Exploring social media and open education from the organisational perspective.

Category: virtual learning

Some really interesting discussion happening in this post! Literacy barriers aside, it seems to me that some extra support—such as goal-setting activities—could help less self-directed learners to find their feet when learning in this way.

Learner Weblog

After reading Jenny and Carmen’s paper on Connectivism and Dimensions on Individual experience and now Heli’s post, I would like to reflect on what those three theories mean under Networked Learning and Connectivism, with a particular focus on the five factors and Autonomy.  Heli has wonderfully posted the juxtaposition of the three theories in her post.

Here Carmen and Jenny provides a wonderful framework upon which Connectivism could be expanded – to include the psychological elements, superimposed on autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness as the key components of connectivism conducive to (or required for) learning in networks  (Stephen Downes).

They discuss:

“While there have been calls for more or different efforts on the part of MOOC facilitators (Dron, 2011), the psychological insight brought by contemporary personality theory and self-determination theory suggests that the manipulation or envisioned refinement of MOOC environments and processes may be moot, or certainly less effective…

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Lessons from a knowledge hoarder (or how I stopped hoarding and learned how to share in a network)

This (almost) marks the end of my eighth class. When I started this semester I was a little unsure of what the experience might be like. I knew that I enjoyed Twitter as a news source and as a place to keep in touch with friends, but I had absolutely no idea how much the education community has recognised that this is a tool that is part of the larger global shift to ICT that is changing the way we all work, live, connect and learn with one another. What a pleasant eye opener!

The same shift is happening in workplaces—Workplace 2.0. Once I started to realise some of the possibilities available to me, I set myself an overarching goal to try to always look for relationships between what we learned in class and organisational and adult learning. I also set out some specific goals to supplement my wish to understand how technology can, should and likely will be influencing the workplace in the not-too-distant future and how I can affect positive change in my workplace:

  1. Seek out, connect and share with others with similar interests in Human Resource Development, Knowledge Management (KM), and anything to do with using technology for learning purposes.
  2. Learn more about the theories associated with this mode of learning.
  3. Learn more about the apps I was sometimes using (I’m looking at you, HootSuite!) and add some more tools to my arsenal that would be available to employees in my organisation.

I read voraciously. I sought out hashtags that provided me with the most up-to-date ideas on the topics I was interested in. I forgot to share things I found with my classmates for a little while (I’m talking about you, ImageCodr!). Oops. But that was the pattern of the course: trial and error. For example, I learned that TweetDeck is very useful on my MacBook but that the app constantly breaks on my iPhone.

Throughout the course I also experienced small diversions. After Dave Cormier spoke to our class about Rhizomatic Learning, I was intrigued. After discovering through Dave that he was influenced by some poststructuralists I had never studied, I poked around about Deleuze briefly, followed Tobey Steeves and also watched Dave fend off positivism to learn more. What I learned in the video, though, taught me more about the theories we were studying in this class than anything else. Dave talked about the sliding distinctions between networks that George Siemens makes (‘knowledge or people I’m connected to?’ asks Dave), the structure of MOOCs, the DS106 effect on students, etc. This reinforced my learning of the theories that provided the foundation for a lot of what we’ve done in this course.

Ultimately what was great about the experience was how I could direct my own learning based on my own needs. The biggest hurdle I faced was, oddly enough, sharing. I had no idea that I intuitively just hoard information—I look for what I need and then carry on. This has been a big change for me because it took some time to realise that we do play different roles within our networks at various times and we each share the load of the learning. There is too much to do on one’s own.

What can I take back to my workplace? Well, I’ve written a paper that I consider a bit of a culmination of sorts of some of the questions I had about learning to learn in a network in Workplace 2.0. It reflects on my organisation and its current goals to implement technology into the workplace and I hope to share a summary of my findings with a working group that has been tasked with this topic (I’d like to suggest that the scope of technology use for learning be broadened). In the course of doing this paper I also expanded my workplace learning network of like-minded colleagues to a courseware designer on another floor in my building, an Instructional Designer in Ottawa and another colleague studying for his Master of Educational Technology in Montreal. I now share and receive articles and tools periodically with this group!

