Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category
Just like last year I decided to publish an overview of the books that I’ve read during the year.
This year I managed to read 48 books (I am really missing my daily commute, don’t believe the 47 in the picture above) which I’ve put in the following categories:
Mcluhan’s Understanding Media is the single most important book on technology that I’ve ever read. His probes are all-encompassing and still very relevant 50 years after their first publication. Taleb gave me a new way of looking at the world and a set of tools for thinking that is richer than Dennett’s attempt at doing the same. Carse’s classic is well worth reading and I would love to read more Žižek in 2014.
- Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man — Marshall McLuhan (link)
- Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder — Nassim Nicholas Taleb (link)
- Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking — Daniel C. Dennett (link)
- Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility — James P. Carse (link)
- Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium — Paul Levinson (link)
- First as Tragedy, Then as Farce — Slavoj Žižek (link)
- Het socratisch gesprek — Jos Delnoij (link)
- McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed — W. Terrence Gordon (link)
- The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, and Trust — Robert David Steele (link)
I expect this category to grow in 2014 with more books about privacy, freedom of expression and the Internet. Solove delivers good arguments on why privacy is important and Edwards (inadvertently) showed me how scary it is to work for Google.
- Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security — Daniel J. Solove (link)
- I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 — Douglas Edwards (link)
My focus will move away from learning, but I still managed to read some fascinating books on the topic in 2013. Harrison left me itching to try his method for running meetings with large and diverse groups. Illich clearly showed the institutionalizing effects of schooling (confusing being taught with learning and confusing certification with competence). Gatto made me loathe to put children in schools (read Dumbing Us Down, the Underground History is less cogent).
- Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide — Harrison Owen (link)
- Deschooling Society — Ivan Illich (link)
- Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling — John Taylor Gatto (link)
- De canon van het onderwijs — Emma Los (link)
- The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling — John Taylor Gatto (link)
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The book club read nine books in 2013. By far the most thought- and discussion-provoking was Morozov battling “internet-centrism”, “epochalism” and “solutionism”. Eggers enlarged current Google and Facebook practices to show us the grotesque direction we are moving in. Zamyatin wrote a Russian version of “1984″ (way before Orwell) subverting the concept of freedom. Silver was a great read and Lanier gave me the useful concept of “Siren Servers”.
- To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism — Evgeny Morozov (link)
- Makers: The New Industrial Revolution — Chris Anderson (link)
- The Circle — Dave Eggers (link)
- Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet — Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn, Jérémie Zimmermann (link)
- The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t — Nate Silver (link)
- Bleeding Edge — Thomas Pynchon (link)
- We — Yevgeny Zamyatin (link)
- Who Owns the Future? — Jaron Lanier (link)
- The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production — Peter Marsh (link)
For some reason I had yet to read Kafka’s The Trial. It didn’t disappoint. Shteyngart made me laugh the hardest (with Thomése coming in a close second) with his near-future dystopian novel on our hypercommercialized digital future.
- The Trial — Franz Kafka (link)
- Super Sad True Love Story — Gary Shteyngart (link)
- Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut (link)
- De laatkomer — Dimitri Verhulst (link)
- 2BR02B — Kurt Vonnegut (link)
- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia — Mohsin Hamid (link)
- Homeland (Little Brother, #2) — Cory Doctorow (link)
- Het bamischandaal — P.F. Thomése (link)
- Gelukkige Slaven — Tom Lanoye (link)
There were some real gems in this miscellaneous category. Feddes has set the standard for books on cities. Because of Hillis I finally understand how computers work. My friend Dorien Zandbergen‘s PhD thesis gave some wonderful insights into hacker culture in the bay area. Van Casteren’s book made me think of my early teenage years living in a young neighbourhood in a forensic town just above Amsterdam.
