About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Situated and organizational learning

I currently am reading an article by Contu and Wilmont which points out the short comings of current organizational learning researchers' use of power and the understanding of power structures on learning in the context of situated learning.

I have been able to just pop in and out of the
connectivism course (and the amount of information is overwhelming). However, I am hoping that there is going to be more discussion about the power structures and use of power within and between networks; sort of a critical pedagogy of connectivism.

My feeling is that too many times the power structure is the elephant in the room, the major force and barrier to learning and evaluation that we refuse to recognize. Which brings me back to situated learning. If we do begin to recognize and understand the influence of power as a part of situated learning, as Contu and Willmont suggest, situated learning theory will be much more relevant as a tool for analysis and a basis for research.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Summary of feedback from my presentation

As promised, below is a summary of some of the points that came out of my presentation on work literacy to the Instructional Design researchers group. Like the feedback from the blog, there were not many attendees. This actually makes me very frustrated as I get the impression that Educators feel learning stops after college and Instructional Designers/workplace trainers feel that there does not need to be an understanding of what goes on in schools from their part as graduates come out "molded" if educators are doing their job correctly.

This lack of dialog between the workplace and schools has led to finger pointing and lack of preparedness for students transitioning into the workplace. Some researchers, businesses, and educators have begun to address this gap. But overall, I think there needs to be more dialog between educators and businesses that has nothing to do with, "what skills should workers have?". The dialog should address, "what type of work do you foresee works of the future doing?" "What will the basis be for effective workers be in the future?""How will workers accomplish their work in the future?"


Going into the presentation, I received two posts with suggestions. Basically:

  • Students should be taught how to analyze (Ken Allen)
  • Students should learn how to access their network in order to answer questions and find information that will help them do their work (Tony Karrer)
After the presentation, I received one additional suggestion:
  • Students should know how to learn without being told and they should be "self-regulated" learners (my interpretation of Mike's comment)
Surprisingly enough, most of the participants came up with similar suggestions. One participant, a professor emeritus in science education further commented that in fact, most of the issues I brought up in the presentation was not new. In fact, educators have been discussing how to teach analysis, help students make connections with concepts and work with others to cocreate meaning, and use resources to find answers to problems for a long time (generations, in fact). More importantly, the biggest challenge for educators is to get students to focus. In fact, this is where Web 2.0 has made things more difficult. In other words, in order for students to learn, they need to learn to focus, weed through what is not necessary and concentrate on what is. Now with more access to information, the ability to focus will be even more important.

I realize many have spoken about multi-tasking. While there is much debate about multi-tasking helping or hindering work and learning, the fact is little has been said about the opposite: focusing. Are those that are more successful and efficient able to focus in an overstimulated environment? Should we be studying "focus" as opposed to "multi-tasking"? Are these two concepts mutually exclusive?


I know for myself, I am very good at multi-tasking as I am able to prioritize, then focus on those things that I need to pay attention to, while monitoring (yet ignoring) stimulas that will not help me accomplish my work. In addition, I am very good at networking and using the network to save myself time and help find the answers I need. Finally, my high school education (based on more of the college model) forced us to be self-regulated learners, critical thinkers, and life long learners. Many were not able to take the free time alloted us for learning and projects, wasting much of the day. In the long run, they did not do well in school. But those that adapted were very successful in college.

I wonder if the reason we see a rise in such learning disabilities as ADA and ADHD (apart from the fact that there is better diagnosis) is because the work of today requires greater focus. As a result, students that can't focus will develop into workers that can't focus and do their job. As there is more stimuli to the individual, children and adults need to learn how to manage the stimulus in order to be successful.

Finally, I think there needs to be more dialog between schools, policy makers, researchers, and businesses. There are some successful models out there now that need to be replicated at a faster pace.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reframing how we define organizational learning

In order to place my dissertation into current literature, I have begun to start reading again about organizational learning. I will be blogging about it over the next few months in order to help me write the dissertation.

Organizational Learning from a cultural perspective

The first article I read was by Cook and Yanow (1993). Their article takes the position that most organizational learning theories use cognition as a basis, either looking at the individual learning which when aggregated makes up organizational learning, or looking at the organizational learning as if it were the same process as individual learning, only as an organization. They identify a third approach, which is to look at organizational learning from a cultural perspective.

