Online technologies have afforded us many ways in which we can now learn even when we are not in the same location. Yet, some of us remain skeptical about the impact of new technologies, and in particular about new ways of learning that rely on technology. We prefer to do things the way we have done them in the past. New approaches to learning may be seen as too complicated in our task-oriented learning culture. Furthermore, we question whether experience can be taught or transferred.
With some members in the network, access to the Internet may be limited either due to resources, policies, or culture, deepening the Digital Divide even for simple tools that many of us take for granted.
And, of course, we remain attached to the face-to-face culture that has been our primary source of learning, enabling us to form our networks of trust, to directly experience and observe multiple contexts of work. How could poor connections of garbled or squeaky sound we strain to hear and fuzzy talking heads whose expressions we strain to read possibly substitute for the experience of actually being there?
Such skepticism is understandable. The technologies (e-mail, newsletters, webinars, learning platforms, publications, mailing lists, and phone/Skype) we have to connect to each other and to network members remain mostly transmissive, from the center (headquarters) to the periphery (field), and often require us to initiate communication (command-and-control, top-down).
Yet, slowly but surely, technology that affords us the ability to work (learn) from a distance seeps into all the realms of our work (learning). We already live in a blended world, a “mix of all of these things because it’s one of the effective ways of doing things, but certain things really you can’t achieve [online].” We no longer reflect on the pros and cons of conferencing software or Skype, at least not when they work the way we need them to. And the same process is likely to recur with other technologies as turnover and succession in the team bring digital natives to the workplace.
Photo: More face (Stephanie Sicore/flickr.com)