We need to look to the future to decide our present direction.
I, like millions of Americans, am a commuter. So often on my long bus rides I take that time to catch up on my reading. While reading the June 2008 issue of EContent magazine I came across an article called; “Wealth Management: How to Make the Most of Rich Media” (Miller, 2008) I had to seriously consider where we as an organization were going with our online learning program. We like so many other organizations are beginning to house more than simple text documents, but graphics, animation, audio, and video files. Were we making the most out of what we have to make where we want to go a more pleasurable trip? I had to answer, no.
I’m sure the question ringing in the readers ears is How. How can we do this, we have at least three generations of employees, a new KCE initiative, and many people who are not tech savvy in the least? My answer is these questions are the exactly the factors that should drive this forward looking push and make our job easier. In Prensky’s, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” (Prensky, 2001) article series he outlines how the generation know as generation Y or Millennials brain actually functions differently due to their constant interaction with technology. Another article “Synching up with the Ikid” (McHugh, 2005) also took on this same problem of educators trying to understand and reach a new kind of learner.
And while articles like these tend to focus on Millennials the truth is all generations have been effected my the digital age. Most people have cell phones and computers, many people have some type of mp3 player, and most importantly are work environment has changed drastically. The OIG and many other agencies are using wikis, blogs, and forums to help works stay better informed. Soon we will be managing digital content such as video and audio podcasts for employee download. This is a tide we can not hold back and in my opinion should not want to. The question is still how are we at Employee Development going to be leaders in this movement not victims?
The answer in my mind is planning and simplicity. There is an excellent book by Steve Krug called “Don’t make me think: a common sense approach to web usability” which outlines some simple principles when it comes to developing web pages and as you guessed it take the confusion out of web pages. My suggestion is instead of creating many different online resources with many different interfaces have the group decide on one well-planned interface. Take the example of Adobe Photoshop, it has basically had the same interface for about five versions. The same basic icons, same categories in the drop down menus, even the way it occupies screen real estate. When new features were introduced, they were grouped with a similar existing feature to minimize the learning curve.
We should look at our resources the same way decide on one interface, which is well thought out, well categorized, and aesthetically pleasing. When changes need to take place new icons will be placed in categorizes with similar functions. I would also advocate keeping clean lines and clutter to a minimum. This will allow are users to spend more time learning the content and less time learning the interface. Also this approach will lead to speed in productions because everyone will have one template to work from rather needing to come up with one. When the interface is simple and elegant in form and function this will actually minimize the generational divide because it users can get to the content they want faster.
Another question is related to the KCE initiative and how can we reach the directives set out by the IG? Much of the KCE initiative is related to typical web 2.0 technologies and how we as a government agency can take advantage of that. One way to promote the use of collaborative tools goes back to the interface discussed earlier. By using the same icons in the same area connecting that resource to other resource, it will inherently train the user to click through and take advantage of those tools. They will begin to see how participating in a forum will make their job easier, or how reading a more experienced investigators blog will give them insight they could not gain other wise. This is the power of consistency.
One last way that a web 2.0 mind shift will be advantageous is with in our own team. Currently OIG employees and IS employees are on two different systems and there for have no way to share files, instant message, or collaborate virtually. The web 1.0 mind set says get thumb drives and load files on it, but that only solves part of the problem. With current web 2.0 technologies we could just as easily set up a private yahoo group for only are team, with a content library, a group calendar, a forum area, and instant message capabilities. All accessed over the web so we do not have to be on the same system because we have the same internet.
I know some of these changes, while simple are a radical departure from what some of you know. But, if we don’t look to where we want to be how can we plot a course on how to get there?
Miller, R (2008, June). Wealth Management: How to Make the Most of Rich Media. EContent , [31(5)], 24-28.
Prensky, M (2001,October). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horison,[9(5)]
McHugh, J (2005, September 26). Synching up with the Ikid: Connecting to the 21st century student,