ownership, engagement and social media

12 07 2009

There’s an interesting post on my friend Jim Stellar’s blog, the other lobe, by one of his students, Ashley Stempel.  in engagement as an invaluable education tool: a lesson from social media, ashley talks about ownership and engagement as motivators in learning.  while i disagree with ashley that they are one and the same, i do believe that both are very strong, if not essential, motivators to learning.

for ease of reading and comment, here’s my comment as i posted it to her post.


… I like your thoughts on social media providing people a way of getting their ideas out to the world.  Although I’m not sure that I agree with your equating “ownership” and “engagement.”  While I agree that both ownership and engagement are motivating factors which drive peoples’ use of social media tools, they are very different motivators.

Much is made today of the interaction and conversations that are driven by social media tools.  The ability to engage with other like minded people regardless of time and geography is a very powerful motivator.  You can put your ideas out there, get reaction to them and revise your ideas at a pace ever imagined 10-15 years ago.  (Of course, the negative side is that you can get slammed faster than ever as well.)  Humans are social beings by nature.   We have always loved to learn in groups and with other like minded people.  Honing our ideas in academies and forums, with groups of friends, and debating those who don’t agree with us.  The new technologies make this easier to do.

You also talk about the engagement motivation in experiential education.  This is particularly the case because of the involvement of mentors and experts.  You can try things had have people you respect react and critique your ideas and efforts.

Ownership, in my mind, is very different than engagement.  (Although, you can build ownership through engagement.)  An Australian research in Adult Learning named Stephen Billett views adult learning as very much a process of “creating the story of our life.”  In essence we create an narrative about ourselves which we then own.  Billett sees this in apprenticeship learning situations (one form of experiential learning).  We own our learning as we piece together who we are.  In my view, building ownership is very much an inside job.

In the early days of blogging, most of those of us who were trying out this new online tool would post and post and post and never have a single comment from our readers.  To the point that if it weren’t for services that reported how many people had viewed our blogs, we would have had no clue that anyone was actually reading them.  But I can tell you, I felt a real ownership to my ideas – and resultingly ownership about myself as a blogger and a person – simply from the mere fact that I was recording my thoughts.  Not surprisingly, in the early days, blogs were considered to be online diaries.  Although, unlike my personal journals, I hoped someone would read them, the ownership came through my giving life to my thoughts.

I think it’s funny that Twittering and Facebooking are getting blasted for being self-aggrandizing.  As if talking about ourselves, getting to know who we are, letting others know who we are and getting feedback from there are somehow bad things brought on by blogs and instant messaging.  Building the story of who we are and sharing it with others is what being human is all about.  It’s all about learning about ourselves, others, and the world we live in so that we can improve all three.

free online conference

21 04 2009

jay cross is at it again.

he’s created a free online conference on innovations in organizational learning that will run for the next two days.  conversations about learning and organizations features conversations amongst and with leading names from around the world.  sessions are running around the clock today and tomorrow.  drop in on a few of the discussions or brew a pot of coffee and try to take all of the sessions in.

knowing jay and many of the moderators, it will be a tremendously stimulating conference.  check it out!

my grandfather’s advice

16 03 2009

update: dave ferguson just added this post to the work/learning blog carnival for March.  check out the other contributors’ thoughts on the need for passion in our work and learning.

clark quinn hits on a key concept that i’ve lived and worked by all my life.  when i was seventeen, my grandfather pulled me aside and give me a sage piece of advice.

my grandfather - ed lee

my grandfather - ed lee

he said:

son.  you need to find something you love to do for you work, because you are going to be doing it for most of the waking hours of your life.

coming from a man who was a master carpenter who spend all of his spare time when he wasn’t working on a construction site in his home workshop, this made sense to me.  fortunately, three years into my professional life, i stumbled upon the field of educational publishing and fell in love with the field of learning.

like most learning professionals i know, i love helping people learn by personally helping them either by facilitating a learning experience or mentoring them one-on-one.  i also love constructing learning materials and experiences that will reach numerous people.

what it comes down to is that when my heart sings,  when i feel that all my knowledge and experience can be used to advance a greater good, when i feel i’m making a difference in other peoples and my, lives then there’s very little labor in my work.

as clark also points out, as a manager and as a learning professional i’ve found that if i can fire the intrinsic motivation in those i’m working with, they end up often esceeding even their own expectations.  research study after research study on employee and learner motivation show that intrinsic motivators (do i make a difference?  is my work contributing to the company’s goals?  will this prepare me for the future?) are much more powerful drivers than extrinsic motivators (salary, performance reviews, an A versus a B).

this is why i’ve always seen myself (see my post training vs. learning from five years ago) as a learning professional who tries to draw learners to learning versus a teacher who “makes” people learn.

so grandpa.  thanks for the advice you gave me 30 years ago.  i love what i do for work and work at what i love.

the web is almost legal!

