Thursday, January 4, 2018

What I learnt in 2017 #alwayslearning

Rachel Burnham writes:  I started out 2017 with an emphasis on curiosity and experimentation. My ‘strategy’ was simply to try out new things, to do different things and make sure I scheduled time to be around positive people.  

Illustration for Ignite presentation CIPD ACE 2017

Along the way, I got involved in and initiated some really interesting projects, events and learning opportunities from co-organising an Unconference in Manchester in February for L&D Connect, to co-hosting regular #LnDCoWorking Manchester days throughout the year, presenting a session at the CIPD NAP event in June, presenting a segment on Learning Now TV and doing my first Ignite session at CIPD ACE in November – I was gut-wrenchingly nervous, but it went well.  I also organised a series of events and social media ‘stuff’ that made up the public policy hackathon for CIPD Manchester ‘The Big Conversation about Families, Parents and the Workplace’.  And of course I learnt lots.

Here are some of my key learning points:

Collaborative learning
I worked with two particular collaborative learning partners during this year – with Niall Gavin (you can find him at @niallgavinuk on Twitter) on exploring the uses of VR and AR for L&D – you can read and watch our blogs & broadcasts here and with Mike Shaw (he can be found at @MikeShawLD on Twitter) on learning to use Snapchat, creating videos, learning transfer, curation and a host of things. 

I find it really helps my learning to work with a partner when learning new stuff: somethings are just a little tricky to learn on your own eg being interviewed on video; most things benefit from the different perspectives and opportunities to discuss that working in partnership brings; and working with a partner gives you access to support, advice and encouragement when you get stuck and someone to celebrate gains with.   I think the most valuable aspect for me, is the sense of accountability that working with a partner brings – it keeps me focused and helps me to make time for learning.  I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits ‘Better than Before’ and she identifies that being held accountable can help with building positive habits. 

Plus, it is fun learning with other people – well, it is with Niall and Mike anyway! I recommend it.

Collaborative Working
As well as the collaborative learning, I have this year worked more closely with more other people, on more different types of projects, than for a long while.  These included working with shifting configurations of people, working as part of teams of volunteers and paid staff, working with virtual teams and loose collaborations with individuals.  I know ‘work is learning and learning is work’ as Harold Jarche says, but I feel that the experiences were quite different to those focused specifically on learning and so I am separating out my learning from these.

Some of these collaborations have worked better than others, some spectacularly well, some more so-so – when they work well I have been reminded what a joy it is to work with other collaboratively with others and how much more and better you can achieve.  When it has not gone so well, I have been reminded how easy I find it to make unhelpful assumptions and confuse these with what is actually the case.  I have also been reflecting a lot on the value of being able to move fast and freely on the one hand and the time needed to build and nurture relationships of trust that making working with others possible and effective.   And when to work in which way.

And I have learnt how good it is to be able to ask for help.  I can’t quite believe that I am only learning this now at this stage in my life.  Maybe I am really learning it over again.  Anyway, this has been important learning this last year.

Varied formats
This year I found myself playing more with varied formats for events, whether learning or consultative.  This included open space for unconferences, online and in person hackathons and using activity stations or provocations, both as side activity and as the main focus. 

 For example, I put together a series of mini-activities to support CIPD Manchester’s AGM and Unconference in May.  The activities were short provocations to get people thinking and talking around the themes of the event prior to the start and during breaks and lunch time.  These included being invited to decide which aspect of HR was most in need of over-hauling and placing a bead in a tray for your favoured option and writing a gift card to tie to a display identifying ‘What gifts does HR/L&D bring to the organisation?’ 

I have learnt that personal calmness for me comes from careful organisation when organising these types of events
– particularly careful deployment of plastic wallets and effective labelling!

I have also started to do more work one to one with individuals tailoring short learning programmes to meet individual needs, whether that is developing a particular digital skill or supporting an individual to develop their broader L&D skills. I have really enjoyed this – it is great being able to really tailor to meet individual needs and I hope to do more of this in 2018.

Camera Confidence
I wanted to become more confident in being on camera and in making short videos.  Use of video is of growing importance in L&D and I wanted to build my skills in this area.

Learning to use Snapchat has been very valuable – it provides an easy way to create short videos and effectively edit them in the moment.   From playing with Snapchat, I have become more confident in speaking to camera and in getting others to share their views on camera.  I have produced a number of short videos reporting on L&D/HR events and I also use video for reflection and Working Out Loud.   I think Snapchat is a great tool for L&D people – why not give it a go?

I also have taken part in several recordings using Zoom with Niall Gavin discussing VR in Learning and have used video on a smart phone – though I have lots more to learn about this.

In July, I had the opportunity to present a short segment for Learning Now TV and interview participants in an eLearning Network event held in Manchester – my confidence in front of the camera had definitely grown, as I jumped at the chance.

Sketchnoting and more
I have been creating sketchnotes for a couple of years now.  I often live Sketchnote and this year was part of the social media reporting team for both the CIPD L&D Show and the LPI’s Learning Live event.   I find them incredibly valuable for myself for note-taking – I refer back to them much more frequently than I ever did with traditional notes, plus I can share them with other people.  I have used them to capture key points from podcasts, reading and conversations.

Live Sketchnote from CIPD L&D Show 2017

This year I have realised how useful they are as a reflective tool and to present ideas visually.    This is a Sketchnote I created as part of my collaborative work with Niall Gavin to represent some of our learning about the range of VR possible.

Over the last year, I have started to make much more use of my drawing skills, creating larger scale Sketchnotes for events, doing graphic facilitation for an MBA programme and creating illustrations for blogs and slides. 

I am planning to do more with my drawing and will be offering workshops in Sketchnoting later in the year. Get in touch if you are interested in this or would like me to create a Sketchnote for a meeting or event.

I have been curating materials both for my personal use and for use in learning for some years, but started in 2017 a process of reflecting on my practice and active experimentation with some different tools – aided and abetted by Mike Shaw.

I have made changes in the tools I use, reviewed my habits and mindset and worked on my skills to make my curation practice more effective.   As part of this, I have realised that I design differently when using curation, to when I am creating all the resources.   I am in the midst of writing a series of blogs about curation, so won’t go into further depth here, but encourage you to read the first of these blogs if you are interested in finding out more. 

My key learning point here, is in the value of actively experimenting with different approaches.  I need to try stuff out to really learn about it and this is the basis of what I share with other people.

I begin 2018 full of excitement, ideas, plans and learning to share with others.  And a commitment to keep on being curious  #alwayslearning.

Rachel Burnham

2 January 2018

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update and refresh their skills.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.  

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