Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whistle language Silbo is disappearing because of technology

I watched The Dutch comedian Javier Guzman on a lazy evening during the x-mas holidays, his shows is called Por Dios. In this show there is a story about the influence of technology I would like to share because it is really telling a story.

Javier explains that the shepherd on the isle of La Gomera have a  whistle language called Silbo. Through whistling the shepherds communicate with each other to upto 4 kilometers apart. It is actually a whistled sort of Spanish. It reminded me of the farmers in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia who were also communicating from mountaintop to mountaintop by ordinary language. Anyway, Javier talks to the patron of this language and hears that with the advent of the telephone that language is dying. The moral of this story is that technology changes culture. (video in Dutch).


I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in Diré in Mali, with the advent of television. The Malians in Dire could always spend hours chatting. They would sit on the ground or on small stools, next to a tea pot. Tea would always come in three rounds, with increasingly strong tea. So you could easily spend 1.5 hours drinking tea together. About a month after we moved to Diré, the TV was introduced. The next time that we went to visit my Malian colleague we were not chatting, but watching television together. Here the same motto applies: culture changes through technology. It is not all bad, of course, because through the same television I can watch Javier Guzman ... Nevertheless, the change may be unstoppable, but something will be lost along the way. Two medals of the same coin?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The happy selfscanner: lessons about introducing new technologies

My supermarket introduced self-scanners. I'm not someone who is at the forefront of any new technology. For instance I'm secretly against the microwave ... Yet I've thrown myself into the self-scan adventure because it seemed a good experience. I would like to experience and compare myself with anyone in an organization that does not feel like using a new tool. In the supermarket I am the one not really interested in a new tool.

The first day after the opening as self-scan supermarket there was immediately a girl at the entrance who invited me to try out self-scanning. She explained how easy it was. I went first to the bananas to walk immediately stuck there. There was no code to scan on the banana ... and there was no one around. I chosen for other fruits. For the rest it was easy enought, although I felt quite stupid with such a large scanning device in hand. At the exit again there was someone to help me with the payment and exit. This was nice because I could ask her about my banana problem. She told me I could weigh bananas at the end.

The second visit I had real doubts about continuing to scan, it seemed pretty easy just turn to my old way and get my own bananas. I also did not feel that the self-scan had saved me time the first time. You do not have to wait at the cashier, but the lines are not very long. Scanning and searching the code also takes time. Perseverance helped me: I was nevertheless happy when the scanner indicated by sound when a second item was half price. Normally I wouldn't bother much, but now I went for the discount. When scanning a second article, I heard KATCHIENG a cash register sound. I made another banana mistake: I put the scanner back before weighing and I had to leave them behind... What I noticed is that I felt weird about loosing contact with the cashier. Even though I never have long filosophical dialogues with them. The third time I learned that you can pack up your bag during your shopping time which saves packing time. And you avoid the most stressful moment in the store: to pack your bag before the groceries of the next client are coming.  The fourth time I did this and I felt totally awesome! For the fifth time, it felt like a new way of shopping.

If I look at my experiences from a distance:

  • It helps if there are people to help and explain at the right times, but there are always moments when you have to fix it yourself.
  • The moment I almost pulled out was the second or third time. The first time I wanted to give it a try and try something new. The second time there was real reason. It felt good to shop in the old way.
  • I was when I found out I could put things in my bag while shopping that I saw an advantage. However, no one had told me about this advantage.

This scientific experiment (with n = 1) leads to the following conclusions about introducing new media in an organization, for instance a social intranet or a team tool like Slack.
  • Make sure there is enough help and support available to assist people, especially after the initial period. It is not difficult to convince people to give it a try, however to persevere? 
  • Do not underestimate what it takes energy to develop a new routine. It help to search motivations (which may be different for different persons). You could also point out that at the start it may demand more time, but saves time later.
  • Looking at the benefits. Which can be different for everyone, but you may beforehand test it, find out the benefits and emphasize those.
ps I hear now also other self-scanners with katjieng! I'm not the only crazy person anymore ...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A new focus for my blog: the new social learning

In 2005 I started this blog around communities of practice. It was a great way to investigate, learn and share my steep learning curve about communities online. I still love to work with communities (facilitate the LOSmakers), but somehow my work has become much wider.  I have been writing about many things which interest me, though mostly about learning and learning technologies. Going back to my first blogpost I became nostalgic about the clear focus I had. I decided to think through a new focus and I found it in the term: the new social learning. It is wider than communities of practice, though communities would still fit in as one of the learning interventions. I call it the new social learning (coined by Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham) not to confuse it with the fact that all learning is in fact social. It is funny when I read the book some years ago, I didn't like the term at all.

My key interest is in how the way we learn is changing because of the internet and all social technologies and which new forms of learning evolve. When I worked in Chile, Mali and Ethiopia I was basically inventing everything by myself with a few key colleagues. I used to carry certain pages from books around. I had supervisors, but they were not all very interested and even if they were interested they were only interested in the progress, but couldn't help me with all my practitioner questions. Now I am inspired by so many practitioners from all over the world.. Through the 100 blogs I read, Twitter and LinkedIn groups.

Here's a video I made in the beginning of this year interviewing people at the learning and technologies conference. Answers include - is has become self-directed: it not about what you know but about what you can find out; where, when and through what means we learn is changing; dealing with information overload become important, we can instantly find out what we need to know, and the question of whether we will even be learning if artificial intelligence can take over?

The new social learning

My questions to explore are:
1. How does the knowmadic learner think, work and reflect? and what are the new challenges? What are the differences amongst different generations?
2. What is the impact of new social technologies? What are new technologies like learning record stores and what can you do with those technologies?
3. How does learning in (online, open) networks work? Changes as a result of technological changes?
4. What are new learning interventions? Experimental or effective?
5. What are practical examples of social learning in organizations?

In short my categories will be:
  • Knowmadic learner
  • Social technologies
  • Networked learning
  • New learning interventions
  • Practical examples
Sounds very structured isn't it? I hope this will also help you to make a decision to follow my blog or not. It will give me inspiration to look with curiosity for developments I see online or experience myself. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

Online facilitation inspired by car dealers

autoWe have recently bought a different car, a used car. We started with a search on the Internet. Then we went one afternoon to some dealers to watch the cars. We met the first salesman there.  Fortunately he fully matched my preconceptions of a car salesman :). He was a man who was already retired, and was selling cars for fun during weekends. He questioned us and soon realized that my husband was sensitive for station models and I had a crush for colors, my daughter wants to have a red car. So he pointed at a red Citroen station model. He told us we were very lucky, the car was € 1,000 cheaper because "no one wants a red car" .. But we had to decide quickly, actually today. We could make a test drive immediately . I heard a strange sound during the test drive. When I told hem about the sound, he went with us for a drive in the car. He started the engine full gas and said: "Hear, hear what  a wonderful sound, a very strong engine. I wished it was my car" Eventually he heard the noise and explained that would entail only a 5 minutes repair. Long story short: we have not bought this car. We purchased the car at another dealer. Who really surprised us when we arrived: He had packed up the car and we could unpacking it as a gift :).

Learning is not the same as selling cars is it? 

I was reading a blogpost by Wilfred Rubens today in which he argues that you can not transfer lessons from Greenwheels and to education. Because education is more than just making content available. Thus facilitating is really different than selling cars. Yet I believe we also copy and learn from car sellers. Long ago I thought marketing specialists were sellers of hot air and were no craftsmen. However, since the social media age I started following more and more marketers online. They embraced social media earlier than learning professionals so that alone is something we can learn from. They are also good at studying people and their behavior and how to influence their behavior.