The cultural perspective looks at organizations as having a collective pattern of action (just as societies do) that create artifacts, shared meaning, and "knowledge" within the group. The knowledge is held collectively by the group, but was not created by the individual. Rather, the knowledge, and thus the learning, is passed on throughout the organization by the "group".

Looking at organizational learning from this perspective opens up a number of issues for workplace learning. Cook and Yanow, for instance, note that change is not necessary for learning to take place. Rather, learning might reinforce the social and cultural norms that make up the organizational identity. Likewise, much of the learning in organizations are tacit and difficult to measure.

Implications for Organizational Training

When I look at this, the main implication that comes to mind is that "learning outcomes" may not be a good measure of organizational learning. It seems to me that most training is really a means of either repositioning or reinforcing organizational culture. If that is the case, it is not enough to measure individual performance to determine if training was successful. Rather, there needs to be an analysis of organizational processes and an agregate of organizational understanding of the learning outcomes.

For example, the group I am working with is working on a training program in human services. While they could use a questionnaire at the end of the training to see what each individual "knows", a better format would be to identify patterns of action that would indicate the desired organizational behavior. Participants should fill out this questionnaire at the beginning and end of the training. But then there should be a follow up questionnaire given to the organization as a whole to determine if the training has infiltrated the organizational culture. If training was effective, not only would individuals that received the training allign their values with the target values, but so would those that did not receive the training.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


It's the most dreaded word among parents, for once a child learns the impact of "why", there is an endless series of scrambling to find answers.

However, I always encouraged my children to ask this question, sometimes turning it back to them, "what do YOU think?" I think this helped my kids to become more critical thinkers, look for more complex reasons, know that it is ALRIGHT not to know something as long as you don't leave it at that, become more curious about the world, and good negotiators.

A story my son told me yesterday brought this to light. He said that a couple of the kids in his class were thought of as being "the smartest" (which kills my son as he is very competitive) with the exception of one of the teachers for an advanced class he taking. It seems that this "smart kid" is able to retain facts and figures with a photographic memory and has no problem spitting back information, a useful skill. On the other hand, the teacher in the advanced class wants students to be able to "discuss" the information (my son's words) and these bright kids have difficulty doing so. This, however is a skill my son excels at.

My words are that the teacher wants the kids to be critical thinkers. Many parents are encouraged to help their kids "learn" things by giving them computer programs to help memorize, work with them in helping them to memorizing vital information for tests, etc... I can't fault these parents for doing this as they show concern about their children's education. I fault educators and policy makers for not requiring the critical thinking skills in the curriculum (true critical thinking skills, not memorizing the steps to problem solving), and, if it is a part of the curriculum, not training parents (as early those with pre-school aged children) on how to develop a child with critical thinking skills.

Of course, there are times, as a mother with two teens, that I regret teaching my kids that "why" is not a bad word and that it is important to negotiate, like when they ask, "But why can't I go to the dance, get my driver's permit, go to my friend's house, keep my room a mess, etc..."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Need help on Work literacy presentation

Thursday I am presenting to a group of instructional design researchers (mostly at the University at Albany) about the discussions we have had on the work literacy blog. Specifically, I would like to encourage them to help in creating an agenda on research in work literacy, starting at the primary school level and working up to the adult education level.

Even though we have been discussing work literacy as it pertains to the workplace, we should begin to integrate these competencies in our educational system to prepare future generations for the knowledge economy.

So my question is:

  • what should I include in my presentation?
  • what research would you like those doing instructional design research to be conducting? In other words, what are some of the most pressing research questions that we, at the university, should be investigating?
  • How can we tie the various levels of education together to better prepare workers for the workplace of the future?
Because I am very interested in hearing the perspective of those worldwide, who might feel intimidated writing in English, I have the following for those that speak Spanish, French, and German (please excuse my grammar). Unfortunately, I don't write Italian, Portuguese, or Dutch, but I can read it, so if you would like to contribute in those languages, feel free to do so.

Para ellos que habla espanol, escribeme en espanol sobre la formacion de trabajo (work literacy) y las competencias que empleos nesicitan en el economia nueva (de conocimienta). Que quiera saber y investigar sobre este topica?

Pour vous qui parlez francais: ecrivez-vous en francais de le topic de formacion dans le bureau (work literacy) et les outils nouveaux, ce que c'est necessarire pour le travailler dans l'economie d'connaisance. Qu'est que vous voulait les rechercheux de recherche de ce topic?

