Stepping Back to Move Forward

Backwards Man / naM sdrawkcaB [035]

Fifteen years ago, after a weekend career retreat I ran for myself, I walked into my full-time job and quit.

I realized that for a variety of reasons, the position was no longer working for me and I wanted to move into something else. With two kids heading into summer daycare that would eat up a good portion of my check, it seemed like quitting to work full-time on new opportunities for myself was the best option. I would actually save money at that point by not working. 

I spent the next several months reading books across a variety of fields, engaging in deep conversations with some incredibly smart people who challenged my thinking and gestating some ideas for how I wanted to shape my business. It was my own intense professional development course and it allowed me to build and sustain my self-employment for the next several years. 

One thing I've learned from my own experience is that sometimes taking a step back is the best way to move forward. I was reminded of this when I saw an article in CNN Money on turning underemployment into a new career opportunity. I was particularly struck by one story in the post:

Some readers report they've deliberately taken a step down in status and pay in order to move their careers in a different direction. "I've done it more than once over the past 30 years," writes Mike Frederick. Most recently, in 2007, when his department was eliminated, he turned down a couple of promotions to take a lower-paying staff job in his employer's corporate university.

"No one could promise me I'd ever get back to my previous level of management in that department," he recalls. Not only that, but the job called for tech skills that Frederick lacked. "I had a lot to learn and the odds against my success seemed daunting," he recalls. Even so, his employer funded a series of courses he needed to take: "What clinched it was the chance to learn a new career at no expense to me."

Fast-forward three years and, "after many long nights of studying on my own and hard work during the day applying what I learned", Frederick is "at the point where I wanted to be," he writes: In a management position in an IT training department.

What the experience taught him, he says, is that "taking a step down may be your best bet for ultimate success." Frederick's advice: "Find out if your company is willing to provide the training you need or will pay for college courses. Don't be afraid to ask and, after you make the move, don't look back. Focus on the possibilities ahead of you."

It's very easy for us to get caught up in feeling that the only way to move forward is by . . . moving forward--or up. But when it comes to our careers, it's often the steps backwards or sideways that can generate the most momentum and satisfaction. 

In my case I left full-time employment to build a business. I've known other people who had side gigs that helped them explore new opportunities and identities that eventually turned into full-time work. And there are plenty of people who have been laid off and then use that time to re-think their careers, re-tool and move off in a different direction, happier than they'd been before. 

Don't always assume that the best career moves for you are going to be through advancement or "moving up the ladder." Often we do this without thinking and find out it isn't what we wanted at all.

Instead, be open to the lateral moves and the moves backwards. Like me, you may find these give you a chance to re-tool and refresh your career, moving you in a direction you hadn't even considered before. 


Trying to figure out your next career move? Check out my upcoming 4-week Career Clarity Camp, starting January 9, 2012. You'll get 4 weeks of activities, 5 live events and lots of support as you figure out where you want to go next. It also makes a great holiday gift for someone in your life who could use some clarity!

On the Power of Solitude


When you haven't blogged in months and decide, finally, to begin again, it's probably a good idea to explain your absence. 

In the time since I've last written here, I've been wrapped in a reflective cocoon, working on a new path for my business. This need to re-invent myself has come over me a few times in my professional life. It generally begins with a strong feeling that what I'm doing every day no longer aligns with what I want to accomplish in the world. Examining this feeling and determining what to do about it requires large swaths of silence and introspection for me to work through to the other side. This is the biggest explanation for my months-long blogging black-out. Sometimes you just need the quiet of your own mind to really work. 

During this time, I've regained an appreciation for solitude. I used to believe that my best work was done when I was hip-deep in the world of ideas, engaged in lively conversation and interaction with my on and off-line colleagues. And there is still a place for that in my life. But what I've found is that that there are also times in your professional development when you need to move away from the conversations happening around you to give yourself time and space to hear what all of this means for YOU. 

This is harder to do in an always on world where interesting conversations and ideas are just a few mouse clicks away. There is a pull to the external world that is irresistible at times.  But I've found that it is necessary to seek solitude if I am to make sense of the conversations that swirl around me.

