Here is the 2nd Saturday Survey from @TheLearningFlow. Follow this Twitter account for a daily social micro-learning activity based on learning-related news from the Web.
About Jane Hart
Jane's new book: Social Learning Handbook 2014 is now available.
Here is the 2nd Saturday Survey from @TheLearningFlow. Follow this Twitter account for a daily social micro-learning activity based on learning-related news from the Web.
This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about the Learning Flow. In the first post I discussed the concept of a Learning Flow – as a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities, in the second I talked about the user experience and in the third I considered three types of Learning Flow. Today I want to look at the role of the Guide in a Learning Flow.
“From sage on the stage to guide on the side.”
This is a well-known phrase that recommends that in the 21st century a teacher should move from delivery (instructor mode) to supporting learning. Using the analogy from my second post, the role of the Guide in a Learning Flow is therefore someone who steers participants on their daily journey through the fast-flowing stream of learning. This requires a number of skills.
If you are interested in becoming a Learning Flow Guide, you might like to join Setting up and guiding a Learning Flow. This is a circular Learning Flow that runs over 10 weeks around the themes shown on the image below. You can jump in at any time.
The links to resources and articles I tweeted during February 2014 are in my 2014 Reading List.
Here are the links to resources and articles I tweeted during February 2014 – in my 2014 Reading List.
In previous posts in this series I talked about the concept of a Learning Flow, as a continuous stream of social micro-learning activities, and explained how the user experience differs from being on a course or learning from the unstructured knowledge sharing in activity streams.
In this post I want to take a look at three types of Learning Flow and provide some examples of Learning Flows hosted on different activity stream platforms. Remember, a Learning Flow is not just about delivering bite-sized nuggets of content, but encouraging short social learning experiences.
(1) THE NEWS FLOW provides a daily social-micro learning activity based on current news and resources from the Social Web. This is a useful way of encouraging a group of people to reflect on and discuss up-to-the-minute news. This type of Learning Flow is closest to the unstructured learning that takes place in activity streams, but it has the advantage that the participants are only subjected to one piece of news daily - so that the “signal has been separated from the noise” by the Learning Flow Guide.
Example: Our free, open Twitter-based Learning Flow offers a daily social micro-learning activity based on some learning-related news from the Social Web. Easily accessible on Web via all mobile devices.
(Note: the use of Twitter to host a Learning Flow is not without challenges, but it is, of course, an ideal platform to help to build web navigation and collaboration skills.)
(2) THE THEMED FLOW provides daily social micro-learning activities organized within weekly themes around a specific topic. This is a useful way for bringing together related activities in some logical sequence during the week, so that the Learning Guide can help the participants to “join the dots” between new ideas and resources.
Example: Our Social Learning in the Enterprise flow consists of weekly themes like Knowledge Sharing, Enterprise Social Networks, Backchannel Learning, etc, during which there is a related set of social micro-learning activities. This Learning Flow is hosted on our own private social platform, where the activities and comments are threaded for easy reading. This means we are not restricted to 140 character updates and comments. The site has been optimised for viewing on a mobile device.
(3) THE CIRCULAR FLOW is a rotating flow of a set of weekly themes (although activities within them may change). This Learning Flow is closest to the traditional course since it deals with a well defined body of knowledge, but it differs from a course in that
Example: Our Setting up and Guiding a Learning Flow is a circular flow of social micro-learning activities organized into 10 weekly themes , which runs on our own social platform for subscribers. Weekly themes include Learning Flow planning, Learning Flow preparation, Social micro-learning activity design, Supporting those in the Learning Flow, and Evaluating the Learning Flow.
In my next post I want to talk more about the role of the Guide in a Learning Flow.
In my last post I described the concept of a Learning Flow as a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities, and explained how this new learning framework lies between the instructionally designed course and the unstructured knowledge sharing of teams, groups and communities that takes place in public activity streams and enterprise social networks.
But what advantages does a Learning Flow bring to the individual? Let’s compare the user experience in the traditional online course (or e-learning) and in activity streams.
On a traditional course an individual is taken through a body of knowledge in a pre-defined, instructionally designed way. Users (or learners) are also usually required to undertake activities to reinforce or test understanding. Often they have very little autonomy in how to make use of a course, so far example in a lot of online courses they are required to work through every action on a screen because it is assumed this means that learning has taken place! Social activities are frequently “bolted on” and used as a means to enforce or reinforce learning, rather than offer a genuine opportunity to have an open discussion around a topic. So, whereas some people like the structure and prescription of a course for studying a body of knowledge – since it is familiar approach since childhood – others find the experience too constraining, as well as frustrating and annoying.
