Boots On The Ground: Introducing A Community of Practice at Bechtel

My colleague Paul and I wrote an article for the Learning Solutions Magazine about building a community of practice at our company. Here’s a summary:

In this article, the authors, members of the Global Learning and Development team at Bechtel, a global engineering and construction firm, give a detailed account of building an online community of practice geared to help field professionals share knowledge and insights gained at the project sites with each other. A key point they attempt to make in this article is that with the right game plan, it IS possible to start and nurture informal learning communities even in organizations where management has not explicitly embraced the value of social learning and networking.

Find the full article here. (eLearning Guild membership required.)

mLearnCon 2011: Our impressions

My colleague Paul & I attended a mobile learning conference in San Jose last week. We interviewed each other to record our impressions of the conference while it was still fresh in our memory. See it here: 

p.s. We made the video in a hurry so some details are missing from the video or are incorrect.

1. Jeremiah Owyang Keynote slides are here: (And my last name isn’t Johnson, so I shouldnt comment on someone’s last name.)

2. A brilliant young chap by the name of John Park co-presented with Alison Rossett. to their presentation here:

3. NexLearn doesn’t just sell SimWriter but they build custom sims. And Brandon Andrews, the presenter at the session I attended is THE expert to learn how to write simulations from.

Teaching Mom Internet – Part 1


Last fall when my mother visited the US, I gave her an old laptop. Now I get questions such as this one I received last night, after I sent her some videos on YouTube:

“Why are the videos stopping in between and then getting started on their own? First two and the last one didn’t stop, but the other two stopped.”

Here’s my not so perfect answer to her question:

The videos start and stop during playback because of two reasons:
1. Speed of your connection to the internet, this may limit how much information you can receive from YouTube within a given time
2. The ability of your computer to process the information sent by YouTube and convert it to Video

Some sites help avoid this from happening by making you wait when you first click play so that there’s enough time for the site to send the information through to your computer and also giving your computer to the ability to process this information. This is called buffering. In your case, YouTube didnt do this well to ensure that there were no interruptions when you played the video.

Got a better explanation for my mom? Is there a Common Craft type of video I can send her to explain this better?

How to read a book

Lately I have been feeling a bit challenged in…yes…finishing books I start reading. This problem is particularly acute when it comes to works of non-fiction or works of fiction that don’t have a lot of pictures.

While browsing for what ironically (and disappointingly) turned out to be a curated reading list of non-fiction books, I found this gem: A paper by Paul N. Edwards at School of Information in University of Michigan called How to Read a Book.  A little snippet from the 9 page article:

“So unless you’re stuck in prison with nothing else to do, NEVER read a non‐fiction book or article from beginning to end. Instead, when you’re reading for information, you should ALWAYS jump ahead, skip around, and use every available strategy to discover, then to understand, and finally to remember what the writer has to say. This is how you’ll get the most out of a book in the smallest amount of time.”

I am going to read this article and see if I can change my behavior and read more non-fiction books.

I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Some thoughts around User Generated Content

User Generated Content is all the rage on the internet. Large billion dollar businesses such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp rely solely on their users to generate their content. All they provide is a platform where users can post content and share it with their friends or the world at large. And it is rare that these large businesses compensate their users for creating this content. It begs the question: Should this desire to create content be leveraged inside the enterprise to create learning?
I recently came across an excellent post by John Hathaway at the Velocity Made Good Leveraging Learning Blog about User Generated Content in Learning. John suggests that the question is not IF but WHEN. Here’s a quote from the post:
“So, let’s ask the question “When should we use User Generated Content?” To me, the answer depends greatly on the nature, audience, and goals of the content.”
In the post, he goes on to suggest that while core content critical to the business should probably be produced through a formal and structured process, niche content doesn’t need to be. Particularly because it’s possible that you’re not creating it currently because it has a niche audience and producing formal learning is not cost effective.
Read the full post here and let us know in which areas in your organization would YOU be comfortable with content generated by your end users.

Skills and Competencies

My current assignment at work has made me think and work more in the Development area of Learning & Development. One of the concepts I wanted to gain more clarity about was Skills and Competencies. I have often struggled with differentiating between these. This post on the Success Factors Research Blog really helped clarify and provide a frame of reference.

“Skills can be learned, certificates can be earned, etc. Competencies take much longer to develop. For example, a skill might be profient in C++ (a programming language), but a competency might be high capacity for problem solving. Problem solving is important for programming in any language, and can be applied to many other challenges in the workplace.”