Archive for the 'Teamwork' Category

Future Think for Educators

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ILQrUrEWe8]

Great film that helps us envision education and learning in transition. Some things educators, policy makers, parents, teacher, curriculum developers should all be getting excited about…

  • Cloud Computing - In many cases you don’t need to have software installed on your computers.  Content development tools such as Google Docs and many others make it possible to create and share documents, materials, etc. on the web. Students can track changes, add notes or comments and truly author pieces together.
  • Mobile Devices – Mobile devices and smart phones are definitely here to stay. Yesterday I realized that I only use my laptop if I’m working on something complex or lengthy. All other materials for reading or immediate access are funneled through my mobile. Educators can search out or even design learning enhanced by or using Mobile Devices – Why not create or develop learning activities where students can enhance their learning by connecting to materials and resources while they’re learning, or on a field trip? In a previous post I shared a number of different possible learning applications for cellphones. Several are quite ingenious and fun. You can view a detailed mind map of the lecture notes from the presentation where I got those ideas.
  • Leveraging Social Networking and Media Sharing Tools – Students and educators can learn from social networks that have pods or communities built around the topics they are interested in.  I found this great community on Learning Physics Online. You could even find or start communities on Ning or other similar networking site. Students (and or their teachers) can create videos, film projects, and presentations to put up on ‘safe’ sharing sites such as TeacherTube or YouTube. Check out this group of student’s retelling of the Boxer Rebellion. Love how they cleverly used recognizable styles and characterizations from Hong Kong  & martial arts cinema. I shared this some time ago, but I never get tired of watching it.
  • Alternatives to Written Papers – While I still think this skill is absolutely necessary to have. I don’t think the essay is the only way to test someone’s knowledge and grasp of content anymore. Students can put together podcasts. Writing the content and putting together the interview questions for the podcast as well as engaging in the discussion and interviews can help reinforce the content they are learning. Sometimes writing a script for a film, story boarding, and coordinating the filming is way more labor intensive than writing a term paper. Plus you’re actually using far more skills that can transfer to real jobs and life (… outlining, drafting, planning, writing, coordination, directing, … ummmm project management. I actually heard somewhere that film school is the new MBA :))
  • Ethics & Security Education for Parents and Students – yes the web can be a scary place, but so is the street. If we train students  (and parents) to be aware of the dangers and learn guidelines for avoiding them then that’s half the battle. It would also be in our best interests if we teach the younger generation appropriate netiquette.

More resources:

Found in Translation… Communication between Techs and non-Techs

I found this post on how to speak to more technically savvy individuals to get what you want.  But I think communication between the more technically adept and those who are less is  a two way street.  I should preface this by saying… I am not a pure “Techie.” I sort of can figure out what is being said because I try to understand basic terminology and understand the context in which it is being used.

I still need to find a better way of describing these two groups that doesn’t sound like a division between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’  So for now I will say Techies and Non-Techies. It’s the best I can do right now… I’m not much of a wordsmith or a linguist :).

Here’s the abbreviated version of the tips for working with Techies:

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Put things in writing.
  3. Be clear on jargon.
  4. Continually check the context.
  5. Come clean about being confused.

Here’s my version of the list from the tech side’s point of view:

  1. Establish their goals and needs. Help re-translate and provide examples of things that already exist if possible –> For example: have a browser open and be able to link to or find existing solutions or examples for what they’re looking for.
  2. Document what they want. At the end of every meeting capture clear statements that describe what they are asking for. Make sure that they agree to the content and directives explained in these statements.  Also, leave yourself open to explaining things off-line or separately for those who don’t want to admit that they don’t know what you’re talking about.
  3. Define vocabulary or terms that may be unfamiliar whenever possible. Take some time to gauge whether or not they understand the terms being used, but don’t be condescending. In fact, preface initial meetings by saying, “Please feel comfortable about asking us to explain technical terms or items we are sharing if you don’t know what they are or are unclear about them…”
  4. Make sure they understand what can be done and can’t be done in the context or environment you’re working with or building for them.
  5. Look for signs that the audience may be confused about what you’re talking about. As you’re providing explanation, periodically do a check for understanding.

