Working Wikily

I found the Kasper & Scearce article both interesting and useful.  I also appreciated their ability to transform Shirky’s relatively dense prose into some concise, organized thoughts. That said, I hope none of Mr. Shirky’s friends and/or relatives are part of the EDUC689 community. Sorry, Clay. Anyhow, here I go.

1.  I am a firm believer that you have to think about what you want to do before you decide on what tool you want to do it with (page 8, last paragraph).  It is very reminiscent of the idea that analysis is the first step in ADDIE or that computer systems need requirements.  It is not about picking what tool is hot or the latest and greatest.  It’s about saying what problem you want to fix, what capability you want to add, or what relationship you want to create and foster.  I think EDUC689 is doing a good job of adding to our instructional design toolbox, so when we find a need, we have some new solutions to address it.

2.  As an instructional designer, the idea of working together to share knowledge is central to creating meaningful training (page 7 last paragraph)(more analysis, perhaps? See #1 above).  Combining expertise with the shared experience can lead to training vehicles that are both correct and workable in the real world, a worthy goal for any course.  It some ways, the world becomes our SME. This is both exciting and extremely challenging for the development of effective, meaningful training.  I hope that over the course of our study, we discuss the idea of applying informal learning tools to our development of more formal learning.

3.  Steep learning curves and the ubiquitousness of tools is another important theme of the article (page 3, 4th paragraph).  Shirky’s idea of tools becoming “commonplace and boring” to reach their full potential has been true over the life of the technological revolution.  Word processors, email, the internet, GPS, and search engines are all examples of technologies that were once rare and exotic but have reached the state of commonplace. Certainly, social media tools are headed in that direction.  Facebook is an example that has been adopted by over a billion people.  The use of Facebook is taking new directions as its benefits,capabilities and potential become better understood.  Our use in this class certainly goes beyond finding out what people you went to high school with are up to. However, that did not happen over night, and the incorporation of some of the other tools we are working with is going to take time (page 9, 2nd paragraph).  Technology has always depended on the creation of “power users” to spread beyond the stereotypical computer-types to ordinary people.  We need power users, but we also need tools that can be adopted by everyone else; Mr. Shirky’s “Everybody” that is coming our way.  We also need tools that are intuitive and build on people’s previous experiences with technology.  As ISD people, we know that adults learn by building on what they already know.  We also know the level of frustration that occurs when someone like Microsoft changes the user interface of a tools that millions of people work with.  I still don’t know how to do some things with Excel 2010 that I could do with previous versions.  Applying adult learning principle needs to be part of the roll-out of new technology, and informal learning tools are no exception.

4. Finally, the article notes that social networks are indeed social, and that the rules of any human interaction apply (top of page 9).  It is somewhat incongruous that using a computer will form relationships when we understand that true human relationships are messy, uneven and not always successful.  Remaining human needs to be a key aspect as we attempt to form and operate such networks.  We need to answer the questions “How can we bring these relationships to the most basic, one-on-one contact that forms the human bond we all want and need?”


Who am I and what am I doing here

I’m Mike.

I’m a high mileage model well into my third (or so) career. I was educated in business and accounting at UMCP a long time ago. I went from accounting to the dark side, Information Technology, pretty early on. I was a financial systems analyst, serving as a referee between number crunchers and digit crunchers. It served as excellent training for running IT projects, learning to walk that fine line between programmers and system users without being snowed by either. It was also one of my first exposures to receiving and delivering training, which will come up again later. I started as a Fed, ended up as a contractor, and managed to accomplish some things along the way. Curiously, the biggest accomplishments concerned writing and managing winning proposals, which is neither IT nor accounting, nor training. The path winds.

I spent time as a small business owner post Y2K, when I was downsized a second time. The big difference in running a small business is that you don’t have people. As a corporate officer I had peopletechnical people, finance people, HR people, and so on. I also had peers that I bonded with, socialized with, complained to, supported and was supported. Small business owner, not so much. It’s you. I did do a lot of training, my favorite of which was on a cell phone from vacation on Cape Cod, walking people through running a graphics application. It wasn’t me.

There is some background to reach the third career. As an undergrad at College Park, I joined a local volunteer fire department. It was much more interesting than anything I was doing in school or the early years at work. I kept it up for a dozen years, until my kids reached the point where I had to be with them much of my free hours. Along the way, I became the department training officer, where I felt like I was in my element.

An opportunity opened up at the University of Maryland, Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute for an Instructional Designer. I wasn’t at all sure I knew what an Instructional Designer was, but in reading the job description, they wanted training experience, fire department experience, and technology experience, and I had all of that and then some. I applied and got the job. A co-worker was towards the end of the ISD program and talked well of it, so I decided that if I was going to be an Instructional Designer, I should probably learn about the trade. I did that for 5 1/2 years and then took a position at the Meals on Wheels Association of America, again as one of those instructional design people.

I’m here in Informal Learning as my last elective. I have been looking forward to this class for two years. Several people in my EDUC 671 class were taking this class at the same time and they all raved about Jeannette and the course.

I am a life-long learner. I have to be because otherwise I would get bored and lose focus. I look forward to learning with all of you and sharing our stories.