Voluntary Champions

  • 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?

roller coaster

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.

RespectIn 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.)

integrityIn 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.)

Iservicen 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.

excellenceToastmasters 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
  • language needs
  • 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.

Prepare to be amazed!

Reference: RISE – the Toastmasters International Values 

Acknowledgement and Thanks to the Online Pathways Guides – you are AMAZING!

Blue Team Green Team Orange Team Yellow Team
George Marshall Michelle Alba-Lim Carole McCulloch Mark Snow
Ashwani Kumar Sinha Brian Dodd Fabiola Cleofa Adrian Watts
Cate Arnold Jing Humphreys Krishn Ramchurn Julie Kertesz
Ellen Arthur John Todorovic Mark Worthy Mufid Mustafa
Kannan Shankara Maria Martinez Matthew Kleinosky Narayanan Doraswamy
Marci Antion Marian Gramlich Samir Malak Scott Johnston
  Mathilde Fischer Wendy Upasena Valerie Pedvin
  Zaldy Co Magda Van Rooyen
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Embracing Change through Networking!

personal-learning-networkWe interrupt the continuing stories of Pathways and its heroes, to talk about a fundamental approach to embracing change – creating a Personal 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.

Embracing Pathways!

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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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.

    Networking-Your-Most-Important-Career-Activity-300x223I 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.

  4. International Networking

    I have always been an advocate of the benefits of international networking, and building a Personal Learning Network ever since my early days of participating and presenting in the Learning Revolution activities.

    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!

  5. 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.
     

  6. 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+.
    • Follow Toastmasters blogs (read and comment).
      eg Pathways Experience Blogspot
      the importance of blogging
    • Follow Toastmaster chats that are specific to your own goals.
    • Join and participate in Toastmaster groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
    • Accept invitations to collaborate on Toastmaster projects.
    • Visit Online Clubs and offer to be their General Evaluator.
    • Attend Online Alliance meetings and offer to facilitate or present.
    • Join the Pathways Discussion Forum or Online Toastmaster Resources groups on Facebook.
    • Build in opportunities for connecting with Toastmasters through their favourite communication channel eg MessengerWeChat and WhatsApp.

    I encourage you to go beyond your club, your division, and your District. Create your own Pathways Personal Learning Network (PPLN) for collaborative learning opportunities.

    When you have a PPLN please leave a comment below,  and tell me if I am in it? I can then add you to mine!

 

New Series: Network Centred Collaboration!

This month I am focusing on the benefits of Online Champions of Change! I have some reflections to share with you and some information on what I know about current Online Toastmaster Champions and how to develop a network of future champions.

Reflections of a Flexible Learning Leader

Phase One: E-learning

All good things come to those who wait! Yes, sometimes it takes considerable time in waiting for larger organisations to change. E-learning was one of those changes that took place in the years 2005 to 2008 in Australia and took about three years to embed into the Australian Adult Education environment. Just before that change was implemented the Australian Flexible Learning Framework initiated a Flexible Learning Leader program that enabled a cohort of over 200 trainers from Universities, TAFE, Industry and Community Education, to research, explore and build strategies for embedding e-learning. They were known as the Flexible Learning Leaders (FLL). My turn as an FLL, began in 2002 and my focus was on developing e-mentoring strategies for e-learning teachers.

As the Flexible Learning Leaders program completed and reflections of its success were commissioned,  I joined a team of four authors to create the paper called:

The impact of e-learning champions on embedding e-learning in organisations, industry or communities” – learn more by viewing.

The major findings from that research was:

The impact of e-learning champions

This study concurs with the literature findings that e-learning champions aspire to:

  • change attitudes towards e-learning
  • build e-learning capacity among as many teachers, trainers and learners, where possible
  • influence their organisation to adopt processes that will sustain e-learning and build the organisation’s reputation in e-learning.

The E-learning environment grew from those beginnings and Australia is now leading innovation in E-learning. The Flexible Learning Leaders are still actively supporting e-learning in their learning institutions.

Phase Two: E-portfolios

In this phase in Australian tertiary education the adoption, implementation and embedding of e-portfolios for teaching and learning emerged as the next strong contender for sweeping changes in the industry. The e-portfolio movement is still thriving today after ten years and also has its fair share of champions.

E-portfolios Australia grew from those beginnings and I was very proud to have been part of that initiative.

ePortfolios Australia is a professional network which aims to support the use of e-portfolios in Australia and beyond through professional development activities and the sharing of resources, ideas and practice.

