Finding the Right Tech for Learning – Where Ever It Is

Surfing – the (bad?) habit of clicking on a link in a webpage just to see what’s on the other side.

From the first day I came in contact with the internet, I was a surfer – sometimes to my detriment as I’d wander around the web aimlessly with little to show for the effort other than a couple wasted hours. But then there are the times I’d come across a find. Like today.

I clicked on a link on a Microsoft page and found this marketing content regarding a professor in Australia doing learning the right way. David Kellermann at University of New South Wales has cobbled together a learning environment that should be a model for how learning can, and should, happen given the existing, available technologies.

While his project is for a university audience, I believe the lessons that can be gleened from this project are just as applicable to workplace learning.

Now Microsoft, of course wants you to know that he’s done it with only their technology (and with their support). But I think the real news is the process Kellermann took to build it. He started with a simple solution of using Microsoft Teams to connect the 500+ students and teaching assistants in one place along with his content.

From there Kellermann added tools that helped better fill his goal wanting to move the students from “500 islands” to a single team, working together no matter where they are or what their individual situations might be. He now has a system that is creative, simple, collaborative, and individualized.

He uses AI tools that help students ask questions and identify content that meets their learning needs. He’s offers his lectures and notes in a way they can be searched by students, TA’s, and AI. The system can accommodate learners with different needs (autism, blind, deaf, etc.). Student/TA communication is improved by tools that can route questions to the right TA.

But the lessons I gleened from this :

  1. Have an unwavering focus on what motivates your learners (and what decreases their motivation).
  2. Understand how your learners learn in the real world. HINT: They don’t go to an LMS or a training class.
  3. Look to technologies your learners already use and either use them or mimic them.
  4. Work iteratively. Work in manageable chunks.
  5. Experiment. If you find a technology that you think might work to meet your goals – try it, test it, and, if you like it figure out how best to incorporate it.
  6. Understand what various tools can do. You don’t have to be a programmer, but you do need to know how the tool can enhance your ability to to meet your goals.

He admits it’s a lot of work, but he is motivated by a very inspiring mission:

I’m just trying to be a good engineer and create a good system that solves a problem, by rethinking education end-to-end and using AI to enhance humanity and make our interactions richer.

David Kellermann, University of New South Wales


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Content and Community

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role of content in a learning community recently and as a thought piece I’ve come up with a diagram that I think is at least interesting and hopefully helpful.

I would love any and all advice on whether this diagram is effective as is, what should be changed, added or removed to make my point

I want to represent the diversity of content and activities that can be used by a community to create content and drive learning throughout the community. Furthermore, to truly move a community of professionals requires a wide spectrum of experiences that as they grow in sophistication can gradually lift the community to higher levels of activity and growth.

In this diagram, I’m trying to represent that content is multi-dimensional and varies in character (the five vertical lines along the horizontal axis) and complexity which is represented by the positioning of content and activities from bottom to top).

Not only is there a multitude across a wide spectrum of options that can be utilized by a community to learn, but these options are often interrelated.  I’ve thought about drawing connecting lines between items, but I think that would be far to cluttered.  I’m hoping that proximity to each other will lead to this understanding of connection. 

Ultimately, I hope to drive the idea that the best approach to moving a community of learners forward is to encourage a wide range of activities that touch on multiple dimensions of interactions gradually building capability and competency that drives the communities health and growth.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Yay Teams! The #1 Way of Learning in the Organization

In a new article on Modern Workplace Magazine, Jane Hart reports the latest results of her ongoing survey of worker opinions about the way they learn in the workplace.  The results point to the trend toward more self-reliant learning methodologies.

Jane asked respondents to rate how important each of 10 ways of learning are to them in the workplace.   The ten are:

  • Company training/e-learning

  • Self-directed study of external courses
  • Internal company documents
  • Job aids
  • Knowledge sharing within your team
  • General conversation and meetings with people
  • Personal and professional networks and communities
  • External blogs and news feeds
  • Content curated from external sources
  • Web search for resources (e.g. using Google)

Knowledge Sharing within your team, Web search for resources, Conversations and meetings with people, and Networking and communities are clearly the four top ways identified as important.  L&D can and should leverage these channels for learning.

