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Personal Responsibility for Learning September 28, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Informal learning, Learning.
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As the month of September comes to a close, I thought I’d squeak in my response to the Learning Circuit’s big question on To-Learn Lists. I started by spending some time reading everyone else’s responses, and I learned a lot. Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and lists.

To-Learn lists can help shorten to-do lists
Like everyone else I believe that knowledge workers need to learn continuously to stay abreast of their industries and that to-learn lists are a good way to do that. I also think that to-learn lists can help us shorten and better target those long to-do lists.

In the old paradigm, managers were responsible for an employee’s learning
Tony’s questions on to-learn lists got me thinking about the whole idea of personal responsibility for learning. In the old paradigm, much of the responsibility for a worker’s learning was on the corporation or the worker’s manager. Human resources and/or managers came up with employees’ learning development plans and decided what learning opportunities to make available: Which classes would be approved for next year?

We should be responsible for our own learning
But those who move up in their careers ultimately realize that the responsibility for learning rests on themselves. And while they may work with their managers to make that learning happen, they no longer rely on their managers to plan their development. In many cases, they guide their managers: Here’s the training I’d like to take this year.

Today’s technologies make it easy to develop a personal learning plan
Today’s technologies have enabled informal learning so that it’s easier than ever to develop and act upon a personal learning plan. The first step, and possibly the hardest step (for me anyway) is to set clear learning goals. But once you know where you’re going, development options are many and mostly free. Based on your goals, you can set up your to-learn list. Then venture out to the wide open Web for blogs, social networks, articles, Webinars, colleagues, wikis, videos, tutorials, and all kinds of resources to help you meet your goals and check off items on your to-learn list. Many people are creating their own Personal Learning Environments to help capture their learning and share it with others. Michelle Martin at the Bamboo Project Blog has a whole section devoted to PLEs, with lots of useful advice for setting one up.

Your personal learning plan is not complete, however, without personal measures of success
In The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni makes the case that managers need to help employees come up with personal measures of success so that they can objectively know for themselves when they’re succeeding. Taking that a step further, I’d say that those who want to move up in their careers need to develop their own personal measures of success. They may want to share those with their managers so that they can be sure to align with their organization’s requirements. But at the end of the day, as managers come and go, organizations change directions, new technologies arise, and industries transform overnight, each of us needs to have our own standards and take the steps needed to meet those standards.

So, here is my to-do list, inspired by the Learning Circuits Big Question on To-Learn Lists: 

1. Define my goals.

2. Make a to-learn list based on those goals.

3. Identify ways to check off the items on my to-learn list.

4. Define my personal measures of success.

5. Set up a Personal Learning Environment to capture and share what I learn.


Informal Learning at ASTD TechKnowledge, Part 2 March 17, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Informal learning.
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Here’s a bit more on informal learning at ASTD’s TechKnowledge:

Catching up with old friends: I ran into my friend, David Serdynski, who went to work for Root Learning about 6 or 7 years ago. It was great to see him, and he seems to be doing well. I will always think fondly of David because we once shared one of those eyes-flooding, stomach-seizing, breath-stopping laughs that went on so long that the guy in the office next door came in to see if we were all right.

Learning about audience engagement at Howl at the Moon:  howl.gif On Wednesday morning, as I was walking over to the convention center, I happened to talk to a woman who told me about a piano bar called Howl at the Moon, where she had had the time of her life the night before. She urged me to go there if I got the chance. So, we  decided to stop in for an hour or so to check it out. Several hours later, just before closing, we finally forced ourselves to leave so we wouldn’t be too exhausted the next day. I kept waiting for the piano players to play a song I didn’t like, so it would be easier to leave, but that never happened.

The key learning here was in audience engagement. Those entertainers really knew how to connect with their audience and involve them in the show. I started to write down all their tricks here but decided that was probably another blog post for another time.  

Finding a kindred spirit in Barbara Wright: Barbara had attended our session on Wednesday, and she was like a third presenter. We joked with her about how perfectly her questions and comments set us up for what we wanted to share. She joined us for the closing session, and long after the session had ended and everyone else had left, we sat in the auditorium discovering that we were birds of a feather. For one thing, she had instantly pegged us as perfectionists like herself, and she had nailed me as the goody-two-shoes, which I reluctantly admit that I am. We were having such an entertaining conversation that we continued it along the Riverwalk and into an English pub for lunch. It has since continued via e-mail.

