Sunday, August 31, 2008

40 Hours Work Week

One day last week at about 4:30pm, I was at work and I felt a little lethargic. However, in the morning I was up and perky and was in optimal performance gear. I came in at 10:00am (late, my usual time is about 8:30) and by 4:30 I was feeling like I needed my day to be done. Is something wrong with me? Do I need vitamins? Or Is something wrong with the 40 hours work week?…According to this model even though I don’t feel optimal I should force my self to work 2 more hours to ensure that I fulfill the 8 hours per day; which for some is minimum, as they often work longer hours.

Where did it all start?

I went to Google … I Google everything. I wanted to find out what was the significance of the number 40. Was it that psychology research proved that within this time frame we perform best?

Let’s deviate for a moment…don’t worry the detour is not too far off our topic route: Have you ever wondered why phone numbers have 7 digits after the area code or why social security numbers, phone numbers etc are grouped..Well in my Psychology class I learnt that studies proved that our short term memory can store between 5 and 9 items (Chunks or individual) at a given time. This was then used to come up with what is called the Miller’s Magic number 7 using a range of -2 or +2.
So back to our 40 hours per week…I am wondering if the 40 hours came about the same way.

I found a great article “Does the 40 hour work week need Overhauling” that explains it all for the American culture. In summary:

  • It started with the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938
  • This act cut the work week from 60 hours to a maximum 44 per hours week. (Wow can you believe this?)
  • Seven years later it was changed to 40 hours per week.

The reality

Well quite startling, studies have shown that people are working more than 40 hours per week in America. Employers are hiring fewer people to do more work. The explanation was that they are trying to save on providing health care benefits and pension….oh well trying to save at the risk of employees health….does that make sense?…When people get overworked they are more prone to be ill.

Despite this there are others who are plain workaholics and don’t feel good unless they work more. Others have no family obligations or social life so instead of going home to the walls of their home they consume themselves with work.

The Slacker Phenomenon

What is interesting is that in some working environment putting in quality time for 8 hours and leaving when the time is up is considered slack. Geeky mom’s blog post titled “The-40 hour work week” highlights this phenomenon. She mentions that some people even though they are done with work stay back and put in ‘face’ time to prevent being seen as a slacker.


Balance is important but hard to create. However, my ideal working environment is one that is output based. Give me a project, give me a deadline and I work at my own pace. Geeky Mom’s post asserts the same preference. Click here to read how one IT worker cuts his time from 80-100 hours per week to 40 hours.


Gartner has an article that predicts by 2015 there will be 20 hour work week job descriptions to accommodate skilled high quality workers who need to balance work and social/family life.

  • How many hours do you typically work per week?
  • What are some ways to balance work and family/social life?
  • What do you think about the 2015 prediction?

Please Share!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Information Processing

As I have said in previous post, I have been assigned to lead a wiki project. However, I am part of a bigger team that involves creating a website as well. With SharePoint in the picture the concepts that we have of each has to be slightly adjusted to fit the mold that this platform provides. We have an even bigger challenge as even though the two projects are separate they are not exclusive. The website will contain links to pages on the wiki and vice versa. Below is an outline of the process so far and some internal challenges that we have encountered.

The Decision Making process

In order to decide what should go on the wiki the following steps were taken:

  1. The executive team went through a period of brain storming of categories.
  2. The results of the brain storming process were put in a diagram
  3. Each team lead (Members of the executive body) discussed the categories with their individual teams and solicited feedback, whether the categories made sense, additions etc.
  4. Each team member was asked to show the categories to their managers and get feed back as well.
  5. The executive team discussed all the feedback and decided what was feasible and what made sense.
  6. The initial categories diagram was updated to reflect feedback and decisions.
  7. The executive team met again and finally discussed and approved the categories

NB: During this process decisions were made about what content would be best for the website and what would be best for the wiki as well.


So it’s data collection time and confusion has started. The same people who were in the executive team meetings when decisions were made and questions were asked start asking questions that should have been asked during the decision making process. However, during the meetings they nodded their heads in agreement and never voiced their opinions. Some of the questions that they are now asking are questions like “why was this category included?” and make comments like “this category don’t make any sense” , “This is unnecessary”, “We need to pick what goes on the site, we cant accommodate everyone”. So my question is, were these people sleeping in the executive meetings when we were asked to examine the categories and pick what is feasible and what made sense?

