It’s turning into something of a tradition on the blog to publish my Map of Learning Technology at the start of each year. It’s a highly scientific process: i’m sat in a cafe with coffee and a large slab of chocolate cake hoping inspiration will strike. Broadly, it reflects what’s passing through my mind that we will see this year. It’s neither comprehensive nor authoritative, but it’s where i think things are heading, so let’s dive in and please excuse the cake crumbs…
I remain convinced that wearable technology will change every aspect of our lives. But not quite yet. My time last year with Google Glass was informative, but today it’s sat on my desk, not perched on my nose. Why? Because it’s not integrated, it’s not effortless, it’s not seamless. So it’s easier not to use it. Even with my prescription lenses in, it makes my ear sore and my brain hurt, so whilst i love it, it’s not there yet.
The technology is still at a prototype stage: in three years, i suspect i’ll be addicted. Although the Apple Watch may beat it to the post: i’ll be first in the queue and if anyone can bring a secondary piece of technology mainstream it’s Apple: expect to be carrying two devices instead of just a smartphone soon enough. Long term: expect to be carrying half a dozen, stitched into your jacket, in your shoes, on your glasses. All interoperable, all talking to each other. And all moving beyond quantification.
The weakness so far is just measuring stuff: how far, fast or quickly you did it. Apps like Strava start to tie this into community: competition and collaboration. And that’s the key to uptake: build community. The community will deal with permeating the technology.
I think we are 2-3 years away from a mainstream application of wearable technology in organisational learning, but i expect to be having my first conversations about it this year. That’s the cycle we saw around mobile and are in around Social.
Incidentally, contrary to media reports, my experience of Google Glass has been one hundred percent positive, with hundreds of people coming up to talk to me and try them. Not one single piece of abuse or hostility, although a little scepticism about Google now and then. But maybe i just have a smiley face.
The Quantified Self is the start: the Meaningful Self is the goal. But as i say, wearable technology will transform everything. Sooner than we think.
Mobile Learning itself is coming of age, at precisely the time i stopped thinking of it as a thing. For me, mobile is all about Social these days. We’re into third generation solutions: first generation were all about prestige or vanity and usually technology led. Second generation were about organisational problems, like compliance, and often verged on the dreadful: poor experience, poor purpose, poor engagement. Now though, we see solutions integrated into performance support: built better, lighter weight, more meaningful and, crucially, tied into our ‘sense making‘ communities.
Over the next few years, we’ll see the integration of more sensors into mobile learning design: providing you with contextual information which, when it comes to it, is what it’s all about.
End state: standing in a room, with contextual information about people, things and problems delivered to my glasses. Not as far away as you think. Stuff that makes me better able to perform. And means i don’t have to tell people i’ve forgotten their name so often.
Hardware itself? Lighter, obviously, but also lighter weight in what it does: more specialist, gadgets that do one thing really well. Like GoPro: it’s fantastic for throwing about and snapping stuff in your kayak or on the slope. It’s cheap, robust, fun, rapidly iterating and doesn’t take itself too seriously. But can you take a family portrait with it? No. Can you use a viewfinder? Not really. It’s not made by Microsoft, let’s put it like that. It does one thing really well: take it or leave it.
More crowd funded technology: people love it. Why? Because we are part of the creative and innovative process. We are on the journey with the lovable geeks that have the vision. Expect to see much more of Oculus style stories.
And Oculus Rift itself? Wait till it hits the games market and don’t be surprised when you have one in your house next christmas.
Incidentally, more recent research interest about the impacts these immersive experiences can have on our behaviour: expect more concern about gun toting alien encounters corrupting our children by next christmas. And, with any luck, a new HALO game that immerses me next to the Master Chief.
So hardware will be more fragmented in terms of ecosystem, but more fluid in what we own and use. More gadgets, more interoperable, more connected (and more chargers to carry around), but more useful.
Social Collaborative Technology: this is where it’s at. Linking us to our communities. But in two ways: the adaptation and ‘bolt on‘ aspects of the old dinosaur systems, alongside the emergence of dedicated new ones.
The Bolt On ones, the ‘social‘ LMS and such like, they will be sales led, protecting the margins of increasingly desperate suppliers in a market that has grown to hate high licence fees and long term tie ins. The world wants lightweight and functional, not closed ecosystems. Much of the early panic development (and panic buying) delivered nothing except empty forums and a new bill. But much of the next generation is of interest: systems built around curation, storytelling, sharing.
The real challenges: for organisations as they adapt to a world where they no longer own the space or the story. How they engage, how they learn, that’s key. Collaborative technology facilitates communities, but only if it’s accompanied by the right permissions. We can give people spaces, but they will only engage if they understand the terms and have trust. And trust is build on predictability of organisational response over time.
So alongside the deployment of the technology, organisations need to look at learning design and community management, how they form, guide and narrate the learning and how they build trust.
The non hierarchical nature of these communities will lead to an increased need for Social Leadership with it’s socially moderated authority.
Clarity of ownership is important and a willingness to engage in multiple spaces, on multiple technologies taking different roles at different times. So the technology ecosystem needs to be broad: it will include technology owned by the organisation, but also external spaces and systems. The devices are less important than what we do with them and the permission and freedom we have to experiment.
Social Collaborative Technology will sit at the heart of the agile organisation: nurturing communities and providing the right types of learning spaces and permissions is the single more important thing for organisations to focus on. Get it right and you can be agile. Get it wrong and you will fail. Simple as that.
Finally: simulations. More affordable and superb for providing rehearsal spaces, superb for letting us experience consequence. As the technologies improve, the tool sets become more usable and available, our challenge remains that of applying great thinking behind it. A rigorous methodology for learning.
What i’m most excited about? Some of the new AI in simulations: the ability to introduce virtual actors who can respond to our actions. This will be transformative. I believe it may be the final nail in the coffin of face to face delivery, the true coming of age of learning technology, when it truly can rival or beat what it means to have someone next to you, teaching you what to do. We are not there yet, but i’ve been amazed by some of what is round the corner.
So there you go: technology is great, but without thought behind it, it’s just toys. The things to focus on: the evolution of learning methodology to incorporate the best of what the technology facilitates. I expect the scaffolded Social Learning approach to really take off this year.
There’s plenty i’ve missed out, but let’s see where the year takes us…