Thursday, September 12, 2019

My Top 10 Learning Tools - 2019

It is that time of the year when Jane Hart ( polls learning professionals around the world to weigh in on their top 10 learning tools. Here are my Top 10 Learning Tools for 2019 (in no particular order):

  1. Google Search - If I have a question, Google always has an answer.

  2. Twitter but more specifically Tweetdeck - This is the first social media app that I launch on my computer. I use it for both personal and professional learning and especially like the 'lists' feature to view and participate in a variety of 'streams of conversations'.

  3. LinkedIn Articles - I have enjoyed cross posting my blog posts to LinkedIn and found a different type of audience. I have also noticed that people find it easier to comment on Linkedin posts rather than on blog posts and that creates an opportunity for conversations that are more meaningful.

  4. Microsoft Word - I do all my professional work using Microsoft Word and can almost forget about this tool since it has become seamless with my work.

  5. Dropbox - I rely on this tool for working in the cloud, collaborating with clients and teams, for synchronizing my work across various computers/laptops. I have recently started to use this tool to share documents and pictures with my family. Everyone seems to be on board!

  6. Podcasts - I love all kinds of podcasts but have added several learning/training/human performance-related podcasts to my list in the past year. I like the flexibility of listening to podcasts while walking or taking the transit and it often sparks an idea or two for my own blog posts.

  7. Meetup - I have been using this app increasingly over the last year and enjoy developing personal and professional relationships with people in my local community - within and outside my area of work.

  8. Instagram - I use this tool for personal learning around my hobbies and interests including photography, makeup and cooking! I enjoy watching 'stories' and find it easier to respond to stories and make connections with people.

  9. WhatsApp - This is my go-to tool to stay connected with my family but recently, I have joined both professional and personal neworking Whatsapp groups and have found it to be valuable to plan one-on-one meetings with interesting people that I discovered through the group chats.

  10. Slack - In the past year, I found myself using Slack for personal learning. However, I found it challenging to keep up with too many Slack groups that are created post a meetup or a workshop or a course for a follow-up discussion but then no one ever posts anything! On the other extreme, in other Slack groups, members continue to post 'Fwds' and their professional bios for job prospecting. I can see the value of the tool so I am still trying to find my way through the world of Slack for personal learning.
Other notable mentions: 

Blogger - My blog resides in Blogger so it is a critical tool for me that offers me a platform to reflect and share. However, I tend to write long (aka reflective, thoughtful) posts and only post once a month so my frequency of using this tool is low.

YouTube - This is my 'how to' tool. I use it for microlearning when troubleshooting tasks both professional and personal and to learn more about product reviews mostly involving technology products such as laptops and iPhones! 

What are your Top 10 Tools for Learning? Please share them in the survey here. The Top Tools for Learning 2019 survey will close on Friday 13 September. Results will be released 8 am GMT, Wednesday 25 September 2019.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The What, How and Why of Multiple-Choice Assessment Questions
I am currently participating in a 3-Week Course by Patti Shank on how to "Write Learning Assessments" focusing on writing multiple choice questions (MCQs) that are valid and reliable. The course has a great group of people who have lots of insights to share! If you don't already know or follow Patti, you need to change that right now! She is a workplace-learning expert, instructional designer, researcher, and author who shares evidence-based practices that promote deeper learning. 

During Week 1 of the course, one of the things that came up in the group discussion was how to distinguish between lower-level assessment questions and higher-level assessment questions as they map to lower-level and higher-level cognitive skills.

Now, I have written my fair share of MCQs! In my current work, I lead and facilitate competence development projects, which includes designing competency-based assessment exams for trades/ apprenticeship programs. I work across many sectors and have developed assessment/certification exams for Power line Technicians, Residential Construction Workers, Shipbuilding Workers, Saw Filers, Hairstylists, Servers, etc. Currently, I am working on a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) assessment pathway for Early Childhood Educators. Across all of these projects, I may have written well over 2000 provincial certification exam questions (summative assessments) and reviewed more than 10,000 questions written by technical writers.

A quick way that I use to distinguish between a lower-level and a higher-level assessment question is to look at whether it is a what, how or why question.

  • A "what" question will typically ask to recall, identify, define, describe, etc. which are all lower-level learning objectives. It is important to note that "what" questions may be phrased as what, which of the following, when, how much, how frequently, who, where, etc. 
  • A "how" question will tend to focus on step-by-step procedures or steps or phases in a process. For example, how will you do something, what will you do next, how will you apply a principle or a guideline, how will you calculate something, etc.
  • A "why" question will focus on analyzing, problem-solving or troubleshooting-type objectives. For example, justify, compare and contrast, evaluate, categorize or rationalize, etc.
Needless to say, there is more to mapping cognitive learning objective levels to appropriate learning assessment questions. But generally speaking, as we move from "what" to "how" to "why" questions, we are moving from assessing lower-level cognitive skills to higher-level cognitive skills.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Planning for Transfer

When I reflect about the goal of all learning and education, it is primarily to cause individual, organizational or community-level change. However, it is this aspect of planning for change using specific transfer plans where we often tend to fail in our role as program planners. I guess, the greatest disservice to planning programs is to plan and execute programs that stay on budget, meet all stakeholder requirements, are designed and delivered smoothly BUT fail to transfer any learning to the job. In that sense, I view planning for transfer as an integral responsibility of my role as a program planner.

As I reflect about my own work experience, I can differentiate the programs I have planned for folks in an IT organization trying to sell new software versus foremen at the waterfront working with containers and gantry cranes all day. There is so much that's different about the culture of selling in a global organization versus the culture of safety at the waterfront especially in a unionized environment. While my IT adult learners did short bursts of 'training' on their mobile phones, the foremen were coached and mentored one-on-one, in an intense program, on the dock. The transfer context of a sales pitch versus a ship to be loaded or unloaded on time is so strikingly different that program planning including evaluation and transfer approaches for the two cannot be the same.

For me, the key insight is to be aware of the learners' context because without it, there can be no learning or transfer. As a program planner, I tend to immerse myself in 'a day in the life' of my audience to make these key decisions. I like how Connie (@elearningcoach) describes the need for participating in such a discovery before the analysis. I love her concept of 'customer safaris' as a discovery tool and in my work at the waterfront, such a safari also includes climbing container vessels! I engage in needs analysis and participate in job work shadowing/observation to understand more about the audience. I continue to educate myself and my clients including key program sponsors and other stakeholders to systematically think about evaluation and transfer as key components of planning. All along the way, I ask myself two key questions:
  • How will the participants apply what they are learning when they get back to their workplace?
  • How will we know if we met the desired goals of individual learning leading to enhanced organizational performance?