Monday, January 23, 2017

My Core Beliefs About Adult Learning (CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

What are the core beliefs about adult learning and development that guide your practice as an adult educator?

This is the question that our facilitator posed for us for Week 1 of a course on 'Adult Learning and Development ' that I am undertaking with the University of Victoria as a part of the 'Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education/CACE' program. Week 1 is all about understanding our frames of reference (FOR). He explained that 'We think from our beliefs every day as they guide our practice as adult educators; but we too infrequently think about them.'

I must admit that I had not really thought about my core beliefs in a long time. This exercise was all about developing a critical rationale for my practice as an adult educator. I was expected to state my top 5 beliefs, elaborate on their meaning and share how the belief impacts my thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perspective and/or behaviour as an adult educator.

This was a powerful reflective exercise for me and I thought I might be able to start a dialogue with others by sharing my beliefs on my blog. 

My top five fundamental beliefs about adult learning and development are:
  1. I believe that life experiences are critical to learning.
Elaboration: Adults accumulate a wealth of knowledge and life experiences. These positive and negative experiences provide connections between old and new learning. Adults appreciate when this knowledge and experience is respected and the value that participants bring to the training is recognized.

I use prior knowledge and skills as a hook or a context for participants as they process new knowledge. I draw out the wisdom that exists in the room by asking participants to think about what they already know and how their existing knowledge can be applied in new situations. This linking of new material to existing knowledge and experience creates a powerful and relevant learning experience. I am currently designing a training program on customer service skills. One of the activities that I plan to begin with is to ask participants to recall their own experiences of receiving good and/or bad service and identify the characteristics of those customer service experiences. I will then encourage them to draw on these experiences as they relate to the topic.
  1. I believe that adults learn when things are relevant to them.
Elaboration: Adults learn when the material is significant to them and to their current lives. If adults do not see the immediate relevance of the content, they quickly figure out that they don’t need to know it.

As an adult educator, it is important for me to answer the ‘WIIFM’ (What is in it for me?) question on behalf of my participants. Adults want their learning experiences to be relevant, to meet their needs and to help them achieve their goals. When a learning experience demonstrates these characteristics, participants find the learning process more valuable. One of the ways I am able to apply this principle is by having clearly defined goals, objectives, and agenda for the training. Early in the training, I try and highlight to the participants how the training will help them achieve their goals.
  1. I believe that knowledge is constructed in a social context.
Elaboration: Adults need dialogue and social interaction to learn and knowledge is co-created by a community of individuals. Collaborative learning enables participants to use their shared experiences to build upon concepts in ways that are not possible through instruction.

Because of this belief, I have a positive attitude towards social and collaborative learning, which brings me to online CACE courses. I appreciate online discussion forums that enable other participants to add their thoughts to my reflections. When I design learning based on this principle, I create a respectful and open climate and ensure that everyone is treated equal in the learning process. I create structured projects where participants work together. I encourage participants to feel accountable and try to foster an environment in which participants feel free to exchange ideas that are different and leave the room with new shared meanings.
  1. I believe that adults learn by doing.
Elaboration: Adults learn best when they are engaged with the content and are actively involved in the learning process. This happens when they get opportunities to apply what they are learning to solve real-life problems. 

One of the biggest challenges in adult learning and development is bridging the gap between learning and application. The way I see it, learning is not about knowing; it is about doing. When I design training programs, I am conscious of this and focus on the outcomes of learning and what the participants will be able to do at the end of the training. I use examples, scenarios and problem-solving activities that allow participants to apply their learning and see the connection between what is being taught and how it applies on the job.
Recently, I was involved in the design and development of foremen training at various ports in Vancouver. We (jointly with my colleague) implemented a design, which was centered on key tasks that foremen perform on a daily basis. We identified the expected performance standards for each task and the underlying knowledge and key behaviours that must be demonstrated. There was no classroom training and all learning happened on-the-job where foremen performed key tasks and a more experienced mentor provided feedback, direction and support based on the expected performance standards.
  1. I believe that failure is critical to learning.
Elaboration: Learning involves trial and error. True learning happens when participants try to do something and they fail. This expectation failure, when things turn out different from what is expected, is when participants learn.

I have been influenced by this belief around learning from mistake and failure. We learn when we reflect on our mistakes and strive to find better ways. I have designed several learning experiences built around mistakes that participants are likely to perform on-the-job. To scope the training, I focus on 20% of mistakes that cause 80% of problems; critical mistakes. I use task-based scenarios that challenge underlying assumptions and provide an opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment (instead of on the real job). I program the experience in a way that if the participant makes a mistake, they are prompted to review specific, supporting knowledge and feedback. The participants are then taken back to the scenario where they attempt to select the best way forward based on the new found knowledge. 

