Understanding technology and how it can be a force for good. 
The good old days! 
Can you remember the days when access to information outside of the school classroom either meant a visit to your local library, waiting for the local mobile library to visit you or getting on your pushbike to cycle to your Grandparents’ house to look things up in the Readers Digest Encyclopaedia Britannica?? 
Let’s face it, while the rose-tinted specs may nod towards better times, this is unlikely to help us with the challenges we face in the modern 24/7 fast paced world we now inhabit! 
Access to information 
As a technology migrant, also known as ‘Generation X’, I can fully see how technological progress has brought many benefits to daily life and in particular the access to information. If we look at the following generations ‘Y’ (millennials) and ‘Z’, they have not lived in a world before digital technology and are much more used to having instant access to what they want, when they want it. The American Author Simon Sinek talks fluently about how technology has created the need for instant gratification as well as extensively about the subsequent behaviours displayed by these generations. 
As humans, when we get what we want, when we want it, it creates neuropaths in our brains that help us to create habits and subsequently influence our behaviours. While we could get into an intergenerational argument about whether this is a good or bad thing, we surely have to accept that this is now a part of the world we live in. Let’s face it, if you are carrying out any DIY and you’re faced with something new to do, you are often likely to reach for technology where you either ‘Google’ it or go to the biggest micro learning platform on the world YouTube! There is a clear debate about the quality of some of the information that can be found but, for the sake of this blog, it’s more important to focus on the habits we either already have or are in the process of developing. 
Generation Y (millennials) can be described as ‘technology natives’ due to technology always being around in some shape or form, whereas Generation Z are Smart Phone native where technology has always been highly portable right down to it being in your pocket whenever you want it. 
But what does all this mean? 
In the context of learning, it’s that some of the more traditional methods are now fundamentally flawed. Given the ease and instant access to information, it’s reasonable to argue that should we continue to pursue the goal of individuals retaining knowledge for instant recall when needed, the argument should maybe focus on how an individual validates the source of the information and/or the quality of it? 
Taking all of this into account and applying it to the traditional learning methods often adopted, it raises some interesting challenges, the biggest of which is change.  
Traditional approaches generally create linear learning paths, often culminating in an end assessment of the individuals knowledge and only when this is complete are they deemed ‘competent’. It’s reasonable to ask if this approach is actually checking an individuals ability to do their job or if it is more about assessing their ability to retain information for recall when required. 
There’s a commonly used phrase ‘use it or lose it’; this is all about application of knowledge. If you don’t apply something you have learnt then it’s highly likely that you will forget it so where linear learning paths cover elongated periods of time, the risk of someone losing learnt knowledge is quite high. 
So how is this addressed? 
The issue of keeping knowledge up to date is commonly addressed by engaging people in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and while there is no questions that this is a highly effective solution, it is not universally adopted across industries. This is where learning professionals can lose sight of the reality of operational job roles. Now please don’t misunderstand the previous statement, where a job role is regulated and re-certification is a part of the role then CDP is highly effective but in my experience, where there are no formal regulations on re-certification then it is much less effective even if it is offered freely, the reasons for this will be picked up in a future article. 
Given what I’ve shared thus far, I think it’s fair to say that I don’t agree with the traditional linear qualification paths being applied to most, if not all, job roles. I believe that if we embrace the technologies that are at our finger tips on a daily basis, focus more on training the basic skills required for an individual to ‘survive’ and then let them find the learning they need, when they need it, we could be in a much better place when it comes to ensuring people have the ability to deliver a better service to their customers! Now clearly I’m not suggesting that all learning is given over to a Google search; I’m merely making the point regarding the principle of accessing learning when it is most needed and not getting hung up on insisting that people hold all the information in their heads and expect them to apply it when needed. Given the pace and volume of work most individuals have to deal with today, it’s no surprise that workplace stress and even burnout have become more commonplace than ever before! 
Dave Bownes 
Haynes Oliver Limited 
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