Archive for the ‘To Learn List’ Category

Beginning next week, I am participating in a collaborative online event called Connected Courses. It is a cMOOC organized to discuss practices on creating effective open online learning. I’ll be posting to my new Out Loud Learning blog, and you can follow along there if you like.

If you teach online, design corporate MOOCs, or are interested in open learning – you might want to join the Connected Courses community as well. We need to do more cross-discussion between corporate L&D practices and academic practices for learning facilitation. I’ll be keeping one foot in each of those two practice areas for the duration of the course myself.

This post is a copy of my initial post for Connected Courses.

Not ready, get set.

We have something of a dilemma in the learning and development world these days. On the one hand, the vast resources of the internet, the reach of social media, and the availability of videos, webinars, free courses, and MOOCs make learning easy to access. On the other hand, many people have neither the time nor the learning skills to pursue the learning they really need. They simply aren’t ready to take advantage of new tools and strategies for learning.

Whether in the corporate L&D space or in the academic world, there are challenges to changing our strategies for facilitating learning. Open, self-directed learning can be hard. Learners have to find helpful resources, which can be a daunting task with the world wide web as a database. Even when we curate the resources, many people are not accustomed to facilitating and processing their own learning activities.

We’ll get better at all this, I am sure, but in the meantime, we need to scaffold open, self-directed learning. I am convinced that there is more that we can do as designers of learning activities to help people get set up for success in the world of open learning.

That’s what is prompting me to join the Connected Courses active co-learning course over the next few months. I am looking forward to learning from and with all the folks who are joining in. I recognize some of the participants as people on the leading edge in developing open learning strategies, and I’m seeing posts from fellow participants who are thoughtful explorers like me.

To introduce myself, I am a consultant to folks who work in corporate L&D and a faculty member teaching designers, human resource development specialists, and learning technology folks. I design and teach courses for those who design and teach and consult on learning strategies. I am also actively promoting a learning environment design framework that I believe can help us to set learners up for success, even when they’re not quite ready to manage their own ongoing development. So learning more about connected learning is a priority for me. (More About me)

I am not immune to the challenges of participating in a loose “course” like this one. Like many, I have started and not fully engaged in a variety of open learning offerings, so I know that unless I have some pressing goals for staying on top of the conversation, this, too, will get buried by other priorities. (Self-directed leaning 101) To begin, then…

My goals for Connected Courses (not in any particular order):

  • Observe facilitation and learning in the course and leverage strategies that might work in the environments for which I design learning.
  • Deepen understanding of underpinning strategies and theory to better discern what is essential (and not essential) and how to customize approaches effectively.
  • Connect to people whose ongoing work I find interesting (and who may be interested in my work).
  • Curate resources useful in the context of courses and topics I currently facilitate.
  • Strengthen my skills in engaging in connected learning in an open learning context.
  • Actively apply what I’m learning in Connected Courses to the redesign of my e-collaboration course for January 2015.

So I’m in. I’m gearing up and scheduling time to engage. I look forward to working with you all.

Get ready, get set.

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Happy new year!
I don’t know about you, but I’m already feeling very optimistic about this year; I have so many exciting projects brewing. Nonetheless, I, for one, like to start the year with considerable reflection and planning – to be more proactive about ensuring success rather than simply hope for the best.

A friend and colleague, Michele Martin, wrapped up her 2013 blogging year over at the Bamboo Project Blog with 30 juicy questions to grow your life in 2014– and that series got me thinking. I also recently came across a post that advocated “questolutions – resolutions in the form of a question (and look, another new book I want to read! Bonus!). I thought I might start this blog’s new year by posing some developmental questions that any learning professional might use to spark learning and change this year. I hope you find them useful.

Questions for a year of growth

What do I intend to learn this year?
To have a great developmental year, you have to have a clear intention to learn. Declaring intention is not the same as setting goals; it’s a more emotional and deeper commitment that is resilient and persistent.

How can my projects help me to develop my knowledge and skill?
Many of us worry that we have little time left over from doing our day-to-day jobs to pursue our own learning and development projects. It’s likely, though, that our jobs provide lots of room for experimentation and observation that can be fodder for learning.

How can I strengthen my network?
My own most valued ah-ha moments come in conversation with colleagues, often over lunch or in hotel lobby space during conferences. Take time to identify a few people whose work you admire and find ways to get to know them more informally. Get out to lunch once in a while!

How do I refill my creative well?
Ours is a creative field, and to continue to be successful, we have to find ways to keep our creative energies strong. Figure out what you need to do to recharge, and be sure to reserve and protect time for that. For me, it’s Sundays off (no work; no email) and hopefully, a trip to Cape Cod!