I have little patience with any sort of divisive talk that gets people away from accomplishing needed tasks.  For me the important thing is getting a well-defined set of goals accomplished in the work that needs to be done.

Pendant with "Techie" label

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?

What Does the Ideal Virtual Workforce Look Like?

I was talking to my manager the other day about writing some sort of article that highlights the skills and talent needed to manage a virtual team. Last year I was able to briefly describe the ideal virtual employee. I decided to come up with characteristics for both virtual managers and virtual employees.  This is what I came up with so far… I’m still working on it.

Ideal Virtual Workforce

Click on the image to view the full sized mind map

I based the qualities and behaviors of managers on several of the managers I’ve had in the past whom I felt to be highly effective. In a nutshell, I really liked/like working for these people and I’d pick up another job with them in a heartbeat if it was available.

Honestly, I feel that the first thing an effective manager of a virtual team does is hire ‘the right people.’  In a sense, half the chore of managing a team is done once they’ve hired the correct type of person. This isn’t easy, because good employees are often hard to come by, and I speak from my own experience on hiring panels in a corporate workplace. Often interviewees have been coached to “talk the talk,” and a hiring manager needs to be able to see through this. A good virtual manager will probe employees to see if they can truly demonstrate the qualities and behaviors of the “ideal virtual employee.”  Moreover, a virtual manager will request and thoroughly review a portfolio of the prospective hiree’s past work before the actual interview. They will aslo ask pointed questions about how the interviewee accomplished or made these portfolio items.

To be honest, when I enter an interview, I actually look for the behaviors I described above in the hiring manager.  I want to know that the person who’s leading me is capable of managing me and the whole team effectively. There’s nothing worse that being hired into an extremely dysfunctional team. I’ve often thought of scripting scenarios that take the best moments from interviews I’ve had with managers.  I’ve even thought of taking the best coaching moments I’ve experienced and sharing them.  So many of us have in the past worked for or currently work with poor managers, sometimes It’s good to know that there are good ones out there. While the economy is bad right now and many people might be willing to put up with working in a dysfunctional workplace, it’s still important to hire good managers (virtual or not) who encourage productive innovation. Innovation and the ability to change and adapt readily is what helps companies survive in succeed in trying times.

Addendum… thanks to Twitter, I’ve found a number of interesting articles on virtual workers:

Wikis: it’s okay to make mistakes here

The Impact of Social Learning - Click to view the Article

The Impact of Social Learning - Click to view the Article "Minds on Fire"

More and more, I’ve come to see wikis (collaborative websites) as informal ‘playgrounds’ where people can share, learn and collaborate together. I’m not really referring to Wikipedia, because it’s seen as a semi-formal/formal resource. Now I don’t want to get into the veracity or the level of formality associated with Wikipedia, that’s not the main focus of my thoughts here.

I’m talking about wikis as an active place for a ‘learning community’ to share, build and collaborate to learn information. An example of this is a wiki set up by a classroom teacher of any subject where students (and the teacher) can build their store of knowledge on a subject together. Note, ‘grown ups’ in the workplace can use this in a similar fashion (see the last examples). Here are a bunch of sample scenarios:

1.) History/Social Studies Class - develops a section in their wiki on each of the topics they cover in class. Teams of students are responsible for updating the wiki with information on a particular subject. Class invites another history class from a different part of the country or world to contribute to some of their pages and volunteers to contribute to the other class’s wiki in return.

2.) College Physics Course – shares information they gather on particular phenomena. Smaller teams work together on the wiki to develop papers on particular projects. The wiki is used as a place to collaborate and develop a draft.

