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Learning from mistakes

I love how some people can tie their regular daily lives back to learning … like “everything I know about learning design I learned from raising a puppy”. My work & personal lives have never been that synced up. I did however, have the following “AHA!” moment recently about how people learn more from mistakes than from doing things correctly.

I planted my first garden this year – I mean I did the whole thing… bough the seeds, planted them, talked to them every day, dug the rows, planted my new seedlings outside in perfectly straight rows, admired them, bragged about them… the whole thing.

And then a rabbit ate all but a row of peas. I’d been told to use chicken wire to keep the animals out. I’d been told to plant them in the backyard so I could keep an eye on them. And… I’d been told to plant them in pots so they could be covered more easily. Obviously I didn’t follow the instructions of the seasoned gardeners.

I made a mistake. I’m now starting over – I bought more seeds, I planted them, I talk to them every day, and next week I’ll dig my rows and cover them neatly in chicken wire.

If the worst case scenario hadn’t happened – I wouldn’t have learned how to properly garden in an urban area.

Instructions aren’t enough – people learn by their mistakes and the feedback they get as a result of those mistakes.

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Categories: gardening, learning Tags: , ,

Thinking online?

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about thinking…. and how/where I do my best thinking. I work online – I design eLearning on virtual teams for clients that are often in another country. I share, connect, collaborate, engage, and discuss online for my work everyday. And I like it.

But I think on paper. If I had my way, I’d think on a giant whiteboard the size of my cubicle, but I don’t think IBM will pay for it 🙂

That’s my dirty little secret. I think on paper. I use a blue (or black in a pinch) and a red pen and I draw lines, circles, words, etc. I underline for emphasis and I put a star next to points that are really important. It’s a simple system. It’s a flexible system. And I keep it a secret for the most part.

When my thought process is done I might write up the results in bullet points or in a presentation and post it online.

I’ve tried mindmaps. I’ve tried Visio. I’ve tried all the office suite products to document my ideas during a thinking session. But ultimately it comes down to my little black book and two pens.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Categories: visual thinking Tags: , ,

Social Learning – a review of the review

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

One of this week’s social learning questions of the day (SLQOTD) on twitter was to post our thoughts on Richard Bacal’s controversial review of ASTD president, Tony Bingham’s article on social learning (Learning Gets Social).

When I initially read the question I was curious as to how controversial one could be when discussion social learning. We’ve been doing it for centuries after all.

Was I ever wrong.

In an effort to be fair, I attempted to read both the original article and the critique. However after about 15 minutes trying to access the ASTD article, and refusing to pay for the membership, I gave up. It could be user error, but I simply could not access the content without a membership (as an aside, I had already registered at ASTD.org and had a customer number, but that did not appear to be sufficient).

In the end I only read Bacal’s review of the article. I tend to agree with a two of his key points and disagree with a third.

The first point I agree with, we don’t define the terminology. Social learning, informal learning, formal learning, etc. are tossed about as though they are common language. The concept is old, but how we use them now is new. Quite frankly I agree, define your terminology up front or in an appendix so both you and your readers are on a level playing field. This applies to everyone, not just Bingham.

To drink my own champagne here… For me, personally, social learning is the increase in knowledge or skills obtained from others (online or in person) by leveraging their experiences (context) or joint experiences. Informal learning is the ad-hoc learning that takes place on the job, in response to an immediate need for knowledge/skills. Obviously these definitions apply to workplace learning and may change over time.

Next, I’d also agree that we’ve stopped referencing reliable, verifiable data. I feel like the “learning profession” has taken on a mob mentality with respect to social learning. We’re all shouting about how great it is and how you’ll be left behind if you don’t jump on the bandwagon immediately. Whether or not that’s true, how do you make a business case to engage a consultant or internal staff to address this apparent gaping hole in your learning strategy without information on potential results. Now, I’m not a measurement “expert”, but I can appreciate why “social learning” seems a bit woolly to some.