Application to teaching and learning

This really brought home to me, how important it is to clarify and confirm learners’ understanding. The truth is being exposed to knowledge does not mean it is processed. Thus we have to make sure that we assess students learning and assess it in a way that will give valid results. For example, if I wanted learners to use MS Excel to build a gantt chart, asking them to tell how it’s done or do a multiple choice quiz may not be a good assessment. Giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the skill is what is necessary.

So we are in the meeting and we assume that everybody understand why the decisions were made and they agree. Who knows maybe they too thought it made sense. Notice when the issues came up, when they had to pay close attention to the information, when they were required to use it. The same is for our learners we have to draw their attention and give them opportunities to use the information in order for learning to be effective.

Project Management Lessons Learned

I once read a book that said when in brain storming or decision making meetings everybody should speak and I now agree. As the persons who are raising the questions now are persons who spoke very few words in the meetings. Thus meaningful comments should be solicited from all.

I was rather upset when all the email threads started coming, but now I think it’s just obvious that the goals and decisions of the project were not understood by all and all were not in agreement. The good thing is that it has been brought in the open before the project advanced. Therefore as project managers or anybody in leadership we have to ensure that the people involved understand and getting a “I understand” is not good enough. We have to come up with creative ways of effectively passing on the vision and soliciting feedback.

What are some of the ways you use to assess learning?

How do you know that your students understand?

In project management how do you confirm if participants understand the goals and task?

Please Share!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on SharePoint

SharePoint Complaints Community
Thanks to web 2.0: I love it!! Collaboration and useful information at your finger tips…….
After I made my post yesterday, I went in search of some answers to our SharePoint problems. I found Lawrence Liu’s blog that had people complaining from 2007 till now. He acknowledges that SharePoint wiki is not the best breed of wiki, and I guess we should look at the bigger functionality and value that SharePoint offers…..just in case you are not familiar with SharePoint watch this SharePoint Demo.

Poor excuses
I hope that Microsoft (MS) looks in to the complaints and make the necessary changes to the new version. Even though it has been acknowledged that it’s not the best breed of wiki, I am still very disappointed and it is hard to believe that MS would release a product that leaves out the core characteristics/functionality that defines the technology….I’m sorry it is just crazy. I guess the wiki functionality was not a priority in their package.

Towards the end of the complaints solutions were proposed on Lawrence Liu’s blog. In addition KM space blog offers a free plug in solution called Office connector in the post What to Do with SharePoint wikis
Tia also posted about Central Desktop check out the review of that.

Well we just need to examine our options and see which tool best meets our goals and budget. The answer may be a combination, what makes it even better is that a lot of vendors are allowing third party monopoly around here!

What other solutions are out there?

Please Share

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wiki fever

For some of us a wiki is a term and technology that has been in existence for a while now and for others the term is new. However, most have heard of the popular Wikipedia, well wiki is the technology behind this dynamic encyclopedia.

So what is a wiki?

In a nutshell it’s an internet based tool that enables easy content collaboration. For a super nice and easy to understand video explanation please view Wikis in Plain English from the Common Craft.

Why the fever?
Now that we understand what a wiki is, I can continue to spread my fever. For my internship, one of the projects that we are undertaking is a wiki and I am leading the project. Several of the interns were not familiar with the term wiki before or the value that it can provide so I am trying to be wiki champion.....let's see how that goes.

Where I Caught it!
I was introduced to the concept of a wiki about two years ago, when the university I worked with started using it as a documentation tool for the learning management system (LMS)...I saw how it was very useful as a collaboration tool.Then I used PBwiki for a class last semester and I found it very user friendly and effective, in fact it does not require any syntax for linking pages, you can just select existing page names from a drop down menu. It has been listed among the top tools for 2008.

SharePoint: Unfamiliar Territory

For my internship project we are using another platform, SharePoint, which I have no clue about......makes this project even more interesting. We are in the process of experimenting with it, but it seems like some of the basic wiki navigations that we are use to are not present.
  • What has your wiki experience been?
  • What are some of the best practices?
  • Have you used SharePoint wiki?
Please Share!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conquering the dumb feeling!!

I am presently doing a Co-operative education program and I have been assigned to work with the team that provides training and eLearning development. Great opportunity to learn what occurs in the real world….not only skill set but culture. I have working experience but in academia, not corporate.

