Jen Jones on viral professional development

In the past week or so, I came across @injenuity, Jen Jones‘s blog. She writes often about viral professional development (VPD). That’s her term for “a technology, tool, or teaching strategy that is quickly spread from one person to another.” (She works with instructors from kindergarten level up, through her main focus is e-learning in higher education.)

In a post last January, Jen gave some characteristics of VPD. These included:

  • Not quite viral professional developmentInstructors learn to use the technology largely on their own and with support from each other.
  • You can’t worry about those who refuse to adopt instructional technology… they need to see success from their peeres first.
  • Workshops are not the foundation of VPD, although they may be one component.

If like Jen you’re someone who believes people can reap great benefit from applying tools and techniques, what can you do to help?

  • Model the tools and techniques… if someone has a how-to question, send a screencast with the instructions… and a little about how you made the screencast. (Why does the name Stephen Downes come to mind?)
  • Communicate at the other person’s comfort level. (I read this as, if someone’s not on Twitter or not publishing on the wiki, but they send you email or call you, then use that channel.)
  • Join in when people on your personal network test tools. “Any time I can jump in on someone else’s test saves me…searching for a tool and people to try it with.”

Jen posted a follow-up just this week. She’s not sure VPD translates to organizations outside of higher ed, but it seems clear to me there’s a connection. She’s using a different angle to examine some of the things Tony Karren, Michele Martin, and others have been talking about at Work Literacy. One of the differences is that Jen’s looking at the organization, rather than the individual:

My concept of VPD describes an organizational strategy, rather than an individual personal learning environment or network…

While personal networks can have spontaneous learning events that lead to transfer of knowledge, my goal in working with VPD is to make a cultural change within a specific organization, rather than develop a personal learning network.

Most people work for organizations — 86% of all U.S. workers work for someone else, and half of them (more than 56 million people) work in organizations with more than 500 employees.

I’ve been thinking a lot about individual learning; Jen has reminded me that organizations, which need to continue their activities while accommodating the arrival and the departure of specific individuals, have their own learning needs, too.

Computer virus photo by Ted Rheingold.

2 thoughts on “Jen Jones on viral professional development

  1. Thanks for linking, Dave! I definitely don’t neglect the importance of individual learning and connections, I just don’t think my concept of VPD is about the individual. I’m about to finish a blog post on successful microblogging. It will apply more to individuals. Stay tuned!

  2. No, Jen, I didn’t think you were neglecting it at all. I spent most of my career working for large organizations. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to master the hotel chain’s reservation system or the health insurance company’s claims processing solely through informal learning.

    At the same time, the organization should be thinking about how to encourage learning among its members and their partners (vendors, customers) — and not just through scheduled courses offered through a catalog.

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