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Bryan's Learning Blog

"Little beats big when little is smart, first with the head then with the heart"

Month

January 2016

Roles and Trends for WIL in the Technology Industry

This blog discusses the roles and trends of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) in the technology sector and also touches on my experiences with web conferencing with a partner for this blog.

Roles

An adult educator today has more roles than in the past. Now, There are a variety of different methods and experiences that can be used to improve on the traditional classroom environment.

For this post, my project partner, Brian (blog), and I focused on Worked Intergrated Learning (a.k.a WIL). This particular extension of the classroom allows students to transition smoothly to their first job by working while they learn and learning by doing. For the most part, you will see this type of learning in apprenticeships for trades and co-op courses in college/university. Brian and I both see the same type of learning in our jobs although in a different manner. In my case, employees like to experience new aspects of the business and if they want to do that they will need to learn on the go to keep business as usual. It is essentially cross training the employee by it still encompasses that learn by doing experience seen in WIL.

In my opinion, the role of an educator can be better understood by knowing the audience they are trying to teach. In her (paper), Franziska Trede discusses three theoretical ideas of identity that apply to WIL, they are:

  1. The conscious self at the centre of professional identity development;
  2. The power of social relations; and
  3. The power of language and discourse.

These three groupings help the educator understand what the end goal is for these students. They need to not only prepare them with the facts and knowledge but also the ability to apply this knowledge in the right environment. By working while they learning, students learn who they are in the professional world, figure out how to deal with certain situations and problem solve with co-workers. By doing this, students gain invaluable insights and skills that they would not get in the traditional classroom environment.

Trends

As mentioned before, in my field that is technology, there are many employees trying to get cross-trained. This could be for a few reasons, particularly to try something new to see if they like it (more), or to gain new skills they can apply to their career to improve their standing in the company. On the other side of things, there is a lot of head-hunting that can happen in the industry so company’s can be reluctant to train employees on new skills or jobs out of fear they will leave for greener grass.

This is a difficult trend to change because the employer and the employee need to compromise on a situation. I believe that the employer should always help their employees improve because it will benefit everyone later on. If the company is worried about employees leaving instead of harnessing their initiative then something is wrong anyway. In a perfect world, employees would get a few hours a week to work on a skill that is related to their current field or one they want to get into within the company. This way everyone is happy. The employee is improving their skills with the company in mind.

 

Web Conference

For this blog, I spent some time discussing WIL with Brian over Skype. It was interesting to hear how he applied cross-training and WIL within his workplace and he explained how the apprenticeships work at his job.

The web conferencing itself was a little intimidating at first since you are skyping with a stranger that you have never met in person. After the introductions are done and you are over the initial shock it was easy to get down to business to discuss what we had learned about WIL. I found this to be a valuable assignment because we were able to talk about our ideas and really fine tune them by bouncing ideas off each other.

I would definitely try this again if I had a group project since it did not mean we had to be in the same location even if scheduling a call was sometimes tough. In the end, everything went well and we were able to help each other along through the process of this blog.

 

 

 

Journal 1: Reflecting on the importance of soft skills to complement knowledge and understanding in the classroom and the workplace

In this reflective journal, I will be discussing the following quote from Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice (2014): “21st Century competencies include deep understanding, flexibility and the capacity to make creative connections and a range of so-called ‘soft skills’ including good team-working” and how it applies to adult learning and my personal learning and working situations.


Objective:

When I read this quote I think about my university experience and how it has applied to me in the working world. In my program we were given a wealth of information that generally involved lectures and reading textbooks. It was important to have a deep understanding of the basic sciences (chemistry, physics, and biology) so that we could apply those rules to how the human body works. Of course, when it comes to the human body, every system is a little bit different which required applying those scientific rules in different ways.

This understanding allowed me to be flexible with the knowledge I had gained as to apply it in different scenarios. This kind of thinking is common among university courses but in my opinion the ‘soft skills’ that I learned by working with other students, doing laboratory courses and interacting everyday with like-minded individuals were more valuable in the working world. Since I am not working in the field that I studied at university, teamwork is essential to gain the deep understanding of the work I am doing. Without proper training, discussions with co-workers, and the capacity to learn it would be near impossible to improve my working habits and the processes used to complete my job.

