Exploring social media and open education from the organisational perspective.

Tag: technology

Friday’s Finds: December 7th Edition

Unfortunately, illness sidelined my FF last week. But I’m back!

As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, networks—whether that’s learned through Personal Learning Networks developed in Connectivist Massive Online Open Courses or strategies to work in networks within The Coherent Organization—are proposed as the best means to best cope with this new reality.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and revisit what’s driving these approaches. Not that it was entirely purposeful on my part to do this (I think I owe more to @FredWBaker for his many contributions to my reading/viewing list in that regard!), but seems that recently I’ve encountered (or have perhaps attuned myself to) more resources about complexity.

This great article by Keith Morrison provides good context for our current state of complexity (and goes on to raise important points about the issues that complexity can have in an educational context):

‘Complex adaptive systems’ (Waldrop, 1992, pp. 294-9) scan and sense the external environment and then make internal adjustments and developments in order to survive in those changing external environments … The creation of a unique, and collective identity gives the system and its constituent elements a capability for survival, through increasing differentiation – they become unlike other systems, and, thereby, their uniqueness provides their niche in the world, and that unique situation contributes to their survival … Of course, being too different, just as being too similar, may be threatening to the system; finding one’s survival niche by being similar to, but also different from others, is tricky. This catches the partially antinomial nature of some aspects of complexity theory: cooperation together with competition, similarity together with difference, individuality with collectivity, connectedness with separation, necessary deviance with necessary conformity, diversity with uniformity, partial predictability with partial unpredictability, solipsism with the need to understand collectivities.

It sounds an awful lot like the foundation for networked learning and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). It also echoes the collective learning and agility envisioned by Senge for the concept of the learning organisation.

I was also lucky enough to run across an article that helped me to situate Kotter’s older change management work with the great ideas I’ve been following through Harold Jarche and his colleagues at the Internet Time Alliance. Thanks to Harold, I learned that Kotter has apparently realised that resilience to change is best supported by agile networks of collaborative, connected learners. If I’m understanding correctly, Kotter’s old stuff was essentially about enacting change in closed systems.

I also watched this TED talk from George Whitesides about establishing a science of simplicity. There’s a lot to take away, but I’ve pulled out a couple of great quotations below:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – Einstein

“You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” – de Saint-Exupery

Some other great reads that I enjoyed (including two that are side interests of mine):

  • Social Learning Strategies from Jane Hart. This is an amazing resource that I think I completely forgot about regarding the  implementation of social/networked learning (is there a difference?)! All answers are in here, I think!
  • Wow. This is the result of a study on what the new work skills/literacies will be by 2020 (link to study included in the article).
  • Jesse Stommel’s online learning manifesto. Bang on.
  • Bonnie Stewart’s companion piece, “MOOCs Are Not a System

Friday’s Finds: November 23rd Edition

This week I found a study that analysed the affective side of group formation in online courses. In particular, I thought that the following quotation about the  development of trust is true of any ICT-moderated context (such as a networked, virtual workplace):

  …members need to be able to trust and feel secure about the other members in the community in order to iteratively, recursively engage within collegial, constructive commentary. If that relationship is not established community members might view the constructive comments personally, and perhaps as offensive. Establishing the foundations of a compelling, resilient relationship between community members is essential before offering any kind of constructive criticism. Being able to express an emotion or offer feedback when communicating within a group signifies contented or comfortable group member dynamics that allow for deep interaction with one another.

This interested me since I recently began working on a new team where a majority of my colleagues are collocated in another city. It also resonated with me given my interest in the formation of Personal Learning Networks and organisational climates that support networked, collaborative/cooperative learning.  Not long ago, Harvard Business Review provided some interesting tips for developing trust among virutal teams. I think it holds true for any sort of collaborative online work:

  • Leverage “swift trust.”
  • Pro-actively build interpersonal trust.
  • Communicate with predictability.
  • Share and rotate power.

Ideally, as Jeff Merrell has observed in his classes, evidence of community will begin to emerge through ‘half-baked’ thinking—displaying trust towards the group—and passionate discussion. As Santos and Hammond (2006) quite aptly suggest, though, community formation is ‘not an automatic and easy process’.

Bonus find: Check out this gem of a post on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) from Harold Jarche. Wow.

November 2nd – Friday’s Finds

Today’s post is brief…!

Great thinking:

  • This week I made the most obvious of discoveries through a couple of conversations: Knowledge sharing *is* communicating. (Sometimes we overcomplicate things.)
  • More on heutagogy: This article provides a framework from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy, the latter of which is a core competency for the 21st Century—a must read! Note: I’ve been reading that we’re no longer in a knowledge economy: we are in a collaboration economy.
  • One of the reasons I’d love to learn how to conduct a network analysis is to uncover connections and relationships that are hard to locate otherwise—it’s so related to Knowledge Management (KM)! I also thought that this observation of the potential impact of networked arrangements on organisations in this article was particularly interesting: “…interconnectivity is beneficial but also brings in vulnerability: if you and I are connected we can share resources; meanwhile your problems can become mine, and vice versa”. Is this a dark side of networks?

Interesting Finds:

  • The etymology of the Personal Learning Network seems to go back as far as 1998. Thanks Clint!


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.)

A little sidebar on creative commons licensing

A few days ago, I tweeted out a basic ‘how to’ for adding a creative commons license to blogs because I just added a license to my blog. During the licensing process, Creative Commons makes it easy to select the license criteria. However, I wanted to provide a little bit more information about what this licensing is about and considerations that one might want to make (these are questions I had when going through the process) so that others might have an easier time determining which license best suits their needs.