More importantly, solitude is necessary for me to determine how best to turn all that I'm experiencing into action. I believe in the cycle of Act-->Reflect and have found that when you spend too long in the Act phase, then you must spend a correspondingly longer time in the Reflect phase to make up for it. This is especially true when actions are no longer aligned with your essential sense of purpose. It takes solitude to see the ways in which you need to change your actions to re-gain alignment. 

I've talked at length here about the value of reflective practice, which I've typically seen as an ongoing process. But I think there are times in our professional lives when it makes sense for us to go even deeper, to reflect more extensively and for longer periods of time. A sabbatical away from the world, an enforced diet of minimal technology, can be a refreshing thing. It's done wonders for me and I'm glad to be back. 

Do You Have a "Growth Mindset"? Are You Fostering Growth in Others?

From the NYT:

WHY do some people reach their creative potential in business while other equally talented peers don’t?

After three decades of painstaking research, the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes that the answer to the puzzle lies in how people think about intelligence and talent. Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.” . . .

“People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.”

This is one of those unexamined assumptions about ourselves and life that people make without realizing the consequences. How many of us believe that we're stuck with what we were born with? How many of us work in organizations that treat us as though our talents are fixed?

Dweck's research has found that people with a growth mind-set are more creative and are more resilient and able to adapt to change. Brain imaging suggests that this may be because growth mindset people may pay more attention to corrective information than those with a fixed mindset. Interestingly, in this same study, growth mindset people who got a wrong answer were more interested in finding out the right answer, while people with a fixed mindset were more concerned about their own internal response to getting the answer wrong. Because of their emotional discomfort with being wrong or making mistakes, people with a fixed mindset actually avoid opportunities for improvement because it forces them into situations that challenge the very core of who they are.

Organizations that nurture a growth mindset do better, too. They're able to make course corrections because they are willing to concede mistakes. Managers in these organizations are more likely to see when employees improve and they are more likely to create an environment of coaching and feedback that will support that ongoing development.

Dweck points out the impact of organizations that don't have a growth mindset:

When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset. This means that instead of learning, growing, and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged. It starts with the bosses’ worry about being judged, but it winds up being everybody’s fear about being judged. It’s hard for courage and innovation to survive a company-wide fixed mindset.

Not surprisingly, Dweck has  found that it's possible for people to change into a growth mind-set, but that it's a difficult process, requiring them to fundamentally challenge and change some core beliefs about themselves. She suggests four steps for moving into a growth mindset:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice.
  2. Recognize that you have a choice to change that mindset
  3. Challenge your fixed mindset with a growth mindset voice
  4. Take growth mindset action

For managers, the focus should be on modeling growth mindset behavior and on providing feedback that focuses on how to fix problems, rather than on labeling employees. In addition, goal-setting should focus on growth and learning, not on "innate" talent.

For more on the growth mindset, check out these resources:

What do you think? Do you have a growth or a fixed mindset? How do you think you support people in developing their own growth mindsets?

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?

21st Century Workplace Literacy: What Does that Mean and How Do We Engage More People in the Discussion?

Literacy_2 I find that when it comes to learning and instruction, I tend to run in two different circles, as evidenced by the "Learning" tab in my feed reader. Here, I'm following both bloggers from the world of workplace learning (i.e. corporate and organizational trainers and instructional designers) and edubloggers--people who are working in the k-12 and university systems. I do this in part because I tend to be working with both constituencies, so I need to keep an eye on developments in each area. I also do this because it's interesting to see the cross-over (or lack of cross-over) that occurs.

One of the areas that is generates a fair amount of discussion in the edublogosphere is how to define 21st century literacy. What are the skills that students will need in order to be successful in a constantly changing work world? David Warlick, for example, has some ideas here.  Last year, Stephen Downes had some some thoughts on what you really need to learn here.

In a global economy, these are conversations all nations should be having if they hope to remain competitive, and you would think that this would be an area where there would be considerable discussion going on between workplace learning professionals and edubloggers. Interestingly, this does not seem to be the case.  

