I do not love technology, but I do love the barriers technology allows us to transcend and overcome. For me, technology is about connecting people and building understanding in ways that was not possible before.
For at least the past six years, all of my work – learning design, performance consulting, quality improvement, decision support, and process improvement have had a technology component. As a result, it difficult for me to separate it out from everything else I have done and will continue to do.
The only things I am certain about with technology are:
1. It is continuing to change and open up new possibilities. Ideas that were good ideas but not implementable a decade ago should often be revisited. It is now possible to find and connect with diverse people all over the world.
2. It is able to support more learner choice. In one project, we were looking to create training that will be taken by more that 8,000 learners per year. Creating content to be delivered at close to 20 globally-dispersed sites has focused on distilling it down to the common elements to create a single global curriculum: Commonalit led to consistency in performance. Technological changes however may allow us to start thinking of each of those 8,000+ learners as individuals and to more carefully consider the needs of particular learners.
3. It supports more collaborative, cross-functional, and global work. In my previous position, in only a couple of hours of a day last week, I collaborated with an operation manager in the Philippines, a client in Texas, a content engineer in India, and an instructional designer in St. Johns, Newfoundland. I could do all of this from the comfort of my home office before getting my kids off to school in the morning. Technology allows us to transcend the boundaries of time, space, and physical location.
6. People are resistant to change. Sometimes people embrace new tools and can adopt new tools within their current tasks. Starting to think differently about possibilities from the ground up is more difficult. Open-ended problem-solving is not a widely held strength among most people and yet it is critical to harnessing the potential various technologies offer. Using new technologies must be as much about teaching people to become more open, problem-solvers as about the development of the technology itself.
7. Most problems are process rather than technology problems. Far to often, companies and departments eagerly look to technology to solve complex process problems. While there are components of work that are well served by technological solutions, improving processes always also involves improving communication and information flow between people.
8. We ought to be aiming for “less bad” solutions. Our technologies often have built into them decades of legacy code. Our processes can be layered on centuries of legacy processes, assumptions and ideologies. Never have I been asked to launch a new project by selecting a brand new technology for something that has never been done before. I do believe there are folks in R&D units in large corporations like Google and hopefully within post-secondary research institutions who work in that space, but I am a practitioner not a researcher. As a result, I believe we need to accept, acknowledge and build on the complex legacy structures with which we are tasked, slowly moving them towards a state of being “less bad.”
The tecnological tools keep changing…
Word, Excel, WebCT, Blackboard, Dreamweaver, wikis, Banner, ELGG, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Moodle, Canvas, D2L, Hadoop, Python, Jupyter notebooks, HTML, HDFS, CSS, xAPI, Learning Locker, H5P, Tableau, SQL, Pig, NoSQL, Hive, SPSS, R, Captivate, Articulate, Sharepoint, Power Point, JIRA, EventFlow, SNAPP, Confluence, Delicious, Flickr, Instagram…
This is a short list of the tools that I have learned at least a little in order to support various learning and performance improvement related activities. While we need to know enough to identify the tools best used to achieve a purpose, increasingly we need to stop looking to new tools to solve our problems and instead look at existing tools that might be “good enough”.
I have space for something else here…