Learning Inspirations from MLK, Jr.

January 16, 2012

Today is a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth. While visiting my family in Georgia for the holidays recently, some of us visited the MLK Jr Center. visiting my family in Georgia.

There’s a plaque in the exhibition hall that has a fantastic paraphrase of some of MLK’s words. It uses Rip Van Winkle as an example of sleeping through a revolution. Obviously it is referring to the far more signifiant issue of political and human rights revolution, but I thought in a small way, it is relevant to the technical “revolution” impacting the learning world, especially around social media and user generated content.

One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. 

In our domain of organizational training, learning, knowledge management, etc….I am thinking of the points made by many in the blogosphere that there are a lot of managers, execs, learning professionals, etc, who are clinging to the need to control knowledge, prescribe and define training needs, push out what they think workers/learners need, and so on. I am thinking of the  instructional designers and trainers who remain wary of learners posting their own content, even within enterprise social media platform.

Again, nothing comparable to what MLK was referring to, but are we not in a paradigm shift in our field? Just pick up books like Here Comes Everybody, the Power of Pull, and the Wisdom of Crowds. Things are rapidly changing.  And do we not have our own protectors of the status quo?

My question for us then is, are we sleeping through it? 

The eternal flame burns before the crypt at the King Center on the the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. JOHN SPINK, JSPINK@AJC.COM


Be better at work using social tools inside (or outside) the org

September 28, 2011

Blogger Stephen Hale makes an informed, experience-based argument that social tools can help people to be less busy and more productive. He gives an example of getting frustrated at work, and then receiving feedback after expressing himself via social tools outside his org.

To me, that is the essence of social media. It is an incredibly powerful vehicle for connecting with others, and in ways unimaginable just a decade ago.

Whether you’re blogging, participating in online forums, connecting through tools like Yammer, or Tweeting your way to 2.0 bliss, social media has changed how we connect…and the possibilities that arise through those connections.

Stephen received some time-saving, efficiency increasing ideas about dealing with with email. I have gotten great ideas and feedback on my (not so great!) design ideas by reaching beyond through social media.

Based on such personal experience, and reams of external evidence, Stephen, I, and probably you, too, inevitably ask:  Why isn’t my team/org/group using these tools?

I preach the social gospel at least once a week in some water-cooler way: “you should share that on X (our internal platform)”, or, “why don’t you post it on X, and let people edit it, add to it, etc there?”

I always get push-back. Don’t have time, don’t trust, not ready to share the idea, blah blah blah.

I don’t know how to confront that, at least not effectively. But I will continue my crusade internally, and connecting externally in any way I can.

You see, social media doesn’t care about whether they are used inside or outside the company firewall. They exist only as vehicles for connecting. Where, and when, and with whom, is our choice. I’m all about keeping that choice as wide open as possible.

My tools for managing MOOC information abundance in #change11

September 21, 2011

Last week there were some great articles posted that focused on the “how to” of the course…how to participate in a MOOC, how to set up the social components, etc. So, I decided to follow the advice and get set up properly with a few tools to help with information tracking and participation. Here’s what I’ve set up so far:

Google Docs: Created a document to list the key articles or other resources I’ve read,along with any quick notes, sorted by week and topic. Also creating a sort of “dumping ground” document for random thoughts, copy and pasting stuff, etc. I’ll make these public once I have them a bit more focused and organized the way I like them.

Delicious: I started bookmarking course and related URLs on Delicious. I love the ability to use tags and bundles, and I’m especially looking forward to experimenting with the public and networking part of Delicious, both within #change11 and beyond. You can view my bookmarks here.

Twitter: Still a bit cynical about it’s usefulness, but I figured this will be a good chance to give it a fair try. Hopefully best practices will emerge! Twitter fan? Ping me and say hello – @kevinshadix.

Google Reader:  I’ve been using this for my RSS reader for a few years. It does a lot of things well, but one thing I find REALLY annoying about Google  Reader is that I can’t save posts that I’ve read. I’ve heard there are better RSS aggregators out there, like News Gator and others. Any recommendations?

This Blog: This is an on-again, off-again blog I started a few years ago. This MOOC may be the  kick-in-the-pants I need to get going with regular postings. Though I will also be posting on non-course topics, I will definitely post reflections, ideas, lessons-learned, and so on from my course experiences.

