Creating a "Sacred Cow-Free Zone"

Regarding my post the other day on the Tyranny of Dead Ideas, commenter Kate Riel asked an interesting question:

Just articulating a dead idea is a huge step for an individual or organization because it makes you question those notions that define self efficacy.

So how does an organization nurture and support an environment with no 'sacred cows' where it is safe to express an existing pattern as potentially a dead idea?

I don't really have the answer. If I did, I'd probably be rich. But I do have a few thoughts.

First, I think you have to change your own personal behaviors and look at where you don't question certain sacred cows in your life. A few months back I read A.J. Jacobs' is The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and one of the things that struck me about his book was the idea that to change your beliefs, you have to start with changing your behavior. Fake it till you make it. It's not the beliefs that have to change first. Instead, you have to start "being the change you want to see."   I think that creating an organizational culture of questioning sacred cows has to begin with us as individuals trying to weed out the dead ideas that may be holding us back personally and professionally.

Part of doing this means engaging in your own personal reflective practices. Then you can move on to trying to create an organizational environment of reflective practice where there is regular reflection and structured thinking about the work and values of the organization and how that is fitting in with reality.

I also think that both individually and organizationally you have to be thinking about the big, important problems and focus on doing work that matters. Too often I think we get bogged down in the minute details and the short-term view, which means we're never really taking a step back to look at the larger picture of what's going on. This is a habit that has to be cultivated, especially since it tends to go against how most organizations end up operating. 

These are a couple of thoughts that come to my mind in terms of creating a "sacred cow-free zone." What ideas do you have? How do we cultivate an environment that regularly challenges us to question if we're holding on to dead ideas?

Exploring The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

I'm reading Matt Miller's The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity. Some may argue with both the ideas that Miller identifies, as well as their implications. However I think that  few would challenge his premise that "in every era, people grow comfortable with settled ideas about the way the world works" and that it is this "intellectual intertia" that causes us problems, both individually as well as in the various relationships in which we find ourselves--in the partnerships, organizations, companies, institutions, etc. to which we belong.

Miller has a 3-step process for dealing with dead ideas that I think has applicability in many arenas:

1. Identify the Dead Ideas that Matter
Whether you are thinking about your personal or professional life, of how your team is operating or of what's happening in your organization, at any given time there are dozens--perhaps hundreds--of dead ideas circulating. Some are relatively harmless, but others are toxic, with far-reaching and dangerous implications. The first step in dealing with the tyranny of dead ideas is to identify those that are most important to the issues at hand. As Miller indicates:

". . . the key in any effort to improve the prospects of a country or company is to focus on the ones that are truly strategic. We need to step back from the rush of events to identify the premises that are central to an entity's fate."

2. Understand the Dead Idea's "Story"
To move past a dead idea, you must first understand the source of its power:

  • Where did it come from?
  • Why did it once make sense?
  • What has changed now that makes it useless or wrong or harmful?

Says Miller:

"The mere act of reviewing the history and trajectory of an idea, and dissecting the assumptions and circumstances that gave rise to it, almost immediately opens our minds to alternative ways of thinking that make more sense."

3. Reach for New (and Paradoxical) Ways of Thinking
The final step in the process is to identify new ways of thinking that both make more sense in light of existing realities and that put us in a better place to thrive based on these new realities. Often these changed belief systems seem paradoxical or counterintuitive, or even so crazy as to be off-limits. But just as often, this suggests that these are ideas worth exploring as they are key to any intellectual breakthroughs necessary to moving us beyond the strait jacket created by our current ways of thinking.

So what dead ideas need exploring in our personal lives? In our organizations?  Which are the most "strategic?" What are the stories behind those beliefs? How did they gain their power? What new ways of thinking do we need to embrace? How do we live with the paradoxes of those ideas?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly on "dead ideas" that impact learning, both individually and organizationally.

