As I was driving down the road the other day, I was thinking about the future of instruction design, especially as it relates to informal and social learning. So as soon as I got to my destination, I threw this post together as a working document. Many people taut themselves as experts in social media, so how can an interviewer really know whether the person they are interviewing is truly an advocate of informal and social learning? They can speak social media but can they design towards social and informal learning?
After the introductory questions and answers like “How’s the weather?” or whatnot, why not dive right into the deep questions?
Personally, my objectives in the interview are to determine the following:
- Do they have a working knowledge of social media sites beyond social networking?
- Do they have personal experience with a wide variety of social media sites?
- Can they identify and explain what are some types of social media sites?
- Do they know who the leaders are in the field of social and/or informal learning?
- To what degree are they ready to begin designing courses with social and/or informal learning in mind?
Here are a series of questions that I have thrown together that I would ask a potential new hire to determine their informal or social learning instructional designing readiness.
- Please name a few different types of social media or web 2.0 and what purpose(s) they serve.
- Here I am looking for them to be able to articulate beyond social networking but to include things like blogging, micro-blogging, social bookmarking, video sharing, picture sharing, web conferencing, etc.
- Besides being able to tell me the various types, I want to determine whether they have a working knowledge of those types by asking follow up questions like, “What is your favorite social bookmarking site and why? What is your favorite micro-blogging site and why?”
- If I really want to determine their gaps, I would have an exhaustive list of various social media sites and just go through them asking them the following: Please let me know how familiar you are with the following social media sites on a scale of 0-10, 0 being, I haven’t ever heard of that site and 10 being I am extensively active on this site. I would also add in a few ad hoc names of a few sites (like techbuzz.com) to see if they are lying.
- Please name three advocates of informal and/or social learning and tell me how each one has impacted your thinking regarding informal and/or social learning.
- Personally, I would be looking for the following names: Jay Cross, Marcia Conner, Tony Bingham, Dave Wilkinson, Kevin Jones, Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Clark Quinn, and Jon Husband. While this list is not a complete all-inclusive list, one of these names should come up.
- One possible very basic follow up question is, “How much of learning is informal?”
- What blogs or websites do you frequent the most and why?
- First, if the person rattles off a list of various social media sites, this really doesn’t tell you anything. It may only mean that they are a social person. However, digging into why they frequent those sites will be quite insightful. Or simply asking, “For what business purpose(s) do those sites have?”
- Second, I am really looking to see if they are current on what is being discussed in regards to social learning. If they are active on Twitter, I want to hear something regarding #lrnchat. If they are active in LinkedIn, they I want to hear about the various groups on LinkedIn and how they are effectively utilized.
- Third, I also want to see if they use a Reader like Google Reader to aggregate their various feeds.
- Fourth, the list, while important, is not as important as their interaction on those sites via comments or retweets, etc.
- Do you have a personal social media policy? If so, what is it?
- While there are many who have had a personal social media policy only to let it dissolve, there are some who haven’t even considered it. If your company is policy-laden or heavily policy-oriented, then this question will reveal more of a cultural fit.
- Possible follow-up questions are: If not, which social media sites do you follow and for what purpose(s)?
- If you were to design a course, say on Procrastination, how would you design it?
- If they question the analysis stage (because they may think this is an ADDIE question), simply inform them that the analysis determined that the company needed to train leadership on how to deal with procrastination personally and with those whom they supervise to improve productivity.
- If they ask questions regarding the SME, simply inform them that only one SME has been identified. Here I am looking to see if they incorporate social media to find other potential SMEs.
- The main goal of this question is to see whether they are already thinking outside the box incorporating some social learning activities/event.
- Do you have your own website or blog? Why or why not?
- Personally, I can care less what they are blogging about; however, it doesn’t hurt to ask what they blog/write about?
- After hearing their purpose, my questions would center around time and frequency and consistency.
- What is the difference, if any, between social learning and informal learning?
- To me this is an important question. Because I see so many people use informal learning and social learning interchangeably, I am looking to see if the candidate can determine and articulate the difference between these two types of learning.
- My definition of informal learning is semi-structured, learner-initiated, ad hoc acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, values, or skills resulting in the ability to do something that was previously unknown.
- My definition of social learning is simply the gaining of knowledge, insight, or a skill through one’s interactions with others (typically three or more) and their knowledge, expertise, and skill.
