Skip to content

Category: Learning to Learn

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Image source:

Developing Work Out Loud Habits and Measuring Up

I seem to have fallen out of the blogging habit recently. That’s not to say that I’ve not been learning or doing other stuff; I have. It’s just that at the start of the year I relocated back to England and I’ve not been able to get back into the habit. Any way, life might just be starting to settle back down again now so I thought I would try and incorporate a few new practices into my learning. Hey, and with a broadband speed over 10 times greater than I previously had in Ireland there’s gotta be a heap of new opportunities, like just Skyping even. Yay!!

To date, my blog has been a place where I’ve learned to “Learn Out Loud”, much of which has been driven by my participation in MOOCs and similar open learning opportunities. However, if I’m not openly MOOCing, I don’t seem to be in the habit or have the gumption to fire up my blog and document my learning. So, courtesy of Jeff Merrell and the “Work Out Loud” initiative he’s championing within #MSLOC430, I’m going to give it a go. As well as learning out loud, I’m going to try and develop the habit of working out loud.

‘What’s the difference?’, I hear you cry.

Well, I guess it is a bit subtle; that’s probably because the concepts are so closely related, as shown in Harold Jarche’s diagram below. You can read his full article here.

Learning Out Loud is essentially reflection and sense making in public and I guess I’m comfortable with that, well as comfortable as it’s possible to be. Working Out Loud, on the other hand, is the practice of providing a brief, running commentary on your work as you’re doing it.

Bryce Williams, who’s credited with coining the term, defines it as follows:

“Working out loud = Narrating your work + Observable work”

Narrating your work being  “journaling…what you are doing in an open way” and making your work observable being “creating/modifying/storing your work in places that others can see it, follow it, and contribute to it IN PROCESS.” Yep, that’s what I’ve not been so good at: journaling what I’ve been doing and allowing others to follow it etc., IN PROCESS. The minute I realized this, it immediately made me think of learning maths at school and how I was lousy at it, or hit and miss at any rate; I didn’t always show my working out. If I did get the right answer there was no way of really knowing how I got there and if I didn’t get the right answer, well …where do you start to put it right? If you don’t work out loud, how can anyone help you or contribute as you go along?

So, having ironed that out, what have I been learning and what am I working on.

Well, I’ve been thinking a bit about learning outcomes. It’s always a topic that wears me out. I remember during initial teacher training expressing the sentiment that ‘nothing ever grew by being measured’; needless to say, it wasn’t well received and I’ve been taxed by the whole question of learning metrics ever since. Any way, it seems like the topic is much in the air at the moment and I’m not alone in pondering the current state of play and the alternatives. Over in #rhizo 15, Dave Cormier asked what is being measured, or counted, and he posited the idea of learning subjectives as opposed to learning objectives. Here, Lisa Lane and Tania Sheko gave 2 brilliant responses. Lisa explains that measuring learning outcomes is “all a ruse”

I can’t measure learning, only the symbolic artifacts of learning.

and, based on the premise of being interviewed to become a lifelong learner with the essential requirement being learning objectives, Tania got all creative and wrote a script to champion a more subjective approach, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity. Here’s the nub of the thing:

You see, I’ve developed an allergy to things which support objectives. Things like preconceived ideas, data entered carefully into spreadsheets, dot points, the narrowness of finite theories, that sort of thing. I have an aversion to these things and I become so ill that I am unable to function.

I need to approach life in a less organised, predetermined way. I need to include the way I feel, for example, in the way I understand life. I need to include questions and doubts in the way I make sense of things, I need mood changes and I also need to be able to synthesize seemingly illogical things into a new way of seeing. I need to follow – what I refer to as learning subjectives.

Both are excellent posts and well worth reading. Duly bookmarked for posterity.

In the meantime, I came across this graphic from Jane Hart that differentiated learning metrics according to the learning context and who was responsible for managing the learning outcome… and so the penny dropped.


And, satisfyingly, the penny dropped once more when I read a post from the LSE Impact blog about systems of measurement and the influence they exert on our behaviour.

As a case in point, it used football and the increasing use of statistics within the game to show that the way we choose to measure affects behaviour. It’s nothing new; it’s just that it’s more pervasive now with the advent of smart technology.

Football is a useful case study in that it allows us to see just how powerful metrics can (be seen to) be. It allows us to think about how metrics might produce different outcomes, dictate decisions and continue to shape our lives.

Gets me thinking of learning analytics.

it is crucial that we see metrics as being central to the power dynamics of the age in which we live.

Oh, I also read a post by Donald Clark entitled ‘7 reasons: Why we need to kill boring learning objectives!’

