Learning Intelligence and the link to Technology
Why have we welcomed technology into our lives but resisted it in our education systems?
Technology is so much part of our everyday life it is hard to image a time without it, except that is, unless you think about education. Education has made use of technology but in many cases only to add to or enhance existing teaching methods and practices. There is a resistance to allowing technology to revolutionise formal education. If you move away from this then the instances of using technology to support and aid learning are numerous and all around us. Young people learn to dance by watching YouTube videos, facts are looked up, people researched and questions and issues discussed across cultural and geographic boundaries, all with the aid of technology.
What we take as technology or our description of it will include a link to computing in some form. The role of computers in our lives is pervasive and it has changed the way we do things for ever. There is no going back without the destruction of computers. There is no ignoring technology without being left behind. Technology is a great enabler if used purposefully. It is also capable of consuming great amounts of time for little obvious return.
As for the benefits, without technology I would have great difficulty in communicating my ideas to an international audience. For example this blog is being read in over 80 countries around the world. Technology allows me to easily share ideas with those who find them, who are part of the same connected world, and to receive feed forward, challenge and encouragement. If I am willing to explore and to listen I can learn from others and possibly innovate and develop new concepts based on this experience. Technology can support lifelong learning in the true sense, to use the familiar term perhaps, more of a 24/7 learning model if we let it.
My theory as to why we are so ready to accept technology is because what it offers appeals to our very core. It is the same list of things that is essential in engaging students in learning or employers in their work. In understanding how these needs impact learning it is easy to see the role technology plays. As I have discussed earlier we have a need for four basic elements one of which is fun. Computer based games that make use of the technology fulfil this aspect and some have tried developing learning games to tap into this need we have. In fact technology can help us meet the remaining three needs too and this is, in my view, the draw of technology. Technology can improve or enhance our sense of belonging (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) Through the use of technology we can be heard (Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, etc). Our choices are widened because we can research and find information quickly helping to develop a sense of freedom (Google, YouTube etc).
What technology is effectively doing is giving us the tools to manage our environment. Here are some of the things technology allows us to do in terms of managing our learning environment:
- we do not need to be left out through a lack of understanding
- we do not need to experience the feeling of being lost, we can find our way around (metaphorically speaking)
- we do not need to remain ignorant
- we do not need to travel to see or discover
- we do not need to travel to collaborate or discuss
Let me give you an example from my own experience. My formal education years were devoid of computers up until the age of 21 when I left university. I was an early adopter of the new technology and bought my first computer in 1981. It did very little by today’s standards and it was relatively expensive. I had an instinct that this new device was going to help me overcome my barriers to learning. Having said I went to university you may think I had no barriers to learning but I did and they were significant to me. I disliked reading, especially whole books to find the key passages or points. I disliked even more writing, due in part to the speed of the process but also because of my poor spelling. Ideas were stopped in mid flow as I stumbled for a spelling and had to slowly make my way across a page with a biro trying to make my handwriting legible. It was the second of these barriers that technology first solved. The word processor that was available on early computers gave me my voice and allowed me to explore the ideas I had without worrying about spelling and handwriting. There was an unexpected side to this too. My colleagues were more inclined to read something I had written when it appeared typed or printed, it had a sort of ‘authority’ about it that they accepted.
Moving to the present my use of technology to manage my learning environment is pervasive to say the least. Not counting this blog, which is the product or evolution of the early word processor, let me give you one final example of how I manage my learning environment, even when I do not realise that I am in one or there is an opportunity to learn.
Watching the television is a pastime or an opportunity to relax for many of us and so it was as I watched a drama based on events of the 40’s, this is a period I have no personal experience of and history was not my favourite subject at school (all that reading and writing!). Central to the events, characters and the story was an event of which I had no knowledge. Putting the TV on pause I turned to my wireless tablet and typed a few phrases into a search engine. Within less than a minute I had the background to the event in my hands. Putting down the tablet and taking the TV off pause I was now in a position to fully engage in the story and follow events with an understanding that allowed me to experience the richness of the writing and the various twists and turns of the story. I had experienced a learning event when least expected it but the process was only possible through the use of technology.