- If someone objected to the use of social media at work saying that it was a time waster, what would you say?
- There are several objections that you can use. The top three that I hear most often are: (1) Time waster, (2) Control of information & accuracy, and (3) Accuracy & people posting anything. For a good list, see Kevin Jones’s list at EngagedLearning.net or his and Dave Wilkins’s SlideShare presentation.
- Besides their ability to think on the spot and problem solve, this really looks inside their head and their ability to articulate the faultiness of the objection as well as the benefit(s) of social media at work.
This list is by no means an exhaustive or complete list of questions. Other questions that would vary from organization to organization would include questions around tools that you may already have. For example, if your organization has no social tools per se, but has Sharepoint, I would ask some questions around Sharepoint and social learning (though obviously not ideal). However, if your organization has Jive, then my questions would revolve around Jive. However, if the person is ignorant of these Business software solutions, that isn’t deterrent. What is deterrent would be a lack of knowledge around what constitutes as blogging or podcasting, not that they don’t know how to use Sharepoint to blog or Jive.
Some more advanced questions would be regarding social learning strategy and approach and methods of social learning. For example, if the organization needs a more codified approach to social learning, what does that look like? Likewise, if an organization needs a more emergent approach to social learning, what does that look like. And finally, what does it look like to simply take a collaborative approach to social learning?
And finally depending on the person’s potential role or the size of the organization, I would ask questions regarding the use of social learning for the extended enterprise, such as external audiences like vendors, customers, etc, or community management.
So what other questions would you add?
Over the years, I have gained access to Twitter by two different companies that have unanimously blocked Twitter and all social media from their users. Both companies had great reasons for blocking access to Twitter and Facebook, et. al., however, there are ways to gain access to them again if you are willing to put in the work. There are two things that a user can do: (1) Find a way around the work firewall or (2) Find a way through the work firewall as an exception. If you pick the first method (against my recommendation), still attempt at the second method for the benefit of others like you at your company.
First and foremost, I do not recommend using anything to work around the corporate firewalls as this could lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination depending on the company (of which I am not responsible). However, since Twitter switched to OAuth, some of these accounts will need to be setup at home and then used at work since Twitter’s OAuth takes the user to twitter.com to confirm or deny the use of the Twitter Application. For those who don’t know, you can get off your company’s firewall/tunnel and on your own wifi, by editing the connections in Internet Explorer: Tools > Internet Options > Connections tab > click on LAN Settings. Under Proxy server, uncheck “Use a proxy server for your LAN (These settings will not apply to dail-up or VPN connections).” Then you can go to Twitter.com, and setup whatever. If you do not have a laptop, then things like Echofon for Twitter will not be an option.
Second, one of the first places you should try (if you don’t have admin rights) is a site called HootSuite.com (while I don’t necessarily care for their price increase, they do offer a free solution for all users). The second place you should try is Seesmic. Seesmic and HootSuite can be setup at home and used on work computer. If you are blocked there, IT may be blocking a larger category of social media websites. Next, if you have Firefox, then install the add-on Echofon for Twitter. This will install an icon at the bottom right of the browser and will sometimes work. However, it may need OAuth authorization which can be done at home off the firewall.
If you have admin rights on my computer, you should try to install TweetDeck, DestroyTwitter, TwitterLocal, Twitcher, twhirl, Mixero (Windows, Mac, Linux, also iPhone), and TwitBabble (warning about TwitBabble site, I am not liable for the pop-ups, etc from that site), most of which run on Adobe Air (may be able to get IT to install it along with a Flash Player upgrade or an Adobe Shockwave install or a Microsoft Silverlight install). If HootSuite, Seesmic, and TweetDeck are blocked then it becomes a bigger problem. Another lesser-known alternative is SpreadTweet (application, web-based version) which looks like Microsoft Excel. However, it must be setup off the network to because of Twitter’s OAuth. To me, while not the most aesthetic or easy to use, it works.
Other alternatives that I haven’t used or checked include: simplify360, ping.fm, Buzzom, sobees (web, client, mobile), PowerWF (client), Echofon (iPhone, iPad, Mac, Firefox), socialoomph.com (formerly TweetLater.com), Tweetie (Mac), Gwibber (Linux client), Twitterrific (mobile, client), Nambu (Mac), MetroTwit (client), Sociallite (client), Twitter Opera Widget (requires Opera), and Itsy (Mac).
