Digiwrimo storyjumpers 6: What does it mean?

This is part 6 of a story jumping activity for Digital Writing MonthBruno started it, followed by Kevin, Maha, Sarah and Ron Sign up in the Google Doc if you’d like to join in.

*****

Kevin plopped onto his bed, exhausted. What a night. What the hell had happened? How did things get so out of hand? He never knew Sandy had one machine gun, let alone two. And, to take them to the pub with her? And fire them? What was she thinking?! The whole incident really got him wondering whether he knew her at all, and whether they had a future together. And how Sarah got involved in that fight, he wasn’t sure.  At least he’d managed to fix her uke – that was about the only thing that had gone right that night. Meanwhile, that odd woman across the road was watching his house again. It no longer freaked him out, but he did often wonder why she was so interested in the house. Maybe she wanted to buy it.

Kevin took the Bruno note out of his pocket and turned it over in his hands. He hadn’t been able to get it out of his mind since finding it in that old laptop case. He peered at the map again and tried to make out the words…

After a while, things started to get blurry, and all of a sudden the words seemed to dissolve into a garden and he found himself face to face with a spider.

spider door

He looked around, confused. Where was he? And was that a door? What happened to his bed? He had no idea where he was, but he decided to investigate what was behind his door…it occurred to him that perhaps this was all just a strange dream and he would wake up and find himself back home, in his room if he walked through that door.

Instead, he found himself in a whole other world. There was a sign in front of him:

sign

No swimming? Where was the water? Curious, he walked past the sign, towards the large trees, looking for the body of water the sign was  referring to.

But instead of water, there was a clearing. And to his surprise there was a giant chessboard, with a mysterious, small hooded boy considering his next move.

chessboard

He tried to get the small boy’s attention to ask where the water way, but the boy only seemed to speak French. Kevin  kept walking.

As he walked through a small forest, and past a strange cluster of large rocks, he finally saw a lake.

rocks

He could see an amazing glowing island full of flowers in the middle. He somehow knew he had to get there. But the water was murky and he remembered the sign warning of no swimming. He looked around – and saw there was a rowboat behind some bushes. He grabbed it and jumped in, rowing quickly toward the island. He didn’t know why but he had a gut feeling it was important he get there. As he approached, the words Blossom Island kept playing over and over in his head. He knew this was the name of the island. On the island were hundreds of beautiful red and white rose bushes.

blossomisland

After walking through blossom island for a few minutes he came across an arch with beautiful flowers all around it.  Walking through it,, enchanted, he notices in amongst the flowers, lots of yummy looking cookies. Kevin suddenly realises how hungry he is – he’d done so much walking and couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He grabbed a cookie greedily. But just as he was about to bite into it, he paused. Sudden flashbacks of childhood fairy tales played in his mind: Hansel and Gretel, and the candy covered cottage; Alice in Wonderland and the ‘Eat Me’ cake. The flashbacks were surely a warning. Who put these cookies here? What was in them? Why were they here? And…where WAS HE? The sound of his rumbling stomach interrupted his thoughts. In that instant, he threw caution to the wind, and took a huge bite.

*****

To be continued….by Kay….

[Footnote: this story contains images and ideas from my day out today with my 5 year old]

New writing adventure: #digiwrimo

Yes, I’ve written Nothing for a Long Time. Indeed, I haven’t really been online all that much. It’s easy to get out of the habit of engaging and being online – especially when embroiled with other (real life) distractions. But, what better way to get re-motivated to write than with a new collaborative writing adventure: digital writing month #digiwrimo.

Digiwrimo is a month-long adventure and exploration of digital narrative and art. It aims to inspire participants to take risks and play and explore creative forms of digital expression, through digital makes: small, low-risk exercises within the context of a supportive community.

Although it doesn’t officially start until November, I’ve been involved in the lead-up since my  online friend, EdContext collaborator, networker extraordinaire Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) invited me to participate. Maha is facilitating digiwrimo this year with Sarah Honeychurch (@NomadWarMachine) and Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax), both of whom I know from other online adventures (mainly #rhizo14). Just knowing that these guys are involved is enough motivation to get engaged with the project, as they are some of the most open, curious, creative & inspiring people I know. But they’ve also invited me to contribute as a “guest creator”, which will involve at some point coming up with a post or activity to inspire, provoke and challenge participants to experiment with some form of creative expression.

