Work-Life Balance in a 2.0 world, part 2

August 4, 2011

Finally! Some of my favorite bloggers have recently described a bit of social-media overload.  Seems that brouhaha over the new Google+ platform may be triggering a tipping point in the form of “enough already!”

Another day, another social media platform, more fabulous stuff – better, faster, cooler, more now. Whatever.

George Siemens recently posted on “Losing Interest in Social Media…”  Speaking critically about social media’s societal impact and value, he wrote:

We are left then, with a small group elitist new media users, trying to build consultancy around the tools, and telling others how wonderful they are. What has social media actually done? Very, very little. The reason? Social media is about flow, not substance.

That social media is about flow, not substance, speaks to my personal concerns about social-media overload and its impact on my own work-life balance.

Awhile back,  I posted on my personal need to find “real life/virtual life” balance.   At that time, I started sensing that virtual life was negatively impacting real life, particularly around non-work stuff like spending time with family and friends, exercising and getting outdoors for hikes, etc, and just “being.”

So, to combat that, I decided to limit my time online. As Cammy Bean suggests in a recent post, I needed to Take a TechFast. I try to do a one-day mini-fast from technology every week. No PC, netbook, tablet, etc. And use my smart phone ONLY for phone calls with real, live voices. I fill the time with reading non-tech books, hang out with friends, talk to distant family, or meditate, cook, take a walk, or fuss over getting the tamping right on my new Italian espresso machine.

My next step is to work on limiting the amount of time I spend online on a daily basis. Easy to get hyper-absorbed once I log on. Time slips away, and I’m at the end of a day with fatigued eyes and a sense of bewilderment about how time flies.  Any suggestions on combating that?


Who Has Time for a Second Life?

June 14, 2008

This month’s Big Question at Learning Circuits is really three different questions around virtual world sensation Second Life.

I really couldn’t get past the first question: “In what situations, do you believe it makes sense to develop a learning experience that will be delivered within Second Life?”

My own knee jerk response to this is: “Second Life?  Hell, I barely have time and money for first life learning!” Sure, there are some interesting possibilities for SL, especially along the lines of the Plymouth example Tony Karrer describes. While SL has some awesome potential and applications, it is too time-consuming to figure how to design for it, and even more challenging for technically unsavvy audiences like the one I design for.

When I evaluate the right tool for e-learning, I think about where it fits in with a model similar to the one Clive Shepard recently posted about. He describes a model for delivering e-learning in three tiers, develped by Nick Shackleton-Jones.


At the top is high-end content that, due to it’s complexity, is expensive and often sponsored by top management (due to its expense and development time). At the bottom is user-generated content, social learning stuff. In the middle is the typical e-learning projects like tutorial, software sims, e-presentations, and the like.

So, in this model, it seems that SL kinda fits in at all three levels, depending on the design. But it’s complexity and steep learning curve (i.e., expensive!) puts it at smack at the top (I think). I don’t see how to reconcile this. I work for a huge company with a small learning group, and an even smaller e-learning team: ME!!!! I have to think hard about finding a big bang for my limited buck.

Right now, I am spending most of my time creating middle-tier e-learning. I’d like to move toward more user generated content. I can vision a much greater return on selling the power of blogs and wikis than I can virtual world tools like Second Life. Someday, maybe. Not today.

For now, I’m putting Second LIfe on hold and getting back to Real Life: A cold brew has my name on it at my favorite Seattle brew pub, where I will plan my next real life NW hike here:

Sign on Dungeness Spit, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Designing for conversation, not content

May 19, 2008

Is content king? Apparently most instructional designers think so. Maybe that mindset is why we end up with so much boring training- both classroom and online. No doubt content is important. But too often IDs spend too much time word-smithing and tweaking content at the expense of engaging design that gets people talking. Talking? Yeah, you know, conversation.

The best courses I have taken (and designed) included strategic use of conversation-based interactions that helped participants learn the content at a deeper level and make it personally relevant. Really well-done learning events, much like well-done messages of any kind,  also tend get talked about outside of the course enviornment.

Because people talk about what is relevant and important to them, we should design with that in mind.  We should design conversation into our courses (live in the classroom, or via blogs, wiki, social networking, etc). And instead of focusing on perfect content, we should figure out how to deliver it in a way that gets the learner talking about it outside the course. That’s where the real applied learning happens.

One way to do that would be to design post-course activities where participants work on projects in the field, and share their results with one another via blogs, for example. A conversation/collaboration strategy doesn’t have to be 2.0 tools only, of course. As Janet Clarey recently said, the challenge is to blend the best aspects of our current learning environments with the social learning technologies that support learning.

Back in 2006, Corey Doctorow pointed out that “Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.” While he is referring to media business (specifically Disney), we should be looking at training design, too.

Is content king? Maybe, but I say the ace of spades is conversation.

What do you think?