Supporting Serendipity

“Be there when the spark happens and catch it before it burns out. Try to help with getting people the time and space they need to explore, connect, and reflect. Figure out ways to reward it: we don’t always show that we value the divergent. We can’t create or plan for serendipity. We can’t schedule accidents. But we can work to help create an environment in which opportunities can serendipitously occur.”                                                                                -Jane Bozarth

Have you ever embarked on one learning path just to end up somewhere entirely different?  Where formal learning is usually planned, informal learning depends on people sharing ideas and collaborating with each other, whether on or off the job and it is through these actions that the actual learning occurs.

The majority of how we do our jobs comes from informal learning.  Formal training only accounts for a small portion of how we learn our jobs.  Workshops and trainings can demonstrate the base knowledge needed to perform certain job tasks, but not until you are in the thick of things–making mistakes, observing others–can you figure out how things really work on the job.

Author, eLearning coordinator, and proponent of Social Media for learning, Jane Bozarth writes a monthly column, Nuts and Bolts for Learning Solutions Magazine and often talks about the unplanned, impromptu, and flat out serendipitous way we learn when we are not actually in a classroom.  In this monthly article, Causing Serendipity,  she discusses how many individuals struggle with this concept of serendipitous learning because our minds are programmed to think in terms of formal learning and acquiring knowledge through planned efforts in workshops or trainings, not the spontaneous discovery that can happen by simply observing or talking with a colleague.

While we cannot plan serendipitous learning, Jane maintains we can give people the “time and space they need to explore, reflect, and connect”.

Can you think of a time when you ended up discovering something important by accident? Can you give an example of serendipitous learning you may have experienced?

Have a good afternoon,

Diana Good

Updated Feat-cheers – Microsoft Windows 10- How Microsoft used Social Media

We have lived in a wonderful time… A time where our best friend, the Internet, came to existence with a meme and an innuendo followed by kittens and our sleep schedules!  Continue reading Updated Feat-cheers – Microsoft Windows 10- How Microsoft used Social Media

Better Student Blogging

blogI shared some of my initial difficulties with getting middle schoolers to blog in authentic, meaningful ways, not just to complete the required 2 posts and 2 comments, which was typically the way of my assignments, but to get them to think deeply about what they were reading and to give their peers constructive responses.

I believe that there’s value and learning in blogging that doesn’t happen as readily or immediately with other kinds of writing.  I really liked Kevin’s post about “Social Constructionist” nature of blogs.  In it, he writes, “blogging allows students to construct various social “artifacts” (textual, pictorial, video, etc.) that help them learn and influence culture, both in- and outside of the classroom.  In addition, the social nature of blogging is constructivist in approach, meaning that, as students interact, they are influenced by their interactions, with and without the teacher.” I agree, but I wasn’t convinced that I was setting up my blogs in the best way to help students construct thought through their reading and writing of blog posts.

I then came across this blog post by Mark Sample from The Humanities and Technology Camp, which bills itself as a non-conference (open-source, but in the real world!). In it, he shares what he’s had students do with blogs, methods that he’s tired of but that sound pretty interesting to me, where he varies the structure, roles and/or rhythms of his class blogs.  His goal, one that resonates with me, is to “have students blog and make it worth their while and ours too.”

He then opens up the discussion to others and includes the collaborative notes.  All very helpful.  I’m saving Sample’s post for my next classroom blog.

Marissa Dietrich

Image by Kristina B, CC License

Replace The Training Manual

While searching for social learning related articles I came across this blog titled “Replace The Training Manual:10 Ways to Improve The Experience With Social Learning”. I feel many employees do not read their training manuals upon being hired because they are overwhelmed with the amount of information being given to them at one time.  The article mentions one company has saved $75,000 by replacing their traditional training manual with a social learning approach. Below are 10 reasons to replace training manuals with social learning tools. How do you feel about replacing training manuals with a social learning solution?

Here are 10 reasons to replace your training manuals and tools with a social learning solution:

Update materials in real time. How frustrating is it that training materials are out-of-date almost as soon as they are in your employees’ hands? With an online social learning solution – materials and answers can be updated in real-time. This means that employees will always find the most current and accurate information.

