Working Out Loud Circles – Who Will Join Us?

On 12 August I joined an OzLearn Twitter chat about Working Out Loud (WOL).  I will update this post with a link to the Storify archive of this chat when it is published.  We were fortunate to be joined by Simon Terry who blogs about WOL (amongst other topics).

Bryce Williams initially defined the concept of Working Out Loud as:

Narrating Your Work + Observable Work.

John Stepper does a good job describing what these two elements mean in “Working Out Loud: Your Personal Content Strategy.”  Jane Bozarth calls the practice Showing Your Work.

WOL

Yet, what practices actually constitute Working Out Loud can be a bit elusive.  There was a sense during the OzLearn chat that we were all Working Out Loud already, although which of our practices fell into this category and which didn’t was muddy.  One thing there was consensus on is that we each derive benefit from our WOL practices, and that the organisations we work in / with can benefit from widespread adoption of WOL.

It was Simon Terry who brought the groups attention to John Stepper’s idea of Working Out Loud Circles, which he describes as great peer support group.  Stepper describes how to implement WOL Circles, and suggests that they could be systematically spread to reap organisational benefits.  The idea quickly captured the interest of a number of chat participants and we’ve decided to set up some WOL Circles in Australia.

Each WOL circle consists of 4-5 people who meet for one hour per week over a twelve week period following a structured program.  Meetings can be held online or face-to-face. We will use the tool kit contained in John’s soon to be published book.  This is not intended to be a program that the OzLearn community ‘manages or ‘controls’ – rather an initiative to provide participants with an opportunity to improve their WOL practices.  It will also provide experience with an approach that participants could then use to implement WOL in their organisations.

Participation is open to any interested person who is able to join meetings held in Australian time zones.  We will kick off the first circles in late August / early September – as soon as we have enough people and an advance copy of John’s book.  If you are interested in joining a circle please leave your name and some way of contacting you (e.g. Twitter, email) in a comment below – or get in touch with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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How Twitter Chats Help Me Learn

lrnchatozlearnIn late March 2014 I joined my first Twitter chat.  Three months later I’ve participated in a  five Twitter chats with either #lrnchat or #ozlearn.  Today I reviewed the published chat archives to reflect on how participating in Twitter chats help me to learn.

What is a Twitter Chat?

A Twitter chat is a live, real-time moderated discussion on a specific topic that takes place via Twitter messages with the use of a specific hashtag.  Anyone who is interested in the topic can join.

The following articles explain how Twitter chats work and provide tips on how to participate:

Twitter Chat’s I’ve Joined

  • #Lrnchat March 27 – Working Smarter*
  • #OzLearn April 8 – Alignment Requires Clarity
  • #Ozlearn May 13 – Consistency in Learning & Development
  • #Lrnchat June 6 – On The Job Learning*
  • #OzLearn Chat July 8 – Benchmarking in L&D

* OzLearn Chat archives are published at lrnchat.com

My Chat Experiences

In all of these chats the moderator has asked a series of questions on the topic to which participants respond.  I’ve found the questions thoughtfully constructed and logically sequenced.

Twitter Chat 2During my first chat I answered questions and retweeted some responses of others.  Mostly I watched, read, and got used to the format. It was a busy forum and I had to concentrate.  I recognised some participants as conference speakers and authors, but was unfamiliar with most.  Five chats and ten weeks later I participate actively and fluidly.   I ask questions about others comments and experience, engage in side-discussions, and share resources.

I am now comfortable using Twitter and my online Personal Learning Network (PLN) has grown, so I ‘know’ more participants.  My PLN growth is in part due to chats – I always leave a chat with more people on my following and followed lists.

Twitterchat 1

 

Familiarity with other participants makes me comfortable to have a more robust discussion.

