Tag Archives: collaboration

Are you using a hammer to crack a nut?

 

Or do you really need the right tool for the job?

Hammer cracking nuts

As some of you may have guessed, I’m a really big fan of social media.  I think it’s the best thing invented since sliced bread.  Now for the uninitiated, when I mention social media and in pa

rticular Twitter, the initial reaction is either  ‘oh no here we go again’ or ‘I can’t see the point in hearing what everyone had for breakfast’.  But social media is so versatile.  It’s just another conversation tool – just like the telephone.

What’s the betting that when telephones started to be installed in more homes, people just rang each other up to find out what they had done that day.  It’s a novelty thing. It’s a ” We just gotta try it out but I can’t think of anything profound so I’ll just say the first thing that comes into my head” sort of thing.  In fact, my mum still does that.  I’m not going to tell you my age but I think you’ll guess I’m not a kid any more but I still have to telephone ‘home’ every night when I travel anywhere.  There’s usually no new amazing news to hear so I just get “have you had your tea?  What did you have?”.

But of course we also use the telephone for some of the most important of calls as well as keeping in touch with our loved ones.  The same goes for e-mail.  I remember when e-mail was first introduced where I worked.  There were e-mails being sent all over the building just saying saying “hello, how was your weekend” even when we were just in the next office (or even in the same office).  It was a novelty.  Then came the policies on how to use e-mail responsibly, how to communicate correctly and all was good with the world.

What I’m seeing now though is e-mail being misused in as much as it is becoming a conversation tool.  Yes, I know it IS a conversation tool in a way but we’re seeing it being used for chit-chat again even if that chit-chat is work related.  Yet there are many more appropriate tools we can use for this type of conversation within a work environment:

Skype for example.  Here people can have real time business conversations either on a one to one basis or group.

If it’s more about collaborating on a project, what about using Google Docs and Google Buzz.

If we need to share research, discuss ideas, view and review little videos we’re planning, what about creating a Facebook Group for your team.

We are so blessed nowadays with a variety of different tools that do different things can we really look back at our current practices and say we are working efficiently?  Of course, we need time for a bit of research but sometimes, we just have to give it a go.

And that’s just what I’m just about to do now.  I’m going to create a team Facebook Group for collaborative working projects and see how it goes.  How about you?

Novel uses for Twitter

For those of you out there who still think Twitter is a banal social networking site good enough only to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ or Steven Fry’s latest gastronomic delights, I have some news for you.

I recently came across a book club run entirely online with discussions taking place on Twitter. The book club is LrnBk Chat, a brainchild of the social media guru Jane Bozarth. The book club runs like this:

A new discussion topic is announced on the dedicated blog (LrnBk Chat) giving details of the book to be read. An agreed number of chapters was agreed at 2 being manageable and series of dates are listed for each. On the morning of each discussion period, a series of questions are published on the blog to consider when reading the set chapters. The conversation starts and so it continues.

So people can follow the conversation, a dedicated hashtag is used – in this case #lrnbkpull for the latest topic being discussed.

Although the conversation is designed to be carried out on Twitter, Jane decides to use Hootcourse (“an online classroom …instead of cumbersome forums or complicated lesson-plan formats, HootCourse uses a combination of the most popular social networks and blogging platforms to provide a new type of online classroom”). Hootcourse allows bookworms to sign in using their Twitter or Facebook account.  Hootcourse can post comments publicly to Twitter or kept private but I’ll go into this another time.

It’s a book club, Jim, but not as we know it! It just goes to show that with a little creative thinking and shaking off of those blinkers which are narrowing our views and create some really engaging alternative activities to be run online.

So what if you can’t use Twitter or Facebook? What if your organisation blocks these sites. Well, let’s see what you have already that can be used just as effectively. Take a look at the online tools you currently have in your organisation for communication. They may not be used for learning at the moment but we can always high-jack them. We did it with PowerPoint afterall.

You may well have a VLE/LMS (virtual learning environment/learning management system) such as Moodle to run your online courses. These provide communcation tools in one place including forums and blogs as well as a live chat facility that could be used along the same lines as Twitter. So, for instance, you could create your own book club (or work on a case study in stages) and arrange a time to meet for the live chat or just continue using an asynchronous discussion if this is more appropriate.

What creative ideas can you think of?

Revolution for the Classroom

Is it time to redesign the environment as well as the learning?

My vision of face to face learning events of the future is not a ‘classroom’ but more a social meeting area.  If we are going to embrace the change in learning that has to happen and soon, we should also rethink the environment our learners visit when attend a face to face learning event.

To me, the word classroom conjures up a memory of chairs all in a row.  Sometimes, these chairs may be locked together so we can’t move them.  Some of them have little tables attached.  Have you ever tried to sit at these strange contraptions?  For me they are certainly not comfortable and very restrictive not to mention difficult to adjust my seating or cross my legs.  Then there are those conference chairs.  I have short legs – not too short – I think I’m average height at 5 foot 3 inches but often find that the majority of conference / classroom / training event chairs leave me with legs a-dangle cutting off the circulation.  If I wear my killer heels this is slightly better but then by the end of the day I can’t walk!

The alternative to the rows upon rows of lecture-style layout  in corporate training rooms is the ‘horseshoe’ style with the premise of making the experience much more friendly allowing the trainer more opportunity to become more accessible to their learners and allow learners to see each other, thereby interacting more easily.  A lot better than the first option but the trainer often still stands at the front ‘in charge’.  With the barrier of tables it can be tricky to break down the walls of formality.  I’ve tried pulling a chair round and sitting at the front.  This feels odd but a little less formal.  I’ve tried sitting on the table but then I’m almost on top of some people and a little distant from others.  It’s also uncomfortable (short legs and no circulation again).

If I had my way, I would redisign the environment so it’s no longer like a classroom but an inviting area where learners feel at ease on a range of comfortable chairs and sofas, where the the trainer becomes a facilitator.  There will be coffee tables and any slides are viewed on a flat screen TV from a laptop.  Individuals will have a much more comfortable experience and a more informal approach to learning.  Where computer based activities are required, of course safe ergonomic considerations are needed but I feel this would also benefit from a more informal feel to it.

Considering that with more emphasis these days on blended learning, where we will be using face to face events more appropriately and collaboratively I think it’s time to adapt the environment accordingly.