Tuesday, June 23, 2015

E-Learning-"When An Irresistible Force Meets An Immovable Object!"--Part I--Education

In our age, change is an irresistible force and change management is becoming more and more of an important skill to possess. The immovable objects are institutionalized education and corporate training regimens.

Credit: Stuart McIntyre

  As a society we place a great emphasis on tradition and this is especially true concerning education and the corporate enterprise. With respect to education, we all have fond memories of the "good old days" when literacy meant reading, writing, and arithmetic and they were the only basics that learners had to possess. There is no other area of human experience that every person has and voices an opinion on more than education. The connections that our societies have made can be reduced to the equation:

Good Education = Sound Employment

Then, along came technology and the Internet and messed everything up or that is what many people think. The same could be said of the corporate culture. In the good old days, everyone knew their place and function. If you didn't follow the flow, you were terminated. However, life in a digital age is no longer that simple. How we deal with change that is brought on by the growing advances in technology, a growing connected world in all aspects of life and the fact of instantaneous communication determines whether we flourish as future healthy societies or become societies defending outdated concepts and practices against the impact of change. The problem is that change in education needs to be managed in a proactive and thoughtful manner with a renewed vision for education in the future. To implement change without careful thought on how to manage its effects leads to resistance which describes the present status of the immovable objects, institutionalized education and corporate training.


The Immovable Object of Institutionalized Education

Question: "How is institutionalized education dealing with change?"

If you examine education institutions today, one of  the big issues is how to integrate technology into the classroom. This is claimed by its advocates as putting 21st century tools into the hands of 21st century learners but does this satisfy the needs of education in the digital age? If we put these tools into the hands of learners, it might raise their hopes that finally adults have started to grow up when it comes to technology but has anything actually changed? If it has changed, why is there still a growing number of learners who have technologically advanced classrooms that are still disconnecting from their education.
As an example, we are still proceeding with standardized testing which was a product of the old model of education instead of personalized education. Its just that now, we are using high level technology to continue doing what we always have done.


We are still using the same static pedagogy which we now have enshrined as best practices. We are still operating from the same tired vision of education. We are still training teachers to teach using the same methodologies, with the proviso that they must use 21st century technology so that the immovable object of education can appear to be a transformative force in the lives of learners. This should not be construed as an indictment against educators who labour under the direction of those holding political power. It is an indictment of those who use their political power to maintain the status quo in education; who use educators, students and the system to maintain a tired and discredited vision of education. They are the ones who starve innovation and essential change through control of funding. More money is spent on the state taking parental responsibilities on to themselves than is spent in re-designing a badly dated education system.

The sad truth is that they believe and capitalize on the belief that it is the teachers who are the  problem !

Next post.... Business institutions and change management

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Real World Learning In a Global Context: Avoiding An Extinction Event--Potential Solutions

If it is our intention to encourage a collaborative atmosphere among employees with respect to real world problem solving germane to the business organization, it can't end at that point. Just as in the past brick and mortar education systems, if a real world issue is tasked to learners and it doesn't go beyond the four walls of the classroom, then it is merely a contrived scenario with no connection to real consequences in the real world.


There has to be a demonstration on the part of decision makers within a business organization with regards to the following:

  1. We want to use the skillsets that employees bring to the organization to foster a learning culture that is good for the health of the organization.
  2. If we admit that the people we have sought out through recruitment are intelligent individuals committed to our vision, then we have to be prepared to consider their contributions as vital to the interests of the business organization.
  3. We want to ensure that the forum that is made available for the voicing of innovative ideas and strategies is a priority for this organization and that the CEO and COO will make it a priority to be at the forum to hear, question and even collaborate with groups putting forth the ideas to further refine and apply what they hear.
  4. We want to engage our employees and have them network with employees at our branch offices around the globe, utilizing all of the strategic intelligence that we have access to through our contacts in the business world. This collaboration should utilize all of the digital communication resources available to us to make the collaboration effective.
  5. We want to convey to our employees that growth in their learning is something that we want to nurture and keep track of. A learning profile will be set up for each employee that they will have access to and mentoring will be made available to help in their personal growth.

As Steve Jobs remarked, the key is to make use of the intellectual capital that is available in the employees you have. In order to accomplish this there are two elements that need to be in place.