A famous marketing model is the model by Cialdini with 6 strategies to influence people. The 6 strategies are:

  1. Reciprocity - We like to return favours. We started with a cup of coffee at the car dealer's.
  2. Scarcity - when something is scarce people want it. According to the car salesman this car offer was only valid for this day.
  3. Authority - you believe the professor rather than the postman. The car seller stressed that he had sold cars his entire life. (Unfortunately that was a minus for me :)
  4. Consistency (and commitment) - once people have put the first step is the next easier. A test drive ...
  5. Consensus (Social evidence) - one sheep over the dam.. and others follow. Stories about other people who also opted for this type of car.
  6. Sympathy (liking) - If you like someone you are quicker to award him something than when you don't like someone(this factor had my car salesman then not again!)
In the Dutch learning trajectory about learning technologies we investigated how you might apply these principles to online and social learning.

This prompted a discussion on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. My own conclusion is that you have to look and observe what drives people, what motivates them. So my car salesman quickly realized that would still like to have a red car and my husband was prone to a station model. How did he get there? By simply asking what we seek, by asking and observing which cars drew our attention. If you realize this, the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is less relevant. Is ultimately about influencing people. What trigger can you use to motivate them?

From car sales to learning online

The link between Cialdini and online learning is that we are learning online with a lot of added distractions than in a  face-to-face setting. In an online workshop or webinar for example, you're always just one click away from your email. I myself have just facilitated a three-week online course on business and human rights, the involvement from week one to week three went down, from high to low. It's quite a challenge to keep the attention of busy officials. I still find it a nice challenge to fascinate people, and keep them engaged online. Relying on their own motivation of participants is not enough.

Motivating people to engage in online learning - tips from car salesmen

  • Be the first to share a story which will incite participants to share as well, they also want to share a story or make sure that there are already interesting documents before asking participants to share documents online. You can also advance if something interesting partsn
  • Give participants a gift, eg. a fact sheet before asking if they want to do something, for instance complete the evaluation

  • Limit the number of spaces. Select participants on the basis of criteria
  • Open a platform, content or activity for a limited period of time. For instance I participated in a MOOC on digital badges which was open for only 48 hours
  • Make sure the platform closes immediately after the course instead of keeping it accessible 
  • Invite respected experts as guest speakers, or to provide feedback or give a master class
  • Invite important, authoritative people to place a cal for participation and finish
  • Use a positive evaluation of an online course or MOOC to recruit people for the next edition
  • Start with simple questions online, for example to make a simple introduction online.
  • Inviting people to introduce themselves and ask a question for the next in line works well for instance 
  • Ask participants in advance a number of questions, such as whether they want to share online and if they are going to finish the course for example. After this they be more committed to do so 


  • Behind the scenes you may invite a number of people to respond or engage online. This will make it easier for the next to follow
  • Emphasize positive behaviour, eg. "80% participated in the first webinar", instead of "I hope next week more people will participate"
  • Work with or likes or best content - so you can show what content is valued 
  • Make contact, such as through the mail and be genuinely interested in the questions and circumstances of your participants
  • Make sure you are visible online, eg by placing a video or photo of yourself and display a positive attitude and tone in your communications
  • Give compliments

Can you think of other actions based on these principles? 

Friday, November 04, 2016

What can you learn from a chatbot?

I have my office on the first floor of our house and therefore I use a Wifi homeplug to strengthen the WiFi signal from the groundfloor. A week ago, suddenly the signal dropped. The homeplug didn't work anymore. I looked back at my mails and discovered that I had bought it at and that there is a 10-year warranty. I was quite happy to find it but at the same time thought: oooh how to send it? How to get a warranty reparation?  I went to the customer service page of to see what I had to do. And I bumped into the virtual assistant. My experience with this type of assistants is rather frustrating. However, this one gave me a sensible answer. My question: "I have a defective product which is guaranteed, what should I do" was understood as a warranty question. He wanted to look up what the product was and offered me to sign and go to the product (together!).
So he sent me to the page with information about sending a defective product. It was clear how I could return the product with a label on the envelope. That page I had not found myself! Thanks to Mr. virtual assistant. They are slowly getting better?

What is a chatbot?
chatbotThis virtual assistant is a fine example of a chatbot. A chatbot can converse with you to perform a task. Other examples of chat bots are:
  • The invisible boyfriend. You can create your own type of boyfriend and to practice with him through SMS texts in dating.
  • Slack is a teamtool with various chatbots like the busybot. Busybot lets you divide tasks Slack. Its sends you a reminder on a date that you set yourself.
  • The telegram MUSIC bot or youtube bot helps you find music or video.
  • In Facebook Messenger you can get CNN news via a personalised chatmessage. If I type 'discrimination' I get 3 articles (see image)
  • The brain bot op Twitter. Answers every question by googling it. 
Why are chatbots interesting for learning professionals?
If you define learning broadly as "the process that leads to improvement in the capacity of people '(see Illeris) with a cognitive, emotional and social component you could say chatbots help you find the right information, and hence the cognitive component (think of the CNN bot helping you find articles). From a performance approach chatbots are very suitable for just-in-time support, such as help in dealing with a new tool. There is also a chatbot in Slack where you can ask questions about the working of Slack. Is it not the same as Googling? Then we come to the social component. Many companies invest in chat bots because messaging apps (like whatsapp) are currently used more than social networks. Messaging apps are used to enter directly in a conversation with someone. In that regard, chatbots are a more social form of googling. Chatbots are your new friend or colleagues on whatsapp or Slack.

Should I find an interest in chatbots as learning professional? 
The development of chat bots for learning purposes is still in its infancy stage. If you want to lead technological learning innovations you may experiment with it. Otherwise you can follow it from the sidewalk. Just the fact that I learned about chatbots made me see chatbots everywhere! It is true that there are still many concerns, like the quality, security and costs. That is also reflected in the video of Craig Taylor, the facilitator of the MOOC "learning beyond the next button" in which learned about chat bots.

A few examples of chatbots for learning in organizations
In this online MOOC we brainstormed and exchanged about applying chatbots in organizations. Some possibilities:
  • Answering questions. Use a chatbot in the most frequently used IM tool in your organization to answer questions a routine sort of "Ask HR". Or "MOODLE chatbot". This ensures that HRD professionals can focus on interesting questions.
  • Practice interpersonal skills with a chatbot. Similarly as practicing with the invisible boyfriend you could practice a difficult conversation with an office bot.
  • Learning languages. This seems a very logical. Instead of conversation lessons, chatting for an hour with your chatbot. Duolingo is offering this.
  • Curating content. A chatbot is curating a topic and can offer the most important questions.
  • Provide feedback. Employees often need feedback. A good chatbot could also provide feedback. An example is the chatbot Your Face on Skype. It will ask you to upload your photo and get your feedback based on your photo. This feedback is not very high quality because I was told: "You're a 37.2-year-old woman You look remarkably cheerful.."
Eventually, you could analyze chats again to see patterns in the questions and conversations with bots. Another good read is chatbots for learning. I don't know how expensive it is to develop a chatbot. But as a start, you could, of course, examine the chat bots which already exist alert employees to the possibilities of using existing chatbot services supporting their practice.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How I share online

This is my contribution to the blogcarnaval  of the LOSmakers. The subject is online sharing of knowledge and experiences. "We all talk about online knowledge sharing, but who is really practising it? And if you don't why not?" If you are Dutch and want to join you can find the invitation in our LinkedIn group. The deadline is 15 november.

I surfed back to my very first blogpost - which has really been the start of my online sharing career. On the 24th of october 2005 (11 years ago!) my first blogpost went live with the title "I did it!"