- 1000 jaar Amsterdam — Fred Feddes (link)
- Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping — Mike Clelland (link)
- The Pattern on the Stone (Science Masters) — W. Daniel Hillis (link)
- Japan’s Cultural Code Words: 233 Key Terms That Explain the Attitudes and Behavior of the Japanese — Boyé Lafayette de Mente (link)
- The Incredible Secret Money Machine — Don Lancaster (link)
- New Edge, Technology and Spirituality in the San Francisco Bay Area — Dorien Zandbergen (link)
- Thoughtless Acts?: Observations on Intuitive Design — Jane Fulton Suri (link)
- The Big Lebowski: An Illustrated, Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of All Time — Jenny M. Jones (link)
- Lelystad — Joris van Casteren (link)
- Treat Your Own Neck 5th Ed (803-5) — Robin McKenzie (link)
- The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm — Tom Kelley (link)
- Een halve hond heel denken: Een boek over kijken — Joke van Leeuwen (link)
- How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum — Keri Smith (link)
- What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers — Richard Nelson Bolles (link)
A learning tool from the perspective of this list is:
Any tool that you could use to create or deliver learning content solutions for others, or a tool you use for your own personal learning.
You can view the 2012 top 100 results below (or here if SlideShare isn’t embedded for you):
I read a lot of books, and (will) look back every year on what I’ve read. See my overview of 2012 books for example. If I would have to pick one technology only, it would be books.
This is probably the best podcasting app for Android. It will automatically pull in the shows that I like, sort them in the order of my preference and play them (remembering where I was) in that order. I use podcasts mainly to catch up on technology and am currently subscribed to the following shows: This American Life, 99% Invisible, Radiolab, This Week in Tech, Security Now!, Guardian Tech Weekly, Guardian Science Weekly, Triangulation, EconTalk and FLOSS Weekly.
I’ve recently moved away from Google and now use DuckDuckGo for all my searches (and thus much of my learning). My initial reason was to get back some of my privacy and break out of the filter bubble a little. I’ve now found out it actually delivers a far superior user experience which can be ad-free if you’d like. The bang syntax allows me to directly search at the source rather than use Google as the middle man and DuckDuckGo has endless nice tricks up its sleeve. Instructions on how to make the switch are available for your browser here.
Evernote is the single place where I put all my notes and do all my bookmarking. I like how ever-present it is and the way it syncs to my phone. I dislike the fact that there is no official Linux client (and that there won’t be one any time soon). Evernote also has some severe limitations as a tool for Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), so (inspired by Stephen Downes) I’ve decided I will program my own alternative.
After a long stint with Chrome I’ve recently returned to Firefox. The performance of the latest version actually beats Chrome, they’ve seemed to have fixed most of the memory leaks and Mozilla has no sly commercial interests and truly cares for the open Internet.
I like writing collaboratively and in real time. It is a great way to build concensus and a shared vision. I will likely host my own etherpad installation very soon, but know that I will miss GoogleDocs’ ability to have people comment on particular aspects of the text.
Occasionally I learn by giving presentations. Even though I like using Pinpoint, I keep coming back to a simple Impress template that I’ve created in LibreOffice. I export the presentation as a PDF as bring that along to the presentation on a USB stick. This means I can use any PC or Mac to present and never have to worry about my fonts or layout changing.
There are a few use cases for Twitter for me. When I visit a conference I use it to find out what is happening around me and which people I should try and meet. I use it as a way to publicize my own writings and it has completely taken over the role that Google Reader used to fulfill previously: my source of news. The daily digest that I get for my account gives me two or three interesting reads every single day. I’ve documented how you can use Twitter to find expertise on any topic here.
A lot of my learning comes through writing. The prime tool for this is my blog and WordPress has been my host of choice since the beginning. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is very interesting.
Inside my company we use Yammer. There are over 30,000 people in the network making it the go-to place whenever I need to know something about our internal workings and don’t even know where to start.
Webinars are usually dreadful affairs. There is wise advice from Donald Taylor and there is the webinar manifesto (slightly too commercial: “Never design, deliver or sell lousy webinars again”) that will help you do a better job. I would like to add a completely different way to run a webinar. I call it the Socratic Webinar.
A Socratic conversation is a philosophical method where the participants trust their own thinking, rather than accept the expertise of somebody else. Questions are the starting point. The conversation is explicitly not a discussion, instead you try to listen as the group thinks their way towards an argumented answer. They do this by reflecting on their feelings, their thinking and their actions.
Chairing a Socratic conversation requires some skills. These suggestions are based on my experience and should help you on your way.
