All the way down (Amancay Maahs/flickr.com)

Can analysis and critical thinking be taught online in the humanitarian context?

Reda Sadki Events, Learning design, Presentations

This is my presentation at the First International Forum on Humanitarian Online Training (IFHOLT) organized by the University of Geneva on 12 June 2015. I describe some early findings from research and practice that aim to go beyond “click-through” e-learning that stops at knowledge transmission. Such transmissive approaches replicate traditional training methods prevalent in the humanitarian context, but are both ineffective and irrelevant when it comes to teaching and learning the critical thinking skills that are needed to operate in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environments faced by humanitarian teams. Nor can such approaches foster collaborative leadership and team work. Most people recognize this, but then invoke blended learning as the solution. Is it that – or is it just a cop-out to avoid deeper questioning and enquiry of our models for teaching and learning in the humanitarian (and development) space? If not, what is the alternative? This is what I explore in just under twenty …

Peter Paul Rubens. From 1577 to 1640. Antwerp. Medusa's head. KHM Vienna.

Experience and blended learning: two heads of the humanitarian training chimera

Reda Sadki Design, Events, Learning design, Learning strategy, Thinking aloud

Experience is the best teacher, we say. This is a testament to our lack of applicable quality standards for training and its professionalization, our inability to act on what has consequently become the fairly empty mantra of 70-20-10, and the blinders that keep the economics (low-volume, high-cost face-to-face training with no measurable outcomes pays the bills of many humanitarian workers, and per diem feeds many trainees…) of humanitarian education out of the picture. We are still dropping people into the deep end of the pool (i.e., mission) and hoping that they somehow figure out how to swim. We are where the National Basketball Association in the United States was in 1976. However, if the Kermit Washingtons in our space were to call our Pete Newells (i.e., those of us who design, deliver, or manage humanitarian training), what do we have to offer? The corollary to this question is why no one seems to care? How …

The Design of a Learning System to Teach Analysis and Critical Thinking for Humanitarians

Reda Sadki Presentations

My presentation at the First International Forum on Humanitarian Online Training (IFHOLT) hosted by the University of Geneva on 12 June 2015. A more detailed version of this presentation is available here.

Marble statue of the ancient greek philosopher Plato (Source: alienaxioms.com)

Blame it on Plato

Reda Sadki Quotes

Even as computer-mediated communication is now embedded into nearly every aspect of life, the sentiment persists that written and therefore distance communication is intrinsically inferior. Here is the very interesting introduction from Andrew Feenberg’s classic article – written in the late 1980s – calling into question the presumption of superiority in the face-to-face encounter: In our culture the face-to-face encounter is the ideal paradigm of the meeting of minds. Communication seems most complete and successful where the person is physically present ‘in’ the message. This physical presence is supposed to be the guarantor of authenticity: you can look your interlocutor in the eye and search for tacit signs of truthfulness or falsehood, where context and tone permit a subtler interpretation of the spoken word. Plato initiated our traditional negative view of the written word. He argued that writing was no more than an imitation of speech, while speech itself was an imitation of …

Read the news (Georgie Pauwels/flickr.com)

Publishing as learning

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

We are both consumers and producers of publications, whether in print or online. Publications are static containers for knowledge from the pre-Internet era. Even if they are now mostly digital, the ways in which we think about them remains tied to the past. Nevertheless, at their best, they provide a useful reference point, baseline, or benchmark to establish a high-quality standard that is easy, cheap and effective to disseminate. In the worst, they take so much time to prepare that they are out of date even before they are ready for circulation, reflect consensus that is so watered-down as to be unusable, and are expensive – especially when printed copies are needed – to produce, disseminate, stock and revise. With respect to the knowledge we consume, some of us may heretically scorn formal guidelines and other publications. Reading as an activity “remains a challenge”. Others manage to set aside time to …

Empty (schnaars/flickr.com)

Why we secretly hate webinars

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Webinars reproduce the structure and format of the formal training workshop in an online space. The sole positive distinction for participants is that they may now participate from anywhere. However, to ask questions or otherwise contribute requires one to be present at a specific time (synchronously). Recordings of webinars are usually made available, so in theory we may catch up after the event but lose the ability to connect to others… and seldom actually do. If there wasn’t time (or justification) when it happened, that is unlikely to change later. Like the face-to-face workshops they emulate, webinars require us to stop work in order to learn, which we can seldom afford or justify. They are mostly transmissive, as the available tools (Webex, for example) do not facilitate conversation. By default, most facilitators will mute everyone in a conference to avoid an unintelligible cacophony of multiple squawking voices. Despite the existence …

Doc Porter Museum of Telephone History, Houston Texas, USA (Texas.713/flickr.com)

Why supposedly boring conference calls are actually amazing

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Where phone and Skype remain the gold standard for one-to-one communication (and learning), many of us find value in conference calls, irrespective of the technology (phone, Skype, Webex, Hangouts…) used. Conference calls may seem as unimpressive or mundane as that other piece of paradigm-changing learning technology, the whiteboard – but that’s the point. They are learning technology that is already embedded into the fabric of work, and directly contribute to informal and incidental learning across time and geography. The pedagogical affordances of conference calls include structure, transparency, dialogue, and accountability. Photo: Doc Porter Museum of Telephone History,  Houston Texas, USA (Texas.713/flickr.com)

Ici on consulte le bottin, panneau à la Closerie des Lilas, Paris (Hotels-HPRG/flickr.com)

How do we use technology to embed learning into work?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Of the myriad technologies in use, we may find it useful to focus our attention on those that (1) are now widely used, to examine their benefits and the process for their acceptance; (2) continue to be used, despite the existence of better alternatives; or (3) are new and in use only by early adopters. We may also classify technologies depending on whether they are synchronous (need to be connected at the same time) or asynchronous (anytime, anywhere), networked (for group communication) or individual (self-initiated or self-guided). In this next series of posts, I’ll look at the relevance and limitations for learning of conference calls and webinars, as well as the place of print-centric publications in our learning (work) lives. Photo: Ici on consulte le bottin, panneau à la Closerie des Lilas, Paris (Hotels-HPRG/flickr.com)

More face (Stephanie Sicore/flickr.com)

Skepticism about learning innovation

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Online technologies have afforded us many ways in which we can now learn even when we are not in the same location. Yet, some of us remain skeptical about the impact of new technologies, and in particular about new ways of learning that rely on technology. We prefer to do things the way we have done them in the past. New approaches to learning may be seen as too complicated in our task-oriented learning culture. Furthermore, we question whether experience can be taught or transferred. With some members in the network, access to the Internet may be limited either due to resources, policies, or culture, deepening the Digital Divide even for simple tools that many of us take for granted. And, of course, we remain attached to the face-to-face culture that has been our primary source of learning, enabling us to form our networks of trust, to directly experience and …

Tons of shattered glass, Robert Smithson's Map of Broken Glass at the Dia:Beacon (Augie Ray/flickr.com)

We need learning processes, not just tools

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Knowledge management and informal learning processes are not resourced, even when the organization may have made a significant investment to build containers for knowledge or its sharing. This “build it and they will come” approach has failed, time and time again. Yet the seemingly intangible nature of knowledge and learning processes makes it difficult to build a case to resource learning itself. As a cross-cutting, often unrecognized activity that enables work rather than produces results, how do we convince donors that it is worth the investment – paradoxically when donors are increasingly skeptical about the value of formal training? Photo: Tons of shattered glass, Robert Smithson’s Map of Broken Glass at the Dia:Beacon (Augie Ray/flickr.com)