What do you think about my beliefs? Do you agree/disagree? 

I pose the same question to you now:

What are your core beliefs about adult learning and development that guide your practice as an adult educator?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Experience of Working Out Loud Using Pinterest

Working Out Loud is a global movement to share and narrate observable work with a purpose. 
This year, I participated in International Working Out Loud Week (#WOLWeek 07-13 November 2016). The idea of this week was to share a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day. I followed the WOLWeek blog that used John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. 

Day 1: Share purpose - Working out loud is about sharing your work as it progresses so that others can learn and can help.

The first question raised by Working Out Loud in John Stepper’s view is “what am I trying to accomplish? So, I started Day 1 by sharing my purpose. During the WOL week, I wanted to educate myself and others about WOL and its value. 
I have worked out loud at many occasions both in my personal and professional life. During this week, I wanted to use Pinterest as a way to create opportunities for social collaboration and share my contributions related to the concept of Working Out Loud. 

Using Pinterest was an interesting (and unexpected) choice for many. When I had initially thought of using Pinterest, one of the key mindsets that I wanted to get rid of was that Pinterest is a crafting tool. I knew the potential of Pinterest and had seen some excellent resumes and work portfolios on Pinterest. I had also enjoyed Jane Bozarth’s board on ‘Show your Work’. But I hadn't truly 'used' Pinterest to do anything constructive. And I wanted to change that.

I also found pinning a passive activity. So, I wanted to take it to the next step and invite others to collaborate and pin on my WOL board. I wanted to see what others have found valuable when it comes to working out loud and sharing their work. I wanted to see real-life examples and application of WOL and share all this knowledge with folks who may not have started their WOL journey as yet. So, I decided to use Pinterest as a way to facilitate this conversation.  

At the end of Day 1, I had built a Working Out Loud Pinterest board and captured some of the underlying concepts related to Working Out Loud to get myself started on this journey.

Day 2: Make A Connection - Working out loud exposes us to the networks of other people in our work. Understanding and leveraging those networks begins by making a connection.

For Day 2, I decided to send tweets and direct messages to people in my PLN inviting them to collaborate and add a pin on my WOL board

And twitterverse responded! @Rob Jefferson was the first to chime in and gave me the encouragement that I needed to keep going (Thanks Rob!).

By the end of Day 2, I had added 12 collaborators on my group WOL boardMany collaborators were new to Pinterest. Others mentioned that they were being invited to a group Pinterest board for the first time! During this process, I discovered many different boards created by other collaborators. I also learned a lot about collaborative boards and how to help troubleshoot when collaborators tried to add pins :)

Day 3: Make a Contribution - Generosity is a core element of Working Out Loud. With our purpose and communities in mind the best way to begin a relationship is by making a contribution to others.

For Day 3, I shared my own example of WOL in my current project - a transparent project monitoring technique using an XLS-based visual project tracker. I shared it on twitter and then pinned it to the WOL board.

Day 4: Share Progress - Real progress is not measured by our efforts but by the shared progress for others. Work out loud to better understand progress. 

For Day 4, I extended a warm thanks to all the collaborators and shared with them how the WOL board was coming along. 

But I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a conversation with the collaborators on how we ALL were doing and if the board was of value to them and to others viewing the board. I was also asking them if Pinterest was a good choice. 

Day 5: Share A Need - You need help. Your stakeholders need help. Working out loud is way to come together to share needs and solve them together in community.

On Day 5, I invited and reminded folks in my PLN to add to the WOL board to make it more valuable for everyone. I also heard from many folks about their own examples of working out loud and some of the articles, videos and posts that they have found useful along the journey. I made sure to pin all those resources on the WOL board.

Day 6: Celebrate Help - The best celebrations are purposeful. They are shared in a community. Reflect on your work. Whose contribution to your work deserves a shared celebration? Take 5 minutes to thank them properly, deeply and out loud. That’s a celebration that doesn’t fade, but instead grows. 

I spent a lot of time reflecting on Day 6 (and several days later). I thanked all the contributors who took the time and interest to pin valuable thoughts and ideas and examples of WOL on the WOL board including @chriscola @RobJefferson @MichelleOckers @ActivateLearn @sensor63 @elearningcoach @stipton 

I thanked all the folks who showered my tweets with Likes and RTs including @WOLWeek @STCAlberta @tmiket @LeadershipABC @simongterry @margiemeacham @lrnchat @claremil_BBS @SalmaAfzal_ @wol_de @ryantracey @brunowinck @eLearninCyclops @jenfrahm and many others.

