How to Make your Message more Attractive

I guess by now most of us are aware that the web2.0 is becoming increasingly visual. Information is shared as stories in the form of pictures, videos, infographics, cartoons, animations, wordles, drawings or combinations of these (like in Glogster and Storify).

Make your own photo slideshow at Animoto.

Continue reading

Share

Starting a Learning Process Online

Offline presentation of tools and discussion (photo Gerdi Keeler)

Offline presentation of tools and discussion (photo Gerdi Keeler)

On 31 January last, Gerdi Keeler and I conducted a workshop for NVO2 on how you can start a learning process online already before the first face-to-face event. In order to enable our participants to experience this concept, rather than just hearing about it, we created a closed online environment in which we shared smaller and bigger assignments with the participants. All assignments were related to the use of an online tool. Assignments were also all related to sharing experiences and information.

Using assignments before a learning process or training starts is of course nothing very revolutionary. In the sign up form, future participants are often asked about their motivation, about what it is they want to learn exactly and about their experience with the subject matter. Trainers or teachers also quite regularly ask participants to read something beforehand. All this information could be used to make participants aware of their own personal motivation to take part, to tailor the training to the real needs, to avoid spending time on something everyone already knows and to render the time spent together more effective by sharing some of the theory beforehand.

Also not new is the fact that such assignments tend to yield limited results, and that you mostly find out about how little results were achieved during the face-to-face event.

However, with the existing wealth of online tools you as trainer or teacher have much more possibility to get acquainted with your prospective participants than before. If you do not want to bother them, you can simply look up their LinkedIn profile to see what their experience is, and what skills they think they have. You can check out their Twitter account to see what makes them tick, and if they have a blog you can find out even more about their interests, activities and skills.

If you would like to engage with your participants before the training you can make use of many different online tools. You can ask them to share pictures, videos, cartoons, etc. or to comment on a blog post if you want to go in the direction of Flipping your Classroom.

These assignments can of course be sent out and collected via e-mail. But why take the risk of miscommunication? We all know a thing or two about “Reply all” in moments when it shouldn’t have been used and vice versa, as well as those times that you think you are sending something to one person and it turns out your address book selected another person with the same name. And why not use the chance to create a network of the participants? In other words, it is worth your while to create an online environment where you  and participants can post assignments, results, questions and replies.

Yammer network

Yammer network

In any case, we decided to create a closed network on Yammer for our communications with the participants.  We felt that this tool would provide the best possibility for discussion and sharing, and would probably not be too difficult to use for most people. Just in case, we shared a short guide on using Yammer via e-mail as well as in the Yammer network itself, so that participants could look up certain functionalities as they went along.

Most of the assignments we shared  involved visual tools, like Bitstrips, Wordle, Tagxedo, ReciteThis and the like. In all, some 12 tools were shared, excluding Yammer. Some tools were used by all participants, some by none and most by the majority of participants. Bitstrips, Wordle, Tagxedo and ReciteThis were the most popular tools: they were the most used and participants were the most enthusiastic about them.

What did you gain from the online start? In Spiderscribe

What did you gain from the online start? In Spiderscribe

Participants were very enthusiastic about the online start. They liked getting acquainted online. They found this way of starting “inspirational“, and had learned a lot from the tools and tips shared and from the exchange online. The tools presented were useful and clarifications provided were helpful. They had gotten a lot of ideas for their own work. This had motivated them hugely.

Reflections on the online start underlined the importance of selecting the right tool for the online environment. For some participants Yammer had been easy to use, and as the few questions they had were answered swiftly, they did not experience problems much. For others, however, it felt as if they had to learn two things: to use Yammer and to learn about the online tools offered through Yammer. It seems that they did not consider Yammer itself as one of the tools to be learned for an online start – just as your regular participant would see less use in investing time to learn working with Yammer compared to investing time in the course topic.

