Thursday, December 03, 2009

You could have knocked me over with a feather!

So there I was in this pre-conference workshop at Online Educa. I wasn't the oldest person in the room, but I was certainly helping to raise the average age.

We were talking about how to meet the learning needs of an increasingly digitally literate workforce. One woman expressed the view that our generation wasn't going to be able to achieve this. That we would have to leave it to the next generation. She also seemed to feel that it would have to wait until things had slowed down a bit, so that L&D could catch up.

She wasn't talking to me. She was talking to the panel and I was not a member, but I felt compelled to answer. No doubt this was both poor conference etiquette and poor manners, but I couldn't hold my tongue.

I asked how she thought the next generation would have it any easier, since they will in their turn be followed by younger people who are more comfortable using technologies that have yet to be invented. She was confident that their current literacy would enable them to make the shift. I'm not so sure. Every generation - in fact, I don't even want to use the word 'generation' since it implies a bigger timeframe than is the reality in my experience - will see the tools with which they are familiar rendered obsolete by new inventions. We don't know what hasn't been invented yet and it may be as different from web 2.0 (and 3.0 and 4.0) as 2.0 is from 1.0. We don't know that it will be any easier for our kids to learn the future technologies than it has been for us to learn these ones.

I am also pretty certain that the rate of progress and change is not going to slow down. In fact, I suspect quite the opposite will be the case.

I find it odd that, surrounded by people whose mothers may well be my age, I am often the most 'radical' person - or at least one of the most radical people - in the room.

How can this be the case? Perhaps I am the one who is deluded.

Time will tell.


V Yonkers said...

We were watching the redigitized version of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer last night when my husband and I commented that the original version we saw was in black and white. Why? Because the color TV was something new.

My father used a slide rule until the day he died, whereas I used a calculator. He could never "get" how to use the more complex calculators. Each generation has their own set of tools that it is hard to change. Many 30 somethings use MySpace because that is what they first learned.

I think what is more important, as you point out, is not the tools but how open to new tools students/workers are. I am always surprised that my students, who are supposed to be so tech savvy, are so resistant to using tools they have never used before. I have had trouble getting them to use linkedin, because they have facebook. When they did use linkedin, many did not like it because of the differences in style and communication protocols.

So I'd have to agree with your "radical" ideas.

Harold Jarche said...

"but I couldn't hold my tongue" - and why am I not surprised?

I agree with your sentiments. Technology will change ever faster now that we are completely inter-connected. The time is now, and it's "our" job to help the next "generations". As they used to say in the Army, "lead, follow or get out of the way".

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers I think a lot of younger people see the tools they use in one specific way. I like to push the boundaries, to challenge the preconceptions about the purpose of a tool. A little lateral thinking and a networking tool becomes a learning tool, a research tool. Perhaps this is where we can help - by pushing back on preconceived boundaries.

I have ever been the salmon, seeing things just that little bit differently without even realising it, and then being called upon to defend my actions/stance/whatever. I live my life on the back foot, it seems ;o)

@Harold How well you know me, though we've never even met! I just went to an interview for the podcast for the event and said pretty much the same thing. We need to stop being an impediment to learning with our own preciousness!

V Yonkers said...

Karyn, I agree. Students should learn not only new tools but new uses of old tools. My point was that many times we learn tools or concepts in school and feel that this learning is fixed for the rest of our life.

Part of what you are addressing is part of a wider issue of how do we get people to realize that what we are learning today will change as the environment and our needs change. I feel those who move between cultures are more open this idea (knowledge is not static). Nothing could be more obvious than when my kids started asking me question about their math homework. I always excelled in math, but I had no clue what they were talking about. How could a subject as objective as math have so many approaches to come up with the same result?

The same thing is true with the tools we use. We are "taught how to use" the tool. But often others may use them differently or in new ways that we never thought of. The goal for education, therefore should be to develop an understanding of the affordances of tools so as new tools are developed or new needs arise, individuals will learn how to adapt the old tools or new tools to old problems.