Canadian taking our pictureI just returned from a vacation in West Canada. It was not my own idea to go there, my husband and daughter really wanted to go. I did not really know Canada except maybe the remote farm of Riks from Farmers wants a wife. It ...

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"The new social learning blog" - 5 new articles

  1. Holidays in Canada
  2. I'm sliding and morphing
  3. The influence of technology on professional identity
  4. Working as knowmads: How to stimulate knowmadic working in organisations?
  5. Lessons learnt from the design of a blended learning trajectory
  6. More Recent Articles

Holidays in Canada

Canadian taking our picture
I just returned from a vacation in West Canada. It was not my own idea to go there, my husband and daughter really wanted to go. I did not really know Canada except maybe the remote farm of Riks from Farmers wants a wife. It is a very special country! I found the scenery and the colors very beautiful and also so much space compared to the Netherlands. Occasionally we drove 2 hours by car without encountering a real village. People are very nice, too, quick to chat with you. For example, I wanted to make a picture of my daughter when a passerby thought we had to be in the picture together and the camera was already out of my hands. I enjoy the cultural differences on holidays, even though Canada is also a 'Western' country and traveling is different from living/working in a country.

With my friend Kidist
It was also a reunion with three Ethiopian friends (two living in Canada and one in the USA). It turns out that the relationship does not change at all, even though many years pass: it was as much fun to see them as in Ethiopia. This way you can see Canada again through Ethiopian eyes. For example, what was funny was that the ladies' toilet was occupied and so I just went to the man's toilet. But my Ethiopian friend was totally shocked: that is highly offensive! She therefore preferred to wait another 10 minutes rather than to follow my bolt step. Their children had become truely Canadians, and knew much more in many ways than the parents, were fluent in English. That seems to me weird as a parent. Nice was the response of our friend who was rather enthousiastic about it: "I learn a lot from my son and daughter".

 And life with bears ... Bears are in Canada just like the weather in the Netherlands I imagine. People often know where bears or other wildlife are signaled and pass this information. It is normal that when there is a bunch of cars along the way, you know there is something to see, a bear or a moose. They also know how to deal with bears, eg do not leave any trash left. A lot of ads on television could not be transported to the Netherlands because there are jokes with a bear, wolf or cougar.

Bear along the roadside
When using the internet, I noticed that we depend every year more heavily on internet also for planning the vacation. For instance we used Google maps for the directions and you can search for petrol along the chosen route. And we have waived visiting the Columbia Icefield gletscher for instance, because you can read from the reviews it is highly touristic and almost a tourist trap. It also made me wonder what business I would have on a gletscher. Actually I have read a lot less in the Lonely Planet and more on the internet. On the other hand, I noticed that I assume there is phone and internet coverage everywhere, but that is certainly not the case in Canada! We had bought a Canadian sim card, but you could not call in many places because there was no coverage Then you see how lucky and spoilt we are in the Netherlands. By the way, there was also a funny ad on the radio about dating stating: "if you tired of internet dating, join the BC dating club (British Columbia) with our organized events for singles, so that you can actually see and meet your dates and get to know them face-to-face".

I also liked to occasionally share pictures or updates via Facebook and Whatsapp and see what others are doing on vacation. Thus I discovered that 3 acquaintances had also been on Vancouver Island and were equally enthusiastic. You hear more often that people try to stay offline during the holidays, but I also found the internet super handy during the holidays, so no #offline for me! 
    

I'm sliding and morphing

You possibly know the book by Lynda Gratton called the Shift? It is about the future of work and she predicts that we will become increasingly serial masters instead of 'shallow generalist'. A master is someone with deep knowledge in a number of domains. The adjective serial points to the fact that you will no longer be active in the same domains throughout your life, but will continue to slide into new domains through personal or technological developments in new areas, building on your older domains and competences. This discovery of new domains is done by sliding and morphing. What is Sliding and Morphing? If you google on image you will see a lot of tinkering. Lynda Gratton says:
"Sliding and morphing happen when you develop deep knowledge, insights and skills in one specialism and then convert this to an adjacent specialism or rediscover a lost competence."
Lynda recommends looking at which subjects and competencies are important and in demand but combine this with your own passions and interests. Often the combination of domains is of great value. In one of the examples, morphing takes place by looking for a new network and new roles. Morphing by doing instead of thinking. When I read the book, I immediately recognized myself in the serial mastership (well, master? but serial sure!). After studying irrigation and soil and water conservation, I started working in the development cooperation sector, in different countries, Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia and Ghana. I only had three years contracts. So half a year before the end of the contract, you thought about what you would like to do in your next job and in which country that could be. And then apply. The good thing of the terminate contracts is that you always think about a next step. I saw that people in the Netherlands stayed longer in the same job because you do not have terminate contracts. From irrigation to consultant learning & Social technology is quite some sliding, isn't it?