Auf Deutsch, will Ich das Sie, uber arbeitlesefahigkeit (work literacy) scriben. Ich kenn das es viele gedenks uber arbeiten in Deutsch gebt. Also, was wollen sie mehr uber arbeit in die wissenwirkschaft wissen?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Work at learning; learning at work

Michelle Martin is hosting the work/learning carnival this month with the topic of work at learning; learning at work. In it, Michelle asked us to write about keeping motivated to learn in the work place.

Perhaps because "learning" is my work, and the group I have been studying is also in the "learning" business, I don't see that there is a problem with workers being motivated to learn. Perhaps the problem is more identifying and measuring worker learning.

With very few exceptions, workers are learning every day as their situation changes. There is continually new technology, new policies, new problems, new co-workers, new clients and customers, that a worker faces and needs to adapt to. The problem is that companies want their workers to learn new discreet information that may not apply (at that time or ever) to those situations that face workers every day.

I feel there needs to be a better way of preparing workers for learning and better measures for the informal learning workers do as they adapt to new situations.

For example, when I worked as a market researcher for the natural gas industry, I picked up a lot of information not only about how the pipelines were connected and which companies used natural gas and those that did not, I also learned a lot about the "politics" of the energy industry. Even now, as I hear about the price of oil, the price of gas, the effect of hurricanes on the energy industry, there are also a deeper understanding of the relationship between consumers, suppliers, developers, refiners, and transporters (pipelines, ships, trucks, etc...).

This understanding of the politics, however, was not recognized until I left the job and those in charge suddenly became concerned that I was leaving and taking this information with me, something that could not be contained in the computer or even passed on to other workers. The problem, as I see it, was the bosses were measuring my learning using performance data (# of phone calls made, # of completed questionnaires). They did not recognize that the conversations I had with interviewees were learning moments for me, developing my understanding of the industry (which I had no knowledge of before starting the job).

So this is what I would suggest we start looking at (and asking workers to document) to assess their learning:

  • New understanding of the industry in which they work
  • Prediction of where their work will be in the next quarter
  • Summary of resources (personal, written, electronic) they they use during a given time period
  • New skills or techniques they learned during the quarter
  • New contacts they made during the quarter
  • Suggestion of the areas they would like to learn more about and why
Not only does this make sense in terms of knowledge, it also makes sense in management. Once workers are recognized for the learning they have accomplished, they will be more motivated to take some time out of their schedule to learn more, thus creating a learning cycle.

The problem is to convince management to reward this type of learning and to have workers take the time out to document their (informal) learning.

New type of communication with facebook?

One thing I have been interested in the last few years is how people set up their computers. To me, it is like setting up a kitchen. Each person has their own habits and how to set things up. When I go to my mother's house, I can't find anything as she organizes things in a completely different way than I do.

I find the same thing with computers. My kids will go in and change something on the computer and both my husband and I will be lost for days looking for it!

Today, I looked over the shoulder of my son as he went through his facebook account. I can access his "wall", but I only get one side of the conversation. In order to get the other side, I will need to be friends with those that uploaded onto the wall. As many in his network are included in his friend's network, he can see their postings. It was interesting to see him follow the conversations by going back and forth. But the conversations were not the usual linear, monocronic conversations found on IM's or even in discussion forums. Rather, facebook allows for members to "listen in" on written conversations, follow the threads that they want to follow, and, if they are all part of the same group, to have an idea of what is going on between group members.

At any time, however, a group member can be "kicked out" by taking him or her off the friend's list. However, they can still be part of the group perrifially, as long as someone in the group maintains him or her as a friend. This has been my role to date. While I can read what is going on in the group through the eyes of my son, this is only a one sided conversation. There are many assumptions I need to make to really understand what is going on.

I see this as an emerging new method of communication in which the rules are still evolving. It will be interesting to see where it goes. I would be interested in knowing if there is a different style of facebook, how it's used, how it's set up, what happens in the the network, what happens around the fringe of the network, for different languages.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

10 ways to be more productive

I read Doug Belshaw's blog posting (linked though a posting via the Work literacy blog) on how to be more productive. I posted the following on the work literacy blog, but thought it might be a good idea to copy it here:

This would be my top 10:

1. Read e-mails the same time everyday (just before I go to bed, just before class). But check skim e-mail inbox regularly. This gives me a natural “time out” in working on e-mails but allows me to address emergencies as they come up.

