Feb 18 2016

Liberating Structures: I’m a String Being

RhapsodyMany of you know I’ve been using Liberating Structures a lot in my facilitation work. One of the “leaps forward” for me in the last year has been my ability to string various structures into a coherent agenda. The leap has come from learning about other practitioners’ strings, and batting ideas back and forth with them about my strings both visually and in text. (The visuals really help me!) This “thinking together”  helps me consider my plan and improvisational options so I stay fully present AND flexible when I facilitate. The strings also help me be transparent both with my clients and participants, and I can easily encourage them to learn, use and take ownership of their own meetings. (I am insisting more and more on every gathering being, among other things, a way to up our collective practice/intelligence on working/playing/thinking together.)

I’ve been thinking about those of us working on strings together as “string beings!”

I was thrilled when Keith McCandless made the most recent  LS News & Updates about Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼 The newsletter shares a set of strings along with very short narratives of each string. The strings of Tim Jasko-Fisher and Fisher Qua, layering structures over each other were particularly enlightening. (Images below) I asked Keith if it was ok to republish here to spread the news even more widely and have included it below, along with some of the fabulous strings that our group shared.

Here is a string I shared:

c6401977-e1a8-4386-8d49-70c3aa69e5c6

 

I’m also interested in how to easily share and work on strings together (see this reflection on some tool testing we did.) I am getting more and more questions directed to me individually, and I think it would be more useful and efficient to do this as a community. For one thing, each person would have access to a wider repertoire of experience and strings. And two, there is great learning in the process, so why not share it. So maybe you want to become a String Being too. Read to the bottom of the newsletter for how to join us…

Here is the newsletter text:

One Liberating Structure can transform a meeting.  A powerful string can draw out much-better-than-expected results in a way that forever shifts the pattern of working together. Below, accomplished maestros share and rhapsodize about their favorites.

As familiarity with the LS repertoire increases, there are an infinite number of combinations and riffs.  AND, there are certain strings that simply knock your socks off. With the suggestion that a picture tells a thousand words, the editor [Keith] has limited the narrative from each maestro to a puny three sentences. Future LS News will feature interviews that dig deeper into details (e.g., invitations, twists, turns, and LS punctuation).

  1. Building Financial Literacy with High School Students
  2. Liberating Learning Together:  Using LS in Our Work
  3. Leadership Retreat: High Dive Into Collective Strategy-Making
  4. Tap the Founder’s Story To Uplift Next Level Innovation
  5. Management Meeting: In Charge But Not In Control
  6. Get Over Yourself, NOW! Prepare To Go Deeper with Your Customers
  7. Cross-Sector Community Groups Catalyzing Learning + Action
  8. Catalyzing Nursing Knowledge for BIG Data Science
  9. Strategic Planning to Tactical Plans in Three Fractal Movements

We know there are many more maestros who have strings to share. There is an experiment underway on Slack for people to give and get help from other practitioners. Joining is clunky at the moment (if there are any Slack maestros out there, help us?!): Email Fisher to request access. (You can also email me and I can add you- NW)

Source: [LS News & Updates] Rhapsody for Strings 🎻🎼

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Feb 15 2016

The Post that Keeps on Keeping On: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators 

Back in 2013 I came upon a lovely facilitation tool/activity called Zoom/ReZoom using Istvan Banayi’s great books, ZOOM and RE-ZOOM. Every once in a while I check my site stats and dang, if this post isn’t hit daily, and sometimes 30+ times, which far exceeds my average hits these days. The traffic seems almost entirely from search engines. My interpretation? Either Zoom is a very cool word, or people are actively looking for ways to engage with each other. 🙂 If that’s you, link back into this old post where there are resources and a story of using the activity.

Last month I finally got a chance to use a facilitation activity called Zoom which I found on the Wilderdom’s Game resource page— a great resource!  I deeply appreciate that they put the “copyleft” designation on all their resources. THANKS! As I learned and read facilitation ideas from other sites, I realized I should share some of my experiences as well. Here is the description from Wilderdom’s resource page (which also includes all instructions – I’ve attached a pdf copy at the bottom for taking to an event, but please DO visit their page!)

Source: Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators | Full Circle Associates

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Feb 15 2016

Resource Guide to Learning Delivery Methods

resource guide to learning

What learning delivery methods are there and how do you consider them? In 2014 Scott Leslie and I supported an analysis for decision making on training strategies for the International Labour Organization’s Microinsurance Innovation Facility, now the Impact Insurance Facility (http://www.impactinsurance.org/ ).

As I moved on to other related works, I kept drawing on these initial documents. Finally, I’ve gotten around to a) getting permission from the ILO to share (THANK YOU!) and trying to pull out some of the domain specific stuff so it might be more widely useful.

The Resource Guide to Learning Delivery Methods  (pdf for now) is a version of one of the outputs of our work, shared with permission from the Facility with the hope that it adds value to your work. (The other elements include a Glossary and a Strategic Options documents.) We hope to also put these online for crowd-sourced critique and revisions. (TBA!) In the meantime, I just want to get this OUT THERE!