I do remember that it was very exciting to throw something openly on the Internet. There's a picture of my bike - no idea why :). Probably I found a bike picture very personal. As you can see there are 4 positive comments, from my fellow participants in an online course on facilitation. I started because I was inspired by Beth Kanter who was together with me in this course. These comments gave me the courage to persevere, at least someone who read it ... I needed perseverance because it was scary to blog outloud in the public blogosphere. Sometimes people would ask me how I was able to write so personal and easy - a tone in between an article and small talk. I think this was easy because I wrote for the small group of my course and not for "everyone on the Internet." I soon realized that it is more likely that your blog is read by nobody than by everyone. What I like about blogging is that it helps to organize your thoughts and I enjoy to build something on the internet which is really mine. I had very positive feedback. I got comments from strangers (on the blog but also by mail), and it was funny when I someone during a face-to-face meeting - "oh you are  Joitske from Lasagne and chips!" (that was the name of my blog). I got comments from the author about whom I had done a book review. I noticed various times that my blogpost had landed somewhere in a online course or MOOC due to the high number of clicks from the same course environment. Read more details about my first blog period in my pathway into blogging.

11 years later I don't get adrenaline anymore from comments on my blog. Besides they are often spam .. Blogging has become something normal, but also a part of my routines. The number of places where I share online has expanded (see drawing). The online space can be grouped into 8 major social networks where I share varying from public to more private spaces. Twitter and Youtube screencasts have become important but also LinkedIn groups that are more private. The number of blogs have expanded: next to my own blog, I blog for Ennuonline, our company. Yet my blog remains special because it is my own personal place, it feels different, less marketing oriented. I still enjoy share with a community feeling, knowing that there is a core group who reads it, then you know better what you need to share. This happens with some Twitter hashtags. Pinterest is in it as well, but you could argue that pinterest boards are not so much about knowledge sharing but more about content curation. The challenges that I see / feel are:

  • With so many online spaces and followers: know what you want to share and where- I recently asked a question on three sites, but then you have the answers from three spaces to work with. The responses from two private communities were more relevant than through the public Twitter.
  • Finding a balance in sharing and reading / responding - with blogs I manage to do so,  I read more than I write, but with Twitter, I find it a challenge with so many lists. So I do try to respond to someone everyday at least.
  • Continue to share about the practice. It is sometimes easier to write 10 tips .. then blogging about your own experiences or clients. It is sometimes difficult to blog about a client without the need for approval by the communications department. A related dilemma is whether you write from an expert role or from practice exploration. With 10 tips you put yourself more in an expert role, but you get closer to reality with an honest practice story and add more value to advancing the overall practice. I'm convinced!

Finding time to share online has never been a challenge to me. It's important to me, so I'll make time for. It is important for organizing my thoughts, and has become part of my routine. A month without a blog is a month not lived :).

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

7 tips to engage introverts in social learning

Introverts love to stay indoors and have difficulties expressing themselves, while extraverts are outgoing and enjoy telling all their stories. That is the image we often have about intro/extraverts. How does this relate to social learning? Can introverts engage in social learning? It could be that introverted professionals prefer to go through individual e-learning models and more extroverted professionals in social learning activities.  Maybe extroverted learners are especially active in a community of practice and the introverts read along and 'lurk'. But is that true? 

With these questions in our minds we, Annet van der Hulst and Joitske Hulsebosch, have investigated this theme, using articles, blogposts and doing a mini-research. Our aim is to find out what the difference is between both groups and how you can use this in your design of social learning processes. Here's a pinterest board with resources. An important source is the book Quiet by Susan Cain.

The definition of introvert and extravert

A third to half of the people are introverts. From Cain's book: “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. Think of an introvert like: reflective, bookworm, sensitive, thoughtful, modest, friendly, risk-averse, avoiding conflict. The extrovert is action-oriented, assertive, active, outward looking and feels comfortable in the spotlight. And all without generalizing :). Do you know if you are introverted or extroverted (or ambivert)?

Everybody is social

In this infographic about introverts we immediately find an important conclusion: introverts are not antisocial, they have just as much need for interaction as extroverts. In other words introverts learn socially, but may like other types of learning activities. Susan Cain draws the same conclusion: “Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity”.

What are learning preferences of the introvert and extrovert professional?

We have already concluded that everybody engages in social learning. But let's go back a step: do introverts have different learning preferences? In Kolb's learning cycle he distinguishes four learning activities. Two of them (reflective observation and abstract conceptualization) would, according to him more fit an introvert dimension and the other two (active experimentation and concrete experience) more extrovert. That does not mean that introverts can not or will not perform the other activities, but that introverted and extroverted learners have different preferences. For social learning would mean that activities that are invoked to reflect on the skills and thinking are more attractive to the introvert learner and you can expect more activity and input.

Karin de Galan from the School for training has written in Dutch about training introverted participants. She finds it difficult that the introverted participants provide less response while they are happy with the content of the training. According to her it is easier to engage the introverts if you give time to think, build in one-on-one conversations instead of only discussions in plenary, and in work assignment go at a slower pace. Translated to (online) social learning, this means that you do not always expect an immediate response in an online debate, but offer space to formulate a response (for example, send prior to a Webinar or online meeting some questions to think about). It is also good to get together in smaller groups or to work in pairs  (in a separate room during a live webinar for example, or in a subgroup on LinkedIn or Yammer). In Quiet we read about examples which support this line of thought. Avril Thorne did an experiment with women in conversation in pairs. The surprising thing was that the introverted women talked no less than the extroverted. However, the introverted pairs talked about one or two serious issues, while the extrovert discussed much lighter and wider issues. Another observation which confirms our findings is that introverts really like collaborative learning, but have a preference for groups of 2-3 with clear roles.

Online preferences of introverts and extroverts professionals: "it's a level playing field"

How about sharing online? Online seems just right for the introverted professional, because of the delay in communication. You can think as long as you like about your answer.  Heidi Cohen: Social media engagement affords introverts the ability to engage for short, strategic interactions on their own terms. introvertspring notes that online is perfect for both groups: "It’s a level playing field online".  Susan Cain: “Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.” However, online we have to deal with information overload and extroverts seem better at coping with information overload. The reflection of introverted professionals namely takes a lot of cognitive space. If we state our cognitive capacity as 100%, then 75% of the introvert capacity is task-oriented and they use 25% to reflect. For extraverts these figures are  90% versus 10%.

Mini-research (n=8)

We are curious what we ourselves observe with regards to preferences within social learning activities in introverts and extroverts professionals- and especially online. We held a mini- survey (N = 8) within our online course. The result is as follows:

Some tentative conclusions we can draw from this mini-research:

  • The extrovert professionals prefer activities such discussing statement in conversation, face-to-face meetings, a lot of interaction and synchronous online workshops. These are activities where the direct and synchronous social contacts are more central. Also, the more 'do-oriented' activities.
  • The introverted professionals have a preference for activities like a webinar with an expert, discover and experiment with tools and work on their own case. These too are part of social learning, but they contain almost all an asynchronous aspect or an aspect where finding out by yourself is a part. Again, we notice some 'do-oriented' activities, but the thinking and reflection activities are note-worthy. 

At first glance, the results of our little research seems so to confirm the learning activities that Kolb calls more introverted.

Seven tips for designers of social learning processes

Thus we arrive at seven tips for the designer and facilitator of social learning processes that take both groups adequately into account, so that everyone feels good and can actively participate.

Tip 1. Know yourself and your audience. How many introverted and extroverted professionals do you expect? And what are your own preferences? If you know your own taste, you can program the opposite: try to see your program through the eyes of the others.

Tip 2. Blended is a good way to serve both types of professionals. Face-to-face extroverts may take the lead and can be overwhelming for introverts. One seems perfect for the introverted type. A 'level playing field'.

Tip 3. Maintain a good balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning. Synchronous speaks to the extroverts more, asynchronous more to the introverted.