That”s all I have so far. I’m also interested in exploring and experimenting with other useful social media/networking tools, such as Flickr, SlideShare, and others.

What about you? If you’re in this MOOC, or have experience with any others, what tools did you find especially helpful? Any tips, best practices for the tools I listed (or any others)?

Bedtime here in Seattle, WA. Long day ahead – good night, good luck, and happy MOOCing.

Goals for my first MOOC: #change11

September 18, 2011

I’ve been interested in MOOCs (massive online open courses) since I first read about the first Connectivist MOOC a couple years back.

As someone with a long-time interest in various forms of distributed and “social” learning, I am fascinated with the concept of MOOCs. But after looking into a few since then, I hesitated joining in for two reasons: 1) Huge time commitment and 2) A academic-learning orientation in both content and community.

Being an instructional designer in a fast-paced technology corporation, I’m short on time. And I tend to look for the practical and applicable more than philosophical and theoretical. At least that is/was my perception. Now, reading more into the intent of MOOCs in general, and especially the Change MOOC that starts this week, I’m learning that it is really up to each person to participate how they want, especially focusing on setting their own goals and building their own network.

Sooo……I decided to dive in and see what I can learn, create, discover, build. Short on time? I’ll do what I can. I don’t have to write essays. My posts might be messy, but hey – life is messy. It’s a conversation, not a competition. Not in the academic world? Who says we have to be? It will be interesting to find others who are seeking non-academic applications.

At any rate, here are my goals for #change11:

  • Figure out what connectivism and MOOCs are about
  • Explore how each can be applied in a training environment (as opposed to academic)
  • Build a network of other corporate training professionals to share and learn with
  • Do all three of these as deeply, passionately, openly and…..SUCCINCTLY as possible!
Looking forward to the journey!
Learn all about MOOCs here.

Work-Life Balance in a 2.0 world, part 2

August 4, 2011

Finally! Some of my favorite bloggers have recently described a bit of social-media overload.  Seems that brouhaha over the new Google+ platform may be triggering a tipping point in the form of “enough already!”

Another day, another social media platform, more fabulous stuff – better, faster, cooler, more now. Whatever.

George Siemens recently posted on “Losing Interest in Social Media…”  Speaking critically about social media’s societal impact and value, he wrote:

We are left then, with a small group elitist new media users, trying to build consultancy around the tools, and telling others how wonderful they are. What has social media actually done? Very, very little. The reason? Social media is about flow, not substance.

That social media is about flow, not substance, speaks to my personal concerns about social-media overload and its impact on my own work-life balance.

Awhile back,  I posted on my personal need to find “real life/virtual life” balance.   At that time, I started sensing that virtual life was negatively impacting real life, particularly around non-work stuff like spending time with family and friends, exercising and getting outdoors for hikes, etc, and just “being.”

So, to combat that, I decided to limit my time online. As Cammy Bean suggests in a recent post, I needed to Take a TechFast. I try to do a one-day mini-fast from technology every week. No PC, netbook, tablet, etc. And use my smart phone ONLY for phone calls with real, live voices. I fill the time with reading non-tech books, hang out with friends, talk to distant family, or meditate, cook, take a walk, or fuss over getting the tamping right on my new Italian espresso machine.

My next step is to work on limiting the amount of time I spend online on a daily basis. Easy to get hyper-absorbed once I log on. Time slips away, and I’m at the end of a day with fatigued eyes and a sense of bewilderment about how time flies.  Any suggestions on combating that?

3 Reasons Training Departments Should Use their Social Network Tools

June 13, 2011

In a recent cafe chat with a few training/design peers, someone mentioned how their organization’s learning unit purchased a social network suite, but that it largely went unused a year after implementation.  While this puzzled her and me, others in the group protested that no one has time  to blog or other social network “stuff.” Really? I think that’s a crock. Intuitively and experimentally, I know how powerful social networking can be for learning (both personal and team/organizational). But how do I argue that to others who aren’t convinced?

Here are my top three thoughts on why we should be using social networking within our learning organizations. What others are there?

Reason 1: We need to enhance our ability to connect and network within the Learning function.