From what I've observed, edubloggers are weighing in with their ideas about the key skills young people will need to be successful in the world of work, but it's educators talking to other educators without a lot of input from people who are operating in the work world for which students are supposedly being prepared.

This is nothing new of course--education and the so-called "real world" have long been disconnected (at least according to most businesses). However, given our new-found ability to connect the two groups through technology and the high stakes involved, it's unfortunate that we aren't doing more to have joint discussions. And I mean on the ground floor, practitioner to practitioner--not these high level "partnerships" that supposedly bring together business and education but never seem to really mean anything at work or in the classroom.

I see a few issues and implications with this . . .

First, if educators are basically talking to other educators, attending conferences together, running in the same blogging circles, etc., how do they truly get an appreciation for the needs of the workplace? Certainly they can make certain inferences about what constitutes "workplace literacy," but it seems to me that if you're talking about skills that people need to be successful in a particular environment, it would be more productive to reach outside of your educator circle and connect to the people who will be hiring the workers you're preparing.  Shouldn't there be more discussions happening between the two groups?

I don't say this as a criticism as much as an observation. I suspect it has to do with the fact that online we still tend to connect to the people we know and feel comfortable with, but then are we getting the most from the technology if we end up having the same conversations with the same kinds of people? (Amy Gahran has an excellent blog post on this tendency, by the way, and some suggestions for how to reach out to people who are outside of our normal circles).Literacy_2_2

I'm also wondering why workplace learning professionals aren't talking more about the issue of changing workplace literacy and 21st century foundational success skills. We know, for example, that people need to have what we've always called "basic literacy," (reading, writing, math skills) and it's understood that for people to be successful at work they need some minimal level of skills in these areas. They are the scaffolding that allow people to develop more technical skills.

It seems to me that technology and dramatically different ways of doing business (virtual teams, etc.) are drastically impacting our definitions of basic workplace literacy. If we haven't really re-defined workplace literacy, how can we be sure that staff have those underlying skills? I think, for example, that being able to learn new materials and skills quickly is a fundamental workplace literacy. Yet what has been done or is being done to ensure that people who are in the workplace now have those skills? And if they don't, how can they realistically operate in such a fast-paced economy?

Personally what I'd like to see is more conversations happening between edubloggers and workplace learning professionals on the issue of 21s century workplace literacy. The same technology that is impacting our definitions also provides us with the means to have the discussions, although it will mean we have to step outside of our silos.   I know it's too much to hope that we'd start attending each other's conferences (limited dollars, limited time), but at a minimum, it would be nice if we did something virtual to share ideas and generate discussion. I think we'd actually have a lot to learn from each other.

How could we start better connecting the two worlds to further the conversations and define how we could all proceed together to ensure that people have the foundational workplace skills they need to be successful? Is this even an issue?

Photo via Julie Lindsay

A Primer on Pecha Kucha for Learning

Janet Clarey and I are preparing for a session at the Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning conference where we intend to use the pecha kucha presentation style to share several social media tools. This got me to thinking about how pecha kucha is an excellent (and fun) tool for learning, so in this post I'm pulling together a quick little primer on pecha kucha for learning.

What is Pecha Kucha?
Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha) is a presentation format originally devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture. Think of it as presentation haiku--a highly structured environment for expressing ideas concisely and clearly.

A pecha kucha presentation consists of 20 PowerPoint slides, 20 seconds per slide, for a total presentation time of 6 minutes, 40 seconds. In a live pecha kucha event, you give the tech person your 20 slides, already pre-timed to transition every 20 seconds, so you're forced to keep moving whether you're ready or not. If you do a pecha kucha screencast, it's a little less nerve-wracking.

Probably the most frequently-seen example of pecha kucha in action is Dan Pink's presentation, Get to the PowerPoint in 20 Slides:


Ways to Learn with Pecha Kucha
The most obvious way to use pecha kucha for learning is as an instructional technique. A trainer can use it to present learning content, either in a live session, or through a screencast delivered as an e-learning module. But that's leaving out a big part of what makes pecha kucha fun--having multiple presenters and the energy that comes from that. I also think that one of the benefits of pecha kucha from a learner perspective is that it forces people to get at the essence of a topic or problem. Although it can be a decent instructional tool, I think there's even greater value in having learners use it themselves.

