Monday, October 15, 2007

Processing and Context

Tom Haskins, in his post The Next Killer Ap? writes

After reflecting deeply on the functions and varieties of PLE's last month, I've concluded most recently that using the Internet to get an education depends on reflective practicing. Learners have to be able to learn from what happens as they:

* find what they are looking for and delve into deeper interests
* change the questions they have in mind and directions they're pursuing
* discover others who reveal different perspectives on common interests
* create content for others that gets quoted, debated or disparaged

Successful blogging appears to thrive on reflective practicing. We are making tons of uniquely, personal sense from what shows up in our feed readers. We are sharing our insights among ourselves and learning more from how our content plays out in other readers' understanding as they reflect on what we offer. Perhaps we've got what it takes and only need to figure out a viable way to share our basis for using the killer app already.

As usual, whenever I read Tom's blog, he gets me thinking. I'm including the comment string for some background...


10/08/2007 4:50 PM
Wendy said...

Tom - so much learning seems to occur in the processing. After reading your post, I'm thinking that what we really need to look at is how to encourage people to PROCESS what they are taking in.

This seems to be beyond the "opportunities for practice" that we focus on when we create courses or think about education. And maybe beyond the "contextual exercises" that those of us in corporate environments inflict on people when they sit in our classrooms (either virtual or actual).

In my environment, maybe I can encourage people to think about their prior experience and have them help develop context rather than just GIVE context to them.... I gotta think this through a bit more.....

10/09/2007 6:23 PM
Tom Haskins said...

Wendy- Thanks for taking this further. I sure agree with you it takes more than opportunities to jump start reflective practicing. Your reflections today on the loss in your fragrance group, and several weeks ago on the anguish & adjustments your cats went through - are vivid examples of "leading by example".

Your idea of the learners developing their own context is rich - I too will ponder that one some more :-)


When I wrote the original comment - it hadn't dawned on me that I was

1) already doing this myself - I've been calling it "babbling in public." "Evidence of reflective practice" sounds so much better....

2) already encouraging others to intrinsically develop context - at least during the one-on-one training conversations I have.

In a one-on-one environment, it is easier to ask a person questions that can trigger context development:

- In your past job, what were your most important tasks?

- Are there any similarities between what you did then and what you think you will be doing now?

- Any particular thing you wish you knew how to do in the context of this educational session / using this tool / whatever else it is we're supposed to accomplish during our time together?

Of course - the questions are asked a lot more informally and in the context of "getting to know you.." And in the one-on-one environment, I generally have more flexibility to let the conversation go where it may and use examples given to me by the other person.

Also, because a person is getting individual attention - it is easier to find the triggers that will intrinsically motivate the person to process the information you are sharing. These triggers do not necessarily have to directly apply to "work". I haven't met an adult over 21 yet that doesn't come in with experience and interests of some sort.

So the next questions in my mind are:

- How do you encourage GROUPS of people to develop individual context and process information in a way that is useful and personal? Especially within the limited time / high-pressure context of most "courses"

- How do you encourage context development asynchronously - without the give and take of real-time conversation?

- How can you intrinsically motivate another to process and develop context for the material at hand?

I have a feeling being able to figure out answers to THOSE questions will allow us to truly apply PLEs and context-rich education into our corporate environments - where time and resources (# of people, hours in the day, limited trainer patience, large amounts of content...) do not allow for 1-on-1 synchronous training.

1 comment:

Tom Haskins said...

Wendy: I'm glad you've raised some new questions. Perhaps it will help to consider an exemplar who already creates context and dives into intrinsic processing without any structure from the course. Such a learner has self-selected the course/module. The need or motivation to learn this thing came about in their world. They bring that context to the learning, whether it's an attempt to impress somebody, qualify for some promotion/assignment, or prove to themselves that they succeed when taking on this kind of challenge. They are free of needing structure to make it meaningful, relate it to their own experiences or to anticipate follow thru/implementation on the job -- because they are there for their own reasons. This could happen in groups easily, so long as the entire group's enrollment is self selected, not mandatory, monitored and included in annual reviews.

However, if the group shows up with a context of resentment or work pressures, the cultivation of a "developmental context" takes more of a therapeutic approach. Perhaps they need a reminder of what they are doing right, how their intentions are worthy of admiration, or they already know enough to understand the new content without breaking a sweat. Maybe they would be more inclined to generate some context if they were given some freedom of choice or authentic control of their situation. They might get psyched by opportunities to "contradict the propaganda" with their own personal experiences that could be accumulated in a wiki online. There could even be a sequence in their eLearning module that started with the premise that the content was useless/devoid of context and set up the learner to invalidate the claim and take exception to the lack of context with their own frames of reference - just like Tom Sawyer got Huck Finn to whitewash the fence.

I've been pondering user generated contexts some since last week.Synching up with the learners has been the first sign of that. My post tomorrow will follow up on all this we're exploring.