3.) Elementary School Class – learns about punctuation. The have a page for each of the different rules of punctuation. Each student contributes to the rule page by writing their own correct example of usage.

4.) Hi-school English Class – students work to write scenes of a play that parodies the work of a featured playwright or author. For, example they create a modernized version of Hamlet.

5.)Marketing team – uses wikis as an ongoing brainstorming area for throwing out random ideas to explore.

6.)Software Development Team - uses wiki to document issues and successes with code.

In these situations, the wiki is not serving as a definitive or formal resource for information. In my opinion, people should not throw hissy fits about making little mistakes like grammatical errors or broken links. People shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, because these mistakes can always be corrected. The more knowledgable wiki-users should be able to model and teach their less-experienced co-users how to correct these mistakes. Users and participants in the wiki work with each other to share ideas and grow the content without the fear of ‘making irreversible mistakes.’ The content in the wiki is ‘organic’: always changing, evolving and growing.

I have to admit, I’ve very excited about this aspect of knowledge-sharing and the idea that content grows and changes, because I firmly believe that this is where innovation, growth. But in the sense of content development, I think of Wikis as being the rehearsal for the ‘play’ that is print or documented information. Again, I also see it as a playground for learning.

Resources/More Info:

Using WetPaint to Create A Course Wiki

I recently developed a wiki for a course that’s being tested right now, and I have to tell you… I’m quite amazed at the possibilities of using wikis for collaborative learning. After developing the course objectives, the SME and I decided to use the wiki as an essential part of the students’ learning experience. The wiki would be available as a companion collaboration area and a sort of explorative playground for the students. As one of the course foci was on teaching using Web 2.0 tools, we wanted to help immerse students in the actual experience of working and collaborating with others online using a wiki.

We decided to use WetPaint as our wiki tool, because of the easy to use WYSIWYG (you know I have to spell this out in my head everytime I type it – arconymitis) features and the fact that it’s so easy to embed video.

Here were some of the applications and activities we included in the wiki:

  • A profile page - where students could share a picture, a few facts about themselves, favorite links (and possibly videos or other media). The idea is to help build community among the particpants and instructor
  • A collaborative link section – that includes the major concepts in the course. As the students did their own research on the web on topics of their choice they would continually add and share the links to (articles, documentation, media, forums, etc.) with their peers
  • A fun video sharing page – I included this because I wanted to introduce students to the idea of sharing video content… and the notion that sharing content online doesn’t just mean text, html pages, or print content
  • An image collage activity - the goal of this activity was to collect images that describe both Boomer and Net Generations. The students work with each other collectively to post their images to the wetpaint collage
  • Assorted graded activities where students collaborated on content
  • Use of the forum threads to discuss content

I took a few approaches to designing the wiki structure and layout of the pages for maxium student participation. Nothing stinks more, than when you build a learning application and no one uses it.

  • Keep everything as simple as possible – don’t put to many things on a page
  • Post instructions – (or links to FAQ)s if you even suspect that people will not understand how to do or use something (.i.e. use “Context Sensitive Help” whenever you can)
  • Model wiki behavior – Always provide examples and suggestions of contributions
  • Lay Easter eggs – in multiple places. I actually started planting interesting links and content in different places. Keep putting new things in different areas to keep the wiki live and growing
  • Make activities fun and light hearted – when necessary. Human beings (even stodgy adults) learn through play

The course seems to be going well. Students are contributing to the wiki so far, and I don’t think anyone has had any troubles with understanding how to use WetPaint (because it’s a fairly well designed tool). If you haven’t checked out WetPaint I seriously suggest that you take a look at it as a tool for collaborative learning.