From the Introduction:

This document is a version of one of the outputs of our work, shared with permission from the Facility with the hope that it adds value to your work. (The other elements include a Glossary and a Strategic Options documents.) We hope to also put these online for crowd-sourced critique and revisions. (TBA!)

The Facility team was evaluating their e-learning options to expand capacity building for microinsurance for the poor. An early identified need was to understand elearning in the wider context of delivery mechanisms.

The basic content can be useful when starting to consider capacity development, training or specifically an e-learning strategy. It is not exhaustive, and some things have become dated since it was written. Understanding that, it can help you understand the range of learning options, and where they might be most effective.

We surveyed 20 different learning delivery methods across five major categories:

  • Face-to-face delivery methods
  • Online delivery methods:
    • Traditional online courses
    • MOOCs, communities & self-directed learning
    • Synchronous methods
    • Mobile delivery methods
  • Offline delivery methods
  • Blended and hybrid methods

This guide is the detailed analysis of these methods in the context of the Facility’s domain. It includes a general description, domain-related examples, and provides insight and comparisons on these methods based the qualities the organization identified as key to assessing any proposed solution. These qualities include:

  • the implications of this method on scalability and adaptability of content
  • implications on quality control
  • any effects the method may have on motivating learners’ completion of training and achievement of learning objectives
  • the ease and costs of implementing any of these methods

Your qualities may be different, so you may wish to consider your needs and how the methods may or may not meet your needs. This document is offered as a Free Cultural License as defined by the Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ .

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Feb 09 2016

If Teaching is Relational, How Does That Inform Online Teaching?

learningI was in my car the other day, thinking about all the workplace learning projects I’m currently involved in. At times, I feel like I’m moving a giant rock up a hill, with gravity being “lets push content to our learners.” I keep pointing to the importance of practice, context, reflection, informal learning. But I realize I have not sufficiently highlighted the importance  of teaching as a practice about relationships. About being human. About, liberation and yes,  about LOVE.

On our local public radio station, KUOW, ran a story about Nate Gibbs-Bowling reflecting on segregation in Washington state schools and what he is doing about it. At the core of his thesis was that teaching was relationship centric. His success with students of color was not dependent on his subject matter expertise, but his relationship with those students. If you have five minutes, take a listen: Washington Schools Are Segregated And That’s Not OK | KUOW News and Information

Nate’s experience in K-12 education rang a bell with me in my experience with workplace learning. To get the engagement that leads to gains in the application of learning, I use two things. The first is to work as hard as I can to make sure the learning offering has real, applicable relevance to the learner in doing their job. The second is to get to know them and use that relationship to engage with the learners to co-discover ways to liberate the application of the learning.

So if we believe (and hopefully can prove) that teaching is relational, what does that imply for online learning and teaching online, especially the proliferation of self paced, content centric elearning? Or worse, online teaching as enforcement and control.

It means we have to challenge the status quo of content-centricity! This does not mean throwing out content, but it means starting with relationship in the appropriate contexts.

My friend and colleague, educator Brad Beach of Australia and I have been having a years long, very slow conversation on what unlocks learner engagement online and if it varies by domain. I have changed a lot of my thinking about online interaction over time, both as I’ve learned and the environment has evolved, but one thing has always been central. Treat people like real, human beings. Use what the Dali Lama calls being “heard, seen and loved.” We may use the word “respected,” but I think it really is about love. But suit yourself! 🙂

A week ago during one of these conversations (they usually happen very early my Friday morning, Brad’s late Friday night) Brad came back again after working with some folks trying to do more vocational education online, with, as they call them in Australia, the “tradies.” He said “Nancy, you were right.” There had been a lot of push back that tradies don’t hew to this idea of relationship building online. Well heck, they do. It might look and sound different, that’s all.

I asked him, “so what does that say about the facilitation of online learning?” Brad, smart man that he is, answered “it is about good teaching. Period. Online or offline.” And together, our experience tells us that good teaching is, among other things, relationship centric.

handsRelationship Centric Practices in Online Teaching

So let’s name some of these practices. I’ll share a few of mine. Please share some of yours in the comments.

  1. Bring your whole self. A workplace learner is juggling many things. Compartmentalization takes more energy to maintain. Bring a little bit of who you are, and find out a little bit of who they are. This helps identify opportunities to liberate learning, often in unexpected ways. For me, a little goofiness goes a long way. Just a little bit.
  2. Bring your unknowingness and curiosity along with your knowledge. As adults, we are co-learners. We learn with and from each other through our conversations, activities and reflections. If we are “know it alls” we often block this co-learning.
  3. Bring human expression into all forms of communication. Use text based body language. (I’m jumping up and down in my chair as I read your response!) Add pictures and images (even silly little sketches) that not only contextualize the content, but our engagement with it and its application in our lives.
  4. Keep the content tap turned to low. This is really, really hard for me. Look at the length of this blog post. I’ll be working on this until the day I die. But pouring more on rarely is the key to engaged teaching and learning.

