Helping our own Barefoot Learners?

Helping our own Barefoot Learners?


I really enjoyed this TED talk from Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, where he shared his experiences from founding the Barefoot College – helping the illiterate and disenfranchised learn skills and contribute to the community.

As I watched the talk I wondered about the “barefoot” of our own profession: those with hands-on practical skills in many areas but lacking the credentials or schooling that are becoming de rigeur in many areas.

So…what kind of informal “barefoot” work could we be doing? What kinds of initiatives already exist?


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  1. I think working out loud might be useful here. Barefoot folks and the well-heeled articulating what they’re working on, thereby opening up opportunities to share skills and expertise.

    • Just this past week I found myself explaining why I hadn’t contributed to a weekly “status/highlight” report. I realized that while I naturally work out loud, narrating what I do as I do it, I’m not keen on documenting (or justifying, it feels like) my work in summary after-the-fact. My new solution is a veritable activity stream that I will copy and paste to the report each week. People all have their own process and habits, we need to find ways to positively encourage good work out loud and sharing of learning habits.

      • It’s interesting to see how we appear so comfortable sharing things as we go, but we get anxious in re-capping after the fact. I wonder why that is? It is just because it’s coming “from Management on high”?

        • Mark, I would deathly not to call my reticence to recap “being anxious.” Sharing as I work helps me learn it is part of the work. Recapping afterward just feels like extra work and a waste of time. That said, my point is really that it needs to become a part of people’s habits. It is not for many.

          • That makes sense. I wasn’t intending “anxious” as a specific interpretation, but it’s something I have observed in myself and others.

            I have also seen these kinds of report activities as a way of compensating for a Manager who isn’t actively engaged in what the team is doing…I see it as a shade of “management by email”. So, your thoughts on it being ‘extra work’ ring true at this end.

  2. Definitely a great first step, Ryan. That also begs the question about how we potentially identify the barefoot among us and bring them into an environment. e.g. what if they don’t know about our networks?

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  3. This is precisely where “Accidental Trainers” come from. We were all barefoot at some point, then there was a time when we decided to move from barefoot to sandals to work boots. To answer the specific question of education/certifications. As L&D professionals we have an obligation to be “curious learners” we may have our educational roots established from the education classes we took at university, but different time, different age. I would like if we looked less at formal education and more toward recent certifications, course work, etc. combined with demonstrative work. That is what counts now. We don’t need more people who have been indoctrinated into the world of Blooms, Kirkpatrick and Learning Styles – we need more who understand and can nurture collaboration, social learning, social tools, experiential, 70-20-10- who understand the difference between training/learning and performance support. We’ve spent enough time teaching to the industrial age model, it’s time to move on.