Ronald Noe, a professor of primate ethology at the University of Strasbourg, found economic insight in his study of vervet monkeys. However, amidst all his analysis of primates assigning value to a skill, the thing that both he and the vervet monkeys ignored as one of their own learned how to open a container of apples is that the original dominant monkey was still pretty darned good at finding food. Further, when the new dominant monkey’s status was halved as a second monkey learned the skill, the fact of the matter is that there were at least three monkeys that had a food gathering skill, very likely more. The apple-selecting vervet monkeys’ status was inflated.
Some trainers similarly tend to get as excited about the new technologies that they adopt as a vervet monkey with a container of apples. Numerous training magazines and blogs advocate cutting edge tools as training resources without necessarily identifying a measurable use of the tool within their instructional design.
Case in point: Twitter.
I’m a Twitter advocate. You can follow me @performbydesign. Those are my tweets in the upper right hand corner. Twitter serves as a serendipity engine for information. But: Twitter for training?
Consider the other information resources in an organization. Policies and Procedures. Wikis, should one set them up. Training manuals. What does Twitter offer that they don’t?
Another tool being explored as a training resource: Second Life. Yes, I’m on Second Life. I’ve enjoyed bumming around the worlds, and there are some fantastically creative people out there creating fantastically creative lands. But as a training application, it’s limited. I’d consider Second Life as a place to practice coding. Java. Some AI bot language. It’s like a Ponzi scheme for programmers. Outside that, it’s a fanciful meeting tool. How does Second Life replace WebEx? NetMeeting? Google Talk?
I wonder what will happen to the vervet monkey troop when the researchers take their apples and containers back home. Will the container-opening monkeys have acquired the ability to gather food as well as the previously dominant monkeys? Or would they be scouring the vast savannahs, looking for containers to open?