Additionally exciting, is that two weeks before the official start, it’s already begun to take on a life of it’s own. Starting with Bruno Winck’s (@brunowwinck) awesome first post for #digiwrimo:

A couple of twitter exchanges later, and an off-the-cuff spontaneous collaborative writing adventure sprouted:

There is a lot that excites me about this: that a day ago, Bruno wasn’t even sure about whether he should participate in digiwrimo; a day later not only has he written the first digiwrimo post, but inspired a new collaborative writing activity. This doesn’t surprise me. As the one-man founder-moderator-organiser of the lively weekly #pkmchat, I’m often in awe of Bruno’s seemingly tireless energy and enthusiasm for self improvement and connecting with others.  It’s the same energy and enthusiasm that I see in everyone I know who is great at network and community building . It is this infectious enthusiasm that draws people into communities and networks (like #digiwrimo). It’s certainly what’s inspired me to write my first post in quite a while.

You can join digiwrimo at any time – subscribe here for updates: http://www.digitalwritingmonth.com/

Join in the spontaneous collaborative ‘story jumping’ experiment here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GZdGbVonf7VWRkS7cR07lAm0YM0Q8xG1-cugviK2hQg/edit

 

Connected Learning hangout – educators across contexts

Really excited about participating in this Connected Learning Google Hangout…in a couple of hours: educators across contexts. Mostly because it’s a chance to have a live conversation with some amazing educators: Maha Bali, Shyam Sharma, Lenandlar Singh (fellow conspirators / contributors in edcontexts.org), Tania Sheko, Asao B. Inoue …and possibly even the one and only Simon Ensor  (which will no doubt add an interesting and exciting twist to the conversation).

But also because anything edcontexts-related makes me think really deeply and in interesting ways about education, learning, teaching – and how this relates to what I do in a work context – and perhaps importantly – as a human being.  To be honest, I’ve always felt a LITTLE out of place in the edcontexts group – everyone else is an educator in a higher ed, teaching, or academic context…and here I am, working in a corporate / organisational context doing eLearning stuff. But what I’ve realised, after being involved in it for a year, is that – this is the point: that we ARE from different contexts, bringing different perspectives of teaching, learning and education into the mix.

What I’ve realised is that we ALL learn and teach, every day, in informal contexts – in our everyday interactions with others, as parents, friends, family members, employees, employers – living with other people necessarily involves teaching and learning. And this is the beauty of the ‘edcontexts’ concept: it’s really just about telling a personal story, sharing a perspective about teaching and/or learning in any context – and it’s the nuance of the context that matters and makes it interesting. We all have a voice, we all have a story (many stories) about this – edcontexts is about sharing those stories so that others can relate and learn – and as with any ‘re-telling’ of a narrative, YOU learn a lot from the process of telling/retelling the story. And one of the things I love about being involved in the edcontexts.org project is reviewing posts – the range and variety of articles we get is amazing, and the differences in expression – hearing the different voices through the writing – is fascinating (yes, this is a blog post in itself…which I have been meaning to write for ages…).

We’ll be talking more about what ‘edcontexts’ means in the hangout. Look forward to seeing how the conversation pans out.

 

Forward Government Learning 2015 – “Future of the LMS in the Public Sector”

On Friday I presented this session at the Forward Government Learning conference, on the topic “The Future of the LMS in the Public Sector”.

It can be difficult to make meaning from slides alone, so here is some of the thinking and context behind these ideas.

Ideas & inspiration

It wasn’t a topic I chose directly (I don’t find LMSs in and of themselves particularly inspiring…and “LMS” and “Public Sector” together in one sentence even less so). However, as I started thinking about what I could possibly say that wouldn’t put people to sleep (especially on a Friday afternoon…), I started seeing some potentially interesting angles.

I wasn’t interested in looking at the capabilities of the LMS as a system from a technical perspective, so much as the drivers for change in how LMSs are viewed and used – and what this means for people. My initial thoughts were influenced by my own observations and experiences in the organisation I work for (Transport for NSW, a large state government agency responsible for the operation of public transport services – rail, buses, roads & maritime). During my (relatively short) time in the public sector, I’ve seen reforms like consolidation of agencies, moves toward shared services, and the increasing prevalence of holistic workplace learning models like 70:20:10 – all of which has an impact what we do in Organisational Development (OD), and the systems that we use (in OD/L&D, primarily the LMS).

Interested in other people’s views, I also put out a call on twitter to (ex)-Government peeps in my PLN (which I’ve Storified here), and collected ideas and examples from others in Transport OD. I am grateful to Con Sotidis and Vanessa North from my PLN who provided their thoughts; and Martin Caldwell and Helen Fullarton at Transport OD who gave me information and examples of portfolios of evidence and competency assessment initiatives they are involved in implementing.

