Sunday, May 14, 2006

Suggestions to Improve Our Class

I am really proud that I have learned and experienced our brief 6 week class. I appreciate being invited and the efforts Tony has made. I started by vaguely understanding blogs and not having a clue about the other Web 2.0 tools. I had never even heard the term Web 2.0 or Elearning 2.0. I have been out of that loop for several years.
If the intent of putting technical people with non-technical people was to have the technical people provide assistance in the learning, that did not happen for me. (With the exception of Steve's attempt at helping with the "blogroller." It must have been frustrating at certain points for those who really understood some of this to be involved.

If I were to teach this class, I would do the following:
  • Use a more comprehensive survey to learn more about the participants and why they are taking the course and how they plan on using the things they learn. This might provide more insight in developing various exercises or homework - pairing people with like needs.) I percievede our goal to be to learn and apply the tools.
  • Have a pre-class experience for those unfamiliar with the tools to learn more about them by having demonstrations or showing examples. (basic html, use of RSS feeder and establishing an account on Bloglines or Blogger in real time, for example.) Or dedicate the first 2 sessions to learning and applying the tools one at a time in our homework. In this way, those people who are already familiar with them could be given the choice of missing those sessions. Our initial two classes were very overwhelming for me and there was so much to see that I wound up going off in all sorts of directions which just got me more confused (social bookmarking experience). It was like a new driver being plopped down in the middle of the LA freeway system and being told to "go drive."
  • The links to how all of these tools interact was not clear to me early on. (a graphic for this is ideal.)
  • Initially I was very discouraged about the application of collaborative learning until I could really experience the tools myself. I am still not as comfortable with the "add ins" on our blogs and will look into it later. I would have like more collaboration early on. Pair people together and give them a topic to research (social bookmarking) and ask them to summarize their findings on the wiki. I felt like I was out there to learn by sinking or swimming. If we had started out using littler steps providing small successes, our collective experience would have been better.
  • The time commitment was the big detractor initially and led to my negative reaction. The first assignments were not accurately presented in terms of how long it would take to complete them. That could easily be fixed by taking smaller steps in the beginning and more clear direction and overview of the content.
I do believe there is value in Collaborative Learning or else Microsoft would not be putting so much research and money into it. However, in a blended learning environment, it requires very clear direction and guidelines as are listed in my previous post.
Thank you, Tony.

Collaborative Learning in My Client Environments

I learned a piece of information today that several of you more technically oriented people may already be familiar with. We may even have discussed it and it just didn't connect for me. I was speaking to a colleague today about our course and my homework task for the day. She is a well connected ASTD member and past president or our local chapter and told me that her company uses Microsoft SharePoint. When I read some of the information on the Microsoft site, it looked very similar to what we are doing with our Web 2.0 tools. She is in the banking industry and they use it to inform field personnel, update new pricing, and collaborate on various topics amongst the regions in the country. From what I could gather it was more like a wiki, but she told me that Microsoft is planning to introduce a combination of SharePoint, Outlook and other Microsoft programs in a more dynamic collaborative platform next year. It is in beta now.
My point to sharing this is - even my non-technical friends are beginning to venture into this world that has been introduced to me recently and are in fact using them.
I see several possibilities for use of the tools by my clients of which 80% are in the franchise industry. Thus, the scenario that Team 3 presented pretty accurately reflects some of the challenges a franchisor (owner of the franchise) is presented with in order to successfully replicate their business. The franchisees are not part of a corporate entity, therefore, the franchisor cannot "push" certain absolutes to them. However, the franchisees must work within stated framework adhering to the processes and procedures laid out by the franchisor. One of the secrets of a successful franchise is to communicate, inform, and build a collaborative environment with their franchisees. The use of a Franchisee Form is an example. A wiki can be created to enable them to work together to share their thoughts, concerns, challenges to the franchisor. A wiki/discussion board can house all of the documents involved in their discussion along with links to additional information.
Example uses for the tools:
RSS Reader/Social Bookmarking: a team is tasked with researching a new product, service, or way of doing business, etc. and must come up with a presentation to their manager within 2 weeks. Perhaps they are competing with an off-shore company and need to find out more about how things are done in that country.
RSS Reader/Blogs: Blogs can be used as communication vehicles for regional representatives from a company or functional representatives of a company to communicate recent wins or overviews of quarterly progress toward common goals. The RSS reader would inform users when the blogs have been updated.
Wikis: Would provide a "home base" for any kind of collaborative summary of activities or knowledge library of links to resources used. If the users are connected via a discussion group, they can learn when changes have been made to the wiki. Like Steve's metaphor, I see the wiki as a "white board" or for those familiar with "mapping", it would house the "map" for the project as the various "links to other maps" were created during their work on the wiki.

