The Big Question: Keeping up

bigQ

The April Big Question in the Learning Circuits Blog is simply ‘how do we keep up?’ It responds to this plea from a reader:

Isn’t this an ever-expanding universe of tech goodies? Will we be forced to chase hot tools and social platforms to stay competitive? How the heck are we supposed to stay up to speed on all the latest stuff and be successful using it personally and professionally?

At one level this question can be answered very simply, because keeping up has never been easier. The traditional means for staying on top of new developments – conferences and trade magazines – are going as strong as ever. But if you want to be right up to the minute, all you have to do now is subscribe to the leading blogs, follow the industry experts on Twitter and perhaps attend the occasional webinar. Every mechanism you could possibly want for staying up-to-date is already available. Perhaps the more important question, then, is ‘do I really need to?’

I think there’s a balance to be struck here. Hardware and software media technologies are quite obviously proliferating and a proportion of these will prove to have a lasting relevance to learning and development. Consultants and commentators are duty bound to investigate all these possibilities and to report back on likely applications; but for every l&d professional to be doing this seems wasteful and potentially a major distraction.

The balance is needed because you can’t afford to become too divorced from new technologies, simply because now and again these could provide you with the potential for massive efficiencies. Right at the moment, with resources really tight, efficiencies are important and new media provide one of your best routes to achieving these. But there is a huge gulf between the speed at which technologies are introduced and the speed with which they can be assimilated into the workplace. Take the iPad for example: yes an interesting gadget and you might want to own one, but only a handful of organisations will be using them on any serious basis for l&d in the next few years. You can afford to keep a watching brief.

For me, it’s more important to keep abreast of new thinking about learning methods because these can have an immediate impact on the  effectiveness of your solutions, regardless of the media that are used for their delivery. After decades in which little progress was made, we are now seeing some really important new developments in thinking, not least connectivism, and valuable findings from the field of neuroscience. We know so much more now about how people learn that we are better equipped than ever to do a good job. All the gadgets and gizzmos in the world won’t compensate for bad learning design.

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