What can our hobbies teach us about learning?

Today’s post is written by Meg Bertapelle, #chat2lrn crew member, instructional designer, mother, wife, crafter, and marching band geek who wishes there was more time in a day.
knitting - rainbow pom-pom scarf

I’m a knitter, and a crafter in general.  I grew up doing “crafty” things with my mom and my grandma (who lived with us starting when I was 5, and still lives with my parents).  I paint, draw, make jewelry and cards, and have attempted sewing. Pretty much, if it’s crafty, I am into it.  Of course, this can get a bit overwhelming 😉

digital scrapbooking

I have also, more recently, gotten into digital scrapbooking to help keep up with all the memories of my daughter’s early years that I want to save from the inevitable forgetful black hole that is my mommy-brain (and I am now obsessed, by the way!).

The first (and glaringly obvious) thing that my hobbies have taught me about learning is to just DO IT! Maybe have someone show you (or find a tutorial) the first time or two, and just get your hands dirty and try something.

Ask for help, or search Google or YouTube for tutorials, when you get stuck or feel like you could do better.

Go ahead and screw it up. If you can’t live with the mistake, start over & do it again, but don’t keep yourself from jumping in because you don’t want to “do it wrong.”

Don’t wait until you can “learn everything” about the hobby before you start – you can’t absorb the finer details until you try the basics.

The really great thing about learning and hobbies, is that we are already interested in the topic, and motivated to learn. We don’t have to figure out some contrived relevance to our real lives, we are seeking out the knowledge and skills required to DO the fun stuff.  Hobbies make us happy, and really that’s all we usually require of them.  As human beings we are happier and healthier being challenged, so learning is a natural and integral part of having a hobby.

And wow, if you can love what you do, do what you love and actually make a living at it, how much fun would that be?

Check out how Logan LaPlante has constructed his own education around this kind of plan:

And just for fun, 18 Important Life Lessons to Learn from Knitting [BuzzFeed]

What are your hobbies?

What have they taught you about learning?

Is it anything you think you could apply to your work?

Tell us in #chat2lrn Thurs Jan 30 8am PST/11am EST/4pm BST.  See you there!

VIRTUAL WORLDS – an enhancement to learning or a distraction?

While the debate continues about the nature of learning and its place in modern organisations, technology does not stop and new solutions, tools and techniques appear every day. At the same time, macro-economic conditions and local budgetary issues exert a range of pressures on learning professionals and those who seek to service them with new tools that enhance the individual’s ability to learn.

The desire for experiential elements in learning design and delivery is built in to the training, armoury and philosophy of every trainer – whether working face to face or in purely virtual situations. Technology has brought a gleam in the eye and a smile to the faces of learning enablers historically constrained by the lack of available methodologies. The ubiquity of the 70-20-10 learning model is now widely accepted, opening the way for a synergy between the formal and the purely social in learning.

Requirements for demonstrated competence to prove compliance are critical to many sectors of business. Yet the assessment methodologies used are rarely much beyond the 19th century techniques of examination and interview.

The use of Virtual Worlds in which the “learner”, whoever they may be, has the chance to develop, practice, and perfect skills and demonstrate competence in an environment as close to real life as is possible is a tempting prospect. Empirical and evidential research provides strong evidence that immersion simulation speeds up the journey to competence and increases the enthusiasm and attention that participants give to learning interventions.

But there are issues – cost, the ability of technology to deliver realistic simulations, time to develop them, attitudes from management and regulatory bodies. Virtual Worlds have been around for a few years.  The technology has advanced along with our understanding of learning.  Has their time now finally come?