Traditionally a Socratic conversation would start with questions that are raised by the participants. The chair of the conversation is a guide for the process and doesn’t need to know anything about the questions. This is different if you are asked to host a webinar. The webinar will likely have a topic and you are often seen as the expert.
Start by thinking of questions that you would like to ask the audience. Ideally these should be questions that are very open (or even philosophical) in nature. They will start with “What is”, “Is”, “Why” or “Should”. Questions that begin with “How”, “Can”, or “Will” are less interesting.
In a webinar you can work through one question every 15 minutes or so. So if your webinar lasts an hour, you can address 3-4 questions.
You will not share the questions with the participants in advance.
There is a limit to the number of participants in a Socratic conversation. Ideally you have between 5 and 15 participants, but it should work with up to 30 people. Socratic conversations are great to listen in on too. If you are working with large numbers, then you can invite some to join the conversation and have the rest listen in.
At the start of webinar
It is important to frame the Socratic conversation in the right way (your participants will not be used to this approach). Start by telling the participants that you will be having a Socratic conversation and read them the following rules:
- This is not a discussion. It is an exploration in which we try to build on each other’s ideas.
- Only one person can speak at a time. You can ask to speak by raising your (virtual) hand. I will give people the floor.
- You are only allowed to speak if you are capable of repeating what the person before you said and if you are capable of summarizing the last 15 minutes of conversation. Often we are so intent on making our own point, that we forget to listen. Listening is important in Socratic conversations.
Ask whether there is anybody who can’t agree to the rules. Usually everybody agrees (legimitizing you to remind rule-breakers later on of what was agreed). If somebody has a problem with the rules, then either resolve those problems (convince them the rules are fine or change the rules) or ask them not to participate.
During the webinar
Start the exploration by showing the first question on screen. Ask who would like to say something about the question. Most webinar platforms (like Adobe Connect or Microsoft LiveMeeting) allow people to raise their hand or change their status to a different colour. You can then sort the participant list on this status and can instantly see who would like to say something. As soon as somebody “raises their hand” you can give them the microphone (sometimes this requires you to make some clicks in the system).
When the person finishes you ask the other participants whether somebody would like to build on that point. It is important to be a good facilitator of the conversation. Sometimes you need to summarize what was being said and rephrase the point in a generalized way and then ask for people’s reactions.
Occasionally nobody will come forward to speak. Don’t be afraid of the silence and just let it be for a little while. Soon enough somebody will not be able to tolerate the awkwardness and will step forward to say something. This always happens.
You will find that even a small audience is capable of creating by themselves most standard (or historical) arguments around any particular topic. Only if the participants have exhausted their lines of thinking and you as an expert still know another angle they have not explored, can you bring in your expertise and maybe some good stories and references. Don’t go overboard with this: the participants should be speaking at least 80% of the time.
Now move on to the next question.
Don’t let one person monopolize the conversation by constantly raising their hand or by very lengthy contributions. Say that you now want to hear from somebody who has not spoken yet. Once again: wait through the silence. If you do this well, you will get way more participation and interaction than in any other webinar. People love to be able to talk!
Ideally you will write notes during the session. These should capture both the arguments that the participants created and explored and the stories and references that you brought into the conversation.
After the webinar
If you have taken notes during the session, you can format these nicely and share them with the participants. Because they’ve been active participants in the exploration, they will have a much stronger connection with the material.
Give people the option to continue the conversation with you: share your contact details and how people can connect with you.
I realize that 99% of the webinars are about selling people a product you might have. If you purpose is different, you want your audience to really think, then it is worthwhile trying the Socratic version. Do let me know your experiences with the methodology.
I need to acknowledge my indebtedness to Humberto Schwab for being my philosophy teacher (about 20 years ago) and for showing a Socratic conversation at Picnic 2012. I have done my own interpretation of the process, so blame me for anything that is wrong with this write-up of the methodology.
Marcel de Leeuwe, Ruud Smeulders and I hosted a Masterclass on Learning Business Models at the Dutch E-learning Event. TU Delft’s Pieter de Vries has written a solid report (in Dutch) about this session: De waarde van Online Learning gezien door de ogen van Board members.
You can find the Dutch slides from the session on SlideShare:
The biggest piece of work that I did for the session was to try and created a typology of learning delivery models. I wanted to stretch people’s minds and make them think creatively about all the different ways that you can implement a learning intervention.