Remembering the importance of slowing down to rock and talk: Whoever thought of putting old-fashioned rocking chairs on the concourse in the airport was a genius! After rushing to get to the airport, we discovered that we had two hours to kill. So, we got some snacks and found some empty rocking chairs and sat and talked for an hour. I think the rocking motion made us giddy, or maybe we were just tired, but we ended the trip swapping outrageous skiing stories and laughing our guts out.

Informal Learning at ASTD TechKnowledge, Part 1 March 13, 2008

Posted by cjescribano in Informal learning.
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techknowledge.jpg. Hard to believeASTD TechKnowledge was two weeks ago! And here I am still thinking about what I learned. In today’s post, I want to summarize some of the great informal learning experiences that I had.

Learning from Rob about creative services and genuineness:
When you spend a lot of time with someone, you tend to learn through osmosis. It’s an immersive learning experience that allows you to quickly absorb new perspectives. For example, I’ve absorbed and internalized more about good project management by working with good project managers than I ever could from a book.

Hanging out with Rob was a great learning experience in creative design and in interpersonal skills. When it comes to creative services, Rob’s done it all from graphics design and production to video and voiceovers. So, he’s got a lot of knowledge to share. But where I learned the most was in the genuine way Rob relates to other people. He has a positive and engaging personality and conveys genuine interest in helping others. Having witnessed Rob in action close-up, I now have a “genuine interest” state, which I can connect to when needed.

Noticing the age range of people attending the conference:
One afternoon as I waited outside the Expo, I noticed that the crowd was generally older–middle-aged or more. I looked for younger people, but they were few and far between. I’m not sure why that was. Are younger people not interested in training and development? Are organizations more likely to send more senior (and therefore older) people? I don’t have the answers, just the observations.

Learning about translation and localization services from Dan and Jessica of TransPerfect/Translations.com:
Before the conference, I’d exchanged e-mails with Jessica and found out that my company was talking with Dan at Transperfect about translation services. So, it was nice to meet them face-to-face and learn more about their services. They showed me that a partnership with them would result in more than just translation services. For one thing, they also provide “localization,” that is, guidance on what works and what doesn’t in various foreign countries. And, they could even bring us business with other multi-national companies.

Learning about a new way to distribute Flash-like content from Jared Vishney at our face-to-face session:
Jared introduced us to his company’s software, Flypaper, for creating, editing, and sharing Flash-quality content that can be used in presentations or distributed over the Web. I haven’t had a chance to try the software yet, but from Jared’s demo, it looked fairly easy to use. So, even someone without Flash experience can create engaging Flash-like content. But what’s really interesting about Flypaper is the business model. I describe it as a You-Tube or Flickr for Flash content. Flypaper plans to distribute their software for free. Then, people can create templates and post them to the Flypaper Web site to distribute to others.

Talking with Amrit about India at lunch: On Wednesday at lunch, Rob and I sat down with Amrit Garg of Upside Learning Solutions. Amrit had come all the way from India to attend the conference. It was interesting to talk with him about the incredible changes happening in India right now.

Talking with Anders Gronstedt of the Gronstedt Group about Second Life: I signed up for a face-to-face session with Anders Gronstedt of the Gronstedt Group because he was listed as a Second Life expert. Last year, I had been experimenting with Second Life, but then my system started crashing every time I went in world. When I searched through the help materials at Linden Labs, I discovered that I did not have a powerful enough graphics card. To me, this seemed like rather a huge hurdle for getting corporate America into Second Life. My computer is a fairly standard issue Dell. So, I assumed that if I was having problems, lots of other people were. Certainly, several other people in my company were also having problems. But Anders assured me that it was NOT a widespread problem, and that any computer less than 3 years old should be able to handle the Second Life graphics. Since that 20-minute conversation, Anders has provided me with lots of good information on both Second Life and podcasting. And it looks like he may be presenting on Training in Second Life to my company.

Learning about conference organization at dinner with Silke Fleischer and friends:
After attending the Develop Professional-Quality Simulations session with Silke Fleischer and Matt Hanzel, Rob had asked Silke to help him with an Adobe Captivate problem. Their mutual problem-solving session ended in an invitation to dinner for Rob, and by default, me. We met Silke and the others at The County Line for the biggest beef ribs I’ve ever seen. Since Silke’s friends included TechKnowledge organizers Frank Nguyen, Jim Javenkoski, and Bob Mosher, talk centered on what was going well and what wasn’t at the conference. Rob and I told them about the technical problems we’d had in our session, and they listened carefully. It was an interesting crew and interesting conversation. I caught a tiny glimpse into all the effort and thought that goes into pulling a conference like this together.

More to come…
As you can tell, there was LOTS of informal learning going on around the formal structure of the conference. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.