I am about to embark on a new project ‘Lead in your Volunteer Organisation’ from the Strategic Relationships Path. This idea sprang to mind when I became a member of the D70 Team Pathways recently. As I had recently been assigned the role of D73 Pathways Coordinator, the idea of how Pathways Coordination could work in a District, during the transition period to June 2019, was beginning to emerge!
Thinking this through, I believe that this was the perfect way to achieve the completion of the six month project in my second Path, Strategic Relationships and provide a structured support system.
D73 Team Pathways
What better way to lead in a volunteer organisation – initiate, lead and maintain D73 Team Pathways.
This is the final required project in Level 5 to complete my second Path.
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to apply the skills needed to successfully lead in a volunteer organization.
Overview: Serve in a leadership role in Toastmasters or another volunteer organization for at least six months.
D73 Team Pathways supports Integration of Pathways.
My task will be to lead the D73 Team Pathways to assist in the successful Integration of Pathways. Together we will identify the support required for Pathways Integration in our clubs and provide assistance in various forms.
At the beginning of this project I provided an overview of the likely tasks to Support Pathways Integration as a presentation at the D73 District Officer Training and asked for volunteers. Already we have a small team emerging – five volunteers (representing various District teams) – a Steering Committee for the project.
This is brand new territory and nothing is yet ratified with District leaders. Exploration is a key motivator. We will meet soon and discuss our proposal for a support process that will lead our clubs forward in achieving success in Pathways Integration. A project that will help build Strategic Relationships for the club members, with their Base Camp Managers, their Area Director and their Division Directors as we strive for excellence in Pathways across the District.
Supporting the new Executives
The idea behind this project is the very real need to continue with a coordinated support process for our new club executive teams across Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Now that we are in our first month of the new season for our clubs, and new Base Camp Managers emerge from the executive teams, they need our help.
Our Pathways Guides have completed their ‘official’ terms of office, and many may have taken on other duties and may not be available for further guidance. We need a new team to support the Base Camp Managers. We need to build on the expertise and experiences of those who have already become Pathways champions and achievers to offer advice and support where required.
Support for Base Camp Managers
The new Base Camp Managers, consisting of the club’s President, VP Education and Secretary, are required to fulfil the following responsibilities:
The Base Camp Managers can access this Online Tutorial in Base Camp when they login as a BCM. They need to click on the Base Camp Manager Tutorial icon, as shown below:
There is a plethora of online resources for the BCMs, but knowing where to find them and how to use them is not well known yet. We can provide guidance on that!
Some club executives may have missed being part of the Pathways Experience presentations or virtual support sessions provided after rollout for our Region 12 in December 2017.
We can fill the training gaps with targeted Online Education!
Brand new members, just starting in Toastmasters, will be seeking guidance from their executives and mentors. We can help them to assist their club members!
D73 Team Pathways supports club executives in the Integration of Pathways.
Pathways Guides across the world have been conducting online training for VPEs and others, to help them with their leadership roles. Thousands of hours of volunteer time and effort has been implemented steadily since early last year when the first rollout of Pathways began. The Guides were required to provide a virtual support service 15 times during their term of office. These may have been: one on one training, small group training or large group training opportunities. Guides have used a variety of web conferencing tools and have engaged attendees in easy training webinars and workshops online.
Virtual support sessions enabled club leaders to view presentations, ask questions and to network with others who were at the beginning of their Pathways journeys. The VSS concept was embraced enthusiastically by the Guides and seen as a most pro-active method of contributing to club leadership training.
VSS was a strategic, targetted program of club leadership training initiated by WHQ at Toastmasters International.
The Guides were supported through a series of online webinars in which they were able to view demonstrations of navigation in Base Camp and listen to a series of FAQ and answers about Pathways. These were scheduled and conducted by WHQ personnel who were skilled as Trainers of Pathways Guides.
Vital Support Sessions: VSS for Club Leadership Training Online
I am proposing a slight change to the term VSS – Vital Support Sessions. We need to move forward and ensure that clubs can integrate Pathways smoothly during the transition period to June 2020. Many districts are now setting up a framework for that ongoing support, including the appointment of special Pathways Champions and scheduling of Online Workshops.
I recommend the use of District focused VSS – Vital Support Sessions, as a method of providing ongoing leadership training opportunities, for new club executive officers. These can be used for the incoming executives for specific and strategic training in Pathways:
choosing a Path; accessing Base Camp; completing projects, completing levels and Paths
accessing online resources and learning tutorials
roles and responsibilities of Base Camp managers including verifying completions and submitting awards at Club Central
club management tools and strategies to assist with the tracking, scheduling and recording of Pathways projects
Toastmasters Mentoring projects for supporting the members progress in Pathways
Training for VSS on Pathways
When the Guides in D73 were needing some training in how to prepare, structure and facilitate a virtual support session, I created a set of slides to step through the process and ran a couple of live interactive sessions. You can download the complete slide deck here.
