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Thursday, October 30, 2008

LinkedIn Connection Approach Rethought

If you read my blog much, you know that I use LinkedIn quite a bit to help me find experts and expertise. You can see how I do this in my posts/screencasts LinkedIn Searching for Experts and Expertise and LinkedIn Answers to Get Help.

One of the techniques that I show in the first is that you can expand the reach of your search by choosing to search groups. Thus, by searching the eLearningGuild or ASTD groups, I'm able to find people who can help answer questions.

The screencast then shows how I would go about formulating a request for help through an intermediate contact.

I've known for some time that my success rate in contacting someone who is 2nd degree (there's one person in the middle who will pass my request on) is roughly 80%. If the person is 3rd degree, it's low enough that I don't even bother. The problem is that no one connects or knows both parties and can somewhat validate the request. So, I really only contact people I either already am connected with or are 2nd degree.

I'm a BIG TIME believer in the value of this. And, I sometimes wonder what I did before I had LinkedIn as a resource.

But, here's what has recently dawned on me. When I do a group search, the same effect is there about only being able to tap into 2nd degree. With the group search, I can find out that someone exists, but I can't really effectively connect with them unless I'm fairly close by.

This started me down the path of rethinking how I connect to people. I used to heed the advice that you should only connect with people who you know pretty well. And that's the way I've operated. However, that never seemed to work all that well, and I think I've figure it out.

I listened to a podcast that featured Christian Mayaud in which he described PAN CAN FAN.

An individual's social network (online or offline) is divided into three groups:

  • PANs = Potentially Active Network
  • CANs = Currently Active Network
  • FANs = Formerly Active Network
I used to think of LinkedIn as containing exactly my CAN and FAN. People I currently know well or have in the past. That's what LinkedIn tells you.

But what happens is that I'm constantly trying to reach into my PAN and it turns out that it's really only 2nd degree. Thus, my PAN is often feeling too limited. But, after listening to Christian, I've changed the way I look at LinkedIn connections and how I treat invitations. I now think of my LinkedIn direct connections as also containing PANs who I only know in a superficial way. I've changed where I'm willing to link to anyone who I feel may be a good person to know in the future based on their profile and possibly a limited messaging exchange. This is more in line with what people call a LinkedIn LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). I'm not sure I'm quite going as far as most LIONs who seem to link with everyone. But, I've certainly changed to be very open to linking even if I don't really "know" you.

The result has been interesting. It's a bit more like wandering around at a mixer. By putting it out that I'm likely to accept your link request, I get a chance to interact with a lot more new people. Most of the time it's a few simple emails based on what I see on their profile.

Oh, and I do subscribe to the one rule for LIONs, I no longer ever hit the "I don't know" button on an invitation.

Now, I don't know that everyone should change to look at LinkedIn connections quite the same way. My suggestion is not that this is the right course for everyone. In fact, my guess is that most people will continue to use it for only CANs and FANs as I did before.

However, if you are (a) reading this and (b) roughly in the world of eLearning, I would highly recommend that you make it your policy to connect with people like me who are likely highly connected in that world as well and who have said - I'm pretty open to linking.

So, what do you do?

You go to my profile:

You click on: Add Tony to Your Network.

You can click on: Other.

And then put in my email:

I don't promise to accept your invitation, but I do promise to treat it a bit like I would if you walked up to me at a networking mixer. If you are trying to sell me life insurance, I may move on. But I generally chat for a while and maybe exchange cards and we've now connected. Hopefully that means we can help each other better use LinkedIn in the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jing Screencasts Bandwidth Limit

I had used Jing several times recently to create screencasts. I have been pretty happy with it as a tool, but I got a message from Jing that told me that I had nearly used up my monthly bandwidth. Basically, with the free account you get 2GB of bandwidth and once that's used up you have to wait for the start of the next month. Whew, it's almost Nov. 1. Luckily, viewing of my recent screencasts (LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answer) will be pretty low over time.

Still the bottom line is that Jing works great, but it definitely is not something you can use if you plan to have more than a few people viewing your movies. So, as a blogger, you probably can't use Jing to record things.

So, I'm now back to searching for a free tool that works to create screencasts that I can use for my blog. I don't do it very often, so it needs to be free. The best thing would be if I could also do it while recording voice from myself and someone else. In other words a screen sharing tool with voice and screen recording. And it needs to be low cost or free.

