Browse Month by December 2010
Technologies

A year blogging – my 10 takeaways

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Well, it’s been nearly a year since I began blogging which was a new year’s resolution I actually kept. I’m afraid the one about maintaining a healthier lifestyle as usual didn’t last long at all – no surprise there then!

So how have I found blogging during the last 12 months? It’s been mixture. Firstly, I was apprehensive and very quickly got writer’s block in that as soon as I sat down with my laptop in front of me, all the little ideas that came to me in the strangest of places, disappeared and I couldn’t think what to write. I was also anxious. Anxious that people wouldn’t like what I wrote – even worse – people wouldn’t read what I wrote. I became worried. Worried that not only would I struggle to think of something to write but struggle to find the time.

After a little talk with myself (I do that quite a lot) and a little grounding from friends and fellow bloggers, I set myself some ground rules (in no particular order)

1. Aim for one blog a week
2. Not to beat myself up if I couldn’t achieve this
3. Jot down ideas for blogs as they come to me
4. Share my opinions on other people’s posts from my own perspective as I would if discussing them with a friend or colleague
5. Share any hints or tips that have helped me
6. Write as naturally as I speak (within reason!)
7. Be nice even when I disagree
9. Write as if everyone is listening
10. Accept that maybe no-one will

What have I learned from the whole blogging experience?

I’ve learned to keep a record of my ideas in one place. I have two tools to help me with this. I have a notebook I carry around with me where I will write down any little thing that comes to mind and write rough notes or even a first draft. I have also found Evernote invaluable and as I speak (sorry – write), I am drafting this in Evernote now. The beauty of Evernote is that it syncs across platforms which means if I have access to the internet, I can log on and write. It also allows me to collate any research I need for my blog posts.

I’ve learned to speed up my writing process – although I still struggle with this. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one instead” a quote often attributed to Mark Twain (amongst others) is so me.

Blogging has helped me analyse and consolidate. I’m a magpie with information. I was in danger of just collecting great stories, statistics, presentations and hiding them away in my Evernote library – where they sat. I do that with books too. It’s almost like if I collect enough books I might absorb their riches by osmosis! I would read but not always analyse. Blogging has helped me analyse and make sense of things. It has helped me form my own opinions and reasoning.

More importantly, I’ve learned to believe in myself, in my experience and in my abilities a lot more.

If you haven’t thought about blogging before. Go on – jump in with both feet. I wholeheartedly recommend it. And if you have started blogging recently I would love to hear your tips and experiences.

Technologies

Behind the mask of cyberspace

Image by Serge WOLFGANG from Pixabay

The need for education not eradication

 I had a conversation today about the dangers of the internet and why a lot of sites are frequently banned from access in some organisations. The concerns raised were about how easy it is for people to take what is written on websites at face value. Because it’s been published on web pages it must be true. It’s all very well encouraging us to access anything we need by a quick search on Google but people can be anyone they want to be in cyberspace, they said. Sites are blocked in case people get the wrong information. Even students in our schools and colleges are copying and pasting what they believe is valid into their course work and believing everything in blind faith.

It is true that anyone can pretend to be anyone with bogus qualifications and exaggerated expertise. But has it increased or just become more visible? Can you believe everything you read in the newspapers? For centuries we have used tools to help us carry out tasks easier and quicker. Fire is dangerous, destructive and indiscriminate in its devastation but we learned to work with it, tame it, harness it and use it for our benefit. With inconsiderate behaviour it will rage out of control again.

Admittedly we have seen many examples of fraudulent acts using the power of the internet. You should see my junk folder – it’s full strangers offering me hundreds of thousands of pounds for just doing them a little monetary favour!. Did they appear all of a sudden because of the internet? No, they just used more traditional methods of delivery before. There were scam letters, chain letters, bogus ‘cowboy’ companies offering deals via flyers posted through your letterbox. The bad guys no longer wear black hats to help you recognise them quickly but there are clues if you look closely. Dastardly people will always be around – and they will always find new ways of continuing their dastardly deeds. Of course not everyone offers misinformation on purpose it just may be inaccurate or biased. This doesn’t mean we should stop using the same tools, banning their use …. just in case! That’s like cutting our noses off to spite our faces. It’s like depriving ourselves of holidays in the sun in case we get burned.

Once upon a time, I worked in an NHS library services. We taught junior doctors about critically appraising written journal articles because even though they appeared in reputable journals, it didn’t mean that the reports were as accurate as they seemed. The introduction of the internet meant we needed to educate users on heightened risks. We taught our medical staff not only to critically appraise official journal articles but also how to use the internet appropriately, provided them with guidelines, a list of reputable sites and the dangers of pure acceptance.

What we need is a little education. We need to help our staff and learners use these tools safely and responsibly – help them learn and work smarter, more effectively and more efficiently. Instead of throwing your arms up in horror and banning these powerful tools, let’s educate and manage staff and watch your productivity grow and their engagement increase.

Blended Learning, Learning design, Online learning

Training or Learning?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In a recent post I asked the question “what really is blended learning?” after hearing many people describe it as being classroom plus eLearning. Well, before we can establish what blended learning really is, there are a few things I’d like to explore in more detail.