A few of the slides are presented below to help others in preparing for VSS.
This is how a VSS may be prepared:
This is how the content of a VSS may be structured:
This how a VSS may be facilitated:
Here is an example of the scripting of your VSS:
Here is one way to add spice to the VSS with a Q & A segment:
Finally here is a method for introducing stories from attendees:
Lessons Learned: Scheduling
Set a regular day of the week and time for the VSS
Invite participation from leaders AND members of clubs in your area
Follow up with emails to ensure that all club executives are included
Setup a Facebook Group in which the VSS are scheduled as Events
Alternatively, post the scheduled VSS sessions in your website, blog or district page
Follow up with a link to the recording for attendees
Lessons Learned: Facilitating
Be flexible and accommodating eg be a logistics manager to help newcomers
Encourage participation in a variety of ways eg voice, text chat, screen sharing
Do your preparation homework and be ready
Have specific websites and resources open on desktop ready to share
Appoint a timer and keep to time
Finish with a reminder of the next session
For those using Zoom software, this second set of training slides will help!
If you are preparing for Club Leadership Training opportunities in your Online Clubs, this set of slides will be of interest.
… an HPL, a collaborative project, and a magnificent learning experience…
Have we succeeded? YES!
Have we been challenged? YES!
Have we made a difference? That is still emerging and will continue to surprise us all!
The Pathways Support for District U had an ambitious purpose – to provide support as clubs in District U approach their own Pathways Rollout.
Toastmasters and Pathways enthusiasts, the plan to support the 160+ clubs in the various Divisions of District U has reached its ultimate milestone.
The missions of this HPL included:
To enable skilled Toastmasters to apply their online leadership skills in the role of Pathways Guides in a totally 100% Pathways Support Program
Each OPG may have about 8-10 clubs assigned or selected
To provide support to District U clubs in preparing for their Pathways rollout in May 2018
We ensured that the rollout would be successful for District U by our planned club visits from 30 Online Pathways Guides.
Now you may be wondering how that was achieved. The answer was:
project management through a steering committee of four people; George Marshall, Michelle Alba-Lim, Mark Snow and Carole McCulloch
careful selection of the team of online guides
considered club assignments based on time zone compatabilities and language skills.
close liaison with Kate Reynerson, chief Pathways training officer at World Headquarters.
In all cases we expected the guides to perform the tasks and presentations as both Ambassador and Guide. The majority of those selected already had experience as a Pathways Guide and/or had already immersed in Pathways in their own districts.
How did we ensure that we were working in accordance with WHQ preferences? Our Chief Pathways Guide, George Marshall, liaised with Kate Reynerson, chief Pathways training officer at WHQ who provided us with the data that was required, including full lists of club officers for all clubs in District U.
What were the challenges?
Meeting our deadlines set down in our project – middle of January to select steering committee; middle of February to recruit guides; middle of April to assign clubs; and middle of May to complete club visits.
Contacting the executive teams of the clubs and getting a response in a timely manner
Visiting the clubs during their meeting times, virtually – we also needed to update our shared tracking sheet so that WHQ could see our progress
Providing relevant presentations about the Pathways Experience – often meant a much reduced time frame and attention to details as requested by some clubs already immersed in Pathways (eg the Online Clubs)
Giving answers to the myriad of questions that ensued.
What were the successes?
Global networking on a much bigger scale – reaching out to clubs in countries spread across the world
Creating networking relationships of trust for the executive teams at the clubs of District U
Preparing the majority of the clubs for Pathways before rollout.
Now we have an ongoing task to support the clubs in Virtual Support Sessions (15 per guide) stretching from May to August 2018. We are able to call on all our skills now to ‘mentor’ each club in integrating Pathways into their clubs. The Steering Committee will still provide Guide Support Sessions each month to ensure that the Guides can continue to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and share their experiences.
This has been the biggest project I have been involved with and it was a pleasure to work alongside the Steering Committee and the Online Pathways Guides.
Thank you to the Steering Committee for providing their 360 degree evaluations of my work as a leader, I value your opinions, commendations and recommendations.
Thank you to the Online Pathways Guides for your unswerving attention to detail and provision of service, I am honored to include you all in my Personal Learning Networks.
Final outcomes of this project are shared with all the Online Pathways Guides and the members of the Online Alliance in their social media discussion forums.
Online Clubs first emerged in March 2016 and since then we have seen a total of 19 clubs chartered. We have a few community clubs, a sprinkling of corporate clubs and a group of advanced clubs – all meeting 100% online with their members on a regular basis. There are substantial numbers of Toastmasters involved with Online Clubs; either as visitors, guests, members and leaders.
This was the description of 100% online clubs from WHQ in 2016!
How many Online Clubs have chartered since then?
