We interrupt the continuing stories of Pathways and its heroes, to talk about a fundamental approach to embracing change – creating a Personal Learning Network.
Reflections of Past Networks
In my sixteen years of being a Toastmaster I have seen many changes and improvements in the way in which clubs are created and managed, and how the Education program has brought professional development opportunities to thousands of people. As a seasoned Educator of Adults, I am comfortable with the instructional design of the traditional education program. I like the way in which a Toastmaster can self-pace themselves through the program and build their skills in a supportive environment within a club setting. User choice is built in to a structured process of developing speaking skills and a Toastmaster can work through the CC manual, building skills in a sequence of steps.
They could also purchase extra Advanced Manuals and begin working on specific speeches whenever they wanted to. For instance, a Toastmaster preparing to give a speech at a wedding, could jump into the Special Occasions manual. I was familiar with all the speeches in Competent Communicator (CC) and Advanced Manuals.
My networks were smaller back then – mostly clubs within my local region and perhaps a District Convention or two.
My appetite for change was whetted several years ago when we were told by our Ambassadors that the education program was undergoing a revitalization. Great news I thought at the time. However, details of the changes were mostly kept under wraps until the trials were conducted in a few Districts last year. There was no way for me to view any of the projects in detail, but I could see in the promotional pages at Toastmasters International, a few exciting new projects proposed for inclusion. For example, Blogging, Manage Online Meetings and Podcasting. These encouraged me to think that the changed program would be much more 21st Century focussed.
At the time the change began I was not really interested or engaged, until I could view more. What I thirsted for, knowledge of how the online learning component would be displayed, I could not have back then. I needed to wait! Then I realised that I could see some of the new Icebreaker project even without having to login at Toastmasters!
I was encouraged with what I saw here. The learning for a new Toastmaster was well structured and I felt confident that other projects would be similar in tone and design. As I talk to others about joining Toastmasters for the first time and accessing the Pathways experience, I encourage them to view the sample Icebreaker.
I admit that I was shaken out of my comfort zone when I was first introduced to the Base Camp navigation in the Pathways Experience. I also felt isolated, as I was not part of the group who were ‘making the change’. It felt like the change was being imposed not embedded. My preferred adult learning principles were challenged when I saw that the Cornerstone On Demand (CSOD) Learning Management System (LMS) was displaying the learning in ‘lock-step instructional’ process and little user choice appeared evident within a Level. With a little help from my networks, I learned more about Base Camp.
According to Don Clark, “… the lock-step process has the learners proceeding at the same pace. It requires fewer instructors and is normally more easily managed than self-paced platforms. One of its main advantages from a learner’s point of view is that it is highly social in nature.”
What to do? “It is what it is! I cannot change it! I need to work with it and embrace the change!” I needed my Networks. I was also keen to explore the last sentence from the quote above: ‘a lock-step instructional model is more social in nature from a learner’s point of view?‘ If that is so, how can we maximise that for our Pathways followers?
My six easy strategies for embracing the change through collaborative learning and networking, follows. I hope that it will inspire you to think outside the square.
Collaborative Learning and Networking Strategies!
- Connecting! The most important strategy I took in the early days of becoming a Pathways Guide, was to make a connection with those who had begun their Pathways Experience by joining a club in a District that was already Pathways enabled. There were a few pioneers at the time and I was able to track their progress by observing from afar, asking for a demonstration, and subscribing to their website and blogs. The demonstrations of Base Camp from Julie Kertesz were the gems of enlightenment that I was seeking – I began to follow her blog.
Early this year, I noticed that many Pathways Pioneers were telling their stories of success and unpacking their challenges in Online Club meetings across the globe, and I wanted to hear more and more! More and more Pathways speeches and projects were being delivered at Online Clubs meetings. Yes, I needed to add more visits to my schedule and to add more connections to appease my thirst for networking.
Online Toastmasters are learning anew about the value of preparation for the speech and the evaluation process. eg at Ablaze last week, Lessons on Evaluations in Pathways style, provided further examples of collaborative learning.
