Monday, July 31, 2017

The Bumblebee Effect: How Digital Learners Interact with Information - Tip #143

Bumblebees are known to be smart, agile, and purpose-driven insects. A simplified look at their life may make their actions appear to be random, but they are not.  Looking through a smaller, more specific lens, they monitor the amount of honey in the honey pot which dictates when they need to leave the nest to forage for nectar. They then return to the same flower patches using their sense of smell to draw them to the flowers that yield the best nectar while being careful to avoid the flowers that have been visited previously. They extract the nectar simultaneously while collecting pollen, and then carry it all back to their nest to be processed and stored.

Bumblebee’s behavior is purposeful, specific, sequential, and single-minded. They see a need, determine the best tool to use, follow a specific process for meeting that need, and remain prepared to repeat it all when necessary. Most notably, their learning of this process is social, and their implementation is collaborative.

How does this connect to our digital behaviors?

What is fascinating is that this, in many respects, resembles how our digital learning behaves in a highly technological enabled lifestyle. This makes the bumblebee is a very good metaphor. It demonstrates a few of the assumptions regarding how workers navigate in environments of rapid change, rapid development, and extreme demand for quick information and problem- solving.

What does Google say?

Sharing a study of our new multi-screen existence, Google found that 90% of media interactions (including tablets, smartphones, laptops, and television), are screen-based. They discovered “two distinct ways people move among screens” to get a task done. Those two ways are simultaneously and sequentially. This pattern of interaction is characterized by specific behaviors in which vacillate between specific devices as they move through the task. The use of numerous devices in tandem not only assist in them achieving a goal but is fast becoming the norm.
For example…

During a virtual meeting, a person may Skype on their laptop, sharing their screen with the team, while projecting a Google Doc that team members are actively modifying or commenting on collaboratively. Team members may also use a program like Slack to share links to sites in real-time while looking up pertinent information on their phones or tablets and may use a messaging app to communicate privately.
Each unit of technology has a specific purpose that enables team members to communicate effectively and to complete the task. Each of these tools serves a singular focus, and their use is triggered by the situation or shift in the task. The tool becomes ubiquitous as the function is a medium for the tasks rather than the purpose.
Food for thought

Are we developing our content so it can be portable across all platforms in response to or driven by the context in which it is needed? Are we developing learning the way our learners consume information? Are we engaging them in simultaneous and sequential processes that can address needs in an agile and effective way?

Think about conducting a study that assesses how your learning platform or digital tools perform. Consider these questions:

Generally, are these tools:
  • utilized or not
  • easily accessible
  • effective conductors of the desired content
  • yielding the desired results

What is the purpose behind their use? Do learners utilize these tools to:
  • keep informed
  • increase productiveness
  • stay connected
  • problem-solve

Observe how these tools are used. Are they used:
  • singularly
  • simultaneously
  • sequentially

Once you have interpreted the data, ask yourself how the design and development of content may better:
  • help workers to perform specific tasks using a variety of tools in a variety of environments
  • help workers to become familiar and comfortable with a particular workflow
  • ebb and flow according to demand and depending upon the changes in the workflow that are caused by rapid change and development
  • provide support WITHIN workers’ current workflows to learn, practice, and refine their performance or production

When we consider how our digital behaviors are in continuous evolution and how the tech-savvy worker navigates within a diverse digital world, it is critical that we create opportunities that support workers in achieving success. This comes from knowing your workforce; what is used and not used, effective and ineffective, and how the available tools are being infused into the workflow. Just as the bumblebee is purposeful, driven, and single-minded when it comes to their function within the nest - we must be diligent in understanding the needs of our workers. We must be certain we are providing the right tools and presenting the content in the right ways so that workers have the resources needed to be coherent within the workflow and to maximize their success.

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Tip #71 - Freedom to Learn and Pursue One's Expertise
Tip #129 - Why Does Microlearning Mean Better Learning?
Tip #140 - “Quick Answers are All I Need.” The Learner at Work Tells Us
Strategic Microlearning: Making Training Initiatives Keep Pace with Rapid Workflow


Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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