What is my favorite way to learn?
Once you identify your learning comfort zones, make room for more of that in your life. If you like to read, make a book list. If you enjoy learning through projects, keep you eye out for the most exciting ones. If you need mentors, find them (a network of mentors is better than one). If you want to take a course, there are many to choose from (and these days, some of them are free!).

How can I support others in their learning and development?
There is a great deal of truth in the adage that you learn more what you need to teach. You might be surprised at how much you yourself might gain by generously supporting others’ development.

You may be able to think of other “questolutions” more specific to your role or your learning and development goals. However you do your own development planning for 2014, I wish you a year of learning and growth.

If this post resonated with you, you may also be interested in signing up to receive my bi-monthly 4 Your Development newsletter or following me on Twitter (@L4LP) to see what I curate and share for learning and development professionals.

Here’s my motto, a quote from Abigail Adams:

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Cheers to 2014!

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In my last post, I advised that declaring your intention to learn is one of the most important developmental steps you can take.  In that spirit, let me share what is on my “to-learn-list” for 2013. It’s interesting to me that what winds up on this list are not the things I know little about, but the topic areas that I know fairly well – enough to know that learning more will be valuable and energizing.

Collaborative learning spaces.
I believe collaboration and social media engagement are important tools for all learning professionals – for our own learning and for the work we do supporting others. We need to help curate the best of what’s out there, and better still, we need to help our learners become highly effective at finding and filtering material for themselves. We need to help build collaborative spaces where learners can meet up virtually and engage the problems of their work together.

I want to understand better what makes that kind of space tick, and to understand more deeply the individual tools that are employed in the effort. Collaborative learning is particularly important for my work in learning environment design, especially for those learners with complex knowledge bases and skill sets whose work practices are being reinvented every day.

I’m teaching a course on e-collaboration that begins this week, so I’ve already been doing a lot more reading in this arena. There’s no better way to learn a topic than to engage with a lively group of students to explore it deeply. In my course, we’re reading some theoretical material on collaborative learning and communities of practice as well as practice texts on using social media for learning.  (I assigned Jane Bozarth’s Social Media for Trainers and Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Our third text is A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, who lay out the case for why this is such a relevant topic for learning leaders.) Better still, we’ll be looking at a variety of social media tools and the students will be supporting one another in designing online collaborative learning spaces for topics/audiences of their choosing. I imagine the discussions will be pretty intense, and we’ll run into many of the very real challenges and surprises of social learning.

I’ve also taken a more hands-on approach to learning about how to tap into the learning affordances of social media. I’ve had a private Twitter account for a few years now (I follow people, but don’t tweet myself). I have found it invaluable in terms of making me aware of interesting conversations, great articles, new conferences, and smart people to follow. Last week, though, I launched a Twitter account for my consulting practice – @L4LP – and I’ll be trying to enrich the Twitterverse with relevant tweets of interest to learning professionals. I’m looking forward to using Twitter as a two-way communication tool as well. At the moment, my exploration of social media is being coached on the side by Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Social Media and a bunch of new Twitter feeds and blog subscriptions.

Perhaps because my day-to-day work is in a solo consulting practice, I’m recognizing more and more how highly valuable it is to engage with others when making sense of the world, thinking through problems and inventing approaches. Figuring out how to enrich my own collaborative environment is a priority for me.

Last fall, I worked with a terrific group of students as we explored the many varieties of and contributions of adult learning theory. I strongly endorse constructivism, but I wish I were more widely read on the subject. Constructivism appeals to me because so much of the learning that I support is related to complex knowledge bases and skills that can’t be reduced to a collection of courses. I’m surprised by the relationships I find between seemingly unrelated topics, and how drawing from one knowledge base helps me to more deeply understand another. How we learn from experiences, from relationships, from reflection… these processes intrigue me.

I have been truly inspired by Ken Gergen’s Relational Being, and by other readings in the constructivist school of thinking and I want to continue down that path. I want to be able to answer my students’ questions a little more confidently, especially related to how to craft constructivist approaches to support specific learning challenges. I’m a book geek, so I always start with a reading list… So far, I’ve added two books to the queue: Social Constructionism: Sources and Stirrings in Theory and Practice, by Andy Lock and Tom Strong and Relational Reality by Charlene Spretnak.

I have a few smaller learning goals as well – polishing my conference presentations, becoming more efficient at facilitating my online learning classes, fine-tuning systems to keep all my various projects on track, and developing my writing in a variety of forms (blogging included). Growth in these areas comes from planning, practicing, and noticing outcomes, and I already feel like I’m making real progress.

If you have ideas on books, articles, web sites, bloggers, or other resources on any of these topics, I would love to hear about them. Over the course of the year, I’m sure I’ll be sharing what I learn along these lines, so stay tuned.