Aggressive Recruiting of  Talent

One of the problems with the recruitment efforts of some companies is that they are still using approaches and protocols that were standards in the 90"s. In this century, you have a generation that has grown up in a digital world. Operating and living in this digital world has allowed them to develop skillsets dealing with digital literacy that comes as natural to them as breathing. Also, with the advance of technology, these skillsets have become hot items in the global economy and as a result of the principle of "supply and demand", the demand is outstripping the supply. This means that competition for individuals with such skillsets, on a global scale, is becoming fierce. These skilled individuals have digital footprints across the web and by cruising the web to gather information about these individuals, the nature of their "brand" starts to come into focus. Social media is just one area that has become important in gathering intelligence. Professional networks such as LinkedIn can reveal much about the expertise of individuals who might prove to be instrumental to the future health of a business organization. 
The point is that you can not just sit back, post job descriptions, collect resumes, conduct interviews and then decide. You do need to be proactive and search out and recruit potential talent because you can be sure that the only way that your competition an beat you is to recruit that talented individual before your company does. The chart below should send up a red flag for you and tell you that change is needed.

Keeping the Talent

It is one thing to recruit talent but to keep the talent happy within your business culture requires a consideration of human needs. One of those needs is the sense of community and belonging. Living every day within a cubicle will not keep this generation's loyalty because it is a generation predicated on social connection. What can you do to create this type of encouragement without it becoming a source of distraction from business goals? Make it part of a collaborative learning culture is one potential solution.

Life-long learning is important to the new knowledge and skillset creators in the 21st century and this connection between life-long learning outside the business organization and inside must be in synch. 

In the description of Global Learning Portals in past posts, I have suggested that creation of a collaborative learning and innovation culture includes opportunities to engage the skills and talents of employees in business organizations which will open doors of opportunities in the digital economy but it all starts with a renewed vision.

Credit: DADA 2014

Next....When An Irresistible Force Meets An Immovable Object....Evolution of Ideas Takes Place??

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Real World Learning in a Global Context: Part II--- Avoiding An Extinction Event

An Extinction Level Event is a scientific term to describe a widespread and profound decrease in life on the planet. When we talk about the stages in Earth's history, there have been several points in its history where Extinction Level Events (E.L.E.) have occurred and usually for a variety of reasons.

Extinction Level Events in Business

The question that needs to be asked is:

"Are there extinction level events in the business world and if there are, what brought on these events?"

Many businesses in the digital age are like your grandfather's pocket watch. When they are first wound up, all the parts worked beautifully in harmony with each other. Then as time went on, you noticed that the watch started losing time which may have been caused by minor hits against objects or even dropping it a few times.


So, you re-set it, winding it a little tighter, demanding more efficient performance from all the parts but not changing its overall structure since it has always worked well the way it is, in the past. As the watch suffers more hits and drops and you wind it even tighter, the parts can no longer move in harmony with each other and they become paralyzed or freeze up. The watch self destructs in that it comes apart.
If you apply this analogy to business organizations, the "hits and drops" represents the impact of technology on business and some businesses inability to adapt, to innovate and most importantly, to engage their employees as sources of innovative solutions for a healthy company future.

Examples of Businesses That Failed to Adapt and Innovate

Consider the cases of three companies that are no longer with us, companies that suffered extinction level events:

Kodak: The Kodak Company is an example that I have used before but it is such a clear example of a failure to follow through in adapting and innovating. In 1975, Kodak engineer, Steve Sasson created the very first digital camera. The following quote sums it up:

"...Historically, Kodak was built on a culture of innovation and change. It’s the type of culture that’s full of passionate innovators, already naturally in tune to the urgency surrounding changes in the market and technology. It’s these people – those excited about new ideas within your own organization – who keep your company moving ahead instead of falling behind. One key to avoiding complacency is to ensure these innovators have a voice with enough volume to be heard (and listened to) at the top..." (Forbes, 5/02/2012)

Blockbuster:  Blockbuster had several opportunities to buy a little DVD rental by mail company called "Netflix" back in the early 2000's. The CEO demonstrated a great deal of short sightedness by refusing the Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings when he proposed that Blockbuster buy Netflix for $50 million. By the time Blockbuster shuttered its doors for good, it had lost $1.1 billion and was valued at $24 million. Meanwhile, Netflix was valued at $13 billion.


