Learning, leadership, and impact in the Digital Age: In dialogue with Karen Watkins

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

Listen in on the Foundation’s first invitation-only Clubhouse chat. Karen Watkins and I chatted about the Foundation’s unique approach to this triptych of learning, leadership, and impact in the Digital Age. We shared some of the insights we gained about resilience during the first year of COVID-19, learning from the Foundation’s immunization programme that connected thousands of health professionals during the early days of the pandemic. It was informal in ways intended to provoke incidental learning. No stilted panel, rigid agenda, or dull slides. And, most important, we opened up the dialogue to include real-world challenges, successes, and lessons learned that were shared before the chat by invitees. Those we discussed include: Children adapting to digital learning in Lebanon during the COVID-19 period with involvement of girls actually increasing because of the use of digital technology. How to deal with resistance against peer-supported learning in pyramid organizational hierarchy. Bringing a …

Colorful paint splash

Imagining a new kind of community of practice

Reda Sadki Design, Writing

Busy managers may enjoy connecting socially and exchanging informally with their peers. However, they are likely to find it difficult to justify time doing so. They may say “I’m too busy” but what they usually mean is that the opportunity cost is too high. The Achilles heel of communities of practice is that – just like formal training – they require managers to stop work in order to learn. They break the flow of learning in work. Incentives or perks may help substitute for intrinsic motivation, but these will be counter-productive, if only because they establish expectations that are difficult to meet over time. Instead, we earn trust and establish relevance by providing services in ways that save time and help solve their business problems. During the inaugural phase, this is similar to a ‘conciergerie’ service, at the beck and call of the managers who just need to ‘push a …

Hub and spokes by Robert Couse-Baker

Against the hegemony of the ‘International Trainer’: Transforming learning to decolonize global health

Reda Sadki Writing

If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break. When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay. – Led Zeppelin While the International Trainer lands at the airport, is chauffeured to her hotel, and dutifully reviews her slides and prepares her materials, a literally and figuratively captive audience has been herded at great cost to that same hotel, lured in by a perverse combination of incentives. The costs are mostly related to the incidentals of travel and accommodation, but the stakes are significant. Never mind that the outcomes are unlikely to be evaluated in any meaningful way. The symbolism of such ‘learning theater’ is well-rehearsed. Its funding is seldom questioned. In any case, questioning its value does not seem to slow down expenditure, much less lead to meaningful change in practice.  The whole affair is a fascinating microcosm of the broader power relationships that underpin global development. Let …

COVID-19 Peer Hub combats vaccine avoidance amid pandemic

Reda Sadki Writing

ADELAIDE, 27 November 2020 (University of South Australia) – More than 80 million children under the age of one at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases. UniSA researchers are evaluating a new vaccination education initiative – the COVID-19 Peer Hub – to help immunisation and public health professionals tackle the emerging dangers of vaccine hesitancy amid the pandemic. From March to April 2020, more than 50 per cent of immunisation programs around the world have reported significant disruptions to their vaccination services. The new program is developed and delivered by The Geneva Learning Foundation, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the COVID-19 Peer Hub programme is connecting more than 4000 immunisation professionals across the globe – most of them working in developing countries – in a bid to keep essential vaccination programs open and safe during COVID-19. UniSA’s Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning has been engaged by the …


Pros and cons of online courses

Reda Sadki Writing

“Please, I need someone to enlighten me on the pros and cons of online courses for active learning and professional development.” There is quite a bit of contextual information missing to decode what is really being asked. We only know that it is an individual professional from an anglophone country in Africa. Still, I can think of at least three ways to answer this question. Answer #1. Wrong question. This is the wrong question. Pros and cons depend on the quality of the pedagogy, the teaching and facilitation team, the resources, technologies used, context, learning and learner objectives… everything except the medium. Review a course against criteria like the above, not as an abstract consideration. Define your own goals. What are you hoping to achieve? What is the relationship between perceived quality and cost? The residential experience is still perceived as the gold standard for education. And it tends to …

Inside a lava tube on Hawai'i (Personal collection)