 

 My Most Valuable Twitter Chat

I found the OzLearn chat on Benchmarking in L&D particularly valuable as:

  • the topic was relevant to my needs
  • a subject matter expert attended
  • pre-reading was provided
  • useful resources were shared during the chat
  • there was a lot of healthy exploration of comments
  • I was motivated to act at the end of the chat
  • the chat was well curated on Storify, with commentary and presentation of discussion threads gathered together rather than a stream of chronologically ordered tweets (thanks @tanyalau for your curation)

Twitter Chat 3

Twitter Chat 4

 

 

 

Chat Archives

While I favourite tweets to follow up after a chat, I also find chat archives useful and have started bookmarking those that I may want to refer to at a later date using Diigo.  The other way in which archives are useful is where I am unable to attend a chat on a topic I am interested in.  This is particularly challenging for those of us in Asia-Pacific region where chats are being hosted at times convenient to either U.S or European participants, but in the middle of the night for us.  I regularly review the #ESNChat archives.

How Twitter Chats Help Me to Learn

Steven Anderson has presented the case on this very well in Why Twitter Chats Matter. Twitter chats help me to learn by allowing me to:

  • Meet new people
  • Hear new ideas
  • Explore opposing view points
  • Find new resources
  • Create action

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How the Conference Backchannel Adds Value

I’m fairly new to using Twitter for professional development having been actively experimenting with it since March 2014.  One of the ways that Twitter is used is for real-time conversation during a conference, known as the ‘backchannel’.  In My #ASTD2014 Backchannel Experience on 7 May I wrote about my experience of being a backchannel only conference participant.  Since that time I’ve participated in two more backchannels – the Australian Institute of Training & Development (AITD) conference (14-15 May) where I also physically attended the whole conference, and EduTech Brisbane (3-5 June) where I attended half a day of the two day event. Of the three events, I was most active in the AITD conference.  I used Twitter to take notes by tweeting (or retweeting) key points at the sessions I attended.  Following the conference I then used Storify to review tweets with the conference hashtag, and create a summary and reflection on my conference experience which I published as My #AITD2014 Experience.  Using the backchannel in this way turned it into a sense-making activity.  Watching and, in some cases responding to, what others were sharing in the backchannel extended and enriched my conference experience further by:

  • making me aware of what others found important in the session content
  • providing relevant examples
  • providing me with links to additional resources
  • introducing other points of view on topics being discussed
  • helping me to network with other participants
  • giving me the occasional laugh (good ingredient for learning)

I was speaking in a panel at EduTech on the afternoon of Day One and looked at the backchannel as I travelled in the morning to see if I could pick up on any themes or information that might connect to my topic.  I noticed immediately how active the backchannel was – I had heard that educators were high Twitter users.  Then I saw that there were 4000 attendees, so even if only 5% of attendees were tweeting across the 10 concurrent ‘congresses’ (separate conference streams) it was going to be a busy backchannel (I’ve since seen a claim that there were over 10,000 tweets at the 2 day conference). I struggled to unravel tweets from the different streams and make sense of what was going on (a plea to organisers of large conferences – stream or session-specific hashtags please!). What was helpful in the EduTECH backchannel (as well as visually attractive) was the summary of the first keynote session tweeted by @art_cathyhunt.  Cathy’s sketch note summaries were so useful that they were shared in Twitter over 10,000 times and she’s published them as a collection.

EduTech Summary 1 Value Adding Backchannel Behaviours

Cathy’s sketch notes got me thinking about the different ways in which people add value in the backchannel. Here is a list of some value-adding backchannel behaviours, with examples.

Reporting1Reporting – Tweeting key points made by presenters, sometimes with photos of slides.  Context helps those participating in back channel only to make sense of the points.  It’s useful to see the topic and presenter tweeted when a session is commencing, and when session has ended, and also a tweet when the presenter moves from one topic to another.

Tweet3

Applying – Tweeting examples of personal application of an approach, technique or tool that the presenter is discussing, with a short reflection on the good, bad and lessons learned.

Extending3

Extending4

 

Extending – Sharing links to additional resources and relevant internet sites.

Pondering1

Reflecting / Pondering – Asking ‘what if’ or ‘how could I’ type questions to prompt consideration of how the session content could be applied.

Connecting1Connecting - Creating links between, for example, different conference sessions or linking the session to the conference theme.

