Thursday, 2 April 2009

Big Question: get your innovative eLearning ideas out no matter what others think!

Big question of April launched by Tony Karrer via the Learning Circuits Blog is: stuck/unstuck or how to cope with old-school learning when your head buzzes with new eLearning methods and ideas.

eLearning is fun, great, innovative, wonderful…. up until the moment you meet – most of – the clients (corporate or educational) feedback. While talking with a teacher-centered drilled client, your initial eLearning models and suggestions can be downsized in a way that leave you feeling bewildered.

Creativity can seem weird, unprofessional and irrelevant TO THEM, additionally anything2.0 is unsafe (“sorry we firewall it”) and inefficient in their eyes (“it is just a waste of time”); interactivity is reached by adding (multiple choice) quizzes and at best a discussion forum might be part of the eLearning course you are asked to develop because “that is proven to work throughout time” – read: the past is safe, what has been done works.

Yes, that is the moment you sigh and you want to yell “If only the proven things were worthwhile, than humanity would never have evolved!”

Enter the different stages of being stuck… let me tailor it on my life in the stuck/unstuck roller coaster.

First stage: get all droopy and wonder why I do not go to the Arctic Circle and live of the land (conveniently forgetting the ending of ‘Into the Wild’). It worked in the past, so why would I want to work towards the future anyway?

Second stage: after a night filled with angry cries in the dark; I get out of bed all fired up. And than I remember what Randy Pausch said in his last lecture “The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.“ I have never taken no for an answer! So I look into my reference files: is there any research that I can use to build my case in favor of what I propese as an eLearning project. After that I write down arguments that can be used in future, similar discussions in a face-to-face situation: the military always works with the latest innovations and they need to stay on top (scores very good with conservative minds): blogs in Irak, educational games to increase survival…all have been successfully used by them. Or I have a convivial talk with them about children (yes they already use new technologies, even in primary school) or other regions (Africa is indeed into social media, and they leapfrog the North with their innovative mobile applications, India is getting very competitive with their innovative approaches)… something that might just move the clients frame of thought a bit, because everyone wants to be seen as someone who knows what is happening on a global scale.

Third stage: strategy is always important. So I promise myself I will develop a plan that will include innovation – hey, it is my name on the developed program - but it will be a plan disguised in sheep’s clothing, so not to shock them. Example: don’t call it micro blogging/twitter for learning, but staying on top with all the learners and adding to the much needed team spirit to increase performance as is proven by (any big company or big local university will do: let’s say IBM or Harvard depending on which identity the client has). And if possible pull out your show cases to convince them (be sure to make some show cases they can relate to, meaning do not make everything to flashy).

Possible fourth stage: You do not have a solid showcase for this proposal, time is running out: so you launch a call for help in your informal network. Maybe they have something that proves your point. If necessary I go the hype way: “it is what got Obama elected, it is the new world”.

The – sometimes - fifth stage: the client smells out any innovative initiative I might want to launch or smuggle into the project. I am stuck, there is no way out. If that is the case I will build my own set of learners (free lecture, volunteer for something...) and tryout the ideas I have. If all things are well thought through, chances are the class/lecture in itself will become a promotion for the techniques used. As long as I remember that some people are willing to dive into new learning, I stay hopeful and energetic. Additionally my showcase examples grow.

These are my levels of being stuck. It is my solemn belief that you have to unstuck yourself at all times and at all levels during your life. Life is too valuable to leave it hanging in the hands of others. So build your showcases and promote innovation.

But the best strategy to not get stuck is giving clients the idea they came up with the innovative approach or part of it. Let them get the feeling they put the idea forward. Never be proud, if a person thinks the idea comes from them, they are bound to be more motivated to back it up.