(this is a required Walden post)
Five technologies that are changing the world of learning and performance:
Smartphones. Today's smartphones are powerful, networked computing devices whose capabilities dwarf those of many computers from a few years ago. As mobile technology becomes cheaper, smaller, and more pervasive, we can expect to see a continued focus on smartphones in learning, particularly in large-setting instruction. Smartphones can be used as classroom clickers, can provide learners with instant access to resources shown in class, and allow learners to remain connected to their productivity networks while in learning environments. I spent this week at a national conference for crisis center directors, and it was amazing to see how many people were using smartphones for business purposes during and between workshops. I used mine to supervise hotline volunteers back home, to view resources related to the presentations, and to discuss the presentations with fellow participants. I think we will continue to see smartphones being integrated into more and more aspects of learning.
Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS). I had the privilege of visiting BHR (Behavioral Health Response) during this week's crisis hotline conference in St. Louis, MO. BHR operates dozens of different lines for a variety of contracts ranging from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to youth hotlines to after-hours support for patients in substance abuse programs. BHR's staff are expected to answer all calls in a professional and appropriate manner, which includes knowing which questions to ask of callers. They've built a truly impressive EPSS that ties in with their phone system and makes sure that all of their Masters-level counselors have support in working with callers. As soon as the phone rings, BHR workers see a screen displaying the required greeting and listing questions they'll need to ask. With hundreds of different protocols, it would be a practical impossibility to create this kind of service without an EPSS. As network connectivity continues to make memorized information into a less and less valued commodity, I expect EPSSes to shine: they offer appropriate support and guidance, as well as tailored information when needed. I would love to have access to BHR's EPSS for my hotline volunteers!
Interactive Voice Technology. Anyone who reads about technology probably heard this week's buzz about the new Apple iPhone 4S. Amid all the other features is a truly impressive speech recognition package called Siri. The idea is that Siri will allow iPhone users to talk to their phones in a fluid, natural language manner--and that Siri will answer back verbally. Although some of these technologies have been around a while, the addition of powerful mobile computing has made them a much more significant factor in the marketplace and learning world. There are lots of ways that Siri and similar technologies could affect learning; as an example, a student in a course about mental hygiene laws could whisper, "Siri: what is the law about involuntary hospitalization of the mentally ill in New York?" and quickly receive answers from Google.
Imaging. I teach Scottish music for part of my living, primarily on highland bagpipes. Since most of the Scottish repertoire consists of fairly short tunes, pipers tend to amass a great deal of sheet music. Recent advances in imaging technology should pay real dividends when it comes to acquiring, cataloguing, and storing sheet music. I look forward to the day when I can scan all my sheet music and search for it when I'm trying to remember how a particular tune goes. No more flipping through endless books of the wrong tunes!
Cloud Computing. Han (2010) offers a good, accessible introduction to the principles of cloud computing. If you've ever used Google Docs or Youtube, you probably have an innate sense of cloud computing's power. In brief, it uses economies of scale to shift computer power away from individually-owned clusters and into more massive collections--which are, collectively, referred to as the Cloud. The networked nature of cloud data has made it accessible from anywhere, and that has facilitated incredible collaboration between people working in separate countries. I think cloud computing will continue to affect learning as it becomes more prevalent--more and more services will move toward cloud-hosting solutions... so websites will be hosted in the cloud, photos will live there, etc. Through it all, we'll see a continuation and strengthening of the "work from anywhere" approach in cloud computing. The cloud will help a great deal in the project to eliminate physical distance as a factor involved in learning potential.
Han, Y. (2010). On the clouds: a new way of computing. Information Technology & Libraries, 29, 87-92.
Noe, R. A. (2010). Employee training and development (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Stolovitch, H. D., & Keeps, E. J. (2011). Telling ain’t training. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.