Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Big Question: 5 strategies to keep up with all the latest technologies

In the Big Question launched by Tony Karrer this month, he wonders how do we keep up? Posting a great central sub-question: isn't this an ever-expanding universe of tech goodies? Will we be forced to chase hot tools and social platforms to stay competitive? How the heck are we supposed to stay up to speed on all the latest stuff and be successful using it personally and professionally?

This is a question I pose myself every week. The amount of technological advances that are launched is staggering and numbing at times. It is sometimes numbing, because I feel stupid and behind when following all these new apps and innovations. And taking all these new innovations into account, how can I successfully implement them for learning purposes? The more extreme these innovations seem, the more I feel out of touch with it, and the more estranged I become.

To reduce this uneasy feeling, I use 5 strategies to keep up:

Strategy 1: true innovation through collaboration and trust
The last new development that blew my mind was a lens equipped with nanotechnology that enabled augmented reality. Just imagine that you put in a lens and you can immediately see the information you need to make full use of the knowledge you have or want to obtain? Within a near future relevant data can be superimposed on the visual perception of the person wearing the lens. This has great potential for surgeons, engineers, ... but also for students, for educators as this takes learning, and specifically authentic learning to a complete new level (without too much of an intrusion). This technology will allow professionals to have the latest updated information on e.g. their patient, or the surgery they are performing, or the history of a place you are standing in, or the evolution of a certain aspect of architecture...

Now on a completely different scale: while writing this I realized I just got a new technology out as well thanks to a wonderful team (the iphone, android - and by now multiple phones - to Moodle project). So sometimes, even simple, ordinary educational people such as me can add their two cents to new developments? This made me wonder on what it was that enabled the innovation. I wrote about the little steps we took to get to an educational innovation earlier, but the most important one was: collaboration and trust.

There is no longer - was there ever? - one person making an amazing innovation. Nowadays there is always a complete team behind an innovation, and most of the time it is an multidisciplinary team. To keep up with innovations that might have educational potential, I connect to people I trust and admire. So, one of my key keeping up strategies is to construct my own trusted knowledge team, assembled from different disciplines.

Strategy 2: follow just a couple of tech-zines:
Now this latest one always brings me back to earth and feeds my creativity. Afrigadget recycles, finds amazing solutions for priority needs, and gets the mind going. For instance this wonderful African robot made from spare parts of television sets (that is something more than lego’s mindstorm).

Technology is not all about miniaturization (like nanotechnology), it is about using what is there and improving to fit the needs of your setting or goal.

Strategy 3: keep the focus on my own educational challenges
Keeping a broad perspective is good, but for deepening my knowledge on certain innovations, I need to filter what is out there. Picking up what might solve an educational problem I encounter or focusing on what I can use and what might be helpful for future problems (it is always good to be proactive in any professional branch), helps me to overcome possible educational challenges.

Strategy 4: tuning out, allow my brain some time alone
Another important one is simply tuning out. Let all the information that I absorbed become structured in my head and simply wait for it to be processed. This might sound strange, but I feel that my mind knows better than me at times. It knows how to arrange all the information and turn it into something useful. But it only does this when I let it have its ‘playtime’. During that time I chop wood, rearrange my garage, dig holes in my garden… do all sorts of things that do not include using my professional thinking mind/brain. I trust my brain to come up with great ideas, I know it feels very happy when it can do so.

Strategy 5: reflect, write and share
And last but not least: feeding it all back to you! There is no network to get anything from, unless you give. And let’s face it: giving simply feels good also. Reflecting on newly obtained knowledge, and writing about it gives structure to all the new ideas. It might also safe others time in finding solutions for their challenges, or others can help fine tune it.

So in short how do I keep up?
  1. Getting and giving to a network of people that I trust and are knowledgeable;
  2. Staying on top through tech-zines;
  3. Balance my curiosity for new innovations, with my focus on new educational needs that need to be tackled.
  4. Tuning out from time to time.
  5. Sharing the new found knowledge.

By the way @TonyKarrer, I will be heading your way in June, attending the mLearncon2010 in San Diego from 15 - 17 June 2010.