Another issue that was mentioned was that of expectations management. Participants had the feeling that they had to do everything that was offered, and that there was not enough time for this. In the end, no one managed to try out everything, although a few participants managed to try most of the tools. This issue could be seen either as a communication issue or as a responsibility issue: should trainers communicate precisely what needs to be done and how much time needs to be invested? Or should participants take responsibility for and ownership of what they want to learn, and also for those things that they decided are not top priority right now?

Here, I think, are some issues at stake that you might not encounter as much in case of offline assignments or even e-mailed assignments. While all assignments were individual-based, sharing them in an online environment where you also collect the products for all to see, could result in peer pressure, even if unintended. Participants see what others have done, they read the stories, questions and answers. In Yammer they can also easily check the statistics (although I do not believe they did in this case). They can also see when something was done – for instance, it would have been pretty much obvious if there had been a “last minute” worker included in the group. This is not the case if you send out assignments via e-mail and collect all replies individually. In that situation, people can be blissfully unaware of who has done what and whether that was within a suggested time frame or not. They also cannot see the quality of other people’s work. Of course, they can also not be inspired by each other, nor help each other out or learn from one another. Which is why we chose to create a network.

Another issue is that of the possibility to use certain online tools on the job. Some organisations do not allow the use of certain tools on work computers, and some people do not feel free to do such assignments from their work desks. This then leads to a need to do these assignments after work hours, from a home device. And that is something that some people simply do not like to do. That may not just be the case for employed participants, also freelancers can find it difficult to find time for self-development and can fail to see that certain tools will help them as professional as well. I do not think that this issue of work versus private sphere was too important for this group, but it was mentioned as an issue that could be important or even crucial to other groups of participants.

A last issue I would like to mention is that starting a learning process online offers the opportunity of a diversity that can be overwhelming and that is accelerated by the group process. As said above, during our ten days of online work with the group we shared 12 tools. Some of them were similar to each other and others not, some of them we asked participants to use, others we just asked them to look at. Some assignments could be ticked off in 5 minutes or less, other could take up more time.

Variety of tools shared, collected on Pinterest

Variety of tools shared, collected on Pinterest

Our idea was to share a variety of things that could appeal to different people, and to make sure that nobody would get bored by not seeing something interesting for a few days. This is also what we had experienced in an online course in which we were the participants ourselves: that people tend to “cherry pick”, depending on time available and the connection they see between what is offered and their personal and professional development goals. However, this is not how it worked for all members of our group. They got overloaded by the tools, the assignments, the products and reactions of others and seemingly unrelated discussions. My conclusion is that an online start requires a great level of discipline and balancing from the participants: they should dedicate time to it on a regular basis in order not to get lost, they should be very clear on what it is they want to learn and why, and they should make sure the online group process does not get in the way of their own plans and needs. On the other hand, as facilitator you will have to nurture these skills in the group members. I do not believe that labelling one assignment as obligatory and another not will help, nor that setting a requirement in terms of time investment will solve this. But I do believe that a facilitator should help participants set their own goals and that a facilitator should help create understanding for the different goals within the group.

Share

And here is my baggage from 2012

One year ago, at the start of 2012,  I reflected on two main questions:

  • What are the 3 things or persons that you will definitely leave behind in 2011 and not bring with you to 2012?
  • What are the 3 things or persons that will flourish because of you in 2012?

While these questions remain useful and valid, this year I started out reflecting on what I have learned in 2012. After all, inevitably, I will bring whatever I learned with me into 2013.

What I learned in 2012

What I learned in 2012

So, what is the baggage I am bringing from 2012?

For starters, I learned about motivation. Motivation is a powerful force whether you have it or lack it. It definitely helps to have a clear vision of where you want to find yourself or your organisation at a certain moment in time from now. And it helps if you feel ownership of both that vision and the actions needed to realise it. For that matter, it is certainly helpful to have a clear view of which steps you need to take to achieve the desired situation. And to make sure that those steps are concrete and realistic and meaningful in terms of the set goal.

Personally, I have found it rather challenging to maintain a high level of motivation at certain moments in 2012. I full well knew where I wanted to end up, and I was very much aware that the only way to get there would be for me to take action. I also had a grasp of what possible steps I could take. But somehow, it was not that easy to kick my own butt and get going in the right direction.

