Last week we wrapped up a project that featured over 120 2-hour deliveries and a total audience of over 5,000 people. What a terrific project – the client, deeply committed to fostering a culture of inclusion, and the team that BCT Partners put together for delivery. OUTSTANDING.
We are reminded, again, of the value of this work, and of the value of such great partners! Here is a graphic that was shared with all of us on the delivery side:
One of the organizations we volunteer with is our local chapter of the NAACP. Allison, in fact, was asked to be the Assistant Secretary, supporting the amazing Phyllis Mack Horton, a local icon of activism. Allison will be officially installed in that capacity on Feb 25, 2021. There is, as LaTarndra Strong, President of the chapter would say, “plenty of work to do” here in our own neck of the woods.
Whatever your situation, our hope is that you can find ways to volunteer locally, regionally, nationally or internationally to advance racial justice issues, equity, peace and human rights. If you want to know more about how we at Red Fern are supporting non-profits and civic groups, let us know. We’d be happy to have a virtual cup of coffee and discuss!
Had a great time talking with Dr. Randal Pinkett – author of the 7 Myths of Racial Equity – and Adam Pacifico, host of The Leadership Enigma podcast. Randal breaks down his 7 Myths of Racial Equity on Youtube. This was a collaborative conversation about the links to leadership and learning / education.
I realized after writing #1 and #2 that there are differing uses of the terms ‘virtual’ and ‘digital’. I’d like to offer the following – even if just to help you, dear reader, interpret my posts!
Virtual: Simulating a place or process that would otherwise be physical.
So think of the terms ‘virtual learning’, ‘virtual world’, ‘virtual reality’, ‘virtual meeting’ or ‘virtual office’. In each case we are describing a substitute for an otherwise physical, in-place location or process enabled by physical elements.
I’m a bit of a word geek as well, and I’ll note that the root of ‘virtual’ is from the Latin terms ‘virtus’ and ‘virtualis’, which is defined as “possessing certain virtues”. I think we may agree that any of the virtual solutions we are considering should be examined for their particular pedagogical ‘virtues’!
Digital / digitization / digitalization: The application of digital technologies to existing (analog / physical) objects, systems and processes, following a particular strategy.
I note that people writing about this have not agreed a particular term, and often use these interchangeably. I am not fussed about which term. I am, however, quite fussed about the last piece of my definition – ‘following a particular strategy.’
I added this because far too often we see the leap to digital technologies to create virtual solutions with little or no thought as to strategy. Strategy, in my view, operates in two layers:
Design and Pedagogical Strategy: Are there particular technologies that fit the design specification – what the end user or participant will get most value from? What is your pedagogical strategy for achieving the stated learning outcomes, and what digital tools best fit that strategy?
Corporate / Organizational Strategy: Is there an imperative to reduce the carbon impact within the organization? Are there particular technologies that make strategic sense for the organization in terms of investment and application? Are there tools that have already been built, provisioned or purchased? How can we make the most out of these?
My belief is that design and pedagogical strategy should lead the way, informing corporate and organizational strategy (most often).
So you’ve got an idea of what you want to do – a meeting, a course, a learning experience – but you’re not sure how you will do that virtually. Do we just use a webinar and run the event that way? Do we put everything into e-learning modules? Should we just video the facilitators talking?
These questions point to a larger design question that I’ll cover soon. But the first thing you should do is assess what tools you have available, and/or what tools you want to acquire to enable virtual delivery.
The Technology Audit
For many clients, gaining approvals for digital tools is a rather lengthy process. For you, I would suggest getting in touch with your Learning and Development staff and/or IT staff to find out just what is available. Quite often education designers in large organizations don’t have a clear view of just what is already available.
For larger organizations, here are the questions I would be asking right away:
What digital tools and staff do we have available to create electronic content? Are there restrictions that we should be aware of (e.g. file types, file sizes, media players)?
What is our preferred webinar technology (e.g. Zoom, Gotomeeting, Adobe Connect, etc.)? How do we access that? Do we have staff that serve as technical hosts for those events?
What is the technology profile for our attendees / participants? Is there a standard ‘kit’ that everyone has? For example – laptop, mobile phone, access to an LMS or other content portal, etc.?
Can attendees install apps on their laptops or mobile phones? Some orgs have restrictions around this.
Is there an example of a really successful virtual delivery that has been done in our organization? What tools and process were used?
In some cases, and through the above process, I have witnessed an unusual and joyful connection being made between education designers and champions and underutilized learning technologists who are eager to help.
And for the smaller organizations, this may be more of a question about what few tools (free or by subscription) you want to access to enable your work to continue.
For example, we recently had an event that was scheduled but could no longer accept attendees due to the guidance of the state and federal authorities. So, for this small organization, we examined what tools we had available:
Camtasia (a multimedia / e-learning authoring tool)
With the above tools, we designed and delivered the following:
Foundations: Sent an e-news email to the membership of the organization to alert them to an upcoming live-stream event on Facebook, and provided the link to the Facebook page
Exploration: Had a volunteer use her mobile phone (with portable charger) to live stream the event (40 min long). Used the laptop on wifi to monitor the live stream and respond to comments. Used the SLR camera to record the event for later editing.
Application: Used the recorded media from the SLR camera and edited / published to YouTube a video version of the event (some components of the event were for the live stream only). We used Camtasia to do some simple editing to produce the video. We then communicated the link to the video to everyone in the org – as some did not have access to Facebook.
You’ll notice that I’m using the Foundation, Exploration, Application language here – that is explained in another post. This is just to reinforce the idea that a good design accounts for the preparation of the attendees, the delivery of a deep-dive session, and then the support / continued learning opportunities that can follow.
So! Now you have done a technology audit to see what is available. You may, in fact, discover a burning need for something that is currently not used. More than once I have been in the position of suggesting a learning platform, webinar technology or mobile app. Whatever it is, I would strongly advise testing access to that technology with your participants before committing. Most vendors will provide some kind of test access version that you can use for that.
Consider the audit done. It’s like cooking. You have now identified what’s in the fridge and in the cupboards, or available at the local shop. You have a design in mind. Now you need to choose the right tools for the job.