Archive for May 2007

May/07

24

The Tyranny of Tagging

blogtagcloudsmDave Lee is noticing a pervasive, annoying issue for anyone who has advanced from experimenting with social tagging to depending upon it.  In de.lic.ious and my folksonomy he complains about how searches of his tags weren’t showing some of his bookmarks, because his personal tagging strategy is inconsistent:

in my listing of web 2.0 titles, some were tagged with “web2.0”, others tagged “web-2.0”, yet others tagged “web_2.0”, and even a few were tagged “web20”.  links to content on informal learning  was tagged either “informal-learning”, “informal_learning”, or “informallearning.”  and it wasn’t just inconsistent filling in of spaces.  did i tag the content i was looking for as “workplace learning” or “organizational learning”?  or was it “thebigquestion” or “tbq”? “learningcircuitsblog” or “lcb”?

As Dave notes, this a pain for individuals keeping track of  their  own bookmarks, but gets even more complicated when one would like to know what *other* people are bookmarking under these concepts.

It is issues like this one which we believe make the case for organizations interested in leveraging the advantages of Web 2.0 technology from within a coherent platform like Q2’s xPERT eCampus.  Our app permits individuals to create their own tags, but we also make it possible for the manager of a site to pre-load tags of special interest to the organization.  This way, when somebody wants to tag a post so that it’s easily searchable by other participants by that tag, they don’t have to wonder whether the preferred organizational tag usage is “Sales_Goals”  “sales_goals” “salesgoals” or “Harry’s_harebrained_notions_of_what’s_possible_this_quarter”.  The manager-supplied preferred tag is included in the list suggested to them when they go to tag the response.

We also permit participants to share their del.icio.us tags.

We think organizations can profit from being open to the out-of-box thinking of rest of the wild world of the web, but need not become slaves to the free-for-all.  A way to manage a controlled vocabulary in parallel with an open one is just one way we embed that philosophy in our product. 

Dave Lee is noticing a pervasive, annoying issue for anyone who has advanced from experimenting with social tagging to depending upon it.  In de.lic.ious and my folksonomy he complains about how searches of his tags weren’t showing some of his bookmarks, because his personal tagging strategy is inconsistent:

in my listing of web 2.0 titles, some were tagged with “web2.0”, others tagged “web-2.0”, yet others tagged “web_2.0”, and even a few were tagged “web20”.  links to content on informal learning  was tagged either “informal-learning”, “informal_learning”, or “informallearning.”  and it wasn’t just inconsistent filling in of spaces.  did i tag the content i was looking for as “workplace learning” or “organizational learning”?  or was it “thebigquestion” or “tbq”? “learningcircuitsblog” or “lcb”?

As Dave notes, this a pain for individuals keeping track of  their  own bookmarks, but gets even more complicated when one would like to know what *other* people are bookmarking under these concepts.

It is issues like this one which we believe make the case for organizations interested in leveraging the advantages of Web 2.0 technology from within a coherent platform like Q2’s xPERT eCampus.  Our app permits individuals to create their own tags, but we also make it possible for the manager of a site to pre-load tags of special interest to the organization.  This way, when somebody wants to tag a post so that it’s easily searchable by other participants by that tag, they don’t have to wonder whether the preferred organizational tag usage is “Sales_Goals”  “sales_goals” “salesgoals” or “Harry’s_harebrained_notions_of_what’s_possible_this_quarter”.  The manager-supplied preferred tag is included in the list suggested to them when they go to tag the response.

We also permit participants to share their del.icio.us tags.

We think organizations can profit from being open to the out-of-box thinking of rest of the wild world of the web, but need not become slaves to the free-for-all.  A way to manage a controlled vocabulary in parallel with an open one is just one way we embed that philosophy in our product.

No tags

Last week, Jay Cross declared something we’ve thought true for a long time: Conversations are a better way to learn than reading blog entries, so I’m remapping my site [to] make it easier to learn from.

One of the most active conversations in Jay’s new Ning-based Internet Time Community is “How to start a community?

It’s sort of funny. We social constructivists have been long convinced that people learn best from one another.  For us, apprenticeship is the gold standard of learning environments – the training is as close as possible to the actual work for which the apprentice is being prepared, taking place, as it does, in the context of human relationship, the instruction can be tailored to the needs of the apprentice as those needs become apparent.