2. Have different e-mail accounts for different needs. I have a school one I look at only when there are assignments coming up (which this semester is about 3 times a week each week). I have a “spam” e-mail, those sites that ask for an address so they can send me updates or newsletters. I also tend to use these for blogs and listservs I am “iffy” about. I check this once a week. Finally, I have my main e-mail which I look at on my homepage and can skim to prioritize reading.

3. Set daily goals for long term or medium term projects. I work better using deadlines.

4. Wait to speak with people or go online until after I have met the goal for the day. That’s my carrot or reward.

5. Set regular office hours at home. My kids know that when they are home on a regular school day, I have changed my “mom” hat. However, if they have a half day, or day off, I am “in the office”. Of course, this works because they are now teenagers.

6. Use on line organizers so I can access information from any of the 3 or more computers I may be using. Although it took a while for me to start using it, delicious is now the most valuable resource for my work.

7. Maintain contacts with the outside world. I find many people feel this is a waste of time. However, I am much more productive after I have communicated with colleagues, as I get motivated with new ideas.

8. Find at least 1/2 an hour a day of quiet time to think. Even if it means going into the bathroom to keep away from others!

9. Related to #5, when you have a day off from work, make it a day off from work. I learned this from my father, who was a steel industry executive who worked 60-70 hours a week. His days off meant no contact with work and mentally catching himself from “worrying” about work. For him to do this, we often vacationed a physical distance from home and work, often with no phones (before cell phones).

10. Concentrate on what you have already accomplished and don’t worry about everything that still needs to be done. As child, I would panic and worry about what I needed to do, often paralyzing myself with worry. My mother would just take my hand, sit me down and say, “just start working. There is no use wasting time worrying about what you need to do. You’ll get done what you can get done and the rest will be there for you to finish tomorrow.” I always think of that when I begin to get overwhelmed. (I do the same for my kids).

Interestingly enough, I am not being very productive (and not really following my own advice) today. In fact, while writing this post (before accomplishing the goal of transcribing interviews today), I have been interrupted at least 3 times with phone calls with prerecorded messages from candidates to remind me to vote in the primary elections. It is primary day in NY state and we have 3 hotly contested seats open, including the one vacated by our congress representative and the former speaker of the senate for New York state. I would suggest ignoring phone calls, however, I know for myself that letting the answering machine pick up the phone, in fact, distracts me as I cannot help but wonder who had just called! Therefore, for me, it is important I answer all calls or I can't concentrate on my work.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Facing the unknown

Two things inspired this posting today. First, I was speaking to a colleague today, who said that her daughter was having a terrible time deciding on a major. My colleague blames herself for her daughter's dilemma as she encouraged her children to choose a profession in which they will be able to make a decent living and be self reliant. Her daughter is an excellent writer, and feels that this skill will not give her a steady income. So while she really does not like science, she is taking science courses so she will be employable.

The second thing was while I was preparing lunch today, the only tomato available was a yellow tomato one of my husband's colleagues had grown and given to us. I cut into the tomato and had an immediate revulsion as it reminded me of a yellow plum. Finally, I forced myself to try a piece. It tasted just like a red tomato.

Sometimes, I feel we do our children a disservice by not making them take a taste of the yellow tomatoes in life. Trying something that goes against traditional wisdom is risky. I feel we need to support younger people to try doing things in a new way, but putting them back on track when the risk is too great.

I was lucky in life. My father, who went to Yale on a scholarship, regretted not taking the opportunity to learn new and different things while he was at Yale because his family (who were poor) counted on him to do well in College. His advice to me was to study what I was interested in, learn as much as I could while I was in college, and don't worry about studying for a profession. As he said, a good worker is a good worker and will learn what he or she needs to do well in their job when they are on the job. He believed that graduates were not, nor would ever be, prepared to do a job right out of college. Only job experience and the ability to learn in the workplace would prepare someone. The key to hiring good workers was to hire those that were prepared to learn and were not scared to face the unknown. Rather, they would be ready to study the situation, figure out how to work within any situation, and persist regardless of the barriers put in front of them.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Influencing others to enter Web 2.0

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I spend the last weekend with my sister and her family. She is my oldest sister (I have 3 sisters and a brother) and is in her 50's. She was explaining the difficulties she has been having at work. A speech pathologist, she is part of an agency the provides services to disabled pre-schoolers and school aged students including evaluations and therapy in the areas of speech, occupational therapy, special education and tutoring, social work, and physical therapy.