Make information easier to find. By making your training materials available in an online social learning tool instead of a document, employees can easily search for the documents and answers they are looking for.

Allow employees to ask questions. By moving the training process online and making it social, employees can ask questions and the experts within your company can reply. The advantage here is that not only does the original employee who asked the question benefit, so does the rest of your organization.

Share stories. One of the strongest advantages of using a social learning tool to train employees is that training comes to life with shared stories and experiences. People can comment, interact, and connect through the tool in ways that a standalone document simply doesn’t allow.

Ongoing connections. Instead of just filing away a training manual on a bookshelf or a file folder, putting all of this information online means that it is an ongoing resource for employees. And because the information is constantly updated, questions are asked and answered, and stories are shared, there is an incentive for the employee to check back and see what is new.

Interaction with everyday experts. Social learning solutions give new and existing employees the ability to connect with experts throughout your organization – even beyond the initial training period. This is even more important if your experts are spread across multiple geographies.

Different file types all in one place. People learn in different ways. Some like to read text descriptions, others like a diagram or video. With a social learning tool, you can share videos, PowerPoint decks, images, posts, and more to engage your visitors.

Smaller, digestible pieces of information. Rather than an overwhelming document, social learning tools feed information to employees in bite-sized chunks that they can easily consume. You can even take these smaller pieces of information and create a series for people to work their way through.

Single point of data. A big challenge at most companies is knowing where to go for critical information. Knowledge sits spread across the company’s various laptops and servers. An online training hub becomes THE place where employees know they can find the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Access content anytime/anywhere from any device. A social learning solution puts training information in the hands of employees when they need it most. Knowledge becomes accessible 24 hours a day from any device.

Debunking 4 Myths of Social Learning

I found a blog with the title “Debunking 4 Myths of Social Learning” by Blackboard. It outlines some misconceptions about what Social Learning is and what it isn’t.

Myth #1: Social Learning is new. Social Learning has been around for hundreds of years. Think back to Aristotle; he encouraged people to go out and create their own theories and build on what he taught. Social learning is basically when people learn together in groups.

Myth #2: Social Learning is the same as Social Media. Social Media can help social learning by connecting people together, but it also causes distractions when not used correctly.

Myth #3: Social Learning is just for fun. 

“When allowed to let go of the rules that accompany formal term papers, the changes were significant. They (the students) were more expressive.”

Myth #4: Social Learning doesn’t have broad appeal. 

“Modern day social learning is a reflection of the educational environment today’s students have helped create for themselves (and future students) to perform at their best.”

-Kimberly Wondoloski

Backchannel: A Digital Conversation

While researching different blogs, I was looking for something different to discuss, perhaps a concept with which I was unfamiliar.  Enter backchannel.  A backchannel is a digital conversation that occurs concurrently with some sort of live event, like a conference, a lecture, or some type of instructor-led training.  People participating in a backchannel do so on a mobile device with Twitter or some other social media site as a platform.

In his book, The Backchannel, presentation guru and author Cliff Atkinson explores how audiences are using Twitter and social media to transform live presentations.  The audience no longer sits quietly taking notes; instead they are commenting, fact-checking, searching online resources, and engaging with each other in ways that were not possible before mobile devices and social media.

In education, a backchannel provides shy or quiet kids a way to ask questions without having to speak in front of the class.  I wish there were backchannel conversations when I was in middle or high school, as I was quite shy and almost always had a question that I was afraid to ask for fear I would look dumb.  Backchanneling would certainly have given me the chance to “speak up” without speaking at all.  Although Twitter can work well for back channeling to a wide audience on the open internet, closed tools such as Back Channel Chat or TodaysMeet are geared toward the classroom, where the teacher can control the content.

iphone-4-closeup

In her blog, Edutopia, Instructor and Communication Coordinator at EdTechTeacher, Beth Holland describes how the backchannel can give “every student a voice in the mobile blended class room”.

How do you think the formal classroom can benefit from using backchannels to engage students?

Diana Good