Here is the latest from the Dashboards at Toastmasters.org. Imagine my surprise when I noted another new club just chartered on May 24, 2018 – DJ & MC Toastmasters. The count is now 19 chartered clubs with an overall membership of 1,017 Toastmasters.
Noted in the details above are those Online Clubs who have succeeded in reaching Distinguished Club, Select Distinguished Club, and Presidents Distinguished club status. Congratulations to all.
There are several Prospective Online Clubs still waiting in the wings – striving to reach charter membership requirements. Three of these are very close to becoming chartered: Ablaze Online, Diversity Toastmasters Online and Witty Birds Online.
Of course there may be others entering the Online Club environment and we hope to hear from their leaders soon.
Where can I find current Online Club details?
Here is the line up of clubs currently displayed at Find-A-Club, with their meeting times, specialties and prerequisites. Visit Toastmasters.org and select the Find-a-Club icon. Then select Find Online Clubs.
Note: this does not include all chartered clubs at this stage – display still to be updated by TI.
Critical Questions from Leaders building Online Clubs?
Leaders who are contemplating the establishment of an Online Club will benefit from considering this set of critical questions that others have asked themselves:
Who to build the club for
What time zone will be the basis for meetings
How to choose effective web conferencing tools
How to define meeting styles
What promotional tools to use for recruitment
Which club management tools to choose
Which websites to use for ease of access
What skills are required of online executive teams
What types of meeting roles are required
How to maximise success by collaborating among online clubs
How to do what seems impossible
Biggest joys for me, from being part of the Online Clubs development for two years, include:
the benefits of attending Toastmasters from computer or mobile device wherever I may be
watching and supporting those who have stepped up to create new online clubs
bringing new perspectives to my Toastmasters journey as I follow their lead
seeing what can be achieved online – going beyond perceived barriers
I was invited to be part of a radio interview recently, to explain the rise of popularity of Online Clubs and to talk about the benefits of belonging to online clubs, the differences of experiencing Online Toastmaster meeting and the challenges of support for online clubs. The radio station was Coast.FM situated in Adelaide, South Australia. I was happy to report on the benefits of belonging; the differences at online meetings and the challenges experienced.
Benefits of belonging to Online Clubs
Toastmasters who are already embracing online club membership will tell you that the experiences have helped them to develop their skills to another level among an international audience.
Attendance online is easier – no travel required, no need to leave the home in bad weather, no restrictions for differently abled people
Performing meeting roles at an online club is challenging – builds networks, builds skills for screen presence, builds confidence in presenting for webinars and online meetings
Being a member of an online club – stretches your personal learning network, enables immersion in wider cultural environments, and provides greater connectivity between meetings
Note: For me, I really like how the communications between members of Online Clubs between meetings, generates another method of ‘connection’ with fellow club members. It far exceeds the amount of communication between my fellow land-based club members. It has increased my Personal Learning Networks and enabled a huge growth of experience and confidence.
Differences at an Online Meeting
Best way to find out about what is differeent at an online club meeting, is to visit an Online Club in a time zone that suits you and experience them for yourself. These are some of the typical differences you will notice immediately:
You are seen and heard in small video windows within the meeting software and you become more focussed on the speakers – up close and personal.
Mostly you will be seated and displaying head and shoulders only.
Your background becomes a focal point and one to pay attention to improving to avoid distractions.
Meetings will usually begin with some networking that everyone can share, and there is need for an interval or a break time to chat with others.
Different roles are required to help with initial networking and tech checks, providing feedback on screen presence and keeping track of the chat texting.
The Toastmaster is the host and has control over the muting and unmuting of microphones.
Everyone has equal opportunity to share screens for display of websites or presentation sides.
The Timer needs to be innovative with timing devices and to provide audible sounds when required.
Note: For me, I find increased value in performing my meeting roles in online clubs as it enables my innovation to shine with a brighter light.
Challenges for Online Clubs
Currently all Online Clubs are categorised as Undistricted – with no supportive structure for Program Quality and Club Growth. There are no Area Directors, Division or District Directors keeping everything on track. There are no official Area Contests or the ability to proceed to District contests except through the Video Tape Contest. There are no District level Publicity Managers or Finance Managers – each online club manages their own publicity and finances. We are working on that support by encouraging leaders and members from all online clubs to join the Facebook group – Online Alliance.
One major challenge has been the need for inter club leadership training that will provide greater networking between executive teams from a variety of online clubs. The training that is provided is scheduled from within the club. Online clubs are exempt from earning DCP points for training unless the executives can attend training in their land based districts. We are discussing the potentials for online training at this Facebook group – Online Training for Toastmasters.
Recognition among the Toastmasters community as clubs of equal value is still an ongoing challenge – there are still many Toastmasters who are not in favour of Online Clubs membership. On the other hand there are still many Toastmasters who are not yet aware of online club membership. We are working towards correcting that perspective by encouraging Toastmasters to visit the very active Facebook group – Online Toastmasters Resources.
