Written by:

Holly Macdonald


February 5, 2010

Learning Circuits blog posts a question each month to generate discussion.  I have volunteered to be an online community steward for BC HRMA’s online community, and I thought this would be good practice for me!

 February’s Big Question:

Instruction in an Information Snacking Culture?

Well, it’s a 3 part question, really.

So, to start with the first:

Has there really been a shift? Are people changing their information consumption? Are they really snacking more?

I would say that there has been a shift in getting information, maybe not a dramatic one, but a shift nonetheless.  Two things seem to be at the root of this: twitter and the iphone.  Both of these nifty things have upped the convenience factor of getting insta-information.  Whether or not this is instruction is one of those age-old debates.  I love that the smartphones of today are more capable of providing performance support than ever before.  But, maybe it is one of those Tomato-tomahto situations.  Does it really matter what we call it?  

Now, for part deux:

Do we need to think about instruction differently? Is it a matter of better design so that people are engaged beyond a snack?

Personally, I would say that this is a prime opportunity to think about this from a performance perspective.  We used to design instructional events, and would have performance support materials as post-class “help”.  I think the opportunity is to figure out the performance outcome and think about designing around the person who will consume the instruction, not how to structure the instruction itself, but more about creating potential linked events.  Some people have used this shift as a way to try to pronounce the death of ADDIE.  I think it’s missing the point.  Design should follow a much more rigorous use of “A” and should be more continuous improvement, in other words beef up the “E”.  I use it more like AdAdiE.  Treating it more like a process than an event.   Also, ‘member when we all talked about learning objects.  Well, here they are!

Is this a problem? I feel like it’s harder to get a deep conversation going, especially in a twitter world. But maybe that’s me. How can we effectively work and learn in an information snacking world?

Hm, this is a harder one.  We can’t forget that we are social beings, and also we think that the Facebookization of the world connects us, we actually need real humans at some stage.   It’s the tension between global and local.  I like that I can read/hear/converse with colleagues all over the world, but it’s not enough.  I’ve also strived towards a “high tech + high touch” approach in any engagement that I’ve worked on.  I think the real value of the shift is that there are many other ways that we can deliver operational/technical training or support and that the times we do bring people together can allow conversations to be richer and interactions to be more substantial.  It’s kinda liberating.  

I think the potential problem is this: if organizations think that all learning can be boiled down to 3 minutes on an iphone, snacking may de-value the whole field of learning.  Why bother with any organizational training, cut all funding and let people figure out how to develop themselves through snacking.  Then all learning is left to application developers and heavy twitter users who may or may not be the best people to help train, support and develop employees.