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Has informal learning a chance as bosses crack down on internet socialising?

November 12th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

How ironic. I was waiting for a telephone call to IBL to talk about a discussion for Sounds of the Bazaar podcast on collaborative learning. And my eye caught this article from the Guardian technology page.

“More than 1,700 public employees have been sacked or disciplined for internet or email misuse in the past three years, our research has found.

The figures – obtained from 65 institutions – show how strongly employers are clamping down on staff who spend hours on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

Unions say that disputes over the sites are growing at a phenomenal rate and have demanded clearer guidelines for their use. Studies have shown that up to £130m a day in productivity is lost because of the sites, with Facebook’s British members spending an average of 143 minutes a month logged in.”

And I went on to have a great talk with Jaan and Agnes from Berlin about how e-collaboration tools can enhance learning – especially informal learning, boost productivity and promote innovation.

But it seems UK employers just don’t get it. To a large extent it is a question of trust – the very issue I talked with Jay Cross about in an interview a few weeks ago. Informal learning is the most powerful route to competence development and innovation in the workplace. But informal learning means trusting employees – trusting employees to usefully use their time, trusting employees to make decision, trusting employees to try out new ideas.

The public sector is probably the worst place for trust. In many organizations public sector workers are not even entitled to send emails without prior approval. Supervision rules. Why? The work culture of the public sector is still all too often rooted in Fordist ideas of production. Knowledge is carefully filtered and controlled. Strict hierarchies prevail.

I ‘m not sure even researchers and those who defend the workers get it. From the same article: “Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said that managers should be realistic. “Britain has some of the longest working hours in the developed world. Employers have created this culture. It is natural for people to have to use work computers for organising their personal life.”

Of course I agree with him. But that is not the point. Social networking is not just about organising ones social life. I certainly do not go to Facebook to arrange to meet my friends in the pub.

Social networking can be about spreading and sharing ideas, solving problems, forming and participating in communities of practice. And to all of you who say I am not being real, I suggest you study how people really use the internet n companies. Most people like to learn, they enjoy learning. Learning is a natural human activity. How sad we are so suspicious of it.

end of todays rant. Time to organise my social life. i am going to the pub.

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    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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