Tweet4Questioning - Posing questions to the backchannel.  Sometimes these are hypothetical.  What I enjoy more is those that generate tweeted responses & discussion.

Summary3 Summary1Summarising – Summarising key themes and overall content of a session and sharing either shortly after a session (as per Cathy Hunt’s EduTECH examples) or in a blog within a few days of the session.

Curation1Collating / Curating – Publishing links to a set of conference and backchannel resources.  Here’s a great example from ASTD2014 curated by David Kelly.

 

I was going to include Challenging / Provoking in this list – Thinking critically about session content and challenging the information or ideas in order to present counter-views or a different perspective.  However, I couldn’t find a backchannel tweet representative of this behaviour.  It’s not something I’ve seen done often; perhaps we’re too polite…..

Physical versus Backchannel Conference Participation

Kent Brooks lists 10 Reasons to Tweet at a Conference, all of which ring true for me and are great reasons why I will continue to play in the backchannel when I attend conferences.

Joining via the backchannel only is not a substitute for physically being at a conference, fully immersed in the sessions, discussions and interactions.  I have found following a backchannel in real time a fragmented, slightly disconnected, and sometimes chaotic experience.  However, summaries and curated collections posted at the end of sessions, full days, or whole conferences provide a filtered presentation of themes and resources.  In effect someone else has started the sense-making process for me, making it easier for me to access the best of the conference.  It’s also a great way of interacting with those in my PLN who are attending, and finding more interesting people to follow.  And it’s certainly better than not being able to join in conferences that I am interested in but not able to attend.

See you in the backchannel…..

 

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Observation as a Key Sense-Making Skill

I’m currently completing Harold Jarche’s 40 Days to Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) program.  The program uses Harold’s Seek-Sense-Share PKM framework.  I’ve always been intrigued by the ‘Sense’ step – it’s struck me as a black art, the space between gathering information and sharing it as some form of mature, processed product where “magic happens”.

I’ve just completed an activity in Observation based on looking closely at my Twitter feed for the previous week in order to find patterns between people or connect seemingly separate ideas together. I was frustrated early in the activity and felt like giving in.  I persevered and concentrated, while seeking to keep an open mind.  And then, somehow, by sticking with this as a purposeful exercise, magic did indeed happen. If you’re curious about how I completed this exercise in observation and what I noticed take a look at this Storify post.

This experience demonstrated to me the value of slowing down and making time to really observe, explore, and think critically rather than just dipping in and out of a stream of information quickly and lightly.  Great exercise Harold – thank you!

 

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MOOCs – An L&D Practitioner’s Experience

In 2013 I participated in a Learning Cafe working group on MOOCs for Workplace Learning with colleagues from other corporate organisations.  The group concluded that:

Learning-Cafe-Call-on-MOOCs2-276x135MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) can be a mainstream employee learning option.  It offers cost effective solutions for organisations with the benefits far outweighing the challenges.  L&D/HR need to be proactive in exploring and including MOOCs in learning strategies.

I was invited to be a panellist at EduTECH 2014 alongside two fellow working group members. Jeevan Joshi (Learning Cafe founder) summarised the Working Group’s activities and findings, while Tim Drinkall from NBNCo and myself each spoke about our own experiences exploring MOOCs.  I presented two perspectives: (1) MOOCs for my own professional development; and (2) MOOCs as an employee learning option in my organisation (where I focus on technical capability development for Supply Chain roles).  The views presented in this blog post are entirely my own and do not represent those of either Learning Cafe or my employer.

In summary my experience suggests that:

  • MOOCs are a valid option that L&D professionals should include in their professional development portfolio; and
  • MOOCs will only be a valid mainstream option for technical capability development when (if?) courses are developed on relevant subjects, and where the organisation supports the learners to apply the content in their workplace and learn from the experience.

MOOCs for L&D Professional Development

I have enrolled in three MOOCs for my own professional development (PD), and completed one.  Personal motivation was the key to my MOOC completion, driven primarily by relevance to my immediate needs.

