Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My first scraplet

I have just started my Posterous…Snippets of thoughts, ideas, conversations—and other similar stuff that I have been adding to my blog with happy abandon will now find their way here. I hope you will read and comment…

Posted via email from Scraplets

I have seen a thousand faces...moments in life captured!

The post, "I have seen a thousand faces" left me wondering and reflecting for a long time. It was my discovery of the morning...It is a visual representation of moments captured, moments that make up everyone's life, moments of pain, love, laughter...

The human face has always been the teller of tales, and here you will see a beautiful rendition of that ageless story--the story of life. You will see courage, fortitude, strain, laughter, love--all frozen by the camera and made meaningful by the author's comments. 

Go to the original post: I have seen a thousand faces...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why some smart people are reluctant to share? | Life Beyond Code

A post from a blogger I admire, this one set me thinking this morning.

We have often experienced this phenomenon where someone we hold in regard for their knowledge, expertise in a particular area, skills, insight and analytical abilities, just does not seem to share the knowledge.

As humans, our first instinct is to run such a person down--label him/her selfish or a snob.

Rajesh Setty goes beyond that and analyzes how the mind of such a person could be working. And what is seen as selfish could just be a case of the expert taking his expertise for granted and not thinking of it as something worth sharing.

The diagram below depicts how an expert perceives his/her own knowledge...

A definitely good read...
Why some smart people are reluctant to share? | Life Beyond Code

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Project Management for Trainers: Key Concepts and Learning

I have just finished reading the book, Project Management for Trainers by Lou Russell. At the outset, let me admit that this is a somewhat unusual book for me to read. I am more into books about learning and performance, training, design, creative thinking, innovation and management, writing, and the like.

However, increasingly in my role as an Instructional Designer (ID), I have run up against the necessity to not only multi-task but also to think beyond training solution, learning needs and design. I have also realized that to be an effective ID, there are certain aspects of a Project I would need to understand better and get a handle on.

With this thought in mind, I took some time out to sit down and take stock of the tasks I have found myself doing in the last three months (in varying proportions). I have listed the broad categories of the tasks below (each task has many and varied sub-tasks that I will take up in subsequent posts):

  1. Business Needs Analysis
  2. Performance Consulting 
  3. Learning Solutions Design and Development
  4. Project Management (PM)
  5. Communication (both internal and client facing)
Having arrived at the list above, I did the next level of analysis to find out my weakest area. Project Management jumped out at me in a font size 10 times larger. I admitted to myself that I sucked at, not sucked...had no clue about PM.

This self-analysis became the stepping stone for my research into the kind of books I need to be reading and the resources I should be referencing.

And I picked up the book I have mentioned above. This engagingly written, practical, interactivity-filled, slim book is a wonderful introduction to the basics of Project Management. It covers all the fundamentals in a manner that is easy to understand and does not overwhelm with details. It gives you enough space and opportunity to think over what you have read and apply that practically. The book also provides a list of references and resources and is a must have on the shelf if you want to learn how training projects need to be managed and executed.

Some of the key concepts explained in the book that I have found particularly useful are:
  1. Differences between project and process
  2. Project Management Activity vs. Project Development Activity
  3. The Dare Approach (Define, Plan, Manage, Review)
  4. Arriving at Business Objectives mapping to IRACIS (Increase Revenue, Avoid Cost, Improve Services)
  5. Creating a visual scope document/project charter as baseline
  6. Risks and constraints analysis (measurable methods)
  7. Risk-scenario planning (extremely useful, especially for high-risk project with changing busienss needs)
  8. Building the project plan--step-by-step (creating the Work Breakdown Structure [WBS])
  9. Creating the schedule using the Critical Path anlaysis
  10. Difference between and measurement of Project Duration and Project Elapsed Time (Two Types of Time in Project Schedules)
  11. The Learner First Approach for accelerated learning 
  12. Managing change and change request (everybody's bug-bear and a must know)
  13. Time, Cost, Quality: what's the most important?
  14. Post-project review process--using Systems Thinking 
  15. Using the PACT model to carry out Performance Consulting 
  16. Differences between Learning Event Development and Performance Consulting
  17. Managing external suppliers and vendors
I am planning separate posts on each of the topics above--mainly for my clarity and depth of understanding.

