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Learnscaping

As I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do as a training professional, the word “nurture” keeps coming to mind.  Maybe it’s just that there is 4 inches of snow on everything right now and the earth beneath is frozen solid, or maybe it’s just that anything over 20 degrees F is “pretty warm outside” 😦 , but, I’ve been looking forward to tilling our garden and planting.  Nurture is a word that I’ve come to appreciate, and find myself using alot, these last few weeks.

With this mindset in particular, I loved Jay Cross’ description of Learnscaping

Informal learning is about situated action, collaboration, coaching, and reflection, not study and reading. Developing a platform to support informal learning is analogous to landscaping a garden. A major component of informal learning is natural learning, the notion of treating people as organisms in nature. Our role as learning professionals is to protect their environment, provide nutrients for growth, and let nature take its course. Self-service learners connect to one another, to ongoing flows of information and work, to their teams and organizations, to their customers and markets, not to mention their families and friends.

Because the design of informal learning ecosystems is analogous to landscape design, I will call the environment of informal learning a learnscape. A landscape designer’s goal is to conceptualize a harmonious, unified, pleasing garden that makes the most of the site at hand. A learnscaper strives to create a learning environment that increases the organization’s longevity and health, and the individual learner’s happiness and well-being. Gardeners don’t control plants; managers don’t control people. Gardeners and managers have influence but not absolute authority. They can’t make a plant fit into the landscape or a person fit into a team.

A learnscape is a learning ecology. It’s learning without borders.”

Here’s a suggestion: if you haven’t, or haven’t for a long time, nurture a “plant growing area” in the next couple of months.  Not “keep a plant alive in my cubicle”, but GROW something.  It can be indoors or out, whatever fits your fancy. Make it big enough to fill up at least a 2ftx2ft area.  Start from scratch – use seeds not starts. 

  1. Tear out a [small] piece of your yard or buy/build a planter box if you don’t have a yard.
  2. Tend and amend the soil.  Make the conditions right specifically for those (not just any) plant(s) you’ll be growing.  Think about growing your own tomatoes, carrots, or peppers.  These are pretty common and cheap enough to buy in the store, but always taste better when homegrown.
  3. Don’t plan on just growing them, grow them very well.
  4. Nurture them to fruition, with a hearty helping of patience.
  5. Blog about what you learn…

What learning is about

Whew!  The last week of December -> first week of January is always a crazy one.  This year proved to be no exception but it also provided a good reminder for me of why I love the work I do so much.

Lost in all of the to-do over objective learning outcomes, performance indicators, off-the-production-floor ROI, project [mis]management, the emergence of Learning 2.0 functionality, capturing/fostering informal learning, Connectivism vs. Constructivism vs. Objectivism vs. Behaviorism vs. MyBrainIsGoingToExplodeism, proper modality selection and rigorous adherence to application of andragological  principles…  well, it’s easy to see why we sometimes loose sight of the forest for all the trees.

Last week my kids and I spent a couple of short hours at the Discovery Gateway in Salt Lake City.  It was, well, it was… dare I say… fun.  My four year old ran from one area to the next – obviously far too quickly to acheive any measurable long term performance/skills enhancement (subjecting her to inquisition later proved this true).  Without fail, all of my kids failed to complete even one evaluation form or competency assessment.  But they all (especially the 4 year old) knew that we left waaaaaaay too soon and that it is imperative we go back there again.  If I had thought to record it, I could ODEO our ‘negotiations’ meeting – we got them all in the car but it was not cheap.

Our trip also reminded me of one of the coolest learning experiences I’ve had.  While visiting my inlaws in Santa Rosa, California 2 years ago we went took a day trip down to the Exploratorium in San Franscisco.  I enjoyed science in school, taught middle/high school science for 5 years, and have always thought of Science as a pretty enjoyable domain (as domains go) in general so I think of science museums as a good way to spend a day with my kids.  Usually, I can see the exhibit as I’m walking up to it and have the “science” pretty much figured out before I get to the display itself.  Then it’s jut a matter of playing around with what’s there…  at this stage in my life I think of 99% of this stuff as “cool” but not necessarily insightful or particularly ‘wow’ inducing.  Not that I’m Dr. Smartypants or anything, I’ve just seen a lot of it.

So, I’m casually making my way through the “Life” section of the Exploratorium and I see this display.   In the plexiglass case there are petri dishes with a chick embryo at various develpmental stages.  Starting at the “1-3 days old” end I think “That’s pretty cool, nice little plastic models”.  The I get to the third dish and see… the heart beating!  HUNH?!?  Then I look closer… they are petri dishes with a piece of plastic wrap lightly covering an actual, developing, live baby chick.  I didn’t even notice the heart beating on the second dish which, on closer inspection, it was.  I was completely blown away!  It wasn’t a time-lapse video, it wasn’t even an egg in my own hand (back when we had a rooster and one of our hens would get broody, I used to spotlight the eggs with my kids).  It was there inches away from me… a real, live piece of life that caught me completely off guard.

Now, I don’t intend to ever become an embryologist, a chicken rancher, or even a biology teacher but that moment of discovery is still crystal clear in my mind – when not much else is 🙂

That, for me, is what I love so much about the work I do… nurturing moments and environments of discovery.  I guess I just need a four year old to remind me. 

