PLE’s and Government Learning

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The more I particpate in the Personal Learning Environment, Networks and Knowledge, PLENK2010, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), the more I see an opportunity for governments to enable more effective employee learning. Governments, at any level, can tend to be somewhat soloed with little collaboration and sharing. If governments were to employ MOOC’s ala PLENK2010, I believe we would become that much more effective.

There is a great deal of implicit knowledge and expertise across government. Using a MOOC to create, or expand a PLE for government employees, would allow us to better leverage that knowledge existing in the heads of employees. Org charts and job descriptions, just don’t cut it. A PLE may have an impact on the way civil servants think about collaboration, in a postive way. I think of it as deep networking. Networking is great, but when we start to work together on a problem as in a PLE, a deeper and more solid network and understanding can be created. More understanding between departments could be fostered, allowing for increased sharing and cooperation.

Already, in my short time participating in PLENK2010, I have engaged with several very smart people who have caused me to expand my thinking on learning and social networks. I would like to develop a topic for MOOC for government. Social media may be a decent topic to begin. Your thoughts?


Written by sjdixon

November 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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PLE/N’s and Peer Review

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I just watched an introductory video for the web service Symbaloo (which I discovered from Ian Woods post in #PLENK2010, inserted into Susan O’Grady’s post), presented by a 7th graded on her use of Symbaloo as a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). As part of her video presentation, on her use of Symbaloo, she mentioned that her teacher told her that good science was peer reviewed and so she sent her work (report) off to an expert to check her facts. Actually she didn’t get a response first try and so sent her work to another for review. Wow, what a wonderful lesson to teach a 7th grader! I hope this lesson also teaches her to be critical of what she reads on the internet (and/or printed media / television).

So it struck me immediately that PLE/N’s are an excellent tool to keep us honest and more accurate in our work and interpretation of knowledge. I am thinking of #PLENK2010 for example, as a network of peers (a favorable statement on my part) that I can leverage to check my facts and understanding on topics that I stray into that I may have less knowledge about than others. Not that this is necessarily the intent of my experience with #PLENK2010, but rather it is a natural outcome of the experience of discovery and debate (ala Socratic Method). So here we have a process resulting from a PLE that mimics in some ways, a personal peer review network.

I’m interested to hear what other think of this view of PLE’s

Written by sjdixon

November 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm

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Personal Learning Environments

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This week I have refocused some attention on PLENK2010 – a course about Personal Learning Environments (PLE). Now I am just starting this 10 week course in its eighth week, so forgive me as I stumble through with my comments, not having read the previous weeks content yet. The full course title is Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge. I intend to write about it here and attempt to share my understanding of the course and its content.

What is a Persoanl Learning Environment, you might ask? As I understand it (and please fellow PLENK2010 people, comment on my ignoirance here), a PLE is taking new technology and new ways of accessing and sharing information and creating networks of people relevant to your personal and professional interests and learning goals and consuming that information and knowledge and giving back to the community (if you want). The PLE is created by the learner based in their preferences, networks and access to technology in order to support their lifetime learning goals.

I also see the PLE, particularly as I see it through PLENK2010, as a guided approach to learning, with unlimited opportunities to customize the learning experience to the learners particularly interes and needs.

Because PLE’s also connect people of varying expertise and depth of knowedgel, we all have an opportunity to develop life long collaborative realtionships. I am very interested to see how this approach to learning can impact government and help government employees develop new knowledge and wisdom from that knowedge.


Written by sjdixon

November 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

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Software… a new paradigm

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For some time now I have had this idea that the software industry, as it is today, will cease to exist. It may be 10 years or it may be 50 years, but I believe it is likely to happen. As more and more organizations collaborate on more of their common activities, so will they collaborate more on software and sharing and integrating solutions. In large part, this means building software solutions together (think free open source software / FOSS). In addition to increased collaboration, the global technology network will continue to become more “aware” and connected. I say global “technology network” because it will increasingly include more types of machines and their relevant information (read; phones, refrigerators, cars, etc) and the data they possess, not just our desktop/laptop computers.

