Part 3: Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies

Discussion Thread: This post << Part 2 << Part 1

I think the discussion regarding the dimensions of analysis of learning is useful, because (unlike the author) I think these are precisely where old-style (1.0) learning and new-style (2.0) are different. Take, for example, the whole idea of goals and measurements. To measure the ‘effectiveness’ of learning, we need to be able to measure how far we moved toward our goal. But what about this item, from a few days ago. I worked through the examples without knowing where they would lead me. The author created the examples without knowing how much I already knew. The learning, in this case, was the result of an intersection between the author and myself, more like a conversation than a journey, more like a dance than a destination.

Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies – More Thoughts ~ Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes

Thanks for your comments, Stephen. There is a cacophony of thoughts here as I try and take this discussion further. Let me try and organize them.

To summarize my understanding, the new style (2.0) is different from the old-style (1.0) because the basic components of learning – how goals are created, measured, improved upon within constraints of time could differ fundamentally between these two styles.

In your example, maybe I am being presumptuous, but a goal did exist. That goal was to substantiate your claim that JSON could be used to potentially replace XML? You did not know if the content you were reading would help you reach this goal, but it aroused an interest and motivation in you to explore, learn and possibly apply the learning towards meeting your goal. Perhaps you actually did a web search for JSON, found this article, it resonated with your style of learning and the content was appropriate enough to help you meet your goal.

The author did not know your pre-existing knowledge (nor your intended application perhaps), but through conversation or intersection between what the author wanted to distill and what you were learning, you achieved your goal.

The goal was not explicitly or defined in a detailed manner by the author when you first started. The author did not say “…at the end of this tutorial, you will be able to demonstrate that JSON could be used as a substitute for XML…”. Neither did you know that it could really help you meet your goal. The dance could have led nowhere, could have helped you fully or partially meet your goals, or spurred on a totally new perspective on the problem leading you to perhaps choose a new goal or alter the existing one or simply abandon it.

You took this knowledge and decided to apply it in a way that could potentially help you achieve your goal. Maybe at the end of the learning period, you said, “great! I got somewhere here, and yes, doesn’t this support what I was saying earlier?”

During the learning process, post the initial evaluation, you would also have been continuously evaluating whether you were moving in the right direction. If you had seen a limitation in the technique or coding that the author suggested that posed a risk to your goal, you could have potentially aborted your learning attempt. This was part of the measurement you consciously or unconsciously were doing. Not only that, when your code sample worked it was a measure of your success with the examples that you were learning; so was the application of the example to your specific context.

There was another risk to your goal. If you could not set up the environment or not have the pre-requisite knowledge to comprehend the article, then even if it was the way to achieve your goal, you would have simply abandoned it and moved on another resource which may not be what you really needed! Maybe the dance would uncover this gap and the author would be able to help you, and maybe it would not.

So in this case, and this has been the way I have learnt ever since I can remember, the learning process is inherently chaotic and I can remember as many learning failures as I can remember successes. The failures have arisen from the inability to find an appropriate learning resource that suits the way I learn, the constraint of time, the unavailability of peers, technical problems or other related issues. The successes have been when these factors/constraints have been least.

I have taught many courses too in a formal manner. Now I teach/guide every day in an informal manner at my colleagues at the workplace and with my customers. I learn continuously from them and with even my two wonderful children and my family.

All this is a different style. I would say that it is more effective as well since it is I who take the initiative to learn and grow and I am continuously motivated to learn, perform and contribute to other people’s growth.

For some people or contexts, the formal setting (1.0) could be most appropriate. For some people, the 2.0 style could be unnatural/foreign in formal settings where they are learning, for example, how to create a purchase order in SAP; while for them when they are learning about the latest car from GM to hit the streets, the 2.0 style could be the natural one adopted.

Cut to business. The goal for Learning and Development (L&D) departments within organizations is to make sure employees have the right attitudes, skills and knowledge and are able to perform as per the needs of the business. The needs of the business are articulated keep in mind vision, strategy, products/services, competencies and market conditions. L&D takes in these requirements and plans and implements training strategies that will help the corporation meet these needs in the most effective manner as possible and in the time frame the business wants. Business always asks them “are these teams trained? Has the training resulted in the performance we wanted?”. Scale and standardization are important dimensions of the problem and perhaps often the reason why we see a drop in effectiveness in 1.0 methodologies.

I believe that the 2.0 style can really help. But we need to evolve strategies of how these styles can be engendered at the workplace (not simply by using Web 2.0 or this technology or that) in such a way that business needs and professional growth objectives are met. That is why this discussion around Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies.

>> Sequel: Part 4

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