I thanked @johnstepper > Through your work & ideas, I've been able to learn, contribute, connect and collaborate more than ever! #WOLWeek

I thanked @WOLWeek @simongterry for creating such a wonderful #WOL community that is ever willing to share and encourage!

I thanked @JaneBozarth for continuing to inspire and to always 'walk the talk' for #showyourwork #WOL #WOLWeek

Day 7: Plan Next Steps - At the end of a busy week take some time to take stock. Reflect on what you learned working out loud this week.

#WOLWeek Twitter Moment
To get a sense of everything that happened in that one week, I drafted a twitter moment (my first!).
To view a curated twitter story of my experience of participating in #WOLWeek 2016, please see “#WOLWeek 2016” twitter moment

Finally, here I am! I am now using this blog post to reflect on what I learned by working out loud during the #WOLweek and what I have learned about what is and what isn’t working out loud.

What isn’t Working Out Loud
  • WOL is not about the tools and technologies used for sharing and collaboration. You don’t need to be on social media to WOL.
  • WOL is not about pushing content and information to people who are not interested in receiving it or to those who don’t share a common purpose.
  • WOL is not about self promotion.
  • WOL is not about using one approach that’s always right.
  • WOL is not about fault finding in other’s work.

What is Working Out Loud
  • WOL is about starting with a purpose. If there isn’t a purpose behind sharing and collaboration, the act of narrating and sharing your work may not be very valuable.
  • WOL is about being generous and making your work visible and accessible. The idea is to enable and encourage others to have a conversation around your work to provide feedback and to share new ideas about what’s possible.
  • WOL is sometimes more about the process of sharing rather than the final outcome in terms of the actual work product.
  • WOL offers a way of establishing connections with others more easily using the common, shared purpose. These connections can lead to valuable relationships.
  • WOL is about an open mindset. It is an integral part of the working culture and it is about one’s willingness and attitude to share and to go beyond the fears of what others will say about their work product.
With this post, I would like to invite all collaborators of the WOL board to share their comments and feedback on working out loud with me during #WOLWeek. 
- What did you think about using Pinterest as a way to work out loud about working out loud. 
- How was your experience pinning articles and other resources on a collaborative board?
- Have you had a chance to visit the WOL board since #WOLWeek?
- Do you find the board valuable for yourself and others?
- Have you shared the WOL board with others?

You can now find 50 valuable pins that point to articles, blog posts, videos and examples of Working Out Loud in action all on one WOL boardWould you like to contribute and add a pin?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Rise of the Remote Worker

Source: Pixabay (CCO License)

More than 1.7 million paid employees — those not self-employed — worked from home in 2008 at least once a week, up almost 23 per cent from the 1.4 million in 2000, according to the Statistics Canada report on the subject in 2010.

In Canada, Telus found that teleworking increased employee productivity by about 20 per cent after a 2006 pilot project where 170 employees worked at home. Besides increased productivity and morale, it also saved 114 tonnes of greenhouse gases and almost 14,000 hours of time in traffic.

On the south of the border, in US, the stats as per highlight that:
  • Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 103% since 2005.
  • 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
  • The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommuter population grew 5.6%.
Dell and Intel collaborated to produce the Future Workforce Study in 2016 that shows interesting trends about the future of workforce in America. For example, "The traditional workplace doesn’t have the same value for Millennials as for older generations of American workers. Increasingly, Millennials are looking to non-office environments for productivity. 3 in 10 Millennials say they do their best work outside of the office – whether at home, in public or outside."

I am not surprised when I review these stats. I am a full-time, paid employee and I am one of the 1.7 million in Canada that work from home for several days a week. After having worked in a 9-5 office environment for 10 years, I have been working remotely for over 7 years now.  I can't say that I work remotely all the time because I do go out for all my client meetings, corporate planning and other leadership meetings and to conduct stakeholder workshops and other facilitated sessions. But typically, I work from home at least 3 days a week. As someone who has experienced the benefits of working remotely, I can easily say that there are some critical skills and practices required to work remotely that help make it a sustainable and viable option for both the employee and the employer. The other day, at the end of a fabulous #PKMChat, I was reminded of this very fact.

Besides access to good technology including high-speed internet and collaborative tools that enable virtual project teams to work together, working remotely needs a fine mix of skills and work practices. In my experience, here are some of the things that make remote working work for me and my employer:

1) Communication - In the absence of daily face-to-face meetings, I rely on receiving and providing clear, concise and timely communication. Working remotely needs more protocols and processes around communication because I can't get up and walk to a co-worker's desk or a team member and speak to them when I feel the need. Also, there are no non-verbal cues to fall back on so communication requires more sensitivity. Since most communication is via email, phone, skype, etc., it has to be planned ahead and is usually more thoughtful and precise.