I found that I was easily distracted by things that seemed to need more immediate attention than my own long-term goals. In other words, my actual priorities in daily life were different from the priorities my mind was set on. So while initially my plan was clear, I let life get in the way. Naturally, I would prefer to say that life got in my way but of course the simple truth is – I let it get where it got in the way. It was just easier that way, it seemed, even though it did not feel right.

Some time mid-year I realised what was bothering me and decided to create more space for myself to focus on things I had classified as important for me in 2012. I created this space by freeing up time for my focus and by setting small goals for those slots of time. A tool that helped me a lot in discovering my focus was on the wrong things and after this realisation helped me monitor if I managed to do better by myself than before was I Done This. This is a very simple tool: it sends you a daily e-mail, at a time of your own choosing, asking you “What have you done today?”. You reply to the e-mail, and your answers are collected online, and you are reminded of them via e-mail as well. After a couple of weeks I could discern a clear pattern – I had done lots, which was good to see, but most of these things were not really the things I had wanted to be doing. Nowadays I am still using I Done This, but I am reading the daily question now as two questions:

  • What is one thing that happened today that you are happy about?
  • What is one thing that made you proud of or happy with yourself today?

A simple tool, that helped me get back on track. And through that, helped me regain enthusiasm and creativity. And, ultimately, helped me get back to the core of my motivation.

Of course, a tool is just a tool. Its impact depends largely on what you do with it, and how you use it. But sometimes it can give you an insight that is helpful, that simply clicks at that moment in time, making things more clear and easier to tackle

The second thing I learned in 2012 is related to friendships. I learned it is not always easy to be a good friend. I mean, first you have to figure out what a good friend is, according to you. And then, reconsider this picture: is that just the kind of friend you want to be or also the kind of friend you want to have? Surely you know what I mean: that mantra that true friends ask those awkward questions that need asking but that none of us want to hear. It is not self-evident to speak your true mind always, and it is far from sure that you will still be friends with the person who does, after he or she has been open with you. There are times to speak up and there are times to keep quiet – and how do you recognise one from the other? This dilemma, too, is related to motivation: what is your motivation for being friends with someone? What is your motivation to say something or not to say it, after all? I have struggled with those questions in 2012 and have not found the magic recipe yet, although I feel I am getting closer.

The third main thing I learned in 2012 is that it is rather tiresome to learn about yourself. Much as I like the term personal development, it seems that the process of developing one’s skills and knowledge is far more pleasant than the process of developing insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and subsequently acting upon those insights. Yes, I learned a lot about myself in 2012, and I am convinced those insights are going to be helpful – nevertheless I wish myself a quiet 2013 when it comes to personal development and hope this new year will be more focused on professional development.

In all, 2012 has had a lot to offer to me, and I think I have taken all I could handle from the opportunities it offered. The three things I took with me from 2011 – freelance freedom, social media tools and inspirational people – have all played an important role in my life in 2012 as well. I remain grateful for all of life’s opportunities and challenges, and especially for all the people that have helped embellish my year by being great friends, inspirational colleagues or enthusiastic mentors, whether in real life or online. I will put the things I have learned in 2012, most notably the above mentioned lessons, to good use in 2013 and hope these will help me be a great friend, inspirational colleague or enthusiastic coach to those that I hold dear.

I wish all of you time to reflect on what 2012 has brought and taught you and

New Year’s wish for 2013

New Year’s wish for 2013

Share

IPARD in Croatia

A year ago, Croatia and the European Union Member States signed the Accession Treaty through which Croatia will become the 28th Member State of the European Union as of 1 July 2013.

At the time, I wrote a post about bottlenecks in the process of preparation of accession. Bottlenecks encountered not just by Croatia, but also by countries that joined the EU in 2004. I wasn’t referring to the tremendous challenge of adopting 80,000+ pages of legislation and policies.