What caught my attention the most about this quote is how important soft-skills are in the workplace and in learning situations but how little they are actually taught or mentioned during classes, training, and on-boarding programs. I think that in order to be successful these soft skills need to be highlighted even if we are living in a knowledge society, “ [t]he quantity and quality of learning thus become central, with the accompanying concern that traditional educational approaches are insufficient” (Merriam & Bierema, p.4)


Reflective:

Teaching is a tough role since everyone learns in different fashions. Some take value from a lecture settings, some are visual learners, and a lot of people including myself require some sort of interaction in order to get the full understanding of what is being taught. I liked the basic breakdown from the text into “ formal, non-formal and informal [learning] settings” (Coombs, Prosser & Ahmed, 1973 via Merriam & Bierema p. 16) because in today’s day and age the formal learning settings have taken a backseat to things like using Google or the internet to find the answers we seek. There are so many ways we are learning everyday without even knowing it or being conscious to it.

Earlier, I wrote about the importance of soft skills especially team work in order to be successful as student or an employee but this is also true for teachers, professors, trainers, bosses and executives to fully understand how their students or employees learn, how they are feeling in their roles, and ultimately, what the teacher or employer can do to improve the experience for them. Being knowledgeable is only half the battle in my opinion, there has to be some passion involved to drive the want to work and learn.

Without soft skills it is near impossible to capture this kind of thinking, and without it, it is hard to gain the trust that pushes learning to the next level. I think about some of the best teachers I had growing up and every single one them was able to connect with their students on levels other than the classic classroom setting. When I think of my favourite boss (who happens to be my current boss), he isn’t my favourite because he is the smartest person in the organization or because he is the most knowledgeable, it is because he assists me to do my job by understanding who I am and how I do my work. For example, my boss understands that I have a passion for education, and through discussions about his past and what he did to get where he is today I have begun my journey. In fact this course is the first step. This aspect of our relationship has nothing to do with the work we are doing but is a consequence of being open and trusting each other. The soft skills used in the teaching and in the workplace are invaluable to get a deeper understanding of our roles and learning habits, but also help to increase capacity to learn. Having a teacher or employer who truly understands you does wonders for your desire to do more and learn efficiently.


Interpretive:

I once worked for a database company that dealt with health interventions. These are not like the interventions you see on television but those that can impact a community and in an attempt to be sustainable and scalable for potential national usage. For example, if there is an obesity problem in a community, and intervention may be to start a healthy eating program or an exercise regime that the entire community can work together on. My boss was an intelligent woman who was also a professor at Simon Fraser. She spoke about what was most important for an intervention to be successful. In her eyes, there was a need to either increase the capacity of the community in the intervention or to decrease the complexity of what they needed to do or learn in order to implement the program successfully. It makes sense but when I read this quote I had a true “Eureka” moment.

In any situation, there are different types of people who are potentially trying to learn something new, or change their habits. They could read all the pamphlets provided, go to the programs, and do their very best to follow the guidelines but this doesn’t ensure success. Additionally, these people may not be able to apply the knowledge they were given or had learned to their everyday lives. This is where the educator is important but not necessarily in the traditional role. There is a need for the educator to connect with these people on a personal level, they need to empathize with their audience so that the facts being given are relevant to their experiences.

I think a lot of the time as educators it is difficult to step back and look at the situation from their audience’s perspective. The educator already has a deep understanding of everything being taught and it may be very easy for them to make connections to other situations. It is part of their role to ensure the audience is getting the most out of the information as possible because without that the audience will fail to incorporate what they have learned. Once again soft skills are instrumental in making these connections with the audience and also to help the audience make connections with their lives and how they apply in their environment.