More lesser-preferred methods were places like Twubs.com, Tweetchat.com, or TweetGrid. You will most likely be able to tweet from here but you will have a very difficult time reading others’ tweets. Furthermore, twubs.com is made for hashtag following so if someone only mentions you and doesn’t use the specific hashtag you are using, then you won’t see it until you sign on via Twitter.com, or some other tool apart from work.
The final method that you should resort to was to use my self-hosted WordPress.org blog with the WordPress Dashboard Twitter plugin, while it too must be setup at home, it works at the office. Anyone that has a WordPress self-hosted site, should install and setup this plugin just in case your company decides to ax access to Twitter.
Social Media Team
The second method is the method of choice. It is also the longer, harder road, but it is the right road. Now, if you tweet for social reasons alone, then this method will be of no use for you. However, if you are tweeting for business reasons, then creating a business rationale and exception is the preferred method. There are two ways to do this. First, most companies who are blocking social media are also policing their brand on social media. That’s right, policing from within. So once I found this out, I used this to my advantage. Having already demonstated my social media awareness and knowledge, I quickly became the right pick to “police” social media for my company thus gaining access to use social media. While I reported whatever my boss wanted me to report, I also defended the use of social media within the company. Over time, after educating and educating people again and again to oblivion, I was able to demonstrate the business reasons for the use of Twitter and social media.
Second, companies that are already on Twitter, etc., for customer service, PR, brand communications, etc., are a bit more challenging; however, it can be done. The first thing that you do is find out who the owners of the social media are. They could be sales, marketing, PR, HR, or IT. Then build a relationship with them and build your business rationale for the use of Twitter at work (e.g., community of practice, personal development, etc.) utilizing whatever business policies in your favor while also address concerns being prepared to address a plethora of objections. Above all else, follow whatever protocols, processes, or procedures that are necessary to gain access. You don’t want to be viewed as a renegade or a rouge employee. And finally, whatever you do, don’t ask for blanket access. Only ask for a pilot that will allow you to build your case even further, over time, on work hours.
For example, at my current company, the owners of social media is the PR group. I first met with a representative from PR. Then upon her suggestions, I met with my current supervisor and a manager from employee relations. Then I further built my business rationale (which was already built before I went to see anyone). Then I followed the appropriate processes and protocols to gain access through IT’s security. Everything is by the book.
I had to share this cartoon about Social Media, Twitter, Facebook and Business because I believe this to be so true at so many different companies. Is this true for your company?
I have a wide variety of videos and explanations that I have been using for some time now to explain what Social Media is. In a previous blog post, I wrote about some Common Craft videos that explain Social Media, Social Networking, Blogs, Twitter, Wikis, Social Bookmarking, Podcasting, Photo-Sharing, and RSS. However, I did not explain the rationale behind these tools. I want to thank Dave Wilkins and Kevin Jones, who were the first to show these to me.
Any time someone asks me, “What is so important about social media?” or “Why should we bother with social media?” or “Could you explain social media to me?” I always give them these videos to watch, and depending on whether they watch them or not, I give them more or less of my time. Here are the videos that I ask them to watch (in this specific order).
- Socialnomics09, Social Media Revolution
- Brad Anderson, CEO of Best Buy, at Zeitgeist ’08
- Information Re-volution
- Malcolm Gladwell at PopTech! (2004) on Human Nature
- Dell’s IdeaStorm
Each video have one or more principles and ideas in them that carry the rationale behind Social Media. To name a few of the more important ideas that drive the importance of Social Media based on each of the videos are:
Socialnomics Video: Social Media Revolution
Brad Anderson’s Video (only watch the first 5 minutes)
- The Benefits of SM
- Corporate Communication
- The Ability to See & Use Employee’s Socialization (Community)
- Collaboration (WE are smarter than ME)
- Changing of Roles (to Facilitators)
- The Changing Nature of Information
Malcolm Gladwell’s PopTech! Video on Human Nature
- Changing Preferences by Changing Variables: Coke or Pepsi?
- Story-Telling Problem from Unconscious Cues: People have a fundamental inability to explain their actions/performance/feelings.
- Perils of Introspection: Asking people to think about what they want causes them to change their opinion what they want & messes up their ability to understand/recognize what they want.
- So can we trust people?
Dell’s IdeaStorm from Idea to Reality
- External Collaboration via Customers! (WE are smarter than ME)