2010 in Review Part 3: My year in reflective blogging

During 2010 I used my two blogs (Jane’s Pick of the Day and Social Media for Working and Learning ) to reflect on the impact of social media on learning,  the changing shape of workplace learning, as well as my own use of social media for professional use.  Here are 5 key themes in my reflective blogging this year.

1 – Need for change in L&D

In January 2010 I gave a presentation at Learning Technologies 2010 Conference on The changing face of L&D.  Here I highlighted the fact that social media was beginning to have a big impact on  workplace learning. I also mentioned that this would mean not only a new toolset, but also a new mindset and new skillset for both learning professionals and employees – something that I picked up on in a later blog posting in April.   A call for change in L&D has actually been a frequent element in many other bloggers’ postings this year, a few of which I summarised in my Workplace Learning: Beyond Training post in July.

One of the reasons that I believe L&D is being held back from recognising the need for change, is due their definition of “learning”. For many this is still based on the traditional view that “learning=formal learning=courses”.  There still seems to be a reluctance by some to recognise the importance of “informal learning” in the workplace, and a desire by others to try and “manage” or “formalise” it –  something which is just not possible, as I explained in  Understanding “learning” – some more thoughts.   It wasn’t until quite recently that I stumbled upon an analogy which I hoped would help to explain the difference between formal and informal learning: Workplace learning is like learning a second language , as well as highlight the absurdity of trying to “manage” it  …

2 – The future of the LMS

Of course, tied in with this desire to try “manage” informal learning is the dependence (dare I say fixation) of many L&D departments on their Learning Management Systems. I reflected on this in a posting in April, What is the future of the LMS?, and quoted a number of people who felt that the LMS was dying, if not dead.   Little did I realise that this posting would spark the beginnings of what we, in the Internet Time Alliance, have called “The Great LMS Debate”, where my colleagues as well as LMS vendors and others have discussed the relevance of the LMS in today’s workplace. Many anti-LMS postings and comments have pointed out  that these “command and control” systems are no longer  appropriate to support the full range of learning, working and performance needs of the organisation.  (You can see the thread of the arguments here.)

Although it is clear that a number of organisations are pushing their LMS to the side or abandoning it altogether, when a recent article suggested that some organisations were still shopping for their first LMS, Harold Jarche and I discussed who these organisations might be and plotted them on what we might call, the LMS adoption curve

3 – From training to performance

As the LMS adoption curve shows, the Innovators & Early Adopters have shifted from a learning- to a work focus, where the emphasis is on performance rather than training (or even learning).   Back in June I struggled to explain the difference between training consulting and performance consulting in a number of postings  that compared training/L&D departments with zoos(!) since the latter had also recently had to rebrand themselves. (See Can training departments learn  from zoos).  I tried to make the case for the role of a performance consultant by comparing their work with that of a wildlife conservationist, ie someone who works on projects in the field, rather than in “caged” environments – perhaps not that successfully!

Finally, I settled for providing three case studies which demonstrated that there are often other ways to solve learning and performance problems  rather than purely through training – Performance Consulting: finding the best solution from the training, informal learning and performance support mix – and how this might be achieved …

4 – Encourage the use of social media

One of the key ways of helping teams address their performance probelms is through the use of collaborative approaches that involve new social media tools, but here of course is the rub.  Many organisations still view social media tools as “trivial” and “time-wasting” with no place in business and ban access to many of them. Over  the last six months I’ve run a number of postings on this topic.  The first asked, Is banning social media in the workplace the right approach, another – The future of social media in the organisation – pointed out that secure, private behind-the-firewall social systems might be appropriate for some organisations, but they won’t be enough for those  who have grown used to having access to the Social Web.

I then discovered a tongue-in-cheek video by Ron Desi that provided Top 10 reasons to ban social media in organisations.  Surely others could see how laughable they were!  But it was soon pointed out to me that some organisations really do think like this. So, in 10 reasons NOT to ban social media in organisations: the meme, I called on readers to help me rebut each of the 10 reasons.  I listed my own 10 reasons in a subsequent blog posting and then archived all the responses I received on my website.

But the next step waas to help organisations understand the value that social media can have for individuals, and in Encouraging the use of social media, I talked about the positive effects that tools like Twitter can have on individuals’ personal and professional lives.  And at the end of September I wrote a further posting, stating Social media is not going away: so it’s time to embrace it.

But for those organisations who are persuaded that social and collaborative approaches to learning and working are the future, I offered some advice: A top-down approach to social collaboration learning/working isn’t going to work.  It’s not about about imposing social and collaboration on people, compelling them to share and collaborate, and then controlling and tracking what they do share.  It is about encouraging and supporting those individuals who want to connect with others and collaborate to work and learn together – and building on that.  In other words, it is about recognising the fact that “social” works best when individuals and teams (themselves) have a purpose or need or interest to do so, e.g. to deal with a common issue or problem or to support one another …

5  – Twitter is a key tool for professionals

Helping organisations and in particular learning professionals understand the value of social media tools, and how they can use them to work and learn smarter, has been a significant driver in my consultancy and writing this year.

Earlier in the year, in Twitter and Facebook and Buzz! Oh, my!, I explained that I had been spending quite a lot of time with Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz, in order to write a number of “How to” guides, and that this had also allowed me to reflect on my own personal and professional use of these 3 social networks.

During the year I shared some of my experiences with Twitter, e.g. I showed how I used Twitter in a face-to-face workshop, and how I used Twitter to deliver a collaborative keynote.

I also posted  about the new early #lrnchat that started in February, a weekly chat that happens every Thursday night between 4:30-6 pm GMT (and again from 8:30-10pm EST / 5:30-7pm PST) on Twitter, for which I was invited to be one of the hosts.  This has now become a highlight of my week, as it is usually an envigorating session with many interesting tweets coming thick and fast from the other participants.  When I attended the DevLearn conference in San Francisco in November, I finally got to meet many people who, up till then, I only knew online, and many of us together participated in a live lrnchat session.

During the year I have encouraged many  learning professionals I have met to participate in lrnchat as I believe it is an excellent place to connect with others, and find out how the profession is advancing.  However in November I received an email from someone who had struggled to keep up with the fast flow of tweets in their first lrnchat session and asked me for help.  In How do you learn from #lrnchat? I called on my Twitter network to help me answer the points made in the email.  There were a huge number of responses, with an amazing amount of good, practical advice for first time lrnchatters.  And once again I experienced the power of the Twitter community.

For this and many other reasons that I have documented in my How to use Twitter for Social Learning guide,  I firmly believe Twitter is a key professional development tool.  This is a concept which often jars with some people  – that is those who still view Twitter as a trivial tool.  But at least they sit up and take notice!

Writing my blogs has been a very useful way for me to reflect on what is happening in the learning industry, and has been an important apect of my work this year.  I thank you all for the comments you have left on postings – which has helped me refine my own thinking. I look forward to more reflective blogging in 2011.

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