That the work team is #1 is encouraging.  I believe that creating learning activities to be performed by teams and facilitated by their manager is an untapped channel for learning.  Average to great teams have a high level of trust amongst each other, a common mission, and more contact time with each other than with others in the organization.  The manager can coach/mentor and build the learning objectives into their performance management efforts.  They have common work products to reflect upon and learn from.

I’ve written about how I feel conversations are so important to learning (see Oh, The Conversations We Will Have).  L&D can do more to scaffold conversations around key learning needs of the organization.  “Marketing campaigns” can be used to initiate work of mouth sharing of ideas and concepts.  Special events (ie, meetings) can be arranged to discuss key issues, challenges, or to brainstorm new ideas.  There any number of ways work conversations and meetings can be influenced to be about or include learning experiences.

Helping employees to build their personal, organizational and professional learning networks and communities needs to be a role that L&D embraces.  Helping employees to understand how and why they should be continuously building their networks and joining communities that will help them grow professionally will have benefit in building a learning culture in the organization and in overall capability of the workforce.

Two other interesting results from the survey are that 1) L&D’s bread and butter – face-to-face training and e-learning come in dead last and 2) maybe self-directed learning and content curation might not be as well accepted as some would like to have us believe.

The fact that face-to-face and e-learning come in last isn’t a big surprise.  It’s pretty well understood that L&D needs to look a 1) moving much of learning out of these formats and into more social and informal formats and 2) what content is left that is best delivered via these formats needs to be looked to improve its quality.

While I do have my own reservations about how motivated overworked employees will be to be self-directing in their learning and how many will want to curate content, I also wonder if these two ways of learning may see an upswing in the years to come.  I’m not sure about how many employees 1) know what these ways of learning are or 2) how to learn through them.  Both are very new ideas and how they are best delivered hasn’t settled out yet.


It’s Not the Hammer’s Fault You Smashed Your Thumb!

In a great blog post, Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails, Luis Suarez questions why we feel obliged to blame the tools we fail to implement and use properly, rather than looking at how we are using them.

A conversation with Martin White expands on the argument.

It reminds me of times when I was working with my Dad who owned a home improvements business.  As is not uncommon in that line of business, he would occasionally miss the nail that was the target of his hammer and smash his thumb.  Of course, in every instance, it was the hammer’s fault and it was frequently hurled quite some distance as punishment.

Luis and Martin’s conversation is well worth the read to look at who really is to blame for the hammer’s behavior.

(Image by Jesse Orrico vis


tinker, teacher, learner, why?

christopher sessums links to this very interesting video on you tube in which john seeley brown discussed the idea of learners as tinkers and drawing concepts from the old one-room schoolhouse paradigm as a means for “kids learning from kids.”  the video is wonderfully provocative, as brown always is so I’ve linked to it in case you’d find it interesting.

John Seely Brown on the concept of tinkering as a learning tool.

my interest though has to do with sessums’ commentary that if you change “kids” to “teachers” in brown’s video we’ll be closer to the real solution.  while i totally agree that teachers also need to be tinkerers, i am troubled by the demarcation between teachers and learners that is inherent in both brown’s comments and sessums’ reaction.  i firmly believe that as long as we continue to believe that there are those who teach and those who learn from those who teach, we’ll never achieve networked learning that is driven by learner desire.

brown even makes the mistake of tying teaching and learning roles to age.  he argues that he can learn from someone a year older than him and they in turn can learn from someone older than them.  knowledge and learning are not subject to social stratifications of age, race, wealth, gender, etc.  if you know something i’d like to know, i can ask you to share it with me and learn from you whether you have a ph.d. from harvard, an mba from university of phoenix, or are in the 6th grade in thibodaux, louisiana.

in the workplace, this becomes more and more evident.  the key is finding who knows what you need to know, learning it to the degree that you need to achieve your goals and then moving on.  how do we get beyond the hierarchies and organizations which may have helped move learning forward 100 years ago but seem more and more a restraint in the 21st century?


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?