Wednesday, 18 May 2011

THE FIRST IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST – BUT TIPS THE SCALES TO A NEW STANDARD


Last Saturday, Manchester City won the FA Cup, their first trophy in a quarter of a century.  They have huge ambition.  Their manager said “the first trophy is the hardest, we will do great things from here” (or words to that effect – he is Italian and his English is not perfect!).  The same day Manchester United won their 19th Premiership title and the 12th for Sir Alex Ferguson and the ageless Ryan Giggs.  Reminiscing, Giggs said of the first of those titles in 1993 “The first was the hardest”.

Last week I wrote about Share and Learn (www.c4lpt.co.uk/shareandlearn )as a tipping point in learning.  Jane Hart and her close colleagues and enlightened friends in the Internet Time Alliance and in other places have worked, planned and campaigned very hard for years to achieve the tipping point.  Finally it has come and the immediate acclaim for the new collaborative platform has been nothing short of sensational. A week later it has over 200 members.

Last week was a tremendous moment for Jane and all those who have for long recognised the evolving paradigm shift and its inevitable consequence on the way learning is perceived in a collaborative, networked workplace and more broadly in global society. Jay Cross, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings, Clark Quinn, Jane Bozarth, Marcia Conner, and the many other equally eminent and foresighted people too numerous to mention who have walked the road will breathe a huge sigh of relief that the breakthrough seems to have happened at last. I am sure a few hearts celebrated and a few corks popped.

What breakthrough?  I am of course talking about Share and Learn being the first collaborative platform that starts from the basis of social learning while at the same time recognising the on-going place of the formal in the spectrum of learning – and providing within the platform for both courseware and an LMS where this is necessary.

I know from having worked for a global market leader in the corporate environment earlier in my career that being No.1 is very hard – one is very visible and easy to copy.  But that is Jane’s greatness – always willing to share her insights and ideas!

Speaking of which………but.as it happens, unconnected……

Last week saw another, lower key, but significant launch….

Noddlepod (www.noddlepod.com) is a space in which learning at an individual level can be explored and personally organised. A paid-for application, it does something different, which is consultations prior to launch has caught the eye of some influential figures from various parts of the learning environment.  Noddlepod allows the individual to create their own learning framework – future, current and past, to collect together learning objectives, progress and outcomes under a self-determined set of “pins” designed to highlight key learning.

The application describes itself as

“Simple, informal, collaborative

Noddlepod is a collaboration tool for parallel working. It solves the problem of isolation when working and learning, and creates an environment of mutual support.

This is a collaboration tool focused not on the groups work, but on the individuals work in a group context.”

So, while Noddlepod can be an individual tool, it is also a place where people can come together (directed or by social consent) to plan and share learning which is then pursued in parallel.  Learning projects can be structured and monitored by an institution or the application can be used eg in Executive Development to provide a place for participants in a programme to plan experience, share findings and draw conclusions.  It is about common process combined with individual learning.

In some ways similar to Share and Learn in its range of functionality, but very different in that Share and Learn is based on an open source CMS (Wordpress), and so offers more of a “make it what you want” approach. Noddlepod fills a space for those who want a more structured, purpose-built platform that begins from the personal and works towards the community.

So now we have, almost simultaneously two offerings – each of which will influence the way forward as learning becomes indistinguishable for work and life.

Just to conclude with a further reference to my football analogy – Manchester United were the first English team to enter the European Cup in the 1950’s.  It took them a huge amount of pain and over a decade to win it.  Other English clubs entered the competition and England now boasts a distinguished list of past winners.  After their tipping point in 1993 Manchester United have gone on to dominate English football for nearly 20 years – many try to emulate, few have shown any sign of enduring success. 

Well done to those who are brave and determined enough to stick their necks out and work towards a long term vision.  In Learning we are beginning to have the tools to match the environment in which we live – we now need to ride the wave and use those tools as business partners to demonstrate the value of L&D to our organisations.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A TIPPING POINT IN LEARNING – “SHARE AND LEARN” OPENS A NEW ERA!

“Since it was started in March I have been active in Jane Hart’s highly successful Social Learning Community which now has over 700 members drawn globally from the whole spectrum of learning.  It has become the community of choice for many leading thinkers in learning.  But a few days ago, Jane Hart asked me  to take a look at her new initiative, the Share&Learn collaboration platform, which she launched earlier this week.
Jane’s explanation of the philosophy underpinning  Share&Learn was enough for me to explore thoroughly.  When I saw the practical application of her thinking I recognised that Share&Learn may well in future be recognised as a tipping point in our understanding of learning, and heralds a new era in the way learning is viewed and supported.
Leading thinkers in learning, including Jane’s colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance have for a long while promoted the realisation  that learning is ubiquitous and is an integral and indistinguishable part of our lives as human beings. That insight leads to the conclusion that the differentiation of learning from ordinary life that has become ingrained in every aspect of our society has to change.  We have to get back to understanding that “Work is Learning and Learning is Work” (Harold Jarche).  As our increasingly networked world merges work and discretionary time, that concept extends to “Life is learning and Learning is Life”.  To this point that last concept has been a philosophy rather than a reality.  Technology changes that  – Share& Learn is the first platform I’ve seen that enables the concept.
For a few years the impact of technology, both the growth of Social Media and the explosion of tools produced to deliver, administer, track, record, and report on learning have massively expanded the opportunities for the Learning and Development community.  The range is at the same time breath-taking and baffling – and in many places has led the L&D community further away from the line management and organisational leadership it is there to serve. The complexity is such that the customer just does not understand and so marginalises the undoubted advances.  The same is true in different ways throughout the education system where entrenched beliefs about methodologies block new understandings of the way learning happens.
Concurrently with the explosion in tools and techniques there has been a growth in society in measuring almost any activity we undertake – even our skill in making cup-cakes has become the domain of intense competition and precise measurement!  That norm, fuelled by the Quality movement (“If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it”), led to the growth of the Learning Management System.  Initially designed to assist administration, the LMS quickly became an enterprise tool for the L&D Community, gathering into its arms content management, course curricula, and delivery.
The move to social learning and the realisation of its ubiquitous nature challenges the LMS because of its rooting in formal learning.  LMS vendors have tried, unsuccessfully, to bolt various applications on to their offerings that purport to integrate social learning.  They fail because the paradigm is incorrect.
It is now well established that the huge majority of learning does not happen in the classroom – or in any of its formal derivatives, virtual or face to face.  The 70:20:10 model illustrates the predominance of learning happening through application, experience and interaction with other people.
Jane’s Share&Learn platform is a new concept.  It is premised on the paradigm that 90% of learning comes through channels other than the formal.  It provides numerous ways of exploring collaborative learning.  Recognising that formal learning, and its tracking and recording, (required for compliance purposes) have an on-going place in the structure of L&D and in Education, the platform contains the facility both to run courses and to record them using LMS-type functionality  -  as required.
The tipping point has finally been reached – we have a practical tool that embodies the new paradigm. In response to a tweet asking Jane if she thought that Share&Learn signalled the end of the LMS, she replied that it was perhaps the “death knell”, a view endorsed by none other than Charles Jennings  (Principal in the Internet Time) who thought that at least it was the end of the LMS “as we know it”.