25 March 2010

My love affair with job aids

In one of my first ed tech classes I learned about job aids and fell in love with them. No really. I just loved the book, A Handbook of Job Aids, it made so much sense.

Job aids are all around us. They're the one-page instruction on how to relight your furnace, or the one-liner on your drug bottle on how to open it. Recipes, pre-flight checklists and motivational posters in the employee lounge are job-aids.

My love of job aids comes from my love of minimalisms. I could be taking Keep it Simple too far, but I'd rather design a job aid than teach. So much of what we need and want to know can be learned without a teacher in the traditional sense. Dare I say. I'm all for a new profession, something like learning designer or knowledge acquisition chaperone.

And here's another thing; I'm fundamentally lazy. I'm into working as effectively as possible so that I can get on to other stuff--like sitting under a tree and doing nothing.

Job aids belong to a class of instructional design approaches known as performance support, another very cool, minimalist idea. It's about what you need to know, when you need to know it; getting it done, so you can go sit under a tree.

To me job aids are an obvious mechanism in workplace knowing, but not so much in schools, where a culture of teaching presides over a culture of knowing. And then there are all the contexts in which we learn informally. The Net is rich with learning opportunities, some are documented in studies of gaming, virtual worlds and via Pew Internet Research.* Job aids are inscribed into these cultures, even when they're not named as such. Sure you could call Torley Second Life videos tutorials, but they're world-building job aids too.

* I'm happy to provide citations