[Air-l] Informal programming learning?

Denise N. Rall denrall at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 28 14:10:18 PST 2003

The situated activity people have written on the
informality of learning in the workplace, right now I
am thinking of Julian Orr's (1996) Talking about
machines, ILR, imprint of Cornell University Press.

While it might be a bit dated, Orr draws on the work
of Ken Kusterer (1978) to define worker's knowledge of
the job into three categories:
a) knowledge of routine processes
b) knowledge of potential variations
c) social knowledge

Orr's book highlights the fact that the job cannot be
learned without the informal input of others,
particularly in b)variations and c) social knowledge.
The troubleshooting aspect (in the this case Xerox
repair staff) mostly happens in the area of c). 

Teams of programmers work much in the same way, it's
the variations and the social knowledge (who to ask,
and when to ask them) that are the most helpful in
troubleshooting problems, sorry that's a personal
observation, when I worked with a team of programmers
in a company producing medical instrumentation.

Orr's got a nice bibliography on work, might be
something for you there. Bonnie Nardi, A small matter
of programming, 1991, MIT Press (by memory) might also
be helpful and more to the point.


"I want  to focus on my salad" (M. Stewart. 2001)
Denise Rall, Sustainable Forestry Mentoring Coordinator &
PhD student, School of Education, Southern Cross University,
PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW, 2480 Australia
Phone +61-2-6624-8627 Fax +61-2-6624-8637
Office (Tuesdays) (02) 6620 3577 Mob 0438 233 344

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