All Gifts Do Not Come Wrapped

The end of the calendar year makes many people, including me, look back and reflect on the previous 12 months. Having done a little of  that,  I’m happy to report that my optimism–some might say delusional optimism–is intact as I end 2014 with a lot to celebrate.

My joy flows in part from friends and colleagues who scaffold me in life and work. Sometimes they are one and the same–friends and colleagues, that is.  While there are many who guide and support me, and I love them all, today I wish to recognize two women who have helped me AND the Women’s Learning Studio grow and refine our focus. They are Lyn Boyer and Lisa Levinson. Read more

5 More Insights from the IFWE – International Forum on Women in E-Learning – Conference

Doris did a masterful job of writing about her insights from the IFWE conference. I too have been reflecting on my conference learning; here are some additional insights I have. Some are definitely BFO’s (Brilliant Flashes of the Obvious – courtesy of Katie Blott – see Doris’s blog)!

Attending a Woman’s Conference is a Great Experience

IFWE photo

IFWE theme photo for the 2014 conference

I was a little unsure of what an all women’s conference on e-learning would be like, and discovered that at least at IFWE, it was a freeing and wonderful opportunity. The conference theme was: IFWE Walk in Her Shoes. The conference brochure states: “….share best practices, establish valuable relationships, and explore ways to be effective leaders. This year’s theme takes us a little deeper into what it means to work as a team in a diverse world. Sessions and speakers will push participants to consider how others tackle life’s problems both personally and professionally, understand what it means to be a strong but empathetic leader, and move forward in their own E-learning career path……IFWE is about sharing and learning information, but it’s also about rejuvenating the spirit.

The conference walked the walk (not just San Antonio’s River Walk) and not just talked the talk. The women I met were smart and accomplished, but also open, generous, and came to the conference in the spirit of sharing learning and experiences as opposed to being competitive. It was a spirit of sisterhood, and both Doris and I felt welcomed, valued, and included from the first encounter. From the keynote speakers to the workshops to the frequent and sustained laughter in the hallways, it modeled how the personal and professional can and should walk side by side in our lives. The conference did walk in all our different sized and styled shoes. Read more

Five Insights from IFWE–International Forum for Women in E-Learning

Although I am still in process,

I am absolutely enough.

–Catherine Brunell

Lisa and I had the good luck to participate in the sixth IFWE conference last week. The event attracted more than 100 women to meet-up in San Antonio from December 3-5.

In less than seven months, with Lisa’s initiation and leadership, I went from not knowing of IFWE’s existence to presenting at its conference. After four days of listening and talking with scores of learned colleagues, all of them women, and 12 hours of travel back to Maine for Lisa, and big exhales from both of us, we are each considering what the experience yielded for us. Five ideas come to mind for me. Read more

Seismic Shift in the Training and Development Landscape

Although I haven’t felt the earth move or experienced seismic tremors, there is a fairly big shift taking place in the training and development landscape for education, business, organizations, and individuals.

Last week Doris blogged about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s approach to embracing working out loud by using technology and digital media to connect diverse groups, engage in dialogue and discussion, share information, and engender new ways of thinking and doing. This new model of leadership has a belief in the power of nonhierarchical online convening. Creating mechanisms including online spaces to allow for open exchanges of ideas, resources, information, and sharing is evidence not only of their smart technology use, but also of their commitment to diversity of people and ideas.

The Robert Wood Foundation’s approach of distributed leadership for sparking new and innovative ideas for learning and doing has been trickling down to the professional development field as well. Just recently, one of the largest international training organizations changed its name from the American Society for Training and Development, ASTD, to the Association of Talent Development, ATD. The name change announcement materials from May 6, 2014 make it clear that technology, the global economy, and adapting to rapid change on a continuous basis calls for talent development, not just content training. Content will become outdated quickly, talent development embraces opportunities for change and learning how to change, as well as becoming a lifelong learner to acquire new skills to meet new challenges.

Cartoon by Virpi Oinonen from

Cartoon by Virpi Oinonen from

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Sighting Leadership Networks in Action

At the Studio, we try to “work out loud” whenever possible.  We agree with Harold Jarche that “The most effective learning in the new world of work will be when engaged individuals regularly share their knowledge. Working out loud is the primary way people can share in their networks, communities, and workplaces.”  This blog is part of our workplace and where we share our insights most often. If you are reading this post, you may be part of our Studio network or a first-time visitor.  Welcome!

Doris_birding_300px_1991While working on an unrelated project, I became excited like a birder sighting a rare species in an urban parking lot, when I spotted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation role modeling how to work out loud online. I saw a CEO who is quite transparent about redoing their leadership development work to foster a national “culture of health” in the United States. This huge organization exemplifies (IMO) how to encourage its thousands of associates, most of them not employees, to work out loud through its blogs AND Twitter, Google+, podcasts, and discussion groups online among other social media.