Web 2.0 Learning

I've read a bit from (here, here, and here) about Jet Blue's use of web 2.0 / social media tools to communicate between their staff of learning professionals. This is another great example of eLearning 2.0.

Jet Blue University (their internal corporate university that I recently heard being discussed on Knowledge @ Wharton) is using Awareness Networks' platform to work collaboratively on projects between employees in disparate locations and programs and to share best practices on how to train JetBlue crew members. The Awareness platform includes tools such as blogs, wikis and social bookmarking / tagging.

Jeanne Meister tells us that the software is being used to allow JetBlue faculty to share around broader topics that just improvements in learning & development such as sharing photos from family vacations, weddings and birthdays. This allows faculty to get to know each other socially in order to be more effective sharing and working together later. They also use the technique of posting provocative topics in order to engage people in discussions.

Overall, a big part of the intent here is for the faculty to become used to using these tools and methods in order to put them in position to use them with other parts of the organization. Something I talk about all the time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Online Conferences and In-Person Conferences

Lisa Neal asked a great question in a comment on Learn Trends 2008 - Free Online Conference:
What do you see as the main differences between in person and online conferences?
I have a bunch of random thoughts on this and I'm hoping that folks will chime in. First let me start with a couple of predictions:

Prediction 1 - Online only conferences will rapidly increase and will slow down in-person conferences

Prediction 2 - Smaller, targeted, short-burst, rapidly planned conferences will emerge.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still very much like to do in-person conferences. I believe Face to Face Still Matters. I very much am looking forward to attending both DevLearn in a couple of weeks.

That said, the fact that George, Jay and I can pull together an online only, free workshop just through a bit of elbow grease and get 2,000 people to come tells me that we will see more of this in the future. The tools are there to make these things happen. Ning really makes it easy to do one of these. Or you could do it as a Facebook group. You can add a Wiki or Aggregator or other things to make this a bit better. But really, when you think about what you do at an in-person conference:
  • Attend Sessions
  • Go to the Expo
  • Have Discussions - some random topics with random people
  • Have Drinks, Dinner
The first three have direct online equivalents. We are not doing an online expo in our conference, but I'm thinking that will be next year.

On discussions, I believe that it's harder to have effective discussions on specific topics at in-person conferences. Threaded discussions are more effective and normally you don't have these in-person. You do get a better random effect in-person. You sit at a table with people at meals and get into conversations on all sorts of topics.

A couple of big advantages jump out around online conferences:
  • Online conferences have a dramatically lower cost in terms of time and expense. It's hard to get all the way to an in-person conference. I've had to lower the number I attend.
  • Online conferences allow recording of sessions so that you can participate even if you can't do it real-time.
I do think most people will "attend" an online conference quite differently. They won't leave work for the week. This will be a part time thing. We generally schedule making that assumption. Only use half the day. Don't try to pack too much in.

In-person conferences have an advantage of getting more attention from the attendees. I actually think that in-person deserves more. People still spend lots of time and money going in-person and not doing the things it takes to really be prepared: Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee, Conference Preparation and Better Questions for Learning Professionals. Online will suffer more than in-person from lack of preparation.

The flip side is that online can provide time to get people prepared during the conference. Have someone spend part of the time thinking about what they really need. Post that as questions in the discussions. So, while you get more attention in-person, you have more time online.

Given the dramatically different cost/time structures, I don't see how online conferences can do anything but increase.

Does that mean a decrease of in-person? Yes. If the sessions you are interested in are being offerred online, will you still go to the in-person? Maybe, but it certainly makes you question it. With the economic downturn - my bets are tough times for the next 24 months of in-person conferences.

I'm also predicting that we will see more impromptu online conferences. If several people were interested in a topic, they can easily pull together a few speakers, create a ning group and set up a quick conference. They can advertise through social media. Cost is very low. And the topics can be targeted. Really, I'm not sure that a week long event that we've designed is the model to use. I love the list of speakers, but we could have made this 5, 2 day conferences. Or randomly spersed two day conferences. Or even a week long - session - discussion - session type thing.

Because of the impromptu nature, you can be much deeply focused. In-person conferences and even larger online conferences have a tendency to focus more broadly in order to appeal to a large audience. Impromptu conferences want to attract an audience, but it probably is better to have it smaller.

Once you go online, you have a lot more options. As an in-person conference organizer, you really have challenges trying to pack everything you can in that week. You also have a cost basis that's completely different.

