Tag: future

Smartfailing the vintage future

A little while ago, Ben Betts blogged about a wonderful book called 2010: Living in the Future which was written by Geoffrey Hoyle back in 1972.

Illustration of aircraft over wild animals and in the city.

I love these vintage visions of the future.

Reading the book prompted me to seek other predictions from yesteryear, and I found plenty via Vintage Future.

Doctor consults a child via AV media.

Some predictions were remarkably accurate (eg telemedicine, prepackaged meals, orbital space stations) while others were way off the mark.

This got me thinking

Why do some predictions of the future pan out so wrong?

I remember as a child being fascinated by a 19th century illustration of space travel that depicted a steam train flying among the stars and planets.

Clearly at that point in history, the futurist was so convinced of the modernity of the locomotive that he did not conceive any other possible mode of transport – let alone the depletion of fossil fuels.

It was perfectly natural for him to expect that, one day, trains would be hurtling through outer space.

More examples

Consider these…

Mechanical servant vacuuming the floor.

Why is a robot pushing the vacuum cleaner?

Because contemporary practice was for the housewife to do it.

Naturally, then, the innovation was to replace her with a humanoid.

Shoppers in a supermarket push buttons to bring items on a conveyor belt. (1964)

Why must the shopper be at the store?

Because contemporary practice was for the shopper to visit the supermarket in person.

Naturally, then, the innovation was to automate the system on site.

Dick uses his famous 2-way wrist radio in Dick Tracy: America's Most Famous Detective. (1952)

Why is Dick talking into his watch?

Because wristwatches were the contemporary fashion.

Naturally, then, the innovation was to add an audio channel to that device.

Why did they miss the mark?

In each of the above examples, contemporary practice prejudiced the futurist’s expectations of future practice.

They were wearing blinkers.

Of course they had no concept of jet engines, infrared sensors, the World Wide Web and smartphones. But without an audacious imagination that dared to consider the possibility of these technologies, their predictions were doomed to fail.

Not so fast

It’s easy to look back with a smug sense of intellectual superiority. How rediculous those predictions were! How primitive the science!

But are we really any better today?

I hear a lot about innovation in the workplace, but I doubt we have mastered the creative thinking that is required to forecast beyond our immediate future with any sense of confidence.

If we don’t wrap our minds around the stuff that doesn’t yet exist, our “innovations” will become the latest examples of charming vintage.

Workplace learning in 10 years

The Learning Circuits Big QuestionThe Learning Circuits Big Question for this month is:

If you peer inside an organization in 10 years time and you look at how workplace learning is being supported by that organization, what will you see?

To answer this question, I’ve organised my own two cents’ worth under six major banners…

1. The responsibility for e-learning development will decentralise across the organisation.

In 10 years’ time, I believe organisations will rely less on external development houses to produce e-learning solutions, and instead bring more – if not all – of it in-house.

Of course this is already happening; however, it’s usually associated with the appointment of a specialist “E-Learning Team”. While such a team may fill a gap in the short term, it’s akin to appointing a Photocopier Operating Team, a Word Document Authoring Team, a Google Searching Team and an Email Sending Team. While all of these technologies were novel at one time or another, everyone has since learned to integrate them into their day-to-day activities.

E-Learning development should be no different. My view is that it’s unsustainable for a specialised E-Learning Team to remain responsible, in the long term, for developing all of the e-learning solutions for everyone in the organisation. Soon enough they’ll get swamped, their turn-around times will lag, and their colleagues will start to say silly things like “e-learning doesn’t work”.

It makes more sense to me to train the organisation’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in rapid e-learning authoring. Then, whenever a learning need arises, the SME has both the knowledge and the skills to develop their own e-learning solution, quickly and effectively.

Hand Work 1, courtesy of jmark, stock.xchng.

Sure, the interactivity of the e-learning that is produced by the SMEs will take a short-term hit. However, that should change over time as their confidence and experience grows with using these tools. I’m sure you’re better with Word now than when you first started?

Of course, the support and guidance of qualified e-learning coaches will be crucial during this transition period.

2. E-Learning will shift from instructivism towards constructivism and connectivism.

In a previous article, I said that workplace learning has thankfully become more constructivist and even connectivist over time. I think in 10 years’ time it will be even more so.

A driver of this shift will be people power. As staff familiarise themselves with blogs, wikis, RSS, YouTube and Twitter, and as more tech-savvy Gen-Y’s & Z’s join the organisation, the demand for self-paced, self-directed learning will accelerate.

Conquer the world 1, courtesy of Mart1n, stock.xchng.