An image of the “Community Links Page” – students share information on their research and finding on different topics

wetpaint.gif

Why Susie Doesn’t Want to Go into IT

Well, the first thing I thought was… Susie doesn’t want to go into IT, because most IT jobs are being outsourced, but seriously, many girls are not considering careers in technology or are tuning out from subjects dealing with technology simply because they perceive the world of tech and computers as being the Realm of the Nerds (Not all girls feel this way; obviously I don’t). At least some of the literature on tech ed for females asserts that the nerd factor is a deterrent for female interest in tech, mathematics and science fields.

I recently ran across this paper from California State University that addresses girls lack of interest in tech. According to the author’s research boys are more likely to be found working with computers than girls and parents of boys purchase computers for their children more than parents of girls? More, girls still tend to think of technology fields and subjects as more of a masculine domain. It seems to be a backward assumption, but statistics are telling us otherwise.

So what do we do to reverse this trend of girls’ lack of interest in science and tech?

I liked what this paper has to say about getting girls more engaged in technology projects, or simply that teachers and educators should appeal to what many girls are interested in their early adolescent and teen years like building relationships and social networks: “Technology production and broadcasing via blogs or podcasting, offers effective ways for girls to express themselves creatively.”

I can see or imagine the following activities:

  • A project that involves teaching girls how to code xml to set up their own podcasting site. They choose their own topics and decide to share about the things they are interested in.
  • Or how about learning simple javascript to build features on a topical webpage on crafts or the arts
  • Maybe developing a simple discussion forum for girls issues in a class
  • Girls can be engaged to start an anti-cyber-bullying campaign within their school
  • Girls become involved in building computers and servers for charity centers or even their own schools

More, I can see where the parents or educators who lead these activities need to structure them so that they are team dependent activities. Honestly, I think kids today have a leg up on understanding how to work more effectively in teams than we did. Perhaps all those reality T.V. shows that focus on team competition and activities are actually worth something. I’m not sure the Baby Boomer and Silent Generation teachers really understood how to teach team or group activities effectively. I remember having teachers that would avoid group learning because they really preferred sitting up in front of the classroom and lecturing.
Additional Resources for Getting Girls Engaged in Tech/Resources for Science Ed for Women:

My mind map for “Engaging Girls in Technology”

girlsandtechsm.gif

This is so cool! Virtual Interpersonal Interaction

I am robot…? I am telecommuter.

I bought a copy of the Economist for reading on the plane. I read about HP’s attempts to develop Virtual Telepresence so workers wouldn’t have to commute thousands of miles. The technology can be applied as a virtual interactive environment/room or as a personal mobile unit. Looks like Cisco is actually using some of this technology today in the form of a Telepresence room. It’s not cheap at $350,000 a room and $18,000 a month for maintenance, but still they claim that it’s cut down costs for transatlantic and long-distance flights.

If you visit HP’s site you can get a glimpse of one of their personal mobile units. When you use this unit, your image and voice travel around via a little robot on wheels. You can see everything via the semi-panoramic cameras on top of your virtual head. Now, I think this is pretty cool looking because it looks like it rolled off of Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil, but I can see that some people might find it aesthetically unappealing and impersonal or just plain weird. Okay, I’m a geek and I’m the first to admit it, and while the technology posted here is a bit clunky looking still I really appreciate the work and effort that went into pushing this concept forward.

http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/mmsl/demonstrations/etravel.html

telecommuterfuturesm.jpg

Notes from Karl Kapp’s Talk on Games and Gizmos for Learning

http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/

Digital Natives want electronics….

Kaybee, FAO Schwartz and Toys R US have all declared bankrupcy (NL: That’s sad…having manipulative toys is a key part of childhood, not to mention developing hand-eye coordination and motorskills)

Information and knowledge are the thermonuclear weapons of our time.