I actually think this is also going to impact local events. Here in Los Angeles, you may have to drive 45-90 minutes to get to a local event. Most often the topics again have to be broader. ASTD Los Angeles' special interest groups (SIGs) are trying to figure out what it means when they start doing online sessions that are potentially available worldwide. In many ways, attracting a broader audience makes the sessions more interesting. But what does that do to local?

Actually as I've been writing this, my feeling is that there are going to be new types of financial models and businesses emerging from this dynamic. I just had an idea for a new business.

I'll be curious what people think of the topic more generally ....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Develop Work Skills

Stuart Henshall had asked on Twitter about ideas for posts. I sent him a reply and asked for his thoughts on my post New Work. He took me up on it and created quite an interesting reply. It sparked quite a few thoughts for me.
The element that really resonated with me is the adhoc nature / the real-time learning that we do today. I also sense that it’s in no way the same for everyone. Eg some can ask questions and harness a network. Others can hit Google up and find things you never could. Then others are already tracking and writing about it and you can just talk or write to them.
This is absolutely true that people have greatly different abilities in different areas. There are also several studies of knowledge worker practices that suggest that a lot of what is effective is quite personal. That said, I think there is a tendency to lean on the skills that we are good at and not use other approaches when they are called for. If you are really good at searching on Google, then you may not leverage your network even when it's very much called for.
When someone is seeking to learn about anything (learning task) it’s usually more efficient again to go outside the organization. The employee goes to Google, dives into Wikipedia and other open source efforts. Wherever these communities of experts are active and committed to sharing, things happen. It often doesn’t happen inside the corporate information system and even if it was captured somewhere, few organizations have a way to extract it. That’s a problem for both learning and the corporate experts. This learning only adds to competitive advantage when assimilated. Assimilation of new information is a huge problem in most organizations. Let’s face it organizations that learn faster win. Those that learn faster at lower cost win even more. Those that enable the acceleration of learning outside and around the organization get even better leverage on learning.
Great points. It's always interesting to hear the perspective of someone with a background in Knowledge Management discussing these things. They immediately go from individual learning to organizational learning. How can the organization capture the knowledge, learning, etc.? Certainly helping to make it a natural part of work-flow to capture information in a way that helps the individual and the organization is the key. Social bookmarking, searching browsing trails, capture of communications as clues to expertise. Even with that I wonder if you can really be successful trying to get these artifacts to do more than signal learning in some area occurred within the organization. Further, it feels strange that we say that most of the information / expertise is going to come from outside the organization - yet we are trying to capture back into the organization?
All of the above personalize the learning experience. I’m always bothered by eLearning. Smacks of tick boxes on computerized tests to me. I don’t think the new work is about tests. ... It is more about agility and flexibility. If we want to teach new work we should embed more in complexity theory. Rather than content which we are swamped in, what we lack today is interpretive insight and meaning.
I have no idea what Stuart means when he says we should teach new work via "complexity theory" - but the comment that creating more content may not be the answer - ever. Of course, much of what learning professionals see as their roll is to create content.

That said - I really wonder how you teach the new work. To me, it IS partly content. But a lot of it is creating experiences and opportunities that are part of work. Sitting beside the worker is ideal - but scaling that can be a problem. So, maybe it's work buddies. Find someone who is good at using outside expertise in the form of people and have that person help you build that skill.
I think my question to Tony is - Are you sure that it is formal learning programs that are required. Or should the organization be more effective at facilitating questions that force the organization to learn?
Stuart - no I'm not sure - but I see this gap in skills and I don't see organizations doing what they need to do to close that gap. I believe formal learning can be used for part of this - and certainly I've done that myself. But, when it comes to really learning this and applying it - formal doesn't work.

I honestly am not sure I get Stuart's suggestion that facilitating questions is the key. I am a big believer in asking better questions. And there are some key questions that organizations need to be asking here. But, we need more than questions, we need acceptance of responsibility and action.
He asks if our work skills are keeping up. As he suggests I must be as I did get this post off Twitter and visited his blog. So we probably are alright.
This is the crux of the problem for me right now. I believe the skills gap is big and growing. I also think a lot of people are ignoring it. This will hurt them greatly as knowledge workers going forward and hurt their organizations who will have marginal learner workers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Learn Trends 2008 - Free

George Siemens, Jay Cross and Tony Karrer have organized the second annual free online conference:

Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovation 2008

November 17 - 21, 2008 | Online | Free

Last year's conference had two thousand people from all over the world take part in the week-long conference. This year the conference has an incredible set of speakers and lots of opportunities to discuss the issues. Speakers and topics include:
The conference runs November 17-2008. It's online. And it's free. If you want to attend sign up and follow the conference blog: LearnTrends for on-going updates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Help

My post New Work is about changes in work skills. One of the bigger changes in work skills have to do with getting help. I looked at a couple examples this recently in LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers

This topic came up again in a discussion - Blogging to ask for Help - Colin asked:
If you need input from like-minded people around the world, where's the best place to ask?