Currently I am also sliding and morphing. It feels a bit uncomfortable. I've been working with Sibrenne for many years now in Ennuonline and our slogan is "All About Learning with Social Technology". The slogan still provides direction, however the field of learning and technology develops and expands very quickly. The question is where are you going to focus on within this field? In addition, we each have their own interests and professional identity. A major 3-year assignment aimed at designing and facilitating online courses has ended. That seems a bit like the feeling I had at the end of my contracts. You end something and that gives space to take up new things again. Though, of course, some work continues of course, like our Ennuonline learning activities and some assignments. What I'm struggling with is what direction I want and what I want to specialize in within the learning and technologies field. Blended learning and social learning is already a specialization, I never focused on classical e-learning. I'm very excited to advise on online and blended learning. What I regret in this field is that you are not supporting informal or invisible learning and learning in communities.

I am taking the current space to explore new directions. A number of new lines are:
  • I collaborate with two colleagues to set up a social network analysis (SNA) hub for the Netherlands. I regularly receive emails in response to my blog post about SNA. A concrete question whether we can organize training on SNA led to this brainstorm. Hopefully we can offer advice and training / tailor made support. SNA is one of my loves because it makes the invisible social capital visible. Which helps to develop connections.
  • I teamed up with somebody from our knowmad MOOC to dive into artificial intelligence. We want to do an experiment with eg Watson. There is so much written about artificial intelligence but especially from the point of view of: robots take over our jobs. We want to do a pilot to summarize and improve online exchange using Watson or a similar service. 

  • I visited a VR cinema. Something to explore with the LOSmakers, our network here.  
  • With two new assignments, I helped to find the right platform for learning or a community. I thought it was a good way of diving into tools and I enjoyed that too. 
  • Learning analytics. Two years ago, I was throttled in London because I heard the word XAPI. I then read and learn more about it. I have written a blog and an article about it. But how deep do I want to go in here? Is this not more for data analysts? 
It may seem to divert too much in different directions? A red line in all these subjects may be the use of data and technology (visualization?): for learning in networks and communities. Our knowmad MOOC focussing on the knowmad as professional with strong identity is also an interesting strand, because of the focus on self-directed learning. How wide or how narrow should you be as a serial master? Any thoughts?
    

The influence of technology on professional identity

In january I facilitated a MOOC about knowmads
A knowmad is what I term a nomadic knowledge and innovation worker – that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. (John Moravec)
The most intriguing element of this concept in my opinion is that professionals need a personal fascination with a subject. There is emotion involved. You can link your work to an experience or strong conviction. For instance I was so pissed in Ghana because I felt I never got any appreciation for my work within the organization. The start of a community or practice was a great relief. Professionals who appreciate each other, give feedback, listen to each other and therefore learn a lot from each other. Finally appreciation! I was so impressed that I decided to do an online course about communities of practice with amongst others Etienne Wenger, became a member of CPsquare and I am still working with the concept of community learning.

 

Shortly after the MOOC I bought the book 'Je Binnenste Buiten' by Manon Ruijters and colleagues. I think it's a great subject they explore with the book: professional identity. It is also a central concept in the theory of communities of practice. The book is recommended if you are also interested in developing professionals and knowmads. They argue that more attention is needed for professional identity in case of changes in a domain, career- and cooperation issues. Professional identity is not something that is fixed, but your identity is continuously developing, and therefore requires maintenance and attention. Unfortunately, the book is 'technology blind'. Surprisingly, I often read books & articles which are completely focussed on technology, or they are about other topics, and do not really address technology influences. The interface is still not fully explored. Or do I have a professional deformation?

