Technology grows smart, we turn out…dummies

Firstly, just a quick note on why I chose this title. My inspiration was the For Dummies series which is the main learning source for individuals who seek to take the easy way to understanding a specific topic or domain. Information is presented in a systematic way and works great for readers who are new to a specific topic, so I embrace this initiative, don`t get me wrong. Therefore, I merely chose this term for emphasizing the theme below.
On a more “niched” note, there`s been a lot hype lately referring mostly to the benefits of social media and cloud technology, and in general, to the potential of web 2.0 platforms to store, share and distribute information. Whereas UGC (User Generated Content) is essentially a “blessing” for freedom of expression and collective intelligence stimulation, there are nonetheless some drawbacks we need to address:
1. Social Impotence – In an era when staying sane means staying connected to the Internet (n.r. and Yes, I have recently seen a stream of conversations where the idea of the Internet being “turned off” for one day drove people crazy), curing such a dependency can turn out to be quite difficult. Apparently, social media usage actually affects our brain, studies showing that 5% of internet users are unable to control how much time they spend online. They crave for more of the excitement produced by using the Internet after each interaction. No wonder I am seeing everyone spending their time online when they`re out with their friends. Why restrain yourself to an audience of 2 or 4 people, when you could be “out” there for your entire network of 5,000 “friends”?
2. Multitasking Shortcomings – it might seem that those working with social media or constantly switching between more websites in the same time might have the ability to multitask, but studies have found that when comparing heavy new media users with others they perform much worse during task switching tests. It`s not about being fast, it`s about paying attention.
3. Silly Syndromes – You`ve probably never heard of the Phantom Vibration Syndrome, but you can imagine what it`s all about. Basically, you`re brain messes with you giving the sensation that the phone vibrated when it actually didn`t. Played by your own device. Not too bad, smartphones!
4. More Egocentric than ever – social media triggers dopamine release, which is a happiness hormone. When people are active online talking about themselves gives a sudden burst in the reward centers from their brains. What ever happened to listening to others?
5. Using External memory rather than our own – we would rather use forms of transactive memory, storing information outside ourselves, than use our own brains for storing it. We remember less because we are not required to do so – it`s enough that we know where information can be found. So, let`s hope our external hardware doesn`t crash when we`re in a meeting, right?
I may have approached just the tip of the iceberg, acting like the Grinch who stole the High-Tech Hype, but I will return with another post with some of the mainstream`s advantages. Stay tuned! Or is it tubed? 


Mind mapping and concept mapping as techniques of teaching: a comparison

The two types of visual techniques have been developed by different groups of scholars. Thus, mind mapping was developed by Buzan (1974, 2000), while concept mapping was developed by Novak (Novak, 1981; Novak and Gowin, 1984).

A mind map is a presentation form of radiant thinking, utilizing lines, colors, characters, numbers, symbols, images, pictures or keywords, etc. to associate and integrate, visualize the learned concept and maximize brain potential (Buzan & Buzan, 1996).  Basing on free association and imagination, and using pictures and symbols to express the thoughts, mind mapping enhances creativity, problem-solving and deduction capacity.

The alternative notion, the concept map, has been developed as a research instrument. Novak şi Gowin (1984, p. 15) defined the concept map as „a graphic scheme that represent a set of meanings of the concept integrated in a frame of proposals”. A concept map uses diagrams organized in a tree structure, which include concepts framed in boxes. Starting from a key question, concepts are connected with linkage words, in order to form a statement.

The discussion about the potential of application of each technique in different areas and for different purposes should consider first their characteristics. For example, mind mapping can be used with no previous preparation in educational or professional settings. Being a deductive and a creative method, aiming to represent the mental structure of participants, cannot have as result major errors. Also, because previous preparations and lectures are not necessary (it is based on previous knowledge but the information needed as ground is rather general) it is not a need to select participants or to have a time reserved for preparation. Thus, can be used easily in professional and organizational settings (like group meetings, brainstorming, pitches, and so on). On the other hand, concept mapping cannot have the same degree of spontaneity as mind mapping. Concept mapping needs a previous time for preparation and a good understanding of definition of concepts. Therefore, concept maps cannot be created by any participant (should be selected upon their degree of competence to discuss a topic) and cannot be built spontaneously (it is not appropriate for an unannounced exercise in class). Finally, reviewing the types of application of method (for example, individual or group building of a map) becomes obvious that mind mapping can be applied in all types of settings (individual at home, in class individually, in group in class) and spontaneously, while concept maps are difficult to build in a group, and could be applied individually in class only after a time of preparation.

