experiencial learning

A remote worker’s most important tools.

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As I have been traveling in Portugal, Finland, Spain and England these past weeks, I have once again been struck by the commonalities we share as humans…both in our need for meaningful work and renewing play time. This balance is especially important for those who have chosen the path of remote work. However, the degree to which cultures intentionally plan for playtime is varied.

While in Finland I was honored to be part of a Global Faculty Colloquium held at JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyvascula; 18 individual from around the globe presented their practices related to applied research in the post secondary classroom. Inspiring, informative, and innovative ideas were shared, and each brought their unique culture and perspective to the conversation. However, the learning that left the strongest impression on me was the intentionality demonstrated by the Finnish people…our hosts. These people are hard workers, but take seriously their time to step back and enjoy the wonder of the country they are blessed to live in. Time and again, we heard guides and locals alike refer to ‘living room spaces’…spaces where people take time out of their work to simply sit, visit, get to know one another, and reflect on life. Time to be still, to think, to watch, to simply…be. I would suggest this is one of the two most important tools for a remote worker, the pre-cursor to innovative and creative thinking.

You may have intentional playtime all figured out, but for many this is a necessity that all to easily gets pushed aside. There is almost a panic that sets in if we are not doing something that contributes to existing contracts or to the pursuit of new business. While in Helsinki it was a treat to sit among the many people taking time out of their busyness to enjoy a pastry and coffee from one of the many sidewalk cafes, or simply sit on a bench along the city’s central linear park…intentionally taking advantage of the many ‘living room spaces’. But this is not a new concept…we are all keenly aware of the need for such ‘playtime’…aware, of , but perhaps not committed to .

I was also stuck by the intentionality of the Finns regarding building relationships in business. The value they place on taking time to create a foundation of trust before moving forward with business dealings is commendable; people first, business second. Read the rest of this entry »

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My ‘creative’ office space…

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In my last blog I committed to do whatever I could to avoid creating cracks in my overall well being…that’s easier said than done! I can’t believe how many daily habits I am unaware of that fight against that desire.

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My office, office chair, view, and parking lot 🙂

A simple example is eating. My plan this week was to do research and begin developing material for a case study and summer teaching…activities I thoroughly enjoy. However, in my focused prep I loose track of time and then wonder why I can’t put two sensible thoughts together…I forget to stop and eat until my brain starts screaming for fuel. At that point I am so desperate to eat, I grab whatever is fast and convenient; sometimes my choices are good…but not always.

Then there’s the old tyranny of the urgent. I take a few minutes to check email before setting time aside for quiet reflection and meditation…you know where this is going! An hour later I’m still dealing with issues that have come up, and those led to new ‘stuff’…there goes my quiet time! Sound familiar?

Don’t get me wrong, the week wasn’t a total bust…mid-week I decided to change ‘office’ location. For a whole afternoon I sat by the lake in a comfy Adirondack chair, reading, thinking, creating…perfect! Not only did I get a lot accomplished, I ended the afternoon feeling relaxed and refreshed. 

Once again I was reminded that in order to break old habits we sometimes need a change…even if only for an afternoon. I know that being outside is what I love, especially if a lake or ocean is involved. I know that a change in scenery brings fresh thinking for individuals and teams alike. I know that when I head out on my bike (which is how I got to my ‘office’) I always throw in healthy snacks and water. I know that intentionality is key in making any change worth making.

Speaking of intentionality, I was explaining to a friend this week that my summer goal was to focus on the 3Rs: relax, refresh, rejuvenate. However, I got stopped in my tracks when she asked what that meant…what do each of those actions (yup, actions…) really entail. Great question, but I really didn’t have an answer. So, time for a little backtracking to clarify what I’m actually shooting for.

This is what I found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Relax:

  • to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff
  • to stop feeling nervous or worried
  • to spend time resting or doing something enjoyable especially after you have been doing work

Refresh:IMG_0145

  • to make (someone) have more energy and feel less tired or less hot
  • to give someone more of (a drink) : to fill (someone’s glass, cup, etc.) again
  • computers : to put something, (such as a page on the Internet) into a computer’s memory again in order to show any new information : to cause an updated version of (something, such as an Internet page) to appear on a computer screen

Rejuvenate:

  • to make (someone) feel or look young, healthy, or energetic again
  • to give new strength or energy to (something)

I need to probe and ponder these definitions and think through the actual working out of these actions and how they apply to my 3R summer…hmmm!