Today I posted a request for reader input in my blog because I didn't know where else I could ask for help from people outside my company. Is there a more effective way to approach this kind of problem?
There's some interesting discussion in the thread around whether it makes sense to post a question in a blog. And some alternative places were suggested for getting help. Some suggestions:
  • Discussion groups (TrDev, ???)
  • Ning or LinkedIn Groups
  • LinkedIn to find individuals
  • LinkedIn to ask questions - via Answers
  • Twitter (only if you've participated quite a bit)
The issue with Twitter and posting questions through a blog is that you only will get responses from your existing audience.

Am I missing any options here for getting help?

Are there good resources for helping someone know how to use these things to get help?

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Work and New Work Skills

My recent Survey - Do You Know What These Are? really was all about new work skills - skills we should be learning. Actually, it's also about the fact that there's not really new work as much as there is new work skills. More on this below. I showed these two pictures:

and asked survey takers to answer the following questions:
1) What's your age
* Under 18
* 18 - 26
* 27 - 42
* 43+

2) What is in picture 1
# Not sure
# Know the name of this
# Know how it's organized
# Have used it

3) What is in picture 2
# Not sure
# Know it's name
# Know how it's used
# Have used one

The results are no surprise and were fully anticipated with comments such as:
I haven't used either for several years now.

I don't think I've used one of those since I was at college for the first go-round (80-82)!

I'm under 25 and have used both... assuming by "used" you mean converting the first into shelving for my CDs.

Who still uses CD's? ;)
While I would not claim the survey is scientific, I think the results were quite predictable. I received over 350 responses with only 16 being people under 18 and 48 from people age 18-26.

For the Card Catalog - the percentage of people saying they were "not sure" -
  • Under 18 – 71%
  • 18 – 26 – 12%
  • 27 – 42 – 3.5%
  • 43+ - 2%
For the Microfiche Reader - the percentage of people saying they were "not sure" -
  • Under 18 – 44%
  • 18 – 26 – 30%
  • 27 – 42 – 7%
  • 43+ - 4%
Note: 43+ Baby Boomer (or older), 27-42 - Gen X, Under 27 - Millennial (Gen Y).

I'm actually think that many of the under 27 people who said they knew what it was - thought it was an old computer.

Work Skills Changing

Most of us who used to use these things know somewhat know that they really aren't in use anymore. When I did a presentation in Cincinnati, someone in the audience was from OCLC. He told me that they used to ship truck loads of cards to libraries every day. Now, they can print them using one laser printer. It was quite a while ago when libraries began to put signs on card catalogs telling patrons that they are no longer updating them.

We all know this right?

But are we thinking about the implications?

In presentations, I often will cite this as an example of the kinds of changes in work skills that have occurred and are constantly occurring. A big part of education is learning how to do research and really that's where you learn the foundations of knowledge work.

If you attended college and used a card catalog and microfiche reader, then you very likely were basically taught how to operate when it was hard to find information. Finding content was the biggest challenge. If you were assigned a paper and could choose among some specific topics, you often chose the topic based on what you could find information on. I remember often changing topics when I couldn't find enough detail on it in the library.

Do you remember that feeling of euphoria when you found some content?

For me, this makes me think of my senior year of college. I was part of a team that was working on building a computer player for the game of Othello. Because it was a competition (each team's algorithm would play at the end of the year), I wanted to make sure that my algorithm was really good. I happened to be going on a trip to Washington DC to some kind of meeting for Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society). On that trip, while other engineers were over at the Smithsonian, I visited the Library of Congress and found this incredible book that had some great descriptions of strategies to win in Othello.

By the way, while this story may implicate me as a complete and total nerd on several levels, I must say in my defense that I also was part of a small group that managed to get help from a local fraternity to fill a bathtub full of beer to share with my fellow engineers as well as was able to get to Georgetown for Halloween.

Still, the point here is that many of us were taught how scarce and precious information was.