Ashes to ashes

Reda Sadki Writing

L&D is dead. Pushing us down the blind alley of technological solutionism, the learning technologists have demoted learning to tool selection. Microlearning reduces the obsession with knowledge acquisition from a one-hour video to 60 one-minute videos. Gamification is lipstick on the pig of behaviorism. xAPI and other “X”-buzzwords are just the latest tin con by desperate LMS vendors. Fantasizing that VR or AR will save us perpetuates the persistent confusion between tools and process. As ‘learning leaders’ we are condemning ourselves to irrelevance by chasing ephemeral fads, investing in empty gimmicks, and embracing bearded gurus spouting non-sense. ‘Learning in the flow of work’ is a successful consultant’s buzz word, but will not help us any more than 70-20-10 did. Leadership ‘development’ remains about pampering a few executives old enough to appreciate cushy hotel and conference rooms. Kirkpatrick died, replaced by a coterie of rabid Kirkpatrick wannabes frothing at the mouth …

Diving platform on Graveyard Hill in Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan. Sven Dirks, Wien

The significance of digital platforms to the business

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud, Writing

Business gets done by groups in workshops and meetings and by individuals in private conversation. There is an undeniable cultural advantage for diplomacy that comes from looking your interlocutor in the eye. Emerging digital platforms are in the margins of this business. The pioneers are creaky in their infrastructure and, ironically, playing catch-up. They have long lost the initial burst of enthusiasm that led to their creation. Yet they are still here, alive and kicking with funding that can support, in principle, their reinvention. For this, they need courage and creativity, especially if they function in a bureaucratic environment. Then there are new platforms in search of purpose and the users it would bring. Sometimes, it is the other way around. No platform is perfect. All of them have strengths, experience, insights, and the potential to be more in the future than what they are now. Some have already achieved …

Rethinking the “Webinar”: Sage on Screen, Guide on Side, or Both?

Reda Sadki Writing

By Donna Murdoch, Ed. D. for The Geneva Learning Foundation A search for the keyword “webinar” on Google reveals over 85 million hits. How do we develop webinars, how do we hold webinars, and how do we engage people during webinars?  The same questions could be asked of lectures, because in most contexts, webinars are a lecture seen and heard through the glass of a screen instead of a cavernous lecture hall.  The literature suggests that lectures do not provide the support and activity learners need to stay engaged.  “Sage on Stage” has been replaced by “Guide on the Side” (King, 1993) in most face to face contexts, or at least the effort is made.  Is the same effort made when there is a screen between the webinar participant and the “sage”? The paragraph below is an excerpt from a 2018 article published by J. Ubah in Advances in Social Science Research. Spaces have been left …

Subject matter experts as a learning problem

Reda Sadki Writing

Copenhagen. I chat with two “learning consultants”, whose job it is in their respective universities to help faculty improve how they teach. Much to my dismay, I understand that their role is perceived as being about the adoption of new tools (“Should I use Adobe Connect or Zoom?”). Yet they are a case in point that learning technologists provide a rare opportunity for university faculty to think through how they teach. In such institutions of teaching and learning, guess who is paid more? Cue Felder’s infamous quote: “College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which systematic training is neither required nor provided – pizza delivery jobs come with more instruction.” Subject matter experts are a problem. They are expensive. If they are good, they tend to be too busy to contribute. They often confuse knowing with teaching. Their best intention is to transmit what they know. They tend …


Reda Sadki Writing

We struggle with the measurement of learning. Elaborate frameworks compete for attention. The sophistication of complexity theory or fractals, the business speak of ROI, levels, pyramids, concentric circles… every learning guru peddles a model to describe and diagnose the effects of what we try to do – and what learners actually do most often on their own. How can we possibly describe the complex chain of correlation and causation between a learning intervention or incident and an outcome? Is there an important distinction separating knowledge or skills “transfer” from the progression to implementation and, ultimately, impact? How much of a difference can we actually make on performance outcomes or human capital development, when so much is related to the environment’s learning culture? I described a few of the outcomes we are observing for our most advanced global programme. Learners are transmuted into teachers, leaders, and facilitators. In some countries, learners are …