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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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(A new TOC link will be inserted weekly until entire research paper is published)

Abstract

Chapter I – INTRODUCTION

Background

Problem Statement

Purpose of the Study

Research Questions

Significance of the Research

Chapter II – LITERATURE REVIEW

Informal Learning

Electronic Performance Support Systems

Microblogs

Theories

Situated Cognition

Distributed Cognition

Communities of Practice

Chapter III – METHODOLOGY

Yammer Functionality

Recruiting Participants

Materials and Procedure

Messages to Recruit Participants

Interview Protocol

Chapter IV – RESULTS AND ANALYSIS

Participant Characteristics

The researcher’s approach to the study

Research question 1: Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing?

Yammer Experiences

Getting back to: 1. research question: Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing?

Research question 2: Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs?

Interactions Because of Yammer

How Did Participants Find Posts that Grabbed their Attention?

Results of Using Yammer

Research question 3: Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance?

What Value Yammer Provides

Yammer’s Challenges

CHAPTER V – DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Introduction

Discussion of Results

Research question 1: Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing?

Research question 2: Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs?

Does reading Yammer posts that prompt participants to reach out to each other contribute to learning and performance?

Does reading Yammer posts contribute to learning and performance when people don’t reach out to each other?

Connections, Learning and Performance Improvement

Research question 3: Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance?

Implications

Guidelines on How to Use Yammer to Maximize Its Effectiveness in the Workplace

Recommendations for Future Research

Knowledge Management

Expert Networks

Limitations of Study

Conclusion

References

A-cross-organizational-study

Renata E. Gorman
Teachers College, Columbia University

Abstract

In this day and age when knowledge workers are entering and exiting organizations practically on a daily basis, many organizations struggle with how best to arm their workforce with the knowledge they need to maximize their performance thereby increasing the organizations efficiency and effectiveness. This study investigated whether or not emerging social media tools like microblogs can be used by organizations to foster informal learning, provide performance support and ultimately improve performance through the creation and utilization of communities of practice. The hypothesis was that when participants used the tool to: 1. Post questions, 2. Answer Yammer’s question: “What are you working on?” they would reveal information that would inspire colleagues, in their Yammer community, to reach out and offer performance assistance. This would result in colleagues learning from each other and assisting each other and would eventually turn these groups into Communities of Practice.

Findings indicated that:

  1. Participants used the tool to post many different types of information, not just questions, and work activity updates;
  2. Participants did not generally reach out because of work activity updates but they did reach out to respond to questions;
  3. Participants perceived that their learning, effectiveness and efficiency were increased because of their Yammer use;
  4. Participants received assistance on the job through many different types of information that they post, not just questions and work activity updates;
  5. Participants felt supported by the Yammer community.

Keywords: microblog, Yammer, Twitter, informal learning, performance support, communities of practice, situated cognition, distributed cognition, knowledge management, expert networks

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

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

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).

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). Perhaps this is why EPSS generally focus on bringing content to users as opposed to connecting people to more seasoned colleagues, or experts. 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 other 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 context 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 once can read the status updates of colleagues real time, one may be able to create connectedness and engagement leading to sharing and ultimately in-context, 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 proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

As mentioned previously, microblogs offer something that is not normally easy to acquire, context to a very high degree through employees 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 context in learning and performance improvement, 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.

See the table of contents below for more details on each of the theories mentioned.

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

Abstract

In this day and age when knowledge workers are entering and exiting organizations practically on a daily basis, many organizations struggle with how best to arm their workforce with the knowledge they need to maximize their performance thereby increasing the organizations efficiency and effectiveness. Social media tools such as microblogs are emerging and can be used by organizations to foster informal learning, provide performance support and help create communities of practice that result in employees enhancing their learning and knowledge and improving their performance. It is worthwhile thinking of microblogs in the context of situated cognition to understand that learning and performance are intertwined in day-to-day work activities. While distributed cognition helps us understand and view microblog users in organizations as one system that drives the collective forward.

