Posts Tagged ‘experiential-learning’

Life in a new role

November 9, 2009 2 comments

I’m a learning designer. Most days I’m creating a design doc, writing a storyboard, researching new learning approaches, reviewing developed courses, facilitating client meetings.

The projects are always different, but the work is fairly similar.

Until about six weeks ago.

I started on a new project as a project lead for the content management portion of a portal implementation/migration.

It’s not a huge stretch. As a learning designer I often have to manage content: sorting, reducing, generating, categorizing. Even the project management component wasn’t a big leap from my production management responsibilities on a project.

I was excited and nervous.. ok petrified.

The thing that was enormously different was the team I was on. Even working with clients the IBM team I work with (project manager, client execs, developers, editors, etc.) know me. They know what I can do and what I can’t do. Just like I know them. And we supplement each other in terms of skill. It’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship and truly benefits the client. They get all the strengths and few of the weaknesses.

However, it makes it more challenging to grow. One has to be very agressive in one’s career development to push past the expectations.

This project was going to be different – I hadn’t worked with anyone in this division of IBM before. So, I’d have to rely on my own skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses to get me through.

I’m only 1/2 way through the project. There have been ups and downs. Mistakes and successes. Questions, research, answers, and exploration. And along the way I noticed that I’ve been able to pick out what MY strenghts are and what MY weaknesses are. With no team (that knows me) to compensate for the areas of project management that I struggle with, I’ve noticed where I need to build my skills are lacking and where I excel.

Experiential learning is always promoted as an excellent way to learn. We enable students to learn by making mistakes, trial and error, basically by experiencing the new skill or knowledge.

I’ve designed it, but I’ve never fully experienced this concept. Working through an experiential learning opportunity feels a little bit like working one of thos American Gladiator sets – I keep get whacked upside the head my a large foam bat. I keep going because I know that eventually I make it to the end of the gauntlet.

This experience has shed some light on a few things for me:

1. It’s hard and humbling to take advantage of the support systems in place. I think we need to make it easier and friendly for learners to take advantage of support. I have three mentors and I still feel like I have to apologize for taking their time, that is, when i actually take advantage of the relationship (I am getting better at this part).

2. Without reflection, it’s almost impossible to find the growth areas, although it’s very easy to see your strenghts.

3. It’s not enough to engineer obstables to promote learning by mistake. The learner has to be willing to accept the failure as a learning opportunity.

I’m struggling to finish this post – I think because I’m not finished the journey of this new role. I’ll be posting more on experiencing experiential learning first hand. Hopefully that will help to clarify my thoughts.

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One Life Experience

October 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Cross post from inside IBM.

Sunday morning my husband and I participated in World Vision’s One Life Experience at the Calgary Women’s Show. IBM provided the kiosks (used at the end of the tour for feedback) so Calgary IBMers had the opportunity to go through the experience before the show opened on Sunday.

The One Life Experience lets you… Step into the life of one of four children living in Africa and gain a new perspective on one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time: HIV and AIDS.”

Each participant is given an ipod with a different child’s story, which is narrated by Helene, but also presented from the child’s perspective. Olivia’s experience of contracting HIV after being raped and then passing it to her daughter was horrific and terrifying.

I was excited to attend this event for two reasons – curiosity and interest in the subject… but also because I’m focused on learning professionally – the use of story, personal experience, shock, fear, horror, hope, and success all contributed to making this an amazing learning experience. I was immediately engaged.

  • I was put into the situation the child physically – the tour is a 2000 square foot replica of the environment these children lived in
  • I was immersed in the experience – at one point I was asked to sit in the health clinic (as Olivia, the child I was following) to wait for my HIV results. I received the results from the nurse and then listened to Olivia describe how she felt, the stigma of having HIV in Malawi, and how she’d treated others with HIV in the past. I felt sick to my stomach.
  • I was asked to reflect – at the end of the tour I had the opportunity to pass along my thoughts and ideas of the tour. it was part feedback and part reaction to the exhibit.

I was wowed. And horrified. And inspired.

There are five touring One Life Experience exhibits in the US and one that tours Canada (schedule). If you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Virtual Worlds & Learning – can it work?

June 10, 2008 1 comment

The big question for June is on the use of Second Life for training. As always there are several questions:

  • In what situations, do you believe it makes sense to develop a learning experience that will be delivered within Second Life?
  • If you were to develop a training island in Second Life, what kind of environment and artifacts would you consider essential for teaching?
  • Just as there are considerable differences in blended learning and virtual classroom training, what are some of the major differences (surprises) in training within virtual worlds?

I personally find the 1st & 3rd questions most relevant. The second question, around the artifacts that would be essential to teaching really depends on the type of learning interaction you’re designing.

I think, just like eLearning, a virtual world (such as Second Life) can be used in most learning interactions… as long as it’s a meaningful interaction. So, we’re pretty much all on the same page with what doesn’t work in workplace learning – lectures (whether it’s a person in the class, on the phone, or text-only on the screen eLearning). Yet, I find all too often, a learning environment in a virtual world mimics a classroom. There’s a lecture hall and a podium and slides. If it doesn’t work in real life, it won’t work there!

