Are we closer to defining Charting?

In CA, we’ve been thinking about how we would each describe Charting in an attempt tie down the definition of this concept once and for all. After writing a first draft and then trying to incorporate additional ideas from Allison and Anoush, this is what I have come up with:

The modern workplace has changed in a number of ways:

  • process innovation and optimisation means that knowledge work now consists primarily of innovating, adapting existing knowledge and resources, and synthesising existing and new knowledge to create new solutions and outputs.
  • as a consequence of this, a key attribute of knowledge workers is that they must be self-regulating, able to adapt their behaviour and operate autonomously, as well as being able to work in teams taking and ceding leadership as required.
  • knowledge age tasks are fundamentally interdisciplinary, with transient teams containing a unique combination of experts coming together to solve problems then dispersing once they have fulfilled their shared objectives.
  • ultimate responsibility for career planning resides with the individual, who needs to manage their own development integrating it with their  current practice and responsibilities.

Within this context, how can an individual’s learning be supported in such a way that it benefits the individual and fits with the norms and existing practices of the modern knowledge workplace?

  • Informal workplace learning is inherently tied to and therefore cannot occur in isolation from the work practices which form the core of an individual’s activity.
  • As these work practices are fundamentally collaborative, it follows that learning in the workplace will have some dependency on peers and colleagues within and beyond the workplace. Learning is social, and involves dialogue.
  • For the individual, learning emerges from the processes of planning, organising and making sense of what you have done (achieved) and what you want to do (achieve), therefore systems to support learning should support the individual  in planning organising, recording, reflecting on and sharing  their practice, as well as in learning with other learners within their group.

Charting is the process whereby an individual manages and optimises their interaction with the people and resources who (may) have a role in their learning and development. The expectation is that for a knowledge worker, learning is inseparable from work, and therefore charting tools would be closely integrated with the rest of the tools which an individual uses to conduct their work.

A Charting system would therefore form one component of an individual’s Personal Work and Learning Interface (a unified view , perhaps adopting a Netvibes or iGoogle type interface) which allows the individual to engage effectively with the collective. This environment should allow them to:

  • Discover and Consume knowledge and resources created by others, leveraging value from the collective.
  • Connect with others who share interests or goals to develop ideas,  share experience, provide peer-support, or work collaboratively to achieve shared goals.
  • Create new knowledge (structures) >by combining and extending sources (people and resources and personal reflections etc) to create a dynamic, faithful and individually focused view of the knowledge and understanding they possess about a given topic,  and how different topics inter-relate within their personal world-view. This sense-making process is continual, and ensures that the knowledge space evolves with the ideas of the individual, their network and the whole collective.
  • Contribute new knowledge back to the networkformally (as reports, publications, and other standalone artefacts) and informally (as reflections, ideas, ratings and other context-dependent content) for the benefit of either a local group or the whole collective.

Charting tools would allow the individual to interact with these different elements of their environment in such a way as to allow them to support learning (planning, organising, connecting, recording and reflecting) alongside their day to day practice. Charting systems will incorporate typical tools for:

  • consuming: dashboards, RSS readers, drop-boxes,
  • connecting : email and chat, vc, social media functionality, presence indicators, shared spaces.
  • creating: shared document authoring, online storage, social bookmarking tools, search knowledge structuring tools, activity streaming tools
  • contribute: blogging and micro-blogging tools, knowledge structure visualisation tools (to see how others have organised their knowledge).

In addition, specific Charting tools might include

  • rich goal setting tools to act as organisers for projects and ideas,
  • smart-tagging tools which integrate with colleague networks and disparate repositories of knowledge/information to provide a single point of entry for knowledge structured around their individual conception of their knowledge space,
  • recommender systems etc. to promote appropriate tools and resources from elsewhere in the collective and similarity tools to identify patterns in knowledge acquisition and structuring
  • specialised search tools to allow searching of others with similar goals, others who have used similar resources etc. Search should be integrated across knowledge types and sources with smart-tagging tools to suggest tags and encourage cross-linking where appropriate.
  • tools to integrate charting within existing work practices.

Getting closer. I hope.

Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

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