Flip the Learning

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My mind is full! The last 2 days I attended a conference on the flipped classroom. www.techsmith.com/education-flipped-classroom.html It’s a great practice that has already proven to be effective in all levels of education; however, flipping a classroom isn’t as easy as flipping a switch! It takes time and a lot of preparation. Let me paint a picture of what ‘flipping’ might look like in the course of living and learning.

We love traveling (you probably figured that out already!). One of the things I’ve learned about the individuals we travel with is that we all prepare for a trip differently. Let me give you an example. A few years ago we took a trip to Europe that brought us to such amazing

Vernazza's Harbour
Vernazza’s Harbour

places as Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Santorini, and Barcelona. Together we decided where we wanted to go for a holiday, and the general mode of travel (flights, trains, hikes, cruise ship…).

Once the dates were decided, some of us took a back seat and simply dreamed of what we would experience. However, two of the guys dedicated hours of research time looking at and planning where we would visit, must see attractions, restaurants, and even the best places to buy certain local products. When we arrived at the destinations, Dennis and Dennis (we named them D ‘n D Travel) were prepped and ready to learn the secrets of the historical wonders we visited. They knew the history, the stories behind the cultural landmarks, and were able to deepen their discoveries by adding their prior knowledge to the in-person experience.

The rest of us still had a fantastic vacation, at times weary from sensory overload, but I feel fairly confident in saying that the two who spent time gaining a base knowledge before going, walked away with even greater appreciation of our experience. Their learning was ‘flipped’…rather than waiting for the travel experience to learn about the culture and attractions, they watched Rick Steeves www.ricksteves.com, did Internet research, talked to others who had visited Europe previously, and even created our personal travel itinerary! They laid the foundation for experiential learning to build on, and helped the rest of us appreciate elements that we may have overlooked.

Back to training and development. My formal teaching context is in post secondary, but I am also involved with training and development in business; this happens in boardrooms, or even in coffee shops! Does this idea of ‘flipped’ apply in those non-traditional settings? I would say so. At the start of the conference participants were reminded to ask a very important question: What should students be doing inside the classroom, and what should they be doing outside the classroom?

With our employees and teams, what T & D can take place on their own through reading, webinars, or on-line courses, and what skills need the face-to-face interaction with a facilitator or trainer? We need to think about the hardest thing (skill, ability…) that will be required of them, and make sure face-to-face time is dedicated to help facilitate that learning. If the learning calls for face-to-face interaction, what learning activity can they do ahead of time so that they come prepared for full engagement?

Let me offer a simple example. You have a team that is experiencing conflict, but is at a loss for how to effectively resolve it. How can ‘flipped’ learning be applied?

  • You invite everyone to a short team building session aimed addressing conflict resolution.
  • One week prior, you send a link describing a conflict resolution process that you have found to be effective, or a YouTube video that demonstrates that process.
  • You ask that everyone take time to look at these resources before coming to the team building session.
  • In the face-to-face time have participants summarize what they read/watched, and then put the process into role-play action, providing examples of conflict areas experienced in the industry.
  • Make the training time long enough for participants to become comfortable with the process, but short enough to make good use of their valuable time.
  • Don’t forget follow-up…close the loop by soliciting feedback on the effectiveness of the whole training experience.
Early Critical Thinking Training
Early Critical Thinking Training

So what has happened here? Your team members learned the ‘theory’ outside of the ‘classroom’, allowing the face-to-face experience to focus on the application of the learning; you ‘flipped’ the training.

Whether you are a teacher or a person tasked with leading a team, training and development is a key element in the growth of your people. Let me challenge you to try something that may be a little bit outside of the box…flip the learning experience!

ps In the previous blog I promised more about self-directed T & D…next time…I just had to blog about this conference when it was fresh on my mind! Oh yes, this was part of my own self-directed learning 🙂