Tip 4. Vary between larger, smaller groups and plenary. Work in pairs of two can provide a secure space for introverts to express themselves.

Tip 5. Find a balance between hands-on activities and reflection. Introverts love to go in depth. Be sure to find the space for it.

Tip 6. Make sure all types of learning activities are covered: reflection, theory, active experimentation and experience, in this way you cater for all preferences.

Tip 7. Help introverts professionals to direct their attention. Extroverts can better cope with information overload. Online, overload is hard to avoid. Help introverts to deal with it by directing them to the most relevant discussions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book instead of blogposts

My last blogpost is almost 4 months ago. I admire people like Richard Millington who blog faster than I can read.. The reason that I did not find the time to blog is that I have written a book with Sibrenne Wagenaar called 'Leren in tijden van tweets, apps en likes'. You can almost guess what it means: Learning in times of tweets, apps and likes (and yes we have driven our editor crazy with the amount of English terms in the book).

We have written for almost one and a half years. It was great fun to do, but it costs a lot of time, in addition to ordinary consultancies, our courses and private life. It was certainly a difficult book to write: more difficult than our previous book called 'En nu online'  which gave tips on how professionals, teams and organizations can use social media. Learning in times of tweets, likes and apps is more descriptive and examines the changes in society as a result of social technology and its impact on professionals, the opportunities for organizations and what this means for learning professionals. What I really liked is that we had a group of 20-25 people who wanted to think along for instance with a facebook exchange and/or reviewing the models.

Writing this book was almost like sculpting a model (which I did once). We started brainstorming and writing to reflect on the main themes. This was supplemented by interviews, reading and case studies. I guess we have rewritten each of the five sections at least eight times! In this blog I would like to share in a nutshell what the book (of 250 pages!) has brought me in terms of new insights:
  • First, I got to love the term social technology. I want to use this more frequently and consistently. We started with Ennuonline almost 10 years ago talking about 'web2.0' then 'social media'. Followed by 'new media'. The beauty of the term social technology is that the word is social has return. That is our focus and passion. We are not experts in individual e-learning modules.
  • Secondly, I like the distinction we started to make between different types of professionals: Knowmads, Googlers, Followers and Hobbyists while we started with the Knowmads as an ideal type. I have used this typology already in several sessions and it helps to see that not all professionals are the same. I think it is a good framework which I'm going to use in my future work. You can facilitate the groups in a different way. Informally we already did that, I believe, for example, by always look for the pioneers.

  • I see more clearly or understand better why often the communications professionals and IT specialists are taking the lead concerning social technology within the organization. This is a huge frustration of mine. Many learning professionals do not yet have a social lens and have no affinity with technological developments. Despite the focus on 70-20-10! I think that learning professionals in the future will have a much higher involvement with social technology in the organization. I also understand that the technology has helped to put social learning into focus. When I started in 2005 with communities of practice, few organizations were interested. There is now much more buzz around learning in communities. 
  • We distinguish different stages of how organizations embrace social technologies, for instance organizations focused on online and blended learning versus social learning. It is still a question of where we want to focus our advisory practice. On both? Or should we specialize? At least this justifies reviewing the websites and our learning trajectories. 
  • Social Network Analysis is one of my passions, but I always felt it is an odd one out in my advisory practice. In the book I tried to find a place for it and found it. Doing SNA is a super important step in social learning. I'm looking for a situation where I may apply this in full. 
  • The chapter about the future made me dive into developments like artificial intelligence, machine learning, experience API. Areas that I'm not an expert in and more importantly I don't have experience with. My conviction is that I like to talk and giving advice on things I have experienced, I'm not sure what to do with this. Or is it the doctor's case who doesn't need to have undergone malaria in order to treat it? 
Enough lessons to justify writing 1.5 years? One way you can help is responding whether you think we should translate this book in English or not and what may be creative ideas of translating it, for instance by crowdfunding or crowdsourcing.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My social learning experiences

For a long time I organizing a blog carnival was on my bucket list and I finally took the plunge. I choose the topic: my example of social learning. Why this topic? I notice that there is a lot of confusion about social learning: is social learning about learning through social media? is social learning any process in which more than two people are involved? By inviting people to blog about examples you can start a conversation what social learning is (and what not). And maybe it means different things to different people!

I am currently reading the book: How we learn by Knud Illeris - He describes three dimensions of learning:

  • content
  • motivation (motivation)
  • the interaction (the external environment)
These three dimensions are always part of a learning process, and thus is in fact social learning is always learn a component, there is no "non-social" learning. That of course makes it even more difficult and confusing. It is true, however, that the social learning movement pays more attention to the social aspects of learning than others, for instance e-learning designers. Enough theory - now my own examples. I would like to compare two of my own examples. An example of the social media era and a pre social media experience, so the difference is clearly visible.

Sociaal leren van adviseurs West Afrika

A good example of what is still an inspiration to me and was a transformative experience is the community of practice of SNV's consultants in West Africa from 2000 to 2003. I worked in Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana in an advisory team. Advisory work and working in autonomous teams was new because SNV used to carried out development projects before 2000, so this was a major shift. I had a role in coaching the team in the new way of working as consultants. About 15 people were part of the community of practice of advisors in West Africa. These were consultants who were engaged in the new consulting practice of SNV in other countries such as Benin, Mali and Cameroon. Albania was also part of it because they had no partners in Eastern - Europe. Through the exchange in the community, I began to see broader contexts, we found common threads in our experiences. I was encouraged to make a case analysis of my own team, something which led to many new insights for myself and hopefully also others. Also, we were asked for advice on strategy development. It had great impact on me because I learned a lot, felt heard for the first time in my career. I also think it brought a lot of innovations to the organization. The way we interacted was twice a year 2-3 days together. There was not much technology support, although we experimented with an email exchange in which we got a new question every hour only by mail, and a Yahoo Messenger chat. Interestingly, I still have four friends from that community whom I'm still seeing regularly.

Social learning about social learning

If we compare this experience to the way I learn currently about social learning, I notice I am currently inspired around social learning by all kinds of people but there is a less obvious group, a less obvious community with boundaries. My base is in Ennuonline where I work together with Sibrenne Wagenaar and a group around it. In addition, I was influenced enormously by a clearly defined group of people within CPsquare (CPsquare no longer exists), some of whom I also still interact with online. This is where I got my interest in social tools and first learned about LinkedIn and Flickr in 2005. This group stimulated me to start this blog too.

But actually my thinking and practice is now influenced by a huge fluid group of people whom I follow through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and MOOCs.  An example: I frequently use some of the models shared by Jane Hart in my work with clients. Important people which I always read blogs include Jane Hart, Beth Kanter, Harold Jarche, Ger Driesen and Wilfred Rubens. In addition, I add new people regularly to my radar through Twitter or feedly. Occasionally I collaboration more intensively, such as in organizing a teamhackathon or the thinktank around our book. The most powerful ways to connect are surely cooperation or engaging in conversations at a networking lunch, conference or meetup.

Social learning pre and post social media

If you compare these two examples, it is actually true that the interaction, the external environment has changed a lot. The number of people which influence me has become much larger. However, the investment, the commitment in the community in West Africa was much larger. The advantage of having a large fluid network is that you see a lot of diversity, but the pitfall is that you get less depth because it's faster and more volatile .. You probably need a bit of both. How do you organize this for yourself?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Social learning circle- new ways of learning at a conference

Last Tuesday I've facilitated a so-called learning circle about social learning at the Next Learning conference in Den Bosch. I really like the idea behind a learning circle - a circle is composed of a group of people interested in the same topic but who do not know each other meet. They meet and  exchange before and after the sessions, guided by a coach (me). I think this really helps for 'sense-making' and networking. Many of my circle people were people who did not know many others at the conference. This helps to meet people with similar interest and you get more out of a conference. I think the initiative super. You often hear at conferences that we are "not really applying our own learning principles". However, there are few initiatives like the learning circles.