Couple that with the increasing demand for e-learning more generally across the organisation, and no one will be able to afford the time and effort to prepare perfectly pre-defined, pre-packaged content for all occasions. Something’s gotta give; open it up to Web 2.0.

I still maintain that instructivism will remain relevant in the digital age. However, with less hand holding from a “teacher”, meta‑learning (or learning how to learn) will become an increasingly important skill set.

3. Staff will collaborate and share knowledge.

The shift towards constructivism and connectivism will demand organisation-wide collaboration and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, facilitated by blogs, wikis, discussion forums and other online media.

Toplaps, courtesy of ugaldew, stock.xchng.

Single-point sensitive gurus are a liability; everyone has the obligation to share their knowledge with everyone else. This might seem a lofty or even altruistic notion, but the principles of Wikinomics tell us that the organisations whose staff don’t do this won’t be able to compete effectively in the marketplace.

This shift will be accompanied by formal acknowledgements of informal learning. Sure, you can learn something anywhere, but the organisation still needs to be confident of your capability. Insert summative online assessments here.

4. Learning will be fully networked.

As the virtual workplace gains in popularity, more and more people will be working from home, in different cities and different countries.

Virtual classrooms will be the norm for centralising everyone in the one space, while emerging technologies such as virtual worlds and holograms will also bridge the geographical divide.

5. M-Learning will be popular.

Ragan reported recently that only 10% of Americans use their cell phones to access the web daily. My gut tells me this statistic is reflected right across the corporate sector.

Palmtop Series 1, courtesy of bizior, stock.xchng.

However, advances in mobile technology and connectivity, coupled with the business world’s shift towards cloud computing, will eventually render the cell phone an indispensable learning and working tool.

Why? Because everything will be online. Why wouldn’t you use your phone to get it if you needed it?!

6. E-Learning will be smart.

Finally, while many technological advances will continue to improve knowledge distribution, it’s on another plane to personalise it so that it’s relevant to the individual learner. I think we’re just seeing the beginnings of artificial intelligence and the dawn of the semantic web.

So, do you agree with my predictions?

How do you see workplace learning in 10 years’ time?

Skoolaborate and the future of e-learning

Yesterday, I attended a seminar at my workplace about emerging technologies and virtual worlds, which was presented by guest speakers Westley Field, the Director of Online Learning at MLC School and the Managing Director of Skoolaborate, Second Life “architect” Mike Mikula, and education consultant Lindy McKeown who joined us remotely via webcam and also via her avatar in Second Life.

Emerging technologies

Westley kicked off by providing us with an overview of emerging technologies, including QR codes and holograms.

The latter reminded me of the Princess Leia hologram in the original Star Wars… “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”.

The truth is, holograms are not restricted to the realm of science fiction. Sooner rather than later, we can have meetings with a mix of real people and holograms in the room. Don’t believe me? Check out this eye-opening video.

Skoolaborate

Next, Westley moved on to virtual worlds, which the Horizon Report identified in 2007 as likely to achieve widespread adoption in the higher education sector within 2 to 3 years. In fact, the education sector is really leading the charge in this space, with Westley’s Skoolaborate front and centre.

Skoolaborate is a growing collaborative of high schools that use Second Life to teach students around the world. It’s an initiative of MLC School in Sydney, which is somewhat famous in Australian e-learning circles for their use of innovative technologies in the K-12 sector.

Westley gave us a real-time tour of Skoolaborate’s islands in Second Life, with commentary from Mike. The islands have virtual lecture theatres where the teachers can show video clips and PowerPoint presentations to large audiences, plus breakout areas for small-group discussions and more open areas for informal styles of learning.

A learning area in Skoolaborate

They have also built a virtual shopping centre not only to support the social/fun aspect of the virtual world, but also to explore principles of commerce, economics, marketing, design etc.

Students rehearse building shops in Skoolaborate

The Skoolaborate collaborative is really taking off. Currently 11 schools are participating, from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and USA, with interest from Singapore. The inaugural Skoolaborate Congress is being held in Sydney next week.

Corporate islands

An IBM Concierge in Second LifeNext, Westley, Mike and Lindy led us to IBM’s virtual Business Center in Second Life, which the company uses to bring together staff, customers and partners to meet, learn, collaborate and conduct business. IBM staff members are even at hand in real time to answer customers’ questions.

They also took us to the Cisco Systems island, which the company uses to host classes, meetings and other events.

IBM Concierge in Second Life

Plenty of companies have dipped their toes into Second Life with mixed success. I think Skoolaborate, IBM and Cisco are showing us how to do it right.