The article Tony referred us to "An Overview of Cooperative Learning" by Roger T. and David W. Johnson lists many of the requirements I feel are necessary for collaborative learning to be effective. For example:
1. Clearly perceived interdependence. (They sink or swim together and the work benefits each of them. I think Greg or Elmer or someone mentioned this. )
2. Considerable promotive (face to face) interaction. Whether this is done via Webinar or regular face to face meetings, I personally feel this is essential. My experience in our course was hindered in some ways because we never came together for a face to face time. As part of a blended learning experience, I suggest the class/team meets face to face to hammer out the specifics of the project/task. If it is a collaborative project, the group needs to be familiar with each other to begin with.
3. Clearly perceived individual accountability and personal responsibility to achieve the group's goals. Our experience was hampered in that it was comprised of volunteers and there was no way to insure that everyone would be held accountable and take personal responsibility in the tasks. For a collaboration or blending learning event to be successful, this is the most important point along with #2 in my opinion.
4. Frequent use of relevant interpersonal and small-group skills. (This is where I saw the benefit of the conference call and discussion group to develop our team project.)
5. Frequent and regular group processing of current functioning. (Roles and Group Norms really need to be revisited over the long haul to insure that everyone is getting something positive from the collaborative experience.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Reflections on Team 2 Project Experience

I spent most of my time trying to catch up on the tasks I missed by being out of town for 6 days - "add ins." I found myself missing the "known" - interaction I had experienced the week before among 3 of my Team 3 team mates.
I found the experience of joining Team 1 and one other member of my Team 3 group to conduct the Team 2 project, very isolating. I have not heard from my other Team 3 member as of this posting and am unsure as to how reach and note a conclusion with the two other people who have posted their thoughts on this project. It doesn't feel very much like a collaborative experience. Perhaps, it is just me.
I thought the project task could have been a little more involved. Situational Leadership is a good topic and I understood the scenario, however, I had expected a little more substance to the project I guess.
I don't feel as though I was able to apply anything that I have learned thus far. But alas, maybe I haven't learned anything yet!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Week Two Reflections

I discovered that I would probably do much better using collaborative tools if I had an opportunity to meet the people with whom I am collaborating in person. I am biased in that I think these tools would be very difficult to use in a corporate setting successfully if the users did not previously know each other or had developed a relationship to each other (intact work group, regional representatives, franchisees).

What went well this week?
  • Definitely the conference call. I guess I need to have that personal involvement (a voice, a face).
  • I am beginning to feel more comfortable with the terms. Like some of the others, the 360 and the My Web were pretty easy to establish.
What could have gone better?
  • The continuation of a collaborative ommunication with all members of my team. Sending out an email and not hearing back and not knowing if it will be replied to is very frustrating for me. We did establish a norm that requested a return email. In our time of "instant" communication, I find some email efforts very tedious. I would rather pick up the phone and call the person. We are constrained in this experience, because we can't/haven't shared telephone numbers (except for one instance today). Therefore, it isn't a real representation of a work-related use of these tools because most participants would have the telephone numbers of their fellow employees.
  • I am still unclear as to how to use some of the tools and how they interact. I would like to see a brief description of the tools or a glossary of terms in a pdf document that is posted for us to view in the begining of the course. Perhaps we can create this in our final projects as a "take away."
  • I feel as times very overwhelmed by all of the information. I need more time to digest each tool before a new one is thrown into the ring.
  • I would suggest smaller projects pairing people by experience, interest, industry etc. in the beginning to make sure that everyone is on the same page as we progress through the content.
  • Again, I need visuals to see the connection between these tools. I would love to see a graphic showing these tools and their relationships to each other.