How did it work out? Well... It was a fine example of a social process - quite unpredictable! I wanted to connect online (via a Linkedin group) but it was not a smooth and rapid process. Some didn't receive the invitation, others were unhappy that I had their email address. Not everybody introduced themselves. However it gave me some insight into the group, and their questions. A number of people who have applied for the circle never showed up, not even at the conference site. Some others were quite excited and there was a small core group of people who stayed afterwards for drinks. There were spontaneous initiatives for a whatsapp group and discussion afterwards.

We have put together a video around the topic of social learning - the instruction was to interview somebody about social learning for a one minute clip with your mobile phone. Four of us participated. Nice to see how every clip highlights a different aspect of social learning. Worthwhile to  repeat. It would help to have a little more time to agree this together, we had barely 20 minutes before the key note started and we had to do intros as well since few introduced themselves online.

If you don't speak Dutch here are some highlights from the interviews. Petra Peeters defines social learning as "making use of people's expertise and their sparring capacities". Marcel the Leeuwe concludes social learning is in the interaction and you can stretch people in the way they interact with others. Playing with media like video can sometimes help to dare to ask questions which they normally would not dare to ask. Kirste den Hollander is the mother of the 'biechtbox " a confessional boxa box to talk about your mistakes. She thinks that learning from mistakes is indeed a social process, you should talk about your mistakes so that others will avoid making the same mistake. In other to learn collectively from mistakes it is important that you are open to discussion and that people can listen without judgment freely.

Finally there is the input of Anja, a PhD student of Filip Dochy. Filip Dochy presented the High Impact Learning (HILL model). Anja is enthusiastic about the model and examines culture and learning environment. We should not speak about THE learning culture of an organization, this varies considerably from department to department. So social learning may look different in different departments of one same organization. A good reminder!

hill model

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Busy is the new smoking

My daughter in the third year of secondary school went on a three-days internship and returned with the observation: "They talk all day, I have a painfull ass from all those meetings!" That's why I'm so happy to work independently-  at least I don't have a shared agenda where others can plan my meetings. I like space to read blogs, even to test a new tool or even do shopping when I feel like it (and often get a good idea in the meantime).

Unfortunately I got too busy myself during the first three months of this year. I went to a conference, I am writing a book with Sibrenne, did design and facilitation of various online courses and events, network analysis and additionally we ran two Ennuonline trajectories. I immediately noticed that it affects my feeling good and my creativity. I hardly found the time to read blogs, still shared some Twitter updates but could not read much- let alone follow up on longer articles. Blogging itself felt like a job instead of fun to do. Fortunately, since this week things are better - and this blogpost is for fun and not a task.

This put my nose to the important aspect of TIME regard learning as a knowmad - and a knowmad being someone learning in online networks and active through social media communities. If I don't find the time while I have all the routines and see the added value, it is logical that many professionals in organizations fail in finding the time. Reducing workload is I think very important as a prerequisite for informal online learning. But super difficult to achieve at a time when professionals often have to do more with fewer people. Want to be less busy? In this article, 'Alleen sukkels hebben het druk' are great tips which you can try yourself like
  • Create concentration
  • Plan your time in big chunks
  • Dare to do nothing
  • Develop a morning routine and
  • Don't do anything
Personally, I'm very strict in the number of assignment which take on and what I do voluntarily. So I'm going to facilitate a table at the Next Learning event because it is good for visibility but have said no to an interview with students.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What is really changing in the way we learn as a result of new technologies?

Last week I attended the Learning and Technologies conference in Londen. Like last year, it was great. Inspiring talks and the Dutch delegation (almost 25 people!) offered a nice network to make sense of new ideas. Furthermore we had Friday to explore Londen.

Before the conference I attended a session about storyboarding. I wanted to pilot a video 'beyond the talking head'.  I'm proud of the result. I found out that using the fast forward function is very simple in iMovie! Unfortunately it still has talking heads, but it is already much more dynamic.

What is really changing in the way we learn as a result of new technologies?
That's the main question I took to the conference. Sometimes I feel everything is changing, sometimes when people say they prefer classroom training I feel nothing is changing. As you see in the video I interviewed 4 people in a one phrase interview form and am amazed that their answers differ quite a lot. However, they all talk about the consequences of the fact that information is now freely available on the internet.

"It is not about what you know but what you can find out"
David Kelly stresses "it is not about what you know but what you can find out". That shifts the power from people who have accumulating knowledge to the people who know where to find knowledge (and have networks). This has huge implication for power in organizations and even for which organizations (or networks) will survive. In fact Ger Driesen and Martin Couzins stress the same point - with knowledge flowing around what is the point in learning a subject for 5 years? Will learning disappear and turn into knowing where and how to access information whenever you need it? Mirjam Neelen emphasizes the need to learn how to learn in this world of information overload. Which neatly links back to David kelly stating it is about what you can find out. Ger's idea of learning disappearing probably refers to the rapid advances of artificial intelligence and the 10 things an algorithm can do which a teacher can't where our learning can be taken over by computers too. Should we all become data managers?

I wonder whether learning a profession or studying becomes obsolete as Martin states. What do you think? How to gather the tacit knowledge needed for a profession? When you study you also learn the core values and issues of a profession which goes beyond information. How about developing a unique vision? Yet I agree the focus will increasingly shift from learning as in learning facts to analyzing, synthesizing and searching. The idea that the way we learn can be done faster by artificial intelligence is a scary idea. I will definitely start to follow these developments more closely.

By the way Sibrenne and myself blogged about some of the session on so check it out if you are interested in particular topic like video for learning, artificial intelligenceusing your enterprise social network for learning (session by Jane Hart) or using heart and mind in online learning. Or check out the session with Rudy de Waele about new upcoming technologies.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shoot your own videos - beyond the talking head

Wednesday I participated in the LOSmakers meetup. The LOSmakers are a group of people interested in learning & social media. Cycling through the rain to the station got me soaked 4 times, but worth it, it was a very inspiring meeting. It was fun to meet and share with others who are also experimenting with video. In university I once made a film about pre-history and we could make use of a professional editing room.  (that was in the pre-historical time before the smartphone). With smartphones and tools like periscope and screencasting video is now within the reach of every lunatic / trainer / consultant. However, it is not easy to really come up with good materials .. I myself for instance don't want to edit movies because it takes a lot of time. As a result I often have the so-called talking head movie. I interview someone put it online.

Professional filmmaker or do-it-yourself?
An important question is: when to do it yourself and when do you turn to a professional filmmaker? Sometimes it simply depends on the budget but I try to at least look at how often you can use the movie and how quickly the content will become outdated. A nice quote from a fellow LOsmaker Matthijs was that "you have to spend hours in making videos yourself". It helps you to improve and to collaborate with professionals.

We got our hands dirty working on story boarding. Bart Wagenaar explains here what story boarding is (in Dutch). Next week I will attend the Learning en Technologies conference and we decided to storyboard a video from the conference.

It was fun to storyboard, you see that you may be using the same words but that you have completely different images. A nice way to also deploy other design processes. Before making a video it definitely helps to know which shots you want to shoot.