In most instances MOOCs are a self-directed learning experience, for which barriers to entry are very low (no entry criteria, no/low fees).  I did not know any other participants, few people were aware that I had enrolled, and there were no adverse consequences for non-completion.  This was a low-risk PD experiment.  My completion of these MOOCs was dependent on intrinsic motivation.  While all three subjects were of interest to me, only the course that I completed addressed specific skills that I had an immediate need to apply.  While I skimmed the content in the other two courses and initially made an attempt to join the overwhelmingly large and relatively chaotic online discussions, the subjects weren’t a high enough priority for me to allocate time to these MOOCs.  Having said this, I did get value from being able to skim the content and look more closely at anything that caught my eye.

SMOOCThe MOOC that I completed was Social Media for Active Learning from Florida State University (FSU).  It ran for four weeks with topics on curation, social media lessons, Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and privacy & ethics (the latter an important and often overlooked aspect of this subject area).  Each topic could be completed independently.  Weekly content was presented via three short videos, a one hour webinar (recorded for those who not attend live), and linked readings and tools. To earn a topic badge required posting in response to three discussion topics (self-selected from a longer list), completing and posting a project, passing an online quiz, and providing feedback on the topic.  (As a slight aside, I was surprised that I enjoyed earning the topic badges, and suspect that I may not have completed the final topic were it not for the desire to complete the badge set – this has shifted my view on using badges in my work.)

SMOOC Badges

The content and activities were relevant, practical and well-presented.  I particularly liked the use of separate discussion threads for each question which made it easy to follow a conversation without interference from other discussion threads.  With the exception of the recorded webinars all content ran well on my iPad, so it was convenient to work on the MOOC during my daily public transport commute.  There was a lot of feedback provided by the FSU students who formed the course support team.  Some discussion did occur on Twitter and my PLN expanded slightly.  I really enjoyed the social interaction in this MOOC and looking at the project work completed by others.  Most pleasing of all was that I was able to use some of the project outputs in my workplace, and immediately apply the knowledge and skills I picked up during the course.

I now regard MOOCs as a useful additional option for my ongoing PD, particularly where I have an immediate opportunity to apply the content.

External MOOCs for Organisational Technical Capability Development

I joined the Learning Cafe working group as I was attracted to the idea of “free” courses from reputable institutions that could be incorporated into the suite of learning options in my organisation.  My organisational learners work predominantly in manufacturing, maintenance, warehousing, distribution, supply planning and scheduling. Over the past year I have searched several times for MOOCs relevant to the technical knowledge and skills of these learners.  Alas, there are very few on offer.  Even if there were relevant MOOCs available there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Effort needs to be put into finding and evaluating a MOOC just as it does any other type of formal learning.  (Note that I am deliberately discussing formal learning options at this point).  Some learners may require support to effectively engage and learn in a MOOC environment, especially where it is true to the pedagogy of interaction on a massive scale.

70201

Looking at learning through the lens of the 70:20:10 framework (which is used successfully in my organisation), generally a MOOC has the potential to address theory (10%) and the social (20%) aspects of learning.  However, for technical skills the experiential learning (70%) requires hands on application of skills in real world context.  Some highly motivated and adept self-directed learners will be able to generate the application and reflection required to create experiential learning from a MOOC; many will require support to achieve this.  That support may come from an internal group of peer learners undertaking the same MOOC, an interested leader, or an L&D practitioner.

Another option is to blend a MOOC in full or part into a learning program.  This is one of the opportunities that Donald Clark sees for use of MOOCs by corporates. In a similar vein, the content of many MOOCs is open source, hence provides another source for curation of material for use in formal and informal learning.  This is the extent to which I have used MOOCs within my organisation at the time of writing.

These are some of the activities into which L&D effort may need to be invested in order to effectively utilise MOOCs for mainstream learning.  Refer to moocsatwork.com for a framework that identifies other considerations for the introduction of external MOOCs into employee learning.