Note: For me these are the challenges that provide the ‘spur’ for greater innovation as we create solutions to these issues.
Recent benefits from Online Club Meetings?
A recent project for me was to talk about the experiences of being in an Online Club, during an interview on the radio. This fitted ideally into my Pathways projects planning and I accepted eagerly. The process and preparation for this event was all contained in one email from the presenter.
These were the questions that I answered at that radio interview, hosted at Coast.FM, Close Encounters of the Community Kind on May 14:
Tell us about the online clubs
How did online clubs begin?
Why did they begin?
Were online clubs accepted by Toastmasters International immediately?
What process occurred before acceptance of these virtual clubs?
What benefits have you seen of virtual clubs?
Are there any other places in Toastmasters where technology is being used to close the gap?
I was able to relay that information to the Coast.FM listeners and to cement my own convictions about the real benefits of Online Clubs.
My next step was to schedule a speech, for delivery at an Online Club; to explore the benefits of promoting Online Clubs in different media. A bit like an interview about an interview.
I wanted to complete the Elective project from my Strategic Relationships Path and put another spin on this by choosing to deliver the speech as an interviewee at one of my online clubs, Ablaze Online.
This is how I structured a set of questions for my interviewer:
Q.1 What attracted you to a radio interview about Online Toastmasters?
Q.2 How did you get involved with a Radio Interview recently?
Q.3 What advice were you given prior to the interview?
Q.4 What were the benefits of online clubs you promoted to the audience?
Q.5 What advice would you give for other Toastmasters who wish to promote online clubs on radio?
This project gave tons of scope for exploring radio interviews and those for the small screen. I did feel challenged, both in preparing for the radio interview and the questions from the Toastmaster at the online meeting. The thing that helped me the most was being able to structure my speech around a set of questions and to provide an authentic, off the cuff style, rather than a ‘canned’ speech.
This activity did pose some challenges for my Evaluator – it was new and different – however, I am pleased to say that the feedback was encouraging and uplifting.
Pathways has provided me with a renewed focus on participating in my online club meetings and a way of exploring new and challenging projects. It has made me think more deeply about the processes involved in:
choosing and Electives
completing the Project
scheduling the Speech
preparing the Evaluator
embedding the Feedback
repeating at another time at another club with a greater understanding of how to inspire.
Have you been challenged in your Toastmaster journey recently?
Did you ride the roller coaster of DOUBT? Doubt that you could RISE to the challenge?
International Pathways Guides Team Building
My recent challenge, as a leader among fellow International Toastmasters, was to build a collaborative team of voluntary champions. Their mission (should they choose to accept) was to support a selection of clubs from District U as they prepared for Pathways roll out scheduled for May 15. Each would perform similar duties to other Pathways Guides and Ambassadors who have been supporting clubs within their own districts.
The BIG DIFFERENCE was that everything would need to be done online – they would be expected to visit club meetings and provide support session virtually!
This seemed like a mission impossible – and I was filled with doubt – doubt that I could become a leader for this massive project involving over 160 clubs and doubt that we could recruit the required number of voluntary champions in time. I was on a roller coaster ride – reaching the top of one learning curve and then plunging into yet another learning curve. Imagine what sights you can see at the top of a roller coaster track filling you with awe and wonder, and then imagine that sudden drop with your heart in your mouth and your stomach contents doing flip flops, as you cascade down to the bottom of the next roller coaster track.
It was like that at the beginning of this ambitious High Performance Leadership project.
As soon as the ‘call to action’ was sent by George Marshall, I was jumping straight in, ready to ‘make a difference’. (Luckily there was nothing scary involved such as ‘this message will self-destruct in 30 seconds)!
I could see a perfect opportunity for the skilled online toastmasters in my Network. I could see them ‘at the top of their leadership journeys’ gaining the experiences and feeling the excitement of leading outside their comfort zone. The vision was enticing and I took the challenge to team up with George Marshall in D57 and recruit a Steering Committee. Momentum expanded in January this year and after meeting with our chosen Steering Committee, Michelle Alba-Lim and Mark Snow in February, we had high hopes for our success!
The four core values in Toastmasters enabled us to work toward fulfilling our mission. Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence are the core values of Toastmasters.
In Toastmasters we Respect each other – I had enormous respect for the talents and principles of my wide community of online Toastmasters. All we had to do was reach out and invite them to volunteer their time! Add to this growing networks of Pathways Guides with whom we had connected in our own communities online and we realized that we had a huge pool of voluntary champions from which to recruit. Our February task to find 32 talented online Pathways Guides. (We built in a fail safe clause for this part of the roller coaster ride – we needed 28 – and we knew that we may lose some.)
In Toastmasters we have Integrity. We do what we say we will do. That knowledge gave us the confidence to expect eager responses from our ‘expressions of interest’ to participate in the project. So many of our voluntary champions stepped up eagerly – they were eager to make a difference. (I had originally thought I would be ‘steering’ not ‘guiding’ then I needed to increase my own integrity – I stepped up as a Guide too. I needed to experience the same as other OPGs in order to support them effectively.)
