Saturday, June 13, 2009

Do people need training on how to learn?

Scenario: Of late, my friend and colleague J has been frequently asking me how I use Twitter to learn. This is post a tweet I had put up saying "I have learned more from Twitter in the past three months than I did through formal training sessions in the past three years."

"Huh!" he says,"...that's all very well. But how?" I showed him the Twitter site, asked him to create an account and explore. He created an account, tinkered around for a bit and came back to ask, "What next?"

"Follow people who interest you..." was my somewhat brusque response. I wanted him to explore on his own and figure it out. Also, having recently finished reading Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall, I was full of minimally invasive learning.

Being more of a friend than colleague, he shamelessly came back a third time--this time with a solution to his problem.

Settling himself down back to front on the chair next to my workstation, he gave me the following suggestion. "Create a flow chart of the steps we need to follow to use social networking sites like Twitter to not only socialize but also to learn." His matter-of-fact tone left me somewhat speechless. Next words I spoke were, "There are half a zillion "How to use Twitter" videos, pdfs, sites, posts, articles on the web. Check those out."

"Don't you see, they are all about How to use Twitter, not about how to learn from it. And they are too scattered for a beginner like me to hunt down, read, assimilate and apply..."

I shooed him away, got myself a cup of coffee and got back to the Needs Analysis questionnaire I was creating for a project, the deadline pressing down on me.

But something he had said nagged me, set me thinking.

My dilemma: Do we need to "train" people how to "learn"? As dichotomous as that sounds, I couldn't get rid of the niggling voice that said, "Yes."

I would love to hear responses, feedback, comments.


  1. Well Sahana, I would say an emphatic YES to your question :-). Actually, these so called social learning tools are really causing confusion among the learner community and I really don't know where we are headed. We have blogs, wikis, RSS, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, SecondLife, Facebook, Flickr, blah blah blah...what do I use and for what? This is the big question we as the learning designers need to ask ourselves. Despite being in a Hi-Tech industry, many times I feel obsessed with all these mushrooming Web 2.0/3.0 tools. Technology is great...but there should be a limit. I strongly feel that e-learning and social learning are only supplementary methods to the formal classroom training and never a replacement.

  2. Hi Ram,

    First, thank you very much for taking the time to read and comment on my post.

    I agree with your viewpoint to a large extent. I remember reading somewhere that Twitter is not for novice learners; it is meant for someone who has a level of comfort with social networking and can use it the way s/he wants.

    This brings me to my next dilemma:
    Where does a social networking site ceases to be just a networking platform and becomes a collaborative learning platform?

    Yes, we Twitter users have managed to do that. But we are in the minority; we are the so called "tech savvy" people and our job demands that we keep up with the latest technology and see how these can be used in the fields of training and performance support and...

    What about the large, very very large majority for whom facebook or Twitter are just socializing sites or don't exist. We know the latter is the case in many countries.

    We need a very sophisitcated, self motivated, tech savvy learner group who will be keen to explore all avenues of learning and get the best from each.

    Personally, although I am very clear as to why I use fb, LinkedIn or Twitter, it is difficult to juggle from one to the other. It is difficult to keep track of all the happenings on each.

    I am moving towards an emphatic YES too. :) Yes, most learners will need to be shown how to manage their learning and communication. Maybe, a Unified Communication platform is required...I don't know. Now with Wave arriving soon, I am wondering how all of these will be optimized.

    What is definite is the rising need to not only create effective, quick and easy to implement training programs but also creating learning management guidelines. The latter has become a pressing need.

    Therein, I think, lies the dichotomy--with so many avenues open, things are getting messy. Yet, the human mind craves order. We are going to try and sort out this "messiness". Eventually, what is messy, informal and disorganized today will become formalized in the near future. The order will repeat itself...:)

    How do we then merge formal training with informal learning and get the best of both worlds? What exactly is Unified Communication?

  3. I was reading Donald Clark's post on Learning Waves from Google. There, he mentions the following:

    Learning Waves

    So what’s the impact on e-learning?

    First, the creation of e-learning content should be quicker and cheaper. The design, development and delivery can all benefit from Wave as a productivity tool. You can get the design done with designers, SMEs, managers in real time, or at least much faster than the traditional methods, even with people who speak different languages. User-tested development can be very quick and debugging and testing much faster.

    Second, Wave could be used to teach and learn in groups. Think of a 'wave' as a learning experience, a ‘learning wave’.

    A ‘Learning Wave’ can allow any combination of teacher(s) and student(s) to:

    * step back and forth through content
    * pull in/share resources
    * pull in links
    * provide live feedback
    * poll the group
    * assess the group
    * teach in multiple languages (translates in real time)

    Will this take care of the "messiness" that multiple avenues/platforms has brought in? Will this probably also be the platform where formal training and informal learning will merge?

    We have yet to see but I see some promising sparks...Would love to hear what you think?

  4. Another related article: The importance of being synchronous from Onlignment:

    I will post a response to this in my blog here.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. The first official step towards formalizing of the informal has started.

    "Britain Appoints Social Media Czar: Turning Point in Social Media Adoption?"

    The post has a mission with well chalked out responsibilities. The "messiness", I feel, is on the way to being cleaned up...happening sooner than expected don't you think?

  7. Sahana, that was a very interesting question that got me blogging a whole new blog post. Do let me know if the post helps you.


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