Beyond talking heads
My question is: what else you can do in a video instead of a 'talking head'.  My own case was about a video concerning assessment. What I picked up quickly was the idea that it is good to investigate the objective of the video and the target group and not to jam too many objectives into one video. You may also search for videos that already exist .. you can also pick an existing video from another field, thereby starting a conversation, in my case for example. for a video on assessment of a gymnastics competition. Other ideas that I have gained.:
  • Shoot a talking head video but provide some context before and after the talking head (as in the video above with Bart)
  • Use existing footage with and voice over
  • Screen Cast with a screencast program like Screencast-o-Matic record a powerpoint to tell your story
  • Use a series of pictures and tell your story
  • Work with images. A nice idea is to use and ask someone to draw images
  • Make animations powtoon of videoscribe
  • Film an interview
  • Film  2 or 3 mensen in conversation
Any good inspiring examples of do-it-yourself videos?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Monitoring informal learning with a Learning Record Store

I wrote this blogpost last year with Saskia Tiggelaar and Lisan van der Lee. It took me some time to translate it into English. It was written on the basis of a session with Ben Betts organized by MOOCfactory called 'Meeting more minds'. 
ben betts

Experience API, XAPI, Learning Record Stores, TinCan API do you know what this is about? It all sound rather technical. Last year I participated in a fringe event during the Learning and Technologies conference and it was funny to be emerged into a topic I didn't have a clue what is was. I didn't even know what to ask. Nevertheless I think this is interesting for all learning professionals working with 70-20-10. In this blogpost I explain what a Learning Record Store is, what the challenges are and why you should be interested as learning professional.

Point of departure: a diverse online learning landscape 
We face similar challenges in monitoring learning as learning professionals, which is no coincidence. In the past five years many organizations worked hard to make educational materials available to employees. These e-learning efforts have taken all kind of shapes, blended learning, tutorials, games and apps. Most organizations also have a rich learning management system (LMS) with herein (self) developed materials appropriate to the particular training needs of the organization. As organizations begin to develop their own content, a considerable body of material becomes available within the LMS. In addition, content on websites like Youtube, Vimeo, blog sites are increasing. We are therefore becoming increasingly conscious that the making of "new" content is not necessary, because it is already available elsewhere. Enter content curation. Why invest in creating if you can use existing content? By curating content I mean that you select existing content and make it available to employees so that they can access the materials whenever they want to. We may call this a learning landscape. The challenge for the design of a good learning landscape lies in looking beyond borders and use of materials outside your own LMS, such as websites and video's. The requires systems flexibility and implications for the way you monitor the use of resources.
Ben Betts: Use any platform which seems appropriate, do not try to connect everything together, but make sure you have collected the data from the different systems in one place- the Learning Record Store.
A place for collecting all results: the Learning Record Store
The  Learning Record Store is the place where you store about about the use of all learning resources, whether in your LMS or other platforms, or social media.
Ben Betts: “it is actually a quite boring piece of software because it is nothing else than a database”.
Below in the graph you see an example where the data is collected in one place. A condition is that the data from the different platforms use Experience in API (XAPI). The definition of xapi "a standard way of talking about our experiences in using data.
Schermafbeelding 2015-12-15 om 17.59.53
A practical example: children in a museum
Ben Betts shared a few practical examples The first is the Ann Arbor museum,  a children's museum in the US. The children visit the museum and get a name tag. The tag can monitor what the children do at the museum, and this data is stored on the LRS. The teachers can then see which answers are given and what is popular. The teacher may use this information to adapt his class teachings.

Do you want to have a Learning Record Store in your organization?
Good for the Ann Arbor museum but why would you want a Learning Record Story in your organization? It is interesting to see what a LRS can do for an organization. Especially if you have the ambition to monitor both formal and informal activities of employees it might be useful. The most important and innovative feature of such a store is that it can collect data about different activities and different platforms. The main purpose of the monitoring is to improve the learning landscape. However, this is still a very wide target. That leads us to the most important question you have to answer as an organization: what data do you collect and why? One can think of several reasons; you can collect data to:
  • Generate user feedback about the learning interventions (. eg e learning modules) that you have offered. Use this feedback to improve the learning interventions continuously;
  • Find out which interventions the users choose to meet their learning needs;
  • Predict what the needs / issues are a target group to arrive at advice for future interventions.
To answer the question what the purpose will be to collect and analyze this data, but there are some stepping stone questions. The question is: what is your vision on learning and development? This can be formulated in terms of competencies, but it can also involve social, personalized learning. L & D professionals are increasingly placing the learner at the centre, the learners must be able to take its own route and engage in workplace learning. So if you wish to monitor whether what you're doing as L & D department for your employees really works, formulate questions and hypotheses. This will help you get a grip on the data you will need to collect.

What about the privacy of employees, we can simply collect their learning data as an organization? Privacy and consent is an important issue on Learning Record Stores. On the one hand, there is no guarantee that the data is 100% safe. On the other hand, there are already a lot of data about employees in an organization. Sometimes these data are not or hardly used. Most important is to be transparent to employees on how to deal with their data. A good practice (which was also used in the example of the museum) is to anonymize the data. There is a  code of practice developed by JISC. This might give you some inspiration. 

In 10 years we might all walk with our own learning passport? 
Will the employee be better off with more self control and keep their own data? An interesting idea is that the employees themselves might have full control over their own data in the Learning Record Store- what we call a learning passport in this blog. It might gradually increasing the employee responsible. Ben Betts used the metaphor of a coffee card to describe the learning passport. As a coffee card is already partially filled, it motivating a customer to continue filling the coffee card. Our task for the passport of the employee to partially fill it with formal learning activities and the employee fills in the rest. This allows the employee to take its learning direction as much as possible in their own hands and the employee can decide which experiences are added to the passport. However, someone commented that many people have lost their diploma from school or university .. so how interested will people be in their own learning passport?

Where to start? Just start somewhere!  
The big question is the group was: where do you start? Do you start with a solid plan and legal support or do you start with smaller experiments? Should you form a data team or you can do it yourself as L & D professionals? On the one hand it is good to take an organizational perspective and to collaborate with other departments to also be able to link performance data for example. On the other hand, it is good to get going  for instance working with data that are already there. So you build a clearer case and you know better what you would like in the future.

Read my former blogpost "from intuition to know for sure" about how you can start at the level of a course to analyze. If you want to read a basic explanation of  Xapi by Learnovate click here

Monday, November 09, 2015

Redesign of face-to-face learning programmes into blended learning - an example in the Netherlands

I worked with a team of an internal academy to redesign their learning programs into powerful blended products. The challenge is ofcourse not to make a programme blended because it is fashionable but to improve the programme. Hence the first step we took was to think about the value of blended in-house learning programmes. The training that we redesigned was a three-day face-to-face event. The added value of blended was formulated by by this team in the following manner:
  • Diversity in activities (videos, texts, quiz, face-to-face methods) will allow more people to learn in their preferred styles. This makes it attractive to participate.
  • Stimulating people to work in different ways makes sure that learning is solid (think of the brain principles).
  • By making the programme interactive and more geared to actual practice we want to have more impact on practice.
Getting started with three design models
After thinking about the added value and an introduction to blended learning we went into sub- groups to redesign using three different models (3P's Jukebox, SamR see video below). This worked very well. I had not asked who the original owner of this training was and from the interaction I could not detect who was the lead of this training. The models invite everyone to become a designer in a new way and really made it a creative process. It was remarkable that people without much explanation, just a handout about the model could work intuitively. Furthermore, a different model really stimulated a different design. 

Looking for similarities and differences
 Using the three creative designs, we started looking for the similarities between the designs but also the unique ideas that impress the other groups. A similarity was that everyone proposed an online start. The three training days were brought back to 1.5 or 2 days, with online activities in between. It became clear that everyone used online to activate learners. A number of face-to-face elements such as an informal lunch with management was considered very important to keep as a face-to-face element. Truly innovative was the idea to steer away from instruction and ask people for feedback instead of educating them. This called was the "teach-back".