I started by defining five dimensions in which one way of delivering learning can be different from another. Although I define these dimensions as polar states, I do realize that you often have situations that are in between the two poles. The dimensions are as follows (in no particular order):
Facilitated ↔ Self-directed
Many learners ↔ One learner
Integrated in work ↔ Outside of work
Continuous ↔ Beginning and end
Content focused (consume materials) ↔ Activity focused (produce materials)
These binary dimensions give us 32 (2 to the power of 5) different learning delivery possibilities. This frames a broad range of activities as learning: from a magazine subscription (facilitated, one learner, outside of work, continuous and content focused) to team work in a project (self-directed, many learners, integrated in work, beginning and end and activity focused).
Not all possibilities make immediate sense. But with a little bit of thought I came to the following archetypical learning delivery methods (ordered from high to low involvement from the learning and development department):
- Buying external knowledge (high)
- E-learning module of about an hour (high)
- Electronic performance support (high)
- Few days face to face course with a trainer (high)
- Multiweek online facilitated course (high)
- External coach (medium)
- Newsletter (medium)
- Online community of practice (medium)
- “Lunch and learn” session (medium)
- Open learning materials (e.g. a wiki) medium)
- Asking an internal expert (low)
- Master-apprentice relationship (low)
- Stretch assignment (e.g. a trainee programme) (low)
- Teamwork in a project (low)
So here is my assignment for you: First try and map each of these archetypes to the five different dimensions. Then try and think which of these you are already using and which ones you would like to use. Finally, it would be good to try and list your personal preference for these five dimensions. For example: I like (to create) events that are activity focused, have a beginning and an end, involve many learners, are as integrated into the work as possible and fall somewhere in between self-direction and facilitation. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!
As this blog is licensed under Creative Commons license, I would more than welcome anybody who would visualize these dimensions and the resulting delivery models.
Based on my presentation at last year’s E-learning Event I was interviewed by the Tijdschrift voor Coaching about culture and the quantified self. You can read a PDF of the Dutch interview by clicking the image below:
Marcel de Leeuwe and I hosted a session at the E-learning Event on Do-It-Yourself learning (building on what we had done earlier at the Masie conference last year). The slides are available on SlideShare.
We copied one of Mitra’s Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) experiments and gave all the attendees a challenging assignment to be solved by themselves in groups of four while Marcel and I walked out of the room for 20 minutes. This gave us interesting results: the attendees had no problem engaging with the assignment and were hard to stop after 20 minutes of discussion, while Marcel at the same was struggling with letting go (“Can we please check whether they are doing ok? Shouldn’t we tell them they only have 10 minutes left?”). This taught us that it is often our own behaviour as educators that is an inhibitor for people making themselves responsible for their own learning.
Minimally invasive pedagogy (as Mitra calls it) could then be a way to battle the now pervasive learned helplessness.
During the boardroom session at the E-Learning event I worked with Marcel (again) and Ruud Smeulders to deliver a masterclass on Learning Business Models. I’ll publish a full post about that session a little bit later.
In the webinar for En Nu Online we also discussed self-organized (or self-directed) learning. I did a short presentation, explained my rules for a Socratic conversation and then we discussed on the basis of a few questions. One interesting topic we addressed was the balance between providing a safe learning environment while at the same luring the learner into a stretch or into a zone where they are less comfortabe. The webinar has been recorded (there were some technical issues during the start, heroically battled by Sibrenne Wagenaar and Joitske Hulsebosch). You can view the Dutch recording on YouTube:
Earlier this year I visited the Caledonian Academy (part of the Glasgow Caledonian University). Their work focuses solely on technology-enhanced and professional learning. I spent most of a day exploring their delightful areas of research and have now finally found the time to write it all up.
Learning from Incidents
In the project they combined the literature around Safety with the literate on Learning. Learning is usually a blind spot when it comes to “Learning from Incidents”. Most approaches come from safety science which is mainly based on engineering (i.e. ergonomics, human factors). In his research Dane used a “Change Laboratory” method (based on Finnish research). This is a way to analyze problems in which you have as many people from the site as you can together, meet in a set of workshops and present a “mirror” as an external view.
