Instruction in a Information Snacking Culture

Instruction in a Information Snacking Culture

big_image002My response is a bit off tangent. Please bear with me and read on…

A snack in Western culture (and in most other cultures) is a type of food not meant to be eaten as a main meal of the day, but to assuage a person’s hunger between meals, providing a brief supply of energy to the body. The term may also refer to a food item consumed between meals purely for the enjoyment of its taste. (

Quoting from Dr. Patrick Nemechek’s blog, “For every 100 calories difference in your diet, your weight will go up or down approximately 10 pounds in the course of 1 year. If you think about it, that’s the rate at which many of us put on the weight in the course of a year. Eating 100-200 calories per day is equal in calories to about 1 snack per day!” it is clear that snacks have a very detrimental effect on one’s health by insidiously increasing body weight, resulting in many health maladies like hypertension, diabetics, cardiac disease.

If we start substituting snacks for proper meals, we don’t need the good doctor’s diagnosis of what will happen to our health and well-being. We can predict it ourselves. At best, a snack may be consumed for the enjoyment of its taste, that too infrequently and in the smallest of portions, definitely not the Dagwood-typeJ. We need well-balanced meals, a major portion comprising unappetizing things like raw vegetables to maintain good health. We should not lose sight of the fact that we eat to live and not to enjoy the taste of what we eat.

Continuing in the same line of thinking, if we think that we can substitute serious, focused study that involves hours of hard work to gain deep insights into a subject with “knowledge” gained from twittering or similar kinds of exchanges in social networking, we are fooling ourselves. It applies to e-learning too, a domain in which our company operates. In my last month’s blog, Learning Predictions – 2010, I mentioned the increasing demand for quick-fix learning solutions. Organizations are asking for more learning “pills” rather than instructionally sound comprehensive e-learning courses that have been subjected to adhere to robust learning design principles and processes. Well, Alvin Toffler predicted this craving for impermanence and shortcuts decades ago. It is now every much here, whether we like it or not.

So, what do we do, as learning professionals? Our professional values and ethics will guide us. We will have to advise our customers what is best for them in the long run, what is important but not urgent.

In the language of arithmetical ratios, a snack is to nutrition is as twittering is to learning.

Thank you for reading my blog and for sharing your comments.

RK Prasad

  • Very intriguing (and apt) analogy. Although this isn’t practical for every performance objective, perhaps one way to leverage the snacking mentality is to create immersive, problem-centered training. When possible, plunge learners directly into a problem, and provide them with information resources (or maybe snacks) that they can reference to help them complete the activity successfully. Not an air-tight plan…but just a thought.

  • Tristram Shepard

    Thanks – your post has provided much ‘food for thought’ and the starting point for a post for my own blog. I agree that this is a serious issue, and one that educational institutions everywhere need to start thinking about and conducting research into. There is no evidence to suggest so yet, but I do wonder that when social networks start to mature it will eventually be possible to learn in completely different, but equally effective, collaborative ways.

  • JL Conant

    Although I do feel that too much surface level learning is occurring, I would like to make the argument for the occasional “snack” in learning. One downfall that I see in the argument about 100-200 calories a day, is that it assumes the learner never stops snacking. However, what if snacks or social media networks, could be used to peak interest, maintain motivation, and increase creativity?
    Deep study within in an industry or field is necessary, but benchmarking and studying new information outside of it can lead to creativity and innovation. I think specifically of consumer behavior courses that combine principles of business and psychology. The engagement in discussion and argumentations of ideas can be the catalyst for a new course of study. Furthermore, I think that social media networking, such as Twitter, can break more conservative learners into wanting to broaden their studies. Making mistakes or even failure in learning can be hard for many individuals to accept. They gravitate towards the pill because engaging in shorter learning processes reduces the fear and commitment that comes with deeply engaged study. By increasing confidence, educators could grab learners at that moment of engagement.
    I also think that many individuals want to have a “taste” of the material to make sure that it fits their learning interests and time. Social networks can allow learners to have a tasting, much like a wine tasting, before investing in a time-consuming study. It can help them develop a unique palette specific to them or their industry. I don’t support using social media networks as a main course of instruction, but the occasional snack could be the beginning of a new, forward-thinking idea.

  • Tristram Shepard

    I’m all in favour of information snacks, as described above, though my concern is that learners will start to want to snack all day long rather than attend ‘proper’ courses. The question educational institutions need to be asking themselves if how they need to change their established programmes to accommodate the fact that participants will be more attracted by snacks.

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