Deconstructing the Work Literacy Learning Event

The Work Literacy online learning event is over and Harold Jarche has posted some of what he learned from our facilitation of the course. Time for me to share some of my thoughts. .  

Using Ning for the Course

Our first big decision was what platform to use. We ended up going with Ning because it integrated several different tools (blogs, forums, video and photo-sharing, social networking profiles, groups) at the right price (free). We also wanted to use something that would give people a true flavor of Web 2.0 learning. While Moodle would have been a potential choice, it's still a CMS and we wanted to see what would happen with a tool that was set up for social networking rather than for course management. We also considered using a blog platform (like Wordpress) and having people participate via comments and their own blogs, but decided that Ning might give us a fuller experience of using social media tools in a more integrated way.

From my perspective, Ning seemed to work well. It was more chaotic than if we'd used a structured tool like Moodle, and I know that some people struggled a little with feeling that they couldn't quite connect with what was going on. There was less of a step-by-step feel and more of a networked approach that, at first, was disconcerting.  But I also think with Ning we did a better job of helping people to form more social connections. The profile pages gave a good sense of who people were and I felt like I had more of a handle on having specific people involved in the course, rather than a list of names.

One thing that I think was a MAJOR asset of using Ning was the fact that it made it very easy for people to assume responsibility for different aspects of the course. We saw several people start up smaller study and interest groups and various forum threads that really added to the overall learning. Many people seemed to take ownership of the course in a way that wouldn't have happened with a CMS. That was one of the most positive benefits from my perspective of using a social networking platform--it really did a much better job of creating a community of practice/peer-to-peer learning environment. 

Facilitating the Course

In setting up the course, we focused on a topic per week, with different levels of involvement in the assignments--Spectators, Joiners/Collectors and Creators.  One thing we heard repeatedly was that people really liked the idea that they had permission to be spectators, dipping in and out of readings and forums as they wanted to. This kind of "lurking" behavior is the hallmark of any online course, but I think that participants were happy that being a spectator was a more "official" and sanctioned way of participating in the course, rather than a cop-out.

As Harold pointed out, the Ning platform did require us to act as synthesizers and information connectors  because great nuggets of conversation started in various locations (in individual blog posts, on forums, etc.) and they could easily be lost in the discussions. We tried to stay on top of that, though, and to pull those nuggets to the forefront by posting them on the main page, adding them to assignment pages and/or sending out blast emails to the entire group to let them know what was happening.

What was interesting for me as a facilitator was that I found myself paying much more attention to creating a particular kind of environment and trying to facilitate dialogue in ways that it's harder for me to do in a face-to-face setting. When I'm doing stand-up sessions, it's easier for me to fall into the "sage on the stage" kind of behavior, even when I'm actively trying to avoid it. But in an asynchronous, social environment like we had with the Work Literacy course, I couldn't be everywhere at once and I found that many other people stepped up to "teach" to others. I also found myself paying more attention to how I framed questions and assignments so that they encouraged thinking and dialogue. Not that I don't do this in face-to-face, but there was a different quality to my thinking in this setting.

Another interesting aspect was finding the balance between being an "instructor" and being a community facilitator. As an "instructor," I think that there's a tendency to want to comment on every blog and forum post. But in doing that, I'm reinforcing this idea of me as "expert" or "teacher," that I wanted to avoid. I really wanted to try to move out of that more traditional role and into a facilitator/community-builder role. I will say that in a lot of ways it was harder to do than I'd thought. There's a certain level of backing off that's necessary, but overall I think the community is better for it. 

Was the Course a Success?

I wondered before the course ended if we'd been "successful" and this was one of the questions we asked in the final week. We got some excellent feedback from participants on this issue that primarily indicated that people had defined for themselves what success would be and then participated in activities accordingly.

One big aspect of thinking about this was the level of participation. We saw a drop-off in the number of people contributing to forums, blog posts, etc. as the weeks went by, so we naturally had to wonder what this meant. I'm still not sure (Harold wonders if the course lasted too long, something I've asked too), but I'm not sure that participation is really the true measure of success anyway. Or at least it's not the only measure we could use.

