Archive for the 'Change Management' Category

Brrrr-ainstorming online learning activities

I have a little bit of time to think about generating as many ideas for online learning activities. This list of course is not exhaustive, and I will probably benefit from the contributions of colleagues, at work and not at work.

Click to view larger image.

I’m trying to keep these activity ideas simple and as ‘familiar’ as possible. Not all stakeholders are open to newer forms of learning online. Whenever introducing a strange or unfamiliar tool or technique (for example: using synchronous chat or Twitter to facilitate discussion)  I try to pair it with a similar or analogous term use for traditional or face to face training.

In my past experience, I found that designing learning opportunities is only the first part of good online learning design. Facilitator preparation and training is the next key piece to achieving success. In my last position I was fortunate enough to work with a crack team of Instructional Designers who worked hard not just to create the training materials, LMS (Learning Management System) simulations, and activities to prep our facilitators by helping them adjust to the ‘culture’ of working online.

Last week I was able to quickly develop a slide set that covers my take on successful online facilitators based on what I’ve learned from my experience. You will have to download the presentation via Slideshare to view my notes.

Schools aren’t teaching innovation? Parents to the Rescue

In part of this interview, Godin asserts that our school system is designed to develop factory workers and that we should be angry about this.  How do we change schools? Or should we even try? It’s awfully hard to change institutions. You can make your best shot, but maybe it’s better to take on the challenge of building more innovative minds on a smaller scale.

I think there are things that parents can do outside of school and at home to help model innovative and collaborative behavior to their children.

1.) Try learning new things. Make taking a class or even a workshop part of your family activities. I remember my mother actually taking cooking classes, macrame, even public speaking. Both my brother and I were often dropped off at the community center to take a crafting or nature class during the summer months. We often looked forward to doing this.

2.) If you’re failing at household tasks… point it out.  Not everyone is Martha Stewart perfect at the things they do. You don’t have to engage in huge creative projects.  Build a small pond, arrange your picture frames, experiment with colors when you knit a mitten.  If it doesn’t work out… it’s okay. I meet so many adults who are so afraid of doing things wrong they get so wrapped up in making things perfect. They’re not really paying attention to what they’re doing along the way or how they got there. This neurotic compunction to make things look just right seems like excessive self-flagellation to me. Modeling this neurosis for our children can stunt their willingness to experiment or try new things.

3.) Tinker, tinker, tinker. My father-in-law owns a machine shop so it isn’t surprising that he found a way to make his car run with propane during the Oil Crisis in the 70′s. It’s also not surprising that he now has two sons who aren’t afraid to creatively solve design problems or develop tools or products. My husband eschewed the customary IKEA setups when designing our kitchen and instead designed a the layout in 3D in Blender to fit our odd shaped pre 1950′s house. My brother-in-law designed a built a salt-water tank with specialized lighting that mimics sunlight in a reef setting specific to a part of a globe. Don’t ask how and why… he just did.

4.) Work with other adults on a project where you’re solving a creative problem. I remember people coming to my house as a child to work out problems with my dad. Whether it was building a deck or fixing the car. Working together to piece a quilt and even solve out the design with others is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this ability to work with other adults to solve a creative problem.

Now I’m only providing a few suggestions here, but you probably get the picture. Children are keen to pick up on adult behaviors and when you’re modeling the type of ‘compliance’ Godin refers to or even fear of trying new things, there’s a good chance that they’ll be influenced by it.

Can your Workplace Adopt/Embrace the Informal Learning Concept?

Many, many moons ago I wrote a post on Knowledge Management Systems that illustrated Marc Rosenberg’s KM model. This model depicts an organization that has a truly integrated system of sharing knowledge that includes formal training and an ongoing mentoring system for it’s employees. This model includes use of social media to connect employees.  Since I wrote this post, the use of social media online for both connecting and learning has exploded. Many more company executives (though not as many as there could be) are now schooled on the finer points of using social media as promotional vehicles as well as within the organization to enhance employee learning and knowledge.

