Tag Archives: constructivism

Stuck inside of mobile with the platform blues again

22 Jan

I hear it everywhere I go, in conversations with people who don’t know better and—more frustratingly—with people who should. Some variation of the themes laid down in this recent article from CMS Wire. Complete with a fine-looking infographic (which I’m a sucker for!), the author highlights trends in business communication. She points out the shift to a higher share of communications on mobile devices and internal tools (intranets and enterprise network solutions (ENS)), and away from face-to-face meetings.

She is correct on each point, and yet misses the point entirely.

The significant trends in our networked world aren’t about mobile, communication platforms and new devices. The “trends” in workplace communication are about why and how, not what and on which platform.

As I’ve discussed in this blog before, alongside and in the footsteps of those more expert than I, all that devices and platforms provide us with is a new gateway to discover, categorize, tag, share, synthesize and learn from the information at our fingertips. The hot new device of 2015, and whatever new platform your organization rolls out this year, doesn’t really matter. Devices and platforms are fleeting and will be gone by 2020.

The mental maps we create are the critical element in how we work/ learn.

The mental maps we create are the critical element in how we work/ learn.

The real change is between our ears, within organizations that are reconfiguring away from hierarchies and toward network-centered activities, and those who can learn—and make use of that learning—every day, individually and collectively.

I see this confusion raging even close to home in my own PLN in eLearning and L & D circles. “Mobile is the next big thing!” No, it isn’t. Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and we can’t ignore their significance in how we deliver learning experiences and performance support, but they are only a facet of what really is the next big thing: personal learning and how it intersects organizational and communal learning. The significance of “mobile vs. other” will be over by 2020 (along with email as primary work function, please!!), but the significance of learning practice as the tool for organizational and professional development is just getting off the ground.

Sooner or later, one of must know… sorry, couldn’t stop myself.

Thanks, Bob.

Thanks, Bob.

Quality, efficiency or efficacy? Hmmm … I’ll take all three!

22 Sep

Triangle of compromises, from 11 Bridges.

You’re likely familiar with triangular development tradeoffs: good, fast or cheap—pick two.

However, I suggest that when people are empowered to control their own learning, at their own chosen times, and within a framework that supports personal exploration and mastery, it is the epitome of learning efficiency. That is, better, faster and cheaper!

What does that look like?

Let’s take a look at a common professional services business topic: managing client expectations. It could have been any number of hard or (especially) soft workplace skills, but for our purpose here, let’s go with managing clients.

Traditional training and L & D approaches call for a comprehensive set of learning and mentoring activities. These may include classroom time with role-plays, eLearning courses sequentially laid out in an LMS, conference attendance, webinar sessions, readings, etc. There is nothing wrong with these approaches, but they don’t sit comfortably on two points of the tradeoff triangle, and certainly not all three. If done well, and tracked to metrics to demonstrate efficacy, the traditional treatment is a large, expensive endeavor. It may be worth it in the long run, but it is hard to get support for such rich projects.

Imagine an alternative program, one in which individuals are able to control their own professional development with thoughtful guidance. The added element is that the learners have to demonstrate their work—that is, work out loud as they collect information, connect ideas and form practices that fit into the working culture.

Perhaps you begin by providing a curated, annotated list of articles, videos and websites. Ask the learner to review and reflect on those items. Then, assemble additional resources into a collection (social bookmarked via Diigo, Scoop.it, Delicious, etc.) The collections are open to others, so that they share as they save (share is the new save!) via the enterprise social network (if one exists) or Twitter, Facebook or any other available platform. Every week or so, learners come together to present, discuss, compare and practice together for a short time (say, a working lunch hour, in-person or via web-based meeting platform), under the direction of a mentor and/or learning professional.

What have you gained? A cohort that is mostly self-directed, taking responsibility for their own development, creating a learning and collaborative culture, and normalizing how to manage client expectations (see how the topic almost becomes secondary—in a good way!) together with the manager’s direction.

If you have one or two great ideas for good interactive modules or focused, purposeful webinar topics, great. This framework allows targeted, well-designed instruction to take root in the larger learning culture.

What you end up with is an effective learning program, potentially bringing higher and more diverse quality than is possible from even the best L & D team on its own, while saving the cost of numerous eLearning courses or formal learning events. It drops the assumption that the established practices for client management already in place are better or preordained, welcoming ideas from across the networked world.

It covers all three corners, enabling a full 180° horizon, overcoming false choices that stand in the way of organizational agility and vision.

Open the triangle and see the horizon of learning (and perhaps, the reading rainbow).

Open the triangle and see the horizon of learning (and perhaps, the reading rainbow).

Is Constructivism the only path forward for adult learners?

18 Mar

Constructivism, wherein learners are best served by the ability to construct their own order, meaning and eventual deep understanding, has long been one of several competing (conflicting?!) learning theories.

However, with the rise of technology in learning–and all learning is technology driven to a large extent–we are seeing an ever greater emphasis on learners being the curators of their own learning paths. With the world awash in content, I hear more and more frequently from educators, trainers and e-learning SMEs that there is little point in creating new content on nearly any given subject when there are quite likely 10 easily found sources that have already done it better.

So, is the answer just to post links to existing content and let learners have at it? There are those who essentially recommend as much. Accordingly, the Internet becomes a constructivist paradise of learners connecting, synthesizing and creating new models in an ever-virtuous loop.

But I think most of us would agree that this assigns too much agency to the average adult learner: busy, distracted, and deep in the WIIFM learning mode. However, content creators have a valid frustration: “Hasn’t somebody already put together this learning path already?”

There is a middle ground: The trainer and e-learning practitioner as content curator and facilitator.

There is a lot more to be said, and in the coming weeks and months I hope to say some of it in these posts. For now, I just pose the problem: How do we effectively engage learners into wanting to become the self-directed learners that Constructivists say they should / could be?

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