What I do think we managed to do was create and foster a community of practice that, for a period of time, brought together a large group of people who wanted to work together on learning about using Web 2.0 tools for learning. Through this network of connections and discussion, we also created an excellent resource that will be available to other people who may want to explore these tools on their own, at their leisure.

I know that for myself, I "met" and had an opportunity to engage with the thinking and ideas of some really smart, interesting people--and even had an outstanding lunch with one of the participants, Catherine Lombardozzi, who happens to live in the Philadelphia area. So for me, at least, this was definitely a successful and enriching experience.

What Would I Do Next Time?

  • I say this every time I do an online learning event, but I think that I'd shorten the course. If you're doing activities every day (like we did for the Comment Challenge), I think it needs to last only a week, maybe two. If we're doing one topic a week, I'm thinking that it shouldn't go longer than a month. More chunking and some breathing time in between might keep energy levels up.
  • I would definitely do the three levels of activities again, at least in circumstances where that's possible. I think that explicit permission and encouragement for lurking really helps people. At the same time, I have to then be prepared for the fact that they WILL lurk.
  • I will be more consistent with some of the structural aspects of the course. One strategy we used was to set up a forum to ask people what they wanted to learn about the next week's topic, but we didn't do that every week. I was trying to fit in the course around work stuff and some weeks were better than others for keeping up with different components. I need to be a little more planful on some of these pieces the next time around. There's only so much "building the plane while you're flying it" that I should do.
  • I would definitely use Ning again for a project like this. Overall there was a lot of flexibilty and functionality that we were able to access and I do think that it encouraged more group ownership than we might have had using a blog or CMS platform.
  • Related to the group ownership idea, I will be more explicit next time about inviting group ownership and suggesting that people feel free to take the learning in directions where they'd like. Paul Lowe volunteered to run a webinar (which was excellent), but he volunteered on his own. Next time I'd have explicit invitations for people from the outset and provide ideas and instructions to encouraget that thinking. (Although is there an advantage to waiting for things to evolve organically?) 

Overall, this was an excellent experience. I will say that I'm ready for a break though. :-)

The Triumph of Peer-to-Peer, Bottom-Up and Open Source

I have consistently been impressed by the Obama campaign's use of social media, particularly in the past 12 months.  His win last night suggests to me yet another reason that we must take the tools of social media seriously as having the power to utterly transform old paradigms for getting things done, as this morning's article in WIRED indicates:

He's run a campaign where he's used very modern tools, spoke to a new coalition, talked about new issues, and along the way, he's reinvented the way campaigns are run," says Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the nonprofit think-tank NDN, and a veteran of Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. "Compared to our 1992 campaign, this is like a multi-national corporation versus a non-profit."

So what does this have to do with social media and learning?

Over 63 million people voted for Obama--52% of the eligible voting population, most of whom are either working now or on their way to working.  They are in your classrooms and cubicles and something has changed.

Many--maybe most--of these 63 million people participated in a movement that showed them the power of peer-to-peer, bottom-up, open source approaches to online participation. They felt a sense of community,  like they had influence and multiple ways to participate. Every day they received emails and Twitter alerts letting them know how they could participate in supporting Obama's campaign and connect to others like them. For months, they sent and received millions of text messages, read and wrote blog posts, created and joined Facebook groups, uploaded photos to Flickr and created and shared untold YouTube videos.

These people have experienced the power of social networks and social media tools and they liked the what they saw.   As a result, I suspect that they will have even less patience and motivation for participation in linear, solitary elearning and boring webinars  that do not actively engage them as co-creators of knowledge and skills.

They've seen another way and it will be hard not to think about how technology could be used differently.They may not be able to articulate this at first, but they can't help but compare their experiences here to their experiences of how these same tools are being used for learning.

The bar has been raised and I wonder if we know what impact that will have--how might our profession be changed?  So much of learning is about the emotional connections we make to content and for many people, their connection to technology has been forged and redefined through participation in an incredibly emotional event. I don't want to overstate the case, but I do have to ask--are we ready for what is coming our way?

But Do They Work?

One of the big questions I'm frequently asked about using social media is whether or not the tools "work."  Depending on the questioner, this can mean a variety of things, but underlying everything is one issue--will my department or organization improve if we use social media?

Via Shel Holtz and Workplace Learning Today comes yet another "yes," to that question. Shel cites a brief published by the Aberdeen Group, titled Web 2.0, Talent Management, and Employee Engagement (a PDF file) that finds:

  • 52% of organizations that adopt blogs, wikis, and social networking tools (among others) achieved best-in-class performance levels compared to 5% for those that didn’t.
  • The same tools were used within organizations that achieved an 18% year-over-year improvement in employee engagement. Companies that didn’t use these tools grew engagement by a mere 1%. (An aside--not sure how "employee engagement" was measured).
  • A 45% increase in spending on “software that links to networking site (e.g. Facebook or LinkedIn) or other communities of practice” as part of the recruiting process will increase internal recruiters’ ability to connect with potential recruits. These tools also let employees post messages to “lend a voice to the market on the work culture at a particular company.”
  • Social networking is being used to connect newly-hired employees with mentors and coaches as well as build relationships with other employees. “In addition,” the brief notes, “blogs and wikis are also used as a means for a new employee to provide content/commentary on a topic at which he/she is an expert where others within the organization are struggling.” (Note--see my post last week on Lisa Johnson's keynote and the need to engage Millenials at work. This is what we're talking about here. I heard the same thing from the Gen Y folks at my Social Media Game workshop)
  • 38% of organizations surveyed for an upcoming study from Aberdeen said the biggest growth in learning and development over the next year will come from “informal learning.” The investment these companies will make in blogs, social networks, and communities will “stimulate peer-to-peer learning and ideation, as well as facilitate communities of practice in which organizations can leverage the collective knowledge of their employees."

These findings echo what we saw in the eLearning Guild's 360 Report on eLearning 2.0 (webinar today, by the way). Those organizations that were making the greatest use of Web 2.0 technologies reported the strongest benefits, particularly in accommodating learner needs, increasing access to information and improving dissemination of information. As a result these organizations were increasing their investments in these technologies more than those organizations that had less experience with social media.

Pretty quickly the question isn't going to be "will the tools work?" but "how can we make them work for us?" Throwing up a wiki or a blog and hoping for the best isn't going to cut it. But doing it right can make some significant improvements to organizational effectiveness.

e-Learning 2.0: Coming to an Enterprise Near You--Or is It?

Over at The eLearning Guild Research blog, Steve Wexler has been sharing some of the research we've been looking at to prepare the Guild's e-Learning 2.0 report, due out in late September. I've had a chance to see all of it because I'm co-authoring an essay that will be included in the report and there's some very interesting stuff there. These are some nuggets that Steve's shared so far that are worth a closer look:

  • Many people cannot access social networking sites at work--an even bigger problem at large organizations .Not surprisingly, the sites that tend to be blocked are YouTube and social networks like Facebook and MySpace. But when you consider the experiences of companies like Serena, you have to wonder what these organizations are thinking. I suspect that they're worried that people will be wasting time at work, but I can do that without YouTube or Facebook. Is anyone blocking Solitaire or the many pointless conversations that are held in cubicles everywhere?
  • Some interesting differences between Millenials and 30+ workers in terms of using social media. Blogs, wikis, social bookmarking and RSS are definitely bigger sellers with the younger crew, than with those over 30. Interestingly, though, these are the more "passive" activities of Web 2.0. People are READING blogs and wikis pretty regularly, but they arent commenting on or editing them. We still have a way to go with the interactive aspects of social media, which to my mind are the primary reasons for using these tools for learning.
  • Some different ideas on how e-Learning 2.0 is entering organizations. There's some debate among the team members about whether training professionals are driving the change or if social media has already entered the building in a big way and training professionals just don't realize it. The cynical side of me thinks it's probably the latter. My experience in organizations has been that often the training folks are the last people to know what's going on in terms of how people are doing their work unless there's a specific need to deliver a training event. I could be wrong, though, as the majority of e-Learning professionals who responded to the Guild survey indicated that they thought they'd be driving the e-Learning 2.0 train.

