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Sharing new and unique ideas about learning and creativity for project managers. The more we learn, the more we share, the more we grow.

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Enjoying Open Learning with the PMI Pikes Peak Regional Chapter

Yesterday I had the genuine pleasure of leading a workshop for my local Project Management Institute Chapter. Currently, I serve the Pikes Peak Regional Chapter as the Director of Academic Outreach. The primary goal is to reach out to local universities and form a strong working relationship. The second goal has been to help members grow professionally by exposing them to new learning resources and I hope I did that yesterday.

Just like this blog, the goal was to share what I have learned through my research into open learning. Beyond that it is up to the folks in the workshop and anyone who happens to stumble across this blog to use the information to enhance their learning.

The agenda was designed around the assumption that open learning can enhance everyone’s professional development and it felt like that was achieved. As the conversations progressed and more coffee was consumed, we began to realize that if you replace the concept of professional development with learning, you achieve the same results and probably more.

Dominique Ross, was the most engaged attendee adding even more resources to the growing list. Thank you Dominique for being so engaged and genuine during the conversation. I want to also commend you on your hard work as you begin to transition out of the military into the civilian world. Your tenacious curiosity is going to serve you well. Way to go!

Open learning provides an opportunity for all project managers to re-discover their curiosity and love of learning. This workshop was a wonderful reminder of how many professionals in our career field are constantly looking for that next great book or podcast. When I mentioned Tim Ferris, author of the Four Hour Chef and Four Hour Work Week, I smiled when I saw almost everyone’s head nod.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of enjoying a beautiful Saturday morning with fellow project managers eager to learn.

About halfway through the class, I shared my ideas about how to design a simple learning process we can all follow to enhance our learning. What do you think of this idea? How could you apply your project management expertise to become a world-class self-directed learner?

(All icons made by http://www.freepik.com from http://www.flaticon.com licensed under Creative Commons BY 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

It starts out with your goals. What do you want to learn and achieve? Then you plan your learning cycle/iteration/sprint, whatever you like to call it. I recommend we “time box” our learning into one month to three month cycles. Then before you start learning, make sure to review your plan with a mentor to make sure it is focused and in line with your grand vision. Then start learning and have a blast. Once the learning cycle is complete, measure your progress however you prefer and make sure to share your success and newfound knowledge with friends, colleagues, recruiters, bosses, and whoever else may like to hear the good news. After all that, stop by your mentor’s house to share the good news and then take time to reflect on your progress. This could be in a journal, on a smart phone, in a video blog, wherever you would like to document your historical records. Then start the whole process over again.

You can break down our learning into a 70/20/10 model. Seventy percent of the time you are learning on the job, trying out new ideas, and adjusting as you see fit. Twenty percent of the time you should be spending with a mentor asking questions and learning from someone who has walked the path you are traveling. Finally, ten percent of your time is spent reading books, watching videos, attending webinars, and enjoying any other learning resource you can find to try and gain new knowledge and skills.

Learning is a lifelong journey and I hope you all can find time to enjoy it. Yesterday was a wonderful reminder again of how many project managers are eager to enhance their learning. I hope I was able to help them take a jump to the next level in their journey.

If you would like to view the presentation, please click here.

 

Posted on: January 31, 2016 10:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thank You For Reminding Me Why I Love Learning

This past year was an amazing year and I just wanted to say thank you. 

Thank you, ProjectManagement.com for giving me the opportunity to blog about learning and share my discoveries with such a fantastic community. 

Thank you, Project Management Institute (PMI) for giving me the opportunity to volunteer in my local chapter, Pikes Peak Regional Chapter, and to graduate with all of my awesome classmates in the Leadership Institute Masters Class of 2015. Go Frogs!

When I sat down, I wanted to write about some fantastic courses Coursera is offering to help you with your professional development in 2016. Before I forget though, I suggest checking out the Coursera Specializations. They have added some fantastic content!

Anyways, when I touched the keyboard, a burst of gratitude poured out and all I could think of was how many different ways I wanted to say thank you.

This community of project managers yearning for new ideas, best practices, and networking opportunities has been so wonderful. When I first thought of the idea to write this blog, I didn’t know what to write about. I had tried to a couple times before to blog about learning resources and you can check out my first attempt at https://kevinwraney.wordpress.com/.