The contributions from e-portfolio champions across the world continue to inspire new learning and assessment strategies in adult training through the embedding of e-portfolio systems and practices.

Fast Forward to Toastmaster Online Champions

I consider myself as one of the champions for online training within the Toastmasters Education program. I have explored the development of online training in different formats: from running live webinars, creating video tutorials for user training of easy-Speak. I have also developed online club officer training strategies for online clubs and instructional designed self-paced online courses  – one to help the easy-Speak Community. I am just one of many who champion the growth of online strategies for improvements in the Toastmasters experience.

Online Training Champions

images for articles

There are a number of Toastmaster Online Training Champions who are exploring other strategies such as webinars for Mentoring, Social Media, Club Management, Club Officer Training and many more. Yet others provide regular Podcasts, Video Tutorials, and the use of a wide range of e-learning tools for education. Another specialist online club is beginning to attract Global Online Trainers.

The journeys of these ‘early adopters‘ provide a wealth of knowledge and wisdom in best practice for those who come after them. They are not funded or supported officially in their roles, they are doing this voluntarily for the benefit of others, to help cope with change. In my view, they too are champions,

Network of Champions

Just imagine what else may be achieved with a special ‘advisory group‘ commissioned by World Headquarters  to explore the future potentials for online training. A current network of online champions is emerging from groups of online Toastmaster leaders.  ‘Action teams‘ are exploring the realms of Education & Training Online for online clubs.

This is one of several teams which are part of the network, a group of experienced Online Club executives and members, who seek to liaise with WHQ at Toastmasters International about how best to support members of chartered online clubs and potential online clubs. Yes a group of champions leading the way and providing advice on the change from land based club management to online club management! Explorations of online club officer training is part of that.

Pathways Champions

PathwaysLogo-mask675px

There is now a need for personal skill development programs to help Toastmasters participate in the changed Pathways Education program. Pathways Guides are being enlisted to support Toastmasters who participate in those programs. The Guides themselves will undergo personal training about the Pathways program and how best to support members in clubs across the Areas in their Districts.

These Pathways Guides will become the champions for the Pathways program and assist in the implementation and embedding of change within the individual journeys for club members.

Their championship is supported by the Chief Ambassadors for the roll out of Pathways in each district. Each will continue to liaise with the Program Quality Directors in each district, as the roll out continues over the next year or so. This is the embedding process!

Another group of champions.

What have I learned in my online journeys?

I learned how to be an effective e-mentor for teachers. I learned how to implement change in adult learning institutions. I learned a great deal about change in large educational organisations through my work as an e-mentor for trainers in Universities, Technical and Further Education Institutions and Community Colleges. I also realised early on, how important it was to build a cohort of champions to assist in the process of implementation and embedding of change.

I can now use my reflective practice and knowledge gained to propose a rationale for Toastmasters to build their own network of Online Champions. I began this week to consider the characteristics and tasks of champions from my Flexible Learning Leadership program and how to transform them for use in the Toastmasters environment.

What are the characteristics of an Online Training Champion?

  • skilled in online training
  • willing to share their expertise with passion and enthusiasm
  • learner focused and able to communicate effectively with all kinds of people
  • able to provide tailored e-learning messages, solutions and advice
  • enterprising and willing to solve problems: small/large; technical/non-technical
  • open to scrutiny and willing to adapt as new information comes to hand
  • persistent and model their actions on core values of integrity, respect, excellence and support
  • communicate a commitment to promoting online training and the use of technology to provide educationally sound and reliable teaching and learning solutions.

What activities do champions undertake?

Good practices by online training champions to facilitate the uptake of online training and e-learning include:

  • developing a strong understanding of facilitator, trainer and learner needs through active listening and relationship building
  • offering e-learning solutions that are contextualised to the user’s needs and build on their current skills and knowledge
  • monitoring the preparedness of learners to include e-learning in their practices
  • transferring e-learning know-how in small chunks
  • supporting learners on their e-learning journey
  • building confidence through mentoring strategies
  • improving learner outcomes based on feedback and their own research.

We now have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in starting, chartering, managing and maintaining online clubs embodied within our network of Online Toastmaster Leaders.

It is time to focus on how to model, implement and embed online training strategies into our Online Clubs. We need Online Training Champions!

Next blog posts in the series:

Network Centred Collaboration

  1. How to develop Online Training Champions in Toastmasters Clubs
  2. How to develop Champions for Change in our Toastmasters Clubs