Judith Christian–Carter (@judithels) created this analysis to get our juices flowing


  • Life-like, interactive and immersive learning
  • Safe, experiential learning
  • Problem-solving and decision-making learning
  • Can be used for a wide range of subjects, topics, knowledge, skills and behaviours involving both people and objects
  • Instant, responsive feedback
  • Appropriate use of gamification design techniques enhances the learning experience
  • A variety of development tools, such as proprietary gaming engines, existing virtual worlds software, bespoke authoring software and common software tools, can be used
  • Many developed assets can be reused in other virtual worlds


  • Can be expensive to produce depending on the development tool used, eg proprietary gaming engines
  • Depending on the complexity and required learning outcomes can be both time-consuming to design and develop
  • The inappropriate use of gamification design techniques can reduce the learning experience

#chat2lrn on Thursday 26 April at 16.00 BST/11.00EST will explore the potential, the benefits and the hurdles that influence the use of everything that could be called a virtual world.

Some more places to look:

Gamification and Learning: Two Truths and a Lie –  http://bit.ly/ItVUVd

Are Virtual Worlds (still) Relevant in Education? – http://bit.ly/ytvQn3

 3D Virtual Worlds are NOT Dead, Dying or Disappearing – http://bit.ly/w9iu6q

Immersive Learning Simulations 2008 – eLearning Guild Report  http://bit.ly/IXWxrt

Want to have input into some Virtual Worlds development?

For those of you interested in Virtual Worlds, this is the environment being developed by DPG –  here is a link for you to watch and to help bring it to life – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbaCWVO-j9I

This is something that @MikeCollins007 is working on developing with DPG and it looks like it’s got great potential to support existing programmes or to be used to provide low cost online events / conferences.

DPG are looking for willing volunteers to come and get involved in some virtual events or even host some virtual events absolutely free of charge. They are genuinely passionate about developing this tool and pushing the boundaries as to what they do in this space and want input from as many of the L&D community as want to be involved, and have some fun on the way 🙂

If anyone else is interested in taking a ‘spin’ and having a closer look then they should contact Mike at mike@wearesome.com

“Flipped” Leadership

There has been a lot written in the press and on blog posts recently about the ‘flipped classroom’.  For the most part, what has been written refers to the world of education, however, the concept is equally applicable to the workplace as more organisations realise the importance of informal learning and adopt the 70:20:10 model as a means to achieving effective performance support.

The purpose of this week’s chat is NOT to discuss the benefits or otherwise of ‘flipped learning’ although that would be a really interesting topic for future discussion.  So if any of you would like to share your views and write a guest blog, we would love to hear from you!

“Flipped” Leadership – another buzzword or a catalyst for innovation and change?

This week’s chat is about “Flipped” Leadership.  What exemplifies it? How will traditional concepts of leadership need to change and adapt so that organisations can reap the benefits and rewards of ‘flipped learning’? As learning and development and education professionals, how do we need to change our approach so that Leaders have the skills to allow organisations to grow and flourish in a world where sharing knowledge is rapidly becoming more powerful than being the owner of knowledge?

Let’s talk the same language

Before we start, let’s get a common understand what ‘flipped’ means.  In the UK, if someone says you have ‘flipped’ it’s generally not particularly complimentary.  In this context, sombody has become angry or cross about a topic, has made that frustration  known to everybody around them and it sometimes results in blind rage.   More recently, ‘flipping’ has been very negatively associated with politics.  There has been much talk in the press of MPs ‘flipping’ their homes in order to be able to claim additional expenses.  This is not the kind of ‘flipping’ we are talking about – we are talking about turning leadership upside down.

To help us understand this, we have a guest post from Bob Harrison. Bob has a wealth of experience in learning both in the corporate and education sectors.   He established Support for Education and Training (SET) in 1996, a former College Vice-Principal and a Governor of an FE College, Bob is the inaugural Chair of the recently established Teaching Schools New Technology Advisory Board. So what does Bob have to say about ‘flipping’?

We have the “flipped” classroom but what can it teach us about “flipped” leadership?

In recent times it has been popular in education circles to speak of an approach to learning commonly known as the “flipped” classroom. 

This pedagogical approach is predicated on a fundamental re-appraisal of the role of the teacher. There is no doubt that the Industrial age shaped the classroom, the teaching style, assessment practice and the place of the teacher at the front of the class as the “source of all knowledge”.

How times have changed!

