I wonder why…

… gas prices always include “9/10” cent as part of the price? What this means in real terms, of course, is that if someone says that gas is now at $3.99 per gallon, what they really mean is that gas is $4.00 per gallon.

This has actually been a question of mine since I was very young (6 or 7 years old), when I tried to apply my newly learned multiplication skills to figuring out how much a tankful (10 gallons, since 10 was easiest to multiply by ;-)) of gas would cost. It was only when my dad informed me of the extra “9/10” that I understood my error.

But even he was at a loss for why it was there.

Lessons learned and learned lessons

Dave Snowden, with whom I share a general dislike (maybe distrust is a better word) for lessons learned / best practices, has a post from about a year ago on the difference between lessons learned and learning lessons. I’m revisiting these ideas after sharing my thoughts about knowledge work as craft and the growth and development of young knowledge workers as craftsmen with the Work Literacy group.

Before someone can start working in a craft, they must first learn the basics of the craft. Part of this learning is traditional learning of the facts, procedures, and techniques that have been learned and passed along by those who have gone before. While not “lessons learned” in the usual sense, this type of lessons learned (or best practice) can be of value.

In fact, I think that assimilation of this knowledge, obtained from lessons learned by others, is a key early step in helping people become able to learn their own lessons later on in their career. Without a solid foundation of what has already been learned, the apprentice is destined to “reinvent the wheel” more than is necessary. (Note the “more than necessary” caveat: I believe that it is important for the novice to attempt some reinvention of their own; this gives them an understanding of the importance of those early lessons.)

The journey of an apprentice to the realm of the master is, in many ways, a journey from knowledge consumption to knowledge creation. As an apprentice, the reliance on existing knowledge is very high. The journeyman learns to understand the knowledge in use and apply it in creative, new ways. The master, while grounded in the existing knowledge of the craft, is not constrained by that knowledge as he creates new knowledge for use by the next wave of apprentices.

The same progression can be seen in many aspects of knowledge work. Most will start off in college, accumulating that basic information they need for their chosen field, then move on to a “journeyman” stage in a company (or their own company) where they will learn how to apply that accumulated knowledge. For most, this is the stage they will remain at for most of their career.

If they are lucky, and of course diligent in continuing to develop their own work literacy, they will progress to the “master” stage where they can re-write what is taught to students in college.

Missouri creates Autism Commission, Office of Autism Services

I don’t have a lot of details, but heard this in the local headlines on KWMU this morning. Just a couple of links on Google News, I expect more over the next few days (weeks)? From the Joplin Globe:

A statewide commission on autism spectrum disorders will be assembled and, by July 1 of next year, will produce a plan for Missouri to offer treatment, training and other services.

[…]

The commission will be made up of representatives from the General Assembly, health-related state agencies and autism-related organizations, and parents. Kinder was filling in for Gov. Matt Blunt, who is out of state.

[…]

Kinder spokesman Gary McElyea said members of the state commission should be chosen fairly quickly.

As you might imagine, there is a lot of disagreement about what exactly the commission should do, what should be its priorities, blah blah. I applaud the gesture, and the intent, of the commission, but I’ll withhold any real assessment until I see what they actually plan to do.

Enjoying the Scenery [Redux]

A consistent theme in my writing here is that parenting an autistic child is, first and foremost, nothing more than parenting a child. Yes it is different, and sometimes (OK, much of the time) more difficult than being the parent of a “normal” child, but that doesn’t change the fundamental nature of being a parent.

In response to Steve D‘s call to revisit a favorite post I am reposting Enjoying the Scenery, which I originally posted in February 2006. I don’t know if this is my absolute favorite, but it is right there at the top.

= = == === =====

Sometimes our kids surprise us. We try and try and try to get them to do something, understand something, say something. They go for a long time, apparently ignoring (avoiding?) all of our best attempts. Then, all of a sudden, when we aren’t really looking (or when we’ve kind of given up), they do it, understand it, say it.

At those moments we feel good, not just for our kids and their accomplishments but for ourselves. Sometimes it is hard to put in the long hours, day after day, never quite knowing if it will pay off or not. This is especially true for the parents of autistic kids. But what can you do?

Here is a quote from George Leonard’s The Way of Aikido that struck a chord with me as I’ve been thinking about parenting and autism.

What we call “mastery” can be defined as that mysterious process through which what is at first difficult or even impossible becomes easy and pleasurable through diligent, patient, long-term practice.Most learning occurs while we are on the plateau, when it seems we are making no progress at all. The spurt upward towards mastery merely marks the moment when the results of your training “clicks in.”

To learn anything significant…you must be willing t spend most of your time on the plateau. [T]o join the on the path of mastery, it’s best to love the plateau, to take delight in regular practice not just for the extrinsic rewards it brings, but for its own sake.