Most importantly, though, I met Jeff Merrell. He was one of the first people I connected with on Twitter—my home base—and it was through following his KM-tech list and by haunting his blog that I found a lot of great people and resources (edited to add that he’s a great resource and I love that he’s about corporate social responsibility). It was through him that I found Allison Littlejohn, whose spot-on research into learning in workplace networks greatly influenced me. But there were so many others, both in the class and outside of it, who influenced me in other ways too.

And these are only a survey of my experiences during the course.

But, again, the class is ending but really this is just the beginning of my foray into learning in the Information Age. I know that sounds cliché but it’s the truth. I’ve been dabbling in the #EconoMOOC, I’ve joined LinkedIn to participate in the Center for Learning & Organizational Change discussions. I want to keep learning about networked learning and knowledge management. I’d like to participate in #Change11 as time permits and I’d like to keep blogging. I’m a lifelong learner, so I just keep setting goals and continue learning. There is no end for me, but there will be even more sharing in the future.

For more, here’s a link to my Prezi. (I’m glad I finally had a chance to delve into learning how to use it.)

Networked Learning and KM in the workplace: how to measure the impact?

I’ve been reflecting on my project plan as it relates to collective learning, which is critical for the learning organisation. I’ve also been discussing my project plan at length with a consultant colleague at work as part of that process. She is pushing me to organise myself in a project management-style format with key stakeholders and deliverables explicitly identified and everything being tied to organisational goals and the intended outcomes, etc. This is slightly terrifying to me but I can’t help but wonder if this is what Mezirow describes as being a part of transformational learning—it’s uncomfortable! I should also thank Kevin & Kelley who echoed that explaining the ‘why’ of this added process for planning will help my colleagues and clients to understand the format and its potential value to each of us.

As part of this refinement ofmy plan—sorting out how my measures complement my outcomes—I’ve been doing some thinking about the outcomes themselves. What am I trying to do here? Could it just be about making networked learning a more comfortable, familiar experience? Providing an opportunity to practice networked learning?

Part of what led me to think about this an article tweeted by Kevin that refutes the idea of digital natives. I agree with the article’s suggestion that anyone can become technologically savvy with practice—we all have the same learning curve.

“Those who were not “born digital” can be just as connected, if not more so, than their younger counterparts.”

So it’s really about learning how to learn in a network with knowledge management strategies in place (thanks swedinbalchik!). Networked Learning according to Veen, Lukosch, & Vries (2008) is becoming increasingly important in workplaces:

This new labour force will rely heavily on technical and distributed social networks. Networked Learning refers to a context in which internet-based information and communication technologies are used to promote connections: between participants; between participants and experts; between a learning community and its learning resources, so that participants can extend and develop their understanding and capabilities in ways that are important to them, and over which they have significant control. These connections vary from face-to-face to distributed, across a variety of media, and with various degrees of time shifting. Crucial is the connectedness of participants.

Could it be this concept that I’m introducing and primarily trying to measure? And my measures would be changes in perception of comfort levels or ability to seek out resources (physical and human) before and after the planning process? But how do I measure quality of knowledge shared? Will self report data dig deep enough? I don’t have much time to sort this piece out because I need to distribute my initial survey next week.

Can virtual work teams become virtual communities of practice?

*Quiz* No image , No photo! by purprin, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  purprin 

Wow, last week’s post generated a lot of great discussion that helped reframe my thinking leading up to the informative presentation on community by Dr. Schwier to our class on Tuesday.

In particular, I’m grateful for having gone into the presentation with Dr. Schwier’s comment from my last post echoing through my thoughts. The idea that we can only set up the conditions under which communities can form, develop and potentially thrive was particularly resonant for me. And it got me thinking—besides the benefits for organisations, what would be in it for potential community members (such as work units) to want to be a virtual community, let alone one that shares knowledge?

I suppose I was coming at this particular issue from a bit of a business-centric standpoint as HRD is a yet-to-be defined field that is dominated by this standpoint. (I should add that I personally try to apply a critical approach to my work as much as possible.)