Now pupils and students have the world of knowledge at their fingertips in the browser in their pockets and the recent open source developments like Udacity, Coursera and the Khan Academy suggest that the industrial model of pedagogy is no longer (if it ever was?) appropriate.

This challenge to schools and colleges is illustrated by the following:

CBS Video on Khan Academy – http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57393391/khan-academy-model-for-future-of-u.s-education/

Sugata Mitra TED SOLE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps8MwyJH8Zo

Paolo Blikstein – http://news.stanford.edu/thedish/?p=16001

So what, if anything, can the flipped classroom teach us about leadership…can it too be “flipped”?  Can we distil some of the key principles of this approach to learning and transfer them to the principles of leadership?  Are there tensions between this approach and accountability or is the “flipped” approach just another form of “distributed” leadership?

Contact details: Email: BobharrisonSET@aol.com Twitter: @bobharrisonset

So where does that take us?

Bob has pointed us to some interesting resources and those of us who work in Learning and Development are seeing similar changes and challenges as colleagues who work in education.

Employees who want to learn have access to an almost infinite amount of resources…all they have to do is ‘Google’ it and they are presented with lots of links that provide endless amounts of information and learning opportunities.  If employees use social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn they have personal learning networks and can ask those they trust for advice on the subjects they are interested in.

So in this world of connected learning, how does the leadership team direct effort so that it improves both individual and operational performance?  In the industrial age that Bob initially described, whether that be in the world of education or in the workplace, leaders in the organisation were the ‘font of knowledge’ and having that knowledge gave them positions of power. Some things haven’t changed, leaders are still tasked with improving performance to deliver business benefits, however if employees have got access to lots of information and learning, the industrial hierarchical model of leadership will struggle to survive.

Flipping Marvellous!

‘Flipped’ leadership implemented effectively with vision and support has the potential to empower staff and literally turn the situation on its head.  What better example to illustrate this than Erik Wahl’s presentation at the Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida this week?  Towards the end of his keynote, Erik turned his back to the audience and started to paint.  He continued to talk to the audience about what he was doing while he was working, however,  the image he was creating in front of everybody didn’t seem to make much sense…even when he stood back and let everybody see the finished piece, it still made little sense….until he flipped it!

Erik had painted an image of Steve Jobs…except he had painted it upside down and it only made sense to the audience when it was flipped!  His message to us all is that sometimes it’s only when you literally ‘flip’ the way you work you are able to see the bigger picture and are able to open your eyes to innovation and creativity.

Some additional thoughts on ‘Flipping’

EmergingEdTech – K Walsh, with guest blog by Louis Malenica – Enabling the Flipped Classroom with Evolving Software Solutions

Six Sigma, Ken Leeson – Lean Taking Root: It Depends on Culture and Leadership

Chief Learning Officer – Getting Executives on Social Media Boosts Leadership Development


Q1) What does ‘flipped’ leadership mean to you? Is it more than ‘distributed leadership’?

Q2) What lessons can leaders learn from the ‘flipped’ classroom?

Q3) What benefits would implementing ‘flipped’ leadership bring to learning and performance support?

Q4) What are the specific organisational challenges to flipping leadership?

Q5) As learning professionals, what positive steps can we take to ‘flip’ leadership in our own organisations?

Social learning – the mindset

  1. The benefits that social technologies can bring are wholly dependent on our willingness to embrace the mentality that created it.

  2. Talks on social media are more often than not populated with the familiar logos that embody the success of these new technologies that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Inevitably followed by a exponential curve reaching for the skies.

  3. Share

    Sat, Mar 10 2012 17:19:58
  4. But the impact and growth of social media has really very little to do with these tools.

    There are much stronger, more fundamental forces that have been driving social media’s success.

    Social media has tapped into our very nature as social beings – openness, trust, transparency, community. The very fabric of being human.

  5. Share
    “A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, it happens when society adopts new behaviours” – Clay Shirky, Us Now
    Sat, Jan 28 2012 14:21:27
  6. There is NO doubt technology has enabled a new kind of interconnectedness and new opportunities for learning, but the benefits that social technologies can bring are very much dependent on our willingness to embrace the mentality that created it.