This research aims to uncover that microbloggers in organizations enjoy enhanced learning and performance improvement through the use of the tool and that this results in communities of practice.

Finally it is also important to note that because microblogs can uncover context, manage content and provide access to experts, they could be examined in the context of a knowledge management system and used not just to manage an organization’s knowledge but also to find an organization’s experts.

Keywords: microblog, Yammer, Twitter, informal learning, performance support, communities of practice, situated cognition, distributed cognition, knowledge management, expert networks

Table of Contents
(TOC links will be inserted as content is written)
Background
Problem Statement
Purpose of the Study
Research Questions
Significance of the Research

Literature Review
Informal Learning

Electronic Performance Support Systems
Microblogs

Theories
Situated Cognition
Distributed Cognition
Communities of Practice
Recommendations for Future Research
Knowledge Management

Expert Networks
Summary
Method
Yammer Functionality

Participants
Materials and Procedure: Messages to Recruit Participants
Materials and Procedure: Interview Protocol
References

In my quest of looking for cognitive theories that apply to my research question: “Can microblogs help us learn and therefore perform better?”, I came across situated cognition. 

Situated Cognition

Situated cognition theory, developed by John Seely Brown, Allan Collins and Paul Duguid and described in Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning, states that knowing is inseparable from doing. In Situated Cognition & Cognitive Apprenticeships, Kevin Oliver explains it this way: “Situated learning theory and the cognitive apprenticeship model based on it suggest skills be acquired through authentic contexts and by communicating with peers and experts about those contexts.” This explanation really caught my interest because this is when I realized the connection between situated cognition and communities of practice.

Communities of Practice

“Community of practice (CoP), according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, is a term that describes a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991).” Wikipedia

Community of Practice and Situated Cognition

“‘Community of practice,’ a concept emerging from situated cognition, emphasizes sharing and doing, construct meaning in a social unit (Roschelle, 1995). Situated learning occurs when students work on authentic tasks that take place in real-world setting (Winn, 1993).” EduTech Wiki “The theory of situated cognition…claims that every human thought is adapted to the environment, that is, situated, because what people perceive, how they conceive of their activity, and what they physically do develop together” (Clancey, 1997).” Situated Learning

Situated Cognition, Communities of Practice and Microblogs

Per the mini experiment I ran in my own organization with microblogs (see post), people answered the question: “What are you working on?”, and it allowed us to read each other’s posts and become more connected and notice when the other was working on something we could help with. So, any learning and performance improvement we enjoyed, was situated in the activity we were working on at the time. Therefore, per situated cognition, our learning and therefore knowing was not separate from doing–but was intertwined. The entire time we are working and blogging we are situated in the goal-directed activity and work environment. At the same time,  through microblogging, we were supported by our community, our community of fellow consultants, our community of practice–at least this is what happened in my mini experiment (see post).

However, as I discussed, in my last blog, in order to bring the sense of community to microblogs, another, external form of community has to be superimposed. In my mini experiment, this was my organization (see previous post). I am sure this is of no surprise because anyone who has explored the notion of community on a microblog like Twitter, without the superimposition of another form of community, knows that there really is no sense of community. Again see my experiment to create a community on Twitter in my previous post.

My Research Direction

Based on my research journey to date, I realize I really should do my experiment in/with a microblog community that does in fact has another superimposed community around it because that is when the group comes to life as a community, and, that is where situated cognition and perhaps even communities of practice are relevant. Therefore, that is where learning and performance improvement takes place.  The answer=a Yammer group. At first I thought an experiment with a public microblog like Twitter would yield the same results if used to answer the question: “What are you working on?” But I no longer believe that to be true because even in my organization, we had to stop publically blogging what we were doing for fear of violating confidentiality and with more and more social media policies against public microblogging popping up, the less this research is possible with Twitter.

Reni’s Twitter Updates