Some of the ways pecha kucha could be used for learning:

  • For learning assessment--At the conclusion of a training session, have each learner present a pecha kucha-style summary of what they learned. This could be done either in a live setting or even in an online course. Learners could  record their pecha kuchas as screencasts or deliver them live via webinar. Most online conferencing systems allow you to change presenters, so you could just switch between the different participants. Could be a lot more fun and interesting than a test or other assessment format.
  • To support reflective practice--As part of creating the culture of reflective practice, consider setting up regular pecha kucha events (lunch time, a Friday morning meeting) where staff are encouraged to share something they've learned related to a particular theme or to share a problem they're experiencing. This could also be used to de-construct a completed project or to reflect on an experience the team has shared.
  • As a form of virtual teambuilding--If you have team members working in various locations, do an online pecha kucha session. This could either be done in real time (through a webinar) or you could have people record their sessions and put them into a wiki. Staff could use the format to introduce themselves to their teammates or to discuss what their department does and how it fits into the larger organization. They can then learn more about the organization and the people they're working with. This could also be a fun way to do Employee Orientation sessions.
  • For an online conference--Invite people to submit pecha-kucha style pieces related to a conference theme or covering a specific tool or topic. These could be embedded into a blog or wiki during the conference, available for viewing once the conference is over. The comments section could be used to invite further discussion and feedback.
  • To share conference learnings--Previously I suggested that the price of admission to a conference should be to share what was learned. Pecha kucha would be a perfect format for this, as in this example on Learning at Learning 2007

If you use pecha kucha for learning, you may want to consider interspersing Q&A sessions in between the presentations. This allows people to dig a little deeper into the topic if necessary.

The advantage of pecha kucha as a learning technique is that it's fun and fast-paced. It's very visual and lends itself well to a multitude of learning situations and audiences--it can be appealing to both the geeks and the salespeople.  It also forces learners to get to the heart of a topic--the "need to know," rather than the "nice to know." And it limits the "talkers," while taking the pressure off the more quiet people in your organization.

Creating a Basic Pecha Kucha Presentation
Pecha kucha is one of those deceptively simple formats that on the surface seems incredibly easy--20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, how hard is that? The challenge lies in taking your topic and making it tell a story within those parameters.

Start by firing up PowerPoint, going to Slide Sorter view and inserting 20 slides. That way you have immediately set up your constraints--you have exactly these 20 slides to use.

Then begin plotting out your "story line." What do you want to say and in what order do you want to say it?  Think of your slides  as a sort of story-board. Put a few words or concepts on each slide to help you set up the "plot." Consider the order in which you're presenting them, too--are they telling the story the way you want them to?

Once you have your basic outline, it's time to start making it look good. Pecha kucha is very visual. Lots of words and bullets are severely frowned upon. You need photos and pictures that will support your points, so try checking out some of these sites to get the visuals you need.

You'll probably want to use PowerPoint's Notes view to write a script for your pecha kucha presentation, particularly if this is your first time doing one or if you plan to record your presentation. At a minimum, you'll need some way to script things out so that you can stay within your 20 second per slide parameter.

Once you have your slides in the order you want them and your script is written, be sure to practice. Out loud. Pecha kucha is about timing, so you need to be sure that your delivery is going to match your slides. Remember, it's 20 seconds per slide. That can either feel like no time at all or an eternity. You want it to feel just right.

Delivering a Pecha Kucha Presentation
Here are some basic guidelines for delivery.

  • Limit the introduction. Having a  30 minute introduction before you start your pecha kucha presentation is kind of cheating isn't it?
  • Create an environment that's conducive to the format. Pecha kucha is more informal and dynamic, so try to create a space and learning atmosphere that supports that. Think karaoke, not classroom.
  • Keep things moving--Ideally you have several people presenting, so keep things flowing and don't get bogged down in the transitions. If possible, have people get their presentations in ahead of time so that they can all be loaded onto a laptop and ready to roll.
  • Consider having Q&A--Again, if you're using pecha kucha as a learning tool, time for questions and answers might be very appropriate, particularly if you're assessing learning.
  • Have fun!