The knowmad's identity is strong
The definition of professional in the boek is:
A professional is a person who chooses and seeks to be able to serve customers in a competent and comprehensive way, with the help of specialist knowledge and experience. In addition, he uses, and actively contributes to, a community of fellow professionals who continuously develop the subject.
I love this definition, because it clearly describes that a professional wants to develop his or her knowledge and compentencies like the knowmad, and also contributes to a community of peers. The knowmad is by definition someone with a strong identity and self-knowledge. These people prove to be more stress-resistant, to be more successful and to have more self-esteem. A strong lesson I take away from this book is that stimulating knowmads and knowmadic work in organizations means paying attention to professional identity. We do a regular exercise by making an I-cloud with topics of interest to you, but there could be more questions.

Serial masters
Lynda Gratton describes the new professionals as serial masters. A serial master has deep knowledge and competences in a number of domains. So, you need to specialize yourself, and you will be in a new domain for a year, but building on your past experiences and interests. A strong and rapid development in identity. I think the identity of a knowmad meanders more and changes more rapidly than the average professional by curiosity and changing assignments. Identity questions and self-knowledge are therefore more important to stay grounded.

Technology's influence on professional identity: online identity 
An important influence of technology on contributing to professional development is that professionals are increasingly online in (informal) networks: sharing about their work and thoughts in Tweets or other micro-messages. This is a new level of contribution to professional development that previously did not exist. Identity has to do with what makes you unique? In the book, working on your identity is linked to self-knowledge and influence by how others think about us. Social media forces you to work continuously on your professional identity. If you are very active online, this forces you to make choices and think.

Boundary crossing
A second change is that it is becoming easier to look around you and cross borders with other professions, become members of communities you would not normally become members of (eg, like in my case marketing communities). A knowmad not only contribute to developing his profession with fellow professionals, but also innovates by looking across the boundaries of his own domain into other communities- boundary crossing. Online it is incredibly easy to take initiatives with others with different expertise to contribute to new areas. An example? I got to know Jos Maasen and Peter Staal online and we are now writing a blog together about using community principles to design social MOOCs. In other words, there are numerous new ways to work on professional development.

Personal branding
I once wrote a blogpost about personal branding. As a consequence of the need for personal branding, the process of professional identity formation will develop in a substantially different way, and way less linear. You can already build a reputation as a young, starting professional. I think that Erikson's identity creation phases (trust, autonomy, initiative, fidelity, identity, intimacy, care, integrity) do not apply anymore. To give a practical example. The book shows the example of co-assistents who struggle with who they are. Solid feedback during their internships influences their identity. However, the online world offers a whole new space, contacting other co-assistants in an online community, possibly online valuation from unexpected angles. The new space that the online world offers is huge.

Conclusion: A great book that puts the theme of professional identity on the map, but with very little attention for the influence of technology. Huge need for a new chapter about online identity!
    

Working as knowmads: How to stimulate knowmadic working in organisations?

Imagine, you work in an organization and you are convinced of the importance of knowmads. You know this is the future, and knowmads are needed as crucial to drive innovation in a learning organization. You also know what skills are necessary as a knowmad. You already working as a knowmad yourself. But organizations need more employees who work knowmadic to be innovative. How do you stimulate a movement ... how do you create a collective of knowmads?

Typology of professionals in use of technology in relation to work

The participants of our Dutch MOOC 'Help there's a knowmad in my organization thought about this challenge with the starting question "How do you stimulate a move toward knowmadic work?" The above model from our book Learning in Times of Tweets, Apps and Like was provided as thought provoker. In this model we describe four types of professionals. They differ in the way in which they employ social technology in their work, depending on the motivation to develop the subject and affinity with social technology. The typology of professionals was recognizable to the participants. The online exchange led to the following strategies to initiate a move towards a more knowadic work and learning climate in organizations:

Start with the knowmads The most logical choice seemed to be focus on knowmads. "Knowmads make your adrenaline flow" is the experience. Finding and combining knowmads can trigger an oil leakage action, with more and more people joining and working on new ways of working. This group can also develop further.You may use the Seek-Sense-Share model to work on sharpening individual practices. You may also pay attention to professional identity. If you show yourself online - what's your identity? These are, for example, questions you can discuss in a knowmad café (see the interventions at the end).

Connect knowmads and googlers  Another strategy is to link knowmads to googlers. Form duo's where the knowmad shows the googler new ways of working. Working with googlers keeps the knowmads realistic and prevents them from getting too far ahead from the troops in the organization. It may earn them some recognition too (and avoids frustration).

