Friday, October 17, 2014

Taking a Big First Step

Rachel Burnham writes: Yesterday’s conference on Social HR organised by CIPD Manchester, brought together people from with a very wide range of HR backgrounds – generalists, recruitment specialists, L&Ders, equality & diversity consultants and so on, not only from Manchester, but farther afield.  Some were brand new to social media and a little bit sceptical; some participants had done some social media, but didn’t really get it; some wanted to build on what they are already doing; and some of us were social media enthusiasts.  A wide spectrum of experience.

The thing that struck me both on the day and afterwards wasn’t the tremendous range of social media tools out there – though there are a staggering array of different tools.   It wasn’t the many, many different ways that you can use social media in HR.  It wasn’t even the amazing energy present amongst participants as we got working together in the event and sharing ideas & asking questions.

What struck me the most is the big difference it makes once you get a sense of how social media can be useful professionally.  The crucial difference I noticed was not really between social media users and non-users (although there is an overlap with this), or even to do with levels of expertise in using social media, but between those who’ve grasped something of the possibilities that social media opens up for working life and those who currently see social media being just personal and probably rather fluffy.  (And of course with all those animal photos being shared and all that discussion of chinchilla’s there is definitely some fluffiness!)

If you aren’t using social media at all or are using it just for personal use, it can be hard to imagine just how much it can be used professionally. 

I think this is the big first step.  The bit that requires the leap of faith.  The step into the unknown.  Because until you give it a try, you can’t really work out just how social media can be useful for you, in your particular work, in your specific context, and just how it can fit into your already busy day.

That’s where I was 18 months ago. At that stage the only social media, I made use of was LinkedIn and that was only very feebly, as I had a limited CV held on it.  And then everything changed and I decided I really needed to give some ‘new’ things a go – well they were ‘new’ to me.  Over about a fortnight, I set up a personal Facebook page, a professional Facebook page, updated my LinkedIn account, began using Twitter and began writing a blog, which because I decided to publish on Blogger, meant setting up on Google+ too.  

And breathe! That was a busy fortnight! 

And I was rather scared doing this.  It was a step into the unknown for me.  

I had resisted Facebook for ages – my main concern being how to keep a professional approach if my clients were mingling with my friends – many of later are Viking re-enactors & frankly a bit unusual – I solved that by having the two pages and simply not letting professional contacts become Facebook friends.  You can probably tell that I’m feeling much more relaxed about that issue now.

With Twitter I simply couldn’t see how it could be useful professionally.  Prior to the decision to join, I only knew two things about Twitter – 140 characters and that Stephen Fry tweets a lot.  I am forever grateful to the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice (CLDP) students who introduced me to using Twitter professionally – I always to say to new CLDP groups that I will learn lots from them & I think they often don’t believe me, but it is inevitably true.   

At first I did find Twitter confusing – it is a bit like jumping on a crowded commuter train, in which lots of travellers are all talking at once and usually to someone at the other end of the carriage.  Since you have missed the beginning of the conversation and have no idea who any of these @XXX’s are, or what RTs and DMs are, it can be hard to unravel.   From listening to the stories told yesterday, I think this is what often gives people a bit of a wobble.  So stick with it.  Because there are lots of friendly HR & L&D people out there who will only be too glad to encourage and help you to make sense of it.

I can’t believe what a big difference social media has made to the way I’m working, the work I’m doing, the people I’m in touch with, the growth in confidence and thirst for learning I’m feeling now.

There is a lovely jazz piece ‘The Computer Age (In Motion)’ by the singer Susannah McCorkle, who wrote the very funny lyric to an infectious tune by the Brazilian drummer, Thelmo Porto.  She wrote the lyrics before the impact of social media and so the refrain goes:

‘Here in the computer age, where we heading for?
Internet is all the rage, where we heading for?’

Now, we might sing to the same beat:

‘Here in the so-cial age, where we heading for?
Collaboration’s the rage, where we heading for?’

And we don’t know where we are heading for – but if you want to find out, you need to take that seemingly big first step and join in.

If you do take that first step, there will be lots of hands outstretched to welcome you.  So, why not take that step now?

Rachel Burnham


Here are some resources to help you take that first step in using Twitter for professional development.

Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Treat people as adults: Be more playful

Rachel Burnham writes: I don’t know about you, but I love a contradiction – something that stretches me in two seemingly opposing directions.  
Managing with both my head & heart
Holding both the big picture & obsessing about the fine detail
The value of analysis and beautiful pictures

I like the creative tension of doing both.  I like the ‘and’ thinking rather than ‘or’ thinking.  I like the cracks in the pavement created.

This last week or so, the contradiction that has been echoing through the conversations I’ve been participating in and the reading I’ve been absorbing, is between treating people (learners in particular) as adults and wanting/needing to be more playful.

 'Home-grown lettuce sandwiches' - in playful mood one lunchtime.

A little while ago I was asked if I ‘only taught classroom-based training on the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice?’ – to which the answer is a resounding ‘No & no!’  For those who don’t know me, one of the things I do is work as an Associate Tutor for MOL Training on the CIPD’s CLDP Level 3 programme. I am passionate about CLDP as a starting point in L&D & I will enthusiastically drop this into conversation at any opportunity.  What I don’t do is ‘teach’ – I describe what I do as ‘facilitating learning’ and this is much broader than just face to face learning.  I also see myself as a ‘fellow learner’.  I am astounded at just how often I am challenging people who ask ‘what am I teaching today?’
I think we in L&D do ourselves no favours when we 'infantilise' the people we work with by using the language of education and particularly schooling to describe what we are about.  This whole area was recently discussed by Andrew Jacobs in a recent post, so I won’t go over this ground.  Though I think this is one of the things 50 big ideas that actually is quite straightforward and we could do right here and now!

But treating people as adults is more than just the language that we use – it, of course, impacts on the relationships between L&D and the people we work with, what approaches to learning are used and ideas such as peer assessment.

Playfulness was something that very much came to mind, as I participated in last week’s LDConnect Unconference in Glasgow.   If you haven’t participated in an unconference or something similar based on an Open Space environment – this style of event very much works on the basis that we are all adults and take responsibility for our own learning, contribution and the direction & form of the learning. 

One of the discussions I participated in during the day, was about what other professionals & fields we could learn from.  We shared ideas about learning from medicine, software development, sports, curating in museums & galleries, nature and children.  Leaving aside the question of whether children are more or less creative than adults, which is discussed in a recent post by Alf Rehn, children certainly now how to play.  We talked about how children can play & what we can learn from this.

Part of my experience this year, as a self-employed consultant, is of having a quiet summer work-wise.  I had a super busy spring and the autumn is shaping up to be full of interesting work, but the summer was quiet.  And what a joy this was!  I had time not only for family & friends, to garden, to fully participate in the Manchester Jazz Festival, but also time to pursue my own work interests.  These included some studying, lots of reading and an amazing amount of play – experimenting with different social media, trying out ideas, drawing pictures, talking to people.  It made me appreciate just how important playtime is for us as adults and how core it is to learning new stuff.  Vera Woodhead recently shared an interesting article on the value of play from the Guardian.

 Sweet peas - combining summer play of gardening & drawing

Last Friday’s Unconference was for me a fabulous example of both being treated as an adult and being playful.  Maybe some contradictions are more apparent than real.  Perhaps it is only when we treat people as adults & are treated as adults ourselves, that we can be free to play?

Be more playful: Treat people as adults

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.

Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD

With thanks to @acockroft for playfully responding to a tweet on this topic, whilst being in the midst of introducing Twitter & PLNs to colleagues!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Using Social Media for Learning

Using Social Media for Learning

Rachel Burnham writes: Using Social Media for Learning was the subject of a special LDinsight Twitter chat held during Learning Live in September.  Whilst I also use social media to aid my own learning, that particular discussion got me thinking about some of the ways in which I have experimented with using social media to aid the learning of others.  I decided I would find it useful to review what I had tried and how these attempts had worked.  And I thought I would share this through my blog, so that others can learn from this.

Some of these examples worked, some didn’t.  There is nothing outstandingly original here, just the small types of trial that can be easily integrated into existing programmes and your day to day work.