What I find even more challenging is the real change needed to fit in – the change needed in strategic programming and planning, monitoring and evaluation as well as the change needed in looking at social partnerships. Copy-pasting relevant legislation is just a small start of that process, which in the end is in my view much more significant than adoption of the acquis on paper.

In November this year I worked with HMRR – a Croatian network of civil society organisations working on rural development. This network consists of a wide range of groups that are all committed to improving life in rural areas in Croatia. Some of them operate on the local level, as so-called LAGs (Local Action Groups, part of the bottom up LEADER approach to rural development), while others focus on capacity building of stakeholders or on influencing national policies and strategies. Their joint expertise and experiences could potentially be very valuable to the country’s rural development programming through IPARD and the like. They decided to contribute to improving IPARD and future programmes by developing a report on IPARD design and implementation, including practical recommendations based on experiences from the field. Last month, I facilitated a workshop in which they shared ideas and planned for the writing of this report, which is expected to be ready in the beginning of 2013.

Challenges with measures already activated

Challenges with measures already activated

During the workshop we went through the different measures IPARD provides, using the official reports on IPARD in 2010 and 2011 and experiences from the group members in the period 2010-2012.

Interestingly, only 4 out of 7 planned measures have been activated to date. It is worrying that the measure on participatory local sustainable development of rural areas (the LEADER measure) has not been approved yet. At the moment, it is expected that this measure will become operational in early 2013, but that still leaves precious little time for Croatia to try to catch up before the new programming period of the Common Agricultural Policy (2014-2020).  It is puzzling that this measure has somehow been left so late – considering its pivotal role toward the other measures (the LEADER measure is supposed to lead to local strategic plans for sustainable development which would form the framework for all other investments) and considering that the IPARD programming document itself states clearly that this is an area that is new to Croatia and would require significant development. The good news is that despite the fact that the measure has not been activated, local stakeholders have not resigned themselves to simply waiting it out. Over the last few years civil society organisations like HMRR and its members have managed to initiate 31 Local Action Groups that are ready to move into action once the measure gets the green light. And that are being active even now.

Plenty of ideas for promotion and support for beneficiaries

Plenty of ideas for promotion and support for beneficiaries

Also puzzling is the fact that the measure for Technical Assistance has not been approved yet, and is thus not operational. The reason I find this fairly bizarre is because this measure would actually enable the Ministry to implement IPARD. The measure aims to provide financial support for preparation, monitoring, evaluation, information and control activities necessary for implementation of the programme (IPA Regulation 718/2007, Art 182). In its reports over 2010 and 2011 the Ministry complains about the fact that up until now all promotional activities are being covered from the national budget only, since IPARD budget is not available while the measure is not activated. It seems pretty weird that this measure was not prepared and approved first – before all the others – and I cannot fathom why the European Commission has not insisted on this. If they have, and if somehow the Ministry failed to prepare a decent ordinance I still do not understand why in that case the Commission has not lent a hand in drawing up a proper ordinance that they could have approved sooner.

Of course I can fully relate to the idea that a Candidate Country has to develop capacities to take care of such things by itself. But what I do not get is why there is not a more intensive – or successful – investment in actually building those capacities. We all know that existing EU Member States did not get where they are in terms of governance and programming overnight. And we all know that achieving real change is a tedious and time consuming affair. Croatia’s been at it for less than two decades and has been swamped with things to get done in that period on account of the massive operation of integration into the EU. It’s no wonder that not everything is done perfectly, even with the best of intentions. There is simply too much of it to be done in such a short time and under challenging circumstances.

It is a shame that there are millions of Euro set aside for IPARD in Croatia while only a small part of this amount is being used: as of end 2011 approx. 16% of allocated funds had been committed, while less than 2% of the total amount had been in effect paid out. Of course there have been tenders for the 4 active measures in 2012 so that by now use of allocated funds will be higher, but at the same time there are a lot of reports from different sides that approval rates are still low, and procedures take long to be completed. Delays seems to increase over time rather than decrease as a result of practice as you might expect.