How did the models help? The 3P model definitely helped to surface these kind of ideas. I think the Jukebox model stimulated that group to think about a mentor-buddy system. This was the point where I correctly identified the owners of this training - because of ownership of how things have been done. However, this lead to an extensive discussion and comparison of activities with the original plan, all ideas were scrutinized in detail by the team. The discussions led to a reformulation of the goals. The original formulation was knowledge- oriented, currently the focus is more on networking and knowing who to ask questions. Another innovation was thinking about a cohort group helping each other beyond the course. I think that the models helped everyone to think more out of the box.

Facilitating online raised a number of challenges which still need to tackled by the team. The first is the inclusion of management and subject matter experts in this new way of training. A second one is choosing a suitable platform. There are some platforms in the organization available but not a clear LMS. This will be the next step for this team - discussions in the organization and in search of the right tool.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Teams, technology and change

Schermafbeelding 2015-10-16 om 15.22.52

We organized a teamhackathon. Teams can make big steps in working and collaborating online in a smart way. The teamhackathon was really fun and I hope that many more teamhackathons will follow. In the picture it looks like it was a normal workshop, but is certainly wasn't.... The novelty of the Teamhackathon is:
  • People do not join individually but in teams of - 2-4 persons ...
  • They are working during the day on the basis of a concrete question around 'collaborate smarter online' ....
  • They get team coach throughout the day  ...
  • Can use six different experts ...
  • They work to produce a clear product, as in the case of my team an infographic...
I was a coach for one team and did a 15 minutes inspiration session. In my session we worked with the SWITCH model by now a known model from the book by Dan and Chip Heath (see below). It is a good model to use when you're dealing with a change in which technology plays a role. The key to this model is that you should work on all three levels simultaneously:
  • the rider (the vision, why)
  • the elephant (the motivation)
  • the path (make it easy)

What may go wrong? An example of what may go wrong if no or insufficient attention is paid to this element (the rider, the elephant, the path).

1. The rider gets lost. The rider of the elephant does not know which way to go to if there is no clarity what the intended change is and what effect the change should provide. In this case it is difficult for people to act. Suppose you have a social intranet, and you say that it is for "knowledge sharing". Knowledge sharing is too vague. This gives people no direction and you let them swim (or drown) guessing what exactly is expected of them. It could be that you want to encourage more innovative projects between departments. In that case, you can specifically identify this, brainstorming about possible projects, and provide a place for innovative projects on the social intranet.

2. The elephant is not motivated. If the elephant is not motivated, he will not move in any direction. And here you may change the word elephant for professional. Yesterday was mentioned several times how stubborn professionals may be. So really should think about the motivation of these professionals. What do they have in mind? Suppose there is a major re-organization under way in the organization, with layoffs and insecurity. Then you will not get people motivated to exchange openly online, it is too unsafe. You may get them sharing, but the question is how honest this will be. Motivation is often high if you have invented something yourself. So invent it together.

3. There is no clear or easy path. A clear path is about technology that is easy, not frustrating. It is also about easy ways of fitting the use of technology into routines. If it is not easy enough people will get discouraged. I got myself a new banking Reader and had my own moment of desperation. this old system was already hard. For a week it lay on my desk but I could not motivate myself to start using the new reader. Yet, when I had tried the new reader, I was euforic! It was a lot easier than the old reader. Another good example shared during the teamhackathon: every communication officer sends one tweet per day. Now that's a clear path. That's difficult to miss. :) If only it is clear why and the elephant is motivated.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The influence of social media for learning - technology is more than just a means to a goal

 I often hear: "technology is just a tool and should be the starting point, let's start with the goal and the technology will follow". "The tech does not matter if we achieve our goal." In this blog post, I argue that technology is much more than a means. Social technology is a driving force behind social learning. And even within organizations and networks the choice of (social) technology is extremely important and can be a factor determining success or failure.

Technology is means or a goal?
A known example is Henry Ford who built the first car in 1896. Ford had a vision of "a car that moved forward without horses". If Ford would have asked what people wanted they had probably asked for a faster horse. And if Ford would have started with the goal? The goal is to make sure people get from A to B which would probably lead you to horses ...  In education the Open University in this article argues like I do that technology may well be a target. The examples show that technology is not 'only a means' is to carry out what we want to do. Technology is an important driver for change. As new technologies become available our behavior changes after a period of experimentation.

The contraceptive pill as example of the influence of a new technologyThe pill is an example of a revolutionary technology that has caused changed behavior. Evert Chain shows the pill is an example of the right technology at the right place at the right time. When looking for 500 volunteers to test this contraceptive there were 5000 registrations. 10 years after the introduction of the pill in the Netherlands in 1962 it was already used by two thirds of women. Twenty years later, the use of the pill has become the norm A research in 1988 discovered a 16-year-old girl thought it was impossible to have sex without birth control pills, she did not know the pill prevents pregnancy. The major mindset change introduced by the pill is that sexuality was disconnected from pregnancies. Before the pill, there were already other contraceptives like diaphragms and condoms. However, the pill has become a huge success. One of the reasons is that taking the pill is independent of the sexual activity, and thus was respectable. And of course, the use lies in the hands of women. Finally, it is a more reliable method, so doctors also accepted it.

Social media as driving force for social learning
    Like the pill social media is a technology at the right time in the right place. It fits into a trend of individualization and self-expression. Combined with the widespread use of smartphones and tablets it enables a continuous flow of communication with your networks, sports clubs and friends. It is an important technology-driven change in society. The influence of social media on society is huge because a new way of social learning is enabled by social media, in organization, between organizations and in spontaneous networks. Isaac Newton wrote: "If I can see far, it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants." By publicly sharing work and ideas, considering the rate at which messages are spread through social media it is possible to stand on the shoulders of a lot of fellow professionals. Social media is a driving force that increasingly influences our daily thinking and actions. That is a huge innovation in learning driven by the technology of social media.

Technology to foster social learning in organizations 
Following our personal communication on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it will be easier to stimulate social learning in organizations, if supported by the right technology. At Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands Yammer was successfully introduced for knowledge sharing between departments. The technology was in line with what people already know (Twitter and Facebook) and there was a vision for the new communication that they wanted to see: faster and more participatory. Thus, a policy was developed with input from everyone on Yammer. KLM Airfrance introduced iShare. The community manager is the one with a strong vision of what is possible when people commit to share more - innovation in the business. He was looking for a platform with a vision of social sharing that corresponded with his own vision. The examples of Ford, but also Rijkswaterstaat and KLM Airfrance show that you need that vision. Someone who imagines the car that moves without horses. Or the bicycle for the team that used to walk. At the same time, technology plays an important role to stimulate and facilitate certain behavior. Hence, technology is not only a means but also major driving force for change.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Social media in organizations: the case of the ambulance services in the Netherlands


With great pleasure, I conducted a field research together with Sibrenne Wagenaar with one of the the ambulance services in the Netherlands. The ambulance service asked us to look for improvement in internal communication; driven by the fact that technological developments offer new opportunities for collaboration and communication within the organization. The initial question was: how can we improve communication within the organization using new media?

We went in search of new forms of internal communication that fit the organization. We did an action research which lasted five months and was conducted by a pioneer group of 17 people, accompanied by us. The action research consisted of internal reflections, research within the organization, visiting other organizations and an experimental phase. Experiences are interesting from the standpoint of how technology influences collaboration within an organization and are likely to be recognizable to other organizations.

Some conclusions
What was especially noticeable is that even if you do not use social media, these media still have an influence on the organization. In this case there was a static intranet, with information from management. At the same time, there were a large amount of Whatapp groups within the organization, often invisible to management. Communication in these groups was often not favorable to the organization in the sense that confusion messages were amplified. If management in an organization does not have an eye for this type of communication via new media, it may strengthen a culture that you do not favour. The outcome was that the organization may benefit from a social intranet, however, a lot of attention should be devoted to stimulate a new way of communication, both face-to-face and online. An experiment showed that people did not like to participate in open groups online, but really need the safety of a small closed group. A social intranet is a big step for this organization and will need a clear vision and several years of implementation.