Entrepreneurship in the European space: the adaptation of qualifications to the European work market

The Romanian integration in the European professional space is a long and complex process, which is still not finished. One of the dimensions is the adaptation of qualification to the European Qualifications Frame. This frame has as objective the correlation of the national systems of professional qualifications by developing of clear description sets, that are valid throughout the European space and allow the identification of competencies required by a certain qualification.

The project „European Entrepreneurship – academic qualification for the Europeanization of the Romanian society”/POS DRU 140204, implemented by NUPSPA Bucharest in partnership with Vrije Universiteit Brussels, has as objective the adaptation of two areas to the work market – communication and European governance, and also the development of a new area of study, the European entrepreneurship. The project intends to promote also the academic qualification of expert in European affairs, which includes the professional skills that are necessary for performance in the European institutions as in organizations whose activities are expanded at the European level.

Three master programs in the College of Communication and Public Relations (Master of Communication and European Governance, Master of Project Management and Master of Brand Management and Corporate Communication) will benefit from this project, which will ensure a consulting process between academic institutions, employers and social partners, with the aim of determining the best construction of the academic qualifications.  The balanced and future-oriented design of academic qualifications in this project aims to support the vertical  professional mobility of postgraduates, to motivate the academic teachers involved for a superior level of performance and to offer for employers adequate instruments for the evaluation of competencies of job candidates.

A snapshot of ELT


Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) has a long history and provides a pertinent model of the learning process and a multilinear model of adult development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how people learn, grow, and develop. The spiral of learning from experience described in experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1984) can help learners (e.g. employees) “learn how to learn”. By consciously following a recursive cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting, they can increase their learning power.

Following “the learning way” begins with embracing the idea that “I am a learner” and continues with the development of sophisticated strategies for intentional learning based on their unique talents and the different learning challenges they face (Kolb and Kolb, 2009, p. 297).

The theory is called “Experiential Learning” to emphasize the central role that experience plays in the learning process, an emphasis that distinguishes ELT from other learning theories. The term “experiential” is used therefore to differentiate ELT both from cognitive learning theories, which tend to emphasize cognition over affect, and behavioral learning theories that deny any role for subjective experience in the learning process. Experiential learning theory defines learning as „the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience” (Kolb 1984, p. 41).

The ELT model portrays two dialectically related modes of grasping experience – Concrete Experience (CE) and Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and two dialectically related modes of transforming experience – Reflective Observation (RO) and Active Experimentation (AE) (Mainemelis, Boyatzis and Kolb, 2002, p. 5).

In grasping experience, some of us perceive new information through experiencing the concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the world, relying on our senses and immersing ourselves in concrete reality. Others tend to perceive, grasp, or take hold of new information through symbolic representation or abstract conceptualization – thinking about, analyzing, or systematically planning, rather than using sensation as a guide. Similarly, in transforming or processing experience some of us tend to carefully watch others who are involved in the experience and reflect on what happens, while others choose to jump right in and start doing things. The watchers favor reflective observation, while the doers favor active experimentation.

Exploring the digital intelligence

Some decades ago (1983), Gardner initiated his theory about multiple intelligences, giving start to a persistent academic debate about types of intelligence, distinction from other concepts and instruments of development (with large echoes in pedagogy). However, even different schools of research took different paths (studying exclusively a certain type of intelligence, or trying to build frames of measurement), there is still room to find new paths or even develop new types of intelligence.

These new paths come not only from the large definition that Gardner proposed to intelligence, but from the linkage to content he performed when circumscribing the sphere of the concept: „Second, my intelligences are specifically linked to content. I claim that human beings have particular intelligences because of informational contents that exist in the world—numerical information, spatial information, information about other people.” (2011, p. xl).

Thus, if each type of intelligence is linked to content, then the first major change in types of information we should address, when trying to identify the changes occurred in the XXI century should be related to the „digital divide”. In our days, individuals receive and process information in a digital form, and their capacity to generate value products for community is essentially related to their capacity to use digital devices, to search, select and use digital information, to interpret social signals and interact with other beings via computer or smartphone.

