LEARNING AS YOU KNOW IT IS CHANGING…FAST!
Every so often, there is a moment in time that changes your perspective on what you do and how you do it. Mine occurred in March 2011.
That day, I walked into the eLearning Guild’s conference here in Orlando, Learning Solutions. I had a mission from my manager – learn about mobile technology and learning (also referred to as mLearning). We were starting to do research into what it would take to start delivering training to our clients on mobile devices. These devices would either be a tablet (probably an iPad) or maybe on a phone. What I did not expect was the actual conversation that was really happening at that conference.
What I learned was that social media, the flipped classroom model, storytelling, and hand-held devices were changing the way people acted, thought, and learned. It was as if someone had literally dropped a bomb on the world I was familiar with.
All of a sudden, I needed to be thinking about was bite-sized learning, HTML 5, video production, social media in the workplace, learning environments, and responsive web design.
BOOM! I knew my world changed immediately and I needed to bring the message back to the office that I had seen a shockwave on the horizon of the training industry and that we better start thinking about it immediately or we would be hit with a tsunami of change and we would get run over in a few years.
That night, I sat at a local burger joint, just me, my notepad, and a pen. Collecting my thoughts and getting my head in order was a requirement at that point. As I savored the flavor of the hamburger, I wrote out the things that would practically become the strategy for the training group I work with.
Today, in 2015, 90% of what I wrote out that we needed to keep an eye on has come to fruition and we successfully addressed these new technologies and ways of thinking. Are we done with implementing them? No. Are we going to implement all of it? Maybe. The one thing that seems to still be daunting us in the concept of using a device to train software to our clients and the use of these devices in the work environment.
2011 CHANGED EVERYTHING FOR ME
Learning Solutions 2011 rocked my world! What I saw was not the Facebook I was familiar with. It did not have kittens being cute or stupid YouTube videos of people getting kicked in the crotch.
What I saw was a world of collaboration and sharing. I saw Kahn Academy changing the way schools function – known as flipping the classroom. I saw kids in Asia working with kids in the United States to create a massive science project. I saw musicians from around the world coming together on YouTube to create a collaborative, cross-cultural symphony. I experienced the power of storytelling for learning, thanks to Nancy Duarte.
This was Web 2.0 impacting the learning industry and it would change our careers forever.
So, what does this mean for us today, in 2015?
OUR BRAINS HAVE BEEN REWIRED
The combination of Google and hand-held devices has changed the way our brains are actually wired. We have almost any information we want or need within seconds. This generation will never experience sitting in a bar and arguing over some ridiculous piece of trivia. We now just go to Google and look it up. Done! Argument over! Learners now expect this as part of their training experience. Did you know that people actually walk around with their hand in their pocket and simply hold their phones when they are trying to think of something? That’s how much our brains have changed.
WHAT DOES YOUR DEVICE DO?
Most everyone has a hand-held device of some sort. What does that mean they have in their pocket? A camera (photo and video), an audio recording device, a GPS, a television, a connection to almost anyone they know in some manner, a notebook, a PDF reader, a mini-game system, a calculator, a calendar, and a music player. I am sure there are many other things, but this is just a few key things this tool can do. We know longer need to remember things the way we used to. We have the world’s best current information resource right in our pocket.
HOW WE CONSUME MEDIA HAS CHANGED
Between YouTube and Netflix, we have a totally new way to consume media. A recent phenomenon is binge watching television shows. In the not too recent past, you had to buy a set of DVDs of a television show if you wanted to watch a bunch at a time. Now, you just go to Netflix and queue it up. How do you go about learning something new? What’s your starting point? If I had to bet a dollar, I would say YouTube. Media channels such as these are changing the way we provide learning content. These media outlets have drastically affected the amount of time that anyone will sit to learn something. Enter the new world of micro-learning.
HOW WE SHOP HAS CHANGED
We also have Amazon, with its amazing recommendation engine and review functionality. This is now expected and it has totally disrupted how marketers communicate to us. We value the comments on a product much more than the information provided by some marketing agency or the product manufacturer. When I purchase something on Amazon, it gives me other items that are similar, that have been purchased together with this product, and it remembers what I looked at, and it starts communicating with me via email when these items go on sale. I happen to have the Amazon app on my phone. When I find something in a physical retail store that I am interested in, one of the first things I do is whip out my phone and scan the bar code with the app. That takes me right to the product online and tells me the price I should expect to pay, as well as be able to read the reviews of that item.
Guess what? Learners are starting to wonder why they have to sift through outdated Learning Management Systems. They want their learning experience to be similar to that of shopping on Amazon. They should! It’s a fantastic experience! Enter HTML5 and the up-and-coming data capturing tool, xAPI (Tin Can).