Borders Book Sellers: In the 1990's Borders and its competitor, Barnes & Noble combined for a 40% control of the book selling market. However, Borders committed three main mistakes that speaks to an inability to adapt. First, it outsourced their online sales to a little known retailer known as "Amazon" between 2001-2008. Secondly, it neglected E-books while its competitors came out with E-readers such as Kindle(Nov. 2007), the Nook (2011), Apple Ipad (April 2010). Borders didn't release Kobo untill 2011. Thirdly, it robbed its company of vitality by being tied down with long term leases on its physical properties.


Why Do Some Companies Today Face Extinction Level Events?

As an instructional designer or E-Learning advocate, have you ever been asked to give a presentation to high level decision makers on the benefits of an E-Learning strategy? At many of these types of meetings and presentation, its a good idea to be a good student of body language.

 Do their eyes glaze over when you mention E-Learning? Do they sit with a defensive posture with arms folded looking as if they have better things to do with their time than be listening to you? 

Perhaps you need to make the truth of what the company that resists adapting and innovating, really faces. Perhaps, Jack Nicholson, a well known actor can make it crystal clear to them:

We hope that we can make it so that company CEO's will realize that the truth is that engaging their employees is not enough to create a culture of innovation within the business organization. What employees have to offer must be valued and continued collaborative efforts encouraged so that organizations will not only survive the digital age but will prosper in it. Creating an learning culture within the business is the key. So, when there are rumours of an extinction level event within the organization, CEO's and COO's can confidently say: "Not On My Watch!"

Next... A solution that makes use of the collaborative efforts of employees with advice from Steve Jobs

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

E-Learning: Real World Learning in a Global Context-Part I

 Global E-Learning: Removing the Walls

 Marshall McLuhan was once quoted as saying:

" Once you see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment".

 In E-Learning as it pertains to both the corporate learning culture and the institution of education, the walls of an old model that were once so confining are coming down. In this change, how we view the changing nature of learners' needs in a digital age will have a great impact on the type of age that is ushered in next. Anyone who thinks that this will just impact schooling is being naive because the impact will have a ripple effect on everything in life that has connection to how a society learns. This is not a prophecy but an assessment on the impacting technology, pedagogy and change elements which have already started to form a perfect storm.

In the digital age there are two important characteristics about the learner that we need to understand because failure to do so negates the potential that they can bring to the developing global business culture and to the growth and health of the disciplines.

Missing  Pieces to the Learning Puzzle

Learners need an outlet for their ideas, thoughts and innovations in a global forum.

 In the past, education systems designed courses where a realistic situation was presented to learners, they discussed the scenario, arrived at potentially helpful solutions and then everything ended. Their ideas, thoughts and innovative solutions never made it past the four walls of the classroom. There were attempts in the late 20th century to connect classrooms to the outside world but this was not a consistently applied idea and very often it was included in the design as an enrichment activity. It was never considered to be an activity that was an important part of the main stream of the course. It was the reason why students complained that too often school was not part of the real world. Real connections were not there. Even the assessments that students endured were meant to produce compliance and conformity to skillsets that reflected past generations but included none of the digital literacy requirements of this age. The mantra of this type of schooling always began with the preamble:

 "...When you grow up, maybe you will be able to make valuable contributions to society but now........"


A case in point is the story of a teacher who decided to have his class research the question:

" Are the enclosures used for animals at the city zoo designed in such a way as to match the natural habitats of animals found in the wild?"

The grade level for these students was grade 7. The time period was the late 1990's. The approach to the study of this issue was called the "Social Inquiry Process". Many of us are very familiar with this approach but one difference was that this particular government mandated approach had a social action component to it.


The students followed the research procedure to the letter and came to the conclusion that the zoo in question was not making the effort to provide natural habitats for their animals in many instances. They then reviewed the necessary characteristics for optimal conditions, as they had researched in the social science classes; they used  some selected animal examples and designed an environment that took into account space limitations that the zoo had. They then sent a proposal to the zoological society that had oversight and requested an opportunity to present their findings and speak to their recommendations at the next zoological meeting. This was" taking responsibility for their learning".
"They received a reply from the society which told them to stick to math, reading and writing and mind their own business."

