Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CauseWired - Tom Watson

I’m reading CauseWired by Tom Watson at the moment. Even though it was only published two years ago, there are parts of it that are already achingly out of date. I’m about a third of the way through, and while most of the time I’ve been thinking ‘mate, you’re preaching to the converted here’, I’m starting to see some relevance for some of the ideas Watson is trying to get across.
So far the basic ideas that are being proposed are:
  1. social media tools, although not solutions in the themselves, are great opportunities for causes to reach audiences
  2. target audiences (i.e. everyone) are already established on social media and are comfortable using it to voice opinion and have public conversations - exactly the things causes need to generate in order to raise awareness (and resources)
  3. by using social media tools, resources have wider reach, a longer life (i.e. conversations and campaigns can exist permanently) and audiences feel less intruded on
Nothing too new there, but great nonetheless.
Something I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about is measurement and social media. There is no gold-standard of measurement yet, so social media metrics are budding up all over the place. Some people think this is gimmicky and terrible, others think it’s a great place to start developing the standard. I tend to agree with the latter (it’s how big market players have developed in all other areas, isn’t it? Who’s to say standards can’t go the same way?). So how do resource-poor, transparent, cause-based organisations demonstrate that their social media efforts are worth it?
How much effort should be put into proving that anyway? It’s tough, but worth looking at.
Originally posted here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pedagogy and Design Thinking

It struck me this morning that I haven’t done much reading about how pedagogy and design thinking interact. It could be a really interesting area and I’m curious to know how much writing is out the about the use of pedagogy in design thinking and vice versa.

Within a project the possibility exists for both to have a role in a mutually exclusive way, but I’m more interested in how they might complement each other. If there were iterations of both concepts, the potential for them to improve each other. If people used to working with pedagogy adopted aspects of design thinking, the potential application of their personal pedagogy could be greatly expanded. Likewise, if design thinkers spent some time thinking about pedagogy their approach to project could be even more user-centered.

Having done no reading about the intersection of both pedagogy and design thinking, my thoughts are just that, random and not backed up by anything but my imagination. I do think the potential for some more work and a wider distribution of the ideas could pay dividends for educators, designers and a bunch of people that both groups are trying to reach with these concepts.

I think I have some work ahead of me. Hopefully I’ll be able to post here what I find.

Originally posted here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Learning to adopt

The success of a new collaboration implementation is largely dependent on the extent to which it is adopted within an organisation. Introducing a new way of working is always going to involve a certain amount of discomfort for users as the organisation gets used to a change but there are ways to make this part of the experience easier. Incorporating learning principles into the adoption strategy can help users get comfortable with change faster.
Resistance to the new doesn’t always mean the technology is a failure for the organisation, it could simply be a misunderstanding of the purpose. Of course, the purpose may be well defined for the project team, but it’s not the user’s responsibility to figure it out for themselves. While communications teams are well aware that simply communicating a message without consideration for the way in which it’s delivered only gets the job half done, software implementations are frequently lacking effective communication of purpose.
When it comes to encouraging adoption and collaboration, we can go one step further. Learning styles can be a great way of approaching an adoption strategy – identifying how your user group prefers to learn and then adapting the strategy to meet the particular needs of those groups can help get users through the learning curve earlier and faster:
  • If a group of users learn best by early use and testing features that interest them, give them access early to increase their comfort levels. They will be an asset to your adoption strategy in the long run by joining other early adopters like the project team.
  • Give people who prefer to learn by observing access to the space to watch and learn from others. Observers will eventually start talking about their learning and this may take place somewhere others who haven’t yet adopted the technology can hear about positive experiences and useful features.
  • Create a space either within or outside the technology itself for users to discuss their experiences with it (i.e. a conversation backchannel). Creating this space is a good way to identify another group of learners – those who like to talk about their experiences and have conversations with others.
  • Participating in the backchannel in a non-intrusive, positive way is key to bringing these two groups (those who discuss and those who observe, together) to the point of adoption.
Enabling and integrating learning preferences into the adoption strategy in social, open, and collaborative ways is essential to them being a successful factor in the adoption process. Being social is nuanced and everyone has their preferences. The same goes for learning. Using learning strategies to enable changes in behaviour can be supported by identifying preferences of the groups of people you’re engaging with – those preferences are the first step towards making the adoption strategy a success.
Post originally appeared on the Headshift Australia blog