Although the impact of the digital divide has been studied by some scholars (Deursen and van Dijk, 2010), a small number of studies explicitly inquired about the digital intelligence as a concept. But the omnipresence of digital content in studying or processing information, or  the impact of the online information and presence to the real life do oblige people to form abilities in managing digital contents. These are supplementary reasons for studying the digital intelligence as a definite type of intelligence that is different from individual to individual (in the spirit of Gardner definition), and is distinctly developed in generations (more developed in the so-called „Net Generation” than in previous ones).

The Big Era. Or, simply, Big Data.

We live in BIG times. Big moments, Big results, Big problems, Big Macs, Big shots, Big fish, Big foot, Big fan, Big mentors, The next Big thing, Big data. Big deal! Or that`s how ignorance could play it. In fact, many scholars, sociologists, economists, computer scientists, CEOs, CFOs, CMOs and so on are arguing about the advantages of leveraging big data for a variety of purposes. But is this overwhelming wave really improve our existence and the way we process information? In particular, are organizations effectively and efficiently using the overflow of data for building intelligence in order to meet future socio-economical demands?

The large sets of data are too much for standard software to analyze and, as such, new, optimized systems developed for data integration, manipulation and processing are now starting to become mandatory. Data aggregation is particularly difficult especially in terms of acquiring significant connections between important pieces of information. Easily accessible information does not necessarily mean we can easily identify patterns leading to a specific useful direction, for example, in building competitive intelligence.

This is why companies must invest in new systems to effectively manage big data. And no, I am not referring to big companies like Google, eBay, LinkedIn, Facebook built around this concept from the very beginning. I am talking about traditional companies, which are now dealing with the merge of traditional information and communication systems with the new infrastructures that haven`t existed before.

Conclusion? Go BIG or Go Home!

Non multa, sed multum

           The more the merrier they say; but does it work the same for organizational communication? The grow in number, diversification and specialization of both old and new media brings along not only communication ‘wonderlands’, but also corollary vulnerabilities that many practitioners choose to minimize or ignore.  

            One of these ‘Trojan horse’ elements that many organizational actors pay too little attention to or just approach it with too much superficiality is what we can call the ‘overflowing’ trap. Briefly, it’s all about the strong temptation and desire for media omnipresence, one that has been limited (fortunately I would say) by financial constrains. We seem to be facing a general visibility ecstasy that keeps many PR and marketing people hypnotized by the ‘awareness’ and ‘share of voice’ mirage (and that only).

            But let’s not forget that media omnipresence requires time and money resources which, unfortunately for most of us mortals, are limited. Moreover, media omnipresence, whether old or new media (or both), is not enough to bring profit, loyalty or good reputation by itself. Thus, our ‘overflowing’ media visibility can easily turn into super-saturation for our publics and money waste from our budgets. We should re-evaluate the power of moderation and efficiency (good public segmentation and targeting included) when it comes to organizational communication, despite the media temptations, and remember that there are some principles like ‘Non multa, sed multum!’ that even new media Gods can’t change.

A critical perspective on the Learning Organization theory

Glasmeier et al. (1998) revealed some weak points of the learning organization model:  the lack of a universally accepted definition of firm learning and misuse of terms; the lack of understanding of the nature of learning in organizations; little knowledge about how companies determine their need to acquire new information; a firm’s ability to absorb new information is a function of the previous experiences; learning is history dependent. The remarks of the authors focused on the definition and nature of learning, and on the way information is transformed in knowledge.

The critiques could be continued with several assumptions about the missing connections in the social and emotional continuum of the organization. (a) Learning is not only cognition, is also emotional growth and change for individuals. The way in which individuals integrate information in knowledge is personal (not saying is unique), thus the effectiveness of models in this aspect is doubtful. (b) Organizational identity is a dynamic concept, tied with the development experiences, and should play a major role in generating the learning organization. (c) The theory speaks very little of the aim of organizational learning: organizations learn not only for their business objectives, but for their mission’s fulfillment. The mission includes also playing a “social role” in the entire living that integrates the organization. (d) There were several attempts to compose “recipes” for building a learning organization; but in the authentic meaning a learning organization could only “grow naturally”. Items like trust, commitment and cohesion become important as possible generative factors, as frames for interpreting reality.