Pecha Kucha Resources
If you want to learn more, here are some additional resources to check out:

  • Pecha Kucha Global--This is the main site for finding pecha kucha sessions around the world.

Pecha kucha may not be right for every organization, but I'd suggest that it's definitely an idea worth considering if you're looking for another way to make learning experiences creative, fun and dynamic.

Anyone using pecha kucha for learning? Drop me a note or a comment--I'd love to hear more about it.

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More on Workplace Learning 1.0

Manishphoto_2 In response to my musings this week on why educators seem to have more readily embraced Web 2.0 for learning, Manish Mohan has written an excellent post.  You should read the entire thing, but in a nutshell:

  • "In the field of education, the onus of learning is on the learner. In workplace, the onus of training is on the organization and training department. If I don’t learn in university, it is my shortcoming. If I don’t learn in the workplace, it is the training department or functional head’s shortcoming."
  • Spending time on social networking sites is considered "wasting time" in most organizations.
  • Learning with social media can't be "measured."
  • Training is easier because specific time can be allocated to it--learning is too amorphous.

He concludes:

With most companies struggling to find talent, struggling with attrition and shortened employment span of employees in a single organization, organizations are spending more on “training” and less on “learning”. Training is measurable; learning doesn’t quite seem to be so easily measureable. Can the organizations afford to take a chance that employees will “learn” on their own? Isn’t it easier that they just be “trained”?

Check out the entire post here--well worth the read.

25 (Free) Tools for Professional Development and Productivity

Janehart4 I've been writing this week about Jane Hart's analysis of the technology tools being used by workplace learning professionals vs. those being used by educators, trying to identify why educators seem to be making greater use of social media. One issue may be that workplace learning professionals are not as familiar with social media tools in learning. Fortunately, Jane has created an excellent resource to address this--her 25 Tools Professional Development Resource, which is free and open access:

It is intended for those working in education, workplace learning or professional development who want to broaden their horizons in terms of the wide range of technologies and tools available for learning and performance support - in a very practical way by getting to grips with 25 key tools taken from the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008.

The tools are a mix of personal productivity tools for managing your own personal learning as well as authoring tools for creating all kinds of learning and performance solutions.  Many of them are Web 2.0 tools that promote a social, collaborative, sharing approach to learning.  But what is more important is that all these tools are free, which makes them very suitable for those on a low (or non-existent) budget to explore the widening e-learning space.

Jane has set things up to make it easy for learning professionals to more closely examine the most essential technology tools for learning, organizing them according to key learning activities.

Behind each of the 25 TOOLS lies an Activity that comprises a number of short tasks to help you find out more about the technology behind each tool, the tool itself and why it is so popular, how to use the tool and reflect on its application for teaching, learning and for productivity and performance support.  Many of the tool activities are inter-related, so you will also be using other tools for some tasks.

You can either dip into the Tools in an informal way or work through them in a more structured or formal way.  The approach is up to you.

There is also a COMMUNITY, where you can share your thoughts, experiences and resources as well as get help and advice from other members.

What's great about Jane's resource is that she shares specific personal learning and instructional uses for each of the tools, making it easier for learning professionals to see how these tools can be used in the context of their own work. She also includes a variety of multimedia resources for exploring each tool.

If you're looking to build and support a culture of personal learning in your organization, Jane's resource is a great place to start.


More Thoughts on Why Workplace Learning Is Largely Learning 1.0

A few days ago, I posted on Jane Hart's latest list of 100 Tools for Professional Development, picking up on Jane's point that it seems that there's a tool divide between workplace learning professionals and educators. According to Jane's survey, while corporate e-learning staff may use social media for personal learning, when it comes to designing learning for their organizations, they're primarily using authoring and presentation tools--more "Learning 1.0" types of approaches. I made a few suggestions about why I thought this might be the case and wanted to add a few more thoughts that I picked up through comments and some blog posts elsewhere.

