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.

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 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.

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?

where i’d work

14 09 2007

this month’s big question on learning circuits blog is a topic close to home for me. Tony Karrer’s question is simple, Where to work? smedium sized Big Question logoince i’ve been involved in a somewhat prolonged job search having decided that the consulting schtick isn’t quite right for me – at least for now – i’ve spent alot of time thinking about what the ideal, and not so ideal, workplace for me might be like.

let me preface all of this with the statement that i can only speak for me and my preferences. to think that there is any “correct” answer to this question would be foolish.

the key is to look carefully and honestly at what motivates you and what you find fulfilling and then being honest in both your evaluation of potential employers and in the fit between the environment and your needs. failure to be diligent in this analysis or compromising on your principles to “just get a job” will only lead to stress, frustration and, eventually, leaving that job. i’ll be honest, i’ve made the mistake of overlooking glaring misfits between my motivators and a company i’ve gone to work for. it wasn’t enjoyable and the money, while objectively good, wasn’t worth the pain. i’ve also had the great fortune of having jobs match my personal style and motivation. in these jobs I excelled, worked hard, and learned about myself both professionally and personally. So what’s important to me?

  1. challenging scope of work – i ideally want a role which will stretch my skill set. i love to problem solve more than i like to implement the same solution for the 250th time.
  2. expectation and ability to learn – related to the scope, i want to be in a position in which I’ll be expected and have the opportunity to learn. learn about business, learn about leadership, learn about new markets, learn about new technologies and business processes. and, well, duh! i am a learning professional!
  3. opportunity to lead – i don’t necessarily need to have a large staff of direct reports, but having the opportunity to lead projects, drive change, and create new opportunities for the organization to excel are things i enjoy and desire.
  4. a collaborative and innovative environment – i prefer to work with others drawing upon our varied backgrounds to create new solutions to both new and old challenges. team work, reflective practices, and an openness to ideas are all a part of such an environment.
  5. inspired leaders – i want to work for leaders who know why they are coming to work every day. i have loved working for men and women who have a vision of how they are making the company and the world a better place through their work.
  6. it’s a new world – the organization must be focused on today and the future. while past success is great, an organization that thinks yesterday’s solutions will solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems is not a place i want to spend 50-60 hours a weeks toiling away for. new relationships with their customers, new technologies, new organizational structures, and new products/services to meet today’s challenges are all signs i look for.

herzberg defined certain workplace factors as hygiene factors in employee motivation. these are factors must be present, otherwise the employees will lose motivation. but they do not provide positive motivation. my hygiene issues include:

  • salary – most employers have benchmarked open positions against industry standards. i expect that the jobs i’m applying for will be competitive in the salary they have budgeted, so salary is not a major issue for me.
  • benefits – basic health, disability, retirement savings are fundamental. vision and dental are great. anything else is gravy.
  • diversity – i value a diverse workplace that protects the rights of all of its employees. this should be standard these days.
  • work/life balance – i’m ready to put in the time i need to acheive the goals my role demands, but the organization has to understand that sometimes life happens in the hours between 9-5 on weekdays.
  • value learning – seems a no brainer, but this learning professional wants to work in an organization that believes that learning is fundamental to its success.

So there you have what i look for in a workplace environment. How do you value where you work or are looking to work?

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Perks for productivity – Sydney Morning Herald

A Ybrant workforce – Express Computers

Understanding and Strengthening your own Emotional Intelligence Skills – Autochannel (press release)

Communication is really the key – Deccan Herald

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missing the transfer

25 08 2007

i had the opportunity to meet cal wick, ceo of fort hill company, when he called on gap inc. to pitch his company’s products. cal is one of those inspiring ceo’s who run a company because he has an idea that he thinks will make the world a better place.

in a recent email newsletter, cal blasts current instructional design models for not delivering where it really matters – transfer to the learner’s work.

So I reviewed various instructional design models including ADDIE, Dick and Carey, Kemp, ARCS, Gagne’s 9 Events, Kolb’s Learning Styles, Rapid Design, and others. I was struck that while each provides powerful insights into the learner, the learning situation, and the measurement of learning, none explicitly takes up the challenge of how to get people and institutions to apply what is being taught.

figure out what we need to teach them, build the learning event(s) and activities that will present it most effectively, conduct the activities with the learners, check that they were paying attention and can satisfactorily feed back the target content/skills and we’re satisfied. nice, neat, complete, and generally ineffective. cal says he spoke to a number of students and graduates of top line graduate education programs about how much of what they had been taught dealt with transfer of knowledge/skills to the job. he found that the answers ranged from “nothing” to “not much.”

cal suggests that current instructional models can be extended in three ways to insure this vital transfer of knowledge. First, he suggests that we need to extend our instructional models to cover the transfer period.
The processes, principles and tools we use are good, but we don’t extend them far enough. Second, provide a roadmap. instruct them on how to apply their new knowledge. Third, make sure that the learners have support for their efforts to apply the new knowledge.

these aren’t groundbreaking ideas. when I met with cal three years ago, this was his message then. and they were part of what i was advocating in my post addie? isd? hpt? adapt or die! but it still seems to be a chronic problem for learning programs.

the other day, while I had the television on for distraction while I was trying to rid my laptop of a virus, i overheard a national football league head coach answer a reporter’s question of why he constantly repeats his message to his players. he said, “a lot of times they need to hear it again to get it. but sometimes i need to hear it again.”

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Managing change is key if schools want to still be the business – ic Wales
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