In Toastmasters, we are here to give service to other members. Leadership is about how many people we can serve not how many people serve us. This core value was an ideal framework for such an ambitious project – an opportunity to demonstrate that it is all about how many lives benefit from the service we give. Toastmasters from Kenya to Karachi; from Rwanda to Russia; from Chile to Costa Rica; from Mauritius to Morocco and from Serbia to Slovenia – are showing gracious acceptance of our offers of support.
Toastmasters thrive for excellence! We give each other constructive feedback so we can be the best we can be. This project has provided further opportunities to support each other in a cooperative learning environment. I am so impressed with the way in which small teams have banded together to present Pathways Experience in different languages (French and Spanish translators have been in high demand). We have experienced a range of challenges, moving us outside our comfort zones. Some clubs are needing extra help for the process of reinstatement – others are brand new chartered clubs that need help in club management.
Personal challenges for me have included the assignment of clubs to the Online Pathways Guides based on:
time zone compatibility
balance of clubs per guide
This process took me on another roller coaster – juggling the various components to find a workable mix. Some of these assignments were turned on their head when our team membership reduced (due to ill health or conflict of interests). Reassignment requests were always met with enthusiastic agreement – even when this meant that one or two Online Pathways Guides had up to 8 clubs to serve.
This wonderful team of Online Pathways Guides has risen to every challenge – they are awesome Voluntary Champions.
I recommend close attention to details of our core values when you are challenged with a large international team leadership project. Use Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence as your framework to build your team of Voluntary Champions.
George has begun his journey in his chosen Path of Leadership Development.
He has now sought advice from his Personal Learning Network and gathered some really useful resources. His plan is to ‘map’ out his Path completion over the next few months and these are the tools he has chosen to help with that!
First a really neat set of short videos for the nuts and bolts of working in Base Camp – produced by Roger Fung at http://tipathways.com/
Second this dynamic document that shows him all the projects in his Path at a glance.
As George is a member of multiple clubs he will need to schedule his speeches strategically with each of his VP Education officers. As an advanced Toastmaster he is also planning to share his Level Completions with each of his clubs and therefore takes that into consideration when requesting speeches for meetings at his clubs over the next few months.
Action Stations: Base Camp
First things first, George will open his Leadership Development Path in the Transcript at Base Camp. For him this is like navigating to his own personal learning space online and accessing his online lessons, resources and evaluation forms. He already knows that Level 1 contains 3 projects with 4 speeches required: Icebreaker, Evaluation and Feedback, and Researching and Presenting. His chosen ‘theme’ for this level will be Preparing to Lead and he aims to prepare his four speeches to fit that theme and present them using a Meal Menu metaphor.
Here’s George’s plan for Level One: Preparing to Lead
LEVEL ONE: Mastering Fundamentals
My Journey: Entrée
Evaluation and Feedback: Speech 1
Evaluation and Feedback: Speech 2
Leadership: a better mix
Researching and Presenting
George learns fast that he will need to work through the online lessons in Level 1 sequentially and that it will be important to complete the self-assessment AFTER module in each project. It is tempting to just click through the modules in each lesson, without much attention to content, to get to the end! However, he is focused on improving his learning about Preparing to Lead and sets aside some time each week to complete each lesson and structure each speech.
He also knows that he will need to provide the Evaluation form for each of these speeches at his clubs and he downloads them from the Tutorials and Resources library at Base Camp.
There is a lot that he can do in planning ahead.
Planning Ahead: mid term
During the month, George frequently taps into his Personal Learning Network in social media where he is surrounded by other Toastmasters also working in Pathways. He knows now that he can get instant help from members of the Pathways Discussion Forum by posting his queries and challenges each week. He would have preferred to have access to a closed forum somewhere, focused on his Path, and he wonders if this would be a ‘project’ he could work on for one of the Electives.
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to apply your understanding of social media to enhance an established or new social media presence.
This project fits very well with his plans to build his own social media presence and that of his club.
At Level 3 George realizes that the Elective project Make Connections through Networking will be valuable in preparing for the Elective project Building a Social Media Presence and he adds that to his plans too. One other Elective at Level 3 appeals to him at this stage and he adds Connect with Storytelling.
He finds that project planning empowers and helps him to ‘map’ out his speeches in keeping with his themes. The process reminds him of his previous journeys through the Competent Communicator and Advanced Communication manuals whilst his focus was on better communication skills.
Planning Ahead: long term
Next, George searches for information about the requirements at Level 5 of Leadership Development using the Pathways and Paths Catalog.
He is keen to work on Managing Successful Events for his club leadership training and sees that is a required project at Level 5. The final project to complete his Leadership Development Path is an Elective and he chooses Leading in Your Volunteer Organisation. This will fit in well with his decision to be nominated for the role of VP Education in one of his clubs – a perfect final destination for this Path.