Focus on googlers and hobbyists  A large number of MOOC participants intend to focus rather on googlers and hobbyists. You can appeal to Googlers by talking about their field of work. They are likely to be interested in additional possibilities of working knowmadically to keep up with their field of expertise and networking. When you show this, you awaken their curiosity. Hobbyists are already handy online but do not put it at work within the context of their function yet. There may be several reasons for this. Knowing the reason is key to change. Perhaps they have learned to participate in and adjust to the way of working within the organization? For example, let hobbyists help short-term projects to help others get the right supportive media.

Koppel googlers en hobbyisten A number of MOOC participants would specifically choose to link the googlers and hobbyists - a strong combination because they can learn a lot from each other - on an equal footing. The hobbyist learns about the subject and the googler about smart online networks and tools. Think reverse mentoring.

And how about the followers? Few MOOC participants choose to focus on followers, although it is important to continue to encourage and guide this group. They may need, for example, a low-threshold helpdesk.

About the model
The 'Typology Professionals in the Use of Technology in Relationship to Work" model is intended to look at professional behavior. A bad use of the model would be to put people in the boxes. It should lead to a discussion about behaviours. Emphasize that people can change or at some level show google behavior and on another level knowmad behavior. It is important to emphasize that there is not one correct blueprint way of working, but that everyone has to develop his own unique way that suits him or her. Maybe there are offline knowmads who read paper magazines and share knowledge at meetings. "It's not all internet that is blinking". Ultimately, it is about finding an effective way of working, learning and contributing to professional development, not about online or offline. The model is especially helpful in reflecting on the right interventions to stimulate collective know-how work and to differentiate it into types of professional behavior. With a googler, you may not have to talk about blogging right away, with a hobbyist that's not a problem.

Mariëlle van Rijn wrote a nice blog geschreven using more detailled profiles and designing interventions. The Networker for instance is given the task of adding two new people to their network every month who can contribute to the organization and present this on the intranet.

Walk the talk, organize a knowmad café and share success stories
Apart from thinking about who you are going to focus on within the organization, it's equally important to think about your intervention strategy. Many MOOC participants intend to work on a shift in organizational culture. Hereby, the management style (space) and digital skills are important elements to work on. The following strategies emerged:
  • 'Practice what you preach'. Make sure that you work as a knowmad yourself, but also show that you can deal creatively with technology: put up Padlet during a meeting or brainstorm ideas via Socrative. This will help people get used to technology as aid. 
  • Do not focus on individuals but on groups /creating a movement. It's unpleasant if you're alone as a knowmad in an organization. A dynamic movement can attract new people and grow slowly.
  • Organize a workgroup around this theme. Ensure to have  mix of all types of professionals represented in the working group. Or work with ambassadors. Of course, you can find plenty of ambassadors among the knowmads.
  • Start experimenting with this working group. Get started. Don't remaining in policy making or talking modus but ensuring good implementation. For example, a practical experience of a participant is that the toolset in his organization changed too much and technical support was scarce, which made all initiatives fail. 
  • Harvest and share success stories. For example, organize a knowmad café to share these stories. Success stories can trigger googlers in particular. They are already interested in the subject matter and if they see successful new ways to learn and connect, they become enthusiastic. 
  • Engage executives. If knowmadic work is part of the official strategy, this gives you space to experiment and invest.
  • Look closely at the context within the organization to define your strategy. Sometimes a community at the interface of various organizations is easier because it offers more space to innovate. Find a burning issue within the organization and link to it to make it important. 
  • And last but not least - look also at knowmad behavior during the selecting process for new employees. The more knowmads, the more they can invoke a turning point. 
 