The link between LQ and technology is a significant one. I won’t even say “if used correctly” because as my second example shows we do not know when learning will or can take place and at times we do not even know the ‘what’.
I want you to contrast my examples and references to technology meeting our basic learning needs to your own experience of formal education. An education that is meant to be the best we can offer but which in many cases is severely limiting learning because it does not allow for two fundamental components – LQ and technology.
What this means for the Teacher
- You may not be the source of all knowledge, be prepared to be challenged. Embrace this challenge in your approach to teaching
- Use every opportunity to meet the needs of learners, especially if you want them engaged, and this includes the use of technology in your teaching and the learning of the students. Give them ‘permission’ by example to use their LQ and technology to meet their learning needs.
- Accept that like when learning to walk people will stumble in their use of technology and may just enjoy the experience for a while before putting it to good use. Be a guide rather than a barrier at this point.
What this means for the Learner
- Not all technology is bad, despite what you are told by those who would control your use of it, but you need to demonstrate its positive impact on your learning through the use of LQ in managing your learning environment and describing the impact to others.
- Be ready for a learning opportunity even when you least expect it. When the opportunity presents itself take the time to learn because it will enhance the experience and deepen your understanding.
- Recognise the draw of technology and allow yourself some time to explore these aspects but set limits and maintain a balance.
- Look for ways technology can help you manage your learning environment to meet your needs. Here are a few to think about:
- Word processors will help with spelling and presentation but there is no need to use every font in the world.
- Presentation software can help you organise your thoughts and ideas in a flexible way. You can drop ideas onto a ‘desktop’ and link or move them in order to manage your thinking.
- Search engines can be useful, even more so if you learn to search effectively. It is worth exploring search terms to refine the results you get and save time. Use ‘bookmarks’ to record your search journey so you can re visit it later.
- Don’t believe everything you read or see. Maintain a healthy scepticism and look to build evidence and argument by exploring different sources and points of view.
- Technology can provide you with an opportunity to experience and engage in learning from different angles or perspectives or even means. You may prefer to watch than read or listen and contribute to a discussion instead of being passive in the learning.
- You can learn outside of formal education systems. This means if in class you do not fully understand a topic there are opportunities through technology to revisit or explore these in your own time and at your own pace (Khan Academy etc).
One final point concerning the mobile phone.
The mobile phone continues to evolve way beyond its primary purpose. In doing so it seeks to provide for or satisfy many or all of our needs. In my view it is doing this in a random way, as evolution often dictates it should, including services and facilities that may as time progresses fade away or no longer be offered. It has the opportunity to become an effective tool in managing our learning environment if we use it in that way. It also has the opportunity to become the next step in the evolution of the television (which it is beginning to emulate in so many ways). A technology that has so much to offer and yet we use it for such banal purposes as we use it to feed the most basic of our needs. Many schools will not allow students to use mobile phones in the classroom and often with good reason for we have seen them used for the worst of all reasons. It strikes me odd though that we teach learners to read so they can access books which, at the time, were the communication tool for learning and our approach in formal education to new technology is to put up barriers.
A word about future LQ articles
This is the 16th article I have published exploring Learning Quotient and during that time the number of people reading the articles had doubled each month. I think it is time to let people catch up, I have often led charges in educational concepts only to look behind me and realise I am alone! I will not be publishing a new article next week. Instead I will be reviewing each aspect of LQ and what it means for the teacher and the learner. If you are a parent you may be wondering why I left out that particular perspective on LQ, more of that to come later.
Whilst I am not writing any new articles concerning LQ I am busy putting things together in the form of three books. Early adopters of my concept of LQ have provided positive feedback on its impact in their own lives and their teaching. Whilst this is encouraging I would love to hear challenges or questions about how LQ can make a difference in teaching and learning. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not want to leave a comment on the blog.