For me as an adult educator, I need to ensure that I adjust my teaching style to reflect the needs of my audience. There are going to be many situations where my style isn’t going to be fit for who I am teaching. I will need to use soft skills to develop a rapport with those being taught which will help them to better understand what I want to get across. For example, if an audience is not responding to certain style, I can probe the audience by changing little things to see how they respond. My key takeaway from this quote is that the learning environment is always going to be a little different depending on the industry, the audience, and probably even by day. In order to succeed in this environment, the educator needs to adapt and having different styles at their disposal to ensure their audiences achieve their full potential.


Decisional:

Since I currently work in a training role in the technology industry I have experienced the need for soft skills. When I first started at the company, I gained a lot of knowledge on how to enter information into our platform. Since then I have become the subject matter expert with a deep understanding of how the platform works, how it can be applied, and the ability to be flexible with this knowledge to apply it to unique situations a client might have. When I moved into the training role, I needed to explain my understanding and pass along my knowledge to the client so that they could do the same things without my help. At the start, I found it challenging to explain these things in a manner that made sense to clients with varying technical know-how. For me, technology makes sense and I have no problem applying what I know to a technological environment but this was not the case for many of the client’s I was dealing with.

In order to deal with these differences, a needs assessment is done prior to training to gain insight into what type of learner would be attending my training sessions. My ability to apply conversational skills I have gained to these calls allows the client to become more comfortable with me and we can start to develop a trust so that they know I have their best interests in mind. These assessments are invaluable when it comes developing training plans since I can gear my style to best fit the capacity of the client. For the most part, I do not need to adjust my style mid-training. Even as educators we are always learning, and we need gain experience through teaching. I have been prepared with a particular style of teaching that I thought would be most effective only to have that fall apart during the training session. The ability to adapt it crucial, if we don’t adapt to the situation then the audience does not learn effectively (or not at all) and if the audience does not gain the knowledge we are trying to pass along then we are not doing our job as educators.

I will continue to adjust my style, and use past experience to reflect prior to new training sessions to ensure that my clients are getting the most out of my sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice.

 

Lesson Planning – PIDP 3100

  1. Creating a Positive Learning Environment

    I chose this article because I believe a positive learning environment stems from creating an ideal course for the audience. This article describes tips for teaching adult students that will lead to a positive learning experience. For me, I need to be wary of the technology gap, and gear my sessions towards the student’s technological know-how. The biggest take away from this article is to treat adults like they adults they are and go at a tempo that will promote learning and not bore nor overwhelm the student.


    Link to Article

  2. Motivational Techniques 

    This is a simple list of strategies to motivate adult learners, which is both important to me now as I write this as a student and as I think about my own lesson plans as an educator. I chose this article in particular because of the third list item, which is about building a community and using social media. This is something that I have done in the past and I find it particularly useful for discussions between students and educators, which can lead to further exploration of the topic and a better understanding.

    Link to Article

  3. Assessment 

    This video describes a form of assessment called RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, and Comment), which can be used after a session and touches on multiple levels of Blooms Taxonomy. Basically, the student will recall important points in a summary sentence, then they will question anything they are unsure about. Next, students will connect the summary to overall goals of the course and make any comments about what they learned. I will use this at the beginning of concurrent sessions to ensure that all the important points have been noted and understood.

    Link to Video

  4. Media 

    I chose this blog about insights into social trends in learning from 2014 because I feel like they are still relevant today. The “human touch” is still something that is missing from a lot of online environments and although it is trending up there is still a lot that can be done to improve the processes. I have had success in this course with the use of Skype and Facebook for learning purposes. I plan on applying this type of media in my sessions specifically to continue the conversation after class is over. Social media can be used as discussion board to exchange ideas, network and host course materials.

    Link to Blog

  5. Planning 

    This article is an excellent resource for lesson planning because it goes over the ABCD’s of creating learning objectives that are instrumental in creating an effective lesson plan. This article also describes the WIPPEA Model for lesson planning which is effective for courses that will require more than one session and that will require an understanding of individual components that make up the full course. For me, the ABCDs will be implemented immediately so that I can be sure to start my lessons plans effectively and ensure that they are clear and concise overall.

    Link to Article

 

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