Download the full article
We wrote an article about our experiences for TVOO in the Netherlands. You may download the article sociale media bij de ambulancedienst  which is in Dutch.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

From intuition to knowing for sure: a case of applying learning analytics at course level

Blogpost is written in collaboration with Francois Walgering from MOOCfactory and Sibrenne Wagenaar from Ennuonline.

More and more trainers and facilitators use online platforms for online interaction to facilitate learning. This is akin to face-to-face facilitation but also has its own dynamics. For example, how do you know if an online article is read? Or how much time a participant spends viewing a video or doing an assignment? Which participants connect online? How to judge whether valuable conversations place? In a face-to-face setting you can ask process questions to participants: "do you need more time for this discussion?" And "an extra assignment about ... seems to make sense." You can observing interactions and sense the group's enthousiasme. You may adjust the learning process gradually as a result.

In an online environment you miss these kind of observations. Online, some data can be helpful. Data collected by the system, such as degree of online activity, time spent viewing source, reached level, length of discussions. The value of these data is in analyzing and interpreting: what we call learning analytics. We recently experienced the power of learning analytics and gladly share this experience with you.

The case: the food and nutrition security course
Schermafbeelding 2015-09-17 om 13.28.54

We have designed and facilitated a five-week online course (a so-called SPOC- Small Private Online Course) "Food and Nutrition Security". About 90 people took part, and we have worked with them in Curatr, a learning platform that supports social learning. Four of the five weeks had a specific theme in the fifth week was reserved to work on practical cases, brought forward by participants and experts. The participants received a certificate after earning a minimum number of points per week and writing a case reflection. 19 people have received the certificate.

Online monitoring- using your intuition
During the course, uur most important source of information were feedback from participants on the online platform and e-mail messages, about content as well as the process. We had a picture of important issues, issues that led to discussion and effective learning activities. For instance, we received many compliments on the weekly interactive webinars. Another example: after an upgrade of the software technical problems arose which discouraged participants. And a number of participants informed us that they appreciated the content very much, but got in trouble with new ad hoc task at work. By following discussions and explicit interaction with a number of participants, we have developed a feel for the quality of the learning process. A group of enthusiastic participants began to emerge as a core group. Intuitively we felt that we were on the right track with this online learning program. But ... what can the data can tell us?

Online monitoring- analytics
Curatr collects behind the scenes lots of data using Experience API (xAPI). Beyond the general data such as name, surname, e-mail, organization and function you also get very good insight into the 'User'- and' Usage 'data. What is the difference between user and usage data?
progress analytics
User data is: all qualitative data you collect within the platform:

  • All threads are started by participants;
  • All reactions started in several discussions;
  • All sources (videos, PDFs, blogs, websites) which were added by participants;
  • Any responses to learning activities offered (eg reflection questions, quiz, open questions)

Usage data are the quantitative data (see illustration)

  • How many comments have been posted by participants;
  • How many resources have been added by a participant;
  • How many comments by those who have liked;
  • Who what when level has been reached;
  • Number of participants who completed the SPOC.

Learning Analytics involves looking at the data, analyzing it and acting on the results. We can perform learning analytics at different levels . The depth of analysis affects the reliability of the actions we arrive at. You could say that learning analytics roughly consists of five steps:

  1. Visualize: You are viewing the data, for instance, 100 participants who completed the SPOC, 20 participants in the test with a level one completed. This qualitative data is generally speaking easy to generate from a learning platform.
  2. Clustering: The data that you see, can be clustered: all activities of a participant, all threads which have been started, all the sources added. Together they form perhaps a cluster 'involvement' or 'quality'.
  3. Relationships: For instance "after a mail by the facilitator the activity on the learning platform has gone up." Or "the most important activity on the learning platform is to discuss with each other. "
  4. Patterns: activities that have repeatedly proven themselves. We see for example, by looking at different SPOCs that 80% of participants watching a video stop after three minutes. 
  5. Actions for the future: Based upon the pattern 'participants stop a video after 3 minutes' we may decide to use only videos within that period, or ensuring that the core of the message is transmitted within the first three minutes of the video.

Learning analytics in the case of the Food and Nutrition Security SPOC
Mooc score plaatje 1
In the case of the Food and Nutrition Security course we have taken a number of peaks at the data like people logged in and the leadershipboard during the course. Afterwards, we dived deeper into the data, with extensive analysis and interpretation. This proved really valuable and has given us new insights regarding the manner of participation of participants and the motion when it comes to social learning. A few examples:
  • Most of the participants who have ended high in the leadership board, earned points by contributing to the discussions. This group was also very visible to us and we had them 'spotted'. However, there appeared to be two participants who earned quite a few points, purely by studying sources. They had not responded online and had therefore remained invisible to us. While they actively participated in the course.
  • We were also curious to know about sources and questions that entice good discussions. 'Good' a qualitative concept and difficult to measure. But some threads stood out because of the large number of responses from participants. We have analyzed those discussions discovered that the striking aspect here was the contribution of an expert / coach: the fact that the expert herself was involved in the discussion by asking questions, giving an opinion, made the discussion very lively.
  • A diverse group took part in this course, and we were wondering if we would see differences in participation between certain "groups" (eg working in the Netherlands versus working in Asia, or working for NGOs versus working for government). This certainly was the case. Some "groups" had a much more explicit contribution to the social learning than other groups. Important to know when designing new courses! In the illustration, you can see the visualized total scores of the different groups.
Some of our lessons about using learning analytics as online facilitator
  • Using learning analytics can be very supportive of your role as an online facilitator. You can find confirmation for possible interventions. In the beginning as an online facilitator you may be scared or disappointed by the fact that not all participants are active online. Why is that? Is it unclarity, disinterest? If data show that they participants have accessed the available resources but have not commented on the platform can may react different and try to stimulate reactions. You might invite those who did not respond specifically to do so.
  • It is valuable to combine data from the 'system' with own feelings and observations, such as reactions of participants by mail. Thus observations and analytics can reinforce each other.
  • Before you start with the learning process make an inventory of your questions and possible indicators and numbers. What would you like to see? Are you happy with 10 active participants? What sources are you doubtful about? If you do this before the start, you will know better what information will help you to gain insights during the course. 
  • Make a plan for how often want to use and analyze data during the course. In 'Food and Nutrition Security' case we analyzed more deeply after the course. Of course we held an eye on the obvious data during the project (who log in and who contributed) but we could have put the data to better use. An exmple: afterwards we compared the activity in the various user groups. We could have done this even earlier and spend more energy to involve some groups. 
  • The learning analytics as described took place at course level. You can also go one step further and compare the data from the corresponding course with data from other courses. The results from such analysis can contribute to conclusions that fuel future designs.
  • Take time for accessing the data. Plan it in! Learning analytics is still a relatively new activity for many online facilitators. And certainly if you want to monitor during the course by means of data, it requires a regular look at the dashboard, analysis and opinion to determine your future interventions.
  • And ... start conversations with people involved to interpret the data! Check the data with curiosity and discuss it with those involved. Feeling and intuition are crucial. However, sometimes data offer new perspectives but often just confirms a certain intuition. This may then be a catalyst in order to take action. In our case we had weekly progress discussions, which might have benefitted from some data interpretation. 
Last but not least ... be careful about how you use your data. Be transparent about your intention with it. Tell participants very clearly what you will do with the data. After all, you are working with data on the performance of individuals in a learning environment.