Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sketchnote - Are you 'Networked for Learning'?

Rachel Burnham writes: The theme for ‘Learning at Work Week’ 2018 14-20th May was ‘Networked for Learning’.  Here is the Sketchnote I created to celebrate this theme.  I designed it as a tool for reflection.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.  

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review of the OU 'Trends in Learning' Report 2018

Rachel Burnham writes: Whilst at the CIPD L&D Show 2018 on Wednesday, I picked up a copy of the Open University’s ‘Trends in Learning Report’ for this year.  This annual report was launched at the show that day and is based on research from the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology, which gives it credibility and a sound basis.   Today I have been reading through the report and reflecting on its contents and the topics it highlights – I think it is well worth a read - here is a link to download a copy.  You might also be interested in this 12 min podcast from Mike Shaw,part of the CIPD Blogsquad for the event, on the report.

The report is concise and well produced, making it very easy to read.  It focuses on five key topics:

·       Spaced learning
·       Post-truth learning
·       Immersive learning
·       Learner-led analytics
·       Humanistic knowledge building communities

Each section explores one of these topics, includes an example/perspective from an L&D practitioner, plus some links to some further resources related to the topic and some practical and well-focused tips for L&D.  This makes the report very accessible, relevant and useful.   All this and only 15 pages long!

Spaced Learning
The first topic explored is the well-researched finding that people learn better through a series of learning sessions with gaps in-between them, rather than a long intense one-off exposure to learning content.   This approach can be used both for gaining knowledge and developing skills.

This is often a factor in the effectiveness of blended learning programmes or in shorter-bite-sized learning programmes.  

I think this is a really valuable approach for developing knowledge, however, I would first caution that it is worth questioning whether we really need employees to learn such knowledge at all.  For some aspects of work it is essential for employees to have key pieces of knowledge embedded, but there are lots of aspects of work where a more effective approach is for employees to simply know where to easily access the information as and when they need it.  We need to be able to distinguish which knowledge is which and therefore which is the most effective approach to take to enable people to do their jobs well.  A great resource for thinking this through is Cathy Moore’s ‘Ask the flowchart’, which I am constantly recommending to people.

If knowledge or skills need to be built, then let’s invest in spaced learning.  If not, let’s use a resources-led approach.

If you would like to find out more about Spaced Learning and also how it can be used alongside other well-researched approaches such as 'retrieval practice’ – I recommend listening to ‘The Learning Scientists’ Podcast’.  This series of short podcasts provides an excellent introduction to these and other techniques, with examples of both use of these techniques and the research upon which they are based.  

Post-truth Learning
For me this was the most intriguing of the topics identified and is about the need that we all have to be able to distinguish credible, accurate and current information, theories, models, from those that are ‘fake’ or otherwise unreliable.  It also links to the move to an evidence-based practice approach. 

This need to distinguish helpful information is becoming increasing challenging with the sheer abundance of information available to us and the ease of access directly to it ourselves – now we need to act as our own ‘gate-keepers’ and ‘quality-assessors’.  This is something that is a key part of the work I do around curation, whether curation for myself, supporting others in developing their personal curation approaches and when curating for others, perhaps as part of the design of a programme.

One of the conference sessions by Martin Couzins focused on ‘How to curate learning for performance support’ – here is a Wakelet with the tweets from this session – and in the session participants were encouraged to have a go at selecting which resources they would use in a particular context.  This process of ‘filtering’ or the ‘sense’ part of Harold Jarche’s ‘Seek, Sense, Share’ model, includes the need to careful sift material to pick out what is valuable.

The need for us to develop our skills in doing this and to support the managers and other employees we work with in doing this was also something brought out in the Good Practice report ‘Google It’ from 2016, which identified that ‘managers will benefit from guidance about how to evaluate the content they find’ when using search engine’s such as Google.

I am particular impressed with one of the resources referred to in this section, which is a E-book guide to evaluating information on social media – do take a look at this.

Immersive Learning
The third topic identified is something that I have been learning about over the last 18 months, along with my collaborator Niall Gavin @niallgavinuk, by exploring the fast developing fields of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and how they can be used effectively to aid learning.  You can find out about our learning journey through these links to blogs and resources lists.