WHAT WE READ HAS CHANGED
We have blogs, such as what you are reading now. This allows you to either find things in a personalized manner as you need it, or you can follow the process as it is laid out for you. It allows you to connect on a very personal level with other professionals in the field through articles and the ensuing comments that happen to continue the discussions. These comments allow you, the learning professional, to actually drive the types of content we, the blog authors, provide to you. Readers have a power they never used to have. Also, blogs have disrupted the news industry as well as the magazine industry. With all this content on the web via these blogs, a new role has emerged within the learning industry – a content curator. Someone needs to sift through all the noise of the web to deliver the most relevant content to you. What that content is will depend on the specific blog you are reading at the moment. Along with all this content on the web, we are doing the same thing within our businesses. We are inundated with data and information. Our learners don’t need more information. They need us, the learning professionals, to find what they need and push it to the forefront for easy access when they need it.
THE EMERGENCE OF WEB 3.0…ALREADY
This is going to be crazy when it comes into play. The web is starting to get smart…really smart. Think about all the data we are creating. What about the data that exists about you and me? Think about all the information related to our purchasing habits, our media intake habits, our reading habits, and the times of day when we do these things. Think about all those Facebook posts, all those tweets on Twitter, all the videos on YouTube. It is all part of what is called Big Data.
We are now hearing about “the Internet of Things”. We are starting to see products like Nest. This is a smart thermostat that is connected to the web and can use the data about you and your habits to adjust your power usage within your home.
Over the next few years, the web is going to become an ever-present entity in our lives. Learning will not be an event (that’s already changing). It will be something that just is. It will be ongoing and happen when we need it to. We will still have live classrooms, but my guess is that they will look and feel slightly different – and they will be connected to this mass of data. This is already showing up in our current devices. Learning, entertainment, and the web are intermingling and the experience they provide in our mobile devices is still unfolding as I write this article.
ADVANCES IN BRAIN SCIENCE IS CHANGING WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT LEARNING
This data is having massive implications in the area of brain science. We are seeing advances at a very rapid pace now. We are starting to really understand how people learn…and guess what? Much of it ain’t the way we thought it was. So, now, your traditional instructional patterns are not as reliable as they used to be and we have to learn new patterns. This is very tough for the seasoned learning professional. Hearing that much of what you learned in school about how adults learn is no longer valid is a large pill to swallow…but it is becoming truer by the month.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DEVICES
Something else that these devices have taught us is the power of touch. These devices don’t have a mouse. You use hand or finger gestures to make them perform for you. There is serious cognitive power in that, which may have been unexpected. With a mouse, there is a complete disconnect between your finger and what you are doing on the screen. The mouse is your tool to interact with the software. On a device, you touch the screen. There is a direct connection from the tip of your finger to the neurons in your brain. It’s organic. It creates a subtle yet different connection between you and what you are doing on the device. It is hard to describe, but there is a very satisfying feeling when you move your hand on the screen and it reacts. This is becoming so ubiquitous in our tools that the youth of today don’t understand why they can’t swipe or touch a laptop screen to make something happen. Even as an adult, I sometime forget that the tool I am working on doesn’t always swipe or activate.
TODAY’S YOUTH DON’T KNOW A WORLD WITHOUT THIS CONNECTIVITY
As a learning professional, it is fascinating to watch how a single piece of technology has totally changed how humans behave, think, act, and learn. I am talking about devices such as tablets (the iPad and the Kindle), phones (iPhone and Android), and new generation of laptops such as the Microsoft Surface. I remember when my parents could not even figure out a remote. Now, a one-year old can pick up an iPad and know to touch a button to watch their favorite cartoon character, hear some music, or interact with a game. Just stop and think about the implications of that for a moment.
What is the life experience of this child going to be like? They don’t know a world without this technology at their fingertips. This is the professional of the next generation. In 2030, this device-savvy one-year-old will be entering the work force. What will his or her development experience be like? It is almost impossible to consider.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN TO YOU?
This means that I just dropped a “brain bomb” on you.
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As a learning professional, you need to decide how you will address the changes facing you in your chosen career. The fact is that how you operate today in the profession will probably be mostly outdated sometime between 2018 and 2020. The workforce will have changed, technology will advance, how we go after, use, and provide information will probably be very different.
Are you going to cower and deny the writing on the wall and have your skills become irrelevent? Or, will you do the exciting and courageous thing and grow with the change? Will you take your place on the stage, raise your fist, and become the rockstar you deserve to be?
COMING UP NEXT…
The next article in this series will introduce you to how these changes have directly affected the role of an eLearning professional and an Instructional Designer. If you are part of this industry, it is vital that you understand the changes to these roles and identify the new skills you will need if you intend to advance your career over the next few years.
Click here to read Step 2: The Skills and Technologies of eLearning and Instructional Design.