It’s just that it’s hard to scale the apprenticeship model to train, say, this year’s class of corporate lending recruits! We accept degradation of the training environment in exchange for being able to train large numbers of learners.

The Internet, together with some pretty sophisticated conversation-facilitation software, makes it possible for people to gather around any subject which interests them and discuss it with others who know and care about the same thing.

So why aren’t people moving in droves to join communities like Jay’s where they can converse with and learn from others who care about the things they care about?  Why are we, 30 years into network-mediated interpersonal communication, still puzzling over how to get people to come, to contribute, and to stay?

Some think it’s because most folks aren’t really all that interested in learning. Others point to the necessary writing and typing skills as a significant obstacle. Still others note that humans communicate better with all of the sensory cues available in face-to-face communication than they do with relatively context-poor text.

Me, I keep coming back to the relationship issue.  I’ll jump some pretty significant hurdles to develop and maintain a friendship or a collegial relationship which already means something to me.  Such relationships can be, and are formed in text environments, but most of us need regular doses of full-bandwidth human contact to form our most important relationships and to keep those relationships on track.  That’s why the convention and visitor’s bureaus have not been put out of business by the availability of cheap video-conferencing.

Online community, and its corporate brother, online team space, can be invaluable facilitators of project work, and of the relationships which are invariably built out of the very human experience of working together toward a common goal.  But they can only serve shared interest. They can’t generate it.

No tags

May/07

11

Multi-task This!

Sherry Turkle writes in Forbes this week about the tradeoffs incurred in our technologically-facilitated multi-tasking approach to the world.

She observes:

The self that grows up with multitasking and rapid response measures success by calls made, e-mails answered and messages responded to. Self-esteem is calibrated by what the technology proposes, by what it makes easy. We live a contradiction: Insisting that our world is increasingly complex, we nevertheless have created a communications culture that has decreased the time available for us to sit and think, uninterrupted. We are primed to receive a quick message to which we are expected to give a rapid response. Children growing up with this may never know another way. Their experience raises a question for us all: Are we leaving enough time to take our time on the things that matter?

This question is one which we in the training business ask a lot.  We find we are being asked to provide quality learning experiences which require a minimum commitment of time and attention from the learner.

When the learning experience is delivered via the desktop, we frequently find that learners are not permitted even the short time frames we announce as the likely requirements for attending to the program.  Learners’ managers expect them to “squeeze in” the training between the emails, phone calls and other tasks which are part of their daily responsibilities.

Even face-to-face training is not immune from these pressures. Where once learners would use breaks to check their voicemail, now they check their email and their instant messaging from the laptops on which they are taking notes or even the computer in the training lab.

Our technology has changed a lot, but our neurology has not kept pace. The truth is, we cannot, and therefore do not process information in “parallel”.  We just time-slice, rapidly moving our attention from one thing to the next. Changing human behavior remains one of the more challenging endeavors we undertake.  Successful change initiatives require time and the full attention of the intended audience audience.

Some organizations address the tyranny of interruption in meetings by explicitly stating that the meeting format will be “lids down”  – referring of course, to the laptops, but by extension, the cell phone and the blackberry.

It would behoove us as trainers to develop similar social technologies, if we don’t wish our programs to be completely undermined by the technology which makes them possible!

No tags

I’m fortunate enough to work at a virtual company that has been at the forefront of learning technology for 5+ years now. As a result, I get to breathe the rarified air of a group of people that truly enjoy innovation for innovation’s sake, who are accustomed to asking questions (many of which begin with “why can’t…), and who happily roll up their sleeves and dive in after the newest challenges appear to our way of doing things.

In short, I am lucky enough to work with a group of life-long learners. So when a new learning opportunity presents itself, we are generally pretty good at sussing out the “What’s in it for us?” and connecting the new learning to our standard way of doing things. Given our habits and our inclinations, we are pretty easily motivated to learn.

But what we sometimes forget is that not everyone has the same proclivities as we do. Even if you enjoy it, learning isfundamentally hard work that asks you to do things that are unfamiliar and quite often outside your comfort zone. Which leads me to the subject of this blog post: motivation.