Recently, On his blog, Jay Cross presented an adapted version of Jane Hart’s 5-Stage Model of the Evolution of Workplace Learning.

Here’s the visual that illustrates this.

From (Jay Cross)

As Cross points out in his post, the more familiar your workers are with online networking tools and media,  the more they can readily use social networking support to improve their learning and skills.   You need to be able to assess where your audience of learners skill lies in the following areas: Web/Tech Expertise and Social Networking Familiarity.

From (Jay Cross)

Going back to the “5 Stages” illustration shown above, the newbies or novices to the workplace, culture, organization, or system would be FIRST guided to the LMS where formal learning can take place (your essentials such as terms of service, legal information, safety, organization mission, organizational structure, job skills, compliance training, etc.). If you need to track learning in a blended model (both face to face and online), you can use the LMS to keep track of who’s completed what training as they come into your workplace or program.

In the grand old days when most training was done in face to face sessions complete with massive binders and glossy handouts, training really only took place at the beginning and employees or trainees were expected to absorb what they could from the training. If they couldn’t remember everything that was okay because they had their gigantic binders as a print reference.  This system works when the nature of the work can be completely documented in print and is static. In other words, nothing changes about the nature of the job and there are NO variables.

Some workplaces assign ‘buddies’ or coaches to new employees. It’s often part of the work coach’s job to model or teach these learning behaviors to their employees. At one entry-level job I had many years ago, I remember my work coach or mentor telling me something as basic and obvious, as “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In sharing this with me she was essentially letting me know, “It’s safe to ask questions here. We’d rather you do things right or learn by asking, and we won’t punish you for what you don’t know.”

Can you imagine what would happen if this guy afraid to ask questions about his job?

A truly rich “Informal Learning” environment can provide learners with the support they need to deal with variables NOT covered in formal training. And here’s the big “But,” you have to teach effective mentoring behaviors to all staff and reinforce these behaviors as much as possible. The informal learning model explicitly sets the expectation that learning and workplace improvement inherently part of the work culture. Employees must see it as part of their job responsibility to take  the new guy under their wing. The sooner you get the newbie up and flying the sooner everyone can be productive and creative. Managers and employees can build checklists of knowledge, skills and ‘tribal knowledge’ that new employees need to know. These lists and even ad hoc information can be shared during social or work activity.

But Informal Learning isn’t just what you’d learn about your fellow employees from washroom or smoking break talk. Informal Learning can happen via chat and discussion forums. The other day a work colleague and myself noted that we both got ourselves unstuck from work-related ‘problems’ by looking up similar situations or issues in professional forums online. It’s just as easy to set up an internal online work chat or forum.

I’ve seen some older employees cringe at the words “Informal Learning.” Many of the more ‘traditional’ workplaces place a lot of value on formal learning (lectures, lessons, face to face training, etc.)  because that’s the people, are used to.  I think  the key to building a truly learning rich environment and workplace is to highlight where social learning is really happening naturally and successfully and then introduce less familiar methods of leveraging informal learning. But again, if your company or organization doesn’t have a clear definition of what it means to learn effectively (outside of formal training) the concept of Informal Learning will be a hard sell. Maybe it’s just a matter of re-branding it or camouflaging it.  As for the acceptance of learning via social media… Maybe we just have to wait until the technologies that propel Informal and Social Learning (forums, chat, wikis, etc.) become more commonplace and accepted by the majority.  It will happen, eventually :)

Fighting Management Preconceptions about Social Learning

I just found this wonderful preso on Social Learning. I kept on slapping thigh laughing as I read… “Oh yeah, that’s a good one!” For me the highlights were:

Yes, Play is OK - you need it to grow innovative, collaborative and fast-adapting employees.

“Control is an illusion” – Okay… this is where I slip into incredulous teenager mode: Duh! You can control what people are learning and sharing about as easily as you can keep water in a sieve.  The presenters note that “80% of learning happens outside” of formal learning systems in their control. This is “Informal Learning” in action. The faster leadership realizes that building a company culture where learning is valued, the quicker they will start fostering a truly effective organization. Also, it’s very important to build the expectation that employees are really responsible for learning (their job and how to enhance their work).

