Friday, February 25, 2011

The scaffolding of learning

Eva has a great post about teaching without a textbook over at the Education Virtually Anywhere (EVA) blog.  Now I might be be a bit biased (truth in advertising: Eva is Mrs. Advisory Bored), but I find it a really insightful view of learning in the information age.

I hope, however, that technology educators and IT managers will consider this post with more than just passing intellectual curiosity at the changing nature of post-secondary education.  I see in Eva's teaching methodology a model for long-term professional development and organizational transformation for IT professionals and their managers.  Let me explain.

An IT professional, particularly in a smaller, corporate IT shop, can no longer assume that his/her manager can define his/her job responsibilities, career path, training needs or long-term organizational strategy for his/her area of specialization without significant input from the professional him or herself.  This isn't the Dilbertesque dumbing down of IT management until they all resemble the PHB. Both the breadth and pace of technological change make it nearly impossible for a leader to dictate the work environment in a top-down, hierarchical fashion. 21st Century IT is not a 1960's assembly line.

Put simply, there is no longer room for IT workers, all staff must be IT professionals.  Professionals accept responsibility for their own training and development.  They identify and establish standards and practices for their area of responsibility. They remain abreast of the technology in their area of expertise and its impacts on the business, making recommendations to the IT manager. They build and maintain professional networks inside and outside the organization.

As the IT manager, it is my responsibility to create an environment for that to occur.  It seems to me that's what Eva is expressing when she says:
I make them do the work. I provide them with the framework or "scaffolding" of questions and problems to solve. They go looking for the answers and build their own library of resources along the way.
One hopes that along the way, Eva is also sharing with her student the method to her madness. The knowledge her students gain on any given project is fleeting, whereas the method by which the gained it will be valuable for years and decades to come.