The practitioner comments here are clear about the need for us to build our awareness of the potential for this kind of approach before jumping in. I particularly rated the tips of L&D in this section and especially the final one ‘Start small, test it, learn, refine and build’.

Learner-led Analytics
We have been hearing a lot about how we need to be making more use of the data available through our use of technology to support learning and in particular of data analytics for a few years.  During the Show, I attended an excellent session on the exhibition floor presented by Ben Betts @bbetts of HT2 Labs about how data analytics can be used to assess the impact of learning programmes – he presented two very interesting case studies from HT2 Labs work with clients.   Here is my Sketchnote of this session:

And the Open University has itself shared in previous L&D Shows its experience of using data analytics in 2016 talking about ‘the virtuous circle of learning design and learning analytics’ - here is a link to my Sketchnote from this session.

However, the report focuses on the slightly different topic of how analytical information can aid learners be more effective learners and how learning can become more targeted and personalized.   Again, there is some great guidance in the tips about the need to be ‘cynically curious’ when finding out more about this topic.

Humanistic knowledge building communities
I think this is about building social and collaborative learning communities – this is the only place in the report, where I felt that there was a use of unnecessary jargon.    This section explores how technology can be used to support these communities and links to ideas of communities of practice and working out loud (WOL).  The practitioner input in this section is from Mike Collins @Community_Mike, well known for his interest and experience in developing and supporting online communities.  He includes some helpful tips about what is involved in doing this.  

I think this report is a great introduction to these topics and the addition of further resources and the tips gives this report additional practical value.   I encourage you to get hold of a copy and make use of it. 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sketchnotes from CIPD L&D Show 2018

Sketchnotes from CIPD L&D Show 2018

Rachel Burnham writes: Yesterday I visited the Exhibition for this year’s CIPD L&D Show at Olympia in London.  I had some great conversations with people that I know from Twitter, with exhibitors and with people I just got chatting to – Sketchnoting is a great icebreaker!   And it was particularly lovely to get to meet some ‘readers’ of my Sketchnotes, who I hadn’t met before - many thanks to you for introducing yourselves. 

I participated in a number of the free sessions taking place on the exhibition floor.  I had made a careful selection to avoid straight-forward sales pitches and was delighted with my picks there was something interesting, thought-provoking and worthwhile in each of them.   Here are my Sketchnotes from those sessions:

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How thinking like a museum can help us to keep up-to-date!

Rachel Burnham writes: Last month I had the exciting opportunity to speak at the second Disrupt HR Manchester.  I was one of 16 speakers each doing an Ignite – one of those tricky presentations made up of 20 slides, each with 15 seconds set to change automatically over a 5 minute period – a particularly challenging format for a session.  I don’t mind speaking in front of a group of people, but I am more of a facilitator, so speaking without hesitation or seeking to involve participants is a bit out of my comfort zone.

I chose to speak about personal curation and created a set of hand-drawn slides to illustrate.  Here is a summary of my presentation:

I am going to focus on ‘How thinking like a museum can help us to keep up-to-date’ and by doing this refresh our professional know-how and as result be more effective in our professional roles.

With the internet, the amount of information that is available to us is increasing exponentially.   There is so much information that we feel we need to be aware of to be up-to-date in our roles – information about our professional field, new information from the world of science, about technology and its application, about our organisation, the sector it is in and the wider economy and world.  It can feel rather over-whelming.

Almost as though we are under a waterfall with all this different information flowing towards us, over us and around us.  How can we manage this information and make good use of this abundance?

The old methods of managing information are no longer effective.  I remember keeping a topic folder to manage information and actually cutting out articles from magazines, journals and newspapers about the subjects that I was particularly working on at the time.  But just as traditional approaches to learning, such as relying only on face to face training programmes, are no long sufficient to enable us to keep pace with change, so these old approaches to managing information are no longer effective.  We need to be always learning.