At the other end of the learning spectrum we have the unstructured knowledge exchange that takes place freely in activity streams. For those who have been active on the Social Web for many years now, connecting with people and sharing ideas and resources has become second nature. They love the free-flow of knowledge and how they can learn from one another sometimes without even realising it, as well the autonomy of being in control of what they are doing.
In fact, commentators like John Seely Brown believe that being in the flow of new ideas is the new way of learning. He uses the analogy of a whitewater kayaker to explain how it works. Rather than being like a ship with passengers where the captain sets its course and the ship keeps going for a long time (having picked up a set of fixed assets that have been “authoritatively, transferred in delivery models“) – ie the course model – the whitewater kayaker participates in the ever-moving flows of activities and knowledge, “because in this new world of flows, participating in these knowledge flows is an active sport“.
JSB also points out the necessity of learning like this, because“in a world of increasingly rapid change, the half life of a given stock/skill is constantly shrinking“, at around 5 years, this is becoming a vital skill to stay on top of all the new knowledge and skills relevant to today’s employment market place.
However, as social tools becomes mainstream and a new set of individuals begin to make use of them, it is clear they are finding the experience overwhelming and time-consuming, they are unable to separate the signal from the noise, and they find the learning experience too random, as they are unable to “join the dots” themselves between pieces of information. So this is where Learning Flows can help.
For instead of being out in the turbulent waters of the fast flowing stream of (new) knowledge, kayaking, on their own, individuals can get support by jumping into a raft (steered by a guide) and experience the thrill of riding the stream together with their peers – who all have a part in helping to navigate the waters.
Using this analogy in the context of the Learning Flow, the guide steers a way through an (often emerging) body of knowledge, whilst the process of working and learning together can help to build individual confidence and competence in Web navigation skills as well as knowledge sharing.
Of course most analogies can only go so far, and another key element of a Learning Flow that is not obvious from this analogy is that a Learning Flow offers users more opportunities for control over their own learning than the traditional course. For example
So for the user, the Learning Flow is not just about a flow of delivered knowledge nuggets, but a means to develop vital new social and collaboration skills.
Example Learning Flows
If you’re interested in experiencing a Learning Flow, we’ve already got a couple underway for L&D professionals:
And if you are interested in offering your own, you might find Setting up and guiding a Learning Flow of interest.
Learning is a process not an event. Learning is a journey not a destination.
We’ve heard all this for years, and yet the facts remain the same – the way that we help people learn revolves around events in the form of (a defined package of content) aka courses, where the focus still is firmly on the destination – the completion of the course – as a measure of success.
But in the age of Facebook and Twitter, and now Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) like Yammer and Jive (where at the heart lies an activity stream that is used for a continuous stream of knowledge exchange) – there is a place for a new learning framework; one that lies between the instructionally designed course and the unstructured knowledge sharing of teams, groups and communities. We call this a Learning Flow.
A Learning Flow is a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities – accessible from the web and mobile devices
Let’s look at each of the elements of that sentence, that describe a Learning Flow
For individual users being present in a Learning Flow means
Learning Flows are suitable for:
If you’re interested in experiencing a Learning Flow, we’ve already got a couple of Learning Flows underway for L&D professionals – with more to come, e.g. Social Learning in the Enterprise.
If you’re interested in offering Learning Flows in your own organisation, the beauty is that they require no special learning platforms to set up and deliver. You can use any platform where there is an activity stream, e.g. a platform like Twitter or FB or an ESN like Yammer or Jive. If you want to find out more, we offer a Learning Flow on Setting up and leading a Learning Flow where we have themes on Learning Flow scaffolding and preparation, micro-learning activity design, managing and evaluating a Flow.
There’s a lot of talk about the role of L&D in performance support – which has mainly focused on moving content creation efforts from courses to resources.
But dealing with performance improvement is more than creating a lot of job aids. Sometimes, a performance problem can be solved by changing ineffective work practices rather than by unnecessary training or adding job aids (as I showed in Case Study 2).
In a blog post in 2011, Time for a workflow audit, Seth Godin recommended:
“Go find a geek. Someone who understands gmail, Outlook, Excel and other basic tools. Pay her to sit next to you for an hour and watch you work. Then say, “tell me five ways I can save an hour a day.” Whatever you need to pay for this service, it will pay for itself in a week.”
As the role of L&D moves towards a focus on performance support and improvement, rather than just reacting to performance problems, there is also a need for pro-actively supporting individuals and teams by undertaking performance audits. Helping to improve some of the little things in their workflow, can have a huge productivity impact.
