Friday, April 07, 2006

Working smarter - groan!

"Speeding things up can only work for so long. Instead, we need to think about helping students to work smarter, not faster. There is an alternative to speeding things up. It’s the smarter solution—one that helps students develop the skills and understandings they need to find, process, and use information effectively. This smarter solution focuses on process as well as content. Some people call this smarter solution information literacy or information skills instruction."
This quote comes from the Big6 skills overview via George Siemens weekly elearnspace summary email (click link to subscribe).

When I first entered the world of learning on the provider side of the equation, I worked for AdvTech, a subsidiary of a US company called Applied Learning. While AdvTech still exists, I have been unable to establish whether it still forms part of the Applied Learning Group, or, indeed whether Applied Learning still even exists as an entity (let's face it: googling Applied Learning is going to return too many hits to sift through!).

AdvTech had a division that supplied all manner of training videos, and my familiarity with names such as Peters, de Bono et al, dates back to then - downtime was spent wading through great wadges of video material in order to become familiar with it. I lost ccount of the number of times the speaker would tell me to work smarter, not harder. The trouble is, none of them ever told me how!

What the heck does it mean, anyway, to "work smarter"? Apart from being appalling grammar, it strikes me as being one of those glib sayings that are designed to make a person feel inadequate. They come and go, these phrases, don't they? I can remember a time when a managers would have a little plaque on the desk, with the word "Thimk" on it. I asked about it once - was it an anagram? Apparently not. It seems it had to do with not always making assumptions. The tendency being to see the word and assume that it said "think". But you were supposed to think, to pay attention to the details, to notice that not everything was as it seemed. However, since the very first thing I noticed about the word was the fact that it was misspelt, it was something of a damp squibb.

Now it's not working harder that's the problem, it's working faster, according to Big6, but the solution is still to work smarter, apparently. It is nearly 20 years since I first heard the phrase, and I have come a long way since then, but I still feel I want to stand up and shout, "What the heck does it mean?!" To be fair, there is an attempt to explain the "smarter solution", here:
one that helps students develop the skills and understandings they need to find, process, and use information effectively
However, until someone can teach people the art of working smarter, for me it will remain one of those rah-rah catch phrases that should be consigned to world of Honest Abe's Used Car Sales.

Sorry, but there it is. Bah humbug.


Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

I also heard the working smarter term used in conjunction with the now discredited studies that stated that humans only needed 4 hours of sleep a night.

People who work at a frantic pace not only live shorter lives but I believe that they live less quality lives.

Although I try to "work smart" by culling out items that do not improve my life. I also think that there is a time to go play frisbee with the kids, fish for catfish, and rock on the porch with Mom. These are the things that make a truly great life.

Karyn you are a great blogger and have made my life better. Keep blogging!

Anonymous said...

As Goofy would say: Gawsh!