The reason I’m thinking about all this is because I’m now looking for how I can best apply the knowledge and skills I’ve developed and I’m inclined to think that it lies in supporting and developing social/networked autonomous professional learners – just like me!! However, having said that I don’t want to forget or leave behind the work I currently do with adults that either don’t have access to technology for learning or who have been disadvantaged by what education chooses to measure.

Not just literacy, but digital literacies for all!!

Image sources:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

2013, a year on the global learning commons.

Do you have books just lying around on your Kindle, clicked and downloaded back in the mists of time because they seemed to have something important to say then forgotten, or simply left upstream as the river of information kept on flowing passed? I thought you might, so have I (quite a few actually). Well, an airport lounge always affords the opportunity to paddle back and take a look; this is how, as I embarked on my Christmas travels, I came to read “Open: how we’ll work, live and learn in the future” by David Price and subsequently came to put this blog post together as a kind of end of year review.

Although the New York Times might have labeled 2012 the “year of the MOOC”, for me it was most definitely 2013, just take a look at my blog posts. I think I participated in 8 or 10 altogether, at least half of which I either completed or participated in to a large extent. However, I don’t think I’d like to remember the year as just being synonymous with MOOCs. After all, I was active in many online communities as well as kept busy attending to my personal learning network, so I’d rather like to think of 2013 as the year that I discovered the “global learning commons”. But what do I mean? According to the author of the aforementioned book, the global learning commons is something that

encompasses the ‘ecology’ of learning: the relationships we have with each other; the creation of an hospitable habitat for learning; how we cultivate the evolution of learning in communal, social environments, [and] transfer it successfully to others.

I like this idea because it gets away from what’s become almost ceaseless noise about MOOCs and their platforms/sponsors to put the spotlight firmly on learning (three cheers!!). That is, learning across a variety of environments in which open is a fundamental feature, learning that’s personally driven by passion and/or purpose and open in the sense of not just open access but in the sense of open values and actions too. In truth though, this notion is quite contentious because openness signifies the battle being fought for the control of knowledge (hence, the reference to the commons with its historical connotations and its antithesis, the enclosure); the idea also signifies a switch in thinking from teaching to learning, or pedagogy to heutagogy, which is equally contentious.

Medieval Open Field and Common Land System

Shaping how we interact online in the global learning commons, where collaborative participation abounds, are four inter-connected and consequential values making up the acronym SOFT: share, open, free and trust. Sharing appeals to people’s sense of altruism; they freely share with no sense of return other than maybe a little recognition, which in turn encourages reciprocity and requires that we’re open. Free can mean many things, but the notions that sit best with me here are “free to roam”, wherever your passion/purpose takes you, and “free to fail”. Trust is best thought of as “in ourselves we trust”, which gets us away from the plethora of institutions that we’ve recently lost trust in and away from the “command and control” mindset of the industrial era.

It’s these values and actions that are thought set to become increasingly important because they allow knowledge to flow freely and quickly, facilitate collaboration and in turn promote innovation. Looking back over my own participation for the year, I can certainly vouch that these values, actions and outcomes are to the fore in the informal social learning environments that I’ve been engaged in. And what’s more, it’s the learner that’s calling the shots. However, this shift is largely being experienced not in education or the workplace but in individuals’ social space. It’s true. Using my experience “in the new learning landscape” and telling of my learning journey “beyond the walled garden“, I’ve presented at a couple of education conferences this year and both presentations clearly illustrate this. In addition, I’ve recently collaborated, as part of a small international group, on a paper that’s been accepted for the European MOOC Summit in Switzerland in February, which again is proof of new and innovative things that can happen in open environments, or the global learning commons. I’ll blog about this at a later date, maybe after the conference, because it’s been an interesting learning experience, one that none of the group had prior experience of or that none of us could’ve have been prepared for, not in the management/logistics of the endeavor nor in its potential for cooperative learning.

So now, with all this in mind, it kind of begs the question of me, “so now you know (about the global learning commons, or learning in open online environments), what are you going to do about it?” This is the “transfer it successfully to others” bit that was mentioned in the quote above. Good question. Because like I said earlier, this is happening in the informal social space; I’m not a big shot in higher education (just a limpet on the underside), I’ve not had anything to do with learning in the workplace for over a decade and in the day job I teach adults that education didn’t do right by the first time and that “accidents of geography” now similarly place on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Looks like that’s the challenge for 2014. I’ll keep you posted.

Image source:

References: Price, David (2013). OPEN: How we’ll work, live and learn in the future. Crux Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.