(This blog post is a re-worked version of one I wrote in 2011)
In preparation for a short, Twitter event (#t4sl) I am involved in this afternoon, I’ve updated my (2010) presentation: Social Learning: An explanation using Twitter.
Here’s a Storify of our live chat.
People often ask me how did you get into social media? My answer, is to tell them that I didn’t get into social media, social media got into me! Here’s my journey through the last 20 years of the Web, and how it has influenced my thinking about workplace learning.
I was introduced to the Web in the early 1990s (when I was working as a Senior Lecturer in a university in London) by my husband who had attended the very first World Wide Web conference at CERN in Geneva in 1994. I could immediately see its potential for education, so I taught myself to use HTML to write webpages and I developed a series of free online World Wide Web Workshops (WWWW) to share what I had learnt. (This was the beginnings of my whole practice of sharing my work with others)
I also set up the first online course in my university to put into practice my thoughts about offering education online. Although I was brimming full of ideas of what could be done, I was amazed that others couldn’t see the huge impact that the Web would have on our lives, and I remember how aghast I was when my then Head of Department said the Web was “all a load of hype”. It was a salutary lesson that not everyone “gets it” straightaway, and something I have had to remind myself about many times since then!
In 1997, as the Web became more and more popular in the corporate sector, I decided to leave education to work in the Internet consultancy business that my husband had set up a few years earlier, where I would focus on helping corporates with the new world of online learning. I was very lucky that my first contract was based in the South of France, where I worked for the Training & Documentation department of a multinational telecommunications company. They were also inspired by the power and reach of the Web, so I wrote a business proposal to build an Online Learning Centre for the Global Help Desk, and then single-handedly specified the hardware and software requirements, installed the server, set up a very early Learning Management System, and began creating initial content for the site – activities, by the way, which it now seems to take an army of people to undertake!
By 2000 I was back in the UK, and taking on another contract this time with Cisco Systems. They had set up an E-Learning Team in London to implement e-learning in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) region. Cisco was already producing some fabulous stuff for its own internal use, but what really made an impact on me, was the definition of e-learning that Cisco used.
This made absolute sense to me as I had by now realised, learning in the workplace, is much, much more than just creating and delivering instruction. However, e-instruction is exactly where many businesses have focused their attention in e-learning – mainly in an attempt to save the costs of running face-to-face events. So, when Jay Cross, who I had known since around 2001, asked me to take a look at the manuscript of his new book, “Informal Learning” and provide him with my thoughts and comments I was delighted to do so. At last, I thought, organisations would now begin to realise that there was more to workplace learning than just taking courses!
But it is clear that, over ten years later, there are still many people who don’t “get it”. There are still many who want to try and force-fit (or “blend”) informal learning into some organised formal learning structure, and manage it in their LMS! They just don’t see (or want to see) the importance of autonomous, self-organised (informal) learning, nor how they can support and encourage it, rather than manage and control it.
But in the meantime, we have seem the emergence of a whole new range of social media tools, which have impacted all the different parts of our lives – personal, professional and organisational. These tools allow us to co-create content, communicate, collaborate and share information in many new ways, and they also provide the means for us all, to find out, discover and learn – by connecting with others.
Of course social business is still in its infancy; much of it is happening at the grass-roots level and happening in a bottom-up way – where some organisations are not even aware of it! And, inevitably, there are still many people who “don’t get it”. Those who haven’t personally experienced the power of the Social Web still call it “hype” or “a fad”, and some organisations are still desperately trying to control it all, by (once again) attempting to force-fit it into their traditional, formal structures and processes – usually unsuccessfully when it involves users who have seen the power that social media brings to them as individuals.
Fortunately, however, I have been lucky to work with a number of organisations – large and small - who do “get it”, who don’t see the social era as a threat but as a huge opportunity for them to thrive as a social business, and for them to help their people to work and learn smarter in this new age of collaboration and knowledge sharing. In the latest version of my Social Learning Handbook I offer lots of advice and suggestions how to do so, that are not just about creating and designing learning for people but to help them connect and learn from one another as a part of their daily working lives.
Finally, when I am asked to provide advice to those who want to help their own organisation move forward into the Networked Era, I say that they need to be fully immersed in the Social Web. It’s no good standing on the periphery, telling others to be social, they need to be able to demonstrate what it means to them to be a networked, connected individual. If they can’t show the value of being social for themselves, why would others take any notice? They need to Walk the Social Talk.
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