The only consistent theme I found as I continued brainstorming was sharing. Just share what you love. My parents are both retired teachers, having taught for a combined 80 years in elementary school and high school. The one consistent piece of advice they gave me when I asked about their teaching methods was, present the facts and let the students take it from there. So on this blog, my primary goal has to been to share the facts I have discovered and hope you take them to the next level in your professional development.

I always thought it would be a revolutionary idea to show people how to learn using open learning resources by helping them apply some basic project management principles. Who better to help students discover the diligence and determination necessary to succeed than to show them how to apply basic project management principles when it came to their time management and developing their own self-directed curriculum? I quickly realized though that threatened the opportunity for folks to discover their own learning journey.

Every year my mom would make a huge production for her first grade students when it came time to celebrate a major holiday. My favorite was St. Patrick’s Day. For that special day, she would come in over the weekend, and patiently place tiny glittery and sparkly footprints all over the classroom along with a big green bowl of candy. The leprechauns and fairies had visited her classroom to share the special candy they prepare specially for her classroom on St. Patrick’s Day and the only evidence of their visit were the tiny green footprints. When the students came to school on Monday, they discovered one of the windows had been left open just enough so their special guests could sneak in and leave behind the delicious candy. I love my mom so much, not only for being such an awesome mom, but also because she shared with me the magic of learning and discovering your own learning journey.

We are all professionals in this community. We worry about what others think of us, how we look in our interviews, how many certifications we should earn, and how many folks are in our networks. In 2016, I hope we can re-discover the magic of learning. I hope we can re-discover the fun we experienced as children while we sat on the floor in our school library thumbing through our favorite books imagining what it felt like to fly through space or fight the evil giants threatening our kingdom.

Thank you ProjectManagement.com and PMI for giving me the opportunity to write this blog and share my ideas and learning discoveries. Thank you to everyone who has taken time to read one of my posts and thank to everyone who has shared your ideas and opinions.

I hope 2016 is just as exciting and hopefully even more magical.

Thanks mom and dad, I love you.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: January 17, 2016 01:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Opening Up Our Professional Development

Open learning resources provide anyone with an internet connection the opportunity to learn almost anything they desire without having to worry about a hefty price tag. So why aren’t companies using these resources to augment their professional development programs?

If you want to improve your strategic business skills, the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School already provides the foundational courses from their world class MBA program.  Schools from all over the globe already provide world class content delivered either as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) or through Open Courseware. Check out MIT OCW and you will get a good idea of how powerful Open Courseware can be.

To refresh your memory, check out these two posts from last year:

MOOCs Around the World

Learn How to Become a Global Project Manager

So I ask again, why don’t we see or hear about more companies using these resources in their professional programs? If you search for massive open online education on Wikipedia, you come across concepts like open education, connectivism, gamification, and unbundling. Free and open access to educational content is creating amazing possibilities.

Connectivism emphasizes the social and cultural role of learning. It proposes we view knowledge as a network structure and learning as a process of pattern recognition. Open education provides us the opportunity to discover the inherent patterns in our own learning and filter out the unnecessary noise that distracts us from our true goals and intention. Learning is a natural drive in all of us and open education is creating an opportunity for us to re-discover natural patterns in ourselves and our project teams when we learn together.

Another cool concept I hope companies start to adopt is gamification.  It is where you apply game design theory and practices to learning. It helps improve motivation, completion rates, and other experiences students have while learning that many times are lacking in the traditional classroom. A fun example of this can be seen in Duolingo’s application of gamification and how it could help your project team’s communication skills.

If we are going to talk about how open learning can help us in our personal learning journeys, why can’t we also apply it to organizational professional development? It seems like a gold mine for project teams. An almost unlimited pool of learning resources available on demand from the world’s best universities and instructors. All you need is caffeine and an internet connection and you could be learning around the clock, 24/7.

So what do you say? Do you want to turn the break room into a student union and the conference room into a lecture hall? After that all you need is a projector, a laptop, and a chalkboard and you are set up for success.

