New world of technology hits the jackpot in Las Vegas

In the first of two reports from DevLearn 2015 held in Las Vegas last week, Marnie Threapleton reflects on how to make technology the enabler of learning

DevLearn 2015, ‘Innovation in the making’, Las Vegas last week, attracted 2,800 learning professionals from over 20 countries to showcase cutting edge learning technologies. The first keynote from David Pogue entitled “Learning Disrupted: The unrecognizable new world of tech and culture” certainly got me thinking.

Pogue is the host of the PBS show NOVA ScienceNow and a columnist for Yahoo! He is one of the preeminent voices on cutting-edge consumer technology and one of the world’s best-selling ‘how-to’ authors. He has written his own line of computer books, the Missing Manual series, which now includes 120 titles. For 13 years Pogue was the weekly personal technology columnist for The New York Times; in the autumn of 2013 he made the move to Yahoo, where he founded Yahoo Tech as a destination for non-techies.

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David talked about wearable tech, the cloud, drones, the quantified self, the Internet of Things, self-driving cars and augmented reality and finished off by playing the piano!

The technology of our world is changing faster and faster. However, the fascinating part is the effect it’s having on society and culture but it struck me that in order to deal with this pace of change in technology, do we need to think differently and ask ourselves how will all of these changes affect the way we learn? Technology is ubiquitous between home and work with multiple uses enabling us to improve our lives and deliver knowledge no matter where we are or what we need.

Back in the day when we flicked the switch to turn on the very first light bulb or the dial on the wireless, not many of us would have thought of the plethora of ways that these seemingly minor events would impact our lives and deliver better outcomes in work or play. Instead, if we believe the Gartner Hype Curve, we saw the challenges these technology changes would bring: cost, demand for electricity, strain on resources, repairs and so on before seeing the benefits that could be realised such as an exponential growth in efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and agility. We eventually thought about things differently and today that’s not at all dissimilar.

The sheer volume of technologies today is clear to see when walking around the Expo Hall at DevLearn. Towards Maturity Benchmark research report in 2014 “Modernising Learning: Delivering Results” revealed a 200 per cent increase in the number of technologies being used by over 50 per cent of organisations over the past five years. While technology is seen as a means to deliver more productivity and efficiency we find that there’s little or no interconnectivity between them all.

Take our communications tools – how many of us spend an increased amount of time checking work email; personal email; Facebook; LinkedIn; Twitter; What’s app; Instagram; messenger and messages to name but a few and all before we have had a cup of coffee? This is replicated in our learning environments with LMS; social learning platforms; CPD; badges and other informal learning. Ironically we spend more time managing the technology, so is the challenge now to reinvent the interconnectivity that we first saw as such a benefit when the internet was born?

We have an expectation that everything has to be on demand. Pogue flagged that Amazon are trialing using drones to deliver parcels although they have to wait for the FAA to create rules for the drones to fly; wearables are utilising more and more sophisticated sensors in more everyday places (helmets; T-shirts; caps; contact lenses) to extrapolate and deliver real-time data for purposes such as health and medical science. However this poses questions around security and privacy, which reveals different generational attitudes. The younger generation sees this as a trade off, more convenience, less privacy whereas the older generation sees the lack of privacy as a threat. How do we ensure we give learners the learning at the point of need on the platforms they find best suit their preferred method of learning so they can self-direct whilst ensuring we protect the corporate brand and regulatory requirements?

The last thing we want to do is stifle innovation. After all the recession inspired one of the most creative entrepreneurial periods of the new millennium so far – out of necessity, innovation thrived and we saw new ways of doing things with the base technology. We gave a voice to personal and social collaboration through a service-oriented approach by the general public. There are now more than 1.3 million Apps in the App store. As Pogue articulated well, we have gone from web version 1.0 where the web developers created the platform and the content, to web 2.0 (where the users create the content) and now to ‘World 2.0’ where we are able to connect more directly with each other and are more App based. ‘Task Rabbit’ is like a multi-virtual assistant marketplace where you can list the grunt work you don’t want to deal with and people bid to see if they can provide that service to you – at a charge of course. ‘Uber’ offers immediate car services; ‘Parking Panda’ offers peoples’ driveways for parking saving expensive city parking fees and leave your dog with people who love dogs rather than in kennels with ‘Dog Vacay’. The list is endless. Social learning is already happening but mostly outside of the workplace so why don’t we go to where our learners are to find out how we can facilitate learning many to many?

So if we are experiencing these technologies in our home lives and technology is ubiquitous then what are the implications for learning and development?

The danger is that we become fixated on the overwhelming volume and complexities of the technology itself, ‘drinking from the fire hose’ if you like. The biggest challenge is that everything is going too fast. Change is scary and technology change puts fear into many of us.

What we can do is to focus on technology as an enabler and not as the driver. Start with the outcome and work back and choose the best technology to deliver the solution. Remember we are here to help solve business problems. If we use a common framework and learn from those who are adapting their practices and behaviours to take advantage of the technology to deliver business outcomes and quantifiable results such as reducing time to competency; attracting and retaining talent; improving competitiveness and agility, this will enable us to capitalise on technology at a faster rate of change. Realising and accepting that is the key to recognising this new world of technology and culture and ride the wave.






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