Two models were developed through these workshops: a conceptual framework and a cycle model:
Next to developing these models Dane learned some interesting things:
- Face-saving and blame are important elements: you should be aiming for double-loop learning.
- Currently the approach isn’t changed on the basis of the type of incident: simple, complicated, complex or chaotic (e.g. “best practices” only work for simple problems, not for complex problems). Instead we only look at the level of the hazard.
- Often it is thought that we have learned once we have disseminated. That is like giving students books and saying that they have learned.
- You should allow and encourage people to give feedback during the contextualization phase and these should get “feedback on their feedback”.
He is now working on Learning from Incidents Engage (to be finished in June this year), a toolkit on the basis of his PhD work. It will include a questionnaire (780 respondents), an online model of the cycle, a set of recommendations and a Learning from Incidents engagement session (i.e. how can you run a session that helps with improvement). The toolkit will be online and should grow through use. Other staff working on Learning from Incidents are Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan.
Open Educational Resources (OER)
Isobel Falconer and Allison Littlejohn talked to me about a few Open Educational Resources (OER) related projects and studies. The OER4Adults investigates the work and learning practices evolving through the use of OERs. It builds on the earlier UKOER which explores the social aspects of open educational and open knowledge practices in the public and private sectors. Other staff working on OER are Lou McGill and Helen Beetman.
They find that increasingly the private sector (commercial publishers) and higher education collaborate around OER and are interested in exploring the ways that lifelong learners make use of these materials. A lot of the OERs are around providing content, but there are also examples of community formation around them. Take for example Community Energy Scotland.
The professional practice around Open Educational Resources is in development. They found that it really makes people think differently when they start to think about openness. There are many issues to explore. For example: is the license important or is it just access that is relevant (making the learning barrier free). How can the student expectation of being lectured (“it is far more efficient if they tell me, rather than me finding it out myself”) be overcome? What are the barriers of the community? How does trust work? How to deal with the conflicting motivations between people and institutions? How to deal with academics who only blog and stop writing articles (and how does that relate to the Research Excellence Framework)?
Work and Learning at the Boundaries of Knowledge
Pia Fontana and Colin Milligan talked to me about a project titled Work and Learning at the Boundaries of Knowledge which aims to surface, describe and systematize the strategies that knowledge workers use to self-regulate the learning they undertake to maintain expertise and support the generation of new knowledge. Other staff working on the project are Anoush Margaryan and Allison Littlejohn.
For Self Regulated Learning (or SRL) they used Zimmerman’s thinking who has a social cognitive perspective on it. Zimmerman says that there are three cyclic phases:
- Forethought phase where goal setting behaviour is important
- Performance or Volitional Control phase (or implementation) where it is about strategies and devoting attention
- Self-Reflection phase where it is important to measure yourself internally or externally
They did research on SRL in the Change 2011 MOOC. They are still analysing the results but will likely have a typology of SRL activities and strategies of knowledge workers when they are done. Collin has already written about some initial findings on his blog.
“Consume, Connect, Contribute, Create”
Most of these miss the important part of goal-setting which is an integral part of the charting methodology.
This post is an assignment for the participants of the “Sociale media voor Leren en Veranderen in Organisaties en Netwerken”-leergang by En Nu Online.
(Click here to get a Google Translated Dutch version of this post).
Last February Sugata Mitra was awarded the TED prize for 2013. The prize money will help him carry out his wish:
My wish is to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together. Help me build the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can embark on intellectual adventures by engaging and connecting with information and mentoring online. I also invite you, wherever you are, to create your own miniature child-driven learning environments and share your discoveries.
Watch Mitra describe his plans here:
I can’t link to this video without also linking to some of the criticism of his work. Audrey Watters raises some questions about, among other things, the history of schooling as it is told in the video, about (neo-)colonialism and about the commercial interests. Donald Clark lists 7 reasons for doubting Mitra’s success story.
Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE)
According to Mitra you can organize a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) for children by putting multiple children in a group, adding some broadband Internet and some encouragement and then drop in what he calls “curiosity catalysts”: large, open, difficult and interesting questions for these groups of children to answer. Self-driven learning is also becoming a current topic in professional development. See this post by Jane Hart as one example. We will explore whether Mitra’s thinking can help us in the workplace.