 It didn't occur to the officials that the report they received had utilized all of these literacies in the best possible way. The conclusion to this story is that 1 yr. later these recommendations were put into practice and the zoological society received the recognition and accolades for coming up with such innovative solutions. Would a visionary thinker such as Steve Jobs have been encouraged to continue in such an environment and school system?

The point is that:
 "We need learners in corporate organizations and education to be provided with the necessary encouragement and working conditions that will help develop the necessary mindset to harness change for all of our benefits."

The situation described in the schooling example could very well be put into a corporate culture setting where employee ideas are stymied by not being provided a forum where they can have their ideas realistically heard and evaluated.

" In your corporate culture, what does learning look like?" Is it all about compliance training or do you have an eye on weaving innovative thinking into the fabric of where you do business?"

A Second Missing piece of the Puzzle

" Learners need to feel that what they have to offer is valued by decision makers, whether within education or business organizations."

One of the simple realities of life in the 21st century is that for many people, the work that they do is what defines them. 

More on this in the next post........

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

E-Learning Evolution: The Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network--Part II

As we continue down this path, one should not underestimate the very positive impact these collaborative networks will have on the business culture. Big data that is shared within the Global Learning Portal opens doors of opportunity in the digital economy that can have a multiplier effect of the ROI of businesses aligned under a common vision. It is no secret that knowledge is the new currency of the 21st century but the trick is harnessing it at just the right time with an eye on the future and not looking back.

Referring back to the previous Global Learning Portal diagram, one should notice that there is a collaborative connection between the Cross Disciplinary Research and Mentor Network and the Global Higher Education and Teacher Mentoring Network. The obvious question that needs to be asked is:

"Why is a collaborative connection between these two networks necessary and what is the function?"

Cross disciplinary research is vital to the training or mentoring of new educators. If you accept the idea that cross disciplinary learning is an essential mindset to solving real world problems then it is necessary that research in this area give direction to "educating the educator". Under the present compartmentalization mindset that exists now in many educational institutions, the approach to real world problem solving brings us back to the blind men trying to describe an elephant.

Real world problems in the 21st century are more complex than in the past and ironically one of the reasons that they are more complex is because we are so connected to the world. Consider the real and present danger of terrorism and how social media and the Internet has made the impact of this threat even greater. Terrorists have their own websites to use to recruit others to their cause.

Coming back to the collaborative connection, in return the data collected from the experience of mentoring educators and in turn the educators practical experience in modelling this mindset to learners in the online E-Learning portal, we are helped in two ways:
  1. From the data, new directions in research can be explored and pursued in regards to cross disciplinary learning keeping in mind that the new paradigm for research means that it needs to be ongoing, agile and adaptive, and
  2. From the data, we can discern areas of conflict and thus refine our pedagogical approaches.

The mentoring of new educators and those who are transitioning from the industrial model mindset to the cross disciplinary mindset needs to be an ongoing collaborative relationship. The goal is to develop educators who will model and practice transformative teaching. The purposes of this transformative teaching are:

  1. Educate learners to be creators of new knowledge and skillsets
  2. Educate learners to adopt innovative problem solving in seeking real solutions to complex real world problems. Instrumental to this is to promote an attitude for prolific and divergent thinking, and
  3. Educate learners to collaborate effectively in an online environment. Learners need to know how to access a variety of knowledge repositories online, evaluate their usefulness to the tasked problem and then apply the skillsets that each require. Learners need to be a little eclectic in using technology that meets the purpose and they need to know and capitalize on the talents of their co-collaborators.

It should also be noted that big data from both of these networks feed back into the Global E-Learning Hub which then coordinates the data so that it is beneficial to advise and direct the learning culture of the business organizations. This is accomplished through the Global Corporate Trainers, ID and LPE Network whose primary function is to help businesses within the family of nations involved in the portal, to grow and innovate. As was pointed out at the beginning of this post, business in the digital economy stands to have many doors of opportunity opened if it has a vision that embraces a culture of true innovation.

Are you ready for the journey?

Next...E-Learning and Practical Steps to Realizing a Vision