Do I have the data? No… I don’t, I have anecdotal evidence from my own experience and the experience of my peers. Is that enough? Maybe to start implementing these solutions within my own team, but I’m not sure my clients are going to buy in to it very easily.

The one area that I don’t agree wholeheartedly with is that social learning and informal learning aren’t new and shouldn’t require so much emphasis. While the concept and the actual actions associated with social learning and informal learning have been around for years (and years and years) the tools that we’re using are different – microblogging, social networking sites, blogging, shared bookmarks, peer-to-peer learning, wikis, etc. do change how you interact. And while I will likely google the answer to my next “must know now” question, I will also post it on twitter to see what I can find out from others. I might get the answer in an hour or in a week, but the information is still welcome and likely from someone I might not be able to pick up the phone and call.

Ultimately, Bacal raises some valid points in his critique. However, the harshness of his words and the tone of his post make it challenging to find agreeable points in his rant. I’m looking forward to the third part of his critique to see where he takes it.

Picture this….

I can’t draw. I blame my parents – my sister got the art genes and I got the math genes. It never really bothered me until I started becoming more involved with the visual aspects of the courses I design.

When I struggle to represent my ideas visually, how can I expect an artist to interpret my words correctly? I can’t.

So I’m exploring how to use my mastery of the stick figure to enhance the visual representation of my ideas. I started with David Armano’s Thinking Visually SlideShare.

I pulled two things from this presentation that made a difference to me:

1. See the world as a child – I’m reading this to mean simplify the visual to represent the idea, not to be an explicit, complete thought. I tend to get caught up in the details of a picture I’m trying to create, rather than looking at the concept.

2. Make it tangible, make it stick – it’s not enough for it to be pretty. It has to be relevant to the audience and memorable for the audience… huh… very much like learning does.

hello epiphany

Rapid eLearning … Am I too late?

January 26, 2009 Leave a comment

At my practice lead’s request, I’m doing some research this week on rapid elearning and content conversion. Similarities. Differences. Best (better) practices. Tools. Reading Tom Kuhlmann‘s blog is fabulous. It also makes me cringe and look over my shoulder … I once strongly believed all five of his myths about rapid elearning.

I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. I’m running after the train ready to jump on… hope I’m not too late!

I’m getting it. I’m seeing the benefits to rapid elearning and how it can complement an overall learing solution. I’m also wondering how it compares to a “traditional” interactive elearning course and where it’s an improvement on straight-up content conversion.

And… I’m excited… back to the research!

Categories: elearning Tags: ,

Social Learning Question of the Day

January 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Kevin Jones has started a nice little experiment he’s coined SLQOTD – the social learning question of the day. It’s essentially a conversation in twitter – with a new topic each day.

Kevin’s kindly summarized the December conversations in a downloadable e-book.

Categories: learning, learning2.0

What I learned about learning… and myself… in 2008

December 22, 2008 Leave a comment

This month’s big question is about what we as learning professionals learned about learning this past year (2008). I think I’ve learned a lot, like:

  • It doesn’t have to be Second Life to be immersive and engaging.
  • The Wow factor for Second Life wore off. I like it, but I’m not engaged by it anymore.
  • The staying power or social & peer-to-peer learning is more and more obvious
  • eLearning is still ok and useful – formal learning has a place in workplace learning
  • I’m ok with not using the fancy words when talking about workplace learning… I’m much better about being straightforward and using words and explanations that my clients understand (without an additional explanation to explain the explanation)
  • We’re boring (I didn’t say this… but I agree with it)… Instructional designers often take it to the boring level by focusing on the structures and formality of what they learned in grad school and not focusing on what the person sitting in this course needs to do at the end of it

I think we (as learning professionals) spend a lot of time making it complicated to justify our positions/existence/PhD or masters degree. And the complexity & rigor is necessary to create a learning environment that’s effective. But I also think we lose some of the wonder of learning by focusing on the prescribed methods that were rammed down our throats in the past. In 2009 I’m planning on spending a little more time looking for that wonder that I’ve lost in the past.