Getting from Reflection to Action – Guest Post by Dave Kelly

We are delighted to welcome Dave Kelly as our guest blogger this week to talk about reflecting on learning.

This chat has taken place; view the chat transcript here  the next #chat2lrn will be on Thursday 4 April, 08.00PST/11.00EST/16.00GMT

I’ve just returned from the Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando. It was three great days chock-full of lots of learning content from a great number of really smart people. I love conferences, and learn a lot while attending them.  However, I’ve always felt that the most important part of the conference experience isn’t the conference itself; it’s what you do afterwards.

Reflections in Mirror BallReflection is a critical part of our learning process, and yet it’s something we rarely build into the learning programs we design.  Reflection provides an individual the opportunity to process the experience and build connections between new knowledge and existing knowledge.  That opportunity to pause, to reflect on the learning and build context within our own experiences is hugely powerful.

Whenever I attend a conference (or any significant learning experience) I try to allocate time over the next day or so to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned and consider what it is I will be doing differently as a result.

Two important points: I always try to schedule time within  a day or so of the experience.  Reflecting quickly is important, as it’s very easy to go back into the office and fall immediately back into our routines. Try to set aside some time to pause and think about what the most important things you learned about from the experience were, and how you can use that knowledge in your work.

The second point? Document and share what you have learned. This is a natural part of reflecting. It not only helps those you share your knowledge with, it also helps to better clarify and contextualize the learning for yourself. Share your reflections with your co-workers, your peers, and with the community at large (using the conference hashtag, if applicable).

Reflection is a hugely important part of the learning process. I think we, as learning professionals, need to provide more opportunities for reflection in the learning experiences we build. We tend to dump content without providing opportunities for reflection, and we need to change that. It’s through reflection that context is built, and it’s through context that learning becomes meaningful.

Please join us to discuss reflection on our own learning, and getting to action, on Thursday 21 March at 16.00 GMT and North America DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME CHANGE ALERT :: 12.00EDT/09.00PDT :: 

Looking forward to seeing you there! 




Social Media in Formal Learning Programs: Inside and Outside the Firewall

320px-Social-media-for-public-relations1Learning is inherently social1, and social media offer exciting opportunities for people to learn. Members of the learning and development (L&D) community increasingly embrace this for their own informal learning and networking, but using social media effectively in formal learning activities can be more of a challenge.

The potential advantages are tremendous, including extending interaction and learning opportunities over time, reaching into the workplace, putting learning activities in the context of work, reducing or eliminating classroom time, and empowering learners to participate at the time and place that’s most convenient for them. Online social media used in training also promises an opportunity to sustain relationships started in formal programs with the hope of developing self-supporting online communities of individuals with common training experiences.

At the core of the challenges to using social media in training is the age-old need to stimulate learning. Jane Bozarth suggests several strategies to encourage students to learn with social media. Among these are facilitating discussions, encouraging collaboration, building community, and providing practice opportunities for students.2

For many workplaces, there’s another important issue to address: will the social medium or media used be public (outside the firewall) or private (behind the firewall)? This isn’t a trivial question, and both the subject matter and the nature of the organization play roles in answering it.

Outside the firewall

There are tremendous advantages to using public media. A few include:

  • Ease of administration: the media are managed by an outside entity and typically accessed using a standard Web browser
  • Low cost: most public social media can be used at no cost
  • Ease of use: most of us learn how to use social media with little guidance
  • Access to far-reaching networks: with public social media, it’s possible to reach experts in most fields of study with a simple request
  • Large pool of individuals to learn from: you’re not limited to the participants in a given training activity and can draw on support from personal networks developed over time

To help protect their intellectual capital and proprietary information, a great many organizations in the world have policies that prevent employees from sharing work in the public domain without prior authorization. In these cases, each individual who engages in public media must abide by company policies regarding the specific content being shared. In some cases, private spaces within public social media (a private YouTube channel for example) may be viable options.

Behind the firewall

When workplace training involves activities that are relevant to students’ work, the artifacts created (discussions, papers, presentations, and more) are often work products. Public social media often can’t be used for this type of training. If an online social medium is used, it must be private. In addition to increased cost and administration requirements, this also results in a substantially smaller social network than possible outside the firewall.

As long as the formal learning activity (course) is underway and participants engage with one another in relevant ways over a period of time, many of the advantages of using social media in learning can still be realized. Learning does reach the workplace, in the context of work. It also reduces classroom time and empowers participants to engage at the time and place most convenient for them. But the substantially smaller network of individuals in the workplace makes ongoing interaction between students unlikely. The promise of self-sustaining communities is difficult to realize in all but the largest organizations.

  1. Jean Lave & Etienne Wenger (1991), “Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation,” Cambridge University Press.
  2. Jane Bozarth (2010), “Social Media for Trainers,” Pfeiffer.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Sofiaperesoa.