More on the Learning Function

I’ve been simmering on this one since the post on December 21st and have come up with some things that were more detailed/practical/implementation oriented than the thoughts I put in that post…  I tried to capture more of what I was thinking in a wiki format.  Feel free to take a look and add what you would like (here’s your chance to play in a wiki if you’ve been wanting to) (the password to edit is pbwiki).

Some Fun

Saw this on Jay Cross’ blog, some fun for an “off” day. I have to admit that the geek instructional designer in me wants to figure out how I would have to tweak my answers to be the superhero I want to be 🙂

Your results:
You are Superman

Superman
75%
Supergirl
60%
Green Lantern
60%
Iron Man
60%
Robin
52%
Hulk
45%
The Flash
45%
Spider-Man
40%
Wonder Woman
40%
Catwoman
40%
Batman
25%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

See also: a whole slug o’ personality quizzes (right sidebar) or LOTR Quiz

Christmas rox.

Now that its here, I guess I’m not as disillusioned with Christmas as I thought I was.  That’s probably just because I’ve avoided all shopping since late October.  Thanksgiving is still #1 in my book, but this Christmas season is turning into a pretty good one!  If you haven’t left for the long weekend yet…  Go right now (I won’t tell, promise) 😀

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/4586353/view]

Another try….

Thought I’d try ODEO just for funsies…

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/4469533/view]

 Now my shoes are full of digital sand, and my ears, and my hair, and my shorts.

Corporate U from scratch

I had a fun conversation with someone yesterday about what it would be like to build a business’ learning function (for lack of a better term not alread loaded with connotations) from scratch. 

Suppose you had a successful startup company that was starting to feel it’s growth from a couple dozen to now a couple hundred people and feels that it’s time to support a learning infrastructure for everyone.  What is your strategy?  What skills/skill areas do you go after at the start?  How would you structure what you offer?  What initiatives would you be sure to implement?  Do you care about the “informal” learning (see also: Cross, Jay) or just let it go on as it has since it’s already happening and always will anyway?

 Here’s what I was thinking – in what has become my typical “brain dump” fashion.  <sidebar>It takes so darn much work to organize my thoughts and I feel like the blogging format has become the greatest enabler of this vice since email 😦 .  Feel free to leave a comment/complaint if you’d like, otherwise I’ll continue to assume only, like, 2 people are reading this (Hi Mom and Dad!). </sidebar>

First, the mission of the learning function (LF) has to be to align all of the organization’s “learning” efforts to the company’s culture and the results they want.  Here, from the very start, the LF plays a vital role in questioning what the leaders of the organization really (I mean REALLY) want to accomplish.  Bake that in to everything you go after from there…  “How will the design of this course reinforce our company’s culture?  How does this experience make our people more able to get the results we’re after? (see also: The Oz Principle (with which I’ve become particularly enamoured))”

Before I get to Second, the LF will certainly play its traditional role of course-roller-outer to support those where needed, but, and I think more importantly, 

Second, what you build is an infrastructure/environment in which learning happens -but not always because The Fearless Training Leader (TFTL) put it out there – a [virtual?] common area where people come together and exchage ideas and things they know (yes, you definitely try to capture – but not formalize – the “informal” learning).  I have come to absolutely hate, haTE, HATE the idea of someone thinking “X is going wrong, call the training department and have them write us up a course”.  Great job security, terrible job. 

What the LF needs is the ability (and reputation) for offering a solution to X – definitely NOT by always writing up courses – and also to already have the infrastructure in place where X is being worked on way before it is even recognized as “a problem”.  I guarantee that by the time someone calls out X as a problem it has been bugging the people that it impacts for a long time (and if the environment is right, they’ve been working on solutions(!)).  A good LF (IMO) supports learners in ways that enable them to grow and learn on their own (outside of The Classroom) which is exactly what I believe the vast majority of employees want to do (and are doing).  Part of that is breaking the mind set of employees as well; from “I better sign up for that course so I can learn X” to “what resources do I have besides a course to learn about X?”  Again, the LF gets ahead of the curve by being in the environment as that strategic resource, not just a tactical reacter to the company’s needs.

Third, I think TFTL has to be in people’s faces spaces (Haha, I used the emotional connection of “in people’s faces” to solicit your attention but didn’t mean anything like that at all – nice literary device, Paul! – let me explain).  Let them know you are there to enable them.  Let them know that you are there to support them in any way – not just by forcing them to sit through another training session.  People love (need?) to put a face/warm body (here in UT we settle for ‘mostly warm’ this time of year) with the training.  That’s why Level 1 evals rock when the “training” stinks.  Let the LF’s face/warm body be TFTL’s – but not in the classroom.  If the only time people have contact with TFTL is when they’re sitting in a classroom, there is definitely something wrong.  As a matter of fact, I’d like to see TFTLs sponsoring playtime at lunch (or another “off” time – maybe it’s just a room; break room/lunch room becomes Play Room with games and puzzles strewn about) where everyone gets to learn something cool and [most likely] completely unrelated to “work”.  That would be fun!  That could be Learning!  And talk about a “cultural” impact!  Wow…  I just thought of this right while I was typing.  I’m gonna simmer on this one for a while….

 What would your Corporate U from scratch look like?