13 03 2009

happy 20th birthday to the world wide web.  march 13, 1989 is the day that tim berners-lee is credited with inventing the world wide web.  check out scientific american’s tribute to this world changing event.

having used the internet for 18 years or so, it just doesn’t seem comprehensible how far we’ve come so fast.  one of my favorite stories is from the 1992 when I was working at heinle & heinle and the five editorial directors got t-1 access to our desks.  i gophered to singapore national university’s web site and downloaded their campus map.  five or six colleagues stood around my desk – oohing and aahing.  seriously!

the internet in 1985

the internet in 1985

One of my favorite artifacts from the development of the internet is a map that marty lyons created in 1985 that shows the entire internet as it existed then on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper!  (click on the image to the left to see a larger version.)

to think that today it’s nearly impossible to create a site map for an average blog on one sheet of paper helps put the progress we’ve made.

as short a time ago as 2001 i was working on a project that would depend heavily on metadata tagging and microtransactions.  two things that at the time were questionable as to their viability.  Now millions of sites process billions and billions of transactions everyday and social networking has turned metadata tagging into a normal practice for everyday folks like my Mom.  that campus map i downloaded 17 years ago took several minutes to make it to my computer.  today we can watch real-time broadcast television on our cellphones!

so happy birthday world wide web.  go get a fake id and tip back a pint or two.  you deserve it.

the other lobe of the brain

11 03 2009

jim stellar,  psychology professor at northeastern university, and shwen gwee, a student of jim’s, have started a new blog called the other lobe of the brain.  their goal is to merge the discussion of neuroscience and social media for learning – both individual and organizational.

jim has been a friend for over ten years now and is one of the most innovative thinkers i’ve met.  jim has a great balance between academic and scientific research and practical business application.  his passion for understanding how learning happens and how it can be facilitated is contagious.  he’s convinced, both by his research and his experience, that experiential and social learning are the keys to accelerating learning.

if you enjoy innovative thinking and mind expanding insights, i’d suggest you add the other lobe of the brain to your blog reader.

what’s first? mentor or mentee?

9 03 2009

so you’ve decided that you want to create a mentoring program to enhance organizational learning and leadership development across the organization.  you know that social learning is the real driver to creating a culture that values learning and change.  social networking tools are being implemented so teams can communicate more readily.  you have employees contributing to a knowledge base to capture organizational knowledge.  now you feel a mentoring program where leaders help new employees and prospective leaders to expand their knowledge of the organization and their leadership skills.

But where do you start?  How do you matchmake mentors to mentees?  or mentees to mentors?

chick-eggwhich comes first?  the chicken or the egg?

do you first identify the employees who the organization wishes to groom for advancement?  Once you know who you wish to involve as mentees you could then determine the needs these people have and then search through your executive and management ranks for people who have what the mentees need.  you could then recruit them to match the needs of the mentees.

Or do you determine who amongst your leaders best exemplify the needs of the organization and establish them as mentors?  you could then either determine the employees who you wish to be mentored and match them to your team of mentors or you could let employees self-select by marketing the mentoring program and letting them apply to the program or to individual mentors.

How much control around participation in the program should you maintain?  How many mentees per mentor?  Should all managers at or above a certain level be required to be mentors?  Should all employees have a mentor?

What do you think?  Who comes first, the mentor or the mentee?

misassessing excellence

27 02 2009

in a poorly titled article on academicleadership.org, wolf kozel presents and very interesting summary of literature related to what academic excellence, genius, and the dominant learning paradigm of the past have to say about what makes a quality leader.  in a dynamic systems view of leadership, talent and intelligence, kozel presents a wide range of research finding which indicate that how we evaluate academic success and project intellectual success have little to do with actual life success and the ability to create and lead.

For example, he cites research that shows that dyslexics are over-represented amongst corporate CEO’s:

According to Sally Shaywitz, a neurobiologist at Harvard university, dyslexics are over-represented among the top rank of CEOs and achievers (Morris, Munoz & Neering, 2002). It is presumed by Shaywitz that dyslexics may learn early on coping skills, resilience, risk-taking, humility, as well as people skills. The high achievement of people with dyslexia runs counter to the standard view of dyslexia as a disability.

That perception of elite status impacts the actual ability for students to understand their need for learning:

Taleb (2007) contends that in real-life elites often show an epistemological arrogance by believing that they know more than others while also drastically overpredicting the extent and power of this knowledge.