Contrast this with a A Fourth Grader Wikipedia Update. My kids face the problem of having too much information and having to learn how to filter.

And, it's not just access to information that's changed. You were also taught or learned:
  • Taking notes on paper
  • Optimizing use of the library copy machine (actually I believe we called it a Xerox machine at the time) to make copies of pages of books that you would take with you. This cost significant dollars and time. So you definitely figured out what worked here.
and many other things that were artifacts of the time.

Think about how much has changed:
  • PC
  • Laptop
  • PDA
  • Cell Phone
  • Wireless
  • 3G
  • Access to Trillions of Pages of content
  • Access to Millions (Billions) of People
  • Access to Tens of Thousands of Information Services

Are Our Work Skills Keeping Up?

Most people I know have not participated in formal learning since college on foundational knowledge work skills. That's really the last time that someone (a teacher) taught you how to do these things. But, if you learned using card catalogs, microfiche readers, Xerox machines, libraries, etc. then what has taught you new skills?
and the list goes on.

Of course, if you are reading this post (and it's still roughly Oct/Nov 2008), then likely you are a bit ahead of the average knowledge worker. So, maybe you are okay? Well consider the following:
  • I effectively use the Google filetype operator?
  • I know what does the Google "~" operator does?
  • I'm effective at reaching out to get help from people I don't already know
  • I'm good at keeping, organizing my documents, web pages that I've encountered in ways that allow me to find it again when I need it and remind me that it exists when I'm not sure what I'm looking for.
  • I'm good at filtering information.
  • I'm good at collaboratively working with virtual work teams and use Google Docs or a Wiki as appropriate in these situations
My strong belief is that the foundations of knowledge work are changing fairly quickly and most of us learn completely through ad hoc mechanisms that are not likely to yield good coverage. If you could have an expert look over your shoulder at how you do things on a day-to-day basis, you likely could find many improvements. Virtually every one of us would be somewhat embarrassed to have that expert sitting there because we know (in our guts) that we could stand to do things better.

But most of us are not going to have that expert come in to help us. So, instead we are left to our own devices to learn these things. And because this information is horribly scattered and because it's hard to keep up with the pace of change -
Every knowledge worker could use help to improve their foundational knowledge work skills.
Part of the reason that this new work has snuck up on us is that much appears the same. I discussed this back in Have Work and Learning Changed or the Way We Do Work and Learning? My conclusion out of those discussions is that there's not really new work. However, the environment is quite different and this is the reason that these changes have somewhat snuck up on us.

All of this is the foundation of our work on Work Literacy.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ASTD TechKnowledge - DevLearn Conference

I just received a question that I'm sure often is on the minds of people in eLearning - which conference they should attend (eLearning Guild DevLearn or ASTD TechKnowledge). I'm hoping that everyone can weigh in on their thoughts. Here's was the specific question (and all the information I have to go on) to help advise this person -
I have been trying to decide whether to attend DevLearn 2008 or ASTD TechKnowledge in 2009. I have never attended either. I have been designing and developing elearning for about a year. Any suggestions?
This person works in health care in employee learning and organizational development.

So, which would you choose and for what reasons?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

eBay - eLearning 2.0 and Formal Learning

I presented at an eLearningGuild online symposium a couple weeks ago. The topic of the symposium was eLearning 2.0 (or is it Learning 2.0). This presentation is where the
Examples of eLearning 2.0 - which showed clearly these things are being applied to formal and informal learning opportunities.

One of the other presentations of the day was This Isn’t your Mama’s Training:
Implementing Learning 2.0 at eBay by Eric Hunter & Rich Reitter of eBay. A lot of what they presented, I wouldn't consider new, but I thought that they had really done a good job pulling things together to make sense of them. For example, they used the following Learning Map to describe a learning experience:

I'm sure you've seen these sorts of learning maps before. They have various check points that require completion to achieve certification. These certifications require the activities to have been performed and tests to be passed.

However, along the way you are participating in lots of online activities that are kept in wiki pages, blog posts, podcasts, web pages, discussion boards, etc. Interesting use of various Training Methods. They don't really discuss these as eLearning 2.0, but rather as a natural part of the Learning Plan. However, because of these tools they are more likely to get SMEs to update content and quickly update it for multiple groups of learners.