Slow Learning for Fast Times

In a world that's rapidly evolving and changing, I think there's a tendency to want to make our learning match the pace of change. There's a focus on activity and rapid development that intuitively seems to make sense, but that in the end may not actually prepare us well for this new place.

Nancy White has a great slideshow, Thinking About Slow Community (via Beth Kanter), that she blogs more about herehere and here. It's about the value in "slow, small and under-funded" communities (especially online) that got me thinking about the value in "slow learning," particularly in a time when so much of learning is about the communities we form and in which we participate.

Picture_3In this slide, imagine replacing the word "community" with "learning." Isn't this what we need? Learning that:

  • Creates time for connection and relationship (especially since so much of learning is now social, less about content and more about knowing from whom to get information).
  • That stops and notices what is actually happening in the moment. This is the essence of reflection and being a reflective practitioner. It's what Tony Karrer has talked about knowledge workers needing to be able to do in order to change and adapt their practices.
  • Takes time for reflection and self-awareness, both individually and within the larger community context.
  • Not too future-focused because the future is unpredictable.
  • Looks backward to learn from mistakes and successes.

To adequately engage in this kind of learning, though, we need to slow things down some. It feels to me like there's a frenetic pace going on, particularly online, where there's a tendency to chase the next big thing. We leapfrog from idea to idea without necessarily tying things together or really reflecting on where we've been or where we're going.

I think that professional development of the digital variety, using our personal learning environments and networks, has great promise and opportunity. At the same time, our activities online can easily become a focus on activity for its own sake, rather than a path to real learning. We can get so caught up in building an extensive network that we lose sight of the best ways to engage with that network.

We may also forget to really engage with ourselves and our own ideas as we spend so much time reading and reacting to others, we can easily forget who we are and what we believe. We end up engaging in a sort of "group-think" that we're moving too quickly to realize.  This post by Mike Caulfield perfectly captures that dilemma:

What worries me about the modern world is not that amateurs are taking over. It’s that the amateurs might be so soaked in the conventional wisdom of a discipline from a very early point that they won’t bring those needed misreadings to the table that have always fueled progress in the past. That without the silence in between, the conversation will become less varied and meaningful.

Amid all our connectedness and activity, we need to also seek out the silences and the slow times during which our ideas can percolate. Says Nancy,

In the rush to colonize the possibility of community on the internet, with its characteristic speed and fleetness of metaphorical foot, we may have lost sight of the fact that some many of our most precious communities are slow, small and underfunded.

What kind of magic is this? What should we be paying attention to?

Is it time for a “slow community” movement? What would that look like to you? More importantly, how would it make your world a better place?

And I'll add to that--is it time for some slow learning? What would that look like? How might it better serve our purposes?

Ninging It

Conversation Jen of @injenuity is feeling frustrated with Ning:

It pains me to say this, but I am no longer a fan of Ning for community building. It has been a year since I created my first site, a network for moms that has grown to 200 plus members, but I have no time to maintain. The network I created for faculty at my campus plugs along, but isn’t functioning the way a social network naturally should. I feel like my members are trapped! It’s no better than an LMS. . . .

People are distributed everywhere, yet all accessible from anywhere I have connectivity. We don’t need to congregate on a single platform. Everyone knows where to find me. The tool doesn’t matter. We can use whatever tools we like, as long as we take the time to learn more about the people in our network and how best to communicate with them.