One self-discovery I had post reading the book: I immensely enjoyed reading it. And I can see how if one truly gets involved in managing a project, it can be a challenging, innovative, analytical and highly satisfying task. There are a multitude of variables one can play around with, and these keep changing from point to point within the same project. I have seen it happen and now reading about the levers that can be used to control these make the task so much fun...I also feel it could be addictive...

Some of the resource and reference links from the book:
  1. The International Project Management Association 
  2. International Society for Performance Improvement
  3. Project Management Forum
  4. Project Management Institute
  5. The Training Professional's Gateway

Learning Resources from Informal Learning (Jay Cross): Part 1

I am re-reading Informal Learning by Jay Cross and was going through the resource links he has provided. Apart from the book, which is a must read for anyone interested in the field of learning, the resource links are gold mines of knowledge, information and insights.

I am putting some of my favorite sites from the list here for reference.
  1. Ageless Learner: Marcia Conner
  2. Verna Allee Associates: Great resources on value network analysis, intangible asset management,organizational networks, and collaboration
  3. Beyond Bullets: Cliff Atkinson
  4. Cognitive Edge: Dave Snowden
  5. eLearning Center: Access a vast collection of selected and reviewed links to e-Learning resources
  6. eLearning Forum: The intersection of learning, technology, business and design
  7. EPSS Central: A set of free resources on the different and many disciplines that comprise performance centered design...
  8. Gurteen Knowledge Center: Knowledge Management, learning, creativity, personal development, innovation...
  9. Internet Time Group: Jay Cross
  10. Meta-Learning Lab: Dedicated to increasing people's capacity to learn and improve the performance of individual's and organizations...
  11. Social network analysts...also look at their blog: The Network Thinker
  12. Quinnovation: wonderful resource site on games, mobile learning, performance support, content models--all based on sound cognitive background, vast technology and business experience...
  13. Stephen Denning: Steve Denning is the Warren Buffett of business communication says Chip Heath...Also look at his blog: High-performance Teams
  14.  Work-Learning Research: Will Thalheimer--Wisdom for Wildly Enhanced Learning & Performance...
  15. Communication Nation: Dave Gray's Blog. Dave is the Founder and Chairman of XPLANE, the visual thinking company...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cat and My Room: Influences that Shaped Me...

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” wrote Virginia Woolf. A room of one’s own develops the mind, body and spirit. Then, one can accomplish anything.

I was going through some old pictures this morning, a picture of my room when I was 10 is the trigger for this post...This post, unrelated to ID or e-learning, is related to a much larger learning for me. Here are the influences that shaped me, made me into the person I am today, taught me about life and fortitude. While dealing with the personal, I still chose to include it in this blog because it is about LEARNING--and it matters not whom or what we learn from...

My room was at the extreme end of the terrace in our almost 200 year old home. It was my sanctuary, my retreat. I had inhabited this room from the time I was 10. This used to be my grandparents’ bedroom. But had remained locked after they passed away. I am writing about it because I want to remember it with clarity. Memory plays us false all the time, and I am scared that what I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye now will lose its clarity one day. I don’t know when the sharpness will start to diminish, when the edges will become fuzzy…when I will no longer be able to recall the details with conviction... I do know memory depletes; even the image of the beloved fades. Did the hair fall just so? Did the eyes crinkle at the corner when he smiled? Or was it my imagination...

It was very high with wooden beams criss-crossing the ceiling and large as all rooms in old homes are wont to be, painted a pale green that had mellowed to an almost indeterminate shade over the years. No one could remember when the room had last been painted. The peeling paint bore testimony to the passage of time. The spots where the sun’s rays fell incessantly throughout the day were bleached almost white giving the walls an interesting, patchwork appearance. The flooring was beautiful, laid with alternate white and black Italian marbles making the room look like a gigantic chess board.

The window deserves a special mention. Because the house was built during the British regime, the room had a classic stained glass window with wooden blinds that could be pulled shut. I loved it when the sun streamed in in the morning, the rays turning to vibrant, mystical shades as they filtered in through the differently coloured panes. I would wake up to blue and red rays casting their kaleidoscopic effects on the walls around me.