Friday, May 25, 2012


Meta-journey. I’ve had to use that term a lot recently and while it makes me feel like a bit of a hack (read: i hate using buzzwords, I much prefer straight-forward langauge), it’s also growing on me. Someone said to me a while ago that sticking meta in front of anything is the latest buzz but I don’t believe that. I think meta had it’s time a while back when knowledge management was still an isolated department. 
Meta-journey is a pretty abstract term on its own. I am finding it to be pretty relevant when I try to tie a bunch of individual client experiences together, identify trends and play the findings back to them. It’s useful then.
It’s also useful in helping me remember that nothing in design or technology is permanent, everything is susceptible to change, and being able to adapt to that change is a good thing. No platform is the ‘forever best’. No format is the ‘be all and end all’. Context and adaptability of content is essential in order to maintain relevant in the - wait for it - meta-journey.
Here endeth the sermon for today.
Originally posted here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Gen Y Want to Learn

Originally posted on the Headshift blog and here.

How would you create your ideal learning experience for work-related learning? What would it look like, where would you be?
Who would you be with? How long would it last for?
Would you be creating anything, interacting with anyone, discussing, reflecting, listening, watching, experiencing?
Would it involved a mix of some reading in your comfortable chair at home follow by some discussion and questions with other people a few weeks later?
Now imagine that seemingly perfect experience of learning at work, and picture giving it to the person next to you for them to learn something with, and them giving you their ideal learning experience in return. Are you comfortable still?
Why is it we don’t trust so many young professionals to have an idea of how they could learn best?
Think about it. Gen Y have just finished some 13+ years of full time education. They’ve adjusted to the ‘real world’ and taken on jobs, adapted from the classroom to more independent learning at post-school institutions often juggling part-time employment, work placement and a healthy social life at the same time. They convinced HR, recruiters, line managers and whoever else that they knew how to learn quickly, that their limited experience could be applied across contexts, that their formal learning was a great starting point for a successful work-life with their new employer. Do we assume that they did this with no awareness of how they learn new things best? Or do we think that through experiencing all these changes and new things that the average Gen Y’s ability to learn could definitely use some prescription?
Gen Y are a group of people who are used to exercising control.
Controlling how they consume information is something they’re expert at. The stereotypical Gen Y knows what they want and is already working at how they can get there, quickly. Control is just something they come to expect as a result of being exposed to so much choice. If we hire Gen Y as a result of their convincing ability to apply past experience and learning to a new context quickly, why do we then remove any control they have over their ability to learn in ways that are most appropriate or effective for them? Gen Y’s ability to use control in a productive way for learning demonstrates a level of critical reflection and self-awareness. It also removes some of the decision making process from the learning designer or facilitator.
Now think about the average induction program within an organisation. Many are now e-learning modules, delivered asynchronously and are effectively flashy versions of PowerPoint slideshows. We’ve all seen them. Click ‘next’ to proceed, tick a box to indicate you read the information and understood it, complete these multiple choice questions copied verbatim from the previous slide to indicate a genuine learning experience. Sure, these e-learning inductions are cost-effective and create consistency of delivery across a large population. They also ensure new employees are immediately given a message that learning in this organisation is void of individual control, is delivered without any opportunity for interaction or flexibility and definitely doesn’t acknowledge any unique abilities for information filtering, reflection, questioning or application of information to real workplace situations.
Is this the ideal way to introduce the most individualised, independent, fast-paced generation to learning at work?
If not, what is Gen Y’s expectation of learning at work?
If they’ve not been to work before, or had limited experiences of a professional environment where learning supplements other activity, what were they thinking they’d encounter?
Is it even worth acknowledging this group’s expectations?
I would argue yes.
Recognising this young group of professionals’ expectations is worthwhile because ignoring them means ignoring an impacting factor on the possible success of any learning efforts with this group. Definitely, there is the possibility that the expectations brought to a professional learning experience could be unrealistic, but given that they’re going to exist whether they’re acknowledged or not, it would be more productive for both the learner and the organisation to get the ideas out on the table and address them relative to the immediate learning needs of all involved.
As part of my research, Gen Y professionals indicated that having the ability to exercise some control over their learning experiences at work helped them to feel more involved in the learning as opposed to being dictated information. Having some choice about the way learning took place also helped some young professionals feel that the learning they were being asked to complete was valued by the organisation and not just something that needed to be delivered, consumed and ticked-off for compliance at the most basic level. Feeling valued even in a learning experience is an expectation that Gen Y bring to work and one that should be acknowledged if learning designers and people who want to create new, innovative ways of doing things with this new group of professionals need to view as an opportunity and not a burden.
As an initial experience of learning early on in their careers, Gen Y are not particularly excited about the prospect of continuing their professional development in this way. Can we blame them? Removing aspects of learning that this group of learners value and replacing them with ones that seem to communicate a lack of value in the content, the process and the learner is apparently a clear message for some Gen Y professionals.
The research I’ve conducted in this area has exposed a mismatch between the expectations and experiences of Gen Y engaging in learning at work. This mismatch involves assumptions about the learner, the value and process of learning, as well as learning design relative to content. Removing control from the Gen Y learner and providing a single channel for learning or consuming content in place of learning de-values the ability of this group of professionals to demonstrate the skills that helped them get to a professional position in paid employment in the first place. Finding an economical, enriching and mutually valuable way to design and deliver learning to this growing population of professionals is one of the challenges that face learning experts today. Or rather, it is one of the catalysts that should be causing change and innovation within learning circles.
I’ll be presenting a version of these ideas along with more discussion of my research at the Teaching and Learning with Vision conference in November on the Gold Coast.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading about -tivisms recently. There’s hacktivism,slacktivismapptivismtax-tivism…not to mention your garden variety digital activism.
Why bother with all these different titles? My idea is that it’s all about values. Activism in all it’s forms is about an active expression of values and creating a unique title for each type of action is just another expression of that, helping others identify more clearly how values are expressed within a particular group.
So hackathons, something I’ve also been reading bit on, are kind of like a melting pot of these different -tivisms, bringing a mixture of values, abilities and needs to the one table, with the aim of having a clear result in a short space of time. Kind of like a modern-day charity phone-athon, except more people are actively involved.
Many hands make light work, right?
Originally posted here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hyperconnectivity and Millenials

