Use Technology to Learn About Technology

I read an article (online, of course) that reflected on how cumbersome it was to do research on any topic.  What library?  Inter-campus sharing of textbooks?  Snail mail?  How 2005.  Now there might be too many ways to find the information you are looking for so, essentially, you have to select your technology in a way that makes you not only efficient and effective but, also, comfortable.  Reduce the anxiety of technology overload.

For me, the answer is two-fold.  Evernote is my overall storage locker, so to speak.  Every time i find something of interest, I send it to my Evernote account.  To date, I have almost 800 “articles” from which I can sort, slice, and dice my way through to get what I need.  How long does it take to do that?  About as long as it takes to type in a Google search.

The other option is Flipboard.  This is a curation of content that I have selected (similar to my Evernote activity) but it is presented is such a more user-friendly way.  I can’t sort like Evernote but what I can do is share it with you.  Why?  Selfishly, it helps build my brand but it also gives me easy access to content.  Here is the link to my magazine “Learning 4 Tomorrow.”

So, both technologies work for me.  Both have similar yet different purposes.  What technologies are you using to integrate your learning?

AT&T: The Marriage of Business and Learning

att globeFrom Chief Learning Officer magazine (May 20, 2013)

AT&T stays on top of the latest tools, technologies and methodologies to deliver learning to its global workforce while remaining in sync with business strategy. Contributing to its success is the company’s learning and development function, which works in close collaboration with the business to understand its needs and drive results. Meshing the learning strategy with the business helped propel AT&T to the No. 1 ranking in Chief Learning Officer magazine’s 2013 LearningElite.

From the start, AT&T’s learning strategy is in direct alignment with the company’s core business objectives. Before implementing its learning curriculum, key business groups get together, including AT&T’s corporate strategy and development group as well as its CEO. The learning and development organization is at the table from the get-go, working to ensure that its programs are in direct alignment with the corporate strategy.

“Once we find out what the five-year plans, three-year plans and next year’s plans are, then the CEO team [has] its offsite and they decide our company’s direction: [They say] ‘OK, what are we going to do over the next three to five years?’ They make their long-term planning,” said Ken Fenoglio, vice president of AT&T University. “Then they go to the board to get approval, and we’re right there with them in that planning process. We’re building our learning courses along the way so that we’re right in sync with the business planning process.”

Each business unit gets an action plan from the strategy team; the learning function then builds plans within the business units based on the annual three- and five-year planning process.

“It’s critical that we have people at the table working closely with leaders and others to help define our business objectives,” said Lew Walker, vice president of learning services at AT&T, “and then wrap our learning initiatives around those objectives so we can help the business meet and exceed their expectations, and ultimately deliver value back to our shareowners.”

In other words, no learning event is undertaken unless it has an impact on the bottom line.

“We don’t do the ‘sure would be nice’ training,” Fenoglio said.

Instead the company does pilot courses and administers test content to calibrate the planned training. Then there is a process of fine-tuning until the final product is ready and leadership approves. Then things are scaled and introduced to the masses.

After learning delivery the company uses Net Promoter Score, a metric to gauge customers’ willingness to recommend a product. Learners are asked if they’re willing to recommend the instructor or curriculum to co-workers.

Leadership commitment is another reason AT&T is the top LearningElite organization. Executives actively support a culture of learning at AT&T. In fact, senior leaders are involved in setting the agenda and shaping courses at AT&T University. Starting with the chairman and CEO on down through the ranks, leaders serve as instructors at the university.

“We believe totally in leaders as teachers,” Fenoglio said. “You don’t know your subject matter, you don’t know your business until you actually teach something. We have a nice blend of external and internal [instructors] that we have teaching [and] we really feel like that has gotten us a long way.”

AT&T University also has an advisory board made up of 14 senior leaders from across the company. These leaders make certain every program or course is aligned to business strategies. Fenoglio said nothing is done without their advice and counsel. “They tell us where the points of need are [and] where the business is driving,” he said. “They also make sure that we’re funded properly.”

More than half of AT&T University’s funding comes from the business units, which contributes significantly to buy-in, because if the business units don’t want or find value in something, they won’t pay for it. “And if they want more … they’re paying with their own checkbook,” Fenoglio said.