    As Marcia Conner and Steve LeBlanc say;
  7. “Social learning is not just the technology of social media (…) Social learning combines social media tools with a shift in the corporate culture, a shift that encourages ongoing knowledge transfer and connects people in ways that make learning a joy”
  8. The fears and barriers that so often crop up when businesses are looking to implement social learning technologies are often more than tactical issues, slowing the process of implementing technology, but attitudes and reflections of a culture that is slowing down the progress of the company as a whole.

  9. Vlatka Hlupic writes;

    “The need for a new mindset and leadership skills has never been more urgent, but translating it into action remains a challenge for many”

    “Leaders come to realise that while it may not initially be easy to give up power, more power and influence are gained subsequently by letting go.”

  10. So what comes first?- the leaders comfortable with the shift in formal control and with the trust in employees to act in the organisation’s interest?

    – or the technology that enable networks to form across the formal boundaries of a hierarchical organisation?
  11. Share
    Can you still have 21st century learning without 21st century tools?
    Mon, Feb 06 2012 21:08:13
  12. – or indeed, can you really benefit from “21st century tools”, without a 21st century mindset?——————————————————————————————————————————-This is the topic to be addressed at #chat2lrn this thursday (15th of March) at 4pm GMT. If you’re interested to learn more about this topic;
  13. Recommended reading

  14. Share

    Mon, Mar 12 2012 08:17:04
  15. Please feel free to express your view and/or recommend additional resources in the comments.

Learning Measurement Means Getting into the Trenches

This weeks chat2lrn is about measurement and we are delighted to also include a ‘guest’ blog post from Kelly Meeker.

Measuring learning is and always has been a controversial and divisive issue.  Senior operational managers are used to hard targets and whilst learning professionals need and want some feedback on the impact of their efforts, the “smileys” approach and even end of intervention testing are now widely accepted to be of little use in assessing the real impact of learning.  However, measurement is a critical aspect of every professional’s work and if we don’t measure, how do we know whether the learning intervention has had any impact and delivered bottom line business benefits?

Kirkpatrick’s model was devised for face to face training, and some would argue that it is now outdated. It is also fraught with difficulty in its higher levels as performance improvement is rarely the result of a single identifiable intervention.  ROI is also a very contentious issue as to calculate an accurate ROI of learning from formal provision and prove direct cause and effect, all other workplace variables would have to stay the same.  It would require a ‘control’ group as well as an ‘experimental’ group, i.e. one group receives the formal learning provision (the ‘experimental’ group) and the other does not (the ‘control’ group). This is very often the model that is used during ‘pilot’ programmes, which if successful are then rolled out to a wider audience.

However, as we move so strongly towards a 70:20:10 model and recognise that most learning actually takes place ‘on-the-job’, does it mean that pilot programmes and establishing control groups are really only be suitable for formal learning interventions and if so, is it possible to measure informal learning?

It may be far better to look for measurements rooted in the day to day of the workflow.  What tends to work well is when line managers can clearly say that decisions made or actions performed would not have happened before the intervention. The key is therefore in choosing the metrics and choosing them well.  If you’re going to devote the time and energy to a learning programme, is it truly solving a problem that is important to your business?

Kelly Meeker aka @opensesame has this to say on the subject and suggests that we need to get into the trenches!!

Measurement is a challenge for learning and development professionals. Too often measuring learning outcomes falls into the pattern of sharing anecdotal evidence or only measuring production: “we’ve provided X resources” or “we’ve distributed Y widgets”.

Subconsciously, perhaps, developers like this kind of measurement because it measures only the outcomes that they can strictly control – what they do and make, day in, day out. What really matters for an organization, of course, isn’t measuring the number of courses the learning department produced, but measuring changed behaviors or outcomes.

This means L&D folks have to take a risk, and start measuring their own productivity by external factors. A successful learning initiative is measured by the change in behavior, situation or outcomes of the organization.

