Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Around and around

My kids listen to AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Eminem. My girls wear bell bottom jeans, loose flowing blouses and hairbands while texting on smartphones. My son cuts his hair short, mixes rap on his laptop and carries enough music in his pocket to fill a small truck with the vinyl equivalent. Cloud storage is reviving the era of terminal based computing. Youtube has re-birthed the era of live video. And social networking has brought communication back as a revived art form.

I considered recently that the past 60 years encompass one of the longest, if not the longest, periods of multi-generational adoption of cultural norms in the last millennium. We are in a time when four generations (or more depending on who is counting) have listened to basically the same music and worn the same styles of clothing for six decades (with the exception of disco, which some of us wish had never happened in the first place). This same demographic mix has also grown up with live communication technologies like television, telephone, and radio and is now immersed with more of the same deployed through the modern infrastructure we call the Internet.

One of the fundamental differences is that the ability to contribute content to this audience is now open to anyone who has access to the Web. Democratized distribution is the name of the game. And in many cases, the content promoted by this audience is judged in a similar democratic way. The people determine what is good and what is bad; and not just by their vote, but by their own contributions of material that compete for attention by the same audience. This self regulating system drives the standards for quality of content up while simultaneously providing mechanisms for feedback and improvement by those who wish to contribute their guidance and instruction.

There is a movement afoot to take this paradigm and apply it in many areas of personal and professional life. It may be the solution to our failing educational system. Students around the globe may have the opportunity to learn from the best teachers in the world regardless of proximity. Professionals seeking knowledge and information, answers to business problems may use this network to gather information or resources to help them find solutions. And, the two may work together to share youthful perspective and out-of-the-box thinking while gaining experience from real world practice.

As we have seen over the past three score years we are a society that has elected to maintain its youthful outlook by embracing change and assimilating it as a part of our own while persisting those elements of previous generations so they might be embraced by our young. As a part of this process, the transformation of how we generate and exchange knowledge, skills and information may take time to fully understand and accept. For it is not simply an alternative to the systems we have in place today, but rather an evolutionary replacement to support our global transformation into the world of tomorrow.

- Ken

Friday, February 4, 2011

…in the other guy’s shoes

 Well, after 20 years of being the vendor, exhibitor or presenter, this past week I got to be in the other guy’s shoes. Attending the ASTD Tech Conference in San Jose was a nice diversion from my day-to-day activities as Senior Manager of Learning Technology. Granted, I was in the grand mecca of geekdom, home of Adobe, Cisco, Google and many others, but I was still on hiatus from the East Coast.

So how did the shoes fit? I guess it depended on where and what I was doing. I must say I missed the show floor. As far as the vendor gig goes, that was probably my favorite part; meeting potential customers, pitching the latest tool or service. And, during some of the presentations I yearned to be up there contributing and not just consuming. But I did enjoy the consuming. It was awesome learning from my industry peers. I even finally leared how to use hash tags in my tweets and play SCVNGR (thanks @stevier).

Another great part of going to a show like this is to see and hear what other folks are learning. I find that they ask questions I would like answers to that I didn’t know I wanted asked in the first place. The conference covered the gambit from mobile learning to advanced Googling to training on a global scale. Knowledge and information and the skills to both access and apply them are expanding at a geometric rate. It’s kind of like grains on a chess board. Start with one grain on one corner and then double each square. By the end the amount of data is overwhelming; and in the case of learning for business, the entire set of “stuff” may be different at each square. The strategies we received and discussed this week are the tip of the iceberg (to use a cliche) for what we face in the years to come.

What was also wonderful to see at the “geek” learning show, was the number of pairs of high heeled shoes in the mix. Coming from a fairly industrial sector in previous years, it was awesome to see the number of female geeks in the business. Having two daughters who both have a passion for writing and design, it is refreshing to see how progressive the learning field has become.

As I head home to potentially switching from sneakers to snow boots, I am left with fond memories of warm San Jose! Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

- Ken