The room was separated from the rest of the house by a long terrace. During the monsoons, I had to carry an umbrella whenever I went to and from my parent’s room or the kitchen. It was simply furnished with a low bed, a study table, a built-in book case, a cupboard, and a clothes’ rack. The study table was a beautiful mahogany roll top that had once belonged to my great grandfather and was Cat’s favourite perching point.

Cat and I spent many Sunday afternoons sitting on the doorstep. Or rather, I would sit and watch Cat while she made futile attempts to catch pigeons. For a cat, she was extremely clumsy. I think it was the result of her growing up with me. She would spot a pigeon who had flown down to peck at something on the terrace, look at me inquiringly, and if I nodded, would bend low, flatten her tummy till it touched the ground, and stealthily creep forward. What marred the whole show—and this happened all the time—was that Cat invariably failed to distinguish the pigeon’s front end from its behind. The pigeon would of course see her creeping up, go on pecking unconcernedly, wait for Cat to draw in her front paws prior to springing, and lazily fly away. Cat by then, all set to spring, was too far gone to stop herself, and would land looking extremely foolish. I wonder why she never learned. Or, as I like to believe, she just enjoyed the game and didn’t care if the pigeon was there or not.

I got my room almost at the same time as Cat came to me. Even as I write, I can see her snugly curled up on my pillow or sunning herself on the desk where the red, blue and green rays of the sun striped her back giving her an ethereal, extra-terrestrial appearance. I had not read Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own then, of course. But I learned to love solitude, to value privacy, to be thankful for the freedom and the peace. (To this day, noise agitates me.) I spent hours in my room reading, playing with Cat, and listening to music when I was not in Katha-O-Kahini (our bookstore) attending to the customers.

I can see myself sitting on the floor in my favourite blue shorts and a red shirt, bent over a chart paper, sketch pen in hand, occasionally getting up to change the song playing on the cassette player. Cat was made to sit on one corner of the chart paper to weigh it down and prevent it from folding over as chart papers rolled for a long time tend to do. I can hear Ma calling me for lunch, see Baba sitting on the bed listening to the song I was playing, watching me play with Cat.

The solitude my room offered, the challenges that Katha-O-Kahini posed, and the unflinching and unwavering love that Cat gave me developed my mind, body and spirit and, I believe, made me a stronger and a better person giving me the fortitude to face the surprises that life would spring upon me.

Someday, I will include a post about Cat who taught me about love--the kind that is unflinching, undemanding, unquestioning...

Monday, January 4, 2010

reBlog from Online Media Gazette

Brilliant connection between knowledge, identity and relationships...I have experienced it so often but never paused to think or analyze...

Sharing is a method to disseminate useful information to other people. Knowledge is closely linked to our identity hence, it is imperative that our peers view us as knowledgeable and skilful. One major way of demonstrating that to our peers is by sharing knowledge with them. From there, we build relationships so that what we share will be treated with utmost respect. Knowledge sharing and relationships are, Online Media Gazette, Jan 2010

You should read the whole article.

An Impromptu #lrnchat: Monday Morning Blues All Gone!

Today morning started on a wonderful note. An impromptu #lrnchat!
It was triggered by a question posed by @marciamarcia: In your opinion, what's the problem social media for learning solves? Please weigh in!

And as she commented 90 minutes later: 168 unique responses (not including mine) in 90 minutes. Organized spontaneous on point educational delicious.

In between her query and her last wrap-up response were innumerable amazing comments/replies that goes to show:
1. the power of collective knowledge
2. the power of a platform like Twitter
3. the power such "conversations" have in helping us to create meaning and see the pattern (refer to: I finally get it--why social networking is so important)
4. the power such collaboration has in helping us to "co-solve" problems (via @hjarche)

Here are some examples of the responses from the thought leaders of this industry (in no particular order and just examples, so not everyone may be cited here; lack of #hashtag did make locating the tweets a little difficult ;):-

From @hjarche:

~SoMe 4 learning bypasses info gatekeepers & reduces software license fees - it enables connections on learners' terms

~Problem: 20th C orgs (trg dept) only focused on formal-directed learning, leaving 80% of workplace learning needs unaddressed

~formal training addresses 20% of workplace learning: OK when enviro is complicated, not when complex: SoMe enables adaptation

~SoMe 4 learning enables a biological & adaptive model vs mechanistic model of ISD et al. CEO: Wanna hang out with dinosaurs?