It is easy enough to lose track of paper resources – I don’t know whether you have ever turned your office upside down in the search for a lost sheet?  How much easier is it to lose track of a great digital resource – you read an informative thought-provoking article one day, but when you want to refer back to it a month later, can you find it? Or you come across a great infographic, but when you try to share it with your colleagues, you don’t have it to hand!  How frustrating!

This is why we need to learn from the approaches developed by museums and art galleries for managing the information and artifacts in their care.  In particular, we can learn about curation.

What do I mean by curation in this context?

It is a bit like a museum putting on a pottery exhibition, and carefully selecting just a few key pots from amongst it’s great collection of pottery, to tell the story of the development of pottery and using labels and the arrangement of the pots to help to tell that story.

We can make use of Harold Jarche’s Seek, Sense and Share model to help us with our practice of personal curation.   If you haven’t come across this model before, I recommend it to you.  Harold can be found on Twitter @hjarche.

The first part of this model is about seeking out relevant information for you.  A key approach is through developing effective networks of individuals and organisations who share interesting information that is relevant to you.  You need to pick out credible and informed people to access the information that you need.   It is helpful not to limit your network to your specific area of work, but to cast your net more widely, to enable you to be informed more broadly.   This network needs to include people who you trust and interact more closely with in order to ‘sense-make’, which is the second part of Harold Jarche’s model and these people will form your Personal Learning Network.
As part of ‘seek’ it also is helpful to make use of technology to automate the bringing of information to you, so that it is as easy as possible for you to see the information that is relevant to you.   For example, you might subscribe to range of blogs and have these delivered to your mobile phone via the tool ‘Feedly’. 
Thirdly, we need to develop really excellent research skills to be able to seek out additional information as and when we need it.  This means being able to go beyond doing simple Google searches.

The second part of Jarche’s model is ‘sense’ or ‘sense-making’ which is all about weighing up the information we see, evaluating it, working out if the information is relevant and worthwhile, but also about drawing out what it means for us in our situation.  So sense-making involves asking questions about the information we are looking at – assessing it’s credibility, asking how current it is, whether it is accurate, what the source of the information is and assessing whether there is a bias in the information from that source.  This process often leads to filtering out information that doesn’t meet our needs or our standards of high quality.  

We also need to consider how to store any information or resources we discover, so that we can easily get our hands on it again.  It makes sense to do this digitally, so that we can access it at work or when we are on the move.   This involves categorising information and labelling it, so that it is easily discoverable.  There are a number of digital tools that can be used to do this – an example is Evernote.

Perhaps the most important part of ‘sense-making’ is digesting the information we have found and relating it to our own context.  This sense-making can take place through reflection individually, but also through engagement with other people and this can be where your Personal Learning Network really comes into its own.   You may also be drawing information from different sources together and seeing patterns, connections, differences and relationships between these pieces to create new insights.

The final part of this three stage model is ‘share’.   Having found useful resources and having made sense of information, identifying who would it be useful to share this with and how would be helpful to share this material.   You may want to share with your immediate colleagues, groups of employees you work with, other stakeholders or peers.  It is worth thinking through what method of sharing would work best for a particular audience and how you can put the information or resource into context for that audience.   By making careful choices of what you share and when and how and the additional information you add, you can ensure that you add value to what you share. 

To be effective at curation, it is worth considering your mindset – it helps to be curious, to consider what your ‘intent or purpose’ is in curating and to recognise that you don’t need to know everything about a subject area and instead can focus on knowing who does have expertise in that area and where information can be found.

To be effective at curation, it also helps to make use of the digital tools to make your task simpler.   There are many different digital tools that can be used to support each of the aspects of ‘Seek - sense - share’ and I have mentioned just a couple of those available earlier in this piece.   These can be used alongside the skills of networking, researching, filtering, collaborating for greatest effectiveness.

I also think that habits can play a part in effective curation - for example, I have developed the practice of always writing notes about any resource I look at and setting out its relevance, what I think of it and its source and date, before I store it.  These notes are not extensive - simple labels to help me manage the information.   Other habits that can be helpful could be when you set aside time for reading or listening to podcasts, or regular patterns for sharing material that you have come across eg a weekly round-up for colleagues.    