A smart example of using eLearning 2.0 alongside formal learning.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blogging Strategies

The third week of Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals Free Online Course (you can jump in at any time) is all about Blogs for Learning. Interestingly, when I prepared the notes for this week, I was able to leverage what the course members had produced during the previous week on Social Bookmarks: You can read in the link Blogs for Learning about my perspective on using Blogs for Learning and Networking. There's a bit in there on blogging strategies, but the reality is that when I go back and look at my previous posts on what your personal strategy should be around blogging, I'm not finding that much. And one of the course members raised a really interesting question in the Forum around blogging strategies:
Matthew, how has blogging changed the way you think? I myself have not had that experience and I'm interested in understanding how it has such an effect on yours. My own experience is that blogging is not very social (even when I have asked for feedback). I have people that follow my blog; I know this from both statcounter and google analytics. However, I have yet to really have "conversations" and feedback except from a few core people.

For me, reading and commenting on blogs (not writing them) gives me the opportunity to learn from others. My own blogging has switched from being an invitation for discussion (which was unsuccessful) to more of a journal of my thoughts as they pop into my head. Before blogging, those thoughts were fleeting. Now they allow me to record the thoughts and expand on them as I experience and learn new things.
The discussion that is following it is quite interesting and I think gets into the heart of what blogging as an experience and as a learning tool is all about. The reality is that as you blog, your blogging strategies are bound to shift.

I recommend looking at Top Ten Reasons To Blog and Top Ten Not to Blog and also:
Love to get comments in the Forum around this.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Survey - Do You Know What These Are?

I'd like to ask your help. Can you please take a really quick survey - three questions only. Your age and then shows you two images and asks if you know what they are. I'll post the results up pretty soon (within a week or two) as I need them for an upcoming presentation.

You'll likely get the point of the question based on the two images in the survey.

Also, since readers of my blog tend to be over 27, if you happen to have access to a younger audience, i.e., students, and can ask them to take the survey, that would be great.

Thanks for your help.

Take Survey

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Record Video Chat Interviews

A client of mine (celebrity) would like to record video interviews they are going to be doing with people all around the country. We are thinking that we will be sending out some basic equipment (web cam + microphone) to the people involved in the interview if they don't have the right stuff.

I'm trying to figure out what software we will use. It looks like ooVoo provides the split screen capability and ability to record and I've seen a couple instances on YouTube that look okay. I've personally not used ooVoo, so a bit worried about recommending it.

Are there other solutions that we should look at?

Any other thoughts on how to handle this?

Likely the site and videos will get some decent traffic because of who is involved and where they will be discussing the site.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Social Bookmarks

The second week of our Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals Course is starting and the topic is Social Bookmarks. Here's the great resource / assignment that Harold and Michele created for this week:
Week 2: Free Your Bookmarks with Social Bookmarking
This has sparked some interesting activity and makes me think that the net effect of this kind of open course is a bit more interesting than I had thought. Take a look at the pages that are being tagged as part of the course - Work Literacy Ning Links. These are all coming from people participating in the course. But several of them are fantastic items that I had never seen before. They are also coming in somewhat categorized so that I can look at:

to find stuff that might be useful for next week's materials. Great stuff.

I also saw that several people have posted slideshare presentations embedded into the forums. Scroll down a bit on this page.

It's fun to have a group that is partly experience and partly new with social learning going on. I'm hoping that there will be a couple of good questions/examples that will emerge again this week that can get folks to do screencasts similar to what I did last week. Btw, if you pick up Jing, you can probably do it in under 10 minutes. It's fun to have a real problem to try to work on and then see how people try to address them.

This is a bit different than I expected and a whole lot of fun.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Social Networks

The first week of our Free - Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals is wrapping up. This week we looked at Social Networks. Here are some thoughts on this topic, especially thoughts around social networks for learning.

Starting with Social Networking was a blessing and a curse. Social networks have a tendency to be a bit messy. Virginia Yonkers told us -
I would like to know how to manage the information flows in social networks. I have been part of Ning groups before, but find it overwhelming, very quickly because there seems to be multiple inputs for information. It sort of feels like a classroom with too much noise and side conversations. As a teacher, we learn how to manage that. As a student we learn how to ignore the chatter. How do we do this in the social network environment?
And, I think that the course fell right into this trap. Even as an organizer, when I get into the Ning group, I feel overwhelmed. Maybe this is partly design, but it's also how conversation, content spread across social networks.