Era of Baby Boomers and their technology

  • Color Television….
  • Disney’s wild world of color… technology that drove things… 1 way broadcasting
  • Passive ways of absorbing tech

Need for War Stories in the Workplace (Knowledge Management)

  • Lockheed Martin hiring 14,000 in a year
  • US Defense department will loose 500,000 people
  • Average age of retirement is going down (59)

Learning Styles

  • Characteristics of Baby Boomers… formal learners
  • Gamer Generation… informal learners

Games, games, games

  • Casual games à Example you don’t know jack
  • Girls play games
  • 43% of gamers are female.
  • Play PC games a lot more.
  • Women over 40 fastest growing segment
  • 70% use of Sims users are women under 25 (I am)
  • Grounding kids - don’t send them to the room… Say…No Screens.

Multitasking and Absorbing all that information

  • They like to think that they can multi-task… we don’t think so but they can…
  • ADD??
  • Kids can wipe out background distraction? Is this true?
  • They have to deal with massive amounts of information. They’ve always had a lot of information.

Net-gen communication preferences

  • Kids go to instant messaging from e-mail.
  • E-mail is too SLOW. Again… e-mail is for old people
  • Generation wants to share all the time and be virtual. Example: Twittr
  • 85% of the kids have a media device
  • 44% have two.
  • 15% of 2-5 year olds have a cell phone.
  • This kids are linked in…
  • Internet has been around for 14 years

Gamers Characteristics

  • Problem solver à can solve problems in game… some cases can apply outside of game
  • Confident
  • Resilient
  • Social à Online social via games and electronica
  • World of Warcraft make Clans of people
  • Multitasking
  • Informal Learners
  • Don’t want to sit through 45 minutes of class when they can google to get the answer.
  • 3D world where you get your own stuff.

My thoughts….There’s a diy movement right now I think that there’s no coincidence that this is happening as technology is moving us more into a virtual world.

People want to make physical things.

More games examples

  • Laundering money in Second Life… Hey, vinny don’t forget the virtual cannoli…..
    Protosphere… 3D business environment.
  • Kids are getting into these games earlier.
  • Disney.com… kids get involved in games where they build their own business.
  • Nobelprize.org… learn about history via games

What the teacher should be today…

  • More of a guide rather than a lecturer
  • Not my best friend
  • Socrates was a really great example of a guide
  • We should Teach young people to be observant.

Mobile Learning Examples:

  • Example settting up a display in a store
  • Taking SOP’s and putting them in a video with audio that can be viewed on a hand-held device
  • Note some things translate better to video than others
  • Flight simulator game…
    • Demonstration mode
    • Practice
    • Test
  • Sales rep game
    • Teach a doctor how to sell pharmaceuticals
    • Choose your strategy

The world is flat.. so move your tookus

The world is flat… and now my rear grows.

NO joke.  Working in this sedentary lifestyle can really get to you and the pounds can pile on regardless of your metabolism or diet. I haven’t found a gym around here yet that I like that’s close enough to me (old neighborhood), so I have just resorted to walking the dog and playing the wii. Ah, my dear Wii.  It’s been two months since it was in it’s rightful place in the living room. My husband moved it to the bedroom so he could play Zelda and Paper Mario from bed while he was sick, but somehow he got so accustomed to it that that it stayed there for a few months.

I protested for a while…

But it’s a Wii… you’re supposed to stand up, move around, jump up and down, dance with it.

If you want to play lame games where you just sit down then play the X-box.

Somehow my persistence prevailed an now the Wii is back where it belongs.  I try to take 10-15 minute breaks in between work to stand up play few short games that allow me to use my body somewhat.

The Wii isn’t just about re-connecting with physical motion in this digital age, it’s about making connections with people and family members. Mark Milliron who gave the first Key Note address at the Distance Learning Conference noted how a grandfather was actually meeting his grandson on line three times a week to go bowling. I’m still waiting for Christy to get her Wii so we can play tennis online :) Imagine that you can do team-building games with your virtual team on this technology.

wiifamily.jpg

 Other interesting notes:

Posting about using the wii for lunchtime teambuilding.  I actually did this at my old job and it was quite fun. Everyone had a blast and they were able to take a break from being stressed out.


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