1. the difference between training and learning
2. what is good classroom

When asking various people how they would differentiate between training and learning, here are some of the responses they’ve come back with:

Training = formal, push information, very tutor focused, defined event(s), structured, something that’s done to them, interactive, just in case, series of events, step by step,

Learning = more learner-focused, longer term, continuous, ongoing, pull information, self-motivated, just in time, on-demand, supporting, mixture of formal, semi-formal and informal, sharing, experiential

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 2 years, you would have undoubtedly heard about how we deliver learning programmes needs to move away from formal training events and more towards more of a continuous learning process. This doesn’t mean we will be doing away with the formal training events but more about how we can use them more effectively.

When we talk about formal training events, we tend to think about classroom courses; that is, where two or more people are gathered together for a set period of time to be formally taken through a set topic relevant to their working practices. With even the most effectively designed classroom courses that engage, filled with activities, they can also be very inefficient.

Looking back over the years, great classroom courses have included a rich variety of learning activities or methods. So let’s take a look into the past and remember what we have used for great classroom experiences:

  • lectures
  • tutor-led discussion
  • group discussion
  • demonstrations
  • role plays
  • individual work
  • presentations
  • exercises
  • coaching
  • collaborating
  • case studies
  • problem solving games

A real rich mix of activities there. Hang on a minute? Isn’t that blended learning?

Well, not really. It’s blended training methods.

What it does confirm is that for effective learning our training needs to have an appropriate blend of learning activities. Today the emphasis is increasingly on learning through the conversations we have with each other. Despite classroom delivery being very effective (when designed and facilitated well) it’s often an inefficient choice.

Why? Because there is a limit to how many people we reach at any one time. There are different levels of experience in the room. There’s different speeds at which people learn and more reflection time needed by some. There are hidden costs associated with attending events such as travel and time away from job as well as the possible need to bring in temporary staff to cover.

Organisations have recognised that and are thinking of alternative ways of covering some of the learning traditionally done in the classroom. But is tagging this content on either side of the classroom as eLearning self-study the answer? Maybe – but before we can decide whether it is appropriate I have another question for you.

What really is eLearning?

Technologies

Novel uses for Twitter – a different kind of book club

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

For those of you out there who still think Twitter is a banal social networking site good enough only to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ or Steven Fry’s latest gastronomic delights, I have some news for you.

I recently came across a book club run entirely online with discussions taking place on Twitter. The book club is LrnBk Chat, a brainchild of the social media guru Jane Bozarth. The book club runs like this:

A new discussion topic is announced on the dedicated blog (LrnBk Chat) giving details of the book to be read. An agreed number of chapters was agreed at 2 being manageable and series of dates are listed for each. On the morning of each discussion period, a series of questions are published on the blog to consider when reading the set chapters. The conversation starts and so it continues.

So people can follow the conversation, a dedicated hashtag is used – in this case #lrnbkpull for the latest topic being discussed.

Although the conversation is designed to be carried out on Twitter, Jane decides to use Hootcourse (“an online classroom …instead of cumbersome forums or complicated lesson-plan formats, HootCourse uses a combination of the most popular social networks and blogging platforms to provide a new type of online classroom”). Hootcourse allows bookworms to sign in using their Twitter or Facebook account.  Hootcourse can post comments publicly to Twitter or kept private but I’ll go into this another time.

‘It’s a book club, Jim, but not as we know it!’

It just goes to show that with a little creative thinking and shaking off of those blinkers which are narrowing our views and create some really engaging alternative activities to be run online.

So what if you can’t use Twitter or Facebook? What if your organisation blocks these sites. Well, let’s see what you have already that can be used just as effectively. Take a look at the online tools you currently have in your organisation for communication. They may not be used for learning at the moment but we can always high-jack them. We did it with PowerPoint after all.

You may well have a VLE/LMS (virtual learning environment/learning management system) such as Moodle to run your online courses. These provide communication tools in one place including forums and blogs as well as a live chat facility that could be used along the same lines as Twitter. So, for instance, you could create your own book club (or work on a case study in stages) and arrange a time to meet for the live chat or just continue using an asynchronous discussion if this is more appropriate.

What creative ideas can you think of?

Blended Learning, Online learning

The blended learning myth: eLearning plus classroom!

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

I recently had a conversation with someone who was interested in designing more engaging eLearning but they weren’t sure where to start when deciding which of the suite of training programmes to sign up for. During the conversation I mentioned that it would also benefit him to consider looking into blended learning which would give him more of an idea how eLearning (as he interpreted e-learning i.e. self study modules) could be considered working as part of a blended solution. At the time he was adamant he wasn’t at all interested in blended learning because he wouldn’t be involved in designing or delivering classroom courses.

I hear a similar response from others on my programmes when asked the question “what do you think blended learning is?” The definitions from my students from a classroom design/delivery background are along the lines of “a mix of eLearning and classroom” mainly describing the eLearning as the ‘pre-course work’ in preparation for classroom events.
I have been running programmes on blended learning for a number of years and although there are more people attending with a less blinkered view, there are still so many under this impression given the plethora of resources out there extolling the virtues of various online options.

This then reminded me of another conversation I had some months back after a presentation I co-delivered on how learning is changing. This person mentioned he had already attended a course on blended learning and as a result, he didn’t think blended learning was appropriate at that time. After a little investigation into why he thought that way, it turned out that this particular company stipulated that a blended learning solution wasn’t a true blended solution unless it included eLearning. Now I only had this person’s side of the story but it didn’t surprise me as the company providing the course was an eLearning provider.

No wonder learning and development professionals are confused and skeptical about considering blended learning as a solution. Until we know what blended learning really is, how can we consider it as an appropriate solution? So if eLearning plus classroom isn’t blended learning, what is….?

I’ll leave that for another day.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts?