Saturday, September 25, 2010

Must Read: Social Media for Trainers

Jane Bozarth recently published a new book called Social Media for Trainers. I would put it on the list of "essential reads" for anyone in the workplace learning field. Social media and Web 2.0 tools are too important into today's world for the learning community to ignore. Most true learning takes place informally and through peer-to-peer connections. Social media provides a platform to make that happen more easily. If you are really interested in helping people be successful at work or move forward with their development needs, you cannot ignore the power of these tools and their potential for learning.

The book covers how to use social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and wikis - and a few others - for learning purposes. Each of the key tools is given its own chapter. Each chapter begins with a description of the tool in a nutshell, a deeper look into the tool, advantages and disadvantages of selecting one tool over another, how and why you might use some of the tools together, and why you might choose one tool over another. Then the chapters provide a barrage of ideas and practical ways the tool being covered can be used for learning purposes. There are suggestions on how to use the tools as primary vehicles for learning and how to use them to supplement or extend programs or courses (that are delivered in the classroom or through other media) by using the social media tools for pre-work, intercession work and post work.

If you are not a social media user already, the book will help you get started. If you are a familiar with social media tools, but haven't used them for learning, you will be amazed at how many learning activities are possible. Of course, not all of them will be right for every learning situation or workplace culture, but there is enough here to choose from so everyone can come away with at least one or two practical ideas.

Here are a few quick hits I picked up about some of the tools:

- Learners can use Twitter to talk to an expert. You can follow anyone with a Twitter account and if you reach out to an author or expert about their work, many are happy to respond.

- For me the biggest surprise in the book is how versatile Facebook is. I generally have only used Facebook for personal connections and favor other social media tools for work purposes, but Facebook has so many capabilities that it can be used to for everything from communication to course management.

Blogs - These can be great tools for learning reflection. But you must keep in mind, blogs are heavily dependent on writing skills. If that doesn't match your audience profile, blogs may not be the way to go.

Wikis - Unlike the other tools which are primarily set up for comment and response interactions, wikis allow true collaboration. Learners can jointly create pages such as shared class notes for FAQs.

There is so much more in the book.  Get it.  Read it.  Use it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thinking too much...about Personal Knowledge Management

I came across this comic today while exploring links on Twitter.  It captures how I feel some days very well.  There is so much knowledge sharing going on in the web 2.0 world that it seems impossible that anyone could keep it all in their head without it exploding.

Head Explode

Thank goodness for bookmarking sites like, digg, and diigo that help us with personal knowledge management.  Although - I find that the people in my network alone have enough to share to keep me overloaded for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Community Building with Yammer

I always have to remind myself that whenever we try new approaches to learning at work things start slowly, build gradually, eventually gain momentum, and ultimately become institutionalized.  Right now I am in the "starts slowly" phase with my attempt to create a Community of Practice out of a loosely formed group of people who are interested in workplace learning at my company.

But isn't that the way an online community is supposed to form? An individual shares some content online that is of personal interest.  Others with common interests discover it and share similar content of their own.  Conversations begin to flow about it.  After a while one person puts up a flag and calls it a group.  That is exactly what is happening with our Innovations in Learning group.  What is the Innovations in Learning group?

It is a Yammer-based Community of Practice group open to anyone in my company who is interested in workplace learning. The group primarily comprises learning professionals but we encourage anyone interested in learning to join the conversations.  We decided to focus on a new topic each month using Yammer for discussion and sharing resources, links, and articles.  At the end of each month, we have a virtual Meet-up using Microsoft Live Meeting. Our topic for September is Video Conferencing. We will discuss the topic asynchronously throughout the month. Our Meet-up is scheduled for September 24.  A week before the Meet-up I will send meeting invitations to all group members through Yammer.   I'll include the discussion questions that we will go through during the Meet-up.

We had our first Meet-up in August.  Only six of our 23 members participated in the month-end discussion.  Despite the low turn-out, I'm encouraged.  This is new to everyone.  It was only our first meeting.  As I said earlier, we are in the "starts slowly" phase.  I know the momentum will build and that ultimately our community will thrive.   Once the members of our group get comfortable with the process, I envision us replicating it to foster learning communities around other topics that are important in our company.