e-Learning Event 2012 Keynote Sessions Day 1

Today and tomorrow I will be attending and speaking at the e-Learning Event in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. This should be one of the biggest learning technology events in the Netherlands. For some reason I have never been before, so I am curious to see how much I enjoy the event.

Theo Rinsema, General Manager Microsoft Netherlands

Rinsema talked about new ways of working (“het nieuwe werken”), a concept that in the Netherlands has been appropriated by Microsoft. His first point was that current times have accelerated the amount of change and that this means that we will have to learn contineously. Learning and change are very much related. The causes for this speed of change can be found in a couple of trends that drive change in the virtual world: cloud computing, data explosion, social computing, apps, natural interfaces, connections, computing ecosystems and mobile workplaces. Cloud computing, for example, lowers the barrier of entry in a market. This create more competition and this accelerates development.

Microsoft in the Netherlands went through a change process (1100 people work for Microsoft in the Netherlands). The focused on productivity (can we really become more productive every year or are we just working more hours?), talent (how can we attract more women to our mostly male organization?) and the boundaries between work life and private life (how do we solve the puzzle where our offices are only utilised 24% of the time, people like the flexibility, but don’t like their private/work mix). They were on a multi-year journey where they one of the key elements was creating trust between employees and about creating real conversations between staff (I wonder whether he has read the Cluetrain Manifesto).

They created a few things:

  • “Ruimte voor groei-dagen”: an event where the whole organizations get together and works on personal growth.
  • “Raad van Anders”: they have about 50.000 visitors a year coming to check out their offices to see how they are working. Rinsema thought that Microsoft was starting to believe too much in themselves. They instituted a “board of others”, inviting non-Microsoft people (young people, government workers, women, disabled people) to come into their offices, have open doors everywhere and then get feedback on what Microsoft does (with the press present). This enables Microsoft to “see with different eyes” (Proust would have said: “see with new eyes”).
  • “Silverlight Society a.k.a. project Crowley”: an alternate reality game in which Microsoft staff thought they were in a pilot from Microsoft research about collaborating in a virtual world. Members of this elite group of beta-tester had to solve more and more complex problems day by day forcing them to collaborate with each other and use social networks. 290 people participated.

 

I appreciated Rinsema’s talk for sounding authentic and for not mentioning SharePoint as an enabler for these new ways of working. This means he is smarter than 95% of the collaboration consultants in this space.

Erwin Blom on the Social Media Revolution

Erwin Blom from Fast Moving Targetsis a journalist who got addicted to the Internet in 1994 when he was working for Dutch media outfit VPRO. He produced a music program for the radio and found out that he suddenly wasn’t the expert anymore, his community of listeners knew more than him. He later became heaf of new media for the VPRO and now works for himself looking at how the net changes many aspects of society.

He showed Draw Something as an example of where people learn very naturally: his children play the game to learn English and learn how to visualize. It is incredible how quickly that game grew and for how much the creators were bought by Zynga. Another example of using game-based things is Codecademy. Another example is Foodzy. It teaches you about your own behaviours around food and teaches you a lot about food. Blom considers YouTube the largest collection of lessons in the world. In general these things work for one person, but they work even better if there are multiple people doing the same thing.

With social media everybody now is a publisher. We have endless means to tell each other stories. We underutilize the potential of storytelling (an important skill). We are now all connected and can ask each other questions and can have good conversations with people that were out of our reach (in many dimensions) before. Knowledge is now available everywhere, we need to learn how to find and select the information. Network building skills and “personal branding” skills are important for future proofing. You have to be present on this platforms and create narratives about yourselves.

He showed a nice example of what his daughter learns from her blog. She is learning about how to tell a story, about how to write headlines, about dealing with commentary about and she learns discipline (blogging twice a week). His son writes at Game Testers United and learns similar lessons. Blom asks himself why this isn’t a part of their school education. Can’t we make schools media production companies?

Technology Creates Feasibility Spaces for Social Practice.

Image by <a href=

Wilfred Rubens recently wrote a (Dutch) post asking whether the current cloud computing trend will influence how we learn. I posted a reaction in the comments linking to a couple of Kevin Kelly’s posts on the Technium (if you haven’t subscribed to the Technium, you should right now).

Wilfred’s reply to my comment made me think about one my favourite quotes about how technology can change society. It is from Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom:

Technology creates feasibility spaces for social practice. Some things become easier and cheaper, others become harder and more expensive to do or preventĀ  under different technological conditions. The interaction between these technological-economic feasibility spaces, and the social responses to these changes -both in terms of institutional changes, like law and regulation, and in terms of changing social practices- define the qualities of a period.

So, I know for a fact that cloud computing technology will create new feasibility spaces for social practice and I am sure that this will include learning. The question is not whether cloud computing will change the way we learn, the question should be how will it change the way we learn. In that regard, I think George Siemens has started asking the right questions.