4 key areas

I ended up structuring these ideas into 4 key areas:

  1. Shared services > shared systems – this is essentially a comment on the public sector trend towards consolidation of agencies and centralisation of services (L&D/OD/HR/Payroll/Procurement), and how this is driving the consolidation of systems (like LMSs). I’m interested in how this subsequently impacts people-process-workflow-behaviour…and potentially values – particularly when applied to the L&D/OD space. And additionally, what this might mean if / when this sharing & collaboration happens across different government agencies.
  2. Integrated systems > seamless employee experiences – within organisations (certainly mine) there seems to be a move towards integration of people systems (LMS/HR/Payroll/Performance Management/Devt). (A few government delegates at the conference mentioned the same was happening in their organisations). I’m interested in how this changes (improves) the employee experience – especially experiences like recruitment and induction. Ultimately (once the implementation issues are ironed out…) it should lead to much more seamless employee experiences than is currently the case.
  3. Holistic models and practices for workplace learning > moving beyond the LMS as sole delivery platform – I’m seeing an increasing maturation in thinking and practice in the use of the LMS as a delivery platform – driven  by workplace learning models like 70:20:10 becoming more mainstream. There will always be a place for LMSs in highly regulated industries (like transport, health, finance etc). But most of the interesting stuff – the stuff that actually gets close to supporting people for better on-the-job performance – is happening outside of the LMS (at least perhaps until LMSs catch up and become more flexible and adaptable):
    • There’s a much greater recognition of the limitations of the LMS for supporting the 70 and 20 components (e.g. performance support, coaching, mentoring), and appreciation that often, there is little or no value in tracking these activities in an LMS (particularly if ‘completion’ and ‘score’ is the only data that can be reported on). Subsequently there is increasing use of more dynamic, accessible and flexible platforms like the intranet, sharepoint, portals and mobile apps to support on-the-job, just-in-time workplace learning.
    • Use of portfolios of evidence to collect a broad range of authentic and meaningful artifacts to demonstrate competency in actual task / job performance (vs ‘content completion’ or ‘score’), and also to promote more reflective practice.
    • Greater blending of comms and learning – especially to support broad based organisational change initiatives. In Transport, our internal comms team is actually part of OD. This is leading to a more integrated and aligned messaging, and enabling more ‘campaign’-based approaches to supporting organisational change.
  4. Beyond SCORM and completion tracking > xAPI for more meaningful and integrated data – although xAPI (“tin can”) is still very much in an experimental phase, I don’t think any conversation about the “future of” LMSs can exclude mention of it. Here, I was interested in exploring conceptually how it could be used to ultimately help people to work better and improve performance  – by gathering and using more meaningful data about how people work and learn – and developing tighter feedback loops between the two to inform training interventions (as one potential use for xAPI in the L&D/OD context). *NOTE: a comment from a delegate at the conference mentioned LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) as an alternative to xAPI for achieving similar outcomes. Sounds like something worth looking into.

Whilst there wasn’t quite as much discussion as I’d hoped from the session (last up on a Friday afternoon is not exactly the time to get a conversation going…), keen to hear any thoughts and perhaps start (or continue) a conversation here or elsewhere. Get in touch.

Conversation spaces for deep learning

Preface: this is a post I wrote back in March-April 2015 but hadn’t published as I’d wanted to create a more readable version of the diagram (yes. It took THAT long. Mainly because, as is often the case with draft / unpublished posts, I forgot about it then lost the momentum / motivation to go back to it). I’m digging into the blog draft archives and posting them without significant editing to try to develop a ‘WorkOutLoud’ attitude and become more comfortable with publicly sharing work-in-progress.

I’ve been thinking a lot about conversation spaces lately: public and private; online and offline; formal and informal places and spaces, and how each of these might support various ways of knowing and learning.

The seed of this thinking was planted by Kandy Woodfield’s excellent and thought provoking post last year on the ethics of (open) social learning and working out loud. Kandy’s post prompted me to start considering the role, pros/cons, and differences of open, public, professional learning spaces vs closed, private, personal ones – and how our learning across these contexts interact to influence our identity, connections, conversations, mindset and behaviour.

