Reflections on #lrnchat 09 Feb
I had the chance to jump back into the Thursday evening #lrnchat and I was glad I did, because the topic was manna for techno-geeks like me: TECH!
In all seriousness, we had some good questions and they forced us to think about the nature and role of technology in learning and in our lives. We’re so closely tied to our technology that it was refreshing to step back and think about what role it plays for us, and for others. We know that technology can be transformative, but we also acknowledge that not all tech interventions are good ones…although I feel that can be a matter of individual perspective.
For example, if we think about the one piece of technology we would hate to be without (Q1) the range of answers is as diverse as the number of people responding. I found the perspectives to be intriguing because some folks identified a specific piece of technology (or tech feature) whereas others were more generalized and considered the outputs or impact of any technology that makes an improvement to creativity or output. Perhaps for some people that’s the same thing, but the point of view is different.
It’s also important to examine the technology we wish we could live without (Q2) but also to explore why we keep hanging onto it. Email seemed to be a big one for many participants and it seemed as though many acknowledged the potential “evils” of email, it didn’t seem like people were collectively taking the big step away from it. Hard copy printing was another technology raised as something that keeps hanging on, in spite of more efficient solutions for documentation (I admit I probably print more than I should, but the infrastructure here hasn’t caught up to the key requirements for strong DM/KM.) Some folks found that their smartphones or other devices fell into this category. I felt the same way about my Blackberry years ago, but learned how to manage it. Of course, that was a business tool, whereas my iPhone is a more personal one. So perhaps its all about the work/life balance and the need for connectivity? There also seemed to be a collective loathing of WinDoze products in general, although that likely says more about the relative monopoly and omnipresence than anything else. One person’s poor UX is another user’s productivity. Again, we saw very specific products mentioned, along with their outputs (e.g. tools to “convert” PPT to e-learning). It was nice to see a few of the old “sacred cows” come out as well, although they’re not technology-related in the currently implied sense of the word.
For me, I said I wanted to live without the kind of backward thinking that says I have to physically be on-site to be “working”. Technology enabled me to work quite effectively from the comfort of my home for two-and-a-half years. I also managed to complete my graduate degree at a distance, so don’t try to tell me I have to be under your managerial thumb to be effective.
A harder question to answer is how we know when tech is working for us (Q3) and when it’s NOT working for us, or even potentially, against us. I had to think about this one a bit more, but some of the comments confirmed my gut instinct that if tech works, it should be largely invisible (very much in the ITIL/ITSM vein) or non-intrusive. Clearly, there has to be some tangible change in performance or output, or that the tech removes some manual roadblocks, etc. What was more consistent across the participants was the view that if the tech “gets in the way” or is very challenging to learn, then it’s not quite an enabler. I also offered the view that the way in which any solution is socialized and implemented can have a huge impact on its effectiveness, no matter how powerful or efficient. If the roll-out is a dud, the tech isn’t going to work well for you.
I got a kick out of the inevitable (Q4) “desert island” question, and I had to think about the possibilities…and that probably says something about the pervasiveness of technology in our lives. Yes, it’s a bit of an impossible question, but the answers were amusing and thought-provoking. Some folks just wanted a GPS and a SatPhone so they could get off said island, others were looking to find a way to make their stay more comfortable (myself included). I did note one person who took the “low-tech” approach and just wanted nothing more than pencil and paper.
The final question was one I enjoyed, because we were asked to think about how we may have helped someone learn a new technology and how that learning may have transformed them (Q5). I think the question, and the broad range of answers, spoke to our role as educators, and the power of learning as a catalyst for change. I liked the focus on how communications technology made distances between people seem irrelevant. I was also touched by some of the more personal stories of helping individuals with technology where there was some resultant change in their lives.
What those stories and the answers to the questions said to me was that the adoption and acceptance of technology can be transformative, and that the benefits and entirely personal. It also says that we should retain some control over the experience and find ways to either make things work for us or be bold enough to stand up and say where things aren’t working, and why. Tech is clearly here to stay for a while (barring some cataclysm) so we need to make sure we remain in control of it, and not let the tail (or the salespersons) wag the proverbial dog.