I’ve been actively thinking about all of the excitement I’ve been hearing recently about mobile applications for learning. I think it’s important to note that accessing performance support and learning are not the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong… I think the ways that we can provide performance support in the internet age are phenomenal. No more memorizing facts just in case you might need them. No more practicing an infrequently-needed process so it will be engraved in your brain if you had to use it. No more having to commit to long courses of study just to have enough information to hold a conversation or make basic choices in life. We don’t even need to remember phone numbers any more! Mobile apps that provide performance support are way cool, and critical to our success in an ever-changing world.
As Karl Kapp said in Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning: “Don’t educate; automate.” If we can outsource learning to performance support, let’s do it!
But most employees can’t live by performance support alone. Most of them need learning, too, and that’s different. That requires some thought and practice.
I’m not saying we don’t learn from performance support. If you follow your GPS system’s directions to Grandmom’s house a few times (spaced close enough together), you’ll probably learn the way. If you look up information in order to answer a customer question often enough, the answers will become part of your knowledge base for the future. But performance support tools aren’t designed to help you learn – they’re designed to make it easy for you to get through a task or a situation without needing to learn.
So here’s a question I’m asking myself. As a learning expert, how do I contribute to the design of performance support systems?
I’m tempted to step aside and let the performance support experts take on that challenge, but many of the learners that I hope to support are using performance support tools for informal learning. I’m guessing that there are ways to make those tools useful in that capacity that are slightly different than the ways we make performance support tools useful strictly for performance support.
Another tack I could take is to focus on simply integrating the performance support tools into a broader learning environment that also provides deeper learning tools. In other words, I could position performance support tools as learning resources and “wrap” the learning around them.
Gloria Geay brought learning professionals into the world of performance support many years ago, and folks like Allison Rosset and Bob Mosher continue to call for us to contribute in this space. I’m thinking a little research on performance support practices will help me to be more effective in supporting the design of these applications (or help me decide to leave it to other experts) as well as give me a better understanding of how to integrate them with learning.
Or maybe it’s a lot easier than I think. Your thoughts?