I’m deleting the history of my Facebook page.
I’m keeping 3 months or so, but as soon as anything gets older than that, I’m either locking down the view to ‘me only’ (and yes, I realise that it’s definitely not me only, but at least it’s a smaller view-access) or deleting it altogether.
I’m not against Facebook though, and I don’t think I need to totally run away from it (probably a good thing, given I work on social media project for a large proportion of my living).
So when I read the new Pew Internet study on hyperconnectivity of Millenials in my RSS feed a few days ago, I was comforted by the fact that I’m not alone. Pew Internet study online behaviours of Americans through surveys and some qualitative research and more longitudinal studies. Yes, America is not Australia, but their work is still interesting, and thorough and definitely not that the pop-survey end of the spectrum that a lot of infographics are based on these days. Give them a go.
Anyway, the most recent study, published in February of this year presents attitudes and experiences of Millenials toward the notion of hyperconnectivity in today’s modern world. Overall, the jury is still out about whether hyperconnectivity is a good or bad thing. Even though the survey was an entirely opt-in thing, so respondents are in theory more actively engaged in a hyperconnected pattern of activity, the split was roughly 50-50 benefit and attitude. Nothing really surprising there, but at least I’m not totally out on the fringe with my behaviours, right?
For far more illuminating thoughts than that, and to keep up to date on relevant stats and studies, check out the Pew site.
Originally posted here.

Monday, May 21, 2012


TED Ed was launched a couple of days ago [edit: ok, ages ago now. but still it's worth getting into]. It’s basically an extension of the TED talks everyone loves watching, but curated and published specifically for educational purposes. RWW did a good article on them too. Personally I’ve always considered the TED talks an educational experience, but I guess this new spin-off is aimed at getting some curriculum-specific content out there for educators. Sounds like a great result for educators and for kids craving engaging content.
There’s the regular ‘how to calculate’ and ‘look at this’ kind of videos that I expected, but there’s also the challenging (and really not that surprising for a TED initiative) videos on stuff like the value of storytelling for history.
Hopefully they start featuring some of the youth generated content at TEDxYouth events. Disruptive, informative and empowering all at once!
Originally posted here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