George has also recently learned, from a post in social media recently, that there is to be a new Advanced Leadership Path – currently under development and will be ready for 2019 – an ideal next step for him.
We interrupt the continuing stories of Pathways and its heroes, to talk about a fundamental approach to embracing change – creating aPersonal Learning Network.
Reflections of Past Networks
In my sixteen years of being a Toastmaster I have seen many changes and improvements in the way in which clubs are created and managed, and how the Education program has brought professional development opportunities to thousands of people. As a seasoned Educator of Adults, I am comfortable with the instructional design of the traditional education program. I like the way in which a Toastmaster can self-pace themselves through the program and build their skills in a supportive environment within a club setting. User choice is built in to a structured process of developing speaking skills and a Toastmaster can work through the CC manual, building skills in a sequence of steps.
They could also purchase extra Advanced Manuals and begin working on specific speeches whenever they wanted to. For instance, a Toastmaster preparing to give a speech at a wedding, could jump into the Special Occasions manual. I was familiar with all the speeches in Competent Communicator (CC) and Advanced Manuals.
My networks were smaller back then – mostly clubs within my local region and perhaps a District Convention or two.
My appetite for change was whetted several years ago when we were told by our Ambassadors that the education program was undergoing a revitalization. Great news I thought at the time. However, details of the changes were mostly kept under wraps until the trials were conducted in a few Districts last year. There was no way for me to view any of the projects in detail, but I could see in the promotional pages at Toastmasters International, a few exciting new projects proposed for inclusion. For example, Blogging, Manage Online Meetings and Podcasting. These encouraged me to think that the changed program would be much more 21st Century focussed.
At the time the change began I was not really interested or engaged, until I could view more. What I thirsted for, knowledge of how the online learning component would be displayed, I could not have back then. I needed to wait! Then I realised that I could see some of the new Icebreaker project even without having to login at Toastmasters!
I was encouraged with what I saw here. The learning for a new Toastmaster was well structured and I felt confident that other projects would be similar in tone and design. As I talk to others about joining Toastmasters for the first time and accessing the Pathways experience, I encourage them to view the sample Icebreaker.
I admit that I was shaken out of my comfort zone when I was first introduced to the Base Camp navigation in the Pathways Experience. I also felt isolated, as I was not part of the group who were ‘making the change’. It felt like the change was being imposed not embedded. My preferred adult learning principles were challenged when I saw that the Cornerstone On Demand (CSOD) Learning Management System (LMS) was displaying the learning in ‘lock-step instructional’ process and little user choice appeared evident within a Level. With a little help from my networks, I learned more about Base Camp.
According to Don Clark, “… the lock-step process has the learners proceeding at the same pace. It requires fewer instructors and is normally more easily managed than self-paced platforms. One of its main advantages from a learner’s point of view is that it is highly social in nature.”
What to do? “It is what it is! I cannot change it! I need to work with it and embrace the change!” I needed my Networks. I was also keen to explore the last sentence from the quote above: ‘a lock-step instructional model is more social in nature from a learner’s point of view?‘ If that is so, how can we maximise that for our Pathways followers?
My six easy strategies for embracing the change through collaborative learning and networking, follows. I hope that it will inspire you to think outside the square.
Collaborative Learning and Networking Strategies!
Connecting! The most important strategy I took in the early days of becoming a Pathways Guide, was to make a connection with those who had begun their Pathways Experience by joining a club in a District that was already Pathways enabled. There were a few pioneers at the time and I was able to track their progress by observing from afar, asking for a demonstration, and subscribing to their website and blogs. The demonstrations of Base Camp from Julie Kertesz were the gems of enlightenment that I was seeking – I began to follow her blog.
Early this year, I noticed that many Pathways Pioneers were telling their stories of success and unpacking their challenges in Online Club meetings across the globe, and I wanted to hear more and more! More and more Pathways speeches and projects were being delivered at Online Clubs meetings. Yes, I needed to add more visits to my schedule and to add more connections to appease my thirst for networking.
Online Toastmasters are learning anew about the value of preparation for the speech and the evaluation process. eg at Ablaze last week, Lessons on Evaluations in Pathways style, provided further examples of collaborative learning.
Social Media! The number of groups and forums opening up in social media expanded in 2018 as more and more Pathways followers and champions began to talk openly about what they were experiencing in Base Camp. The Pathways Guides had their own forums in which they could discuss the nuances of providing meaningful training; and then the Pathways Discussion Forum was born! This one is over 3,500 strong in membership and epitomises the concept of collaborative learning.
We have seen a growth in the numbers joining this forum as Pathways has rolled out in almost every District across the Globe. The Pathways Discussion Forum is now fulfilling a role as a most effective collaborative learning community.