Let’s get back to the paradigm shift for software. FOSS has gradually been gaining in market share in several environments. For some time Apache has had the majority market share in web servers, almost 50% more than that of Microsofts IIS. Today, Google’s Android OS is rapidly gaining in the smartphone market on iOS and BlackBerry and the Linux OS and OpenOffice are recognized as legitimate alternatives for desktops/laptops.

Now in addition to all of this, there is an fledgling movement and awareness for public organizations to collaborate and share and be more open. I am seeing this on several fronts and in places like, conferences like Gov 2.0 and many others. One such concrete example of this is the Kuali Foundation .

Kuali is a growing community of universities, colleges, businesses, and other organizations that have partnered to build and sustain open-source software for higher education, by higher education. Kuali software is designed to meet the needs of all sizes of institutions, from land-grant research universities to community colleges. The members of the Kuali Community share a common vision of open, modular, and distributed systems for their software requirements. Kuali software is released under the Educational Community License.

Some believe that the Kuali model would be appropriate for government as well. I tend to agree with this notion, that government departments and agencies have very similar needs for technology and software solutions and sharing best practices and software would be beneficial for all involved. Why wouldn’t government work together on common problems and challenges… after all, they are the experts.
Another sharing, clearinghouse type, initiative is the Civic Commons . The Civic Commons seeks to bring together software solutions to share among organizations.

About Civic Commons: For the most part, each city, county, state, agency and office builds or buys their technology solutions independently, creating huge redundancies in civic software and wasting millions of tax-payer dollars. They should be able to work together. An independent non-profit organization, Civic Commons will help these institutions share code and best practices, reform procurement practices, and learn to function not only as a provider of services but as a platform to which an ecosystem of industry can add value for government and its citizens.

More and more, we are seeing organizations emerge to make software open and available to whomever needs it. Some other similar initiatives include; Code for America, Open Plans and Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTA) in Washington DC.

While I will concede that there will always be niche markets for specialty software that will be proprietary, I believe we will see an increasing move to FOSS. The private sector will move toward a variety of support and value add services to organizations. The public sector has an opportunity to lead this shift and I believe it can.

Written by sjdixon

September 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

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Fostering a culture of innovation

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Innovation is a new way of doing something or “new stuff that is made useful” (Wikepedia). Let’s accept this definition for the sake of this discussion. What is most important about this definition is what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say anything about bleeding edge, or technology, or space or futuristic. Innovation can manifest in a thing or a process or a new way of describing something (think semantic web).

Innovation has has gone through a hype phase of popularity and we are argueably on the tail end of the hype. Not that it will fade away or that it is less relevant, but many are tired of hearing about it and so don’t really know how to foster it within their organization. Innovation has always been with us and arguably always will. Having the discussion about innovation allows us to increase our understanding of it and to some degree, harness it.

The problem for many organizations is that innovation activity is not all that effective when shoved off to an isolated “innovation group” who may be disconnected from the rest of the organization and not given the tools and resources or permission to feedback into the organization. That’s where culture somes in and the word fostering (encouragement; aiding the development of something ) comes in. An organization truly must get behind the idea of innovation for it to thrive and provide any real return on innovation investment (ROII).

So innovation can be (and should be) fostered throughout an organization and even pushed a little. You might consider identifying people, or teams to have a defined role to push the innovation agenda forward (let’s call them innovation teams for now). you might allocate time for these teams to work on an innovation agenda; brainstorming, research, idea sponsoring, problem solving, opportunity identification. Now that you have primed the pump of innovation by giving some people the permission (and mandate) of innovation, give them the tools to do it.

Can your innovation team be innovative? Let’s assume that the people on your innovation team want to be there and have bought into the concept… are they ready… do they have the skills? They may be ready, but likely they will benefit from support, as in training or learning. This is currently an area of interest for me. How might we train people in innovation or to be more innovative. There are numerous brainstorming and ideation excercises out there, but I’m thinking that we also need to help our “inovators” develop the skills in design and creative thinking. Creativity is the foundation for innovation. It will allow us to see things differently, to explore how the other side of our brain might solve the problem or exploit an opportunity. The excercises and brainstorming sessions are the tools to use to move forward, while creative, design thinking are the hands that will manipulate and guide the tools.