Using Twitter
Twitter is my favourite social media tool and the one that I find most fruitful for my own personal learning.  It has just been voted the top learning tool in the poll, which Jane Hart runs, for the 6th year running, so clearly I’m not alone. I have recently moved from simply enthusing about Twitter & its value for learning to individuals whenever the opportunity arises  (and sometimes even when it is clearly neither the time or the place), to incorporating a short introduction to using Twitter for professional development into some initiatives around career development that I have been working on with a client.  There is interest, but whether it will translate into action is another question.  I will have a better handle on this after next week and the main roll out.  (Can’t escape the irony of doing a face to face session on using Twitter – but there was demand for it!  Have also created a free standing starter handout and will be using a great short video on how social media can aid professional development, that we will be playing during some of the activities next week)

I have also had a go at using Twitter in the context of a module on Coaching from within the Certificate in Learning & Development Practice (CLDP).  As there were two workshops on this topic separated by a month, I thought it might work to encourage learners to share practical coaching tips between workshops, via Twitter, with other people from the group through a common hashtag.  This would enable students to put some of their learning into their own words and also aid preparation for the practical coaching session assessed in the second workshop.  I tried it with two groups and encouraged participation & shared tips myself.  However, this really did not work. 
So, I had another go and did the same activity but this time through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) used throughout the programme and it worked a treat.   

From feedback from the groups involved and my own observations, my learning from this was that you have to go where people are – the group were already on the VLE and had become comfortable using it - they had to use it for the rest of the programme - so it was convenient to use it for this particular activity.  My second thought was that perhaps for some it would have felt too exposing to share their thoughts on coaching with all and sundry via Twitter, whereas they felt comfortable doing this with their fellow students who they already knew.

I am now trying out using Twitter to encourage contact and sharing between groups who are doing the same programme but in different locations.  The jury is still out on this one, but I think the same issues are cropping up.

Scoop It!
Scoop It! is a curation tool for articles, blogs, video or sound clips and pictures.  You can create two collections of materials for free and after that you need to pay a subscription to create further Scoop It!s Once you have curated a selection you can then publish this.
I find this tool very easy to use and I really like the way you can add your own ‘labels’ to each of the resources you have added to your collection, as this helps readers to understand the thinking behind your picks and how these will be useful to them.  This is an easy way you can ‘add value’ to the collection of resources and means you can include your own ‘critical’ voice to the materials you have curated.
I have used this tool to curate collections of resources to support face to face sessions.  This means you can substantially reduce the need for paper based handouts, which is good for the environment and less costly.  I have also found that this approach has enabled me to add in particular resources to tailor the information provided for specific individual needs.  It is also possible to easily update and refresh the Scoop It and all those with access to the link can then get the updated info – no need to reprint!

I have also used a Scoop It as a handy way to maintain a common body of resources to support collaboration on a common project between in-house team members and myself as an external consultant.

The third way that I plan to use Scoop It! is to support ‘treasure hunt’ type activities either face to face or at a distance, where I provide a range of resources for learners to tap into and use as a base for tackling some kind of a learning challenge.  Whilst it is great to get learners doing their own open research, sometimes it is good to give them a starter pack to accelerate the process and Scoop It! would be a great way to do this. 

The limitation with Scoop It! is that you only get 2 free and then need to move into a subscription service and maintain this to maintain the collections you have built.   I plan to experiment with social bookmarking tools to see how these compare, but haven’t had the chance to do this yet.

The third social media tool I have used to aid others learning is blogging.   We have used this on MOL’s CLDP programme to great effect and require each learner to maintain a reflective log in the form of a blog.  This has worked so much more effectively than the old hard copy reflective log and I think this is down to the interaction it generates between the individual learner and their tutor, which often leads to dialogue.   These blogs are held within the VLE for each course group, but the blog is only accessible to the individual student and their tutor, neither the public nor other students in the same group can read it.  I would love to hear from anybody who has experience of using blogging in the context of a learning programme where other students could read each others blogs. 

The blog feature is one of my favourite aspects of the CLDP programme, it provides very immediate feedback from learners on their learning – it feels honest – I know I have certainly had students expressing critical views of the programme and sharing their individual challenges with the programme and this gives me the opportunity to address those concerns individually.  I also find the detail on how students are applying their learning and how they challenging practices in their organisation hugely motivating for me!

I would be most interested in hearing of your experiences of using social media to support others learning and look forward to reading your comments.

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance.
Follow me on Twitter @BurnhamLandD