When I came another Co-op was here already, he is a Computer Science major and has done a wonderful job of designing and developing the team’s website…..which I am expected to maintain. I only had a basic understanding of HTML, so training was provided by this awesome Co-op and he did a very good job.

So what’s up with the title of this post……? So he’s leaving (his term has ended…back to school time) and everyone is emphasizing make sure you know what to do when he leaves… being the Instructional Designer that I am….I arranged a meeting with him about 2 weeks ago and brainstormed with him all the possible types of things on the website that may need editing and how to go about doing them….he provided me with this information….this approach was good as things came up during the process where he had to provide me with links and references, and also get access to files etc.

Based on the emphasis on the fact that I need to know what to do…..I am scared that something may come up and I don’t know how to fix it. Attending a class on HTML does not really make you identify and trouble shoot problems easily, this comes with experience…..which I don’t have. So I am feeling dumb and afraid of what will happen when he leaves.

The same fear and anxiety that I am experiencing happens to a lot of learners, fear that after learning the material they may not be able to apply effectively; fear of not being able to learn……how do we deal with this? So I was discouraged and I went into my shell and crawled back out with the following:

  • I will continue to read up on HTML and actually try to create my own site (I actually did one at school, but using Dreamweaver’s Design view…..I see where coding can help improve it)
  • I will not be afraid of not knowing as it is human and I have made a concerted effort to acquire as much as I can.
  • I will not attempt to be as great as this awesome Co-op in the capacity that he has performed as our skill sets are different. What I can do is use my skill set to make a valuable contribution in the capacity that I can.
  • I will not be afraid to venture in a situation where learning new knowledge/skills is integral and in the process I may feel dumb……who cares everybody had to learn at some point.

( Ok …..I am working on the last part…’s hard…..I hate feeling dumb).

  • Am I the only one who has felt like this?
  • Am I being too sensitive?
  • What else can I add to my “Crawl out of shell insight” list?

Please share!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is Instructional Design?

I have had a lot of ‘what?’ reactions when people ask me what’s my major and I respond Instructional Design & Learning Technologies. Well it’s becoming more popular but the name I guess has not formed its way among the popular/familiar career fields. Nevertheless, the response usually gives me an opportunity to explain what the field is all about; however they still ask the follow up, “So what can you do with that after you are finished…teach?” Well Tom has come to the rescue with a very simple but effective blog entry “What Everybody Ought to Know about Instructional Design”

  • What responses do you get when you tell people Instructional Design is your major or profession?
  • What are the views of the masses about the value of instructional design?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wearing more than one hats

I have just completed a self paced course on managing instructional development. This course combined the concepts and principles of Instructional Design with Project Management. The course was self paced, not my preferred style of learning, but it was convenient and enough resources were provided for us to cope. The structure of the course captured Cathy Moore’s idea of allowing learners to ‘wing it.’

The course assessment was based on case scenarios of real projects. While doing the readings I felt lost and sometimes a bit overwhelmed, however after the course was completed I felt confident that if given the tasks to do in a real working environment I would not be as clueless as I was before.

The course brought home to me that Instructional Designers need to have project management skills as well. It is reflective of how the working world has evolved, it is unacceptable to be one dimensional and job descriptions are less defined. One has to be able to wear more than 1 hats….that’s just the fact.

What are the essential competencies of a good instructional designer?

Are there competency models out there for instructional designers?

What do they look like?

Please share some!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Not a 'techie' : An Instructional Designer's Dilemma

Seeing that I have made, my new resolution today to record my knowledge findings and revive my blog.....yeah!, I am excited.....guess why? Because I am doing this because I want to.

I am doing my internship in a corporate environment, IT department and more and more I see the advantage of an instructional designer who has a technical background as well.

Once I thought it was ok to just have an awareness of the technology trends in education and maybe even learn how to use some of the tools, but now I feel the need to be technical.

I guess you are wondering, what exactly do I mean by technical? Having a computer/technology related background. I guess I am feeling pressured because I am in an IT department. Well if you sense that I am confused, that's because I am. On second thought I think I am fine as some people here did not know what a wiki is and I would consider them to be more technical than me. So even though I don't have a clue about setting up databases, programming languages, I am knowledgeable about the tools that are available for teaching and learning and the value they can add.

I have concluded now, my mind is clear!The instructional designer just needs to be aware of the various technologies available, how they may be used to enhance learning and possibly how to use the tools....leave the rest to the programmers etc.