Sunday, October 30

Navigating the Lag of Death

Technology is always, at best, two steps forward, one step back. But the more comfortable you are with the technology, the more you can take advantage of the good and mitigate the bad (although too much comfort can blind you to the bad, but that's another point).
One of the trickiest parts of producing a learning program is to navigate what I will call the lag of death. This is the difference (or delta, if I am feeling insecure) between the comfort level of learning program sponsors and learning program users.
Typically, the less mature technology people have a greater comfort in short term predictability, command and control, processes, certification, ease of use, eveness of distribution, and risk mitigation. The more mature technology people have a greater belief in communities, engagement, richness of experience, and short term chaos leading to long term order, uneven distribution, and person responsibility.
Navigating this lag of death is tricky, high stakes, and critical. But it increasingly has to be done if we are to thrive.

* note: this chart is a back-of-the-napkin sketch, more thematic than specific. I look forward to enriching it based on the comments of others.


Harold Jarche said...

Lag of death - Moore's chasm; it's the challenge of being leading edge but not bleeding edge and not so late that you're a dinosaur.

Just because something is better doesn't mean that people will adopt it. I think that a prime factor in this lack of uptake and lack of pioneering spirit is the school system, which emphasizes conformity. The corporate/institutional cultures of risk-aversion don't help much either. For instance, wiki adoption (on the far side of your curve) by the young can be very easy, because they don't have any learning/cultural baggage to slow them down.

I like your graphic, as it's always good to have another metaphor.

Q: What's a metaphor?
A: To keep cows in (it's a pun ;-)

Donald Clark said...

Actually, technology does not drive interactivity or engagement -- learning strategies or methods do. Depending on the strategy used, a flipchart can be more engaging than a wiki.

Thus it is not really the "mature technology people" who who drive engagement, experience, etc., but rather the mature learning strategists.

An inmature learning strategist invites the learner to have a receptive response to a wiki or flipchart. While a mature learning strategist uses methods that create active, social, cognitive, and/or constructive processes within the same wiki or flipchart.

Dave Lee said...

While I agree with Harold that our schools, for the most part, emphasize conformity and corporations are risk adverse, to blame schools and corporations for the gap between innovation and widespread adoption is simplistic.

Blaming our schools has become the answer to all the ills of society. If formal learning contributes such a small part of what we come to know, how can they have such a big impact?

Of course corporations are risk adverse. It's pretty well established in the organizational dynamics world that organizations seek to maintain the status quo. The larger the organization, the tougher change becomes.

And then there are other factors that drive consumer adoption of innovation.

I'd characterize myself as an early adoptor, in Moore's terms. But even I have my limits. I still have yet to connect a webcam to any of my computers, I'm slowly ramping up my use of Flickr,and just today I turned down an invitation to use Google Voice Messaging (I already have Skype and Yahoo).

Why am I risking being labeled a laggard in these area? Because, Mr. Kotter, "my brain's full!" I also realized that too many of the things "I know how to do" I really didn't have competence that even came close to being mastery. So I'm trying to develop a bit more depth isn some areas rather than adding to what I barely know.

To the webcam salesmen of the world I just don't get it. I'm behind the curve. If there are too many Dave Lee's out there and webcam sales would plummet. (another reason it's a good thing there's only one of me.)

Moving an innovation through Clark's Lag of Death or Moore's Chasm must be done on a individual innovation basis. It's messy stuff and those of us who live on the edge of it probably are best to learn to cope with the constant disruptive nature of the environment we live in or find a new place to live.

Harold Jarche said...

I agree with Dave that my statement was a bit simplistic, but I cannot wonder how much more innovative our societies would be if we didn't put the majority of the population through a twelve-year probationary period on how to conform to an education "system". Smart kids learn how to use the system, many kids are failed by the system and a few bright ones succeed in spite of the system. At the end of this formal education period we then magically expect young adults to be innovative. It's a tribute to the human spirit that we have innovation in the arts, culture, business etc, in spite of our "one size fits all" education systems.

So Dave finds it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. So do I. But what if we had started our lives in a fast-paced learning environment? Would we be able to adapt to current changes that much better? Would we have better meta-cognitive strategies? I don't blame the education system for all of our problems, but I do blame all of us for accepting mediocrity in how we help our children to learn [end rant].

Peter Isackson said...

Dave asks, "If formal learning contributes such a small part of what we come to know, how can they have such a big impact?"

One answer to that is that education has a big impact on what we come NOT to know because we are only judged on our learning of what was taught. What we "know" is seen only as what we need to show we know to get passing grades. Students who understand that are successful because they work more on the show than the know. This kind of knowing is quickly forgotten because it has already served its unique purpose of getting the best grade possible.

One of the worst tendencies of eLearning has been to replicate this model ("show you know") rather than develop and extend the model of the trainer who leads learners into a new world of reflection, exploration, experimentation and critical thinking (that is, if, as Don points out, the trainer is also a learning strategist).

Oscar Wilde got it right when he said, " Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."

Dave Lee said...

I realized after my previous comment that I had left myself open to the accusation of giving our education system a pass. I'm glad Harold and Peter (or others) didn't pounce on that opening. I agree with you both that our educational system has not prepared us well for the world we find ourselves in. Although I do worry that we are letting hindsight judge our predecessors for not predicting what has since happened.

From what I know of today's younger generations, I'm not so sure that they're facileness with new technologies has anything to do with their schooling. They love of chat and online games is more likely self-learned than it is school taught. I could be wrong here and would love to hear from our readers who live in the k-12 environment. Are our schools adapting to the new world? or are students opting to "learn around" the schools?

Harold Jarche said...

My boys are definitely learning around the system. Almost all of the teachers are scared of any Internet technologies (and they're younger than I am).

Today my son said that the new computers in his school had only Open Office installed. I thought that this was a sign of progress, showing that the school was investing more in the pedagogy than the technology. However my son told me how the teacher was quite upset that they didn't have the "superior" PowerPoint and that the teacher was hoping that funds would be freed up to buy more Microsoft software.

I'm not against MS, but I'm not impressed that the tech teacher cannot see the value in using free open source tools to teach concepts & principles, instead of focusing on the mastery of a specific proprietary technology.

Our boys (ages 11 & 13) don't care which software they use. They are interested in learning new tools and want to do so at a fast rate. My eldest son is learning how to do the basics of word processing at school, but at home is designing his own games and video animations. Anecdotal; but I believe it is close to the norm here in Atlantic Canada.

Donald Clark said...

I would say our educational system has done a very good job of preparing us for the world we live long as you are NOT poor. Take the poor out of the national averages and we are at or near the top when it comes to math and sciences scores -- and these are the very scores that are going to predict how well we use technology!

Of the industilized nations, only Mexico has a higher percentage of impoverished youth than we do. Our plan for helping the impoverished has been to do it via the schools, but it is simply too much for them. We are simply trying to dump all of society's problems on the educational system because we are unwilling to spend the resources.

In addition, the poor remain in predominately poor schools, while the middle-class and rich attend schools that are mostly composed of their peers -- the middle-class and rich. Yet when impoverished children attend middle-class schools, they do much better because of the role models that surround them.