I'm just back from a long week of training and Wii bowling with Christine Martell, which explains my unanticipated blogging break. I had intended to write, I swear, but somehow time changes and cross-country travel got in my way. And yes, the afore-mentioned Wii bowling didn't help either.
One of my stops was to Portland, where I did a day-long session on blogging, podcasting and screencasting with about 25 members of ASTD Cascadia. I took care of the beginner track, while Christine, Kevin Jones and Dave Richards handled the advanced group. Really interesting experience. We had about a 50/50 split between public and private sector folks, although it seems that they're all struggling with similar concerns about access, privacy and control.
To start, I showed them the Work Literacy course and how we're using these online tools to facilitate the "class." We wanted them to get a sense of how all of these pieces can work together to support learning in a way that's different from their usual structured e-learning activities. We also discussed the Comment Challenge and SpanishPod and a few people shared some of their own experiments with social media and learning. Then we broke the larger group into beginners and advanced to explore the three different topic areas.
Although we started out with some level of structure (you can see the wiki we put together for the class here), we also wanted to leave things a little open to explore the questions people had about social media in general. We covered a lot of territory in a short period of time, but I think the most valuable thing for people was the chance to be hands-on. I had a few people tell me that they were surprised at how easy it was to use the tools--they had thought creating a blog was a much bigger deal.
We also pointed out that what we were doing in class is part of the nature of informal learning with social media where people are experimenting for their own purposes, helping each other when they run into trouble, etc. Learning is definitely a little messy compared to more structured activities.
One really interesting point that came up was around deployment. Most people seemed to be looking at larger-scale implementations ("We need to have blogs and wikis around here") where they would need to get permission from higher-ups. I could see the old LMS model in there where you have to get all this buy-in and support to implement things on a large scale. But as we discussed, the beauty of social media is that you can sneak it in and play around with it before you start looking at large-scale implementation. Use a blog for a few classes or within a department so you can start to gather information on how that might work. Manage your next project with a wiki or start using social bookmarking to work with a group of learners. It's the "beg forgiveness" school of design, where you have a chance to experiment before going into full-scale deployment. This also allows you to build a business case based on real-life experiences.
Enough for now. Now let me close with a photo of Herman the Sturgeon taken by Christine from our visit to the fish hatchery in the Columbia Gorge. When you visit Christine, this is where she takes you.