Sunday, July 26, 2009

Handy Job Aid 1

Zaidlearn posted this the other day in the context of a longer discussion about Bloom's taxonomy. This item is one of the most useful I've seen, linking objectives to possible activities.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

United Breaks Guitars? Training Won't Fix That

I've had a great time with the recent, fun brouhaha over United Breaks Guitars. With 3 million+ views so far, the video is a testament to the new 21st century power of the individual living in the world of social media, and should give hope to all of us who ever wanted to stick it to The Man.

As "Sons of Maxwell" singer Dave Carroll notes in his follow-up statement, United Airlines has stepped up and has offered him some compensation. News reports also state that United wants to use the video in "training".

"Training"? Really?

Sorry, but I don't see a training problem here. I see employees constrained by bad practices and protocols, and others whose knowingly substandard performance would have no consequence. Basically, they were doing exactly what they were expected to do. Even Dave Carroll defended the employee who gave him the final "no" from the airline as, "Acting in the interests of the policies she represented."

No, baggage handlers do not need to attend training so they can "learn" not to throw musical instruments onto the tarmac, for cryin' out loud. People with the title "customer service representative" do not need to be "taught" not to be indifferent. Too often management throws problems into a bucket labeled "training issue" as if that will fix larger matters of culture and leadership. (And maybe hiring.)

And I want to be fair to United: Those of us who travel frequently know that this kind of thing could happen with most any airline at most any airport. (Just read the comments below the original video.) Even if it doesn't create sweeping change, perhaps the work of this one man will help spark an industry desire to improve enough to stay off of YouTube.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

New Skills for Learning Professionals

This month's Big Question asks what new skills learning professionals need going forward in a Web World, "where learning and performance solutions take on a wider variety of forms and where churn happens at a much more rapid pace".

I don't know that I see 'new' skills so much as further refinement of the ones that we've needed since we first tried to integrate any web technologies into traditional classroom and OTJ instruction:

1. Become comfortable enough with technologies so that you can recognize them for what they really are. Get yourself past the hype and to the possibilities.

For instance: A blog is not just a solipsistic place for "online rants", as many believe, but a nearly-idiot-proof web page creation tool. Possible uses when seen in that light: student portfolios, learner journals, a place for reflective comments back to an instructor question, a place for a course home page, or a place to practice new skills. One of the best uses I've seen: students learning to teach another language are assigned to manage and update a blog-- in that new language.

For instance: Twitter is not just a solipsistic place for telling the world what you had for breakfast. Take a look at @slqotd (Social Learning Question of the Day): each weekday morning the moderators post a new question related to social learning, and any of the 800+ followers can chime in with a quick response, to the question or to one another. They don't have to log in to another site, they don't have to jump through a lot of setup. They don't have to endure an "icebreaker". The weekly #lrnchat sessions (Thursdays, 8:30 pm ET) on Twitter are fast, lively, interesting conversations centered around 3 or 4 key learning/training-related questions per session. Transcripts are made available soon after. It is an excellent way to share expertise, obtain diverse perspectives, and meet new colleagues. And it's fun. It's good practice for thinking on your feet, so to speak, and with a limit of 140 characters is great at teaching you to get to the point already. Twitter also can be used for reflection and mindfulness about learning: Every day @lrn2day (which I moderate with Marcia Connor) poses the question: "What did you learn today?"

2. LET GO. Research has shown that one of the biggest fears traditional classroom trainers (and teachers, and organizations) have of new technologies is the lack of control. Now: They have complete administrative control of people in seats (maybe even assigned seats) who are told how long they can take a to go to the bathroom, get a snack, or make a phone call, and when to read page 6 of the handout, and which slides to look at when, and what time they will go to lunch. Next, in their view: Scary, willy-nilly online free-for-alls, with no control of the message, everyone talking at once, and people maybe even talking when the trainer's not there. Several of my colleagues, in answering this Big Question, have mentioned the need to develop skill in moderating and facilitating online conversation. The bigger picture of that, though, may mean development of characteristics that are not necessarily skill-based: tolerating ambiguity, letting learners take over the learning, and coping with 'messy' conversations may take more than just skill development. Can this new attitude be developed? I think so, if the trainer-person is actually interested in helping others learn, in enriching the experience, and in working as a guide alongside rather than sage on the stage.

Of course, all our conversations assume that traditional trainers want to move forward. I don't see sweeping evidence of that in my physical (rather than virtual) world. What I do see is an increasingly widening gulf between the tech-savvy and the classroom-bound. Maybe they'll be left behind, maybe they'll find themselves unemployable, maybe we will see organizations holding on for years more to the classroom/schoolhouse model.

What do you see?