ll be quite surprised. The same is also true of Facebook, email (please, let it be so!!), and wired telephones (who has long phone conversations anymore!?). Tools come and go, but building PLN and PKM practice will remain.

It’s too informal. It’s frivolous. Depends on who’s wielding the tool. It can be feathery light or as serious as life-and-death (literally, as #BlackLivesMatter showed).

– I don’t have time. If you find it useful, you’ll have time. You don’t have time to change a tire on your car on your way to work, unless you need to change the tire.

Find me @BenCpdx… I’ll leave the bird on for you. If I’m the recipient of your first tweet, it would be an honor and I promise to reply.

bdc twitter

Stuck inside of mobile with the platform blues again

22 Jan

I hear it everywhere I go, in conversations with people who don’t know better and—more frustratingly—with people who should. Some variation of the themes laid down in this recent article from CMS Wire. Complete with a fine-looking infographic (which I’m a sucker for!), the author highlights trends in business communication. She points out the shift to a higher share of communications on mobile devices and internal tools (intranets and enterprise network solutions (ENS)), and away from face-to-face meetings.

She is correct on each point, and yet misses the point entirely.

The significant trends in our networked world aren’t about mobile, communication platforms and new devices. The “trends” in workplace communication are about why and how, not what and on which platform.

As I’ve discussed in this blog before, alongside and in the footsteps of those more expert than I, all that devices and platforms provide us with is a new gateway to discover, categorize, tag, share, synthesize and learn from the information at our fingertips. The hot new device of 2015, and whatever new platform your organization rolls out this year, doesn’t really matter. Devices and platforms are fleeting and will be gone by 2020.

The mental maps we create are the critical element in how we work/ learn.

The mental maps we create are the critical element in how we work/ learn.

The real change is between our ears, within organizations that are reconfiguring away from hierarchies and toward network-centered activities, and those who can learn—and make use of that learning—every day, individually and collectively.

I see this confusion raging even close to home in my own PLN in eLearning and L & D circles. “Mobile is the next big thing!” No, it isn’t. Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and we can’t ignore their significance in how we deliver learning experiences and performance support, but they are only a facet of what really is the next big thing: personal learning and how it intersects organizational and communal learning. The significance of “mobile vs. other” will be over by 2020 (along with email as primary work function, please!!), but the significance of learning practice as the tool for organizational and professional development is just getting off the ground.

Sooner or later, one of must know… sorry, couldn’t stop myself.

Thanks, Bob.

Thanks, Bob.

e-Liberate! Shall we agree to lose the e?

25 Nov

eLearning.

What does it mean to you? Check out the Wikipedia definition: Clear as eMud.

At some point in my career I was certainly an eLearning (e-learning? elearning?) professional, even an evangelist. Not anymore. Not that I think there is anything wrong with what eLearning has traditionally been, per se, but just that we have moved beyond the e’s usefulness as a signifier.

As I’ve argued on several occasions, learning is our job, and we all are swimmers in the vast digital sea. Whatever eLearning means to us insiders, a large chunk of our learners and sponsors(!) imagine
e-courses to be clicked through as quickly as possible (if at all) so work can resume. The saddest bit of all is that a good portion of well-intentioned practitioners also think that way about the products we develop.

The Zombie E has had its day, but it is time we kill it.  Jawboneradio via flickr (http://bit.ly/1CbhDCq)

The Zombie E has had its day, but it is time we kill it.
Jawboneradio via flickr (http://bit.ly/1CbhDCq)

However, the shift is underway. I see it in the conferences I attend, via the PLNs I find so valuable, and in noble efforts like the Serious eLearning Manifesto. We now speak of learning experiences, and programmatic efforts to capture and share informal, ongoing, and “back-channel” learning. Through xAPI’s positive influence (more influence than practice at this point), Twitterstorms and organized peer hangouts, the means for professional growth are expanding. We are grappling—and sometimes succeeding—with how to integrate all of our training and learning events under the umbrella of learning practice.

So, what does the e mean? I really don’t know at this point. I no longer think of myself as an “eLearning” professional, but as a learning professional. Courses (tethered to an LMS or not), blended learning, live events, social media feeds, WOL/Show Your Work opportunities, PKM practice—these are all levers to be applied as the learning, professional development, and organizational goals dictate.

Digital delivery, via screens large and small (perhaps “mobile” needs to go, too?), takes the lion’s share of our work. And when live events occur, we work to integrate and amplify the strengths of the two together. So, it’s just learning, right?

Well, then: It’s time to embrace the future by losing the e.

Learning Guild? Learning Manifesto? Learning Industry? Yes, that’s what I’m suggesting. We are learning professionals, implementing learning programs.

Who’d have thunk that AOL’s “You’ve got mail!” (never email) slogan was ahead of its time?

I very much welcome your thoughts, rebuffs, and ideas on this topic. Leave a comment here, or find me at @BenCpdx.

Information Fluency

15 Mar

The good, cold folks up at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks’ eLearning and Distance Education group have done quite a bit of good work on what it means to be fluent in the digital world. They have eschewed the idea of “media literacy” that I grew up with, and evImageen updated the notion of digital fluency.

Instead, they propose “Information Fluency,” and make a pretty compelling case for how that term more accurately portrays how we learn today.

Check out their one-pager here (keeping it short and concise must have been a challenge on itself!).

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