Conclusion of HMRR workshop participants

Conclusion of HMRR workshop participants

All of this, in my view, points to a great need for support in handling IPARD. Support that, again in my view, should be provided with or via the Commission, with help of civil society organisations on the ground that can help identify bottlenecks and formulate possible solutions that will bring daily practice in rural areas closer to the intricacies of IPARD, that as a European funding programme needs to meet European standards in management and control. A network like HMRR, with a combination of keen policy thinkers and local community organisers, might be ideally placed to provide such support.

The realisation of such cooperation could also serve as a practical example of how a partnership between government institutions and civil society could help achieve crucial improvements for society – in this case, for rural communities. For the sake of those communities I hope this will happen sooner rather than later, because IPARD in Croatia is in urgent need of decisive action by all stakeholders to ensure that available funds are used effectively to genuinely increase the quality of life in rural areas.

Want to learn more about the 28th Member State of the European Union?

INFOGRAPHIC: Get to know Croatia - the 28th member of the European Union
Infographic design by: Stedas dizajn – infographic design and web usability

Share

Change Is Never Easy But It Can Be Done

Recently, I had the great pleasure of reading the book “Switch – How To Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath. Apart from it being very well written, and thus fun and easy to read, this book is a must-read for all of us. Not just for the so-called professionals, but truly for every one of us out here. After all, in one way or another we are all dealing with change. Changes that are forced upon us, changes that we want to see in others as well as changes that we want for ourselves and our communities and societies.

Infographic Rider Elephant Path via Visual.ly

Infographic Rider Elephant Path via Visual.ly

The Heath brothers dish out many stories about people involved in change – in different environments, on different levels and with very different goals. All of them are used to visualise different aspects of their in principle very simple framework for successful change. It consists of an elephant, a rider on top of the elephant and a path they can take. Since you all must read the book, I will not say more than this about it: change needs motivation from the heart, energy and dogged perseverance (elephant) as well as a rationale – understanding of the ultimate goal and the need for change – combined with clear thinking and analysis of the situation (the rider). It is possible to shape the path so that it is easier-going. And: small steps are all-important.

What made this simple framework so appealing to me, is that I could easily recognise my own experiences in it. I, too, have found that in order to achieve change you need to get people motivated to move and that this is more than just explaining to them why such and such change is important. Knowing is by far not enough to get into action, while at the same time not having certain background information can make it difficult to move in the “right” direction. I, too, have noticed that small steps can lead to bigger changes, and that it is important to pay sufficient attention to the value of every achievement, however small it may seem to the ambitious change-maker. I recognise these notions from my own personal life of course, but also from projects that I was engaged in professionally.

For instance, after reading this book I much better understand why the Green Agenda approach for local sustainable development that I was involved in developing is so powerful and successful in many local communities.

Some local values in a community in Kosova

Some local values in a community in Kosova

It starts out simple: bring together as many local stakeholders as possible and ask them what they value about their community. Those that have read Switch will recognise an elephant appetiser here (Find the Feeling) combined with a hint for the rider (Point to the Destination). People are invited to tap from a feeling of pride in their community and challenged to overlook problems for the moment.

Working group in Nedelisce, Croatia, explains what they have done

Working group in Nedelisce, Croatia, explains what they have done

Next in the Green Agenda method, thematic multi-stakeholder working groups are formed – each dealing with one of the selected priority values. Each group performs a thorough analysis of the value: what trends can be seen in regard of the value, what impacts do the trends have, what is the ideal situation of the value, what is the difference between the current or projected future situation and the ideal (=problem), what are (root) causes, and what could be solutions. During all these steps the groups are intensively supported. Also, groups are encouraged to break down the causes and solutions into manageable ones (proposing to build a 2 million euro sewerage system is not exactly within the reach of local stakeholders in a small rural community – at least not for starters). Again – elephant feed all around: the needed change gets down to a doable level (Shrink the Change) and the groups strengthen their common identity (Grow your People). At the same time, the rider is called upon for his or her analytical skills and powers.

