Archive for May, 2008

Work in Learning/Learning at Work

Written in response for Rupa’s Work and Learning Blog Carnival :)

I recently met someone who was just starting a new job. She lamented the fact that she had to sit through an entire week of orientation training.

“Wow, they still do that?” I responded.

She said she just finished the fourth day of the training and it was brutal, boring. To her point, most of that information would just be lost or forgotten trivia shortly after the training sessions. But I suppose this approach alleviates the training organization’s responsibility. Once you expose the students to it, it’s simply up to them to learn and absorb it.

It makes sense to have some orientation as a group for newbies, but to cram everything into one session at the beginning doesn’t make any sense. What about doing the following instead:

  1. Hit the main/and crucial points (anti-sexual harassment, benefits information, safety, brief rah-rah about company philosophy/policy) in a one day session. Give everyone their continental breakfast with bagels, croissants and fruit.
  2. During the session point out or give the students a reminder of where to get training and information about the different areas both online or in actual face to face sessions.
  3. Set up a training plan and schedule for individuals that covers both general company/organization information and specific job related information. The latter is the responsibility of the manager and immediate parent group. It’s a pain in the ass, managers, but it is your job.
  4. Most importantly set each new employee up with one or two buddies and mentors. Make mentorship an job responsibility expectation for all company employees. These mentors are responsible for meeting with the employee, more frequently at first, in order to gauge their progress. The mentors should have a checklist or progress plan for the new employees to check whether or not they’ve completed training or reviewed guidelines for their area or role. I think having a mentor specific your job role would be important as well. This is someone who a new employee can shadow to learn about specific group or job role training items. My first group at my old job did an excellent job of facilitating this buddy training.
  5. Finally, actively cultivate a culture of social learning through networking. Younger and newer employees who haven’t be indoctrinated by a culture of competition and hoarding information seem to take to this more naturally.

The best jobs I’ve ever had actually provided the above training/mentorship in some shape or form. I think that there’s the old Protestant Work Ethic assumption that learning is not work, and that you’re not supposed to do it on company time. It’s a stupid assumption, I know, but old habits in old dogs are hard to break. I think that some forward-thinking companies are now challenging this assumption. They now see learning/training as the vehicle that allows their employees to become more productive in a shorter period of time. They also view learning and sharing as a key element to fostering creativity and innovation amongst their employees, but wherever you have management who only cares about the appearances of productivity (not a bright bunch to begin with) and short term goals, you won’t find a culture of learning an growth.

Do you have to design learning experiences differently for Digital Natives?

From the Learning Circuits Question of the Month

  • Do you believe that we have to design, develop and deliver instruction differently for the so-called Digital Natives?
  • Are there differences in learning expectations and styles or can we just design good instruction and know that it meets all generational needs?
  • If you have an audience that includes natives and immigrants, how can you effectively design instruction without breaking the bank?

It’s probably best to design learning experiences from a Constructivist approach. Digital natives will become easily bored with traditional essays and quizzes. Why not have them create content in different media. I also believe that engaging more digitally savvy individuals with the less savvy digital immigrants is a good thing. Everyone should be coached to help each other learn and to ‘slow down’ or explain things when someone does not understand. This might help alleviate the feelings of frustration from the digital immigrants.

Some suggestions for learning experiences/projects:

(note this list will probably grow… this is just what I have off the top of my head)

Wiki

I love wikis because they teach people how to play nicely with each other when creating content in a virtual space.

  • Team built wiki (each group or individual is responsible for a different content area).
  • Media share – every week someone must share a media piece or link to content/info/resources for the class subject in a common wiki area. They provide information on why they chose the item and the classmates post comments on the items in the class discussion for this page.
  • Wiki story – students work together to write a story/narrative in the wiki
  • Virtual Art Gallery – students showcase their artwork (art, painting, video, music, etc.). Other students can provide feedback
  • Research Data – students can link to spreadsheets and text on data they’ve collected for experiments

Video/Media

  • Develop an interpretation or a satirical take on a book or television show
  • Produce a documentary or interview session on the topic of interest
  • Video sharing – have students create video responses to a topic and to each other’s views on a topic

Podcast/Audio

  • Write a regular radio show or drama that discuss or treats the content or subject. I love this idea!
  • Virtual audio responses – students can provide brief audio feedback on assignments and posts rather than written ones. This makes interaction with each other more personal in an asynchronous way.

Second LIfe

  • Develop a playground representative of a period
  • Develop an interactive story area where students can interact and act out a story. They can even create their own interpretation of events in a story and take snapshots in order to retell it
  • Develop a museum dedicated to a subject

My recommendations for getting started in Second Life

I found a Blackboard booth… ironic isn’t it?

If you combined Second Life with Blackboard, you’d get… anyone, anyone?

Our experiences with blackboard have been somewhat limited. Their communication and chat tools didn’t work very well. There system seems fine for people who only want to communicate via e-mail or forum, but that is so 1990′s. I found it interesting that they had a booth presence in Second Life.

Well, on the other hand, it’s good to know that Blackboard is at least aware of Second Life.

Blackboard booth in Second Life

So far in my exploration of Second Life I’ve come the following conclusions about introducing or applying Second Life for educational purposes:

1. Makes sure initial participation is voluntary - the learning curve on Second Life is so high that it will frustrate even those with moderate tech savvy abilities. Draw in the people who are really curious and motivated to use it first. Grow this group of people as SL experts and mentors.  Still, encourage all folks to try… just because something is ‘hard to do’ doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth while.

2. Teach students how to teleport to a location – give them initial instructions on how to get to the first meeting point.

3. Provide interesting orientation activities - take a field trip as a group in the “NMC Orientation” to learn the basics of moving, talking, using inventory, changing appearance, etc. As a leader you can provide a walk through tour of the orientation area (just to show students where everything is). But you should also encourage students to return and practice some of the things on their own. You can even set up a task list of things that participants need to complete by week 1, etc. Also have appointed meeting times in SL so participants can interact with each other and even share what they’ve learned or made.

4. Participate socially - attend live learning events in SL through the SLED calendar. The best part of Second Life is interacting with other SL inhabitants and even learning from them.

5. Encourage students to share their learning with each other – Second Life and the tool interface is so complex that one person can’t effectively and quickly learn all the features. If learners share what they’ve learned with each other they can ramp up quickly.

I would love to set up a social learning group in SL that focuses on how to communicate and build things. I’m thinking I can get a few people to do this. I’d even be willing to help orient some people on how to use the features and tools.

One thing, that sort of perturbs me is the land costs. From what I’ve read, land costs in SL have grown because of speculation. Crazy isn’t it? I guess virtual ain’t free.


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