The learning services team, which is responsible for skills training, partners with the business to provide real-time training to employees on a daily basis. For instance, the team offers programs to help retail store representatives explain the seemingly endless features on wireless devices, TV services and platforms.

“The majority of my budget for learning services is funded by the clients, so they’ve got vested interest to ensure a great return on investment for the curriculum and deliver that content to people that work in their organization,” Walker said.

Meanwhile, AT&T has made efforts to ensure its use of technology in learning remains cutting-edge. Walker said the company is doing a lot of work related to mobile platforms and looking at gaming, even augmented reality. “We’re a technology company, and what we provide from a learning perspective needs to reflect the technology that we are taking out to our customers,” he said. “So all of those sexy things that everybody is talking about, we make it a reality.”

Some employees in AT&T’s retail stores and those who install AT&T U-verse — the company’s television service — now use iPads on the job. “They’ve got iPads and our training needs to reflect what they’re going to see when they get on the job, and so there’s a lot of work around that,” Walker said.

To that end, the learning team has created an effort under the leadership of Delia Hernandez, associate director of learning services at AT&T, to explore advanced learning technology. For instance, Walker anticipates augmented reality — a 3-D version of Web-based training that is still in its infancy — to gain steam in a few years.

“We can’t just be standing still and expecting that leader-led is going to have the impact that it had years ago,” Walker said, “but rather, [we use] technology to be more efficient in our training and hopefully stimulate a better learning experience.”

Even though AT&T keeps up with the latest technology in an effort to stay ahead of the curve, the company’s learning leaders know tools become moot if they don’t impact the business.

“While it’s great to say, ‘I’ve got gaming or I’ve got this,’ if it doesn’t impact the business and move the business forward and make our people better in terms of the jobs that they have to do, then there’s probably no reason to make that investment and make any of the changes that might be required by putting in some of these technologies,” Walker said.

That’s why the team evaluates the impact of any technology or training before rolling it out. At the end of the day, business impact comes first.

“We’re continually looking at how we can be more efficient with our training and make our end users as proficient as possible, so that when they go through our training they can do their jobs successfully and take care of their families and take care of their customers and make a good living,” Walker said. “We [consider] that very, very important within this organization.”

Balancing between keeping up and checking out

imagesI’ve been at this blog for almost two years and looking back, it’s interesting to see the progression I’ve made from “Look at me! I’m on Twitter! I’m hip!” to “ohmygoodness what am I doing with all these apps?” to finally trying to find a balance that works between my personal life and the life that as become so interdependent (or tied to) technology.

  1. I’ve learned that I can’t do it all, and there is no app that can do it all either.
  2. I try to find what works and stick with it, while staying engaged with the evolution of your interests.
  3. There is always someone who knows more than I do or can do it better than I can.

Technology will continue to evolve, and we will always find ourselves trying to keep up, while still asking questions about what’s ahead:

What’s the newest network to belong to? How are we communicating today? Or tomorrow? How will our job descriptions change (or will they) to meet/keep up with technology? What will be the expectations the next generation of workers will have or us and what will be our expectations of them? How will technology affect learning more so than it has already?

And that’s change, along with the excitement of what lies ahead, is what keeps me going.

Withdrawl from Wireless Service — or not

While out of wireless coverage (via a cruise) for the past week, I suffered typical withdrawl from wireless service.  Once I got used to not having that “thing” go off all the time, it was kind of nice.  It took a few days, but it was nice nonetheless.

For those younger than 25, it was another story altogether.  I saw phones being carried around, shoved into pockets that are too small for a paper clip, and hanging around other body parts.  You might think that these devices were being used as music players but, alas, they were not.  They were simply there, filling a void that has become as essential as gasoline is to a car.  I can only guess the following scenarios played out:

  1. They paid for an international roaming plan.  Texting, voice calls, whatever…all in an effort to convey to their friends that wonderful conversation starter word of “Wasssuppp?”  I wish I could see their faces (or the faces of their parents) when they get the bill.
  2. They think they are THAT important that no call could be missed.  Legends in their own minds, so to speak.  Here’s a tip:  You’re not.
  3. They have never experienced NOT having wireless coverage.

Wireless services are good things and, used effectively, can make life more enjoyable.  But, to see how it impacted some individuals simply screamed out to me of a psychological study waiting to happen.  I can just imagine the title now:  “No wireless service:  An increased concern for people jumping overboard.”

