In an effort to counter the effects of jet lag when i fly to the conference next week, i’ve been getting up ever earlier in the morning. Singapore is nine hours ahead of me here in England, a painful transition meaning that my midnight is their nine AM. Today i was up at four and out walking soon after and, let me tell you, the world is a very different place.
By habit, i am a night owl. I would much rather be up late at a gig than up early to catch a train, so heading to bed at nine PM is a struggle. But, to compensate, there’s a whole world of people and views available to me in the pre dawn light that i normally miss.
It seems as though Westbourne is serviced at around five AM. Garbage trucks, telephone engineers, greengrocers, coffee shop proprietors, all seem hard at work at this time. Whilst it’s alien to me, this is their reality.
In learning design, we need to understand the everyday reality of the learner: if their reality is getting up to start work at five AM, we need to understand this. The only thing i know with relative certainty is that their reality is unlikely to me like mine, so i need to do some work to tell any kind of story effectively.
Somewhat like a newspaper pitching it’s editorial choices to their readership, so we need to pitch our learning design to our learners, and a core part of this is understanding their reality: are they used to formal learning in this role? Are they office based or on the road? Will they be assessed? Will the results of this learning impact their performance review? Does anyone case what we are doing? Is English a first language? What are the cultural dynamics of messaging coming from head office? And so on. It’s a long list.
But it’s not just about pitching it right: it’s about using the right tone of voice and the correct level of pragmatism. When we are responsible for a particular piece of training, it’s so easy for us to work too hard setting the context: this is important to us all for all of these very important reasons… sometimes we get someone senior in a suit to explain all this to people. Sometimes we spend so much effort setting this context that we fail to recognise the everyday reality of the learner. This will only be one piece of learning amongst many that they do: many will have a similar context and some may be concurrent. Also, is the guy in the suit part of my everyday reality? Does he have any relevance to me and my role? If not, why am i listening? Unless we subscribe to the positional view of authority, that i listen just because he is in a suit, or my boss?
Understanding everyday reality is not incidental to building successful learning: it’s integral, essential. For a story to have coherence, to have relevance, to stand a chance of being read and understood, it needs to have the right pitch, the right tone of voice. If your reality is early mornings and mine is late nights, we only have a narrow period to cross over in the middle of the day: we have to do everything we can to maximise this crossover and use it effectively.