A Year of Learning

Writing is both a compulsion and a pleasure: taking two weeks off was almost a challenge. But a change is good and two weeks away from work has given me time for both relaxation and refreshment (both of the soul and via mince pies). The start of a new year is usually a time for reflection and planning, and i’m doing a little of both today.

Reflections on 2014

Some themes i’ll be exploring in 2015

Through around two hundred articles last year we covered quite some ground, starting with the introduction of the CAIR Culture model in January through to the launch of the Social Leadership Handbook in November. Last year saw me become a Google Glass explorer (with all the technical and social hazards that entailed) as well as looking at the impact of wider social collaborative technology.

A lot of my thinking last year turned to nuances: around fairness, around equality, around inclusion. Increasingly the technology and mechanics of learning form, for me, just the foundation of the real challenges we face: to be effective, to be fair, to be agile.

The three books i published last year reflected the breadth of subjects we seem to work our way around. In the Learning Methodology book I returned to the roots of the blog: how we design effective learning. This methodology informs all my work and has been the most consistent part of my thinking over the last fifteen years. It’s a checklist of things we need to do to learn: setting the ‘Context‘, ‘Demonstrating‘ key concepts and areas, providing space for ‘Exploration‘, time and frameworks for ‘Reflection‘, formal ‘Assessment‘ and finally ‘Footsteps‘ for performance support over time.

Developing and utilising a rigorous methodology for learning lies at the heart of quality, and it’s an area i’ll be revisiting this year, particularly in relation to games in learning, simulations and mobile learning. At the end of the year, i released the Scaffolded Social Learning model, built out of this Methodology, and i anticipate expanding on that this year as it’s something that gets a lot of interest.

Scaffolded Social Learning - the overarching narrative

A scaffolded Social Learning solution will include both bubbles and boxes, a combination of formal and social spaces

The next book was ‘New York: Community, Spaces and Performance‘. Travel writing came as something of a surprise to me. The realisation of the extent to which travel (i was away from home for nearly twenty weeks last year) informs and liberates my thinking. Previously i’ve published writing from Amsterdam and Singapore, but in the New York book i collected five essays about the physical environment, the communities that inhabit it and the activities they undertake. It’s a journey from the formal glass and steel of Wall Street, the curvaceous and creative slopes of the Guggenheim to the semi derelict warehouse galleries of Brooklyn and a reflection of the ways people inhabit them.

Is it applied to the world of work? Who knows: what’s work anyway these days? For me, writing is liberating and connective: a chance to observe the world around us and draw lessons from it. For me, the writing is certainly informative.

Finally, at the end of the year came the Social Leadership Handbook, my first full colour hardback effort and something of which i’m very proud. I think it sits in that space between theory and application: the first time really that i’ve taken ideas that i’ve explored widely in the blog and taken it right down to practical programme design: how we train people to be better Social Leaders.

Of course, like all books in the Social Age, it’s not something to write and send alone into the future, but rather it’s a collection of my thinking at one moment in time, already superseded by the more agile and immediate articles and reflections of subsequent blog posts.

Last year was my fourth year of writing: indeed, today is the first day of year five. What have I learnt? That writing is not something you do, it’s something you are.

I’m not naive enough to predict what i’ll write this year, but here are four trends i expect to be following:

TECHNOLOGY: will see the fuller emergence of wearable technology and will start to see application in learning that are practical. Whilst still several years away from the mainstream, the technology itself is becoming pervasive. We will see for more existing technology becoming ‘socially collaborative‘, all the existing LMS’s for a start, although probably with mixed success as they still tend to focus on function instead of collaboration and community. There’s often still a sense that the organisation ‘owns‘ it, which is just plain wrong.

We will see greater connection alongside greater potential for disruption. Both of which are good for the soul. And the impact of technology to facilitate creativity, Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy, will advance apace.

It’s all about COMMUNITY in the Social Age: but a more nuanced understanding of how we form and support these (again, it’s not about ownership). A recognition that it’s not a case of the organisation ‘creating and deploying’ one community, but rather enabling individuals and leaders to participate and engage freely and safely. Debates about privacy and safeguarding will continue to evolve as the true realities of the Social Age sink in.

My own journey will certainly see an increased focus around EQUALITY and it’s associated aspects of Fairness and Responsibility. In the work i’ve done around culture and reform in Financial Services and Pharma i feel i’ve only just scratched the surface and i’m keen to do more. This will include further exploration of imbalances in technology as well as the wider Social Contract between organisations and individuals.

Finally, LEADERSHIP remains a key part of my work and thinking: how we build socially moderated authority and the need to complement formal, hierarchical authority with socially moderated and permitted forms.

In terms of publications, i have re-opened the final draft of the ‘Music in Learning‘ book, which explores co-creativity, and am wondering whether i want to expand it further. I’m part way through the draft of ‘Working and Learning in the Social Age‘, and have started some work on a book about ‘Equality and Fairness‘, which will probably be a follow up to the Social Leadership Handbook.

We are organising a Conference, the Social Age Safari, in April and i hope to be presenting some drafts of this work there.

So as 2015 stretches before us, i see opportunities and challenges, but overwhelmingly a sense of excitement to be WorkingOutLoud and sharing the journey here with this community.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Agile, Blogging, Book, Excitement, Leadership, Learning, Reflection, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Year of Learning

  1. Evelyn So says:

    I love your drawings! Such a powerful way to convey and support your thoughts. I am a newbie to that – tried, scared, discouraged…and hopefully suitably challenged in the new year! I would also like to know your best tip on being such a natural and productive writer – what were you like when you started?

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks Evelyn, my tip for writing? Write for yourself. The minute i try to write what i think people want to read, it’s ten times harder. I view writing as a reflective process: i always write around learning in some way, but it may be about technology, about equality, culture and community or leadership. All aspects of the Social Age. My early writing on the blog: mixed i’d say. Some piece i stand by, others have been eclipsed… I have certainly learnt a lot: the more you write, the more constructs you can draw upon and, strangely, the more you learn. I still feel like an amateur though: this is the start of my journey.

      I always write within the values of the blog: to be positive, to be constructive, to collaborate and share and never to criticise unless you try to offer solutions and to always engage and say thank you.

      I’ve been illustrating the blog for around two years, and it transformed both my audience and productivity. But my early drawings were… basic. As with everything, be unafraid to fail. There’s a whole community out there to catch you.

      I enjoyed your blog and the ethos behind it. Thanks for visiting 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on vanessaanorth and commented:
    A great blog from Julian Stodd, all thing learning and what the future of learning may be

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