Take a break from it.  Your family will thank you.

Risks Worth Taking

I’ve been at this social thing for about two years and, during that time, I’ve picked up on a few things.  One of them is to take some risks.  Here are a few of them:

  1. I put myself out there.  Personally on Facebook, professionally on Twitter.  LinkedIn, well, not so much but it just follows Twitter.  So far, I haven’t been sued, slandered upon, or embarrassed.  Still, I’ve only been at this for two years.
  2. I’ve found some real interesting people who know what they’re talking about.  And, even if I don’t agree with them, it opens up a discourse in the name of a shared interest.  No back and forth emails between just the two of us but, rather, a global conversation.  I like it.
  3. There are some odd folks out there.  Those with tens of thousands of tweets, following lots of people but zero followers.  You’ve got to keep your guard up.
  4. I would classify myself as an “early adopter” but, with respect to social networking, I’ve got some catching up to do.  Technology is not the issue but, rather, consistently challenging the creative person within.
  5. Finally, I am pushing the envelope with those with whom I work.  Yeah, there are risks but failure to at least try would be disadvantageous to all.

What social networking risks have you taken? Respond in the comments section!

Internet Time Alliance: Working Smarter (March 2012)

Thanks to the Internet Time Alliance for this content.

The Internet Time Alliance helps its clients understand and embrace complexity and adopt new ways of working and learning.

Some thoughts on my turning 55

I need to keep it simple for 2012 and, for those within a generation of my age, some thoughts:

  1. Let technology enable you, not disable you.  However, technology cannot (and should not) do it all.
  2. Dogs get trained, people learn.  But, you can’t learn without others so collaboration is critical.  Remember the 70/20/10 balance.
  3. Read the Steve Jobs book (I did).  You’ll gain some perspective (I did).  Work on your legacy.

So, let’s meet at the crossroads of technology and learning and continue the journey.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs, in an interview to BusinesWeek in 1998

Put a fork in me…I am done.

Hmmm, Google+ might have just sent me over the top.  Consider what I have done to myself:

  • Five personal email accounts
  • Two Facebook accounts
  • Two Twitter accounts
  • One LinkedIn account
  • Two blogs
  • One website
  • No MySpace accounts (yay for me)
Now, I am being flooded with all of the wonderfulness of Google+ (G+).  Really?  Why would I encourage all of my contacts on all of these existing accounts to migrate to G+?  Would they do it all for me?  I don’t think so.
While G+ might be better than the rest, for me, this ship has sailed.  I don’t have followers that approach the volume of Ashton Kutcher or Lady Gaga or Barack Obama. I’m not a power player. I did this to myself.  I need simplification.
Put a fork in me.  I am done.

My iPad crashed (and I almost did, too): A bit of self-reflection

I seem to have over indulged with content on my iPad.  It’s telling me “no more apps, no more apps” and to prove the point, it started crashing a lot.  I got it fixed (deleted a bunch of stuff and had to set the entire iPad up all over again).  So, how am I feeling about all of this?

  1. Anxious, to say the least.  I was out of my routine and recognized, to my disappointment, how digitally dependent I had become.
  2. Victimized by myself.  I did this to myself … no one else is to blame.  I am in charge of getting myself out of this as well so I am…
  3. In control of the situation.  iPad is not perfect … it does require some input from me.
  4. Digitally overweight.  I’m now reading The Digital Diet (on my iPad, of course … I may be digitally overweight but I’m not dead).
  5. Frustrated at the fact that my apps that were backed up to Google Docs don’t sync back to the iPad app format.
  6. Thankful that the content of my apps were saved.
  7. Bothered that No. 5 came before No. 6.

While traveling this past week, I noticed that my rental car did not come with a key fob (2010 model).  In reality, I had to use the key to unlock the door, causing me to think to myself “WTF?”  Then, more reality set in … I have a job and a roof over my head.  Get real, Elliot … get real.

With somewhat of a level head, I think back to the time when microwaves were introduced (yes, I am that old).  Many predicted the end of the oven, similarly the way they predicted the end of classroom training when eLearning was birthed.  Same concept here … technology should supplement, not replace what we have, including the ability to think independently, actually speak with another person instead of email (wait, email is so 2008 … replace email with Twitter, Facebook, whatever), and live the way we used to … in person.

To me, technology should be the enabler … it works for me … not the other way around.