The final steps in the Green Agenda method include the formulation of a strategic plan, an action plan and a monitoring plan incorporating the findings and proposals of all thematic multi-stakeholder working groups. And preparing a so-called Green Agenda document which describes these plans, and includes information about the steps taken to develop them. The document is presented at local meetings in which people can still propose changes. Finally, the document is adopted by the local authorities and implementation starts – with involvement of local stakeholders. Here, it’s easy to recognise elements of rider incentives: concrete steps are proposed and adopted (Script the Critical Moves) as well as aspects of shaping the path: local people are mobilised to get involved and become engaged (Rally the Herd), whereas adoption of the document developed by local stakeholders also changes the status of the ideas of these stakeholders and increases local ownership of local policies (Tweak the Environment).

Watermill project: realised after Green Agenda project ended!

Watermill project: realised after Green Agenda project ended!

The method as a whole also contributes to Building Habits – another way of shaping the path – as it develops ways and means of realising genuine stakeholder involvement. All the steps taken, linkages built and communication channels opened can be used in future processes as well, and in reality they are.

So quite apart from understanding why some of my worse habits are still with me, this book helped me understand more of the actual strengths of a method I have been using and propagating for almost a decade now. Understanding this better will certainly help me in developing more successful approaches to groups I work with and projects I help design. I wish you the same experience when reading this must-read book – and I hope that my small hints of the treasures you will find there are sufficient to make you curious enough to go find Switch!

Share

Playful Visualisation Tools

If you want to spend 5 minutes and have some fun with a twist, then you should try BigHugeLabs, ReciteThis or Picture2Life. All you need is a picture or a quote. And a plan. And in a few minutes you will have an inspiring poster or a picture with a caption.

BigHugeLabs: Captioner

BigHugeLabs: Captioner

If you haven’t got inspiration, ReciteThis has a wide range of quotes you can choose from and make a nice poster-type picture of.

Uplifting! ReciteThis

Uplifting! ReciteThis

All this is of course a nice break away from work.

But you could also use these tools for work-related messages.

You could make a ReciteThis out of a quote of one of your participants.

Participants defining the aim of a shadow report. ReciteThis

Participants defining the aim of a shadow report. ReciteThis

Or you could use the Motivator tool of BigHugeLabs to add a message to a photo of an activity.

BigHugeLabs: Motivator

BigHugeLabs: Motivator

Or you could personalise a message to someone using Captioner in BigHugeLabs.

Or, if you want others to do the dirty work, you could invite your participants to share a picture with a quote or message by way of introduction or as an assignment related to the topic of your workshop.

100_0374-1_original

So even a bit of fooling around with tools like these can give you tons of ideas for your work – justifying those 5 minutes break in a heartbeat! Have fun!

Share

Pinterest

Finally, I can say I started using Pinterest. Obviously, I had been reading about it, and had looked at other people’s pin boards and made good use of them. I also set up an account months ago and dabbled a bit. But I have to admit I was still more hooked to Delicious as a tool to create online libraries and was uncertain whether Pinterest would provide me with real added value. Especially now that Delicious has become much more visual as well.  Now I can say I got it.

Organise saved links in pin boards (Eric Sheninger)

Organise saved links in pin boards (Eric Sheninger)

Like in Delicious, you can save links in an organised way. In Pinterest this organisation is called a pin board, in Delicious it is a stack. Like in Delicious nowadays, these links are shown in a visual way: you get a one picture preview. The difference is, that you can save all links in Delicious whereas Pinterest needs a “pinnable” element on the location you want to link to. Not all sites have such elements, but there is a way around that, see below.

Example of a pin (Eric Sheninger)

Example of a pin (Eric Sheninger)

Both tools allow you to add a short description of the link, so that other people are able to see if this link may be interesting for them before clicking on it. In Delicious you can also tag your saved links, making it easier for visitors and yourself to select even within a stack which links might be useful. As far as I can see, this is not yet possible in Pinterest.

Like Delicious, Pinterest is a social media tool. Meaning that you can make your own profile and follow what other people do. You can re-pin pins saved by others. And you can comment and discuss.

Both tools allow for very easy saving of links, by adding an element to your bookmarking menu (“Save on Delicious” or “Pin It”.)