Posted on: January 05, 2016 12:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Gamify Your Project Team's Communication Skills

Categories: , Duolingo, gamification, learning, PMI

A couple weeks ago, I shared an idea about how you could Expand Your Cultural Awareness with Google Treks. Thanks to Google Treks, you can travel to another country and virtually enjoy an amazing experience but what about the language? I would love to travel to Romania, Croatia, or Brazil to visit some of my PMI friends but how do I learn the language quickly and enjoyably?

You probably know where this is headed so let’s cut to the chase. I introduce you to Duolingo, a 100% FREE website and app you can use to learn almost any language. In 2013, it was the iPhone App of the Year and Google’s Best of the Best. So to earn those accolades, it must be pretty sweet.  

The first thing I love is the price tag, FREE. So you can remove that anxiety. Secondly, I love how you can learn 15 different languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Dutch
  • Irish
  • Danish
  • Swedish
  • Russian
  • Polish
  • Esperanto
  • Turkish
  • Norwegian
  • Ukrainian

The third thing is how they “gamify” the learning process. Every day you receive little badges and recognition to keep you motivated. Turning the learning process into a game makes the process and experience so much more fun, no matter how old you are. Each lesson includes a variety of learning modalities depending on whether you like to read or listen to the content. There is in-lesson grading providing instant feedback about whether you answered a question correctly. If you are diligent and visit the site daily, Duolingo motivates you by recording how many days in a row you spend learning a new language. They also encourage you to invest a little “heart and soul” into your learning by providing you hearts to keep your lessons alive. You lose a heart when you answer incorrectly. When all your hearts are gone, you have to start over and try again. So make sure you are paying attention.

I recently graduated from the Project Management Institute Leadership Institute Masters Class where I became friends with 34 other amazing project managers from 18 different countries. Duolingo would have come in extremely handy. Instead of shaking their hands and greeting them in English, I could have greeted them in their native tongue, which goes a long way in forming a strong cultural bond.

Cultural awareness is a skill I believe deserves as much attention as strategic business management and technical project management. It helps project managers become stronger leaders across the globe and provides us with another tool we can add to our resume, which goes a long way towards helping us build a career anywhere on this beautiful planet.  

PMI, I recommend you add Duolingo to your next Leadership Institute Masters class so the students can add this to their toolkit and share it with their chapters. To every project manager reading this, I recommend you check out Duolingo and give it a trial run for one month. If you don’t like it, just walk away. Remember it is FREE.

Thank you for sharing this moment again and I hope you have a beautiful day.

Posted on: December 27, 2015 06:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Academic Earth Created a Beautiful WBS

Academic Earth is one of my favorite Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers and in my opinion one of the most elegant. With Academic Earth, it is all about the learning.

Academic Earth is a collection of free online college courses from the world’s top universities. Some courses are videos others are full-up courses with a syllabus, tests, class notes, etc.  They began with the precedent set forth by MIT OpenCourseware that everyone deserves access to world-class education. Thank you MIT OpenCourseware!

Academic Earth reminds us about the simple joy of learning and removes the worry of how much it will cost. All the courses on Academic Earth are free. Their team has curated over 750 online courses and 8,500 individual online lectures, giving us access to college courses and content we may have never enjoyed. Anyone with an internet connection can learn at their own pace from world-class experts without worrying about how much it will cost.

A lot of the resources I have shared cost a bit of an investment and when compared to college tuition, all of them are fantastic deals. Academic Earth goes the extra mile and focuses heavily and only providing content that is free.

So if you are wondering how you will grow in your profession or change careers, Academic Earth provides a course that will help you. Just like a good Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) they start out with eight categories and then delineate further from there. The categories are Art and Design, Business, Engineering, Humanities, Medicine and Healthcare, Science & Math, Social Science, and Test Preparation. The last category, Test Preparation, does not include the PMP, I am sorry but it does help you with the GMAT and LSAT test in case you are looking to take that next big jump in your career.

Academic Earth is probably one of the best resources we project managers can use because it is very simple. If I want to watch a video on leadership or business management from Harvard University or Dartmouth, I am only 2-3 clicks away. That is so refreshing when all you want to do is listen to or read the content so you can learn and move on to the next goal.

I hope you find this resource helpful and thank you again for sharing this moment.

Posted on: December 19, 2015 06:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)
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