Still, if I ask, what would I want to have helped learning professionals to know at a base level around social networks and their relationship to learning:
  1. What's a social network and what do users do in social networks? Common elements such as Profiles, Discussions, Friends, Groups.
  2. How do social networks relate to personal learning?
  3. How do social networks relate to formal learning?
I think we likely did okay on these topics, even if people (including me) felt a bit lost at times. The fact that we used a social networking tool meant that you somewhat had to get some feel for using a social network. And the messiness is somewhat part of the experience. The personal learning aspect was maybe not as strongly experienced, but some of the discussion and tools brought this home. And I think it's very interesting to see a formal learning experience using a social network teaching about using a social network for formal learning. Yes, it's only one example and hopefully people thought about lots of others as part of it. So, while it might be a bit messy, I feel like we did pretty well with the core of what we were going after.

The questions at the start of the week were fantastic. We likely could have spent all our time just answering those. Of course, that would lead to even worse scattering. Here were some of the questions people had along with some thoughts -
How do people currently use social networks in their professional lives? Are there any particular ways participants currently use social networks for training and educational purposes? Is it advantageous to you or just 'techno-fluff'?
I discussed part of this in my recent screencasts LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers. Certainly, the conversations and the finding of expertise via social networks such as LinkedIn is a big part of their use. There was some really good discussion (but less than I expected) on Using Social Networks with Learners. I really expected more conversation about Social Learning. Most often it's not the normal Social Networks that are getting used, but rather other kinds of targeted networks. The resources that were provided on this are great:
Another set of questions ...
I too would like to learn how people use social networking professionally. What’s the time commitment for the average user? How do people manage the multiple networks?
There was a forum on Manging Your Social Networks and the Time Commitment with some good thoughts on this question.

Another question / comment ...
I don't know about ning or even facebook. Here in Brazil, people are more familiar with Orkut or Myspace. Some teachers here use Orkut to teach English or to get in touch with other professionals to share ideas, lesson plans and so on. But what disapoint me is the fact that some schools, educational institutions don't allow the use of social networks in info labs. Is this a problem which happens only here in Brazil or not?
I hate to say it, it's a problem everywhere - according to the eLearningGuild's surveys schools block these sites and corporations block access to web 2.0 tools.

Conversation included LinkedIn, Ning, MySpace, Orkut, PLE, Plurk, Utterli, Twitter, Elgg, Xing, Edmoto, wow, there are a lot of these things to consider.

As I'm writing this summary and looking back at the conversations (I'm barely scratching the surface here), this really has been a fantastic week of learning.

Looking forward to next week's topic - Social Bookmarking.

By the way, you can join the course at any time. There are 582 members right now, but the traffic statistics indicate that we may have some lurkers in addition to the core group.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Conversation Learning

One of the questions being raised this week in the free, online course Work Literacy: Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals is how social networks impact personal learning. To me, this is a critical part of The New Skills for knowledge workers. And what I often cite as the biggest change in knowledge work skills over the past 20 years is the change in access to people. Sure, the amount of existing content out there grows exponentially (a trillion web pages indexed by Google in 2008). But, more remarkable is that now you have a lot of mechanisms to reach out to people and find expertise.

In Value from Social Media, I talked about the issue of finding information via Google / Search vs. seeking conversation:

Let’s consider a simple scenario - I’m trying to decide if a particular solution makes sense for my company / organization. I do some searching on Google and find some overviews of the solution and some other good information. But, what it’s still not quite enough to make me feel comfortable with my recommendations. I would like more in the areas of:

  • Experience - What have been the experiences of other organizations (not the canned case studies) when they’ve used this solution.
  • Boundaries / Existence - I’ve got a particular issue and I’m not sure if answers to that issue exist out there, I’ve not found it in my searching.
  • Confirmation - I’m beginning to have an answer, but I’d like to get confirmation of the answer based on my particular situation based on experience.
  • Importance - Some of the issues I see, I’m not sure how important they are in practice, should I be concerned.
All of these kinds of questions are hard to answer with Google.
In a recent presentation, I showed an example problem (selecting an authoring tool), went through searching, and then asked whether you felt comfortable with the following questions:
  • What’s really going to happen?
  • Did I miss something important?
  • How important are the various issues?
  • Is my answer reasonable?
These are the same issues raised above, worded differently. During this week's course, one of the more interesting things was seeing one of the members experience - My Real-Time, Real-Life Research Project (Using LinkedIn and Ning). Here was the challenge:
I am currently trying to find a SME experienced with Moodle (a CMS/LMS) and WizIQ (synchronous web class technology).
Great example of a query. So much so, that I responded with Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn for Finding Expertise. Later this same person who had established this goal told us:
Well, I just went over to check my email, and learned that someone replied within the past 15 minutes, and gave me the most complete answer I've found thus far. Interestingly, I found the Moodle-specific ning through someone mentioning it in a response to my posting of the same question to one of the LinkedIn groups which I belong to.

