Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reflections on Gerd Leonhard's session (LSG13)

How is learning changing in the digital age?

Digital is now becoming the default for everything, with the divide between digital and physical learning spaces continually eroding.  Our assumptions about linear change have to be thrown away, because technology is changing at an exponential rate, and we won't keep up and remain relevant unless we change our attitudes.

How is work changing in the digital age?

Businesses still sit on the fence, uncertain of when the real shifts in economics - such as digital advertising, the internet of things and cloud culture - will really start to take effect.  Mobile internet access is expected to be particularly disruptive, with mobile money transfers already commonplace in Africa.  Many standardised jobs based around transactions are becoming automated, so how do we adapt to this future?  The key is not to try to beat the machines, but consider how best to use new technology to our advantage.

The future is 'humarithms' - not algorithms

Companies that base their value on logic alone will eventually find themselves obsolete, because everyone is converging on the same set of logic, and it is only our intuition that can lead us to discover new ways of doing things.  As standardised work and protected spaces come to an end, businesses need to move towards a decentralised model, and e-learning can become a key part of organisational strategy.  But this has to move away from the standard perception of e-learning as distributing content - it has to be disruptive in nature, focused on breaking down the traditional silos.

Where are the future job roles?

Physical output is reaching its peak - we simply cannot continue with our model of outsourcing labour to cut costs.  As more value gets placed on the intangible products of a company, real human work will become focused on such areas as interface design, visualisation of data and software programming.  So as we move towards the complete automation of work, we have to ask ourselves if this will set human beings free, or doom us to become unemployable?  A tough question, but several members of the audience were quick to give their solutions:
  • Developing your identity in a world of automation will be increasingly important.  Know your value’ (via Ben Betts)
  • The future of work? Become indispensable’ (via Steve Wheeler)
  • Maybe we need some Big Wisdom – Wisdom trumps knowledge and information which will also trump data’ (via David Wilson)
See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Reflections on Phil Green's session (LSG13)

    Although it's been almost a month since the Learning & Skills Group Conference, I'm still keen to get some of my thoughts about the sessions down to make sense of it all.  Going back over Phil Green's session on ensuring real interaction in online learning in the light of some recent experiences has been very helpful for me.

    I was keen to attend Phil's session because I've been a lead user of web conferencing in my organisation for several years now, and I've used it to help colleagues learn from me on a number of occasions.  This has included teaching people to use the web conferencing tool itself and run their own sessions, preferably in a free-wheeling and humorous way, and also to get people started with their own e-learning projects.  I've always considered everything I've done to be firmly in the category of informal learning, so taking a serious look at how to use the medium as a classroom had a strong appeal.

    What guiding principles do we need to stick to for a virtual classroom to work?  Phil gave us an opening quote of 'None of us is as smart as all of us', emphasising the need to draw on the knowledge of everyone present.  Really an effective virtual classroom shouldn't be too different from an effective physical classroom.  The problem is that most of us don't know how to really use a classroom in the first place, so we end up bringing all our bad habits with us, and being seduced by the tools, to the detriment of learning.
    Key goals for learners in a classroom:
    • Taking in new content and...
    • Engaging in meaningful practice around it...
    • Discussing it with their peers...
    • Collaborating with their peers...
    • Making sense of it...

    How can the virtual classroom enhance (or interfere with) this?
    • Using internet connections opens up limitless content to explore (but we need to provide the right guidance)
    • Access interactive resources to aid meaningful practice
    • Engage in more informal interaction with their peers
    • Reflect on their participation using recording of the session
    Whenever I have been teaching people within a web conference setting, the best learning occurs when I keep the prescribed content to a minimum, and act to give real tacit advice as people are exploring things for themselves.  Letting everyone see what is going on and take part really helps them to gain from observation and discussion - while I've recorded a huge number of training recordings in the past, nothing quite beats live learning for getting over the tips that boost a learner's confidence.

    What should the tutor be doing in a classroom?
    • Reacting and responding to the needs of learners - not just working from prescribed content
    • Providing meaningful challenges and activities for learners
    Best tips for moving to the online environment
    • Don't assume that being a good face-to-face trainer will make you a good online facilitator
    • Don't assume that all the learning has to take place on-screen - allow learners a pause for reflection (sometimes less is more)
    • Activities that work well face-to-face may not translate well to the online environment
    • Remember that our expectations for online interaction are constantly changing
    • Don't get seduced by the technology
    Whenever I've been training people to use web conferencing tools, the real value comes in helping people prepare for the situations that they will actually be facing - effectively working in collaboration to fill in the gaps around more standard guidance.  I've found it best to get the prescribed content out of the way before the live session anyway, by having guidance notes and videos permanently available on the LMS.  Phil's call for reflection is particularly insightful, as this is something that I haven't directly considered when running a session so far.

    See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.

    Monday, July 01, 2013

    Reflections on Nigel Paine's session (LSG13)

    Big Data.  It's here and it's only going to get bigger.  Some people will doubtless be trying to hide from it, because they are convinced they don't know how to deal with it, and that it should be left to people with Maths and Statistics degrees.  The truth is that you can make a difference with a minimum of knowledge - if you're willing to change your approach.  Some good ideas can be found in the health field (see the Longer Lives website), and in Harvard Business Review.  As L&D professionals, we should strive to bring some of the benefits to organisational learning.

    Making use of big data needs some changes in our approach, and one of the key changes is the move towards effective visualisation of data.  Bringing in data from different sources can help to increase the overall validity of your data, and also to view it from different and clearer perspectives.
      One key example of big data in action is Amazon vs the local book store.  Because Amazon can gather so much information passively from your transactions, they can find ways of improving the customer experience.  Here we have a concrete example of Gerd Leonhard's assertion that transactional jobs are being taken over by machines.  What if we could improve our organisational learning in this way?  Using data to start conversations about effectiveness could be used for improving leadership, as it was at Google, simply by making the data available instead of filing it away.  Simply asking the right questions and aligning learning with the business can make a huge improvement.

    So how am I planning to use any of this to change things within L&D?  I've recently had a few conversations with colleagues that relate to using our data more creatively.  One of our management programmes could possibly benefit from showing participants trends in the data, in similar fashion to the Google example mentioned in the session.  Another thought I've had relates to stopping face-to-face equality & diversity training before it can even get started in favour of using data creatively to provoke discussion - still working the details but I think I'm on to something here....

    See also: Learning & Skills Conference 2013 curated backchannel resources.