So what’s the challenge? First, identifying those desired outcomes – this can be harder than it sounds – and then identifying the incremental steps along the way to the desired end state. Second, assigning specific qualitative and quantitative values to both the baseline and the end state. This is probably just as hard as it sounds.

Theory of Change and Learning Measurement

The Theory of Change model is used by nonprofits and social change organizations to plan and target their programs. It also offers a helpful model for planning and measuring learning and development. This model supports productive change by forcing the developer to articulate a theory of change, or a model by which the desired outcomes can be reached.

The first step is beginning with baseline data that measures the current status or situation. The next step is to identify desired end outcomes – and the final and most powerful step is to create a model describing how your initiative will change that situation, and how. This puts huge goals into incremental, achievable steps – making the process simpler to understand and simpler to measure.

This, of course, is needs assessment. But it’s needs assessment with an open mind – that interests itself in more than just the traditional realm of L&D – and has a basis in data. Of course reaching agreement on all phases of this process requires group decision making, and that can be the biggest challenge of all. As Joitske Hulsebosch describes in this post on “Benchlearning”, it’s key to have an open mind, open discussion and avoid defensiveness on all sides.

The theory of change, once articulated, provides the metrics of your success. You will know you have succeeded in generating positive change once you can demonstrate the uptick in the metrics you planned to address.

Data’s Role in Decision Making

In summary, it’s essential to shift your focus from “What can I produce?” to “What can I change?” And those changes should be based on thoughtful analysis of the organization’s needs.

That means getting out of your office and into the trenches of your organization. Doing ride-alongs, observations and “undercover L&D professional” days. Be curious about what your organization does – and you’ll soon know where the gaps are. That’s the really valuable challenge for any knowledge worker.

Kelly Meeker is the Community Manager at OpenSesame, the elearning content marketplace, where she creates, curates and shares with the learning and development community. Find her on her blog at www.OpenSesame.com/blog, on Twitter (@OpenSesame) or at kelly.meeker@opensesame.com.

Finally, a question?

Beyond what point in time after an intervention can improvement or application be identified and measured?  For example, the airline pilot who learns an emergency drill in basic training but whose skill is only evident way down the line when something happens.

The transcript is now available for the chat……just look under transcripts and summaries.  Also Kelly curated the content using Storify you can find her summary in our Links and Resources section.

Are you supporting performance?

All organisations are measured by their performance.  Measures of success vary, but all successfully performing organisations have business strategies in place that allow them to survive and sometimes even grow during tough economic conditions.  As employees and businesses begin to leave the comfort of “things known” and venture or are forced out into the untrodden lands of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, their need for support increases and  our ability to deliver appropriate support is increasingly challenged.

In our now constantly and ever more rapidly changing world, the recognition that learning is ubiquitous is now widely accepted, as is the recognition that it cannot be managed. So what is the place of a learning expert or a learning function in this new world? What does support mean and how can it be provided?

Learning requires to be inextricably embedded in the work stream. At its simplest people need to have the support tools or “sidekicks” as they are described by Allison Rossett  and Bob Mosher to help them perform tasks. Such tools need to be incredibly practical and accessible. It is often forgotten that learners are in complex situations back on the job and regardless of the quality of the training, application is always more difficult when in the work stream and away from the protected environment of the learning intervention.

Supporting peoples performance in the workplace can and should happen using the whole span of technology and learning theory that is now so easily available to us.  Whether it is a simple checklist of codes at the self-checkout in a fruit and veg shop or a pilot’s complex pre-flight procedure, or maybe a simulation for a surgeon to practice a rarely used operation before treating a patient, the tool needs to be directly applicable and be focused on successful performance of the task and the achievement of desired results. Access to a co-worker skilled and experienced in the task or to an expert coach is another form of performance support.

At an organisation level, recognition of the predominance of informal and social learning needs to be given prominence and supported accordingly. All of us who work in learning need to concentrate fully on understanding the business sufficiently so that we can apply our knowledge to performance and improvement of results, whether at an individual, team or organisation level.

It goes without saying that human capital is an organisation’s greatest and most fundamental resource, therefore for an organisation to perform at its best, its members of staff need to be performing to the best of their ability.

