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.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Generational differences in technology adaptation

I decided to see if there was any research in this area (especially the generational differences in technology adaptation). I found two very interesting articles. In the first article, by D. Compeau, C. Higgins, and S. Huff (1999) in MIS quarterly found that self-efficacy in using technology was a major factor in adopting new technology. Perceptions of benefits does not influence those with low levels of self-efficacy, but does influence those with high levels. In other words, if you think you can use new technology then getting something out of it will be an added incentive to use it. However, those who don't think they can use the technology will not be influenced by incentives (time saving, raises, etc...).

The second article in Personnel Psychology found that age does matter in terms of the initial reason workers adopt technology. Younger workers look to performance enhancement (will this help me with my work) whereas older workers are influenced by social norms (everyone else-boss, co-worker, supervisor-is using it so I should also). However, in the long-term, the reasons are the same regardless of age (task performance).

The impression I got from the two of these articles is that workers need to be shown (and empowered) to use the technology. As Dave points out, many in the work place still look at instruction as something someone else "gives" them rather than a form of empowerment, motivation, and interaction with instructors, other experts, other learners, and the content. So self regulation, making workers confident in learning and using technology is important. In an open book test, most test takers don't need to have the book, but just knowing it is there makes them more confident. I think the same can be said for training and new technologies. Mentors and access to experts are the "open books". Some people will use them, many won't, however, knowing they are available to answer questions makes the learner more confident (self-efficacy).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The learning tree

I know that this model has been used throughout history, however, I cannot but look at learning in a workplace setting without comparing it to a tree. This post was triggered by a post by Tony Karrer and a question posed to me as to how I would distinguish between learning and information.

His post was using a model of to identify organizational learning needs that I thought was too static. In addition, I think that the training needs change depending on the longevity someone has in the organization. Most corporate training in the beginning is really acculturation, training the new employee in the way the organization does business and its expectations for the employee. While this usually is done under the guise of content training, the fact is that the hidden agenda is for employees to learn the ’s way. As a result, the instructional design is usually top down, very structured, transfer of knowledge. However, once the employee has been acculturated (some might even say indoctrinated), the employee feel comfortable enough to begin to take control of his or her learning, regardless of whether the organization wants a certain type of training or not.

I look at this as the sapling putting down roots. The newer the sapling the more likely they are to put down roots (you can graft a tree, but it may “look” different on the new tree). Once roots are established, the trees can begin to branch out (creating learning networks). After a while they begin to produce their own buds, leaves, and branches. Leaves fall as they are no longer needed and new leaves are developed.

This analogy can be used towards training and workplace education. Once the employee has a basis to work from, he or she begins to create their network. These branches grow in complexity over time. Knowledge, both tacit and explicit, formal and informal, nourish the professional growth of the employee, allowing him or her to produce in their job, discarding knowledge or skills that are no longer relevant (I don’t remember how to code using Wordix as it is no longer is necessary since no one uses it), replacing them with new skills and knowledge (like falling leaves replaced by new ones each spring).

This is a much more dynamic model. Every once in a while, an infusion of fertilizer (formal training) might be needed to keep the tree (employee) healthy. However, for the most part, a tree grows towards what it needs such as sun (goals), away from encroaching trees (micromanagers or other employees that might undermine him or her).

Information vs. Learning

So how do I distinguish between information and learning? Information is a tool that an employee uses. It is not necessary to “learn” when accessing and using information. To learn, there needs to be some engagement with the information and the creation of understanding through meaning making. As an auditor, I would look through inventory numbers, comparing them to projections and actual counts. My job was just to identify differences. In doing this job, I would follow a process I was trained to do without being required to make sense of what those numbers meant, just did they match or did they not. However, as a curious person, I would try to make sense of the differences. Why were they different? What was the process in reporting the numbers? My interviews with auditees often was as much an opportunity to learn about the plants and their processes, putting them into context with other industries I was familiar with. My learning required my own effort. Was it necessarily what the company wanted or needed? No. Was I engaged with the “information”? Yes.

Past the initial training and acculturation, I was able to learn for my own benefit within the organizational structure and culture. Some of what I learned was for my own personal benefit, but some also contributed to the organization. I became a node for international operations, especially in terms of understanding the international business climate and labor laws in which overseas plants were located.

Where do we go from here?

What we have yet to look at is how an organization balances the employee needs and goals, with group needs and goals, and how can the organization harness the creation of knowledge at the individual and group levels?