April 2010


With all the buzz about the iPad I find myself thinking about the implications of the device even though I hate myself for it.  I think one reason everyone is so focused on the iPad is because it hits a sweet spot in the marketplace.  The iPhone and iPad are productivity tools.  The difference is the type of productivity you are trying to achieve.  I believe the iPad is much more innovative from a productivity standpoint than the iPhone.  For that reason, I believe the impact of the iPad will be greater than the iPhone.

In my mind the iPhone was a gadget when it was first released.  Albeit a very cool gadget.  Even though users could access the Web with the iPhone they still had to adjust to the limits of the device.  Apps have increased its versatility; However, its main limits, size and connectivity, remain.  The iPad overcomes those limits.  Having more viewing area increases the number of things that can be done with it.  While the iPhone enables you to access the Web and has useful apps, it is not can never replace a desktop or laptop computer.  The iPad can’t either but it does offer improved access to online resources and the potential for more robust productivity tools.

Apple deserves credit for recognizing the potential impact cloud computing.  One of the overlooked benefits of cloud computing the iPad could exploit is customization.  Currently there are very few options when you buy a computer.  You can customize some features but most of what you purchase is standard.  The iPad challenges that assumption.  If most of what you publish and consume is online through social media you don’t need as much internal processing power.  You don’t need terabytes of internal memory because your pictures, movies, and music are all stored on a server.  You don’t need the full Office suite when most of what you publish is online.  How many people in your organization really need or use the processing power of their computer?  How would a workplace change if we could access all our data and tools online?

Both the iPhone and the iPad are ideal for informal learning interventions.  Instead of making large investments in event-driven learning or e-learning, organizations can create immersive learning experiences that are accessible at the point of need.  Blending social media with highly focused productivity apps create rich opportunities for informal learning and mentoring.  One of the challenges that confront traditional forms of learning is the gap between the learning and work environment.

Leveraging existing social networking tools and creating targeted learning interventions greatly reduces the need for formal training and can improve learning outcomes.  Lightweight development tools such as Flip cameras enable content to be created and made available faster than ever before.  Embedding learning objects such as videos or blog posts via social networking tools provides a great opportunities to improve performance.

Another way the iPad is unique is its flexibility and portability.  I tried using a tablet PC several years ago.  After a short time, I reverted to using it as a plain laptop because it was so cumbersome and heavy.  It also suffered because it did not have programs that utilized the design.  The iPad is lightweight and Apple has created a culture where developers create apps that take advantage of its unique design.

A frequent topic in learning circles has been enhancing learning through games.  I have explored the possibility of using gaming conventions to improve the learning experience and outcomes.  Some of the most popular apps for the iPhone are games.  I expect this will also be the case with the iPad.  A challenge for learning professionals is to create games that are fun and achieve a learning outcome.

I believe the iPad has the potential for creating new opportunities for learning and productivity.  By its very existence users can be more productive.  With thoughtful consideration, learning professionals can take advantage of the flexibility of the device to improve performance.  If this is possible with the first generation, imagine what will happen when when the next generation is released or a competitor enters the market.

What do you think of when you hear the word silo?  Most people know that silos are used for storage on farms.  Did you also know that there are information silos?  These exist for legitimate security reasons.  The term information silo has been used in a negative sense to describe a person or group of people who focus inward and where communication only flows vertically.  Often communication is top-down, where those closer to the bottom act or react based on what is sent down.  I will call this the silo effect.  I am confident many of you are familiar with this phenomenon.

What is the culture like where the silo effect is commonplace?  The agricultural application can shed light on this question.  The primary purpose of a silo is storage.  One definition of storage says the act of storage is to keep items safe.  Can we always keep something safe?  Should we?  What are the implications of playing it safe?

Another purpose of a silo is to preserve contents for later use.  Preservation often requires the silo to be sealed.  This prevents light and air form coming in contact with the silo’s contents.  This preserves grain but it causes information to rot.  If information never sees the light what use is it?  Even grain stored in an airtight silo can decay and lose its usefulness.  The same applies to workplace silos.  Information is only effective if people have access to it.  This requires information to be active, flowing up and down.  If it doesn’t move, it decays and loses its usefulness.  The marketplace is constantly changing and information is constantly moving.  Access to current information is a critical success factor.  The farther away from the information source a person is, the longer it takes to respond and benefit.

How do we keep information from decay?  One way is to use a “first in, first out” approach.  Many silos have two access points, at the top and the bottom.  Grain is put in at the top and taken out at the bottom.  The grain put in first is the first taken out at the bottom.  This prevents the grain from sitting too long and spoiling.  We all have mechanisms for taking information in.  Do we have a mechanism for moving it out?  Do we have a way of deciding where or to whom it should go?  Do you need input from others to get the most out of the information?

What are your information sources?  Does information sit when it comes to you?  How do you access current information?  How do you know what you are receiving is fresh?  Does information come to you or do you go to get it?

What experiences have you had with the silo effect?  Do you have any tips for preventing the silo effect?

Today I started reading The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge.  Last week I asked the question, “How does an organization become a learning organization?”  My search caused me to explore the role social networks play in creating a learning culture.  When I mention “social networks” in this context I am referring to all kinds of social networks, not just technology-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

I was not sure this book would be relevant to current thinking because it was published in 1990.  If the first chapter is any indication, I expect to get some good insights from the book.

Has anyone read this book?  If so, please share your thoughts.  But don’t spoil the ending.

At some point I will explain why I chose Svenonia.  For now it will have to remain a mystery, except to those who already know the story.

The point of this blog is to engage in a dialogue on social networking and learning.  I am guilty of using blogs to find information but not to share.  In my defense, I never thought anyone was really interested in reading my thoughts on a given subject.   That never stopped me from getting out my soapbox.  I vow not to rant.  Hopefully the discipline of typing will help me resist the urge.  If I ever start ranting you have permission to call me on it.

Blogs are about dialogue.  We will probably have differences of opinion.  In fact, my experience shows that most people find it easy to disagree.  I am no different.  I believe differing views enable productive dialogue to occur.    To make this a pleasant experience for everyone please respect the views of others.  If you disagree with a post let me know, but do it politely.

One purpose for this blog is for me to learn.  I have strong views about many things.  But I am also a product of my experience.  Please bear that in mind if you have occasion to correct me.  It will add to my experience and we both will be better for it.

Be original.  We all have unique points of view.  Contribute what you really think.  Please don’t be offended if I don’t end up agreeing with you.

Share.  There is no way I can keep up on everything.  If you see something you think I would be interested in post it.

That’s all I have for now.  Please post any tips or requests that you think will help.