Monday, December 22, 2008

As good a time as any for reflection...

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with the Academic Director of my business over what our secret ambitions were and we agreed that we would both like to teach the world reflective practice. If we could only get more people to get over the initial fear of change and the "other" and reflect upon how they could do things better, then much much more could be achieved in this world.

As my first year (OK six months) as a blogger draws to a close I think I should expand upon why I believe this to be important.

In my first ever post I stated that my intentions behind blogging were to "think out loud" and although I didn't realise it at the time, I had already started on a path towards creating a framework for my own reflective practice. I refined my ideas with the commitments I had gleaned from other bloggers in another early post to be 1. Brief 2. Honest 3. Interesting 4. and to connect things where possible. Later in the year I listed the things that I should like to be better at as a person and in this spirit I should like to look at 2008.

1. I have found blogging immensely beneficial as a way to knock the corners off my ideas and build upon those of others. Although I dont think I have many readers, I find the practice of writing for an audience who could call me to account if they so wished, a very good discipline for refining my thoughts.

2. I have been introduced to people and ideas through blogging that I would otherwise never have met, which is a very good thing.

3. I have achieved a number of goals that I had the courage to share, which I might not have done had I kept them to myself.

4. I have engaged with a number of my employees in a more direct fashion than would have been possible in traditional work based communication

5. I have admitted my own shortcomings and taken a number of steps to improve myself.

6. And all the above has probably consumed about 90 minutes a week which is a fairly good return on the investment

In short, I think the experiment so far has been benficial and I aim to continue.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sawing through the branch I'm sitting on

I haven't blogged much in the last couple of weeks partly because I have been turning over a question in my mind that I couldn't quite grasp.

I attended a meeting at Canary Wharf with Jay Cross and other luminaries last week which gave me a lot to think about. One comment from the Head of Learning at a major UK employer in particular gave me pause, "Training providers will become obsolete over the next few years".
This is a shame as my company has just been voted Learning Provider of the Year and Learning Organisation of the Year at the World of Learning Awards in Birmingham. It's bit like being the most highly evolved dinosaur seeing the meteorite coming.

I am inclined to agree with the gentleman in question that emerging free and close to free technologies combined with the pressure of a global recession do not bode well for training providers. I do add the caveats that learning functions of large employers should be included in this set as they are simply in-house versions of their outsourced brothers and sisters and I cannot see an immediate end for professional qualification providers.

But couple this with Tony Karrer's recent post on new models for learning and I begin to see the area that I think we should focus on.

The diagram above shows one way of looking at the total cost of learning and is drawn from a presentation I made a year ago to a client on what the UK learning industry would look like in 2012 (click here for full presentation). Historically I have focused on the inefficiency in the delivery management area under the premise that if we could build greater trust through greater quality, we could spend more time and money diagnosing the actual problem to be addressed. Rather than haggling over the cost of the medicine which may prove to be unnecessary.

Whilst I still hold to this belief, I can now see that collaborative learning also enables efficiencies in the delivery requirement area. In the past this has been the domain of consultants and ISD professionals with the emphasis on the word "design". Social learning allows for solutions to "emerge" from the end users without necessarily needing an expensive architect. Or at the very least significantly reducing the fees that the architects charge. There are also a number of tools emerging that would appear to facilitate this (debategraph being a very interesting example of a meld of mind map and wiki that should enable change consultants to extract information much more efficiently)

One of the other key themes from our discussions in docklands was, "25% more for 25% less" it is interesting to note that I was more ambitious in my presentation a year ago...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Learning in Africa

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of teaching a group of academics from Addis Ababa University who were in the UK on a programme sponsored by Ethiopiaid (a charity set up by the Reed group's founder).

It was a last minute thing as they had some time free before their return flight so I shamelessly pillaged Jane's list of e-learning tools to introduce them to new ways of finding information and learning.

We hung the session on the question, "Where is knowledge?" and I adapted a challenge that Tony Karrer used earlier in the year in that they had been invited to brief the Ethiopian President the following day on the Guatamalan Coffee industry (something I know nothing about and I hoped they would know nothing about).

We had time to work through:

1. Advanced search terms on Google

2. Free learning on YouTube

3. Using Linked In to find information

4. Sharing and building knowledge with Delicious

5. Using RSS feeds and Google Reader to make the information you want find you

6. And blogging as reflective practice

Which was not bad in an hour and a half. As we explored these issues the penny finally dropped for me on the importance of the laptop for under $100 project and web coverage for Africa. I have a feeling that parts of Africa may skip the industrial age altogether.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Acquistion vs learning

Good to see George Siemens giving space to Mark Bullen's blog More NetGen Nonsense in which he debunks the hyperbole around web 2.0 changing the way people learn as having little hard facts to support it. In particular with reference to a recent study at Glasgow Caledonian and Stratchclyde Universities,

"Two British researchers have just completed a study of undergraduate students that found "many young students are far from being the epitomic global, connected, socially-networked technologically-fluent digital native who has little patience for passive and linear forms of learning." Instead, the study found that students use a limited range of technologies for both formal and informal learning and that there is a "very low level of use and familiarity with collaborative knowledge creation tools such as wikis, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies.""

This reminds me of a conversation I had earlier this year with Martyn Sloman of the CIPD about the creeping generational facism surrounding learning 2.0. We agreed that neither of us was aware of any evidence to support the claim that NetGen people learned any differently to their predecessors (please feel free to provide me with evidence to the contrary).

What has demonstratively changed is the ease of access to information (see The Machine is Us for a quick demonstration of how). I dont think I will provoke too many people if I say that human beings "acquire" while they are young (Chomsky et al) until they we have taught them how to learn at which point they become less efficient at aquisition.

The elements I believe are still missing from Learning 2.0 are evolved teaching methods to take advantage of the comparative ease of access to data. If we can teach the world reflective practice (Do - Review - Apply) we might get this ball rolling.