Social Learning Leaders

I had the opportunity to participate in a 4-day workshop led by Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner on being a social learning leader in growing and developing communities of practice and networks: BETreat “State of the Art” October 7-10, 2014.

Sharing the Message from BETreat 2014 Penticton: Our Key Learning:
We thought a lot about being a social learning leader and how a social learning leader cares about solving the problems of the community they participate in, how they are personally invested in the solutions and how they do not know the answers themselves. There are similarities with being a teacher, especially at the surface, but there are huge differences at the deep level.

We developed skills in engaging stakeholders in our community issues, making value creation propositions regarding our communities, and became familiar with methods to determine and demonstrate the value of the community’s activities, particularly to funders.

A good social learning leader is someone who:
– can quickly bring you into her context
– engages you into her problem
– gets you thinking productively about what she should do

We worked with technology to support our journey in the 4 day workshop and used many tools, adobe connect, wikis, skype, …and it was a very positive experience using the new technologies for the 3 fully online participants as well as the 8 face-to-face participants, to ensure participation and support to bring everyone together. We also practiced supporting people in all environments to bring them into the work.

Here’s a cleaned-up version of the summary of our social learning leaders & teachers discussions:

Social Learning Leaders & Teachers
Social Learning Leaders & Teachers

Live learning via Twitter and Flickr during the four days:

Mobile Learning Toolkit

Coming from the International Labour Organization’s International Training Centre’s DELTA unit is a very excellent online course Mobile Learning Toolkit. It has been developed specifically to support capacity-building in starting business in Africa (aptly named, Start and Improve Your Business) but it is also a handy collection of methods and activities for anyone wanting to develop m-learning. Most importantly, because mobile cellular use is overwhelmingly not smartphone-based, the activities focus on simple cell phone use.


I had the opportunity to attend COHERE’s 2013 conference in at Kwantlen in Richmond, with the theme, “Open Resources, Open Courses: Their Impact on Blended and Online Learning”. It was fantastic: a measured look at the themes of open resources and open learning with opportunities for breadth during one afternoon of break-out sessions, and opportunities for depth during two mornings of keynotes + panel responses.

My notes from Thursday’s keynote by Cable Green with the panel responses:

Cable Green's Keynote
Cable Green’s Keynote


My notes from Friday’s keynote by David Porter with the panel responses:

David Porter's Keynote
David Porter’s Keynote
Panel Responses to David Porter

In conclusion, adoption and diffusion of OERs can learn a lot from how we approach the adoption and diffusion of elearning with many of the similar issues: impact on systems/ecologies of large institutions, faculty take-up, pedagogical implications, the $ imperatives…

Teaching Squares & Lesson Study

Teaching Squares and Lesson Study are both facilitated peer-group approaches to improving instructors’ lesson preparation and delivery but both take very different approaches. Teaching Squares lends itself well to heterogeneous groups who come from different disciplines while Lesson Study is primarily for instructors coming from the same discipline or wanting to integrate the same theme into their particular discipline (eg. sustainability across the curriculum).

Teaching Squares follow this process:

  1. Group of 4 instructors meet with facilitator and decide a schedule for class visits. Individual instructors decide what guiding questions they have about their own instruction before the visits.
  2. Each instructor visits the others’ class during class time to observe the instructor. The purpose is to observe the other instructor (and not participate in the class). The observing instructor is to focus on her own guiding question about her own instruction, comparing herself to the observed instructor. She is not evaluating the teaching instructor.
  3. Each instructor reflects on the observations, comparing to their own instruction to determine if they can themselves make any changes.
  4. The group meets to discuss what they learned based on their personal reflections.


Lesson Study follows this process:

  1. Group of instructors meet with facilitator and plans the study.
  2. The group determines what guiding questions will determine the focus of the observations. These take the form of research questions that the group would like to investigate and improve upon.
  3. Design the lesson. The group determines the learning goals and a lesson to achieve this goal. It seems that not all lesson studies operate at this level of uniformity, though, as some are just looking at bigger questions – eg. teaching a particular curricular theme, as opposed to teaching the exact same lesson.
  4. Observers visit the classes of the instructors during the time the teaching instructor is delivering the lesson under study. Observers document all their observations regarding the lesson, the instructor, and the students, to inform the evaluation of the lesson under study. It seems that all participants deliver the lesson in their classes and are observed.
  5. The team meets to analyze the results and evaluates whether or not the learners achieved the learning goals.

A New Culture of Learning

I recommend this book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change especially for those who are in or who care about education but are not education professionals, eg. managers, vice-presidents, etc.. Thomas and Seely Brown nicely and concisely encapsulate current thinking and research without once mentioning distributed cognition, social constructivism, inquiry or any other theory-talk.