Do you read Dutch? This blog is one of six blogposts about 'Werken als knowmad':

  1. De expertise van dokters vs internet. Over de invloed van online op de rol die kennis en expertise speelt in ons werk.
  2. Hoe werkt het in de praktijk? Een verkenning van knowmadisch werken, toegepast in de praktijk van organisaties en netwerken.
  3. Zonder gist geen pizza, zonder technologie geen knowmad. Over vaardigheden die je nodig hebt om knowmadisch te werken.
  4. Een wereld vol knowmads in 2020. The future is here!
  5. Hoe vervlecht je oud en nieuw?  Met mogelijkheidszin en progressiecirkels
    

Lessons learnt from the design of a blended learning trajectory


Over the past year I have worked with Proteion, a health organization in the south of the Netherlands. They have 3500 employees and a large part of their work is care for people with dementia. What made it so much fun to work with Proteion is that people occasionally started talking in the Limburg dialect. I could understand it reasonably it and always gave me a feeling of being abroad, maybe even the feeling of my work in Latin America and Africa :). Moreover, there was a strong vision to learn through a potent mix of learning methods to facilitate workplace. Learning with direct influence on practice. It was really about something important that we wanted to influence: better care for people with dementia. My first question was whether the people working there didn't already know and learn enough about the best care, but the thing is that when they were students, dementia wasn't as important as it is today. The second thing is that when they work in shifts, there is little opportunity to learn from each other.

Last year we had a number of working sessions, including a design workshop with all key stakeholders. After this the team continued using Scrum method to work on developing materials and assignments. The blended course is for (new) employees and consists of online modules, working together with a buddy/buddies using whatsapp, and optional face-to-face workshops based on their own learning needs. It concludes by discussing the analyse of a client case with the team leader. The course is ready and I am struck by how much work it has been to develop, and how bumpy the ride within the organization. Because it takes so much time, to develop I ask wonder sometimes if it is worth it, and whether it had not been faster to organize a face-to-face training ...

In February, just before the carnival erupted in Limburg, I was at Proteion to discuss the final design and point to put the dots on the i. I asked the location manager what he thought about the design and he said wholeheartely: "I wish we had this 10 years ago!" He was really very happy. This reassured me that it is worthwhile. The advantage is that even though the pilot start at two kocations, eventually there 2000 to 2500 people can participate. A first blended design is really a steep learning curve whereby it takes a disproportionately long time. I am curious about the results of the first pilot. A concrete result should be that the care improves and thus the number of incidents with clients and complaints from carers goes down. One challenge is the fact that employees are not paid for extra hours they invest in learning.

Lessons in developing a first blended course
I made a spark video for the start of the trajectory, however it is in Dutch.


  • Blended learning aimed at enhancing workplace learning really requires different roles than face-to-face workshops. We were luckily to have someone in L&D with heart for the technique who has done quite a job in understanding the potential of the learning platform and talking to and negotiating with the vendor. I am not sure any L&D could have done this. The psychologists who normally give an expert lecture also have a different role: in the search of materials, thinking about assignments and recording a short video. Furthermore, we really need the team leaders for this project, they will evaluate the final project and issue the certificates.
  • You can't simply designing a blended course, you also have to deal with organizational policies and politics. A blended course within an organization aiming to change practice is never standing on itself, especially if the subject is important (and it should be!). In this case there was overlap of the original topics of two separate initiatives which had to be worked out. There was a collaboration with another institution with apprenticeships in the same field. It takes time to properly position a blended course as one of the instruments among all other (change?) activities within the organization. In this case that was the cause that it took a year to develop the blended trajectory.
  • The most difficult to organize collaborative learning online. Everyone can imagine or has seen individual e-learning modules. However, how do you organize interactive learning and how do you facilitate it? It is difficult to anticipate and imagine if you have little experience with it. Where to use collaborative learning? Which social tools to use or leave it open? How do you make a good connection between the various components? Are we going or not facilitate over time the online modules or put everything open and people to work in their own time?
  • Sometimes you have to work with what you have. In this case the platform (PulseWeb). Although this platform does not offer all interaction opportunities that we would like it offers a lot of advantages. The organization has already purchased this platform, the employees are already used to log in, and you can get started right away without any additional search or costs. Disadvantages of an existing platform is often a lack of interaction and tight structure. This experience learn that it is worthwhile talking to the vendor to searching for ways to make it more interactive and personal.
Lessons from the professionals within Proteion are:

  • Blended learning is really another way of designing. We have underestimated this. Following the Ennuonline course alongside the support helped us get a broader look into blended learning approaches and various tools.
  • Make sure you're running fast; learning by doing, which can be supported by an expert on how to go about it, what are good examples. We have learned the most from the meetings with you there; working together on your own design; someone who asks the right questions, thinks about what steps you must take, for example, during the search for a platform, concerning attractiveness of the online course with photos, quotes, inspiring assignments.

        

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