Posts Tagged ‘learning’

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.

Categories: gardening, learning Tags: , ,

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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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 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

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.

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.

To learn list

September 9, 2008 Leave a comment

The big question for September has branched out to our own learning as learning professionals. Essentially, we’ve been asked to share our “to learn” lists. The idea put forth in the question is that we should each have a to learn list that is of equal priority as a to do list.

Um… ok… I’ll try telling that to my clients 🙂

I don’t have a “to learn” list, but I do have a “to experience” list.

In my life I want to experience:

  • Learning a new language while I live in a country that speaks that language
  • Volunteering for a living rather than working
  • Surfing
  • Working as a chef
  • Retirement 🙂

In my work I want to experience:

  • Designing a course that makes me go “wow!”
  • A client that’s excited about collaborative learning
  • A team that’s excited about collaborative design
  • The feeling that this is “the” job that I’m meant to do

I rarely distinguish my “learning” time versus my “working” time… it’s an intertwined process. Learning while I work ensures that the context and situation is appropriate and sensible.

The big question has a several other embedded questions that are really quite interesting….

  • As Knowledge Workers, work and learning are the same, so how does a to-learn list really differ from a to-do list? How are they different than undirected learning through work, blogging, conferences, etc.?
  • Are to-learn lists really important to have? Are they as important as what Jim Collins tells us?
  • Should they be captured? Is so how?
  • How does a to-learn list impact something like a Learning Management System in a Workplace or Educational setting?
  • What skills, practices, behaviors do modern knowledge workers need around to-learn lists?

I’m going to deal with these in a separate post… My own to-experience list and how I manage it is quite different than how I see to-learn lists in formal & informal learning.

Categories: learning Tags: , , , ,