~more of our work requires dev of emergent practices; training cannot address; need to connect with others to co-solve problems

~centralized & institutionalized is good but doesn't address the root cause, IMO

From @JaneBozarth

~@marciamarcia PROBLEM: WP learning treated as event rather than process.

~@marciamarcia PROBLEM: External entities inappropriately & ineffectively co-opting elearning (per Harold's earlier comment re vendors)

~@marciamarcia PROBLEM: Gatekeepers blocking sharing of knowledge/learning

From @marciamarcia:

~The question on the table: In your opinion, what's the problem social media for learning solves? Please weigh in w/a problem-statement.

~Ya'll at least making me feel better, pointing out it's hard to write a problem statement. Keep em coming, together we're better!

~@rickladd so problem statement: Orgs lack ongoing participation in discussion and resolution of problems ?

~@minutebio: so problem statement: educators are too far from the front lines to be relevant ?

~@gminks so problem statement: you aren't competitive if your people aren't learning what they need fast ?

~@Quinnovator so problem statement: organizations haven't had infrastructures to support widescale collaboration ?

~@courosa Is problem statement: education lacks transparency, collaboration, ease of publishing, authenticity & access to good practice?

~@hjarche Another: learning is perceived as a centralized & institutionalized responsibility, not a natural responsibility of everyone?

~@hjarche I want to clearly show readers there are problems, not just solutions in search of them.

~rlavigne42 New Years Resolutionathon: Let's aim to be more specific in 2010 & clearly define problems b/f offering solutions. (via @marciamarcia)

~Finally, my favorite one from @JaneBozarth: The person who complained that #lrnchat was spam is probably blowing a fuse right about now.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the great tweets that flowed but just a flavor of the experience I had in the morning. Imaging all of these tweets flowing in from different directions, like the confluence of several turbulent streams, and the sheer experience of it. I would barely finish reading a tweet before the next five would be in...

I began this post not to collate the tweets (because in the collation the ebb and flow of the live stream will be lost) but to re-read the tweets and mull over them.

In the process, I found myself visiting the Twitter pages of @marciamarcia, @JaneBozarth, @hjarche, @gminks, et al and forming a list of the tweets purely for my clarity. From that act evolved this post in celebration of the power of virtual conversation, collaboration, sharing and learning.

For me, a lurker on this conversation, it was an eye-opener. This #hashtag-less, unplanned conversation just emulated what we thrive on in real life too. And the power of this conversation was such that it attracted twitter followers of twitter followers of twitter followers who started the discussion.

The ever widening circle of contributors showed clearly and strongly how powerful this medium can be if used by passionate, intellectually bonded, sincere individuals keen on expanding their knowledge and understanding, individuals unafraid to ask questions and willing to accept diverse viewpoints, stimulated by opposing points of views and willing to mold and change their own viewpoints, if need be.

A special thank you to @marciamarcia for beginning this one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Posts that Influenced Me in 2009

As my thoughts surfaced from the subconscious to the conscious this morning when I woke up, I found myself thinking about Semantic Web and Homophily. Lying still for sometime, I tried to mentally brush aside the cobwebs and think back to what had triggered this association.

That pondering took me back to all the blog posts by various bloggers that have most influenced my thought process and my posts in 2009. I guess this would have been a fitting post to write on the 31st or even yesterday. But, I had not planned for it. It just so happened that even in my distinctly sleep-fuddled state, there are a few posts that I could just recollect. That is when I thought of penning this down for further analysis and to examine the pattern of influence.

The posts that came to mind spontaneously and with surprising clarity (in no particular order and not necessarily e-learning related):

1. Understanding Homophily on the Web (Bamboo Project: this blog was also my discovery of 2009) 
    What did I learn: The Internet encourages the coming together of like minds. And unless we are conscious of this phenomenon, we are likely to block out the "Other" voices and worldviews thus restricting our understanding.