Essentially, a Moodle expert that I found using LinkedIn directed me to a different forum in which to ask my question, and a different Moodle expert answered my question, 20 hours after I asked it. And I just learned about ning for the first time yesterday!

I am really excited to be learning how to connect and do research this way. It's certainly way more fun than a boring old Google search. And I can use the Advanced Search function to find experts to answer other questions I have about Moodle.
This is a great example of what you can find by reaching out to seek conversation. And conversation can be virtual or by scheduling a call. Or ...

In Know Where You Can Find Anything, I showed some problems were being specifically designed to be hard to find via search. Realistically, solving them using conversation would be too much. In these cases, a new kind of conversation, distributed work is required. Parcel it out to experts in different areas. Social networks can be a good way to do this. Find groups who are interested in the separate questions and have them run with it.

As a side note, the Work Literacy browse search feature worked great for me today. When I went to a page that combined Google Search Network, there were a bunch of posts that were pretty interesting. It's a bit ugly, but still quite useful.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Training Specialist

Saw a post by Matthew Franz - where he tells us - I don't get e-learning 2.0 - and it made me wonder if Franz is a training specialist - who's not looking at more than training as a model for learning. Here's what he said:
I just don't get why folks are trying to lump in wikis, blogs, rss, etc. as "e-learning."

RSS, Blog, Wikis, etc. are fundamental workplace tools in the same way that other tools (office applications, web applications, the Internet etc.) are also tools, but think of the absurdity of making a big deal of Excel as an "e-learning 1.0 tool."

Is it because corporate trainers (I am one now, so I can critique them) are so backward and 2.0-illiterate? Is that why this is a big deal? To me if you make the definition of "e-learning" so expansive (and yes, I realize there is overlap between e-learning and knowledge management but to classify knowledge management activities as learning seem silly) it makes the term almost meaningless. Yes, everything you do should be about learning and creating knowledge, but this is different from Learning with a Big-L and little-l learning. What am I missing here?
I agree with Matthew that there's nothing inherent in these tools that makes them an eLearning tool. You can use them for very practical things all day long that no one would walk by and say - "Hey, that's a learning tool." So, why are they coming up in talks, blog posts, etc. about learning?

When the question is phrased this way, I'd be surprised if Matthew wouldn't be able to talk to these tools in the context of their impact on personal learning and formal learning. When you look at the examples from my blog post that he cites - Examples of eLearning 2.0 - clearly these things are being applied to formal and informal learning opportunities.

I believe what Matthew is questioning (Big-L vs. little l) is whether there is anything that pushes these into the realm where someone who is a learning professional (especially a training specialist) should somehow care more about these tools than anyone else. (Or maybe I'm missing what Matthew is missing.)

My strong belief (see Leading Learning and Developing New Skills) is that learning professionals (even training specialists) actually have an important responsibility here.
  • Learning professionals must be adept in these tools so that we understand how they apply to formal learning settings and in a myriad of personal learning settings.
  • Learning professionals must be actively promoting (through tactical application) their use in our organizations.
And I'm not allow in these views - see Lead the Charge.

Part of what may be at issue here is the continuing question of the Scope of Learning Responsibility where I see Learning (capital L) being responsible for helping knowledge workers be able to do their work (that inherently has learning involved) more effectively, efficiently, accurately, etc. If you look at this from a training specialist standpoint and stop at formal training as your definition of scope, then this stuff is less interesting (but still interesting).

Matthew, like you, I don't see Excel as being all that exciting with it's application to learning. (Side note: If you had said, Google Spreadsheet, then the collaborative and real-time aspects of the application actually have some interesting implications - maybe we would have had a more interesting discussion.) But when you come out and essentially say that there's nothing that interesting about Wikis, Blogs and RSS when it comes to learning or Learning. Well, I'm not sure how that's even a little defensible.

This could be only around definition of the term eLearning - and maybe Matthew defines it as eLearning 1.0 (authored content) - then I guess I would understand why he tells us that he doesn't get eLearning 2.0.