Now that there is a group in your organization with the premission for innovation and they have the tools and skills for creative problem solving (and more), make sure they have the infrastructure to make it effective. Innovation will require a governance structure appropriate for your organization, the support from the top, it will also require tools for collaboration, communication, sharing and knowledge management.

To recap, the three legs of the stool to foster innovation in any organization, are; 1. identify innovation as a role in your organization and give people the permision and mandate to carry it out, 2. provide the tools and skills for creative thinking and problems solving and 3. give them the infrastructure to make it all useful.

Written by sjdixon

March 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

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Collaboration, Government and Web 2.0

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Web 2.0 is very much about creating content and “creating together” is collaboration. the more minds that contribute to the problem, the more comprehensive and sound the solution. This blog is about communicating. I hope you will choose to contribute your thoughts to this blog (and others too).

There are many buzzwords that skirt the topic of collaboration tools. Some of these include; Social Media, Online Communities, Wiki’s, Groups, and more. At the end of the day, collaboration is about working together, sharing ideas and creating something more as a result of the synergy of working together. Outside of work, many of us are participating in professional online communities. For example, some of mine include; ResearchGATE, Twitter, govloop and LinkedIn in. Each of these communities allows me to expand my horizon of subject matter experts and gather new knowledge.

Internally, however, we must learn to collaborate. It’s not a given that the process will happen on its own, it must be fostered and supported to work. We have to be given the tools, the permission and the encouragement to work together more effectively. Workgroups, wiki’s, blogs, discussion forums, all allow us to do this. And we have to make an effort… set aside 5 minutes to contribute to something where you may have something to add. Comment on this blog, add to one of the wiki’s on here, start your own blog or wiki on a work topic that you could use help with and ask others to contribute to your thinking… you almost certainly can benefit from hearing another perspective than your own, or your close circle of colleagues.

At Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)

“[A]lmost half of the departments 6,200 employees have contributed content (emphasis added) to the NRCan wiki. Proudly boasting over 200,000 page views per week, Marj Akerly, chief information officer at NRCan, says almost every employee uses the wiki in some form. We’ve really worked hard over the last 2 years to see how this (wiki)_ can be used not only as a way to get information bust also as a valuable work tool.”

“Although these tools were initially implemented to create a better integrated knowledge base, Ms. Akerly says the adoption of social media within the department allows NRCan to become an employee of choice for next-generation workers.”

Social media is not about technology, its about collaboration and a culture of cooperation. How to work together more effectively and be open to new ideas. It’s about a can-do attitude as opposed to a can-not attitude. Be positive, be proactive and be a part of the solution.

Written by sjdixon

November 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

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The Art of Community – Chapter 1

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Today I started reading “The Art of Community” by Jona Bacon. Jona is a manager of a large volunteer community for Ubuntu Linux. His success in the Ubuntu community, a large community around an open source Linux distribution, has given him some insights into what works and what does not work for a community.

A few things stood out for me in the first chapter, the first being that community is about a sense of belonging. We describe communities as having common goals and common interests, but at the end of the day, no matter the purpose, we all have a need to belong. The next piece that strikes a cord with me, is how he introduces and describes how “Social Capital” is the velcro (my word) that keeps us attached to the group. Our ability to collaborate with the group and be considered a part of the group grows with our social capital. Jona writes:

Social capital is the collective family of positive interactions between two or more people

Belonging and social capital are important concepts for a community and certainly we must “believe” in the community. Jono talks about a Community Manager also. He describes his role as a community manager like this:

I help to enable a worldwide collection of volunteers to work together to do things that make a difference to them.

Subheading: “Theory Versus Action: Action Wins” nuff said! This to me really sums it up. Just do it… try it… make something happen, and if it doesn’t work, try it a different way, but don’t give up!

Written by sjdixon

November 9, 2009 at 7:57 pm

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