Learn, Teach, or Get out of the Way

I’ve been noticing tweets flying by on my twitterdeck today that mock organizations’ desire to implement, manage and measure social learning.  I’ve been noticing how difficult it is to entice people to collaborate in a community.  I’ve also been noticing how little real interaction happens in many of the “learning” experiences I’m attending, whether a class here at UMBC, for work – or even for quilting.

A phrase I’ve heard, “Lead, follow or get out of the way,”  keeps running through my head, twisted a bit into “Learn, teach or get out of the way.”  Why do trainers and instructional designers insert themselves unnecessarily between the learner and the content by over-designing courses, strictly following an agenda despite the learners’ real needs or not having time for questions or discussion?  Or by really letting learners try things out and construct new knowledge from both successes and failures?  Why do people let fear of looking inept keep them from learning new technology and ways to learn and work?  I think those of us who incorporate informal learning – technology assisted or not – into our learning experiences will be way ahead of the game.  And as learners, we need to get over the discomfort that comes with unfamiliar territory and trust that we’ll “get it.”  I think Jeannette has modeled this beautifully in this class.  She’s taught us a lot, but often has been most effective by getting out of the way so we can learn from ourselves and our community.


4 thoughts on “Learn, Teach, or Get out of the Way

  1. What excites me so much about informal learning is the way that gives everyone the tools to create new knowledge at the edges. And the edges are where change and transformation happens! Success and failure don’t really exist here..it truly is the realm where we can dwell in possibility. We must accept the challenge to explore and expand … to be motivated by our fear to push through and indeed, to trust that we will “get it”…until the next challenge is laid before us.

  2. I’m glad your referred to incorporating informal learning into our learning experiences. I get very nervous when I see comments about informal learning that that implies that it is an alternative to formal learning. There is a place for informal learning, just as there is a place to learn by experimentation and failure. Some things are only really learned by doing it wrong first. BUT imagine learning multiplication by failure or experimentation. You could get there but it would take years! We all hate memorization and formal (read boring and repetitive) learning like this. But sometimes it is the most effective. An ISDer must identify what will work. Its not about how to apply formal or informal learning to an instructional application. Its about about identifying the needs and determining WHAT method(s) will work. If you choose the right methods you have won half the battle. You can develop (or perhaps overdevelop) the curriculum but since you are using the right methods people will not be starting out frustrated. As bad as training that is over controlled is, it is better than a class where the ‘leader’ is not sure where to go and the students don’t know either. (Or the teacher assumes the students know and forgets to give basic instruction.)
    It’s a fine line! 😉

    • Steve, I don’t think the increased focus on informal learning will completely displace formal learning any more than e-learning eliminated instructor-led live training. Informal learning has been around forever; it’s just that new tools are giving us a chance to harness it in a way that serves our organizations’ interests. Another fine line. But you’re absolutely right that it’s our job to be constantly adding tools, ideas and concepts to our repertoire – and intentionally match the tool to the need.

  3. I know in our organization, we need to get off the idea that learning is from one-time, one-off events. Learning should be lifelong or at least career long. If you think of what you have to learn (a skill, using a new tool, etc.) in a single event, of course there will be fear of failure from the learner. If we as the ISD or trainer think of just this one-time event we have the learner’s attention, then we are going to structure and over design it to get the very last drop of learning out of it. 🙂

    I like the informal learning tools because now I see ways we can connect formal one-time learning events to build a learning pathway for people. If you know you have a workshop as well as online discussions later to learn and master a skill, it takes some pressure off. If as the ISD, I know I’ll have their attention in a twitter feed later, it takes presure off me to cram so much into the workshop.

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