    2. I Finally Get It--Why Social Networking is so Important 
      What did I learn: The importance of Social Networking and SoMe lie in their ability to help us make sense of the confusing mass of information that bombards us everyday. Only through sharing of stories and experiences, the larger pattern and the connections emerge, the information becomes knowledge that we can then effectively use. 

      3. Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future (LeftLane Blog)
          What did I learn: We are moving/have moved into a world where all the mechanical, logical, structured, left-brain tasks so highly valued in the Information Age will now be performed by machines, tools, computers, technology. In this Conceptual Age, the greatest need is for creativity, innovation, the ability to see the pattern over the pieces--all the right-brain activities. 
          4. Defining Knowledge Management and Enterprise 2.0 – Sharing Your Story (Luis Suarez)
            What did I learn: How KM turns information into decision making tools and what KM actually means. 

            5. Strategy as Process, Not Product: The Learning Value Chain
              What did I learn: The importance of having a strategy in place before jumping into the tactics, and the need for a process before a product development work can start. The activities I have undertaken in the past week in office reinforces this for me.

              6. What is Informal Learning?  (Marcia Conner)
                What did I learn: The differences between Formal, Informal, Intentional and Accidental Learning and how and when do these occur.

                7. No More "Learners"
                  What did I learn: Here is Jay Cross re-thinking the instructor/learner relationship in a You Tube video and the importance of learning together where we are not shoveling learning at learners.

                  8. Semantic Web for dummies 
                    What did I learn: The relation between Symbols, Syntax and Semantics and how this will change/is changing the nature of the web and our interaction with it.In this context, also look at: Tim Berners Lee on the Semantic Web

                    9. Social Learning Strategies, Models, and Roles (talks about the ECCO model)
                      What did I learn: Discusses the 3 different types of learning--Codified, Emergent, and Collaborative--and their place/time in an organization and how these map to various interventions.

                      10. How I use social media
                        What did I learn: Nancy White discusses the concepts of Communities of Practice and Learning, Technology Stewardship, Knowledge Sharing and Networking. And her knowledge in this area is formidable.

                        11. The Big Picture: Writing with Perspective  
                            What did I learn: Discusses the importance of perspective, of deleting pretty passages that diffuse the message and focusing on the end result, paying attention to the modifiers and the phrases, those little inserts that can make or break a prose. To quote: "Writing is as simple as falling off a log; writing well is as challenging as the 10-meter diving platform."

                            12. When should we Collaborate?
                              What did I learn: Defines with nice clarity the 4 kinds of work in an organization--.Simple, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic--and how these help us to decide what is required--Coordination, Cooperation, or Collaboration. In this context, also look at: Is Cynefin a cult? and Cynefin

                              13. 10 Steps to creativity

                                What did I learn: Covers points that are very close to my personal experience; hence, made a mark. :)

                                14. Online social networks, learning and viral expansion loops 
                                  What did I learn: Reinforces my understanding and experience of the different aspects of Social Media, the challenges and the successes.

                                  15. Permission Learning - encouraging the informal
                                    What did I learn: Maps effective learning to Seth Godin's Permission Marketing as opposed to Interruption Marketing. In the latter case, we are likely to and do develop ways and means to escape the information being bombarded at us. Similarly, learning shoveled at learners will be ineffective. Hence, what is required is Permission Learning or Informal Learning (there when the learner needs it and wants it).

                                    16. The Builders' Manifesto
                                      What did I learn: One of my favorite posts of the year, it talks about the leadership and the qualities of a leader vs. a builder. As we enter 2010, do we need leaders or builders? Builders is what Umair Haque would say. Builders who will organize love and not work, who will say "come" and not "go", who will see the outcome and will make sure why getting there matters. 

                                      17. That First Thing - pAIN!!
                                        What did I learn: This left a mark when I read it first almost a year ago; and, on subsequent occasions, I have gone back to it when I have needed to overcome a mind-block, a hurdle, or just needed reassurance.

                                        18. Don't let your grace down!  
                                            What did I learn: A short post on the importance of the right attitude, outlook, faith and courage--my mantra for the coming year.

                                            Organizations as Communities — Part 2

                                            Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...