Browse Tag by collaboration
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?

Miscellaneous

Revolution for the Classroom

Redesigning the learning environment

My vision of face to face learning events of the future is not a ‘classroom’ but more a social meeting area.  If we are going to embrace the change in learning that has to happen and soon, we should also rethink the environment our learners visit when attend a face to face learning event.

To me, the word classroom conjures up a memory of chairs all in a row.  Sometimes, these chairs may even be locked together so we can’t move them.  Some of them have little tables attached.  Have you ever tried to sit at these strange contraptions?  For me they are certainly not comfortable and very restrictive not to mention difficult to adjust my seating or cross my legs.  Then there are those conference chairs.  I have short legs and often find that the majority of conference / classroom / training event chairs leave me with legs a-dangle cutting off the circulation.  If I wear my killer heels this is slightly better but then by the end of the day I can’t walk!

The alternative to the rows upon rows of lecture-style layout  in corporate training rooms is the ‘horseshoe’ style with the premise of making the experience much more friendly allowing the trainer more opportunity to become more accessible to their learners and allow learners to see each other, thereby interacting more easily.  A lot better than the first option but the trainer often still stands at the front ‘in charge’.  With the barrier of tables it can be tricky to break down the walls of formality.  I’ve tried pulling a chair round and sitting at the front.  This feels odd but a little less formal.  I’ve tried sitting on the table but then I’m almost on top of some people and a little distant from others.  It’s also uncomfortable (short legs and no circulation again).

If I had my way, I would redesign the environment so it’s no longer like a classroom but an inviting area where learners feel at ease on a range of comfortable chairs and sofas, where the the trainer becomes a facilitator.  There will be coffee tables and any slides are viewed on a flat screen TV from a laptop.  Individuals will have a much more comfortable experience and a more informal approach to learning.  Where computer based activities are required, of course safe ergonomic considerations are needed but I feel this would also benefit from a more informal feel to it.

Considering that with more emphasis these days on blended learning*, where we will be using face to face events more appropriately and collaboratively I think it’s time to adapt the environment accordingly.

*note that blended learning doesn’t necessarily mean face to face is included.

Blended Learning, Learning design, Performance support

Taking a SatNav approach to learning!

Photo by Samuel Foster on Unsplash

 

In Donald Clarks recent post, 7 tactics for training in a recession, I found myself agreeing with many of his thoughts.

Donald’s 7 tactics are:
1. Dump daft duplication
2. Last century courses
3. Courses too long
4. Tyranny of time & location
5. Crap evaluation
6. Non-scalable
7. It’s the technology stupid

He says:

“Achieve more with less to optimise limited budgets and time. The world has changed and we can be reactive and get dumped upon, or take it upon ourselves to reshape our own learning landscape. Fast access to learning needs to be available 24×7 at point of need. This is the norm in the real word and it should be the norm in learning. We need to provide Satnav help for learning journeys, not big, thick, fixed atlases. Flexible responses to your organisation’s needs, not fixed, repeated, timetabled courses. Focus on productivity and promise impact, not happy sheets and course passes. Reduce carbon footprint, reduce travel & meeting costs and above all scale – EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY.”

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, it has been abundantly clear that learning and development HAS to change. The way we work and live has changed. We are constantly having to do more with less; find different and creative ways of delivering (and I don’t mean training here). If we need to know something what do we do? We ‘Google’ it – we ask a question from our wider networks via Twitter, we share our likes, our opinions, our expertise through blogs and harvest from RSS feed readers.

When are we likely to do this? At home, on the train, the bus but rarely at work. Why? Because we’re not allowed to. Or, if we are allowed to – we haven’t got a clue how we could harness this collaborative technology. Perhaps it’s because we don’t really understand their value. It doesn’t help when the media, in order to sell stories, write misleading (and even fabricated) headlines leading to businesses banning their use.

After all, do we start banning cars because the idiots behind the wheel are irresponsible? No! We all have to learn to drive safely. We take tests to prove we are capable. We know rules and the consequences if we break them.

This analogy brings me nicely back to Donald Clark’s SatNav help for learning. Perhaps we should start thinking about how we can help learners continue to learn, and support them in their roles. But before we can do that, we need to learn how to drive this new technology properly ourselves. Until we know what they can do, we will never be able to understand how they can be used for learning and collaboration in the workplace. I think this is where L&D can really become indispensable.

Trainers need to be more than trainers concerned only about single events and tick-box exercises to appease the gods and become learning consultants helping others navigate their own learning journeys. Before they can help others they need to help themselves to reduce their own skills gap, open up their minds and try these tools out for themselves – take control of their own development and experiment. I realised very quickly, if I was to survive in the world of learning I would have to embrace new technology.

OK – I’ve always had more than a little interest in how technology could make my working life easier having moved from manual typewriters, to electronic then to the clunky early PCs (oops – giving my age away there!) but I would never describe myself as a techy geek. I guess this continued interest in technological progress helped and I acknowledge that there may be others who are totally disinterested. But just like it’s now almost essential to be able to drive to widen our employability, it will be essential to learn to use these tools to the same end.

There are plenty of resources available out there. Jane Bozarth’s book ‘Social Media for Trainers‘ is one great resource to start with. Keep visiting for a review as well as some extra tips for using new learning technologies. In the meantime – go on – dip your toe into that water – there are plenty of learning technology lifeguards out there to help you (me included).