People already share bad information - no kidding. Everyone has experienced the grapevine effect in a workplace. Human beings honestly seek knowledge about the goings on, some need it to function and work effectively without fear. They will even speculate on management’s behavior when they have no information, which is why transparency is less dangerous than keeping your lipped buttoned.

I also really liked the fact that they provided some solutions for measuring ROI (Return on Investment).(CRUD: I actually wrote this section but it got lost in the blog ether when I was trying to save my post)  I think it’s possible to tie a company’s increased success to social learning initiatives through anecdotal stories.  Also, connecting increased levels of innovation could also be possible. Think James Burke’s Connections (the show from the early eighties). Much of the show argued that the worlds most famous and influential innovations such as the combustion engine would not have happened if people did not make connections with each other.  I think if you analyzed the history or development of a particular innovation at your company you can actually trace the connections that were needed to make the innovation happen. You may be able to identify whether or not these connections would have happened with the social networking  efforts in place.

Some excellent points were made, but I suspect that no amount of brilliant arguments will convince the hardcore curmudgeons that insist that Social Learning/Networking is bad and evil. My only question… Can I work for the folks who made this presentation?

It hurts to think… but it’s still rewarding

I’m just babbling… so you’ll have to excuse me. I haven’t been writing in my blog lately, because I’ve actually been finding journal writing (on paper) a little more satisfying. Maybe it’s because no one hears what I’m saying. No, I’m serious about that.  Sometimes it feels better to let oneself go on uncensored. Also, I find that sometimes it’s the best way for me to work things out before I’m ready to share them with others.

You may have noticed from my last post that I’m a bit obsessed with two subjects. Change and time (sub interest = resistance to change).  I wonder if I will start to develop a crusty or curmudgeonly gait as I grow older. Sometimes it feels like the world around me resists change… despite the growing impetus for change.  Sometimes it feels that it’s all too easy to confuse people because of their dependency on technology for information… and their immediate need for information. Media is simply a teat from which we feed our incessant hunger. Just change the filter or introduce a slightly different brew or concoction into the bottle and people will react accordingly. From the past century to the present, fear seems to be the most effective ingredient. If you want people to act or ‘not to act’ simply make them afraid of an enemy or impeding crisis. If you don’t want them to panic in the event of a crisis, such as economic one, simply downplay the seriousness of the problem… or even deny that it exists.

Is it only my perception, but does it seem that people just swallow these happy pills without question? I have to wonder too how easily people are swayed by what they hear even though many proclaim themselves to be cynical about the News. Sometimes I think that sharing of poll results can have an effect on the rest of the public who did not participate in these polls. They can either give us a false sense of security that our beliefs are shared by everyone, or they can dishearten us by convincing us that we are truly alone or so small in number that any hope of finding commonality with others is hopeless.

When people say that building a truly educated and enlightened society is impossible. I simply look at children and remember that most children have the ability (maybe not the opportunity) to be ‘smart.’  I listened to a Smart City podcast called Green Buildings and Smart Children not to long ago that featured Jeff Howard, head of the Efficacy Institute, which states as their goal that” The central objectives of our work are: to build belief that virtually all‘ children can ‘get smart;’ and to build the capacity of adults to set the terms to help them do so.” Some children need less help than others, but something tells me that it’s to our advantage to make sure that people ‘get smart.’ Hmmm… less problems with financial investments, better health that doesn’t tax the healthcare system, better living choices, better income … I think these arguments and many others have been made countless times in the past. I wonder what prevents us from moving forward?

I also believe that people can be taught good analytical and decision-making skills. I admit that I myself can be easily muddled by what I hear and am spoon-fed, so I rely on help to analyze what I’m seeing and hearing. I recently found a gem of a podcast called “LSAT Logic in Everyday Life.”  I loved how Andrew Brody picked apart the whole rice shortage ‘crisis,’ and reduced it to action based on faulty assumptions.  I may be a geek and a half, and that’s why this sort of thing excites me…. being able to pick apart a problem despite the assumption that it’s too difficult or impossible to solve.  Think about it, come up with a solution, and then do something about it.  To me that’s the original American ethic (good old Yankee know how) that I will be forever proud of.

Envious Thinker

Envious Thinker

Change is Good, Change is Natural… Stasis is an abomination to nature

Excuse me while… I chew on this thought for a bit… I may wax philosophical. Things change. The seasons change. The Earth changes.   Geological records have proven that the Earth’s surface has changed many times over it’s long life. People change. Throughout history, technology has changed the way humans live, produce and interact with each other.  Do you think the emerging democracies could have occurred after the Middle Ages and Renaissance without the printing press and proliferation of ideas through books?

But why then do we so cling to the desire to ‘keep things the same?’ I’ve been wrestling with this idea ever since I can remember.  Maybe this explains my love of History. Perhaps humans naturally crave stability because they’ve spent much of their unrecorded and recorded history dealing with the seemingly unpredictable nature of the elements, disease, and natural events.  Animals respond to change via natural selection or development of instincts, but we actively try to stop change from happening or build constructs that allow us to thrive despite change.

What would happen if we had a ‘long memory’ for change?  Who would build communities or cities on a flood plain or riverbank if they had memory or records of constant floods? How would we deal with social change? Would we nod things off as just a fad that would pass or would we actually try to develop laws or social institutions that were meant to adapt to change? I’ve noticed that politicians rely on people’s limited memory of history in order to push their agendas or to get elected or re-elected into office. Sometimes I lament that we live such mayfly lives. Still, having this memory might actually cause use to become more conservative in our actions. Since we could better predict cycles of events because of our personal memories.

Someone had the foresight to build this house on stilts

Someone had the foresight to build this house on stilts - Image from the Morguefile.

Resources/more stuff:

Why people resist change (from the Slow Leadership Site)

Is Web 2.0 over complicating things?

Technology allows me to be an ‘on-the-fly’ sort of tourist. I don’t have things planned out before I get to a destination like my parents did. They had travel agents who got them packaged tours where everything from morning wake-up to afternoon snack and evening meals were all scheduled on a daily plan. I shudder to think of enjoying travel in this way. I might read extensively about a place and it’s neighborhoods before I go, but if I know that I can have Internet access when I’m there, I pretty much leave it up to the moment. When we were vacationing in San Francisco, I did my usual thing… went straight to Google maps and searched for places that I wanted to see or needed to visit: food, shopping, neighborhood historical spots, or the nearest Rite-aid to buy a replacement pair of pantyhose. When I was searching for eating places and boutiques, I noticed that a number of places had websites. A number of restaurants sounded good, but they just had too much ricketa-racketa (flash) on their websites. Come on! I just want a menu… or maybe even photos to look at. I want to know what you’re store, business or restaurant has to offer. A few sites required me to download a plug in. Others sites seemed like some design nightmare similar to some conceptual art experience designed by an irritating esoteric character from Nathan Barley. Worse, important information like ‘store hours’ or a phone number was often hidden under some cryptic heading other than the obvious ‘about us.’

Nathan Barley's Website -Bells and whistles and too much junk

I actually thought if their websites are this pretentious, then they must be pretty annoying. Ergo, I didn’t want to give them my business. The funny thing is some small mobile devices don’t play Flash very well. Often the information I needed could just be on a list. Yes, from a consumer’s point of view the web needs to be simple and easy to use. As Jakob Nielsen put it:

“Most people just want to get in, get it and get out….For them the web is not a goal in itself. It is a tool.”

Pushing bells and whistles or other advanced features may be too much if you’re forcing them on users. On the other hand, people should be restricted to just using the ‘tried and true’ methods. Mr. Nielsen argues that focus on Web 2.0 development and applications is causing many website builders to forsake good design. But I think there’s a growing market/audience of people who know how to take advantages and use the newer web technologies. To be fair to these pioneering web developers… they’re still trying to figure out what works and how to make it work well. Though many business successes have demonstrated the power of social networking through blogs, wikis and social networks/online community. A product or service can take off if a few connected users or mavens start talking about it on the web.

From a web educator’s point of view, the web has great potential to bring people closer together and these tools are more than just ricketa-racketa. Also, users can work collaboratively to develop content from written text, to music, podcasts. They can even build on concepts and enrich discussion with video sharing.

If you read this article… Nielsen sounds kind of like (excuse my words) an old fogy… who predicts that people’s use and behavior with and on the Internet will not continue as they grow older. He predicts that Internet use will go down as people age. For the sector of society who will become more involved in the ‘creative’ and ‘technology’ economies this will not be the case. And, of course their use of the technology will change because technology changes. Something just tells me that Mr. Nielsen or his perception and vision of things is sort of …. stuck. Maybe things will be this way for me when everyone is plugging directly into USB (or some kind of electronic) ports or even buying cyborg bio-add ons… I just won’t get it or understand. (Of course, you know I’m joking about the cyborg thing… well sort of).

Show this at your Change Management Meeting – Bronze Age Orientation Day

I love Mitchell and Webb!


Resistance to Change and Teachers – “I just can’t learn technology because it’s too hard.”

I read a quote today:

“Can anyone else think of an employment sector other than K-12 and postsecondary education where employees have the right to refuse to use technology? For example, a grocery store checker doesn’t get to say ‘No thanks, I don’t think I’ll use a register.’ A stockbroker doesn’t get to say, ‘No thanks, I don’t think I’ll use a computer.’ An architect doesn’t get to say, ‘No thanks , I don’t think I’ll use AutoCAD.’ But in education, we plead and implore and incentivize but we never seem to require. In many industries, knowledge of relevant technologies is a necessary prerequisite for either getting or keeping one’s job. Sometimes the organization provides training; sometimes the employee is expected to get it on her own. Either way the expectation is that use of relevant technologies is a core condition of employment. Why aren’t our school organizations expecting more of their employees?…”

-from Dangerously Irrelevant – “Right of Refusal”

I taught in a classroom setting nearly 10 years ago. In one of my first full time positions, there was a huge battle over computers. A few teachers wanted computers in their classrooms. The rest wanted them to remain safely in the computer lab. This larger contingency was, of course, led by the union representatives. It never failed to amaze me that in almost every school I taught at, the worst (bar-none bottom and ditto loving) teachers were always union representatives. I should hope that by now the ranks of the technology resistant within schools is dwindling. Is it still this bad? Or is it getting better.

I’ve heard many arguments from teachers who resist technology, namely they don’t have the time to learn it because they have their handful with classroom management. Though I can attest that I had less problems with classroom management when I was teaching computer lab. My kids wanted to be there to create their interactive presentations and webpages, and I made if very clear to them that if they were doing ‘something outside of what was expected and appropriate’ they would have to return to writing their assignments in the traditional format and do so in the study hall classroom. Oh yeah, no one was allowed to enter the lab without their written and proofread drafts. I never saw so many written drafts completed in so quick a time, and I had very little issue with discipline in this class. I think also, having higher expectations of my kids and their behavior and work might have had something to do with this.

The changes and teacher adoption of technology is happening. On the net I see many excited and enthusiastic educators who are hungry to learn more. I think the resistors will eventually discover that they must adopt change or leave.

Innovation Tip: Surround Yourself with a Few Sharp and Inquisitive Newbies

Great article from the NY Times: “Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike”

One of the key messages of this article is you need partner the experienced with the inexperienced and make sure that the newbies have a voice in any team. Looking back at history this may explain the stagnancy of bureaucratic governments and cultures. Ah ha…. but this may be hard for those who believe in a pecking order or the value of the experienced over the inquisitive. It must be terribly difficult to get this idea across to organizations or even professions that are structured hierarchically… Oh, well, they loose out.


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