Thursday, May 20, 2010

National Learning at Work Day

Today has been National Learning at Work Day in the UK, when people are encouraged to learn a new skill in the workplace. It doesn't have to be work related, of course, although I'm sure most employers would prefer it if it were.

Since I am self employed and no longer really have an 'at work', I sent out an email to the team of 200 or so people who constitute a mailing group for one of my clients. I encouraged people to push the boat out and learn something new.

Fairly predictably for a UK audience, I had a very poor response.

One person was thoroughly enthused and suggested that we each offer a 60 second micro-lesson online to whomever was interested. But he was a lone voice. At the other extreme, one respondent claimed that, having read my email, he now needed to learn 'how to clean puke off my keyboard'. Charming.

But the third and final response, received just minutes ago made it all worthwhile. With the permission of the respondent, I reproduce it here verbatim:

Thanks for your message. When I worked at the University of Manchester a few years ago, they made a good effort for the National Learning at Work Day. Five years ago, they organised a day of unusual activities to stretch people’s minds, at the Manchester Museum which is on the university campus – this included things like circus skills (juggling etc). I asked my boss if I could go and was surprised that I was allowed (but for only half a day) – no one else in my department of about 100 people had even asked. The bit that I attended was an indoor planetarium, offered by the School of Astronomy; this consisted of a wonderful introduction to the stars and how things look different in the southern hemisphere and in different seasons etc, and also included lots about the mythology around the constellations (e.g. how Orion the hunter met Taurus the bull). I enjoyed it a lot and it stayed in my mind.

I have just completed a Certificate in Introductory Astronomy with the University of Manchester, via distance and e-learning, which I’ve been doing for the past two years. I know that that one day when my boss was good enough to let me ‘learn at work’, planted a seed for pursuing this hobby (a lifelong love of science fiction played a part too of course). Ironically, the course had very little to do with gazing at the stars – it covered the physics and maths behind ‘life, the universe and everything’. But now that I’m finished with the course and with possible clear nights ahead this summer, I have lots of star gazing ahead. So, the day worked for me anyway, five years ago today!
Isn't that an encouraging anecdote?

Oh... and I spent the day in teach mode rather than learn mode (but I reckon that counts, too), acquainting someone with the use of social media for business purposes. I have already posted a link to one outcome of the day.


V Yonkers said...

I think it is important as a teacher that we recognize when we are learning from our students. I am sure that you "learned" a new insight etc... by going through this process. Perhaps what is more important that the big "learning" we get at work is to recognize the little things we might have learned today.

For example, that it is difficult to motivate someone who has a closed mind to trying something new as your second email indicates. I think I'd take the time out to figure out why they are so opposed to taking the time to learn something at work. Sometimes the learning is just in asking the questions.

BTW: I love the idea of making a 60 second video on something you could teach others!

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers "I think it is important as a teacher that we recognize when we are learning from our students." We are of the same mind. Which is why I felt justified in sharing my manner of observing the say.