‘Personal curation’ is as it suggests about a personal approach.  What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for someone else.  The precise combination of mindset, skills, digital tools and habits that work will be different for each individual.  We need to create our own approach.

We can do this by reviewing what we are already doing to manage the information we need to be effective in our work.  What amongst the things we are doing to seek, sense and share is going well, what is not working so well?  We can learn from the experience of other people and pick up tips and ideas from them.  We can also experiment and try out new approaches ourselves, particularly with using digital tools to automate some of these steps.   It is an ongoing process to refine our approach and make it work for us, so that the abundance of information available to us, isn’t a burden, but a resource for our effectiveness.

So, here is my challenge to you – how might thinking like a museum help you to keep up-to-date?

And here is the video of my Ignite if you would like to watch it! 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.  

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sketchnotes from CIPD NAP Student Conference 2018

Rachel Burnham writes: It was lovely to have the chance to represent CIPD Manchester at the annual Northern Area Partnership (NAP) conference for CIPD students.  I got to meet lots of interesting students from across the whole of the North of England, from Liverpool to Humberside and from Sheffield to the NE. Why not check out the #CIPD18Student for tweets from the event? 
The speakers were excellent and the sessions covered a lot of ground from the ‘Future of Work and the People Profession’,  through to ‘personal resilience’ and ‘developing your networking skills and personal brand through the use of social media’.   Particular highlights for me were hearing the personal stories of Jennifer Hulme about heading up HR in a retail environment and Nicky Ingham sharing her story of developing personal resilience.   I thought the emphasis on the practical case studies in the event was very helpful.  It was good to hear from Mike Collins at River Island on how they have re- shaped Performance Management – which is a very topical issue and one that a lot of organisations are working on currently. 

But the stand-out session for me, was from Lisa Rigby and Helen Baggaley at Wigan Council, with how they approached transforming the culture at the council in the wake of the cuts from austerity measures.  I loved hearing how they decided not to use a ‘traditional training’ approach, but created an experience to engage employees instead.  This was a very unique ‘walk-through’ experience and involved colleagues acting as tour guides through a physical site showing the council ‘past, present and future’.  It included a film room showing videos with popcorn and everyone was encouraged to make pledges about what they would do differently as a result.  This wasn’t a stand-alone programme, but linked to many other supportive steps as well.   It was great to hear about the measurable impact this had.

This approach is very much what Nick Shackleton-Jones argues for - creating an ‘experience’ with an emotional impact and it was great to see this approach being developed as a practical response to addressing the particular concerns and needs within this council.

Here is my collection of Sketchnotes from the event: 

If you are a student studying CIPD courses and didn’t attend this year’s event, do look out for next year’s. 

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

5 Tips for Getting Started with Sketchnoting

Rachel Burnham writes: I have recently started offering workshops in Sketchnoting and as a result have been contacted by a couple of people asking for help in getting started with Sketchnoting and making use of visuals in their work. 

Sketchnotes combine simple pictures, with words and graphics – they are often colourful and are a way of making notes that are memorable and aid reflection and sense-making.  I started Sketchnoting about 3 years ago and these are some of the things that have helped me.

Recent Sketchnote summarising a book chapter

1.  Getting beyond ‘I can’t draw’ and ‘I’m terrible at drawing’

If I am ever talking about Sketchnoting or drawing or using visuals at work, someone is bound to say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I’m terrible at drawing’.  So many of us hold this belief!    And of course, this belief makes it hard for us to get started at drawing or sketching, which in turn makes makes it harder for us to practise and get better and more confident at drawing.

As children we all draw.  Confidently, unworriedly, messily, happily.   And then most of us stop.  There are all sorts of factors in why we stop, but opportunities to practise and fear of looking foolish are probably two key ones. 

The latter is something I work with all the time – I can picture this rather disapproving looking person with her hands on her hips looking over her shoulder at my pictures and pursing her lips and saying ‘What makes you think you can draw!’ She is probably based on one of the art teachers I had at school.

