Monday, 25 November 2013

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?


You better close your ears if you work in IT because you probably won't like this concept; I'm all for taking the complexity out of what we do.  If you're a fan of the knowledge is power school of thought then move on, this won't work for you.  Working in Learning Technologies does not actually give you an immediate right to ramp up the complexity to make others feel they don't belong, further there's actually a responsibility to do quite the reverse.

Once upon a time anything remotely IT needed to be fiercely guarded as a secret.  We can relate to this in the training and L&D fields because the traditional 'teacher' role was somewhat like this.  The teacher was the holder of knowledge and generously shared little bits of this with students who then became enlightened gradually over time.  If you rebelled at all against the teacher then the knowledge was withheld and you were left behind.  Teachers were very much the owners of their own world and the knowledge was the key to the power, after all how could you teach when students could know what you know?  Or perish the thought what if they actually knew more about certain things?

The funny thing is, the evolution of the internet (to web and then cloud perhaps?) has followed a similar way.  Once upon a time you went on to the internet to find something out from a certified expert who was never wrong.  It really was a one way push of information, the only revolution was the size and scale of the environment.  My first 'wow' moment came on the internet when talking in a teaching chat room in the early 90s (yes it was around then); it was the 'interaction' between myself and someone thousands of miles (yes, pre-kilometer days) away and sharing of ideas that really showed the potential of the internet.  Later, we grasped this concept with the birth of web 2.0 - just a nice way of saying that the internet was no longer a one-way street to learning.  The internet is now less of an information store (although of course it stores more than ever before) it's now somewhere we can all contribute because no one person knows everything and everyone brings something to the table.  That's the same with learning all-round of course, no single person can hold all the knowledge or have had all the experiences that others can learn from.  Good teachers don't have one-way conversations with their students, good e-learning isn't just clicking and reading; it's all about the collaboration and sharing.

So if it's all about the collaboration and sharing then we all need to be able to communicate in both directions.  That means removing as many barriers as we can and language is one of those.  Yes, you can chat with users from other non-English speaking countries (hey, you can even translate my blog if you want to) through the web and tools that exist, but it's more than just the strict use of language, it's the nuances and the abbreviations that are often used to keep a layer of mystique or to separate those that know from those that don't.  Sound familiar?  I'm ex-Navy, I remember before I joined the Navy hearing Navy people speak to each other was entertaining - the words were familiar but they made little sense in what is colloquially known as "Jack Speak".  Of course you throw in to the mix a record number of TLAs (three letter abbreviations of course!) and you have a new language.  The danger of course is that when you speak with non-Navy folk that they simply don't get what you're trying to say or the message you're putting across (or perhaps more dangerously, they think they do but get the wrong meaning).  In the world of technologies this means keeping things at a level of simplicity that most trainers and L&D folks are comfortable with.

Learning Technologies combines both elements of the technical - IT and learning.  So it's doubly important that we talk in language that makes sense to both those not in the learning world, those not in the IT world and those on a totally different world altogether (oh yes, there are a fair few of those too).  What I'm trying to encourage here is that if you work in learning technologies, then try and talk to people in way they can grasp.  There's an old adage that states if you can't explain something in simple terms you don't understand it well enough.  Maybe that's the key, understand your own world in the simplest terms and then you'll probably find your understanding is actually increased. 

Finally if you want to talk to someone who understands you, then speak in a language that others understand.  Of course if you want to hold the knowledge, then do as you will, but don't be surprised if it turns out you don't know as much as those that wanted to learn from you in the earn.