Both tools can be used in class and for trainings; sharing background materials in one location, collaborating in a group on this collection, etc.

So what is the added value of Pinterest that I truly realised only just now?

Go to the Add button on the top and upload a pin!

Go to the Add button on the top and upload a pin!

Easy! Pinterest allows you to upload your own content, too.  Content that is not online and thus does not have a link to bookmark. You can make pins out of your pictures, infographics and screenshots.  That way, your pin board can become a collection of links and photos, instead of just a library of links. This aspect is also the key to including links without so-called pinnable elements. You can make a screenshot of part of the page, upload it as a pin, and add the link afterwards.

Add a link to a screenshot of a site with unpinnable elements

Add a link to a screenshot of a site with unpinnable elements

This combination of links and own materials makes it, for example, possible to create a pin board relating to a certain event or activity that you have organised. You could collect all press releases, media clippings, photos and videos about the event in one pin board. That way, both people who were there and people who weren’t can easily see what went on and find all related materials in one publicly accessible place.

But, like Eric Sheninger, you can also create a pin board sharing methodsWeb2.0 Tools for Educators.

Possibilities are endless. And although I am sure I will continue using Delicious, I will definitely start using Pinterest more actively than I have.

So, just get started like I finally did and see how you like it!

Example of a pin board about an event

Example of a pin board about an event

Share

On Safari With Social Media Tools

At the IAF the Netherlands annual conference in June this year, Simon Koolwijk, Gerdi Keeler and I conducted the workshop On Safari with Social Media Tools – how to embed lessons learned in your learning process. In two hours we tried to share experiences of using social media in learning processes and communities as well as to give the group an idea of some of the tools we referred to. To start up the conversation we introduced a social media bingo with a variety of questions, like “Find a person in this room who has made 10 or more tweets“, “Find someone who knows possible uses of QR codes” and “Do you have 3 or more apps on your smart phone; which ones?“.

During this short exercise it became clear that we had quite a diverse group on our hands. Several participants already were quite experienced but were looking for more in-depth insights into best practices, while others were not so experienced and wanted to practise.

After a short Prezi presentation we therefore decided to split up and work in 3 smaller groups, in order to meet the different needs.

To check to what extent we had succeeded, we invited participants to share their opinions by answering 3 questions on Polleverywhere.

The main insights and ideas participants gained were:

  • There is much more possible than I thought!
  • Possibility to create a community for small groups in a learning process
  • Importance of blended learning & change (mix of online and offline learning)
  • More online meetings!
  • I want to get to know Yammer
  • To plan for use of social media tools in learning processes
  • Ideas for online and offline activities before and after face-to-face events
  • I will need to practise – I am lagging behind in the field of social media
  • Better to be proficient in a few tools, and to use them well than to try to use them all at once
  • Variety of social media tools available that can help embed results of my workshops

Tools that participants were interested in using were:

In order to start using these tools most participants indicated they would need time and patience. A few participants mentioned that they would search for more information online and just try out the selected tools. Overall, participants were satisfied with the workshop and felt they gained new ideas and inspiration to use social media in their work.

And what did I learn? It became clear to me that while there are many tools out there not that many facilitators are familiar with them or are using them in their work. Some are making use of the possibilities social media offer, but are not always satisfied with the return on their time investment in this. This may be caused by the learning process involved in getting to know tools and discovering their possible uses. But it may also be caused by a feeling that dabbling with social media is taking away precious time from the real work – and the fact that social media use is not perceived as a genuine part of that work, yet.

This attitude will change only as and when professionals will see concrete examples and best practices of how social media can actually facilitate their work and how social media make them more effective on the job. Though it is relatively easy to try out different tools on your own, it is not as easy to successfully deploy them within your organisation or learning processes. Exchanging experiences, ideas and fears in combination with practical tips on how to use certain tools, tailor-made advice regarding suitable tools for your specific situation and practising in a small (online/offline) group over a period of time, may help bridge the gap between knowing about a tool and effectively applying it. With our workshop we wanted to give a peek preview into what social media can do for your work and how useful further “training” in this area can be, also for facilitators. Looking at the positive reactions, I think we succeeded in this first step. So now – on to the next!