What about you?  I’m always interested in what other people want to learn as well! What’s on your to-learn-list?

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Have you made your resolutions yet? I’ve been asking around over the last few days… it would seem that making resolutions at the beginning of a new year may be going out of style. No matter, I am a big proponent, and they work for me. I’ll drafted thoughts for my own resolutions and I’ll finalize them in the next few weeks.

If one of your half-formed resolutions is to kick up your own professional development in 2013, here are a few ideas about what you might put on your list.

Declare your intentions. The most important thing you can do for your own development is to clearly identify what it is you want to learn. Once you do that, you’ll be surprised how often you find resources that will help you – a book to read, an article that captures key thoughts, a community of like-minded people.

Follow the leaders. In this era of social media, many of the thought leaders in our field blog, tweet, make presentations – and even write books! Identify the people who are leading the way in your area of specialization and follow them. Look for their blogs, tweets, online presentations, journal articles, and conference appearances. If you need some help getting started, I’ll offer my own blog roll, which serves me well and can be found here.

Make friends. You can’t beat having people around you who challenge your thinking, provide feedback, and serve as both a sounding board and source of inspiration. Whether these are valued colleagues, mentors, or role models, you’ll need that human interaction to really accelerate your learning.

Read. I’m a book geek, so I simply have to put reading on the list… but you can read professional journals, blogs, and other more short-form material if you simply can’t get into reading books. Consider subscribing to a book summary service or deliberately looking for extended book reviews so that you can be clued into some of the key ideas coming off the presses. Often, you can find interviews and presentations (TED Talks, for example) that summarize main points as well.

Remove barriers. Identify and eliminate those things that are keeping you from reaching your developmental goals. Whether those barriers are your own bad habits (which need to be replaced by better ones) or other people and things, figure out how to minimize their impact on achieving your goals.

Write it down. Capture your learning, insights, and reflections in writing in a way that allows you to refer back to it and find it again later. Blog or journal (I frequently refer to this space for my reflections on topics, for example); comment in the margins of the books you read; capture electronic articles and your comments on them on a bookmarking site of some kind. For me, it’s very true that I don’t know what I think until I see what I say (to quote E.M. Forster), and I think you’ll find the same.

Become a saver. Use a bookmarking site, or a good electronic filing system of your own to keep track of those interesting articles and web pages you may need some day.  The most frustrating thing is to know you saw something relevant somewhere, but to have no way of finding it again. I have my own electronic way of storing journal articles that I keep, but I also rely on Delicious and Endnote to keep me organized.

Feed your mind. Creativity is often born out of fortuitous connections made between previously unrelated ideas and concepts. Get outside of your specialty and experience other arenas of intellectual pursuit and creative expression. Read history, visit museums, take up a hobby, or go sight-seeing. If you need a reason to take a break from the intensity of your own work, this is it. You’ll be surprised what comes out of these adventures into new spaces.

Join a professional organization. One of the easiest ways to connect with like-minded people is to join the organizations in which they already gather. You’ll then have access to their journals, discussion forums, and events, all of which can prove enriching.  I have links to some of these organizations on my SMART Practice page.

Attend a conference. I find there is nothing more energizing than attending a good professional conference. To be surrounded by your “peeps” (people in your profession), hear new ideas in the field, learn what others are doing (and how they are eliminating barriers) – what a joy! There is often so much to take in, it’s exhausting, but I often find them exhilarating at the same time. I’ll be presenting at a few this year; you can check out my schedule on my web site.

Seek formal education. While learning resources are available for self-directed informal learning, a seminar or a degree program can really set you on the right road. Once you’ve decided what you want to learn, explore these formal avenues as a way of giving you a framework on which to build your ongoing learning.

Get a coach. If you’re feeling a bit tentative and aren’t getting the feedback you need, find a coach who can help you to get clear and give you the caliber of professional feedback you need. Talk to your boss, or ask a senior colleague to take on that role. You can also hire a personal coach if you like.

Visit your “thinking spot” often.  Carve out time and space to just think. Maybe you like to put your feet on the radiator and stare out the window; maybe you like to take a long walk or a scenic drive; maybe you like a comfortable mat in your exercise room. Just like Winnie-the-Pooh, we all need a “thoughtful spot” where we go just to think, to reflect, and to plan. Turn off the electronics and limit the distracting sounds. It’s amazing what will finally become clear in those moments of quiet.

Do you worry that 13 may be an unlucky number?  Here’s a 14th potential resolution just to be safe:

Take a vacation. Working flat out can be highly productive, but every once in a while, you need a clean break to recharge the batteries. No work, no e-mail, no to-do list; just relaxation and fun. You’ll find me on Cape Cod!

Cheers to 2012!  Let’s make it a great one!

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