Thursday, February 24, 2011

The New Learning Architect

Last month at Learning Technologies UK I finally had the pleasure of meeting Clive Shepherd in real life. We vowed to read and to review each other’s new books, a promise he kept right away and on which I was delinquent. I did download The New Learning Architect to Kindle right away – it’s available solely in handy ebook form—and did finally settle down with it last weekend.

Clive does a great job articulating a problem that’s nagged at me for a long while: as one trend surfaces, separate camps emerge and the implication of a winner and loser takes over the discussion. We saw it with eLearning v. classroom learning; we’re seeing it again now with informal learning v. formal. Shepherd argues that learning occurs in several contexts, with formal learning only one card in that deck, but still a useful one. He then offers a nice tour through tools and approaches within each context.  It’s the goal of L&D, he says, to build not classes or courses but environments in which people can learn, and those environments can come in several forms.  Suggesting we are ‘architects’ raises the bar, asking us to move to a more efficacious position above the ‘order taker’ function we’ve been fulfilling for far too long (“Yes, sir! That’ll be an order of Teambuilding with a side of Conflict Resolution!”)

Novices will find this very useful—there is a lot of support here to help them step off on the right foot,and  I think it would be a fabulous resource for those coming to the field with no preconceived notions. Experienced practitioners will likely be more interested in the information around informal and social learning as well as the excellent profiles of several successful learning architects.  Another thing experienced people might need?  Perhaps some new perspective on the place of learning in the learner’s world.  Shepherd talks a great deal about the case for and ways of achieving bottom-up change.  The idea appeals to me, and I admit I’m even more interested and optimistic about it given the recent events in Egypt.  While I was reading I occasionally Tweeted quotes from the book (did you know you can post to Twitter directly from Kindle? Like this). Shepherd’s idea that, "You build a learning culture by building an appetite to learn. This is predominantly a bottom-up, peer-to-peer process” caused a good deal of bristling, mostly from people who seemed to feel this could not happen without upper management control or L&D orchestrating it.  People used words like ‘partner’,  and having upper management involved in culture change, but we’ve seen how that looks so far and, well, it mostly ain’t working.

 Shepherd offers a nice overview of the field, with useful suggestions for current practice and provocative ideas for the future. It’s available as an ebook from Amazon US  and UK . 

Friday, February 04, 2011

Twitter in Training

There's lots of interesting stuff coming out this week on using Twitter as a training tool. First, Terrence Wing is moving like a house afire, first with this nice piece on using Twitter as a training platform, then with this great YouTube demonstration of using the video widget in the new Twitter interface to support delivery of a whole course via Twitter. (You can visit Twitter to see the course, too.)

Then last night I happened to check in on the new episode of Grey's Anatomy, which included a whole storyline about using Twitter as a training tool. The Chief was adamantly opposed to tweeting from operating rooms, calling Bailey's Blackberry a 'litigation machine' (sound familiar?). Meantime, staff were bending the rules and residents from all over the country were following along with surgery backchannels, eventually appealing to the chief's expertise and ego. Learners were able to ask questions and get answers from a master. Everybody won--including Twitter.  The ABC network site doesn't leave these episodes up long, and I fear readers in some countries outside the US will be unable to access the site. The episode's called "don't deceive me please don't go" so keep an eye out for it on subversive channels everywhere.

Readers of Social Media for Trainers will appreciate the challenges of trying to keep print text updated as new approaches and ideas evolve. Keep me posted of new things you run across and I'll do my best to spread the word. Ain't technology -- and the people who use it -- great?

Thursday, February 03, 2011


This month's "Nuts & Bolts" column for Learning Solutions Magazine: Surprise!

Incorporating what we understand about the role of surprise can help us overcome several common challenges in eLearning design.