I find what helps me to ignore this voice, is to recognise that there are all kinds of levels of ‘drawing’ and types of drawing.  There is beautiful art work, there are rigorous representations of the real world, there are lovely drawn illustrations in children’s books, there are cartoons – so many styles, so many purposes for drawing.   And what I draw  is ‘good enough’ for my purpose  - my Sketchnotes work for me – they help me to recall information, I refer back to them all the time,  they help me to make sense of disparate information, to summarise what I am listening to or reading and so on.  And I know from sharing them, that other people find them of interest and of use.  So, they work and that is ‘good enough’. 

This is my very, very first Sketchnote from June 2015 - we all have to start somewhere!  

And secondly, I can see that my pictures are getting better all the time.  

This was live-Sketchnoted in November 2017 - my Sketchnoting has definitely come on a bit! 

I think we can all draw.  But like any skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  And for many of us, we haven’t drawn for a long time, so we are rather rusty and a bit stiff and self-conscious.   We need to play and relax and have fun.

2.  Make it easy to acquire the drawing habit

If you want to draw, then you need to make it easy to practise.   And that means have things to draw with easily to hand. 

For Sketchnoting, I use A4 blank notepads that are spiral bound.  I prefer using Staedtler triplus fineliner pens – they are easily available for lots of shops and when the children are starting back at school, can usually be found at a better price.

I now always carry a pencil, black felt tip, rubber and pencil sharpener so that I can draw whether I am – I have them pre-loaded into my everyday handbag.  I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s book about habits ‘Better than Before’ and she says if you want to build a habit, one approach is to make it convenient.

3.  Practise – build your visual repertoire

Even if you think you can’t draw, there may be things that you already doodle.  Sunni Brown in ‘The Doodle Revolution’ suggests that there are different kinds of doodlers – some of us are drawn to doodling words, some to faces, some to abstract shapes and some to naturalistic shapes.   If I am ever in a meeting or long phone call, I will find that my notes are interspersed with doodles – mostly plants – sunflowers, roses, trees, tropical climbers and ferny dells.   So you may find that there are some things you can already draw – even if it is only arrows – and this in part will be because you are already practising them – they have become part of your repertoire.

The next step is to practise drawing simple outlines, to form simple images of things.   I would suggest objects – it is useful to build up a bank of simple images/icons that you are likely to use eg laptop, mobile phone, pens, car, sun, sea.  What images you are likely to use will vary depending on the field you are working in.

Secondly, think of metaphors for more abstract ideas and again practise drawing them eg heart, rainbow, mountain top, ladder, measuring tape.

It is also good to practise lettering and symbols such as exclamation marks, question marks, plus signs, speech or thinking bubbles.
Gradually, build up the range of things you feel comfortable drawing.   This takes time.  I am still working on this.   

4.  Practise – listening and sketchnoting

The next step if you want to Sketchnote is to put it altogether and create sketchnotes.   Again, it is useful to practise.

A useful place to start is to create a Sketchnote to summarise something you have read or to listen to a podcast and summarise key points in a Sketchnote.  

When Sketchnoting from a podcast or to a ‘live’ session, listening is key.   You can’t capture everything, so deciding what to include and what to skip is essential.

5.  Let go of perfection

I want to return to the mindset needed for Sketchnoting as I think this is the crucial thing.   When you are Sketchnoting, you don’t need to aim for perfection in your drawing – actually I don’t think this is possible or even desirable. 

I think the drawings I do are a bit like home grown vegetables from my allotment – they may not have the glossy perfection you would find on a supermarket shelf, but they taste good!   Like a home-made cake, that is sometimes a bit wonky, hand drawn images may not be perfect, but they are personal and memorable.

Marmalade Cake - with a terrible crack in it, but it tasted lovely! 

So, don’t worry if your Sketchnote isn’t perfect – if a line is a bit wobbly or a drawing a bit hard for anyone else to recognise.   If I make a mistake, I draw a flower over it!

Have fun and have a go!

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D works with individuals and organisations to help them learn and work more effectively.  As part of this I help L&D professionals to be even more effective through updating their skills and know-how.  I have a particular interest in curation and the use of digital technologies in learning.  I frequently Sketchnote at events and offer workshops in Sketchnoting.