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Learning Circuits Big Question — follow-up

October 11, 2006

The big question follow-up: So what can we do about it?

Here is the new question:

If you think it’s important that everyone be blogging, how do we get there? If you agree the goals that I’ve just listed are important, but blogs aren’t the answer. What is?

As I noted in my previous post on this subject, I don’t think it’s important that everyone be blogging. In fact, the longer I think about this, the less I like the idea. Here is what I keep coming back to – what does it mean to be a professional? And what does it means to be a typical elearning professional in a corporate setting?

It seems to me that the average elearning professional in the US is likely working for a corporation, and their primary mandate is to meet the business needs and goals of whoever is paying their salaries. Their primary goal is not career development or professional development, it’s business impact. Insofar as blogging helps us achieve the latter, I think it’s great. Insofar as it achieves the former at the expense of the latter, I think we need to question our priorities.

The mere fact of being a knowledge worker doesn’t entitle us to prioritize our time to the benefit of our own professional growth at the expense of company goals. If my primary job is administering an LMS or delivering instructor-led training or developing PSS, then how would blogging factor-in exactly? I don’t mean “what might they blog about?” – that would be self-evident. What I mean is “how would blogging help them perform their core jobs more effectively or efficiently?” How would blogging help them deliver greater business value? I’m pretty sure that these elearning professionals wouldn’t be allowed to surf Fark all day at work, and by the same logic, they shouldn’t be blogging all day at work either. While one certainly has more value than the other (and I’ll let you decide which : ), if neither contributes to some sort of bottom-line business impact, they are equally a waste of time as far as the business is concerned.

Different rules apply of course if you are a consultant or a vendor or if you are willing to contribute on your own dime and on your own time. And maybe different rules apply outside the US. I agree with most of Tony’s points about the value of blogging to the individual, I’m just not sure I agree with its value to the business, particularly when it’s phrased as “everyone.” Organizations will not benefit if every one of their learning professionals is spending 2 hours per week blogging. In some large organizations, this may mean 600 hours per week spent blogging or some 30,000 hours per year. I think it’s safe to say that with 30,000 hours, an organization could design a learning or performance initiative that might have more impact than the results associated with blogging.

As to how else to achieve and practice the professional characteristics Tony mentioned:

  • being self-reflective,
  • being collaborative,
  • being rigorous in supporting our positions,
  • open to feedback,
  • understanding our point of view and learning to share it,
  • working knowledge of new technologies

there are lots of ways. But first, it’s worth noting that blogging will not magically endow you with these characteristics. In many ways, I think a desire to blog about elearning probably means you already possess many of these traits, which is really sort of a wish-list of elearning professionalism. If you are doctor, you probably already have an interest in helping people and in exploring and learning about complex subjects and maybe a fair degree of detective-like, analytical thinking skills. You get the idea. In other words, you possess the professional traits one would expect of someone in the “doctoring” profession.

The folks who have self-selected blogging likely possess the traits that would lead them to blogging. Just as the universe happens to have favorable physical laws that lead to the formation of people who then marvel at how weird it is that the universe happens to favor the formation of people, we now have bloggers who believe that people should blog so that they will possess the traits of bloggers which is what led them to blogging in the first place. Do we blog so we can be blogger-like or are we blogger-like and therefore blog? Ok, I’m clearly having too much fun with this.

As to other ways to achieve this sort of Zen-like self-reflection in collaborative openness and communal sharing of future technologies? How about talking with colleagues within your organization over lunch? Better yet, during the design of the next learning initiative. Or maybe during an elearning conference? Or by commenting on other people’s blogs or through listservs or bulletin board style interactions?

Is there something about authoring a blog which imbues it with more importance or significance than a verbal dialog with peers? I suppose there is the permanence factor and the ability for a larger, wider debate. Of course, with this, you also lose intimacy. Do I learn more from strangers who tell me my design “sucks” or do I learn more from peers who tell me my design “could use some work”? I don’t know. What is unique about blogs is the idea of “putting yourself out there” – “these are my words and thoughts for good or for ill. This is what I believe at this moment.” And in that sense, a blog requires more rigor perhaps than a discussion, more clarity of mind and more internal self-reflection about what “what I really think” on a particular subject. But I’m not sure that this is an artifact of my writing a “blog” or just the fact that I’m writing. I suppose either way, the impact is the same. To derive the same unique benefits of blogging, there may be no choice but to publish and distill the cacophony of everyday thinking into the coherency of the written word.

Which of course leads to the question – what does a typical elearning professional need to think so deeply about anyway? For the typical elearning professional, are there enough, “boy I really need to think through this subject” situations on a daily or weekly basis to justify the time and energy of creating and maintaining a blog? I have no idea, but I’d be curious as to what others think.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Dave Lee permalink
    October 12, 2006 6:14 am

    Hey David. thanks for join in our little virtual discussion. One quick FYI, on the post you quote in your post, it was me and not Tony who wrote it. I just don’t want to put words in Tony’s month that he may not agree with.

    For the most part, I’m in agreement with you. As I pointed out in my first post over on my blog eelearning, while there are indeed may positive things that blogs are proving they can do, they are hard work and take time. I know I have a hard time finding time to do extracurricular tasks at work and blogging certainly isn’t in the 9 to 5 priority list.

    But what I’ve been intriqued with recently is the possible role that blogs might play in leadership development or team development activities. So much of what makes a great leader is exactly the stuff that is practically impossible to teach in a classroom or even collaborative learning environment. Being self-reflective, beinging able to adapt your work style to various situations, understand the broad nature of any business’s operations and knowing people in distant parts of the company are all skills grat leaders possess and happen to be skills that a blog could help develop. Just my thoughts. welcome aboard The Big Question, David!

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