He even presents research that shows group knowledge out performs particularly selected individual learning on “who wants to be a millionaire?”:

Page’s research (2007) in his book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, shows a randomly assigned group will often routinely outperform a group that is especially selected for the task. Page observes that in the popular television quiz show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” the “Ask the Audience” option has a higher percentage of correct answers than the option “Phone a Friend”—a friend who is chosen because they are ostensibly an expert and well-read in many fields.

He concludes with an unsupported claim that a Dynamic Systems Theory framework for learning can help to address these issues that arise out of diverse influences on learning and achievement.  while i happen to agree, the real value in his article is the wonderful array of research that he ties together.

the question that sticks in my mind is whether there is a value in trying to build an assessment using dst to better predict academic success or for that matter life success based upon various criteria.  or is it really best to let time and experience make that judgment through actual achievement?  is assessment, and prediction, of achievement simply part of the old paradigm of learning and teaching?

tinker, teacher, learner, why?

26 02 2009

christopher sessums links to this very interesting video on you tube in which john seeley brown discussed the idea of learners as tinkers and drawing concepts from the old one-room schoolhouse paradigm as a means for “kids learning from kids.”  the video is wonderfully provocative, as brown always is so I’ve linked to it in case you’d find it interesting.

my interest though has to do with sessums’ commentary that if you change “kids” to “teachers” in brown’s video we’ll be closer to the real solution.  while i totally agree that teachers also need to be tinkerers, i am troubled by the demarcation between teachers and learners that is inherent in both brown’s comments and sessums’ reaction.  i firmly believe that as long as we continue to believe that there are those who teach and those who learn from those who teach, we’ll never achieve networked learning that is driven by learner desire.

brown even makes the mistake of tying teaching and learning roles to age.  he argues that he can learn from someone a year older than him and they in turn can learn from someone older than them.  knowledge and learning are not subject to social stratifications of age, race, wealth, gender, etc.  if you know something i’d like to know, i can ask you to share it with me and learn from you whether you have a ph.d. from harvard, an mba from university of phoenix, or are in the 6th grade in thibodaux, louisiana.

in the workplace this becomes more and more evident.  the key is finding who knows what you need to know, learning it to the degree that you need to achieve your goals and then moving on.  how do we get beyond the hierarchies and organizations which may have helped move learning forward 100 years ago but seem more and more a restraint in the 21st century?

joining the twitter world

12 01 2009

so as i get back into the swing of things, i was advised that one of the things i needed to do was get on twitter.  oh boy! another killer app to integrate into my online presence.

twitter_logoso i’ve done it.  you can twitter me at dcleesfo.  (for those who don’t know, that means my twitter homepage can be found at http://twitter.com/dcleesfo.)  i have to say that twitter is very easy to use.  You type in anything you want – twitter suggests you answer the question “what am i doing?”  but you’ll quickly see that many people stray from this initial advice.

if you want to keep track of what someone is posting, you go to their home page and indicate you wish to “follow” them (or i guess follow their tweets is more a propos).  people can choose to follow your tweets as well.  you can block them from following you if you want – but i’m not sure why.  perhaps twitter suffers from spam as well.

there are all kinds of applications and extensions that people have built to let you use twitter from your iphone, your regular cellphone, and other applications (i’ve linked my toodledo account to twitter so i can call up my to-do’s via text message on my cellphone.  why? i’m not sure yet, but i have!!!!)

it seems the big initial challenge is to learn about @direct tweets versus public tweets so that you don’t accidentally share what you intend as a somewhat private message with the entire twitter world.

omg! it’s snowing!

8 01 2009

i guess i’m going to have to revisit a few of my posts on taking risk and dealing with change (see learning is risky business and my love-hate relationship with change.)  because it’s snowing outside my window!  i guess i’m not in palm springs anymore.

i recently heard someone make the comment that nothing changes until you change.  well after frustrating the heck out of myself trying to find work as a learning professional in the desert, my partner and i decided that it was time to change the equation.  so we packed up a rental truck, loaded the car onto a tow dolly, piled diva the dog into the cab and drove 3800 miles to move to the boston area.  as jay cross put it to me, “good move, dave. beantown thrives; palm springs is great for retirement.”  having lived here for 16 years, i’m hoping my connections will make finding a job in learning a bit easier.

snowy mountains above palm springs, california

snowy mountains above palm springs, california

so, it may be a bit colder here. ok, alot colder! and it might be snowing. although check out the picture i took from the park near our apartment in palm springs two days before we left! and yes, we’ve both come down with winter colds due to the change in climate.  but hey, we’re making the changes we need to make change work for us.

isn’t that the big challenge in dealing with change afterall?

so here’s to risk taking and a new year that some young dude from Illinois promised all of us in the united states would be filled with change.  now excuse me, i need to go shovel my car out of a snow bank!!!!