2) Trust - I trust my team to do their job as does my company trust me to do mine. Once we have a firm plan, each of us is free to plan our work and we report back as required. I don't like to micro manage and don't appreciate it for myself either. But developing trust takes time. So, I always start with a leap of faith and my default disposition is to trust everyone I work with. This has held me well. When you trust people and show them that you trust them, they do become more responsible and feel more accountable.

3) Discipline - This is a big one and perhaps the area where most new remote workers struggle. When you are working from home, there is no one to give you a task list and no one to police you. All work needs time management but remote work needs it even more especially if you want to make the leap from efficiency to effectiveness. Priorities can change when you are working from home and those are the times you have to figure out what's urgent versus what's important. It is critical to stay organized and continue to do meaningful work and be disciplined about it.

I have a schedule and I start and end work usually at the same time each day. I have built a level of predictability for all my work days for myself and for people I work with. On days, when I take advantage of the flexibility of working from home, I always let my project teams know in advance and add more hours to my work later that day or over the weekend. A big part of my work discipline is also the ability to keep a check on myself and self evaluate. In the absence of immediate feedback, I play the part of a reviewer and a critique of my daily accomplishments. People who work with me know how much I love work plans and tracking planned versus actual :)

Finally, having a dedicated work space with a well-equipped desk and a comfortable chair (not my couch), a big monitor desktop (not my laptop) and easy access to a printer and scanner makes my home office space always ready for work and helps me stay on track.

4) Motivation - I love working independently and creating my own work schedule. I can work with ambiguity and minimum direction and take responsibility for the outcomes. But I also really enjoy collaborating with teams all around the world and feeding off that creative energy. Working remotely needs an extra doze of self motivation and perhaps self inspiration too! Sometimes, working by myself in my home office tires me and I get that dreaded feeling of boredom all over me. Those are the days when I go to my company office (my boss is always open and very welcoming of me dropping by). I also enjoy working from public libraries and co-working spaces to get away from the routine and keep myself motivated. I would add that participating in a daily routine of exercise (I love my daily walks) also helps me stay happy and motivated. I get the opportunity to physically smile and have some polite, early morning conversations with fellow walkers :)

5) Problem-solving - Working remotely as a part of a virtual team calls for good technology skills and an ability to solve problems independently. Things go wrong, as they usually do, and I have myself to rely on. In the absence of an IT department or a colleague I can walk up to, I take on all required roles and solve daily issues. I also help troubleshoot the issues for my virtual team members. If I am unable to solve things on my own, I often pose my problems online into technology discussion forums and twitter especially when it is to do with technology that I am not as familiar with. The community always has a solution I can try! As a remote worker, I have to rely on my critical thinking skills and my resourcefulness to solve any challenges that may come my way.

6) Family - This is a very underrated aspect but clearly something that makes it or breaks it. The support of my family makes a big difference to maintaining my work discipline and a remote working lifestyle. Working from home comes with distractions but I plan as much as I can to avoid these distractions. Sticking to a schedule, keeping my home office away from the living area and keeping the door closed solves most of the distraction issues easily. I also mark my workdays and meetings and other 'no disturb' time blocks in a physical calendar and keep the calendar in an area where my family can view it. My family knows that when I am working, it is strictly work time. So, they stay away from my work space and wait for me to finish work and step out. And I really appreciate and value that respect for my work.

Obviously, it is not all rosy all the time. Just like a 9-5 job, working remotely has its own peeves mostly around not being able to talk face-to-face with other people and engage in deep long conversations or just hang around for a fun chat.

7) The human connect - Because I don't meet people as often, I try harder to participate in online chats, seminars, webinars and discussions to ensure I receive my daily doze of conversations and constructive stimuli to keep my brain going. I am involved with professional organizations that keep me engaged with my area of work and give me opportunities to participate in conferences, training and other face-to-face events. I am also an active volunteer in my community and keep myself involved with an immigrant settlement organization. As a volunteer workplace mentor, I get to meet people from various walks of life and this helps me get my energy back on days when working by myself really gets to me. Because I strive hard to have meaningful conversations, I end up with quality relationships that allow me to add value and in turn provide tremendous value and the much needed human connection.

Remote work is not for everyone. It does take a certain bent of mind and a specific way of working. But anyone can be successful at remote work if they are able to follow good work practices and stay motivated, committed and disciplined.

If you are a remote worker and have been able to successfully work from home, what skills and practices would you add to this list? How do you make remote work work for you?