Since I'm in the process of considering Ning for some other projects and have had my own experiences with running Ning communities, this got me thinking about when/if Ning is a good idea. What occurred to me is that maybe Ning is better as a sort of "gateway" tool for those who are relatively new to social media, rather than for connecting with those who are more experienced in using Web 2.0 tools.

After you've spent some time functioning with social media, like Jen, you begin to figure out where your contacts are and you'll "meet them" at their blogs, on Twitter, through their tags, etc. Having to go to a single destination like Ning feels limiting and useless because at that point, you've tended to develop a more fluid, connected notion of what it means to network with people online. But as I've said before, we're the exceptions. I think we're a particular kind of user who's comfortable with the more distributed nature of connection online and we've become unconsciously competent in working those networks. For us, our single point of contact is through our RSS feeds, not through a particular website.

This isn't true for most people, though. Power RSS users are still a decided minority and reality is, a LOT of people want and need a single location for accessing information and conversations that interest them. Most people do not have a blog, so the blog function in Ning is a way to help people get started with the idea in a safe environment, surrounded by people who share their interests. Many people don't get the idea of social bookmarking or tagging, so being able to share videos, etc. and tag them in Ning is another way to practice new skills.

Yes, I believe that the tools that exist outside of Ning for these purposes are superior to running them within a Ning community. But the reality is, Ning can also be a good set of "training wheels" for helping people try out some things before they are set loose into the wider Web 2.0 world. For beginners, they can be a great way to get a sense of the possibilities of social media within some kind of bounded arena before launching themselves into signing up with Blogger or getting a Twitter account. I think that this may be one of the reasons that Classroom 2.0 is so active--beside the fact that it's now large enough for the 1% rule to mean there are a ton of people participating, it's also filled with people who are beginning to get their feet wet with social media.

This isn't to say that I don't see issues with running a Ning community. Jen is right when she says that they can require a lot of facilitation, especially in the beginning stages. I also think that they may work best for time-limited purposes (such as planning for a face-to-face event or to facilitate a class) or when the focus is broad enough to invite a range of active participants. They can also work, I think, when used in combination with more traditional tools, like email, to help ease the transition and drive traffic to the site.

I haven't given up on Ning, but I definitely see its limitations. One of those, I think, is that it's probably better suited for "newbies."

What do you think? Are you with Jen in thinking Ning is too limited or do you think that there are times when Ning is the right tool?

Flickr photo via eye2eye.

How I Got Started with Social Media

California_dreamin0 Karyn Romeis is wondering how people got started with social media and what it's meant to their professional practice. This is part of her dissertation, which she is actually writing on a wiki--a strategy I think is pretty interesting. So here's my story. . .

I've been online since 1995, participating initially in email listservs and forums. I also dabbled in teaching classes with what we, at the time, called a "virtual office"--a website we set up where people could download class documents, listen to "podcasts" (although they weren't called that then) and discuss issues in forums.

  In October 2004, I became deeply immersed in creating art. (The illustrations here are mine--you can see I was a little angsty then).  I spent a lot of time online looking for techniques and resources and in that process, stumbled upon several artists' blogs. These intrigued me, so I got myself a Blogger blog and started sharing my own art online.

Through that process I got comfortable with the conventions of posting, commenting on other blogs, etc. It was a "no-risk" environment because I blogged anonymously and I was blogging in an area of personal interest, not in the professional realm. I felt little pressure to "produce" daily posts, in part because my posts were based on whether or not I had art to post, which tended to happen in spurts.

Interestingly, I was not at all intimidated by the technology. I had glitches and frustrations, but they were problems to solve, not barriers, and in some ways they drew me in more deeply. I also didn't do a lot of reading about blogging, so what I was learning was through trial and error, without measuring myself against some yardstick of how to run a blog or how it should perform. This was probably a good thing because I felt no pressure and could see each thing I learned about what to do on my blog as a little personal triumph that I'd figured out myself. 