For this assignment please do the following:
- Please download the Mitra SOLE toolkit from the TED website
- Read the toolkit
- Answer the following three questions by posting a comment at the bottom of this blog post:
- What might be the key differences between child-driven learning (self-organized, curious, engaged, social, collaborative, motivated by peer-interest, fueled by adult encouragement and admiration) and the way adults learn?
- What are the skills of a self-learning professional? How can professionals be supported in their self-directed learning?
- What curiosity catalysts can you think of that you could ask your direct colleagues (or customers)? Think of two good questions.
- Find a new web-resource about self-directed learning (or self-organized learning, do-it-yourself learning, new-fashioned learning etc.) and post it as a comment on this blog post. It is “new” when nobody has posted it here before (so be quick!). It would be interesting to know why you chose this resource in particular.
There is no better way to judge how something works then to try it out. Starting from page 9 of the Mitra SOLE toolkit there is a home assignment: create a SOLE for children in your own home.
It would be wonderful if some of you could try this out with a group of children. Of course you will then send your feedback to Mitra and his team, but a comment here on the blog and/or some thoughts during the seminar are well appreciated too.
Marcel de Leeuwe and I will be hosting a workshop on do-it-yourself learning at this year’s Dutch e-learning event. Marcel did a short interview with me about the topic as a warming-up exercise. In the interview I explain (in Dutch) why self-organized learning is becoming relevant now and what this might mean for the Learning and Development organization.
I’ve been reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile, Things That Gain from Disorder. I’ve portioned the book into 30 daily chunks of 14 pages each and post a Tweet about those 14 pages every day.
The following passage is one of my favourites in the book so far. It very much aligns with my thinking about what is wrong with schools, education and learning. I will certainly use (part of) this argument in my next talk on the topic of Do-It-Yourself Learning (and to anybody who tries to tell me I should get rid of my books). To understand the title of this paragraph it is important to realize that Taleb calls the attempt to suck randomness out of life touristification.
Below, from page 242-243, The Touristification of the Soccer Mom (used without permission):
The biologist and intellectual E.O. Wilson was once asked what represented the most hindrance to the development of children; his answer was the soccer mom. [..] His argument is that they repress children’s natural biophilia, their love of living things. But the problem is more general; soccer moms try to eliminate the trial and error, the antifragility, from children’s lives, move them away from the ecological and transform them into nerds working on pre-existing (soccer-mom-compatible) maps of reality. Good students, but nerds—that is, they are like computers except slower. Further, they are now totally untrained to handle ambiguity. As a child of civil war, I disbelieve in structured learning—actually I believe that one can be an intellectual without being a nerd, provided one has a private library instead of a classroom, and spends time as an aimless (but rational) flâneur benefiting from what randomness can give us inside and outside the library. Provided we have the right type of rigor, we need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living, compared to the stuctured, fake, and ineffective life of an empty-suit CEO with a preset schedule and an alarm clock. Even their leisure is subjected to a clock, squash between appointments. It is as if the mission of modernity was to squeeze every drop of variability and randomness out of life—with [..] the ironic result of making the world a lot more unpredictable, as if the godesses of chance wanted to have the last word.
Only the autodidacts are free. And not just in school matters—those who decommoditize, detouristify their lives. Sports try to put randomness in a box like the ones sold in aisle six next to canned tuna—a form of alienation.
If you want to understand how vapid are the current modernistic arguments (and understand your existential priorities), consider the difference between lions in the wild and those in captivity. Lions in captivity live longer; they are technically richer, and they are guaranteed job security for life, if these are the criteria you are focusing on…
As usual, an ancient, here Seneca, detected the problem (and the difference) with his saying “We do not study for life, but only for the lecture room,” non vitae, sed scolae discimus [..].
This is a book that is incredibly rich with ideas. Please look beyond Taleb’s antics and read it.
My talk was pitched as follows:
Over the next few years the role of the learning organization will shift, moving away from the current focus on course and curriculum design. Two new responsibilities will appear: 1. Supporting individuals with their self-directed learning and 2. Creating behavioral change interventions for smaller and larger teams. Hans de Zwart will take a fresh perspective on the underlying causes of this shift (like the increasing percentage of knowledge workers or the easy availability of global virtual collaboration tools), he wil give a wide and historical range of examples of existing “do-it-yourself” learning and he will share his thoughts on what this means for you as an HR professional.