What is Creative Commons and why does it matter?

Creative Commons License
A Shared Culture by Jesse Dylan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) license. The original video can be found here.

Lovely, non? We can all create, share and connect through our experiences while still acknowledging one another for our work.

What license should I select?

There are six licensing options and I would recommend reading this when making a selection. Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Am I okay with someone making changes to my work?
  • Am I okay with my work being used for commercial purposes?

Can I select different licenses for different aspects of my blog?

You can. In fact, this is something to think carefully about. This is the recommendation from Creative Commons’ Before Licensing FAQ:

You need to be specific about exactly what you are CC-licensing when you apply the Creative Commons license to your work. We give you the option of identifying the format of the work in the metadata (text, audio, video, image, interactive) and you should use this. This enables more precise machine-readable language.

However, you should also think about exactly which elements of your work you are licensing. For example, in the case of a website, are you licensing just the text and images? Or also the stylesheets and the code that run the site? Similarly, if you make CC-licensed music available for download on your site, does the Creative Commons license apply to both the musical composition and the sound recording as well as any artwork and graphics at your site? And remember, as discussed under “2. Make sure you have the rights” above, you need to make sure you have the rights to each element that you license under a Creative Commons license.

Take a moment to think about exactly what you are intending to license and then frame your metadata and legal notice accordingly, eg. “All images at this site are licensed under a Creative Commons [insert description] 2.5 license.”

I decided to license my overall blog as I was comfortable with both my writing and the few images of my own that I have hosted (and will host in the future) being adapted and distributed in the same way. I also figure that if I want a different license to an image or something else, I’ll set up that license and notate separately.

Can I change my mind?

Yes you can adjust or revoke your license but bear in mind that if you put out work under a particular license and it’s picked up and distributed before you change/revoke the license, it’s a done deal.

Again, from Creative Commons:

This is an extremely important point for you to consider. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. This means that you cannot stop someone, who has obtained your work under a Creative Commons license, from using the work according to that license. You can stop offering your work under a Creative Commons license at any time you wish; but this will not affect the rights associated with any copies of your work already in circulation under a Creative Commons license. So you need to think carefully when choosing a Creative Commons license to make sure that you are happy for people to be using your work consistent with the terms of the license, even if you later stop distributing your work.

For some creators and/or licensors, this is not an important issue. And most educators who put their their educational resources online do so with the idea that they will be widely shared. But if you depend on controlling the copyrights in your resources for your livelihood, you should think carefully before giving away commercial rights to your creative work. For example, many musicians have discovered that offering work for noncommercial use can be quite rewarding. But anything beyond that requires careful consideration. We all admire generous souls. But if you want to be generous, we want you to think carefully about it before you are.

It’s worth investigating a Creative Commons license. As we’ve all likely learned from our guest speakers, Alec and one another, collective learning is the future. Let’s share responsibly!

Has anyone else added a Creative Commons license to material on their blog (or the entire blog)? What did you do? Have I missed any lessons that you’ve learned or do you have any suggestions for me and/or others?

UPDATE: I took my own advice (!) and made my license slightly more specific (when writing out the description of what’s covered). It should now be clearer that any of my text and my own uploaded images are governed by the license.

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.

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?


Prepping the garden fennel for pickling

Prepping the garden fennel for pickling!

Welcome to mycourse blog! A little bit about myself…

My name is Alison and I currently live in Regina with my partner Adam. I am on my eighth of eleven classes towards my Master of Human Resource Development (MHRD) degree, which is a nice complement to my work as a learning professional. This is my third degree at the University of Regina! I am what would be described as a lifelong learner, having spent the bulk of the last 16 years studying art, graphic/web design, arts education, yoga and now HRD.

Clearly I love learning! Other passions are gardening (the above picture is fennel from my garden that I started from seed!), indie music and good design—I make time for these activities as much as I can between work and school. At the moment I am into my iPhone (obsessed with Instagram right now), Adobe CS5, and anything made by Mac. I confess, though, I don’t entirely ‘get’ iPads. I’ve also developed an (unhealthy?) obsession with reading about the environment and the economy courtesy my Twitter feed. Only through Twitter can one connect to an Egyptian blogger—I learned more about what was going on during the Arab Spring through him than I could through most major news outlets. I also watched live internet feeds of the protests through Al Jazeera. This is a direct benefit of our new, ‘wired’ world and I think it’s pretty incredible and amazing.

Speaking of Twitter, I really love it and I think there is so much potential to develop communities of practice through the medium—I would say it was these sorts of possibilities that led me to enrol in this course. Where else can you ask the hive mind for input and share ideas back and forth?! I also think there is major potential for social media and open education concepts to be applied within organisations and I look forward to learning more about how to go about this. This potential is especially relevant to the my workplace. We are striving to create cultures of learning by becoming learning organisations, where informal learning and knowledge sharing are key to firms’ competitiveness. It also has application to formal training delivery, since the region I work in extends all across the West and into the Territories; in-person learning is not always the most effective or efficient means to that end. Given this reality, distance learning and blended learning solutions have become more and more prevalent… and I want to know how to make them even better!

I’m sure there are a great many other things that I will be able to learn from and share with my course colleagues to take back to my workplace. I look forward to it!

Side note:
Are you an amateur typography nerd? Do you like em dashes as much as I do? I’ve figured out how to make them in WordPress.