The problem is that over the 15 years that she has been working at this organization, the group has grown from 20 employees to over 200 employees and independent contractors. Being in the field of social services, the workers prefer a flat organization in which each person has some say in their work. At the same time, the administration in this field has become very structured with mandates at the Federal, state, and local (county) levels, sometimes contradicting each other. The problem then becomes how to coordinate the paperwork needed while giving equal input into the process.

My brother-in-law, married to the corporate top down total control of the entire process philosophy of management was advocating having the directors wrest control of the process and "making" the employees follow the rules. However, this is like herding geese (notice I said geese and not cats) in that those that don't want to be herded will turn around and bite. Others will just fly the coupe. So I suggested using a wiki. I gave my sister the web address for PBWiki as it is password protected (there needs to be security), so she could play around with it before presenting it as an option to help the work process.

The Results

Yesterday, my sister called. She was so excited that:
  1. She, a 50 something, brought in technology that no one else had heard of in the organization
  2. She had set up a wiki that could be used by the team and the parent (she went well beyond what I could have imagined) all by herself
  3. The parent she was working with thought she was really cool in being able to communicate using modern ways
  4. Her group could now work together better to provide better service
This is a test group and if it works out, it can be replicated by her organization. I am very excited for her.

This got me to thinking, how can we make others aware of programs and technological solutions to their organizational communication problems? How can we make those decision makers and workers who have some influence aware of the current management practices and the new ways to configure work tasks so they will look for new tools to help them?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Identifying blogs

While I see articles, seminars, and resources on how to find information using search engines and how to find and evaluate resources through the library, I have yet to see anything that identifies how to identify blogs.

What got me thinking about this topic was spending the weekend with my sister and her family. My brother in law is a financial planner and he was pouring through magazines and journals that come to his office for free. I asked him if he found anything useful, and he indicated that most was too broad to be of use, most likely since any useful information would be outdated by the time it was published. I asked if he followed any blogs, and he said he had yet to tap into one that was useful, but that he really did not have time to go looking so his search had been superficial.

This got me to thinking about how I have found the blogs that I now read on a regular basis.

My Own Journey into Finding Blogs

Most of the blogs I subscribe to came out of the online conferences I have participated in over the last few years. Those online conferences started with a simple e-mail on a listserv announcing the conference on Connectivism. My first two blog subscription came out of that conference for George Sieman's elearnspace and Vicki Davis's Cool Cat Teacher Blog. I found Tony Karrer's blog through the conference on elearning innovations and trend.

As I began to participate more in the blogs, I learned I could find out about other blogs by clicking on those posting's profile. This is how I found Karyn Romeis, Christy Tucker, and Guy Boulet (whose names I recognized from participating in online conferences) Joan Vinall-Cox, Clark Quinn, Christine Martell, and Harold Jarche. I was then asked to participate in the Work Literacy blog. As I began to blog more, I then began to create other contacts with those that would comment on my blog such as Ken Allen and Michele Martin.

So, how do I decide which blogs I am going to subscribe to and how do I follow them?

Upon reflection, I realize that I tend to go back to blogs where the authors are discussing issues that are of interest to me. Sometimes I am right on the same page as them (as I tend to be with Karyn Romeis and Joan Vinall-Cox. However, more often than not, the topics under discussion are interesting to me and the authors will engage me in a discussion of the topic. In fact, I find more often than not, Tony Karrer and Guy Boulet have a very different take on their topics than I do.

When I look at the blogs, I look at the profile of the writer. The name is not as important as a description of the blog and its purpose. I will follow a link from a respected blog. Before subscribing, I will need to follow the blog for a while. If I have not read the blog for while, I will reevaluate the subscription.

Recently, I have begun to organize the blogs and how I access them differently. I now make sure that those posts I find interesting I put on delicious. I have some of my blogs on RSS feeds (mostly those I have been following for a while). However, others I have begun to put on igoogle so I can access them away from home. These tend to be blogs that I can use in planning my teaching.

While I have tried to find blogs via search engines, I find I have not had any real look. While I might get popular sites, they don't fit into what I am interested in.

So, I am interested in knowing how others find blogs in their fields? How do you decide which ones to subscribe to? How do you keep track of them? How do you vet them?