What do you suggest?

Edit on 2/11: Some related links:

7 responses so far

Feb 08 2016

Learning While Building eLearning: Part 1

F2FtoONlineIntroduction

This is the first in a short blog series based on conversations with a colleague who is “learning while doing” as he is building an eLearning offering. Disclaimer: I’m an adviser to the project and my condition of participation was the ability to do this series of blog posts, because there is really useful knowledge to share, both within the colleague’s organization and more widely. So I said I’d add the blog reflections – without pay – if I could share them. So here we go! Over time it will probably include some additional comments from other members of the team working on this project. (Edit: Part 2 and Part 3.)

The reason I wanted to share this story is time after time I hear people state “Hey, let’s just convert our face-to-face (F2F) training into elearning” without a real sense of what that process might entail. What really happens when you decide to convert your face to face training to an elearning offering? What types of offerings lend themselves to conversion? What would that conversion look like? What should you consider?  I’ve done piles of research for clients in the past (and I’m working on getting permission to share some of it.) But nothing in the research is surprising. What is surprising is that it is not considered before diving in!

There are many paths to answering the questions about converting F2F learning to online or blended learning. The most important starting point is to ask some important initial questions, explore the options, and learn from others. Then, if you still want to proceed,  you can hire a firm to fully convert materials, do it yourself or work with a few others.

Regardless, the “conversion” process asks us some fundamental questions about learning: what and why we want to learn and what the impact of that learning might be. Looking at our assumptions around these fundamental questions can inform any initiative to “convert” something to elearning.

Meet Emilio  

Emilio is a technical officer at a large international development organization. He is an expert in his domain with years of knowledge and experience. Over time he has been asked to share his expertise and has developed a set of materials and practices to offer face to face (F2F) workshops around his area of expertise. He is passionate about his topic and his depth of experience brings richness to every conversation he has with people who want to learn more. Now he has been asked to reach more people by teaching online. That “elearning” thing.

The first decision Emilio faced was to understand what elearning really means. What are the options? What does it take to convert his offline materials into online opportunities? In our first learning conversation, Emilio shared his discovery that there is a large range of types of elearning courses and that they are difficult to categorize. He started out thinking that this is simply presenting his F2F lectures in a real time online space, augmented with the materials he had developed. But he discovered there was more to it than that.

Matching the Material With eLearning Options

multimediaAn early insight was that what you choose to do depends on your target audience and what they want or need to learn. (Or what YOU want them to learn!)

From conversations with other colleagues at work, Emilio learned some forms of elearning that have been produced in his organization. For example packages were created to introduce ideas, concepts and general information to government officials. Emilio now sees these can be less interactive, self-paced, and can potentially reach hundreds in unfacilitated courses. His colleagues have handed material over to consultants who have converted them into self paced offerings – quickly and efficiently.  This form fits with a goal of information dissemination. The value added to the learner, as compared to doing an internet search or picking up a book, is that the material is chunked and sequenced into digestible chunks and because of the reputation of the agency, people have confidence in what they are learning.

Emilio’s existing  training courses focus on a variety of complex policy issues and practices.  The material is more about converting concepts into practice, which is far more challenging than introducing ideas. Learners need to wrestle with the material, practice its application, consider their contextual differences and get the kind of feedback experts like Emilio have in their heads – the kinds of stuff that is rarely included in the slide deck or readings. Subtle. Contextual. Experienced. This is more challenging than converting basic or introductory materials into elearning.

As the volume of complexity of the material grows, there are other issues to consider. How do you keep the learner’s attention? How do you know if they are falling off course and what do you do? What and how do you customize for different contexts?

An early implication of these differences was that Emilio’s colleagues and bosses may have been thinking that he was doing the same thing as the people making introductory courses. The might expect it would take the same amount of time and resources to implement. Like him, his colleagues were not familiar with the range of elearning options. Add to that the fact that a strong organizational driver towards elearning is the idea of efficiency and reach, you can fall into a trap assuming that elearning is just about low-cost content distribution to many people, and that it is always easy or effective to implement.

Sometimes we can and do reach thousands with introductory material. But how do we really build capacity for more complex topics at a distance? What does “cost per student” really mean for deeper learning?

Emilio discovered that the reality is quite different than he thought. There is a mountain of jargon. Even thinking about the course learning objectives in a more complex offering is much more challenging (and we’ll talk about this with Emilio in a later blog post). All his tacit information that is easily available when he is present in a F2F training needs to be identified and reconsidered. What needs to be made explicit? What can come out through the facilitation of a course, with direct online interaction with learners? What has to be packaged into knowledge products? What is REALLY important amongst the vast possibilities of the content?

The adventure has begun. Stay tuned for the next part!

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