For me this was the missing element – the social collaborative learning that grows organically as learners experience the same project or Path. Now I am experiencing that as I help moderate that busy forum.
Networking! In the last four months I visited several clubs online to observe the innovative approaches to collaborative experiential learning. Toastmasters Events such as Speech Contests, Webinar Contests and Discussion Panels were most enlightening. At these events I could observe without needing to participate and to reflect on what I was learning from my presence at those events.
I met several new online Toastmasters at these events and connected with them during the meeting and after the event. From our extended conversations I could harvest further wisdom and experience and build that into my plans for further projects. I could sense those who had the same passion for progress and change.
I extended my Networking activities!
My extended international Personal Learning Network is now something I am most proud of.
The Learning Revolution Project holds online and physical learning events, and highlights professional development opportunities from a network of 200 partners in the learning professions.
I realise once again the benefits of having a Personal Learning Network (PLN) in relation to the wider Connected Educator community. This influenced my plans to create a PLN related to Pathways!
My connections with Toastmasters in Pathways across the globe has now expanded!
Personalised Learning Network
My Pathways PLN now includes many thought leaders in Online Toastmasters Education and Pathways. I am proud to call them friends. My recent experiences in the Pathways Support for District U clubs is a direct result of having expanded my connection to Pathways Champions. I now know who to reach out to for specific advice on Pathways, Training, Project Management, easy-Speak, Contests, Judging, and much more.
My opportunities to learn from my peers has increased exponentially with each new addition to my PLN. There are networks within networks that stretch across the world and I have been privileged to connect with them all.
Each time I attend a District convention or a Division event, I add one or two more people to my PLN. Each time I attend an online event, be it a Toastmaster meeting or a Toastmaster online education session, I increase my network.
In fact, my new goal when attending a Toastmaster convention, is to connect with at least one more new person who can join my PLN, and take away at least one more piece of collaborative learning.
How can you build a Personal Learning Network?
I challenge you to build your own PLN around Pathways to help embrace the change.
How to Build a PLN – this site will provide the context for the value of a PLN. ( I have adjusted Tom Whitby’s list to include more Toastmaster focussed steps)
Spend 20 minutes a day interacting and collaborating. Here’s how:
Start a Twitter account that focuses on following Toastmasters. (#Toastmasters)
Build a circle of connected Toastmasters on Google+.
This month George is keen to get started in Pathways and he decides to work with his Mentor on a ‘Success Plan’. This process is familiar to him – a strategy he is using as an online learner in other learning management systems. After considering his goals for the short, medium and the long term, he can map them in conjunction with his other studies and his work/life commitments.
The end result of completing this Success Plan will be to scope the type of projects he wants to be involved with in his selected Path.
His mentor provides a worksheet for this task, called the Protege Success Plan. In this George focuses on the goals he has for Pathways in his Toastmasters Education journey.
His Long Term Goals include reaching Distinguished Toastmaster status by June 2019.
His Medium Term Goals include completion of his first Path by October 2018. George plans to focus on the required project at Level 5 during July to September.
His Short Term Goals include the completion of Levels 1-4 in his first Path by June 2018.
After sharing these goals with his Mentor, George can now ask for help from his mentor in choosing a Path that will help him achieve them.
Paths and Required Projects
First his mentor provides this useful information about the type of Level 5 projects contained within the 10 Paths, and encourages him to choose a path to suit his goals.
George now believes that the Leadership Development Path will be perfect for him. However he would now like to see what Projects are included in that Path. His mentor provides a copy of the Paths and Projects Catalog so that he can locate the details of Leadership Development.
Later his mentor provides access to a copy of the set of questions to get an idea of what he will need for his self-assessment and suggests that he uses those before Choosing a Path. He is also reminded that he can make a choice from any of the 10 Paths at the end of this Self-Assessment process; he does not have to agree with the choice made for him by the Base Camp system.
Now it is time for George to choose the path and get down to business in Base Camp.
George logs in to Toastmasters.org and steps through the self-assessment questions.
He finds the process quite straight forward and is comfortable in answering the questions authentically, knowing that he has a choice at the end.
On completion he is pleased and surprised to find that Base Camp has recommended the Leadership Development Path based on the answers to the self-assessment questions.
After selecting that Path, he is pleased to see that he can now proceed to Explore Base Camp from the next popup window that displays for him.
George is a returning Toastmaster and he wants to renew his journey by rejoining a local club and enrolling in Pathways at Toastmasters.org. His challenges, achievements and experiences are shared with his new clubs in Australia and Online as he proceeds. He is now regionally based, after moving back to his country home town from time away in the capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney. He decides to visit the clubs in the North East region of Victoria.
His first visits are in Area N29; Albury Wodonga Toastmasters, Indigo Speakers and Wangaratta Toastmasters. George finds out how the club meetings are conducted in each club and looks for help from them in getting back into Toastmasters. He also attends the Club Leadership Training session in Thurgoona, just the other side of the Murray River, in Area M34. It is here that he first learns about the new Pathways Education program, and is immediately ‘hooked’. Intrigued by the new Pathways opportunities he plans ahead to achieve a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award in the new program by 2020.