Social Bookmarking and Using Wikis

With a limited understanding and experience with social bookmarking, I will attempt to share my thoughts on the use of social bookmarking vs. using a wiki to create links.
Social bookmarking seems to be a more "open ended" process and would be very effective for brainstorming, researching a variety of options to solve a problem, referencing suggested improvements made by others in a specific area of business (i.e. Using web-based marketing tools), informing others of new technologies or thoughts on a topic to improve team performance. Because it is so open-ended, it can also be difficult to find resolution and make a decision. One link leads to another, and to another, and to another. It can become a little overwhelming. I am not sure at this point in our learning about these tools if there is a FIX for that perceived problem.
Using a Wiki to create lists seems to be a more "closed ended" process compared to social bookmarking, but at the same time it seems more dynamic. The person(s) who create the wiki have more control to send readers to specific places, thus limiting the exposure to information overload. It is more dynamic than social bookmarking because participants can improve and add content to the wiki. Changes are immediate. This process would be very effective in the final or intial stages of a learning experience where there is a need to collaboratively communicate specific information and provide guidance either as an introduction or a conclusion to learning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Found an Interesting Article on Web 2.0

l received an email from my webmaster this morning warning me about the problems with my Mozilla Firefox browser. I ended up reading the article on ZDNet and spotted this interesting story about our very own loved topic - Web. 2.0. I really like the graphical illustration of Enterprise Web 2.0 Spectrum.

Running a business on Web-based software by ZDNet's Dion Hinchcliffe -- One premise of Enterprise Web 2.0 is that Web-based software is beginning to credibly encroach on many solution areas that traditional software previously addressed. According to proponents, this maturing method of online software delivery provides more usability, convenience, and value. The flexibility, mobility, and sheer connectedness of Web software is indeed increasingly hard to ignore. And many of us, consciously or not, are doing more and more of our daily work in the browser, either using applications hosted on the Web, or inside our organizations using Web technology.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Comments on First Collab201 Experience

I have spent approximately 12 hours attempting to complete my tasks. I am concerned that we need to provide more upfront detailed information for those of us that merely know what blogs are, but have never created one or even commented in one.
I am not going to site an article or another blog because I want to have some time for myself this weekend.
In answer to our 5th task for Stage 1 - I am a visual learner and need to have a document in front of me. Our initial webinar was not an example of that. It would have been much better for me to have received a packet via email with some basic definitions ( I have created my own from the various "help" sections of the sites we were asked to go to.), a high level flow-chart or overview of how all of this stuff works together (Bloglines, Blogger, Technorati, Wikis, and Discussion Group).
I am not sure I can answer you question as to where the content from our collaborative learning experience should reside. I like the idea of working in smaller groups (3-4) and I agree with Shelly that the members of each group should have different skills sets. That may mean that those members of the group that are technologically savvy will rebel because they may feel they are being held back.
If I had time, I would link to various articles or sites that discuss adult learning theory. I would recommend that we have more structure for each successive meeting with an overview as we begin each meeting. Right now my head is spinning after reading all of the information on Tony's blog (all 29 pages) and some of the other blogs he referenced. For a beginnner, I need to have more focus.

Business Processes and Learning

As a long-time training and development professional, I have been interested, excited, frustrated, energized, perplexed and confused by the variety of methods at our disposal to actively engage adults in the learning process.
I am currently attempting to engage myself in a collaborative learning course taught online using several of the new technologies. I have experienced all of the emotions listed above in this process.
My first assignment is to comment on an article written by our leader/teacher/mentor in this venture into learning via the Internet, Tony Karrer, Ph.D. So here goes.
In his article Business Process Management Instead of Learning , Tony states:
"Much of what we train inside corporations are how to perform process steps that only need training because we haven't done a good job from a process standpoint (right information available, clear next steps). Once you do this, much of the training becomes trivial."

Most interactions within corporations occur on a foundation of some process, procedure, or value held by its employees. The frustrating part of training begins after the basic processes, procedures etc. are conveyed to the employees. If I understand what Tony is saying, I don't agree that "much of the training becomes trivial." To my way of thinking, learning can only begin after the basic parameters (processes and procedures) are communicated and agreed upon. They provide a structure for the "real" learning/training to take place - continuously improving the organization's products and services. Once employees can experience the guidelines (processes and procedures) of working within their corporate community they can begin to use their critical thinking skills and interact with others to truly learn. The challenge is to create a structure of processes and procedures that ALLOW for continuous improvement and controlled chaos. It is similar to a building surrounded by scaffolding as a total renovation occurs to the building.