Over the course of 18 days in December 2010, I took part in learning events in seven countries. Here are some of the things I learned.
Brussels, Belgium. Jane Hart and I keynoted “Learning Day” for senior training managers of the European Commission. The sixteenth-century guild halls that line Brussels’ Grand Place (AKA Grote Markt) are a reminder of the ancient communities of practice where craftsmen learned their trade through apprenticeship and curated their professional know-how. Ironically, their lesson has been lost. The European Commission relies on 19,000 courses for training, shuns social media, and does not provide wi-fi in its classrooms. Participants asked Jane and me if real people use Twitter. Few saw any value in blogging. The guilds were more advanced in their thinking.
Berlin, Germany. Charles Jennings, Laura Overton, and I planned Business Educa and coordinated a number of sessions. We discovered that spontaneity is not always the best approach. Some people feel uncomfortable without a clear structure. More.
Berlin was cold enough to warrant wearing long johns.
One vendor showcased the women’s world champion foosball player. She stomped me ten to nothing, slamming the ball into the goal so hard it sounded like rifle shots. Her focus was winning at all costs. I kept waiting for some tips or coaching, but that wasn’t part of the deal. Sometimes you can’t escape your pre-defined structure. That evening, learning pros danced themselves into a frenzy at the Online Educa party. We were passionate about learning and life.
Clark Quinn, Ellen Wagner, and I spent the day after Educa on a frenetic gluhwein and museum romp.
Rebecca Stromeyer or Annie Hall?
Doha, Qatar. The World Innovation Summit on Learning. Platitudes about education being the salvation of the world are hot air, but practical examples of local community learning initiatives are inspiring, for example: Pakistani schools for 92,000 girls, largely funded by entrepreneurs; learning by radio for small farmers in Nigeria; skills development for hundreds of thousands at Indira Gandhi Open University; South Africa’s Next Einstein initiative. New Orleans created vibrant primary and secondary schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by decentralizing administration.
Her Excellency Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani is the power behind Qatar’s stunning Museum of Islamic Art. She is also a supporter of informal learning. Her Excellency agreed with my suggestion that claims that injecting collaboration into the classroom was costly, complex, and difficult disappear if the world is the classroom, the self-organizing internet is the technology, and the smart phone is the access device.
Stockholm, Sweden. Cisco Public Services Summit. Some medical schools have shifted to patient-centered education. Future doctors learn from diagnosing patients instead of studying academic subjects. Shouldn’t we refocus undergraduate education on solving important problems instead of following increasingly dated curricula? You’d learn what’s needed instead studying fragmented, aging disciplines.
As usual, Clay Shirky was perceptive, persuasive, and ahead of the pack. I’m about half way through Cognitive Surplus.
Oslo, Norway. Noble Peace Prize Concert. Cisco chartered a private train to take more than a hundred of us to Oslo. Five hours of conversation as we rolled past the idyllic Swedish countryside provided a peak learning experience.
At the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, the poems and protests of Liu Xiaobo were a reminder of the potential of a single voice.
Maastrich, Netherlands. TULSER. All five members of the Internet Time Alliance led sessions on working smarter for TULSER, a former training company that has reinvented itself as an implementer of human performance technology. I talked about dealing with conceptual work, intangibles, the acceleration of time, information glut, unpredictability and other aspects of our new world. Clark Quinn described strategies for mobile learning. Harold Jarche explained the shape of the 21st century training department. Jane Hart provided insights into social media learning. Charles Jennings explained the concept of workscapes, where enterprise work and learning converge.
We lodged at a hotel built into a fifteenth century cloister and church. We dined at a former thirteenth-century convent.
TULSER itself just moved to a minimalist, high-tech environment in cement plant. The re-purposed buildings were the perfect backdrop for our forming a community of practice dedicated to re-configuring learning and development.
London, U.K. Reed Learning. Innovative organizations were grappling with the same issues every place we spoke. Paradigm drag blocks progress. Wikileaks send social media shivers up the spines of conservative managers. Leaders do not trust employees with social media.
We encouraged those in the room to recognize that learning is now a team sport. Sharing replaces hoarding. We learning professionals must become change agents and promoters. We need to sell senior management on social media and open collaboration. In twenty minutes, we set up an enterprise-strength workscape on Socialcast to support our new London community of practice.
You can see 750 photos and videos of this journey at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaycross/tags/euro2010/