Our Jive-empowered network brings a variety of social media and networking technologies to the enterprise level, giving us an opportunity to harness the power of blogging, threaded discussions, virtual groups and more—all within the safe confinements of the firewall. With these tools, we can connect, collaborate, and share with one another in ways not possible with meetings and coffee chats.

The discussion tools give us an excellent way to share a thought or question, and get responses from people not just in your office, but in offices around the country/world.

“Groups” and other features provide an easily accessible, relatively easy way to create online communities of practice.   Members can post questions around fuzzy concepts, share links and documents, collaborate on a project, or share best practices.

Reason 2: We need a better way to distribute and access our wealth of knowledge.

In Company X we have a lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. There is tribal knowledge around how we get things done, as well as role-specific know-how and a wide array of special interests. Typically, we share this kind of information in day-to-day conversations, emails, or via documents stored on Sharepoint or some server located who-knows-where. This knowledge is difficult or impossible to access.

The Learning Network offers a number of significant benefits for knowledge sharing over those traditional methods. Here’s a few:

  • Knowledge sharing on the network is not constrained by time and place. Someone in Japan can just as easily participate in a conversation as someone here at the SSC.
  • Knowledge housed on the network is searchable. Categorized topics and the thoughtful use of tags in blogs and articles makes content searchable and retrievable for future reference. You can’t exactly search last year’s water cooler conversations, can you?
  • Full participation is enabled. Anyone can create and share their own content just as easily as they can respond to others’ contributions. You don’t have to wait for a scheduled meeting  or a facilitator, leader, or domain expert to start a conversation. Have something to say or a question to ask? Want to share a great idea from an external Web site or favorite blog? Just log on and start writing!

Reason 3: We need to leverage and enhance our opportunities for informal learning.

Social media and networking tools also allows us to leverage and enhance informal learning. Most workplace learning doesn’t happen through formally prescribed courses, coaching, or learning paths. Rather, most learning happens through informal conversations that occur on the job, in the break room, between meetings, and so on.  This can be sharing a quick “how to,” or a vetting out of new concepts, ideas, and challenges. With the Learning Network, we can bring some of these conversations online, giving us more avenues to learn and share.

So, that’s what I think. What say you? Are there other good reasons for training and development departments to use their own social tools more? Or why not to?

There’s no “I” in “We”

July 7, 2008

Ooooo, some juicy questions at the Learning Circuits Blog this month. Let’s go…..

  • Should workplace learning professionals be leading the charge around these new work literacies?

Yes and no. I think we should be hardcore advocates for 2.0 tools and join other thought leaders in the org who might rally around the cause. But I think we should primarily limit our leadership to the realm of influencing the further evolution of a learning organization. 2.0 has implications beyond the learning function, and we need to let other groups discover and figure out for themselves how they want to use them.

  • Shouldn’t they be starting with themselves and helping to develop it throughout the organizations?

I would have to say “Yes” on this one. A big mistake made by way too many folks is to preach the good word without having gone through the transformation themselves. Web 2.0 represents a whole mind shift, not just a set of tools. It is the power of “we” not “I”. It is about people creating content together, not the lone, brave hero leading the pack. The only way to “get it” is to try it. To get the power of finding or creating your own community of practice with others who you may never have even met, you have to try it out. You have to discover a community and contribute to it. Without experiencing it for yourself, you become another old-world “leader” using all the right buzzwords and pretending to know.

  • And then shouldn’t the learning organization become a driver for the organization?

This seems similar to question #1. I think we should be thought leaders to the extent that we influence the establishment of a learning organization (including in the continuous improvement sense, not just creating a bunch of courses). An advocate or influencer, yes. Driver? Not so sure. I reckon that as organizations (and especially our own learning colleagues) get the importance of informal learning, our position as “driver” here might become especially important.

  • And like in the world of libraries don’t we need to market ourselves in this capacity?

Absolutely we need to be marketing ourselves. I see my role, and my team’s role, as having a unique set of skills that the organization needs to leverage. If I don’t market myself and/or my team, the rest of the org has no clue what they are missing. Marketing is absolutely crucial. And, unfortunately, it is a skill-set too lacking among too many learning professionals.