This thinking has been kick-started again as I’ve reflected on recent ongoing private conversations with a friend. This is a person I have only known for about 6 months, who less than 3 months ago I’d have called an acquaintance. The (what feels like) accelerated status from acquaintance to friend has occurred largely through these private conversations, in which we’ve explored complex topics at a personal level, through a variety of mediums: in-person conversations, text messages, email, phone calls. These conversations have been open, honest, challenging and confusing, where I’ve learnt as much about myself as I have about my friend; that have challenged me to think about things that I otherwise wouldn’t have (or wanted to); and inspired and supported me to change the way I approach certain situations.

It’s a personal learning experience that feels something like therapy, counselling, or coaching conversations – but without the formality or power dynamics inherent in these contexts. John Stepper’s WOL circles (based on Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean in’ circles) – an informal model for peer coaching and support might be an apt comparison. But yet more emergent, organic (serendipitous?) – without the guidelines, explicitly articulated purpose, or group dynamic.

As learning practitioners and educators we often ponder how to achieve deep, personally meaningful learning that inspires and supports ongoing, long term behaviour change. The type of learning that – in an organisational context – translates not only to impacts on business measures, but broad and lasting cultural change. That in an educational context – might lead to a breakthrough transition: from uncooperative/disruptive students with low self esteem to enthusiastic students proud of their achievements with a newfound thirst for learning (This inspiring EdContexts post by Éllen Cintra is a great example). The type of learning that prompts individuals to examine within, reflect deeply, question long held beliefs, and change their behaviour or habits.

My instinct is that all of these learning experiences come about through similar underlying processes. I have been wondering about the characteristics of this type of profound learning: how it emerges, whether it could be achieved in an intentionally designed environment, and the conditions that are needed to facilitate it.

And what I’m thinking might drive this type of learning is conversation. Conversations of: openness. honesty. empathy, shared understanding. shared purpose, trust. Vulnerability. Acceptance. Mutual, ongoing support. Conversations that make you FEEL deeply as well as think deeply. That engender emotional, as well as cognitive connection. It may not be so much about finding a solution to a defined problem, as it is about uncovering, unravelling, & exploring complexity and supporting each other to figure out how and what might work.

Can environments be ‘designed’ to support this type of learning?

‘Design’ in this context is not about developing the right set of ‘learning resources’. It’s not about setting up an ESN (Enterprise Social Network) and hoping for the best – or manufacturing reasons for people to ‘interact’. It’s about creating the right type of ‘conversation space’ for these personally or professionally meaningful conversations (and learning > relationships > behaviour change) to emerge.

Here is a ‘back of the envelope’ set of conditions that I’m thinking might be important:

  • Private or semi-private (e.g. a closed group) conversation spaces. High degrees of trust and vulnerability are critical for deep learning. This may be difficult (impossible?) to achieve in an open, public space. Personal conversations, private/direct/text messages, coaching or performance conversations, journals, WOL circles are all examples of private conversation spaces.
  • In-person contact – maybe it’s possible to develop the same level of trust and vulnerability exclusively through online interactions, but I’m still not entirely sure (reflecting on this conversation on Terry Elliot’s blog re the nature of connection). At the least, it might take longer and be more difficult than if there were opportunities for face to face contact. More ‘present’ forms of online interaction like Google Hangouts, Skype or video calls might help bridge the gap.
  • Regular, ongoing contact, ‘check-ins’ – this may be essential for the ‘change’ aspect of this learning – ongoing, mutual support, talking through issues, encouragement to try (and keep trying) different courses of action, following up and reflecting on what seems to work (or not) is a form of social accountability, and helps motivate, kickstart & continue behaviour change.
  • Empathy / shared experiences and/or purpose – empathy can be so important for developing trust. Maybe because when empathy is present there is no judgement. Empathy might come from shared experiences and/or a shared purpose. Or might simply emerge from listening without judgement.

This is something I drafted a couple of months ago, to start mapping out some of this thinking. I always intended to post it as a ‘thinking out loud’ artifact, but wasn’t inspired to write the framing post and backstory for it until my personal conversations with my friend, and the conversation on Terry’s blog got me revisiting this thinking. (Thanks Terry – and thanks to my friend who has been integral to the backstory. I think you might know who you are).

conversation spaces - work in progress

These are the original scribblings and notes that the above diagram evolved from (you can see why I needed to convert it to a more legible format…):

conversationspaces-evolution

Reflections on wolweek

Well…#wolweek (“working out loud” week) didn’t quite turn out as I’d anticipated, when I optimistically wrote a post last week about intending to participate.