Struggles of praxis and an undefined field aside, for my course project I’m thinking I’d like to inquire into the potential for a professional development-geared community to develop amongst two virtual learning unit teams (of which I am also a member). Could two these two virtual teams whose core work is in supporting organisational learning—and whose members theoretically should have similar vested interests—become a learning community? As I saw during Dr. Schwier’s presentation, there needs to be some sort of incentive there to encourage ‘intensity’, which is one feature of functioning communities. Dr. Schwier presented metrics for nonformal, formal and informal group intensity, or depth of interaction. Both the formal and informal groups showed great intensity in discussions in different patterns, the development of which demonstrated that community had developed. In the formal groups, this development was likely due to the ‘forced’ time spent together and in the informal groups the same is seen when topics are of interest to different members. In nonformal groups, the metrics showed a dearth of ‘real’ discussion—real community—being able to form. The reason being? Probably because there are no incentives that draw the group together. And as my colleague Laura Bechard rightly pointed out, the metrics hold great implications for the development of Communities of Practice.

So, in a virtual workplace with a responsibility towards learning, what would be the draw towards the development of a Community of Practice? I’m not certain that the site of our work would be enough as many of my coworkers do not specialise in learning, nor is that the focus specifically of their work or potential interests and career aspirations (much of it can be administrative in nature and driven by financial policy). Maybe the question is: What is perceived as a central need or point of inquiry amongst these two teams? I could be wrong, but I think the groups’ interests are potentially too divergent. Instead, I suspect that our sister learning consultant groups (we have four other groups of learning units across Canada) would be more likely to develop such a community due to the similarity of their work experiences.

What do you think? I’m off to check out what Daniel Pink has to say about motivation in the meantime…

On the importance of social capital in knowledge sharing within virtual communities of practice…

My Twitter Class of ’08 by mallix, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  mallix 

As you may have noticed from my last entry, I am interested in how virtual knowledge sharing networks—virtual communities of practice—can be fostered and maintained through social media and/or other e-strategies. In organisations, it is proposed this continual sharing and learning helps the firm to remain competitive and able to respond to change. Also, there is huge potential for tacit knowledge to be shared, and with  downsizing currently taking place across my organisation, knowledge management has become a critical issue. Particularly of interest to me is the retention of tacit knowledge, since previous cutbacks in my organisation have caused a gap in mid-career employees whose organisational experience could ladder into upper management positions.

It seemed logical to me, then, to start with a fundamental question: What stimulates a virtual community of practice to share knowledge?

According to Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003), the development of social capital is an important piece towards fostering knowledge sharing in these groups. In other words, a cohesive, functioning community must develop. And members must trust one another. It makes sense, right?

Social capital can bridge cultural differences by building a common identity and shared understanding. The fact that building social capital requires continuous interaction enables people to identify common interests and build trust. This raises their level of shared commitment, and encourages a sense of solidarity within a community. Furthermore, from the perspective of organizational management, Prusak and Cohen (2001) claim that social capital can promote better knowledge sharing due to established trust relationships, common frames of reference and shared goals.

The authors go on to describe other issues that can occur with groups that are not part of the same institutional or organisational culture and how virtual learning networks such as EC&I 831 have some similarities to virtual communities of practice. They also remark that when groups are actively working together to share knowledge, there has been evidence of economic gains. Correspondingly, that would then also likey imply that performance is enhanced. They also say that just because groups trust one another and are able to cooperate, this doesn’t mean that social capital has been attained—it often has as much to do with how well members of the community connect, relate with one another and share a common language. These are called the structural, relational and cognitive dimensions of social capital ‘clusters’. And no one yet has the answers on how exactly to predict when social capital will be produced but it’s likely due to reciprocity and an awareness of social/group norms in the same way that we lend our neighbour a cup of sugar one time and along the line, when I need a couple of eggs…

But I’m thinking that virtual knowledge sharing communities of practice would be useful in my workplace, where my colleagues are located across multiple timezones. Even interdepartmentally this could be helpful, for instance, for our learning unit counterparts to discuss best practices, share ideas and materials. And the tacit knowledge is recorded!

I’m just wondering how to bring it all together—how do you build social capital? Do you think trust is key? Awareness? Common language? Reciprocity? What, in your experience has been the key ‘ingredient’ for a group to start openly sharing knowledge (virtual or not)? What, in your view, would be the most helpful for encouraging knowledge sharing in a virtual situation? What’s working for you in our virtual learning community?