on learning objectives

Original post here.
Just read a great post that expresses most of how I feel about learning objectives.
2 years ago I would have said objectives are a crucial, irreplaceable part of designing learning. I know, I was inexperienced and naive. Especially because at that time I was just about to start researching learning using technology for professional development.
Since then, I’ve discovered that learning objectives are good for goal oriented people, and often those people are the designers. Not all learners have an explicit goal in mind when they start learning and not all learners want an objective handed to them when they decide to learn something.
It’s telling then, that the pro’s list features more pros for designers than learners themselves.
The pros
  • By defining learning objectives, you establish a clear target for you as a designer or instructor to aim for, expressed in terms of specific and measurable behaviours,
  • These learning objectives can then be used as the basis for designing appropriate assessments.
  • By analysing the objectives by type (knowledge, skills and attitudes in all their various guises), it is possible to formulate instructional strategies for each element of the intervention that are based on accepted good practice.
  • The objectives provide learners with a clear statement of what they are expected to achieve and what they can expect of the instructor or instructional materials.
Then cons list however, recognises that mandated learning isn’t the best way to ensure learners genuinely engage with content and are also motivated to learn. 
The cons
  • Learning objectives make sense when the learning intervention is driven from the top-down, i.e. at the behest of management. When participation in an intervention is determined by employees themselves, then their goals should surely over-ride any objectives set by the designer/instructor - at very least they should be negotiated.
  • Learning objectives work on the basis that specific outcomes can be consistently achieved for all learners, or at least most of them. This may well be reasonable with some types of learning, if only superficially. The reality is that the connections that learners manage to achieve in their brains as a result of a learning experience are likely to be very different from person to person and in some cases highly unpredictable, particularly when the objectives are more sophisticated than the rote acquisition of knowledge or the performance of routine, rule-based tasks.
  • Learners who are presented with highly formalised objectives at the commencement of a ‘lesson’ are likely to end up both bored and baffled. The priority at the commencement of any intervention is engaging the learner, not sending them to sleep.
Definitely there are times when learning objectives are required and are beneficial, however in the wide world of learning and more specifically learning with technology, they’re not *always* required. If a group of people are all motivated enough to engage with some content designed for learning, their objectives may all be similar, but they may all vary as well.
Recognising that people’s motivation and need for learning in any context is larger than a set of crafted objectives is the first step to finding the appropriate place for learning objectives.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lego gaming (the life of george lego iphone game)

Original post here
I nearly bought this last month when I was in New York. It’s a lego game that lets you create characters for the app from lego pieces that you photograph to bring to life. Sounded like so much fun but I have an old iPhone and this was for the 4 only. Sad panda.

Still, this kind of re-jigging an old toy for a new purpose is a very cool concept and is just another example of the progress towards (reverse?) augmented reality and use of gaming in the everyday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

QLD Police educating their state on tech security

Originally posted here - but in bringing this space back to life, and that means migrating some posts that should have been put here in the first place.

Yes, I’m stereotyping, but I was surprised when QLD Police started educating their state on how to best take care of their digital presences and tighten security on WiFi networks.
On the one hand I’m sighing because there’s some tech news being made available to the general public that doesn’t involve the NBN (much).
On the other hand, will the ma and pa WiFi router owners really ‘get’ what this is about and why they should be doing something rather than leaving their network setup to their neighbour’s son.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Recyclebank: green gamification for everyone

Originally posted here, which is now being used as my 'other' space. With the intention of bringing this space back to life!

Recyclebank takes gamification to the public and in theory everyone wins.
I’m a fan of good game design that helps get things done in a low-resistance, engaging way. This type of thing is becoming more and more common among institutions - like companies trying to encourage employees to adopt new practices and schools trying to deliver ‘old’ material in a *new and relevant!* way.
Foursquare is probably the most notable public use of gamification. The real loss for Foursquare though, is that in low-saturation areas, the emphasis lies with the use to enjoy the pure game aspects instead of being rewarded in a real-world way. My personal opinion leaves that to the fact that it was such an early innovation in the gamification space.
Recyclebank takes things further. Less dependent on high-saturation areas (i.e. cities), users are rewarded for taking small (or large), clear positive steps to reduce their environmental impact in real-world ways. By hanging out the washing instead of using the dryer, or turning off appliances at the powerpoint, users earn points (standard gamification feature) which can then be redeemed for rewards such as online store vouchers.
So why wouldn’t a user simply use their own initiative to tally the savings they make from taking those actions and buy stuff online without being given a voucher? Being able to see and show progress with others as well as being rewarded (or validated?) by others is highly valuable to everyone.
That small connection to others who are also interested in making a difference is what a lot of crowd-sourced initiatives are based on. But that’s another story.