The printing press, telephone, radio, television, internet all technology equalizers of people and information.
Upon the advent of each new technology phase people became more and more connected with each other, more informed and more knowledgeable about events surrounding them. We are in the middle of a technology movement that is having a huge impact in the learning industry but comes with it unfortunate control issues. There is a reason why during an uprising, that communications are the first thing to be stopped or censored. Is there a connection here? As you would expect, I have an opinion – but I’ll get to the thought in a moment.
First, remember when pagers were shiny and new? Wow! Predictably, the momentum swung from amazement of the new technology in front of us, to feeling burdened by that very same technology. “This is great! We can be connected!” (Cue pendulum swing) “Damn! This is terrible, I can’t escape!” Despite the fact that when the pager buzzed, most of us still had to search out a payphone to find out what all the buzzing was about – it was still a nifty little piece of technology. Then as expected, for the most part, the populous was divided on the progression of technology being able to find and connect us.
Which leads me to learning technology as it evolves today. At any given conference or ASTD chapter meeting there is a confluence of generations, leadership styles and learning philosophies. In the past, the L&D person of a newer generation would accept the wisdom of the tribal knowledge of the group – however, technology has now become the great equalizer. No longer does the new generation of thinkers have to accept the norm as standard practice. They have Google at their instantaneous touch to conduct their own research. They have twitter to reach a network that is wider than ever before. They have WordPress, tumblr, blogger to connect themselves with other thought leaders who share their philosophical mindset. In what would take years of certifications, courses, and book readings for those of us in the Boomer generation to gain information; now only takes half the time, and the information gathered is equally rich.
Suddenly, technology in the learning field has made us intellectual equals. No more “sage on the stage”, no more “because I said so”, no more having to accept research conducted back in 1965 as gospel. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to get a bizillion comments/emails taking me to task about those veterans in the industry who deserve our respect. There are many of us, myself included, who have been around the block a time or two. I’ll be the first to raise my hand to say that experience doesn’t equate to useful knowledge, or most importantly, up to date knowledge; the people of this “digital age” have much to offer veterans like myself, and I’m happy to have them teach me a thing or two. Technology has put us on the same playing field of striving to reach the goal of making learning a business that organizations respect and take seriously. Technology is teaching us that while the classroom has its place, that place can be anywhere at any time. Those new in the learning industry have much to teach me about engagement, about learning stimulation, about collaboration and about bringing excitement to learners. (Not to mention the upswing in wearable technology.) Their use of technology plays a huge role in achieving the goal of learning connectivity without the binding structure of directed learning modules. We can let the learning be free to move, allowing people to be more self-directed or not, if that is what people prefer the beauty is allowing for choice. Social media tools used for learning, curation and collaboration creates an unlimited expansion for our use of learning technology and we all need to be leading the way. Sitting back, being fearful of the future and what it brings will lead to brain atrophy – and really, who wants that?
Back at the beginning of this article, I mentioned censorship. Censorship as a control mechanism. I’m sure we have all sat in the same room with the “experienced” L&D person who, while despite voluntarily attending a session on new technologies in learning, was the first to shout out about control. “Facebook isn’t secure, Skype isn’t stable, twitter is just for announcing your lunch menu, and we can’t trust people to say the right things at the right time“. Therefore these tools must be stripped from our lexicon. Up goes the firewall. Down comes the offending site. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)? Don’t be ridiculous, how do you control the information? How do you keep people focused? Sounds a lot like a scared dictatorship to me. Scared of people who may give critical and important feedback. As is standard operating procedure for dictatorships across the world, to control the populous, one must control the technology of the day. Well, I’m here to break the bad news to you: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Facetime, twitter, WordPress, et all – are out of the bag. No putting those cats back. Technology is the great equalizer of people and the equalizer of our industry. It’s the new social learning.
The question now, is not how do we contain or control the forward momentum of using technology for learning – the question is how to leverage, how to explore, how to learn, and how to become real knowledge leaders for the 21st century as opposed to trainers of the 19th century. Let’s not look back.
How technology has affected learning today? Share your experiences.
2 thoughts on “Technology – The Great Equalizer”
I used to dislike the term e-learning, because learning’s mainly about brain cells, not about technology. (So it’s as if we called learning from a book “b-learning”!) But now I see it’s a useful (though sometimes hopelessly broad) term.
Technology’s a great enabler, so if someone wants to pump out awful e-learning, they can – very easily. (For instance, to me Articulate Engage should be called “enRage”. That’s because it’s mostly used like a glorified Next button – to browse randomly through content.) But if someone wants to create truly engaging e-learning, that’s easier than ever too.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my recent post about Storyline. (Like Brian Washburn, I don’t think typical e-learning will improve any time soon.)
Craig – You bring up a very valid point. I’m going to address the technology as an equalizer point rather than “Engage as EnRage” point as that is a bit off topic to the post. Through out history we could give examples of technology being misused in some fashion. For every Tedtalk there is a new kitten video. For the very reason book printing, for the most part, was controlled solely by academics (the masses can’t be trusted…all Scott Adam wants to do is write cartoons!) some people feel that e-learning must stay in the hands of experienced, “certified” instructors. My opinion is that this is exactly why technology (including and most importantly,programs such as Articulate) must find it’s way into the hands of those less practiced. The ones that are willing to see what happens beyond the point and click next button. As the post points out, newbies do not have to take our word for it – “trust me, the program doesn’t support what you are explaining”. They can go to the wonderful, beyond helpful, Articulate Guru site to find out enough information to leave all of us “experienced” e-learning practitioners in the dust.
Our job is to provide guidance and support then allow the new generation of L&D people to experiment with technology. If we cannot provide that kind of knowledge support we need to get the hell out of the way. I do have some thoughts on the post you link to, so I’ll just bebop on over there – those of you following along, feel free to bebop with me – I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. 🙂