Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Late adopters and that widening chasm

I believe it was David Lloyd George who said you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. And for late adopters of digital technologies in learning and development, that chasm is becoming ever wider.

A chasm is a scary enough thing when it's narrow. The wider it gets, the scarier it gets. Fortunately, the technology exists to create stepping stones across the chasm.

One of the things I have noticed, talking to late adopters is that many of them are of the opinion that their target user audience isn't ready to use digital technologies as part of their working/learning day.

I'd like to address this from two angles.

First of all, digital tech is here to stay, and it's evolving all the time. At some point, the chasm will have to be crossed, and I reckon sooner is better than later. That much is pretty inevitable to both providers and consumers of learning solutions. In five or ten years' time, the learning landscape is going to look very different, and as for the learner profile..! There seems to be a general consensus that by that time, even our late adopters are going to have to be functioning in that space. One very positive aspect to being a late adopter is that you don't have to follow the path taken by the trailblazers - they made a lot of mistakes. Just check where they are now, and plot a path to join them there.

But I am seeing a tendency to postpone thinking about how they're going to get there. It is possible to introduce aspects of tech that set things in motion.
  • You could digitise your happy sheets, for example. Such a small thing. 
  • You could move assessments online.
  • You could introduce a tip/challenge of the week sent out to mobile phones.
  • User manuals/process documentation could be moved online (or if that's too scary, locally based on computers/tablets), leveraging the navigational advantages that that brings, and paving the way for a full blown point-of-need performance support tool.
Secondly, the user audience is seldom as digitally incompetent as the stakeholders seem to think. Many people, who are not regarded as being particularly digitally literate:
  • Search for information using a search engine such as Google
  • Have Facebook accounts
  • Can take a photo with their smart phone and upload it to Facebook or send it to someone
  • Can use a satnav, either a purpose-made one or on their smart phones
  • Find and watch clips on YouTube
  • Book flights/holidays online
  • Buy their groceries online
  • Buy goods from Amazon and/or eBay and pay for them via PayPal
  • Access their children's VLEs in the school portal
  • etc. etc.
So I think we can gently challenge the perception of the stakeholders on that score - their user audience can often do more than they're given credit for, and there's no reason why they can't start to do some of those things as part of their learning experience.

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