MOOCs as a Model for Internal Program Design

For many L&D practitioners who have worked within the constraints of ‘traditional’ course design and the limitations of their LMS, enrolling in a well-designed MOOC will expose them to a broader range of learning methods (e.g. online discussions, use of current resources curated from the internet) and provide examples of how to use these methods well (e.g. discussion thread structure in Social Media for Active Learning MOOC) as well as what not to do (e.g. a lecturer presenting to a camera for an entire series of videos).  This is one aspect hotly debated in Ryan Tracey’s post on the pedagogy of MOOCs.

I also think there is something in Tanya Lau’s point in response to David Kelly’s post on MOOCs and the Corporate World:

Perhaps in a corporate setting, MOOCs could play this role – … something which can also help people to build their internal network (…and break silos!?) across the organisation.

I am lookbanner-mocm-registrationing forward to exploring MOOCs further on the upcoming MOOC about Corporate MOOCs, which commences on 16 June 2014.

 

 

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Encouraging SMEs to Show Their Work

I drafted this blog post on an aircraft flight.  I was on my way to spend a half day with a small group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to run a kickoff session on development of a learning program for their job role.  The delivery methodology is structured on the job training.  Each session in the program is documented in a Guided Lesson which is, in effect, a session plan that an experienced person can follow when training someone how to do job role tasks.  It emphasis the learning goal and topics that must be covered in the session (generous use of action verbs), rather than the detailed content of ‘how’ to do things.  The ‘how’ is documented in performance support materials like work instructions and screencast system simulations.

The structure of a Guided Lesson is shown below and you can view a Sample Guided Lesson.

Guided Lesson Structure

A Guided Lesson brings greater consistency to ‘buddy training’ and helps keep learning in the workplace context where tasks are actually performed.  As it is delivered on the job the learner can immediately practice the skills covered in the lesson. These are some of the obvious benefits of the approach.

ShowYourWorkAs I skim through the agenda and pre-reading of this session I glance down at Jane Bozarth’s book Show Your Work, which is sitting on my lap underneath my notes.  I have an ‘aha’ moment.  The other vitally important source of information about ‘how’ to do things is the tacit knowledge that resides within the SMEs. These are the things that they know about how to perform effectively in the role that are not so easy to document and codify, or difficult to follow when written down – like how to deal with exceptions, how to best communicate with different stakeholders, how to influence others to make decisions.

I think that one of the reasons Guided Lessons have been so effective and well received as an approach to technical training in my organisation is that the format allows experienced people to share not only documented explicit knowledge but also their tacit knowledge.  As they deliver a Lesson and refer to performance support material they can also discuss their experience and insights into how they work.

This is something that our SMEs will readily understand, and I think gives me a great way to start conversations with SMEs about showing their work more publicly to larger groups of people.  If they can see it as an extension of what they are already doing when training a novice then one aspects of the purpose and benefits of showing their work may be easier for them to grasp, and the approach may feel more natural.  We can then go on to discuss other benefits.  This also feels like a straightforward way for me to introduce the idea of showing your work to others in my workplace.

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My #ASTD2014 Backchannel Experience

This week I have been endeavouring to participate in the ASTD Conference Twitter backchannel.  Given that I live in a time zone 14 hours ahead of the conference location I would need the dedication of a World Cup fan to participate in real time.  On Day 1 I opted for a lagged experience.

On my morning bus commute (at which point Conference Day 1 was wrapping up) I scrolled through #ASTD2014 hoping to pick up some overall themes.  After 20 minutes of skimming in reverse chronological order (this being the way Twitter search results are presented) I had favourited some interesting insights, mostly on design for user experience, but was having difficulty putting things together.  It was like being given a few pieces of a jigsaw at a time – in fact, several jigsaws all mixed in together as Tweeters were posting from a range of concurrent sessions – and not knowing what I was missing.  Also, I had only worked by way through an hour of conference tweets, and felt that my time investment had exceeded the value of what I had gleaned.  It struck me that it would make more sense to work through session tweets in chronological order from the start of each session rather than reverse order.

On the morning of Day 2 I tried something different – participating in the backchannel in real time.

