Theories

As mentioned previously, microblogs offer something that is not normally easy to acquire, information as to what employees are doing real time through status updates. Therefore, the link between microblogs and performance support, learning and ultimately, performance improvement becomes clear. It follows that the theories influencing this research include situated cognition which considers learning and performance improvement in context, and distributed cognition, which also focuses on context and encourages a view of microblogs as a system, and finally communities of practice which can account for the groups that may emerge through microblogging.

Situated Cognition

Learning is an ongoing, real time process, as opposed to separate events (Moon, 2004, p. 11). Situated cognition theory, as described by Brown et al. (1989, pp. 32-42), explains that knowing is inseparable from doing. Skills are acquired through continuous authentic activity in authentic contexts and by communicating with peers and experts about those activities in those contexts (Herrington & Oliver, 1995). Microblogs offer the ability for employees to communicate with peers while participating in authentic activity, their daily work.

Lave and Wenger (1991) propose that the most accounts of learning ignore its social nature. Yet researchers agree that knowledge is the result of collaborative construction in a situated cognition environment (Ahmad, 2009; Bransford, Vye, Kinzer, & Risko, 1990). Everything human beings conceive of and think about is adapted to the environment, that is, situated, because what people perceive, how they conceive of what they are doing (or working on) and the physical activity of working on it, all develop together (Clancy, 1997). “In situated cognition, knowledge is created or negotiated through the interactions of the individual with others and the environment. Individuals acquire knowledge through activities rather than obtaining information in discreet packages organized by instructors or a system” (Ahmad, 2009). Tyre and von Hippel (1997, p. 71) found that “traditional, decontextualized theories of adaptive learning and of collaboration could be improved by taking into account that learning occurs through people interacting in context.” It follows that through continuous, authentic, situated, collaborative activity, people can improve their performance (Brown, et al., 1989).

As microblogs help uncover what people are doing, their day-to-day tasks, and provide this visibility into what others in the organization are doing. People can use it to create opportunities for informal connections and collaboration with others in ways we did not have the ability to do previously. Using a tool like a microblog, where one can read the updates of colleagues real time, one may be able to create connectedness and engagement leading to sharing and ultimately just-in-time, or point-of-need learning—a performance support environment that uses people as conduits versus the technology-centered performance support and knowledge management systems of yesterday. “Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work, and in the groups that matter to you. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs” (Cross, 2007, p. 15).

This is a section of a research study, to read more, go to the Table of Contents.

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