Reflecting on 2015

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This time last year I wrote a blog post reviewing how my 2014 went and setting some goals for 2015. Looking back on this post, my prediction that 2015 would bring “many opportunities and challenges” has certainly come true and  I have definitely done some “learning, sharing and achieved success” on a number of levels. Most importantly, I have learnt a lot about myself and have a much clearer view of what it looks like for me to be happy in my work.

There were some dominating themes in my 2015 – some amazingly rewarding and some less so. I’ll start by reflecting on the “less so” ones so I can end on a positive note.

Managers, managers, managers

Early in 2015 I took on my third client as a freelancer and decided it was time to commit to working for myself and focus on providing a great service to my own clients as a freelance instructional designer and e-Learning specialist in a full-time capacity.

I could write a whole book on my previous experience with managers – needless to say, it has not all been positive. As a committed worker, focused on achieving goals and objectives, my expectations of a manager are what I would call fairly standard:

  • I need to know what is expected of me and be provided with everything I need to achieve objectives as both an autonomous worker and as a valued team member
  • I need to feel empowered to use my creative abilities
  • I need a manager to keep in touch – pick up the telephone, communicate their expectations and provide feedback when necessary

In my experience, some managers have no issues with any of this, but some do. Those who do, in my opinion, should probably not be managers.

I am someone who does not like conflict and will do everything I can to avoid this – and I most definitely have enormous respect for a manager who has the ability to manage team conflict efficiently and effectively.

“Creative leaders should develop a specific behaviour and character of a supportive, facilitative kind that provides employees with goal clarity, autonomy, freedom, intellectual stimulation and fair evaluation as these are found to be conducive to creativity and productivity.”

I work most effectively when I am working towards a goal – whether I set this goal myself, or whether it has been set for me. Setting realistic goals when you are working in a field that requires creativity is often challenging and in my experience requires a sound understanding of how to balance creativity with productivity.

Freelancing

I chose to become a freelancer for many reasons. I have experienced my share of office politics and I believe this just gets in the way of creativity and the ability to produce good work.

I work with commitment and integrity and my focus has been and always will be on excelling in my role. I thrive on variety and diversity in my work and as a freelancer I have much more control over the work I take on which in the end means more job satisfaction for me.

“Becoming an expert in the business of freelancing is a full-time job in itself”.

~ Ant Pugh

As someone who is relatively new to freelancing, I have come to realise that you need to devote quite a lot of time during your week to running your business. A fellow freelancer wrote a great blog post last year – 6 Surprising things I have learnt as a Freelance Elearning Designer which covers this beautifully in his first point.

I have also experienced first-hand the instability in freelancing. I don’t have an issue dealing with this as I have always been realistic with myself about this situation. From the perspective of having a better work/life balance I am very happy with the situation where I work long hours for a client when required and then have time between projects to refocus, spend time on professional development and connect with my network.

Communication

The most challenging aspect of my experience with communication since I have been working predominantly in a remote capacity has been achieving effective communication with both managers and clients.  In this age of technology when an increasing number of roles are being undertaken in a remote capacity, responsive and timely communication is essential.

Networking

Everything I achieved in 2015 was influenced by a truly supportive network of like-minded professional.  Networking takes time and effort, but the rewards are undeniable.

One of my goals for 2015 was to contribute more to discussion forums in my network.  This has brought mixed results for me – some groups I belong to or follow don’t have a strong membership and discussion threads are sparse, with responses often not forthcoming.

As a freelancer, most of my work comes through my social media presence and working out what works for me is an ongoing challenge. So, what does work?  Giving, not just taking. Recognising and acknowledging the contributions and achievements of others can be rewarding in many ways. I appreciate it when others take the time to connect with me and respond to things I’ve written or posted, so by doing this myself I feel like I’m contributing to my personal learning network in a positive way.

As an active member of the E-Learning Heroes community, my contributions to the weekly challenges have seen me reach the status of 11th position for submissions to these design challenges, with 41 submissions so far and a wealth of learning and sharing coming out of this.  I would like to congratulate each and every participant in these challenges – well done for being prepared to share your expertise and build this amazing community!

I have also found this community to be super-responsive whenever I have asked for help with technical issues and with a following of over 200,000 members, a definite positive in my 2015 year and as a community of like-minded professionals, I don’t believe you can do any better than this network.

Conclusion

I am still working on what my ideal scenario will be as far as the services I offer as a freelance instructional designer and e-Learning specialist.  My background in corporate training and knowledge management is still a major influence as far as what I am passionate about, so I am hoping that 2016 will bring a clearer picture as far as how I can incorporate these into my work.

Across my Desk and finding diigo

As part of My Year in Review and Goal Setting for 2015, I resolved to start a weekly summary of what my week has brought as far as learning goes.

Setting this up so that it was not too time-consuming or onerous took some investigation.  I eventually settled on using diigo, a social bookmarking tool.  As a social bookmarking tool diigo allows users to discover, categorise and share useful content and information.  Here is a really good overview of what diigo can do.

 

By using the “Auto post to blog” feature, diigo automatically creates a draft blog post in WordPress of things I bookmark.  It’s then a simple process to edit the draft post and publish.

Some of the functionality I’m investigating on top of the bookmarking are annotations, highlights and sticky notes and the social aspects which include Groups, Communities and Networks.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, diigo is an acronym for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff”.

My weekly blog posts can be found in my Across my Desk blog (click on the image below).

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Another 23 Things

Mike Taylor’s Learn Camp is running again this year.

LearnCamp

In last year’s program participants were introduced to 23 things we could do on the web to explore and expand our knowledge of new tools and technologies.  This is a self-directed program and as such I found myself more drawn towards some of the challenges to explore particular technology or concepts than others – it’s all about what you personally want to get out of the program.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, this learning program has had quite an impact on how I incorporate learning and sharing what I’m learning into my work and life.  Before the program I didn’t have a blog, use Twitter to any significant extent or have such an amazing network of people around me that I can learn from and share my learning with.

The first exercise in last year’s program was to get an understanding of what it is to be a lifelong learner – starting with reading Joel Gardner’s article, “How to Become a Successful Lifelong Learner“.   In this article he details 5 components of successful lifelong learning.  It probably helps that I have a personality-driven disposition and passion for learning new things, but I have successfully incorporated all of these components into the way I spend my time without really giving it too much thought.

Components of Successful Lifelong Learning – Joel Gardner

Once again there is an impressive line-up of topics to be covered over the 12 weeks of this Learn Camp 2014 program, including blogging, RSS and feed readers, Twitter, Yammer and enterprise social networks, tagging, folksonomies and social bookmarking, curation, personal knowledge management and personal learning networks.

The addition of webinars to the schedule, facilitated by Mark Britz, Allison Michels and JD Dillon adds a new dimension to the learning and I’m looking forward to the kick-off webinar on 1 July 2014 with Mark Britz facilitating a session on “Why Blogging (Still) Matters”.

I encourage you to participate and wish all registrants the best of luck in their learning journey!

Blogging for learning

They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it.  In the context of learning and training, I see blogging as a way to process information, reflect on a topic, express opinions and thoughts and connect with and learn from like-minded others.

As for the potential advantages of blogging, I agree with the eLearning Provocateur that blogging is “a forum for free thought – something very rare in this fast paced, time poor, ultra standardised world”.

If you need more convincing about the advantages of blogging for learning, visit the Knowledge Start Blog list of 121 Blogs About Learning.

Potential disadvantages I see are that maintaining a blog can be a lot of work and if you want to keep readers interested you would need to post regularly which could take discipline.