Archive for the 'Lifelong learning' Category

CEOs: Scratch the learning from the past. Embrace lifelong learning in your workpace

This environment did not train the workforce we need today and tomorrow:

OldSCHOOL

 

We need to start fostering a learning environment and culture within our own organizations that encourages life long learners. Without this culture & environment we will not be able to generate the innovation and solutions that allow us to be leaders in the market yet alone keep up the pace demanded by changing technologies and a public who demands inter-connectivity via technology. 

Learning organizations both grow and attract star innovators and performers. Organizations that refuse to change wisely & rapidly often fade or fail. There are no magic bullets when it comes to developing a learning culture and environment. It’s really damn hard work, that doesn’t seem to pay off immediately, but it does require a vision and courage to change.

 

Slideshare: Meeting the Needs of a Rapidly Changing Workforce with the Learning Organization of the 21st Century

Technology is Magic. Stop Thinking in 19th & 20th Century Metaphors Already! #edcmooc

Our relative view of the magic

Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Don’t you think someone born 300 years ago would think this is magic?

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How about someone alive 30 years ago (including myself). Wouldn’t I think this is magic?

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For nerdy little me… it’s this dream come true:

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When I watched the films from this week’s resources: A Day Made of Glass & Productivity Vision of the Future, Clarke’s law repeated in my mind. Glass becomes a tool that people use to access information, view entertainment & learn. The other thing that struck me was how incredibly antiseptic & affluent both views of the future were.

As we are fixed in our time and reality, technology that is unfamiliar may seem like magic to us, but because we live in times where things are changing rapidly and imagining the future and it’s technology is a normal part of our culture. Thinking about my relative understanding of technology as magic got me to think about my own education and understanding of how things have developed even in my lifetime. I decided to create a timeline of my own education and compare it to the development of technology in that time. It’s in rainbow colors because I was a child of the 80’s.

My Digital Timeline

Click to view in full size

So just by looking at this timeline that spans over forty years, claims made that technology pundits that technology is developing and advancing at a more rapid speed. The ways and tools that we can use to learn and whom we can learn with has expanded even in my lifetime.

Will Technology Replace Teachers?

Many science fiction depictions of both utopia & dystopia paint a view of the future in which humans have been replaced by technology. Similarly, I’ve seen this question come out of several discussions in the #edcmooc class: Will technology make the teacher obsolete? As is evidenced in numerous forum posts, tweets from students in this class. The act of making order out of the chaos of a learning experience with so many people and so many learning tools has required guidance, the human kind. If not from a facilitator, from the other students. We still need teachers and guides. Every learner is different and how the learn best is unique. Can we assume that technology will devise a mechanism, automaton or script functions like a combination Yoda & “Electric Grandmother.”

I think what’s more likely, is that learners are learning how to adapt to use the tools and technology for learning to their best advantage. We learn to use tools online that help us filter and use content. Here are a few tools, some of which were new to me before I took this course. But here’s the thing… no tool is perfect. Again, it’s all about diving in and finding out what works for you.

Twitter Feed → Tweetchat, TweetDeck, Paper.li

Content Curation (Bookmarks) → Scoop.it, Storify, PearlTrees – pearl trees provides a visual map of what you’re curating or sites your saving online.

Blogs → Quadblogging (to connect and reach your audience) edutopia article on

Stop Using the Classroom Metaphor to Describe the Online Learning Experience!

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I know that metaphors are powerful in explaining and introducing the strange and foreign to the natives. But is it just me or am I the only one who’s tired of hearing this metaphor used to describe online learning. Perhaps my irritation and other’s indicate the obsolete nature of the metaphor. This bothers me just as much as my last boss insisting on using the logo below to indicate a phone contact for an audience of 20 somethings:

rotary_phone_0515-0909-2116-0157_smu

Here’s why we’re not in a classroom anymore:

  1. You might be sitting at a desk but not looking out a window wishing that the teacher would stop droning on and on
  2. You don’t have to have your attention fixed only on the teacher. In fact the other students can provide just as much information and knowledge as the teacher
  3. You’re not learning from a text book that has gum stuck to the cover or doodles from the previous owner anymore; texts and media are available online

I could go on…. but most importantly, when you’re learning online you expect to be able to share, re-mix, create content. Like these kids:

My Technological Timeline #edcmooc

I’m still working on this and probably will have more comments on this subject, but as I was watching all the ‘utopian’ videos I thought about Arthur C. Clarke’s third law & wondered how advanced does technology have to be for it to appear to be magic to me. This started me thinking: how much has technology developed since I was born.

By the way I admit, I’m no graphic artist and I put this together  in less than 30 minutes using Google Docs. It’s my way of sketching because I can’t draw 🙂 Also, I’m not claiming that this timeline is historically precise or accurate, after all it’s based from my memory.

