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Month: July 2015

Literacy: not a desk job, but an identity job.

It’s funny where an image can take you and what associations pop into your head. Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth, egged on by Amy Burvall @Amyburvall, have unleashed a bit of a blogging sensation this week #blimage. The idea is, you’re presented with an image and you have to craft a blog post based on the thoughts that it conjures up. Steve threw down the gauntlet with this image of old school desks.

The image immediately made me think of the school in Beamish Museum (the living museum of the north); I’ve always had a thing for the social history of ordinary folk. Any way, I couldn’t help thinking of how reading and writing was done back then. I thought of the evolution of writing on slates with chalk, to writing in your jotter with a fountain or ball point pen, to nowadays when keyboards process your words. I thought of how you were made to sit at your desk, in rows, and how learning is heavily associated with classrooms. I thought of how these experiences of reading and writing are powerful and how they come to mean things to people, to mean different things to different people, and that these meanings are dependent on their situatedness.

I remembered (gosh, I’m starting to sound old) when I was doing my teaching placement, when I was confronted by one young lad, a recent school leaver, who would hardly pick up a pen in class (who am I kidding, it wasn’t just one). Any way, in the jottings of my reflective practice, he would have been called a ‘reluctant writer’. That is, until I encountered him in the Student Services, or Guidance, office where he was flourishing his pen with gusto as he completed paperwork to join the Army. He was reluctant to write in class as the tasks being set were, in all honesty, not ‘authentic’ and not aligned with the identity that he wished for.

So now, with all the talk of digital literacy and digital skills, I think it’s important to remember this little tale as it’s not just a matter of prescribing a set of skills for individuals to acquire, but a matter of developing them in context, mindful of the fact that it’s an identity job.

The #blimage challenge can be taken up by anybody. Go check out the hashtag.

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Developing the ‘vitamin habit’ for learning.

Lordy, Lord. I’m all over the place in terms of my learning at the moment. In the last 6 months I’ve not only relocated but I’ve also swapped from a lifetime of using a Windows PC to using a Mac. Why I added this extra complication is beyond me. It’s like trying to master a second language. Anyway, all my previous habits and routines are well and truly shot. It’s not just learning. I haven’t taken a vitamin pill on a regular basis for months. Before, I used to plonk them out on the kitchen table every day as I was making breakfast and I didn’t bat an eyelid over it. Now, it’s an effort to remember them at all.

So now, I’m making a more conscious effort to learn how to develop habits: habits in general, restore old habits and adopt some new prize learning ones into the bargain. I need to re-establish the ‘vitamin habit’ for learning!!

The ‘vitamin habit’ for learning.
The ‘vitamin habit’ for learning.

I have two plans of attack. One, I’ve signed up for Stanford professor, BJ Fogg’s ‘Tiny Habits’ workshop, a 5-day method that’s simple, effective and fun – apparently. The idea is, you pick 3 new habits and fix them to an ‘anchor’, that is something you do already, and proceed from there. Do your ‘Tiny Habits’ each day and respond to a daily email. That’s it. A new session starts each Monday, if you’re interested.

The other plan, the more macro of the two, is that I’ve joined a Work Out Loud Circle #WOLCircle. They’re about developing habits in order to achieve a personal goal.

small groups of people learning to work in an open, generous, connected way so they can each accomplish a personal goal.

Work Out Loud Circles offer a structure/method along with peer support and mutual accountability. They’re kind of like a mini, focused PLN. I’m currently in week 2 of a 12 week Guided Mastery programme. So far, it’s looking good.

I haven’t completely lost the learning habit. It’s just a bit wobbly, that’s all. I’ve been participating in Jane Hart’s workshop about how to encourage and support personal learning in organizations. It seems that there’s a growing realization that learners are becoming increasingly autonomous as the adopt new technologies and discover that they’re free to determine their own learning. Alongside this are economic imperatives that require organizations to seek out more effective knowledge systems so they can keep abreast of developments and innovate quickly, and all the while looking to reduce cost. Consequently, organisations are increasingly looking to individuals to take responsibility for their own learning, to learn continuously and to feed this back to the workplace and the performance of the business. It’s here, as Jacob Morgan points out, that the ‘learning worker’ comes in to play. It’s no longer enough to be a ‘knowledge worker’.

Knowledge is a commodity, to be the smartest person in the room all you need is a smartphone. What is far more valuable than knowledge is the ability to learn new things and apply those learnings to new scenarios and environments. This is what the employee of the future needs to focus on, “learning to learn.”

On which note, I’ll leave you and I’ll urge you to get the ‘vitamin habit’ for learning and learning to learn.

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