Motivating learners is often considered a pre-cursor to actual learning events, sort of a “scene-setting” activity. And it’s certainly something that is included in most, if not all, learning events – we are very good at telling a learner not just what she will learn, but how it will help her do her job better. The trouble is, I’ve found that whatever I say in a learning situation is generally trumped by whatever a learner hears once she returns to her desk. So I’m a pretty firm believer in looking for ways to motivate learners beyond just telling them what they will be able to do with their new-found skills.

The question is, how?

Of course, the first answer is obvious – making sure the learning aligns with business goals and objectives.But beyond that, what can training do to instill a desire to learn in employees? Some thoughts:

  • Give learners an opportunity to think out loud about what’s in it for them.

The ability to make connections between what we already know and what we need to learn is critical to successful learning, so creating opportunities for learners to ask how learning applies to their particular circumstances is important. Simply telling them is not enough – each learner has a unique situation in which they will need to apply their new-found knowledge and skill.

  • Provide not just content and resources, but opportunity to practice.

Most training that’s focused on interpersonal skills or relatively complex skills offer some way of practicing – via simulations, case studies, role-plays, what have you. All of these are good opportunities, but we need to remember that they are not real opportunities, so the motivation to perform in them may be somewhat less than say, if a learner had to perform a sales call with her boss listening in.

  • Make performance the criteria for success

In this case, I’m not talking about assessments that measure what you’ve learned as a result of completing training, but what you can DO.

This really builds on the issue of practice. Once a learner has the opportunity to practice skills, measuring how well she continues to apply them back on the can significantly increase one’s motivation to look sharp and pay attention in training.  Mentoring, coaching and on-the-job training are all ways to implement this strategy, but again, the ability to scale can be difficult.

I tend to think that incorporating actual performance into learning is what motivates learners infinitely more than a good affective objective and any amount of pre-work. Unfortunately, while measuring real-life performance is one of the best motivators for learning, it is also more difficult to do, especially on a large scale, because it requires the coordination of people outside of the training environment.

But in cases where performance is business-critical, it seems that motivation is an important quality not just for the learner, but for the organization to invest in a learning model that supports learner motivation from before the training to long-after —  when it really counts.

As a Q2Learning employee, I certainly have some thoughts on how to make this happen in organizations – but am interesting in hearing what has worked for others, and how have you addressed some of the challenges of scaling this to larger initiatives. Any takers?

No tags

May/07

3

Where are you from?

online_communitiessmThere’s an image, a map of online communities, making the rounds this week, developed by Randall Munroe, whose sweet, romantic, yet inexorably geeky comics at xkcd are a favorite part of my blog-reading routine.

Regular xkcd readers know that Munroe buries little mouseover “easter eggs” in his images. The map one reads, “ I’m waiting for the day when, if you tell someone ‘I’m from the internet’, instead of laughing they just ask ‘oh, what part?

The plausibility of that scenario, not to mention the size and diversity of the online community world Munroe illustrates, is testament to just how essential the concept of “community” has become to our understanding of the Internet.

Of course, community has been with us from the start. From the first time somebody used a cc: field in an email, people have used the connectivity of the network to initiate and maintain contact with each other.

For a long time, though, fixed ideas about the computer as an information cruncher, and, of course, our human preference for full-bandwidth, face-to-face interaction with other humans, held undue influence over the world of application development.

Interestingly, what’s emerging is that yes, the Internet as information source is powerful and important. But what people find even more compelling is the opportunity to form groups with one another to process that information.  We want to talk about and share our photos, and our favorite songs. We want to play games together. We want to discuss the news of the day with people who share our philosophies of life. We want to link up with others in our fields of endeavor.

Those of us who feel passionate about the social constructivist theory of learning sort of can’t help but feel we’re living a dream coming true.

Yeah, I’m from the Internet. I work on an eCampus powered by Q2Learning. I post pictures of my kids over at blogspot.  I just recently completed a project honoring a teacher who is retiring from their high school over there, too.  I enjoy the social and professional interactions at Brainstorms, and occasionally participate in the joint pondering of Big Questions over at Learning Circuits. I have pages on facebook and linked-in which are not very well-maintained, because I don’t get there as often as these other places.

How about you?

No tags

Find it!

Theme Design by devolux.org