time for re-schooling

A lot of parents have become teachers during this pandemic as they work from home and their children learn online. I have heard many parents say how difficult teaching is and how they have new-found respect for teachers. But are we getting the best and brightest to educate the next generation?

And now we have the data to prove it. According to “Academically Adrift,” a new book by my New York University colleague Richard Arum and the University of Virginia’s Josipa Roksa, just 45 percent of students in education and social work reported taking a course in the previous semester requiring more than 20 pages of writing, while 61 percent took a class with more than 40 pages of reading per week. By comparison, 68 percent of social science and humanities students took a class with 20 pages of writing, and 88 percent had a class with 40 pages of weekly reading.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that students in education and social work reported studying less, too: 10.6 hours per week, as opposed to 12.4 hours in the social sciences and the humanities. The hardest workers are science and math majors, who study 14.7 hours a week. —CSMonitor 2011-03-02

Well, anecdotally, I know of several university students who failed in the sciences and then went into education. I have a Master’s degree in adult education, and of the over 200 students in my graduating class, only two of us wrote a thesis. The rest took two additional courses and did not have to face a thesis defence. (more…)

optimizing distributed work

Now that distributed work has become the norm — permanently for some and temporarily for others — there are two things any organization can do to work, learn, and innovate in internet time.

  1. Optimize meetings for a digital workplace
  2. Help all workers become knowledge catalysts

Back in 2008 I noted that cooperating, reflecting, and supporting each other are necessary for groups of knowledge workers to collectively achieve common objectives. That year, my colleague Jay Cross surveyed 237 workers from various countries and in different sized organizations. They identified a number of key issues preventing them from doing their best work.

  • a lack of cooperation
  • no time for reflection
  • no ability to create DIY tools for work
  • no communities of practice for support
  • lack of professional development
  • poor training
  • working in organizations that are slow to change

I have no doubt that the same survey today would yield similar results. (more…)

learning in the time of corona

Here are two important questions to ask ourselves as we work remotely and connect digitally.

1. Where do we go for trusted information on matters important to us?

2. Who do we talk to when we have to make difficult decisions?

Sharing complex knowledge requires trust, and trust takes time. We can start by connecting with people in social networks to learn from, and finding communities to improve our professional practices. Trusted knowledge networks are a professional safety net when problems are non-linear and situations are complex. (more…)

changing patterns of connectedness

Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

The Fourth Doctor — “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common: they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.” via @GarethLPower

@alexia — “If you are the smartest person in the Zoom, then you are in the wrong Zoom.” (more…)

creative desperation for desperate times

My personal knowledge mastery framework was a result of creative desperation. I had just lost my job. My wife was a stay-at-home mother, we had two young children, and we live in a remote economically depressed part of the country. I had spent the last five years working for a learning technologies research centre and then an e-learning start-up. Suddenly I was a freelancer, physically disconnected from any potential clients. It was 1,000 KM to the nearest major urban centre.

Gary Klein’s research in, Seeing What Others Don’t, identified five general ways that we gain insights.

  1. Curiosity
  2. Connections
  3. Coincidences
  4. Contradictions
  5. Creative Desperation


introduction to working smarter

The nature of work has continuously changed over time. Factories and manufacturing are no longer where most of us work. We work in offices, at home, and often remote from our team mates. Today, much of what we do at work is networked via digital technologies.

Here is a useful model of working smarter by connecting our work teams with our professional communities and networks. It is based on three practices: seeking knowledge, sensemaking, and sharing our knowledge, or simply put — seek > sense > share. (more…)

entangled thinking

If this pandemic is teaching us anything, it’s that experts disagree, nobody has all the answers, and we are mostly making things up as we go. In a crisis it is important to act but even more importantly to learn as we take action. Add in the human factor that some people are always trying to take advantage of any situation and we start to float in a liquid surround of misinformation, propaganda, half-truths, and sometimes utter crap of the post-truth machines.


control is for amateurs

Every fortnight — now known as a decade — I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.

“In times of crisis, people reach for meaning. Meaning is strength. Our survival may depend on our seeking and finding it.” —Viktor Frankl, via @nuri_numinous

@JoyceCarolOates“is anyone else experiencing a distortion of time? each day feels monumental & tomorrow seems totally unpredictable; one week ago feels like one month; the future feels foreshortened, like a blank wall just a few inches away. past crises, like raging wildfires, near-forgotten.”


the future is here

Work is learning, and learning is the work. This has been my tag line for the past decade. Until recently it felt in some ways that I was talking about the future of work, as many organizations still focused on formal course-based training, and education was firmly established on subject-based curriculum developed in isolation from the world.

The pandemic changed everything. Things that we thought would take years were done in a week or two. Is digital transformation even an issue today, or did it just happen? This question has been making the rounds on social media.

Who led the digital transformation of your company?
a) CEO
b) CTO
c) COVID-19

One of my favourite commentaries on schooling from home comes from my friend Tanya. (more…)

new societal infrastructures

In 2004 Bill Draves and Julie Coates wrote Nineshift: Work, life and education in the 21st Century. That was the same year I started blogging here. Nineshift is based on the premise that during the first two decades of the 21st century, there will be a major shift in how we spend 9 hours of each day.

“There are 24 hours in a day. We have no real discretion with roughly 12 of those hours. We need to eat, sleep, and do a few other necessary chores in order to maintain our existence. That hasn’t changed much through the centuries, so far.

That leaves approximately 12 hours a day where we, as individuals, do have some discretion. That includes work time, play time, and family time.

Of those 12 hours, about 75%, or 9 hours, will be spent totally differently a few years from now than they were spent just a few years ago. Not everything will change, but 75% of life is in the process of changing right now.”

The authors put forth that society would significantly shift what we do with those nine hours and this would be complete by 2020.

  1. People Work at Home — “Work is an activity, not a place.”
  2. Intranets Replace Offices
  3. Networks Replace the Pyramid
  4. Trains Replace Cars
  5. Communities Become More Dense
  6. New Societal Infrastructures Evolve
  7. Cheating Becomes Collaboration
  8. Half of all Learning will be Online
  9. Education becomes Web-based