Always learning: Boon or Bane

In the area of  HR, the term ‘work-life balance’ is every day currency (definitions and key words).  For those of us who live, learn and teach in the 24 hour global knowledge society, ‘balance’ can have a hollow bounce. I quote from a parliamentary document of 2005 “The ‘24-hour society” can increase efficiency and help to meet consumer demand, but can also have serious health and social impacts”.

We all need to find some kind of a pattern that enables us to keep up with our work, have fun and fulfil our wide range of responsibilities as world citizens in 2009 – in our hugely complex context of independence and interdependence. Being ‘always connected’ seems to be a very serious problem for some people (lets call them Balance 1 types) and a great joy and flexibility for others (Balance 2 types).

For example as early as 2001 An Industrial Society survey, Managing Best Practice No 83: Occupational Stress, showed that ‘juggling’ home and work demands was a major source of stress for 70% of their respondents.: Balance 1!

But I’m definitely a Balance 2 type. For me there is privilege and joy in having the option to keep working into the night and being ‘connected’ when others are sleeping. I’m very happy to do my banking and shopping from my sitting room in my flat. I enjoy using my frequent time on trains to do my e mail. Honestly I like it. I don’t even find my GPS that bossy and she usually takes me where I want to go. For me the borders between work, travel, personal and social times are no longer rigidily fixed and I love the flexibility and choice of how I spend my time and with whom!

Learning is also now rooted in 24-hourness. What I know for sure is that the more flex there is, the more pacing and routing the learner needs to achieve measurable outcomes. This is especially so if the learner is remote from the source of the materials and others for learning. There’s a boon or bane issue again…This is probably why the idea of designing for learning is receiving much increased interest. IMHO we need to try and keep the learning see-saw balanced- enough pacing and signposting to keep cohorts working along together, enough flexibility and fun to ensure reaching milestones of achievements for all comers.

Gilly Salmon

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