Share

Giving Up

As some of you may already know I am crazy about watching cycling and currently happily enjoying the Tour de France. Of course I try justifying the many hours spent on watching the Tour de France and the stage aftermath in the 3 daily talk shows. Is there a link between real life and cycling? A meaningful one? I think there is.

One of the main characteristics many riders share is their stamina. Stamina to persevere under dire circumstances. And I don’t mean rain, wind and even snow whilst they are racing. What I mean is racing with a few broken ribs, a broken hip or punctured lungs. Not giving up despite feeling lousy. It seems that giving up is simply unthinkable.

Remember how Pedro Horillo fell down a ravine in the Tour of Italy a few years back. He ended up in a hospital, and when he woke up from his coma the first thing he asked for was his bike to continue the race. In the end, he never raced again as a result of the injuries sustained.

Remember last year’s Tour de France and the big crash in the first week. I wrote this about it at the time: “So you find yourself in a little ravine. You’ve broken 2 of your ribs and a shoulder blade, and have pneumothorax. But here’s the thing: you do not know this. No-one’s told you yet. So you pick up your bike, climb out of the ravine, and ride another 600 meters. And then you realise you’ve seen better days. It may not be possible to continue to Paris after all… Hat off to Jurgen van den Broeck of Belgium who lived this incredible tale yesterday.”

Remember the car that threw Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha off their bikes and Johnny into a nasty fence of barbed wire. Johnny continued, 33 stitches in his legs and buttocks and all.

Remember Wout Poels, who crashed last week. He had been put into an ambulance already when he decided he could not – just could not – give up. So he climbed on his bike again. And rode 10 km. His manager did not much like the way he looked and started talking to him. 5 km later he had convinced Wout that it might be better to quit. Wout is now in ICU, with a ruptured spleen, a destroyed kidney, a few broken ribs and lung damage.

And this is just a small selection.

So what can we simple mortals learn from this heroism?

For starters – not to give up too easily. Things may not go smooth, they may be painful, they may look hopeless. But maybe if you survive this one day, the next one will be better. Maybe the next stage will give you that opportunity for success that you have been looking for. If you quit now, you will never know. So you’d better make sure that giving up is the right thing to do. The inevitable thing to do. So you should check first – are these feelings, thoughts, emotions or facts? Do I just feel shitty or do I have a punctured lung? Should I medically be in ICU or can I continue trying?

But we can also learn another thing. Sometimes giving up on something is indeed the right thing to do. It does not make much sense to stay in a 3-week race if your shoulder blade is crushed. You will achieve nothing that way, except endangering your health. Sometimes we, non-physical labourers, hang in there for longer than is good for us. We may not medically be ready for ICU but we, too, can exert ourselves too much for something that is simply not worth the sacrifice or the risk to ourselves. We, too, sometimes get lost in the mantra that we should just continue for now, that things will be better, less hectic, less frustrating tomorrow. While all along we could know that this is very unlikely to be the case as long as we do not change anything in or around ourselves.

What we can learn, too, is that giving up on one thing can create space for another. Pedro Horillo can now focus on his writing and has written a book. Bradley Wiggins crashed last year in the Tour de France and had to give up, but took his revenge in the Tour of Spain where he rode well and ended up 3rd overall.

However, this does not happen by and of itself. You first will have to accept fully that the thing to be given up needs to be given up entirely. And you have to actively embrace the new thing that comes in its place. This is not easy, certainly. Accepting that a dream cannot come true in the way you had envisioned never is. Nor is getting joy out of something that may seem second best at first. This requires practical closure as well as a versatility of mind that not all of us can find easily within ourselves. The same goes for riders. Some of them cannot let go. Let’s use those as a living example that sometimes giving up can make you more successful than hanging on. And while we are at it, let’s thank them for this lesson and for their heroism that is at the heart of it.

Share