Learning as Transaction
Art Gelwicks brings up an interesting point that learning in many organizations is about ticking off the boxes--"you've passed Module X, which will now be recorded in your file." He says:

". . . most corporate educational approaches are targeted to a deliver and account mindset where the content is made available, completion is mandated, and success is noted for future review of the student (employee). There’s no easy cost justification to the back and forth of web 2.0 tech for businesses to rationalize their use beyond PowerPoint and Webex."

Learning in this kind of environment is less a social process and more transactional. Technology is seen as a tool to make it easier and more efficient to deliver and track learning units, while social media tools might actually  detract from an organization's ability to keep track of what's been "learned."   If your approach to learning is in fact more transactional, where the goal is to basically to transmit information and manage who has completed various modules, then authoring and presentation tools would more naturally be the elearning tools of choice.

I'm not suggesting that this is because elearning professionals WANT to have a transactional approach. I suspect that usually its management pushing this idea, in part because it seems so cut and dried. Real learning is messy, which isn't always attractive to a lot of people.

The Tools are TOO Inexpensive
Over at WikiPatterns, Stewart Mader suggests another reason why social media for learning might be resisted in many organizations:

Sandy Kemsley’s fourth challenge to social media/enterprise 2.0 in organizations:

The fact that these technologies are inexpensive (or even free) and quick to implement causes them to be discounted by executives who are used to spending millions on information management systems.

This sounds so counterintuitive, but it’s a by-product of software vendors creating a skewed system where their high prices force potential customers to spend a great deal of resources (people, time, and money) deciding to use a tool. When they finally decide whether to go ahead with the tool they have no choice but to do it to justify the expense of deciding to do it!

In many organizations, not only has a lot been invested in making the decisions, when it comes to learning, much has also been invested in setting up and training staff in the use of various authoring tools and systems, particularly at those organizations where LMS systems are in place.

I suspect that what is also at work here is our own human belief that if it's free, it can't be valuable. Many (most?) of us have not yet adapted to a world where you don't have always to pay an arm and a leg for value. Social media in some sense seems "too good to be true," since we tend to think that higher price means higher value, even if that's not the case.

Loss of Control and Power
Stewart's post  led me over to Sandy Kemsley's post on social media adoption in the enterprise, where I found another issue that may interfere with using social media for learning in organizations:

Resistance to adoption isn’t correlated with age, it’s correlated with position in the company: higher-level people are more resistant to bringing in Enterprise 2.0 technologies because it represents a democratization of content and a relative loss of power at their level.

In comments on my original post, Bud Deihl echoed this idea:

Two of my friends in the corporate world have emphasized how communication and training is really controlled. Their materials must be approved and in many cases very tightly controlled through password protection, so other companies cannot see their information.

Regardless of the reasons for control (as a form of power, as Sandy suggests, or for competitive advantage, as Bud indicates), the key issue here is that use of social media for learning does mean giving up a level of control. You have less control over content, less control over how it's used and less control over how people interact with it. If control is a major aim, then social media tools are clearly not going to be attractive.

I question, though, the kind of learning that takes place in a tightly controlled environment. If learning is measured by how well you perform on a test, then control may have less impact. But if learning is, in the end, about changing workplace behavior (which I think it is), then learning in controlled circumstances is inherently problematic because people typically don't WORK in controlled circumstances.

To my mind, one of the major advantages of social media is the fact that it provides a forum for learning that's perfectly suited to a constantly changing world where nothing is really controlled. You are able to build up a network of people with whom you can brainstorm solutions to problems and troubleshoot issues as they arise. You create a platform for learning every day, rather than "learning as event," which keeps your skills sharp and evolving.

I don't think that it's a coincidence that blogs, wikis and the like have developed at this particular point in time. I think that they've evolved because we need these types of tools to manage the complex skills and systems necessary to function in a global economy. Old command and control, behind the firewall approaches create "friction points" that simply don't work in this kind of world.  The global economy by its nature is about eliminating those places in the network that create hitches in they system that impede the movement of goods and services to their destinations. I'd argue that eventually, the learning systems we use will have to catch up to this paradigm if organizations are going to survive and thrive in the global network. That's something social media is well-suited to support.

What are your thoughts? Do these points make sense? Where am I off-base?