Another way of looking at it comes from a saying I heard a while back, but can’t remember where:

A truly happy person enjoys the scenery on a detour

How’s the scenery on your detour?

===== === == = =

Two years later, I can tell you that the scenery is beautiful on this detour of ours. The road does get a bit rough at times, and I have to keep my eye on the road to keep from driving off, but that would be true on any other road as well.

Innovation is good, but innovators are bad…

…if you are looking for someone to help you get the word out about your innovation. At least, this is the message I get from a quick read of Innovators are a bad choice for change from Shawn at the Anecdote blog.

Dr Rogers persisted thinking, if only he could get one farmer to try it out and then they could influence everyone else. After a time he did find someone to try out the new corn, a hipster dude who wore Bermuda shorts and fancy sunglasses. He enjoyed a bumper crop but the other farmers were unimpressed. This maverick farmer derided their way of life, he was an outsider and there was no way they were going to adopt anything from a Bermuda short wearing weirdo.

The story Shawn is discussing comes from Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, which has this to say in regards to the story:

Rogers learned that the first people to latch onto a new idea are unlike the masses in many ways. He called these people innovators. They’re the guys and gals in Bermuda shorts. They tend to be open to new ideas and smarter than average. But here’s the important point. The key to getting the majority of any population to a adopt a vital behavior is to find out who these innovators are and avoid them like the plague. If they embrace your new ideas, it will surely die.

Though I hate to say it, this explains a lot. I don’t know if I buy into it completely, but I think anyone who fits the description of “innovator” given above can probably recount more than one story like this from personal experience. Shawn goes on to say that the recommended approach is to approach “early adopters”, but I must admit I’m not sure I understand the difference between an “early adopter” and “innovator” in this context.

I also can’t help thinking of this in the context of Michele’s recent question in Developing Work Literacies: Who’s the Target Audience? Regardless of whether you stake out your target as the workers themselves or the organization’s leadership, it seems that you should maybe avoid targeting the people who already embrace the concepts of Work Literacy.

Newly discovered blog on a big topic of my interest

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of my big interests is in the area of Personal Knowledge Management, or PKM. (Note: as I went to insert a link to the PKM category of this blog, I discovered that I don’t, in fact, have one. Thus the link to the KM category.) Key to this is an interest in and exploration of the various tools available today to help individuals improve their ability to perform their work.

Thanks to a post from Harold Jarche, I now have a term that very neatly (and concisely) describes what my interest really is: Work Literacy. From the inaugural post at Work Literacy:

Work Literacy is based on the beliefs that:

  • With the growth of new technologies, explosion of new information, and accessibility of experts around the world, there’s a growing gap between the skills that most knowledge workers possess and the resources available to them.
  • As knowledge workers we need practical skills, methods and tools that will improve our effectiveness and help us stay on top of our game.
  • This is an issue that’s evolving quickly and we need a way to start discussing the implications, sharing ideas and learning how to better manage our work and learning.

Work Literacy will:

  • Inspire action
  • Pull together a wide variety of individuals who will collectively help provide content that is meaningful to the “average knowledge worker.”
  • Provide a hub for the discussion of this topic by knowledge workers.
  • Provide access to resources such as workshop providers, presenters, information, etc. offered by people in the network.

This one is definitely going into my feed reader, you should take a look at it as well. (And yes, I am also setting up a Work Literacy category.)

Hackable training content

Nearly 10 years ago now, I was responsible for customer training for a new piece of equipment we had produced. (Actually, I assumed responsibility about 1/2 way through the project.) After training our first customer, I sat down with the training crew to see how we could make the next session better, as I had seen and heard some things that weren’t correct, or could be better.

Silly me.

Our training vendor politely informed me that the training material was what it was, and it couldn’t be changed after it had been approved. In fact, they seemed shocked that I even brought the idea up, as if it were some sort of training community heresy. I was not, and am not, a “training person” so the attitude was a bit surprising to me.

“What do you mean, you don’t want to make your training product progressively better as you learn more about it” was what was going through my mind. (In fact, I went to my project manager and told him he needed to fire the training vendor we had and get someone who “knew what they were doing.”) I’ve since learned that this was not an isolated incident; on the contrary it seemed to be the standard.

In a post today titled Learning content should be hackable, Harold Jarche makes the case for content developers to take a lesson from what’s going on in the rest of the digital world.

However, there is one principle that is not taught or followed in instructional design that would really reflect the nature of the Web. There should be a principle of making learning content hackable, so that it can change with the times, the needs of instructors or learners. Licenses such as CC-By-NC would allow remixing. Perhaps we need a special “CC-Education Remix” license.

Anyway, if you want your content to live a long, healthy and even diverse life; make it easier to hack.

Good advice for any content developer, but especially for learning content developers.