training is a negative science

16 02 2007

like many other people, i’ve long kept a list of quotes that i find inspirational, insightful, or  just plan funny.  some are from famous names in history, other by common folk who just happened come up with a sound bite that made it far enough for me to see it, while others are contemporaries of ours who have great thoughts.

in this last category i’ve got a quote from jay cross that i lifted from a post of his on the internet time blog some time ago.  jay wrote:

"Training, like psychology, is inherently pessimistic. Both fields are built on a core belief that people are deficient or dysfunctional."

to be honest, it’s always struck me as odd that I put this one in my collection.  it is insightful for sure.  psychology,until recently, has determined what normal is by studying abnormalities.  particularly in the arena of how our brains work.  if sam has damage to a part of his brain and he can no longer add 1 + 1 and know that the answer is 2, then that part of the brain must be responsible for mathematical reasoning.  not surprising the number of things we were wrong about now that we can look at the brain’s activity during normal functioning via imaging technologies.  however, the positive psychology movement, led by respected researches like marty seligman, mihaly czentimihaly and barbara fredrickson along with neuropsychology’s discoveries is shaking the psychology world to it’s core.

training too is guilty of focusing on our deficiencies.  every major design and development model has some version of a needs analysis and most focus on identifying a learning or performance gap.  this gap is no less that an analysis of how deficient or incapable current employees are.  our job has been to fill that gap or at least create events that everyone agrees will be sufficient.  given the various studies that have been done, i’d guess that 50% of the time more the folks in the learning group have no idea whether their beautifully designed and developed program will be successful or not.  but it doesn’t really matter since most of the time the challenges will have changed and nobody will be held accountable.

so is there an equivalent to positive psychology in the learning world?  check out my next post for my answer.


am i a blogger?

15 02 2007

once again tom haskins has a post that just sends my brain a spinnin’ (fyi, that’s a good thing in my book). beware of blogging is inspiring at times and a bit depressing at times. tom grasps the way blogging is effecting him and i think many of us as we learn a new way of learning. he says that bloggers are shaking the foundations of what we’ve come to expect in regards to ourselves and the way we interact with the world.

one aspect of what he has to say that has really hit me at home is that if you are posting to a blog and no one is responding then you’re really not participating in the blogosphere and thus not truly a blogger. he feels that a blogger makes a difference when he/she creates reaction and change in those who they are in dialogue with. without commentors, it’s not blogging.

while early on I worried about counting the number of comments I got, realized that I probably would never be one of those bloggers who got 10 comments on every post. heck, take a look and you’ll see that I’m probably lucky if I get 1 every ten posts.

but i’ve come to judge whether my blogging is worthwhile by two other means.

first and foremost, i’m learning. in the three years that i’ve maintained eelearning and the two i’ve served as the blogmeister of learning circuits blog, i’ve learned more than i’d ever image i could, my writing has improved (it still needs work), and i’ve connected with some great people i would have never met if it weren’t for blogging.

second, if i use other statistical guidelines like traffic statistics, technorati rankings and link information, or feedburner stats, i know that i have a growing collection of readers and feed monitors. i wouldn’t be in your feeds and blogrolls if you didn’t value at least part of what I have to offer.

i’m sure tom overstated his case and didn’t mean to exclude me or similar bloggers from his definition of what it means to be a blogger. but his post did make me think about what is important and what makes me consider myself a blogger. to quote martha, “and that’s a good thing.”

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getting all worked up about similarities

15 02 2007

in his post corporate elearning strategies and development: the february big question! brent schlenker raises some soul searching questions.  but upon further reflection it’s not as strong an argument as at first read.

before i go further, i do agree that his questions are good ones to ask.  it’s his assumed answers that I find  objection to.

in comments to the post, karl kapp and mindy make many of the specific arguments i would make. 

karl defends the value of isd work and i totally agree.  isd is not automatic.  yes, some of the specifics may not be unique to isd, but no one ever claimed isd was a separate academic research field. learning professionals have long been alchemists of sorts. we take concepts from where ever we can find them and meld them together to  lessons and materials that advance human knowledge.