As I continued to blog, my posts began to evolve. I went from simple uploads of art with a commentary on what media I used and the circumstances under which I produced a piece into more contemplative posts on the nature of creativity and how to handle dry spells (which should sound familiar to readers of The Bamboo Project). Blogging became not only a way to share art, but also to reflect on the artistic process.Driven_3 

Fast forward to Summer 2006 when I started The Bamboo Project. Initially I ran the blog with a friend, but eventually I took it over myself. I think one of the first places I landed when I started blogging professionally was at Beth Kanter's blog. This immersed me immediately into a whole new world of Web 2.0 technologies. Within a few weeks, I was into RSS, tagging and all things social media. Within a few months, I had started my first wiki and was blogging almost daily.

I think the next evolution in social media and my professional practice occurred when I wrote about my PLE in April 2007 and began exploring the whole issue of personal learning environments. That's when I first started to get more deliberate about using social media for learning.

Things went to the next level with my participation in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge. This was my first major learning experiment. It also connected me to a world-wide community of bloggers from a variety of niches that I've continued to build upon and learn from in ways I never imagined when I first started blogging in 2004. Part of what has happened is that their comments and posts have pushed me to continue to examine my own professional development and practice on a regular basis. When I run out of questions to ask or things to think about, I can always count on my network to push me along.

How0_2I can't even begin to describe how this process has transformed my professional practice. Through it I've met amazing people who have wonderful ideas. But in some ways even more importantly, social media has made me far more reflective and deliberate about ongoing learning. Having a blog has encouraged me to write daily. To do that, I've had to read and research more and interact with the ideas that I'm encountering in order to write my posts. I've become more aware of what I do and why I do it and better at articulating those things for myself and for others.

Social media has made me more experimental, too. I make up projects for myself or join what's going on with other people. I play around with new tools and processes to see how they might work in a number of different settings. I've always been a learner, but I think that social media has made me be a more deliberate learner. Instead of just reading a book or magazine article, I actually interact with what I'm reading and seeing--writing posts, commenting on other people's posts, and creating various projects that allow me to further explore aspects of my profession and various ideas that emerge.

At this point, I can't imagine NOT using social media. Although I burn out from time to time, the benefits far outweigh the problems. Social media has become an integral part of how I do my work and has made me a far better practitioner and thinker in the process.

So that's my story. . . what's yours?

Shouldn't We All Be Learning Digital Literacy Skills?

A few weeks back, I was doing some thinking about 21st century workplace literacy and wondering why edubloggers and workplace learning bloggers weren't having more conversations about what constitutes "literacy" in a radically changed workplace. I would argue that by anyone's definition, digital literacy should be part of what we mean when we talk about the skills that all workers need to be successful. I'd go so far as to say that these are skills that would benefit all citizens, whether they're working or not.

Now I see that Vicki Davis has embarked on a project to build the digital skills of her young students through  "Digiteen," which she's set up to teach the skills identified in Digital Citizenship in Schools by Mike Ribble and Gerald Baily. They are:

1. Student Learning and Academic Performance

1A: Digital Access-- full electronic participation in society
1B: Digital Communication--the electronic exchange of information  
1C:  Digital Literacy-- the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.

2. Student Environment and Student Behaviour

2A:  Digital Security and Safety-- the precautions that all technology users must take to guarantee their personal safety and the security of their network
2B:  Digital Etiquette--the standards of conduct expected by other digital technology users
2C: Digital Rights and Responsibilities--the privileges and freedoms extended to all digital technology users, and the behavioural expectations that come with them.

3. Student Life Outside the School Environment

3A: Digital Law-- the legal rights and restrictions governing technology use
3B: Digital Health and Wellnessthe elements of physical and psychological well-being related to digital technology use
3C:  Digital Commerce--the buying and selling of goods online

Looking at this list I have three questions:

  • Shouldn't "adults" have these skills too?
  • Do they?
  • If we think that these skills are important, what are we doing to make sure that people actually have them?

What do you think?