Tweet1

Before getting started I asked other #ASTD2014 back channellers how they were finding the experience.  Jane Hart (@C4LPT) commented that few people were tweeting with session hashtags which makes it difficult to isolate relevant tweets. This explains my jigsaw experience, and I learnt that session hashtags could be used -the jigsaw pieces would be easier to sort if they were labelled.  I noticed several tweets commenting on the low percentage of conference attendees who were actually tweeting, which is disappointing given that this is a large international gathering of L&D professionals.

I found Mark Brit’s (@britz) comment on the value of the backchannel insightful, and decided to look for examples that met his criteria of quality, frequency, and context.

Tweet2

 

 

 

So, at 10.30pm Sydney time I sat in bed and joined the first session of Day 2 – a keynote address given by General Stanley McChrystal.  As it was the only session running at this time at least I wouldn’t be trying to figure out which jigsaw the pieces belonged to.

In the first half of the session the tweets were predominantly informational – sharing key points being presented, with lots of photos of a slide summarising the speaker’s key points.  This gave me an idea of where the presentation was heading.  General McChrystal then started telling stories – good ones apparently.  I think he told two main stories – one about Captain Sully landing an aircraft in the Hudson River, and another about the operation to capture Bin Laden.  As they are both well known stories I could picture them, and I think that the main point of each story was tweeted, however any subtleties in McCarthy’s observations were not conveyed through the backchannel.  I suspect that Twitter is not an easy medium to use for real time capture and sharing of a story being told verbally.  I retweeted a couple of items from this informational flow, but was conscious that my followers had even less context than I did and in isolation these retweets might be of little value to anyone.

Tweet3 I was waiting for someone to start a different kind of backchannel conversation – to discuss what was being presented, or to share additional resources.  At 11.03pm it happened – @eGeeking shared a relevant personal experience (thank you!).

The first backchannel question was posed by @dan_steer at 11.05pm and I took my opportunity to join the conversation.  I exchanged a few comments with Dan, but no-one joined in our thread.  @ImagiRaven also replied to Dan.  perhaps everyone else was too focussed on General McCarthy to join in the side discussion.  It felt a bit like we were talking in class, albeit in a constructive way – helping each other to process information and think out loud.  A good discussion helps me figure out what I think, so I enjoy using Twitter in this way.

ASTD Tweet 10I only saw one other question posed in the backchannel during this session, which left me wondering whether all hash tagged tweets were actually appearing in my search (I was using Hootsuite on my MacBook Pro).

ASTD Tweet11

 

The other thing I was waiting to see was sharing of additional relevant resources. These came towards the end of the session.  Perhaps the speaker had mentioned them, or attendees had searched for them during the session.  Either way, they were a useful addition to the ‘context’ of the session.

 

Tweet9

I had a sense that the session was wrapping up from a flurry of comments on the standard of the presentation.  I really appreciated @eGeeking advising the backchannel that the session had indeed ended, and letting us know how long the break was before the next session.

So, how did I rate my backchannel experience against Mark Britz’s criterion?

1) Frequency – there were enough people tweeting that I was able to follow session progress, although there was a lot of redundancy in informational tweets.

2) Quality – although I was focussed as much on observing the backchannel process as I was on the session content, I still extracted some useful insights.  For example, the crew resource management approach in aviation trains the crew (amongst other things) how to communicate in an emergency rather than precisely how to respond to every possible emergency (which is unachievable). The business application is to build communication skills and teamwork to help our people figure out a response to a range of situations. A more active backchannel discussion would have improved the quality of the experience and value of the content for me.

3) Context  this was the most challenging of the criterion for the backchannel to meet.  I couldn’t grab the corner and side pieces to start constructing the jigsaw. Even though it was easier to follow the session in chronological tweet order, I was still working hard cognitively to put the pieces together as I was given them; it helped that I was being given pieces that fitted close to each other.  What did really help to provide the context was a mind map of the session blogged and tweeted very soon after it ended by @Quinnovator  http://blog.learnlets.com/?p=3852. Ah! Now I had my corners and edges with some of the middle pieces thrown in too!  This really helped to bring it together for me.

 

 

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