simply throwing pieces of content together  with no concern for design ultimately doesn’t work for the majority of learners.  the rapid elearning folks who advocate this "eliminate design" approach will soon realize this.

related to this is the concept of trans-disciplinary practitioners that mindy brings to the conversation.  the aspect of this concept that mindy doesn’t stress is that what type of practitioner you end up being is determined by the mix of disciplines your bring to your practice.  the uniqueness then comes from the different aspects, not the similar.

because scott mccloud uses the concept of text-near-graphics in comics, I may use it in a job aid, a web designer uses it in a catalog, and a street sign maker uses it for traffic control doesn’t mean we are all text-near-graphics practitioners.

so to answer brent’s ultimate question, what do we bring to the party?  my response is that we bring the same thing every professional brings to the table – a unique set of knowledge, skills and abilities that enable us to bring unique value to our interactions with others.

now let us back up to his first question, why us? simple because we are those unique individuals who seek out the answers to the mysteries of human learning.  now, if we don’t do a good job of letting people know what it is that makes us unique that makes us bad communicators and marketers.

asking questions

12 02 2007

the topic for the february big question at learning circuits blog is probably the biggest question we can ask of ourselves as learning professionals – what questions should we be asking?  i even had the advantage of knowing what question we were asking a few days ahead of time and i still find myself struggling with where to begin.

some of the large-in-scope questions i believe we need to be asking include:

  • what does it mean to be a learning professional?
  • how do we earn the respect of our colleagues so that we can be professionals?
  • how do we get out ahead of the practical day-to-day challenges so that we can be more strategic (and I believe more valuable to our organizations)?
  • how do we gain support for exciting informal learning learnscapes in our organizations?
  • how should we evaluate our efforts to assure that we are credited with having impact (assuming we truly do)?
  • in the end, if we are successful, what will we have done to change our organizations?

i could go on, and i will in the future, but i’ve decided to try to drill down on one of these questions because it’s been on my mind recently.  it’s the third point above.  rephrased in the spirit of the big question, i’ll put it it this way:

what questions should we be asking to put ourselves in a more strategic posture?
and who should we be asking?

  • i’d like to learn more about your business, could I spend a day or two shadowing you or some of your key people?  (to my line of business partners)
  • my goal is to help you achieve your goals, how could i be doing that better than i have been in the past? (to any of my stakeholders)
  • what’s your biggest concern regarding your team being ready to meet your strategic goals a year from now?  two years from now?  (to any of my stakeholders)
  • are you willing to participate in our organization’s learning by developing the skills it takes to facilitate your employee’s and others’ learning both in the classroom and day-to-day in meetings and casual encounters?  (to every manager in the organization beginning with the ceo)
  • are we willing to accept that unless there is a clear business imperative for learning, then no matter how good what we create "on paper" is, it’s a waste of resources for the organization? (to myself and everyone involved in  the learning group)
  • will you support new  methods designed to leverage the latest in  technology and human resources to deliver learning to more employees faster at the same cost or cheaper than traditional classroom learning? (to key stakeholders, especially my executive sponsors)

i’m not being naive here.  i’m fully aware that these are tough questions to ask.  they require political saavy and organizational standing.  but these are the questions, or questions like them, that we should be asking.  if we don’t have the skill or position to ask them, then that’s our learning gap that needs to be filled.


holy blidget, batman!

11 02 2007

widgetbox has provided the ultimate tool in grabbing the blogosphere’s best imitation of warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame.  in literally 3 minutes or less, you can create a blidget (i assume it’s short for blog widget
) which features the latest posts from your blog.

what’s so unusual about that? you’re right, nearly every blogging software allows you to do that.  and most rss readers have some means of helping you render any blog’s content on your site.

but a blidget also lets you author a widget that is ready made for anyone coming to widgetbox can load up to their website like any widget.  check it out.  mine is over there in the right sidebar where my "recent posts" list used to be.  or you can check it out for uploading to your computer either in the widgetbox catalog. or by clicking the Getwdgtmark button below my recent posts blidget.

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