- Social Media! The number of groups and forums opening up in social media expanded in 2018 as more and more Pathways followers and champions began to talk openly about what they were experiencing in Base Camp. The Pathways Guides had their own forums in which they could discuss the nuances of providing meaningful training; and then the Pathways Discussion Forum was born! This one is over 3,500 strong in membership and epitomises the concept of collaborative learning.
We have seen a growth in the numbers joining this forum as Pathways has rolled out in almost every District across the Globe. The Pathways Discussion Forum is now fulfilling a role as a most effective collaborative learning community.
For me this was the missing element – the social collaborative learning that grows organically as learners experience the same project or Path. Now I am experiencing that as I help moderate that busy forum.
- Networking! In the last four months I visited several clubs online to observe the innovative approaches to collaborative experiential learning. Toastmasters Events such as Speech Contests, Webinar Contests and Discussion Panels were most enlightening. At these events I could observe without needing to participate and to reflect on what I was learning from my presence at those events.
I met several new online Toastmasters at these events and connected with them during the meeting and after the event. From our extended conversations I could harvest further wisdom and experience and build that into my plans for further projects. I could sense those who had the same passion for progress and change.
I extended my Networking activities!
My extended international Personal Learning Network is now something I am most proud of.
- International Networking
I have always been an advocate of the benefits of international networking, and building a Personal Learning Network ever since my early days of participating and presenting in the Learning Revolution activities.
The Learning Revolution Project holds online and physical learning events, and highlights professional development opportunities from a network of 200 partners in the learning professions.
I realise once again the benefits of having a Personal Learning Network (PLN) in relation to the wider Connected Educator community. This influenced my plans to create a PLN related to Pathways!
My connections with Toastmasters in Pathways across the globe has now expanded!
- Personalised Learning Network
My Pathways PLN now includes many thought leaders in Online Toastmasters Education and Pathways. I am proud to call them friends. My recent experiences in the Pathways Support for District U clubs is a direct result of having expanded my connection to Pathways Champions. I now know who to reach out to for specific advice on Pathways, Training, Project Management, easy-Speak, Contests, Judging, and much more.
My opportunities to learn from my peers has increased exponentially with each new addition to my PLN. There are networks within networks that stretch across the world and I have been privileged to connect with them all.
Each time I attend a District convention or a Division event, I add one or two more people to my PLN. Each time I attend an online event, be it a Toastmaster meeting or a Toastmaster online education session, I increase my network.
In fact, my new goal when attending a Toastmaster convention, is to connect with at least one more new person who can join my PLN, and take away at least one more piece of collaborative learning.
- How can you build a Personal Learning Network?
I challenge you to build your own PLN around Pathways to help embrace the change.
How to Build a PLN – this site will provide the context for the value of a PLN.
( I have adjusted Tom Whitby’s list to include more Toastmaster focussed steps)
Spend 20 minutes a day interacting and collaborating. Here’s how:
- Start a Twitter account that focuses on following Toastmasters. (#Toastmasters)
- Build a circle of connected Toastmasters on Google+.
- Follow Toastmasters blogs (read and comment).
eg Pathways Experience Blogspot
…the importance of blogging …
- Follow Toastmaster chats that are specific to your own goals.
- Join and participate in Toastmaster groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Accept invitations to collaborate on Toastmaster projects.
- Visit Online Clubs and offer to be their General Evaluator.
- Attend Online Alliance meetings and offer to facilitate or present.
- Join the Pathways Discussion Forum or Online Toastmaster Resources groups on Facebook.
- Build in opportunities for connecting with Toastmasters through their favourite communication channel eg Messenger, WeChat and WhatsApp.
I encourage you to go beyond your club, your division, and your District. Create your own Pathways Personal Learning Network (PPLN) for collaborative learning opportunities.
When you have a PPLN please leave a comment below, and tell me if I am in it? I can then add you to mine!