 

Click on the image to see an easier to read version

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That 20% (What you can do if you don’t get it or give it)

Forward thinking and moving companies usually give their employees actual time to think, learn and innovate. In companies that foster a culture of innovation, this isn’t just some imaginary time-allowance that gets built into the employees’ unpaid overtime, it’s actually built into their schedule. This time cannot impede upon employee’s productivity, but savvy leaders and managers know that innovative and creative employees need time and tools to develop, learn and investigate the answers to problems that interest them.

Google encourages their employees to use a percentage of their time to solve problems or develop products that pique their interest or that they feel a genuine need for. Many of these tinkering efforts resulted in some of the signature products that Google is known for today such as Gmail, Google News and Adsense to name a few. In fact, the company estimates that at least 50% of Google’s products are a direct result of this “20% time.”

Unfortunately, not all companies can aspire to be Google, but with help and guidance management and employees can create their own culture of learning for innovation’s sake. There are at least five things they can do to foster this in their own organizations.

  1. Make learning a part of the professional development process
  2. Give employees easy access to learning resources
  3. Call out life-long learning as part of the company’s charter
  4. Model life-long learning
  5. Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviors of life-long learning

1. Make learning part of the professional development process:

Some workplaces actually allow employees to identify areas of interest for professional development in their own yearly development plans. For many employees with heavy workloads, it’s difficult to find the time they need to explore these interests unless they can be directly applied to their work.

Managers can help their employees develop their business plans by helping them identify their professional interests and working with them to integrate these interests in both their current work plan as well as helping them finding opportunities to apply their interests to efforts that may help current business goals.

2. Give employees easy access to learning resources:

Management can also provide ready access to learning tools and resources. Not just internal documentation and training, but content that is available from external resources. Some examples include:

Skillsoft Books 24×7

For the self-directed learner Skillsoft Books 24×7 presents a virtual treasure trove. This collection has books and periodicals for management, IT professionals and other job areas. Employees can learn just about everything from programming in Ajax to applying the principles from the Book of Five Rings into their work practices. Their company or organization has to pay for the subscriptions, but even if one paid the $459.00 out of pocket, access to this collection is like being able to take almost any book out of Powells, Barnes and Noble and Amazon at any time.

Lynda.com

At $25.00 a month for a subscription to a huge library of online tutorials complete with demonstration/simulations. You have to pay a larger premium subscription rate to have access to the development files for say a Flash course. Though arguably you can learn just as much by creating the development files on your own.

3. Call out life-long learning as part of the company’s charter:

Peter Senge, author of The Learning Organization, coined the term life-long learner. According to Senge the life-long learner spends their entire life acquiring skills and knowledge. Senge also maintained that organizations can embody life-long learning in their culture and practices.

An organization can write the goal of establishing a culture of life-long learning into their own mission. This goal can be embodied both explicitly and implicitly in the company values, but the company or group needs to define a list of examples of behaviors and accomplishments that demonstrate the achievement of this goal.

4. Model life-long learning:

Leaders of an organization need to be the first to model this behavior of constant learning. Demonstration of their efforts can be presented to their employees both subtly and directly in their communications. They can provide examples in sharing their own professional development goals with their employees in addition to explaining what they wish to achieve with these goals both personally and professionally.

5. Reward employees who demonstrate the behaviors of life-long learning:

Sharing one’s own aspirations for professional development may provide an example and possibly inspire employees to take up the cause of learning on their own. However, calling out an employee’s success in implementing their own learning can provide positive reinforcement for the behavior. Management can be coached to give this feedback by giving positive feedback to their employees when they see it developed.

They can also recognize employees who exhibit the behavior in staff meetings or perhaps even designate specific awards for employees who demonstrate life-long learning. Here’s an example of one such employee:

Jeanie, a web developer in the IT department, expressed an interest in learning more about usability testing. Jeanie took it upon herself to review books and articles from the company online library. She also took some time to take advantage of external sources from the web including community forums on usability.  Jeanie then created a proposal for implementing usability tests throughout different parts of the the web development process. With her management’s approval she was able to implement a simple paper prototype test as well as a formal usability assessment.  Her testing efforts and knowledge gained resulted not only in a more efficient and pleasing user experience for customers, but also the start of a testing process that was later implemented by other staff on the web development team. Jeanie’s manager recognized her learning efforts in a staff meeting by presenting her with a “Life-Long Learner” award and a $50 gift certificate to a local bookstore.

While it may be difficult to adopt the Google 20% practice, organizations and companies can still take steps to build learning for innovation into their culture and practices. Not all employers are ready to adopt Google’s 20% rule. Their company culture may not be ready for such a shift, or they simply many not be able to readily adjust their business process and goals to accommodate spending this much time to what they consider research and development. Perhaps Google’s other secret to success is that they seem to be skilled at hiring people who are inquisitive, life-long learners, and natural experimenters.  These are people who take to using the 20% time to explore and discover the same way a duck takes to water.


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