I have come to believe that SlideShare is fundamentally broken, so while WordPress.com is hopefully working on providing the ability to show PDF files inline in my posts I’ve decided to just post a PDF version of my slides online.
The talk was divided into three parts:
Why is DIY Learning relevant?
Firstly I showed that the accelerating change of pace is not just a cliché, but that technology actually does progress exponentially. I showed some of Kurzweil’s graphs to back this up.
This means that we are increasingly living in a complex world. According to the Cynefin framework the sensible approach to problems in the complex domain is to first probe, then sense and finally respond. This aligns nicely with Peter Drucker’s definition of the knowledge worker who necessarily is solely responsible for their own productivity: they are the only ones who can understand their own job. For me a logical consequence of this is that you cannot create a learning curriculum for a knowledge worker. With the increasing mobility of labour, you could even argue that businesses will not want to invest in training a knowledge worker but that they will just assume competence.
Next I talked about Ivan Illich and his book Deschooling Society. We are institutionalizing students through the school system. We mistake teaching for learning and diplomas/certificates for competence. Illich’ solution is radical: to replace school with what he calls “learning webs”. He had some very practical ideas about this, that have become easier now that we have the web.
Another reason for DIY learning to come to the forefront is the ubiquity of free (mostly in beer, but also in speech) tools that enable us to connect with each other and organize ourselves. It is simple to set up your own website with something like WordPress.com and tools like Google+ (hangouts!), Facebook and Twitter are amazing in enabling people to take charge of their learning.
Examples of DIY Learning
I shared a set of examples of existing DIY learning efforts from a wide variety of fields.
The first example was from the European Juggling Convention in Lublin. People organized workshops there by using a simple central board and a set of activity templates.
Sugatra Mitra realizes that there aren’t enough good teachers to teach all the children in the world. He is therefore looking for a minimally invasive pedagogy. He has found a simple method: give groups of children a computer with access to the web, ask them an interesting question, leave them alone (maybe give them a bit of “granny pedagogy” support) and come back to find that the children have learned something. Do check out his wiki on Self Organising Learning Environments (SOLEs).
Open Space technology (with its four principles and a law) is another example of how people can learn in a completely self-organized way.
Yammer groups are a great way for communities of practice to construct knowledge together. Anybody can start a group and these are often on topics that are relevant, but don’t get addressed top-down (an example I know of is a group of Apple users in a Microsoft-only company sharing knowledge with each other on how to use Apple products in that situation).
Dale Stephens has shown that there are alternatives to a formal college education with his Uncollege platform.
The reading group I organized in 2010 was the final example I used of a group of people getting together to learn something.
What should you (= HR) do?
All of this means the role of the HR Learning department will need to change. I see three imperatives:
- It is crucial to devolve the responsibility for learning to the learner. Stop accepting their “learned helplessness” and stimulate everybody to become truly reflective practitioners.
- Make sure to provide scaffolding. You should build things that will make it easier for the learners to build their own things. This only works if your approach is very open. Both for the learning materials (think Creative Commons and OER Commons) and for who can join. Efforts should be across organizations and across businesses. Don’t accept the naive (layman’s) idea which always seems to equate learning with content. Instead focus on designing learning experiences. Nurture any communities of practice and invest time in moderation.
- Finally, change the unit of intervention. You should never focus on the individual anymore. The unit of change is now the team (at minimum).
I’ve used the fabulous Pinpoint to create this presentation. This allows me to just get a set of image files and write the presentation in a very simple text based format. The PDF output doesn’t quite look like I’d want it to. Does anybody know whether it is possible to set the width/height ratio of the PDF export (4:3 rather than 16:9)?
I started collecting the licenses for each of the images in the slidepack so that I could attribute them correctly (find my incomplete list here). At some point I just couldn’t be bothered anymore. My blog is just too insignificant and I really do believe I can have more positive impact on this world by doing something (anything!) different with my time. If your picture is used and you are very disgruntled then I would be more than happy to make amends.