Day 1-2 I was mostly offline, madly finishing a work piece to support a huge organisation-wide ERP project. Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week…but I never managed the flurry of tweets and blog posts of updates on work in progress and half baked thoughts I’d imagined at the week’s beginning. I was reflecting on why this was the case, and I think it comes down to the simple fact that it takes more than just intentions to change behaviour. Although I had the intention to participate, I didn’t actually think about how I’d do it. Starting a #wol habit and participating actively in #wolweek involves actively participating in a community. This starts with consciously and habitually checking the feed, responding to other’s updates as well as sharing your own – and integrating this behaviour into your work day. This is the challenge of any new behaviour change.

As Jeff Merrell pointed out on my previous post, #wol isn’t just about sharing publicly, but sharing and being open with anyone you’re working with. Yes, I was in ongoing communication and shared work in progress with stakeholders in the project (something I am consciously working on getting more comfortable with – and have found that early sharing of incomplete work or initial ideas- can be very helpful). But – were there also moments when sharing what I was working on with the broader network outside of my immediate work group could have helped me? Definitely.

Some of these moments included:

  • trying to figure out how to link internally to a set of html files from a page in an elearning authoring tool. Googling it brought up a number of promising looking links – but they were all to the vendor’s (CLOSED) community. When I tried joining the community to access the forum posts, the activation email didn’t work. I gave up, and eventually called the vendor’s support where I eventually got the information I needed to make it work. It was a frustrating experience that could possibly have been short circuited by directly consulting my network. Did I even think of this at the time? No. (This goes back to not having thought about the sorts of things I’d share during #wolweek, and when).
  • toying with the idea of a structural change to the online comms/awareness piece I was working on. I ended up leaving it in the end but at that point when you’ve looked at something 1000 times and lost all objectivity, getting feedback from someone with no background or prior knowledge can be helpful.
  • researching how to develop & deploy an ipad app (scoping the specs so still have a chance to get help on this)

So…although #wolweek is just about over, and didn’t go quite as I’d intended, I’m hoping my reflections on why, how and what i could have done will help keep #wol front of mind for me, and trigger a response to share what I’m working on and learn from others. And at least I’m getting more comfortable with blurting out quick posts.

I’ve also got a bunch of old drafts that I will publish…likely over the next week (as it’s after midnight now and I don’t have the energy to do anything other than post this one!).

Developing a work out loud ‘attitude’

I’ve been conscious that I haven’t posted anything here for several months. Part of this has been a result of me consciously spending less time online in general, to focus on being more ‘present’ at home, to reprioritise a few things and to give genuine attention and time to important relationships in my life.

That said, not publishing anything isn’t the same as not writing – I have numerous ‘draft’ posts in various stages of ‘completeness’ which I haven’t published. I’ve often wondered why this is so…and I think part of it is fear of publishing something which seems ‘incomplete’ or not entirely thought through.

But, as Jeff Merrell so eloquently expressed in a (relatively) recent post ‘Working out loud week lesson: ignore the network’, publishing ‘work out loud’ reflections and ‘half baked thoughts’ has value in itself – for yourself (to articulate and capture your thinking). And more than likely, has value for others – even if you don’t get an immediate or explicit response from anyone telling you so. The value of making something public is that you provide the opportunity for someone, sometime to benefit from it – possibly at some point after you wrote it.

And in fact, this exact thing happened to me around the time I read Jeff’s post: Norman Jackson, who publishes an online magazine on learning, personal development & education, stumbled upon the ‘work in progress’ post I’d written 3 months earlier on the PLN model I was working on as part of my Masters research – and asked if he might publish it as part of an issue on PLNs he was doing for the magazine. It was one of those purely serendipitous moments…but one that was only possible because I’d posted those thoughts publicly, instead of just working on it privately.

Doing this consistently and regularly – and integrating it into part of ‘what you do’ is the challenge. Another post which recently changed the way I viewed ‘working out loud’ was Nigel Young’s ‘When working out loud isn’t really WOL’. The most important point, for me, in his post was the notion that ‘working out loud’ is an attitude – it’s simply about sharing, exploring ideas & seeking feedback openly and in public. This doesn’t necessarily just mean blogging or on social media, it can also be in asking questions and sharing ideas in meetings, on the whiteboard – or in any medium.

So, when I saw Helen Blunden’s post on Third Place inviting the group to join her in ‘work out loud’ week (June 15-21 2015) I thought it might be a good opportunity to start consciously practising and developing this ‘work out loud’ attitude.

And although (as Nigel says) blogging isn’t necessarily the ONLY medium for working out loud, it’s probably one of the more visible options. And there’s nothing like a bit of social accountability and collective action to kickstart a new attitude (or habit). I might even post some of those ‘unfinished’ drafts.