The human face of learning


Being patronised by a computer is never as much fun as in person

I had lunch with an old friend today. She works in a call centre and was explaining how their systems work: when you start work in the morning, you log in. If you are on time, everything is fine. Today, she was two minutes late, which results in her screen showing a frowning face. Not just when you log on, but all day. Like a little gremlin, sat there at the top of your screen all day, disapproving, reminding you of your sins.

This amused me: it fails on so many levels. For a start, being patronised by a machine is always much less fun than being patronised by people. It’s like when you get a smiley face for doing something right in a piece of e-learning. Why not come and pat me on the back and feed me some peanuts?

If the organisation really cares about people being late, there is little to be gained by depressing the individual about it. Better to flag with a manager and have a structure to deal with that behaviour. At the moment, they just create the disturbance, reinforce the negativity, and leave it hanging in the room all day. Consequences are find, but they need to be explicit: frowning at me all day will just give you wrinkles, it’s unlikely to make me a better person.

I have to bring myself to account though: one of the principles of the blog is to always be positive (the others being to share and collaborate), so, to keep the balance, i want to offer a better solution for systems design.

It’s ok to let me know you’re unhappy i’m late, but more valuable to engage in a dialogue about it. Within that dialogue, it’s ok to set expectations, but there needs to be a clear path to resolution. For example, as a first step, it’s the place of a manager to address this, not a system. If you’re not confident that managers can address simple timekeeping, then the issue with with the managers, not the employee. If you are confident that they can do this, then the issue is with the system, frowning at the employee but not flagging it with the manager.

I touched on this before in an articles on blueprints for learning: it’s really about having clear paths for learning. What triggers learning to be schedule for individuals, what support is in place, how agile is the material?

Patronising people rarely gets good results. Engineering it into your systems simply represents an endemic failure of management to understand 21st century learning.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Authority, Challenge, Clarity, Collaboration, Effectiveness, Feedback, Learning, Learning Design and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The human face of learning

  1. Pingback: The human face of learning | Educacion, ecologi...

  2. Pingback: A six stage methodology for learning. Part 3 – Demonstration | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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