Follow George’s Pathways experiences by keeping up with his story in this blog!
Chapter 1: Club Experience
George decides to join the Indigo Speakers whose meetings are held at venues not far from his home town in Beechworth. [Long drives on country roads late at night, are not his strong suit!] Prior to the meeting he receives an email reminding him of the location, time and what to bring. He decides to bring a friend! His friend has never experienced Toastmasters club meetings before and needs an orientation into the club experience. George sends her this video link, the club experience, from the Video library at Toastmasters International.
George is pleased to see that the club meetings in regional Victoria are conducted in much the same way as he has experienced some years back. They have a friendly and welcoming appeal to him, and he notices his friend immediately relaxes. The community hall in the small town of Wooragee is well appointed offering flexible space, a fully functioning kitchen and a very pleasant ‘country’ ambiance.
At the meeting George realizes that there is still great structure and purpose in each meeting, guided by the Agenda and the Toastmaster of the Day. Attendees provide a welcoming atmosphere and there is much laughter. He feels confident enough to take on two minor meeting roles, the Ah counter and Grammarian, just to get back into the ‘club experience’. He notices that supper plays a big part in the networking and camaraderie at this meeting – several members bring along a plate of food to share. During the break, George has a chance to talk with a few members and finds out what it is that keeps bringing them back.
During the meeting he has the pleasure of listening to speakers who are either finishing their speech projects in a manual called ‘Competent Communicator’ from the old program, or who are just beginning to deliver speech projects from their chosen Path in the new program.
He is entertained and enlightened by each segment of the meeting and notices that his friend Georgina, agrees to participate in the Table Topics segment on one of her favourite impromptu topics – openness in family and community relationships!
George and Georgina are now both inspired to continue their journey into Pathways!
Chapter 2: George Chooses a Path
With the help of his mentor, George, now plans how to proceed in his new journey into the Pathways Program.
Move on to Chapter 2 to find out what George does next!
We have traveled a long way from the shire and we are now in fine company of four teams of Online Pathways Guides (OPGs) gathering in Base Camp; House Blue; House Green; House Orange; and House Yellow. It is time for the Orientation meetings and the start of our networking.
Each of the OPGs has researched their kingdoms assigned to them in District U and each are reaching out to contact the leaders within. They have been sharing on ‘the wall‘ and with each other, their planned journeys towards kingdoms of the known world, and now its time for them to meet each other in the cloud at Zoom.
There is palpable energy in our Zoom rooms when the teams attend en masse. We learn from each other our progress so far, and of the innovative strategies we have created to build relationships of trust with our kingdoms. We are the ‘global ground breakers‘ and we travel where no Pathways Guide has gone before. Exotic lands beckon us towards the people of the kingdoms and we step forward with cultural sensitivity. We are sculpting a new regime with brand new ideas and resources; and we have outgrown our ‘shires’.
Together we face the dragons of time zones, conquering their fire and minimizing their threat. We bring in the wonder of the great ‘Doodle Poll‘; whose fine algorithms enable the OPGs to pick and choose their best times to attend upcoming Guide Support Sessions. We modify our presentations to suit the people and prepare to be flexible.
Just like the heroes in Game of Thrones we begin as childlike characters, but mature rapidly, experiencing a huge gain in problem-solving abilities along the way. So far the OPGs have overcome great challenges to reach their kingdoms and a few have begun to make their presentations to the people.
We have the great Wizard, George Marshall, a knowing, mystical mentor/teacher and formidable leader of House Blue, providing the OPGs with advice and help. He continues to liaise with the Guardians at WHQ and bring back ‘the word’.
Three awesome leaders Michelle Alba-Lim of House Green, Carole McCulloch of House Orange and Mark Snow of House Yellow empower their teams as they prepare for their travels. A great deal of negotiation happens behind the scenes and their communication skills have just risen another notch. Emails are sharpened and messages are sent; online communication spaces are explored and invitations are sent.
The scene now shifts to the global locations for the OPGs as they make their personal preparations! They download their resources from ‘the wall’ at the Facebook domain and they keep track of their progress in the Google domain. Cultural diversity; geographical locations; languages and customs, of the kingdoms are now being explored. Their task for April and May is to make contact and prepare the clubs in those kingdoms – the Great Rollout is Coming.
Next the OPGs will schedule a series of Virtual Support Sessions using innovative strategies and ensuring that members of clubs in District U are supported.
Reports of success and challenges, experienced by the OPGs will be shared at Online Alliance meetings scheduled for end of May and June. You can self-select to attend at: Online Alliance easy-speak site
Stay tuned for another ongoing story as together we learn how to Manage Club Visits Successfully for Toastmasters in the cloud.