I’d like to share what I have learned so far. There are lessons here for big and small organizations as well as for DIY learners who are connecting online to ultimately make big differences offline. Read more

New technology and gaming for online learning and brain health

Doris alerted me to a touching New York Times article from 10/19/14 entitled, To Siri, With Love. The author, Judith Newman, wrote a love letter to Siri, the iPhone assistant, because of the positive “relationship” Siri has with her autistic, 13 year old son. Siri, far more patient than the author, provides him with endless facts to the subjects that he is passionate about and relentlessly interested in. But even more importantly, she helps him be more socially appropriate by modeling responses that are polite, kind, and socially acceptable. Judith reports that she can now have more extended conversations with her son, and that he actually compliments her and says please and thank you, things he did not do pre-Siri. For this autistic child, being an independent learner with Siri’s help has done more on a social as well as cognitive level to stretch his thinking and person-to-person interactions. The article goes on to report that children with emotional and cognitive challenges work well with these digital “sidekicks”, and that the tech industry is creating digital characters for this very purpose. The good side of technology! Read more

Women Networking to Lead

Our online Lean In circle led by Lisa has made me think about the power of networks and how women become leaders, especially in corporations. We had a rich resource list of videos and articles to fuel our discussion last week.

Background: Lisa started our circle online almost two years ago when the Lean In Foundation launched its discussion infrastructure to encourage women in face-to-face learning circles to take more risks and lean-in to their work challenges. Our distributed group needed to work online to connect with each other and has been online ever since.

The Foundation has provided the circles with interesting, timely, stimulating resources. As Lean In seemed to focus this year more on young women entering the workforce post-college graduation, our  experienced-women-in-the-workforce circle became more self-organizing and self-propelled, meaning that each of us brings in articles, videos, studies, etc. about leadership, women in the workplace, communication styles, and stereotypes to discuss.  We always leave our 60-90 minute discussions enriched with new ideas and perspectives, and valuing each other, too. Read more

Smile – You’re on Candid Camera (and could go viral!)

I remember watching Alan Funt’s Candid Camera on TV when I was growing up, and then again as an adult. Some of the situations created and  reactions of people caught on camera were amazing, and we always marveled at “who thought this up?”. Alan Funt’s son Peter has recreated the show on TV Land, and wrote an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on 9/27/14. In it he states his amazement that: “…after a 10 year hiatus …. people are more easily fooled than ever“. He attributes this to multi-tasking. Alan Funt had the problem of distracting people. Peter Funt does not have that problem – people are on their cellphones or other devices, and have less than full focus for his pranks. He fears this also makes them more vulnerable to real trouble and potential scams. Read more

Terms and Tools a la Internet and Web

ICYMI (abbrev.): in case you missed it

The Oxford Dictionary added a lot of new words, including ICYMI, to its online database this summer. Other new words–clickbait, live-tweet, hyper-connected, and tech-savvy–fascinated me, too, because of their connection to information technology. Katy Steinmetz shared their definitions and many more words in the online Time magazine in August. In case you’re wondering:

clickbait (n.): (on the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.

live-tweet (v.): post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place.

hyper-connected (adj.): characterized by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have Internet connectivity.

tech-savvy (n.): well informed about or proficient in the use of modern technology.

These words are part of the onrush of new-everything related to the internet and web. And it’s more than a torrent of words that we are trying to keep up with. In the foreword to Jim Boulton’s 100 Ideas that Changed the Web, he recognizes the enormity of the changes that we are struggling to comprehend and grow with in order to “work, play, shop, socialize, and otherwise participate in society” as enabled by the internet and web. Read more

My top 10 online tools of the year – what’s in your toolbox?

Every year since 2007 Jane Hart has created a poll to determine the top 100 tools that people are using for work, learning, life. This year’s poll, which was completed by over 900 people so far who subscribe to and/or read her blog, will be revealed on Monday, September 22, 2014. Those who complete the poll cross a wide range of professions from teachers, course designers, trainers, managers, business executives. I can’t wait to see which tools are on the list this year. You can revisit the blog Doris wrote on the 2013 list while you are waiting.

Jane always reveals her top 10 tools when she opens the poll, usually in July.This year was no exception. I am always intrigued by what she is using. Her top 10: Twitter and Tweetdeck (tweet aggregator program) for learning and connecting; Powerpoint, Keynote, Slideshare, Poll Everywhere for presentations; WordPress and Buddypress for her blog and her discussion groups (same as what we use at WLS); Feedly for RSS feeds and following others’ blogs; IFTT (if this than that), a new tool for her, that connects social media sites. Read more