<end rant>

In my opinion a fabulous interaction in a virtual world is one that you can’t recreate in the real world, such as:

  • If you’re trying to teach medical students about schizophrenia, take them to the Virtual Hallucinations sim where they can experience what it’s like to hear voices in your head.
  • If you’re trying to explain to a journalist what they’ll experience when they’re on site in a refugee camp, take her to the Camp Darfur sim to give exposure to what the environment can be like.
  • If you’re studying fashion design, use your avatar to create sample looks.
  • If you’re creating a course on landscaping for a home building centre, have participants check out some Botanical gardens.

These sims weren’t necessarily created as “learning environments” but they work that way. They provide experiential learning at its finest. And that’s the key, the experience is memorable. Just like in any other type of learning.

Question 3 asks us about the major differences between learning in virtual worlds and learning in a classroom. I think the two major differences are: how you facilitate and the required prior knowledge. Let me tell you a story. I presented in Second Life to a part-time MBA class a few weeks ago. I was under the impression that while most participants were new to SL, they had been in world before. I was also under the impression that I would facilitate the content and the professor and TA would facilitate the “event”. Double-wrong.

Only one participant had been in world before. The ramp up time to use a virtual world is not the same as the time to learn to participate in a virtual classroom (or eLearning interface). Movement, chat, voice, clothing, and space all have to be considered. Simultaneously. Furthermore, facilitating the content (i.e., presenting) while trying to help a participant learn how to use voice is impossible. Think about a virtual classroom presentation. While one facilitator is talking and presenting to the group, the other is monitoring the chat pod and answering questions. The same division of labour is required for a virtual world, except the event facilitators need to be proficient in the virtual world… and there needs to be more than one of them.

I don’t know that Second Life (or another VW) is the killer app for learning. But if offers us (as designers & learners) the opportunity to explore content in a different way. And that’s a really, really great thing!

Facing my fears

I’ve been talking about completing a Sprint triathlon for about 18 months. After having ACL reconstructive surgery, I promised myself I would finish a triathlon. How hard can it be? Well, apparently, the hardest part of doing a triathlon is signing up.

I finally signed up for a beginner I Can Try! It’s shorter than a sprint (500 m pool swim, 16 KM bike, 3 KM run) but it’s still a triathlon!

Sitting here, thinking about how the race is just over 2 weeks away, made me realize something. Learning something new by just doing it is scary! It’s effective but scary. I’m running through a mental list of all the other things I just tried without “knowing” a lot about them:

  • Blogging – I just jumped in. I’d never commented on a blog. I hadn’t even read a lot of blogs. Results? Pretty good – I have a decent readership inside our firewall… verdict is still out on this one
  • Traveling – For my first international trip I just decided one day to go to Guatemala. By myself. Results? Excellent – I stretched myself in a big way on that trip. I’m shy so meeting new people was hard. I didn’t speak Spanish, so getting directions was hard. But overall it was a confidence-building, wonderful experience.
  • Project management – I didn’t have a choice. I was on a project… and it turned out we needed someone to manage the production aspect of the eLearning. Results? Very rough at first, but it got better. I learned through doing, the advice of others, and lots of small mistakes.

Hmmmm.. talk about immersive learning!

What's with the elephant bums?

April 9, 2008 2 comments

Well, no one has asked me that yet… but I’ll answer it anyway. Last fall I spent four weeks volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Northern Thailand. I was an amazing learning experience for me. The volunteer work ranged from shoveling elephant and buffalo poo to repairing fences to unloading food trucks to building a giant compost pit.

In my 20s i went through a lot of self-discovery – as to most 20-somethings. My four-week volunteer stint exposed me to the same excitement and growth that experienced when I was in my 20s.

I like being put in the position of being the novice. It’s a humbling opportunity we should never snub. Walking into a situation in a new culture, with new people, and without the tangible skills to complete the jobs allowed me to dig deep and tap into skills that I use every day but don’t think about – because they aren’t hard, tangible skills…

  • Flexibility – No hammer to drive that nail. No problem, how about the side of an axe? Pouring rain cutting into our grass planting time? That’s ok, we’ll fix some railings in a sheltered area instead. Small setbacks are only setbacks if you let them be. Schedules can be rearranged, tools can be modified with an open mind.
  • Communication – I don’t speak Thai or Dutch or Spanish (very well), but everyone understands a smile and the laughter that goes with the effort of trying to say Thank you in their language. Make the effort to communicate with someone in their preferred style. That effort goes a long way.
  • Patience – An elephant will only move as fast as an elephant wants. When we take the elephants on a walk (no… not like you take a dog for a walk), we moved at the pace of the elephants. It gave me a chance to look around, watch the people, observe the landscape, and have a conversation. Slowing down helps us all. We can catch our breath, take in all the good things around us, and enjoy the moment. Schedules and deadlines are necessary, but so is taking the time to appreciate all that you have around you.

So… for now, my banner is two cute, wrinkly, elephant bums.