This is my twentieth article on the blog and my first targeted milestone. When I set out this year to try and capture some thoughts and ideas about Learning, i set myself some goals. I wanted to spend an hour a day writing, and to aim to write for 200 days this year. This post means i’m ten percent of the way there.
Why 200? Because i knew that to achieve this, i’d have to change something. I didn’t have a spare hour in the day, so i’d have to create it. One of the things i always try to include within a piece of learning is the idea of ‘footsteps’ that people can take out of it. We can all go to a workshop, or see a documentary, or read a book and find it interesting, but if we’re going to achieve something different, we have to do something different. It’s been eleven years since i started the e-learning business and, in that time, we’ve grown it to be highly successful, but i’ve always tried to match organisational growth with personal growth. I talk to a lot of people about their personal motivations and how they can affect change within their jobs and businesses, but i wanted to make sure that i was actually being a practitioner of this myself. If you want to be an agent for change, you have to change.
And it’s not as if i don’t spend a lot of time writing anyway; i routinely write for hours a day, but all business related, rarely with the luxury of just writing for the sake of it.
The other reason for starting the blog was to engage with a community of practice. I did some research two years ago looking at social networking and how it was used by photographers and artists in their professional practice. Broadly, they divided into two groups: those who used their social networks for promotions, to let people know about exhibitions and gigs, and those who engaged with their networks for creativity. By this i mean that they engaged in dialogue with their social networks to actually aid them in the creative process. Instead of seeing their networks as purely a market or audience to ‘push’ to, they saw the creative energy of communicating half formed songs or ideas and having a dialogue with their network about it.
It’s important to understand the types of dynamics that take place within social networks, the ways in which self interest and altruism interact. This understanding of the motivations and behaviours in ‘healthy’ social networks will allow us to better understand the parameters and behaviours that will need to be present when we try to organise more formal learning networks. People are driven by the same motivations and behaviours across their online lives, and understanding these motivations can only help us.
I did a piece of work with a large financial services organisation a few years ago to accompany the launch of their new Learning Management System. We wanted to look at how people learn, but to look at when and how they learn throughout their lives, not just within ‘formal’ contexts. The ideas was that if we consider how we learn continuously through life, we can consider how strategies that work in ‘personal’ spaces may apply in ‘formal’ ones.
For example, whenever i get a new game on the xBox, i just dive in and play it. I never read the instructions. I just assume that whoever programmed it will have complied with the ‘logical’ or ‘intuitive’ standards that are used by all the other games i play. If they don’t, then i’d be stuck, but they usually do. Sometimes, if the controls are not ‘intuitive’, games designers just include subtle instructions within the first level of the game itself, forcing you to carry out a sequence of activities that implicitly mean you have to learn a sequence of new events. In terms of learning design, i try to use this principle when writing instructions for solutions or models. Instead of putting ‘instructions’ at the start of every model, maybe we can assume that if we follow ‘standard’ procedures (and apply a dose of common sense), people will be able to navigate and use them. If we need to do something more complex, maybe emulate the approach where complexity is built slowly, rather than introduced in one hit.
Anyway, underneath all of this was the thought that i wanted to write more, and to engage with the community more. I wanted to expand my horizons and share the learning journey with others; not just people from an academic or practitioner background, but people from any background. Within our e-learning team, we have musicians, artists, writers, academics, sportsmen, businessmen, so called creatives and hard core geeks. This very diversity is our strength (as well as our greatest challenge), and i wanted to bring some of it to bear in my own work.
So here i am, ten percent of the way. The things that i thought would go wrong haven’t. Things that i never thought would happen, have. Reflecting on my own experience, my motivation is, if anything, higher than when i started, and i already feel i’ve learnt a lot, but i still don’t know where the journey will take me.