What Competencies do Knowledge Workers Need?

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in corporate_training, knowledge_worker | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

I am editing this post, because this month’s Biq Questions are:

  • Should workplace learning professionals be leading the charge around these new work literacies?
  • Shouldn’t they be starting with themselves and helping to develop it throughout the organizations?
  • And then shouldn’t the learning organization become a driver for the organization?
  • And like in the world of libraries don’t we need to market ourselves in this capacity?

Back to my post already in progress—

These seem to be the question of the week, they are being asked everywhere. It’s being asked at the No Straight Lines blog (this person blogs about autism too, what a coincidence!!), on the Work Literacy Blog, and we’ve been starting to talk about it at work. And now they are officially the Questions of the Month at the Learning Circuits Blog.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is what happens if we design all this interactive learning but no one uses because they don’t have the required skills to use the instructional technology? As I said in one of my last posts, I think we either have to make the technology invisible or we have to teach people to use the tools.

But more importantly, how can you design with these new tools if you don’t understand them? How can you apply them to your existing systematic learning system if you don’t know what the heck wiki even means? So, yes, learning professionals must learn and use these tools, and then apply the tools to there existing framework.

So what are “the tools”? Here’s my list

  • Wikis: How to edit, how to read, how to link to
  • RSS Feeds: What are they, how do I read one, once I have a reader set up how do I scan info collected, how do I share info using one
  • Blogs: How do I write one. Why SHOULD I write one. How do I evaluate info from one. How do I scan, collect keywords, and rescan to crystallize ideas and information?
  • Information Creation tools: Exps: Youtube, SlideShare, Flickr. How do I use. Why/When do I use.
  • Tagging: What is this? Why is it important? How do I use with content I create? How do I use to search for info I need?

These are the ones I can think of, just from interactions with my class team this semester, and from conversations I have had with co-workers. I think one of my goals this quarter will be a lunch and learn on at least one of these topics – to help get my co-workers up to speed. Maybe I’ll call it: What is a wiki and why the heck do I care?

7 Responses to What Competencies do Knowledge Workers Need?

  1. Peter Quirk says:

    All good questions, and really hard to answer given the proliferation of technologies.

    Do we teach the tools, or teach people how to learn about tools, or teach people how to teach others about their favorite tools?

    If you go down the path of teaching them tools you have to pre-select the technologies and by the time your courseware is effective the tools you chose have been eclipsed by something else.

    The toolset might have to be very rich to support certain knowledge workers. For example, to add images to a repository or blog post they may need to be taught about their digital camera software, techniques for reducing the size of the image, how to upload an image into your particular web tools, how to caption, position, add alt tags, etc. How about a non-photographic image? Do we teach them Photoshop or some other tool? What about sequences of photos, with transitions, pan & zoom? What about audio annotations and soundtracks? The list goes on, and we haven’t talked about the proper ways to represent a snapshot of a spreadsheet or of a 3D object in a CAD program.

    Then there’s video…

    So I think it’s more important to teach people how to learn tools, and to encourage others to share their learning of particular tools.

  2. A lot of “us” learned these technologies organically, as we needed to. Trying to come up with ways to teach people them all at once is going to be challenging.

    If you can come up with ways to show the results of the tools, that people who are attracted to the technology will find ways to learn the tools. Nobody cared about wikis until wikipedia came along. Nobody cared about RSS readers until information overload made them a necessity.

    I think the thing we have to be careful of is teaching the tools outside of the benefits.

  3. gminks says:

    Peter, I am using “tools” in a more generic sense. Wouldn’t you say that a basic understanding of the types of tools needed is important to get started participating in this type of learning?

    Dave, the “us” I was talking about is those of us in training. Our work environment is very different than alot of other places – for the most part we work with very technical people. Having said that, we also work with very busy people. What I am talking about in this post is starting to think about blending these technologies in with the learning we already offer. How can we do that if no one has the time (and it does take time to come up to speed) to learn this organically?

  4. Creativity is vital. Have you watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk? That’s the essence of what’s important in an information economy. Our educational system is still stuck in the industrial age.


  5. Gina,
    Thoughtful post. I would suggest that you add another goal to your list of bullet points: Critical Thinking.
    One of the major problems the knowledge workers in my organisation encounter is trust in the veracity of content distributed via social networking media.
    I work for a software development house, and the majority of employees are Java developers with varying degrees of expertise. In my experience, new hires in particular have a tendency to run to Google when they encounter a problem that they have never met before.

    Typically the Web will return hundreds of answers to their query, and many of the responses with contradict others (I’m sure we’re all familiar with this phenomenon).

    However, as novices in their craft, they tend not to have the critical faculties acquired through experience by their more senior colleagues to enable them to:

    1. Frame the question in such as way as to lower the chances of irrelevant returns and
    2. filter the responses to focus on answers that pertain to their coding problem

    So, how to identify real experts among all the online conversations? What strategies can knowledge workers implement to reduce the risk of wasting time following dead leads? As learning professionals, how do we support knowledge workers’ efforts to extract meaning and knowledge from “content”?

  6. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Gina!

    I left a comment with Tony Karrer on this theme.

    It scares me as a parent and a teacher (never mind a learner) that the debate (here and elsewhere for there’s a few blogs buzzing with this) might spiral away into another universe. There’s nothing down-to-earth that carries any weight these days, for things that are down-to-earth are labelled as 20th C or old-fashioned, modern as opposed to post-modern, inertial, etc.

    I used to think that the problem was (Sir Ken Robinson talks about this) that everyone thinks they know what learning/teaching/technology is all about. I now know that this is the problem.

    We have knowledge managers, we have technology managers, we even have learning managers (save us!) and they all seem to be so caught up in their own importance they often forget the plot. The burgeoning proliferation of technologies to do the learning doesn’t help either.

    It used to be info-whelm. Now we’ve got techno-whelm!

    Ka kite

  7. Pingback: Le competenze del Knowledge Worker « eLearning Goddess

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