The more we can support people out of an understanding of their own and their organisation’s needs, the more likely it is that a beginner will become an expert, a follower will become a leader, and stagnation will transform to innovation.

So how well are we doing? In 2010 Capita asked senior business leaders in the UKs largest firms how learning and development was contributing to the organisations ability to perform.   The outcome of the research is worrying with only 18% of leaders saying that L & D strategy aligns to the overall business strategy.  There may be many reasons for this, but we have to address them. A recent unpublished American survey revealed the horrifying statistic that only 15% of executives would recommend L&D to their colleagues as a resource in improving business performance. We are a very long way from delivering the added value to the people and organisations who employ us, both in their perception and in our aspiration. If we fail, we will become isolated and increasingly irrelevant overheads that organisations will no longer afford.  Succeed, and we become central to the future.

#chat2lrn on Thursday 16 February will seek to explore what performance support means in practice, and how as learning professionals we can position and skill ourselves to provide that support…..hope you can join the conversation!

To help you get ready for our next exciting session, have a look at the following posts………….



When Two Worlds Collide

Join us for this #chat2lrn on Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 16.00GMT/ 11.00EST. And tell your colleagues to join us! (Check the How to join in the chat link for more information.)

There are many disconnects between the world of education and the world of work, and many of us feel that they are getting wider, especially in light of the world’s  economic problems. Entering the workplace involves different cultural issues, expectations, access, information, and technologies than the world of education.

Finishing school or getting a degree is not enough, especially in the current economic  climate. Graduates and school leavers need to know what employers are looking for, and then prepare themselves for the skills and attributes that organizations are looking for. They need to understand the world of work and how to work in an environment where not only are there often many more constraints, but also where the rules and protocols are not as obvious as they were in school or at university. As an employee, you frequently have to make decisions on your own and need to learn how to use a number of different tools, protocols and devices, often with little or no help or time. You also need workplace survival skills!

Where are the ‘new-to-the-workforce’ workers supposed to get these skills? From their educational experience or from the workplace, or both?

Those of us who support learning in the workplace probably don’t spend enough time considering the learning and workplace ‘survival’ needs of those who are coming to us from school and university and yet, it’s an important issue, worthy of our consideration. Likewise, schools and universities don’t seem to place enough emphasis on how to ease the transitions from ‘there’ to ‘here’.

However, some changes are afoot, both in the world of work and in primary/elementary and secondary/high school education to try and remove some of the disconnects. The question remains though, will these changes be sufficient to prevent the two tribes  (education and work) going to war and the inevitable outcome?

Before participating in this #chat2lrn take a look at these 3 articles, all of which make a number of very important observations with regard to this debate:

Nic Laycock: Doing the same things – but not sure learners see it that way http://niclaycock.blogspot.com/2012/01/doing-same-things-but-not-sure-learners.html

Steve Wheeler: Border crossings http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2012/01/border-crossings.html

CBI – Future Fit: Preparing graduates for the world of work http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publications/Documents/FutureFit.PDF

Further reading:

Mark Sheppard (@elearningguy) has written a blog post reflecting on the discussion https://elearningguy.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/reflections-on-chat2lrn-the-businesseducation-gap/

Company and Business Law Advice: What do your children need to know to succeed in today’s world?  http://www.med08.org/what-do-your-children-need-to-know-to-succeed-in-todays-world-and-what-can-you-do-to-help-them-at-school-and-at-home.htm

Questions from today’s chat

Q1) What major skills gaps do you see in people coming from education that make it hard for them to adapt to your organization? #chat2lrn

Q2) What role do school and universities have in readying students for the world of work? #chat2lrn

Q3) What role do organizations have in helping new graduates adapt to the world of work? #chat2lrn

Q4) What does the world of education need to do to encourage the learning needed for success in the workplace? #chat2lrn

Q5) How are current economic realities in both worlds exacerbating these problems? #chat2lrn

QWrap) Chatting is great…but reflection and action are better. What is your ‘take away’ from our chat? #chat2lrn