Jon's Musings

How to better use the technology we’ve already got

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How to better use the technology we’ve already got
by Jon Bolton - Thursday, 20 February 2014, 1:45 PM

This time two weeks ago I was on my way to London to attend the Learning Technologies 2014 conference and exhibition. #LT14UK is an annual event, with the free exhibition attracting over 6000 visitors.

It’s an important event in the learning and development calendar, allowing you the opportunity to get information and inspiration, and to engage, reflect, network and make connections.

I was considering writing about what’s up and coming in learning technology, but there are many other people predicting the future. I’m more interested in how we can better use the technology we’ve already got…. but that you might not be using yet.

Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, came up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Let’s put that into context: my son is 4 years old. The iPad was not available when he was born – he was about 6 months old the day it was on sale. He’s (intuitively) known how to use it for at least 2 years. He knows how to swipe, he knows how to select the apps in ‘his’ folder, he knows there is a passcode when you switch it on… and fortunately he hasn’t yet memorised or figured out the combination of numbers. ‘Swiping’ is so normal to him that he frequently tries to change the channel on the television by swiping his hand across the screen. In the film Minority Report, the huge holographic screen that hangs in the air in front of Tom Cruise, who interacts with it using virtual-reality gloves, is not at all far-fetched in my son’s mind. It’s just a natural part of the way the world works.

Mobile technology is not new – statistics indicate that by mid 2014 more people will access the internet via mobile devices eg smartphones, iPads or tablets, notebooks, Kindles rather than desktop PCs.

Mobile technology is changing the world and our experience of it. From an organisational perspective, mobile learning allows for a spectrum of possibilities that were not present before, and they continue to evolve. There are many benefits to delivering learning and support via mobile devices. These include:

Access anytime, anywhere – makes learning available in new situations, making use of ‘non-places’

Just in time reinforcement and reminders – great for knowledge about policies and service delivery, compliance updates and performance support.

In his review of the literature around workplace learning, Smith (2003) cites research highlighting concerns about the effective transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace and suggests that learning for the workplace is best facilitated when it is designed in the context of actual workplace problems. The key desired outcome is the application of learning to practice.

Oblinger and Hawkins (2010, p.14) note that,

“The ability to transfer learning to a real-world situation enhances the application of knowledge and leads to enduring understanding”.

By using mobile solutions, learners can develop and refine skills in real world situations.

But if mobile technology is not so new, what about wearable technology?

Amidst the hype of things like Google Glass, remember that we’ve had GPS trackers, heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, etc. for a long time now. But we can now do SO MUCH MORE with it.

Imagine a watch that tracks your level of physical activity, or a device that you wear on your arm to gauge your golf swing, or a pair of socks that tells you about your cadence, weight distribution and foot landing when you’re running. But, you say, that’s about application or leisure, not learning.

Really? If you’re a golf instructor, than a device that you wear on your arm to gauge your golf swing is absolutely about learning. Glasses that show you information that you need, when you need it, is most definitely about knowledge reinforcement.

Technology supported learning and the role of the learning and development professional has changed dramatically over the last few years. You need to ensure that you and your staff have the skills and knowledge to continuously adapt to the changing needs and demands of your organisation.