Driver beware

What does motorway driving and learning technology have in common … ? More than you might think! Considering the number of motorway (boring) miles I’ve been doing recently between Bournemouth and Leicester, I’ve had time to think on this.

Here are some basic ‘types’ of motorway drivers (adapted from PassSmart and Barrack Room Lawyer), see if you can see where I’m going with this:
  • Cautious  driver – An enthusiastic use of indicators (often deployed early and left on for WAY too long), really polite with a rare hand signal or hazard light ‘thank you’ after every lane change, and a unique driving style.
  • Snail / Middle-laner – Often seen in the middle lane travelling at the just under the speed limit, no more, no less, and a complete disregard for the empty inside lane. Be careful though, when the snail does change lane it will be a sudden and unexpected and unannounced.
  • Boy-wonder/racer – Easy to spot as there is often very little suspension travel as the car has been lowered and heavily modified, you’ll probably hear this car before you see it (stereo or exhaust, or both, in front or from behind),  garish colour respray and stickers for brake pad and engine parts in the rear window or all down the front quarter panel. Boy-racer will often stick to the fast lane even if the inner lanes are completed empty.
  • F1 lorry- Easy to spot thanks to the long queue of vehicles stuck behind them as they speed to overtake another lorry (they think they’re Jenson Button or Mark Webber), going up hill, at the same pace as the other one + 1mph: an especially popular manoeuvre on a dual-carriageway where they can block the whole road for x miles.
  • Brake tapper – Often the causes of stop/start queues on motorways when, for no reason at all, they tap their brakes resulting in the person behind tapping theirs, probably a bit harder and so on causing a shockwave effect in the line of traffic resulting in the bank holiday 5 mile tailback.
  • Sat-nav – Have no clue where they’re going, have no sense of direction and depend heavily on their sat-nav even when there are no junctions in sight. Be careful as this driver will swerve and exit the motorway without warning and at the very last possible moment.

What has this to do with learning technology? Take another look at the list, think about the kind of people you deal with when introducing enhanced learning practices, and then read on … here are my interpretations of the above:

  • Cautious  adopter  - Often enthusiastic about introducing something different or innovative to their learning materials, they will be too cautious to actually implement. Expect many meetings and a missed deadline or opportunity.
  • Snail – Will follow others on the ‘safe’ path (down the middle: not too much, but more than the minimum) but you know that at any point they’ll want support, training, best-practice examples, etc, for something that has an impossibly tight deadline.
  • Whiz-bang - Using the VLE to it’s maximum, as well as an early adopter of Google+ (and Google Wave), Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin, etc before really understanding what they’re best used for. Expect a strange choice of colours in their VLE navigation (light green text on yellow background?) and an impossibly complex navigation system that the students hate. Expect a hard ride but make sure you stick with them, you’ll learn something from them.
  • Speed-freak - Will work hard and fast to get materials ready in time (and will do a great job on them too) only to slip without warning into a slower pace just when you catch up with them. Often frustrating but you know you’ll get by, eventually.
  • Brake tapper - Don’t confuse with the ‘cautious adopter’ or the ‘whiz-bang’, the brake tapper is quick to innovate and can be hard to keep up with, but every now and then will apply the brakes without warning. Use this opportunity to re-group behind them and get ready for the next leap forward in application of learning technologies.
  • Sat-Nav - Often confused and trying to follow a prescribed route to learning technology nirvana, will need gentle guidance and adequate warning of changes in direction. Don’t give up on them as they will often become a ‘whiz-bang’ or ‘speed freak’ when confidence grows, and are definitely one to watch out for in the future (in a good way).

Yes, these are silly and over-simplistic, but the is an element of truth in my observations from 5+ years as a learning technologist and from conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and in real life (yes, I have an account there too!) at conferences.

Please let me know you’re observations on the types listed above, or add you’re own based on your own experiences.

Image source: David Hopkins

  • Danny Monaghan

    How about the lane changer in a traffic jam? Quick to jump to the stream that appears to be moving faster but never sticks will it long enough before jumping again.

    • http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/ David Hopkins

      Thanks Danny, another great analogy for application of learning technology – I admit that I can be this person too sometimes: Google Wave seemed good at the start, as did Quora, but then moved on to something newer.

      What have you jumped from/to in the past?

      All the best, David

      • Danny Monaghan

        I suspect I’ve been guilty of dogmatically sticking to one lane too long in the past actually :)
        There is definitely a big temptation to jump around all the social media possibilities, without actually sticking with them long enough to get them working for you. 

        • http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/ David Hopkins

          HI Danny – How do you check or test that what you’ve done or are doing is working? Is it based on student feedback, marks, attempts, etc? At what point do you decide “I’ll try X instead of Y this year”, what is the tipping point to the change, is it tech-based or fad-based, or is there more at work here? Sorry, loads of questions, just interested to know how you approach the change in tech or it’s implementation.

          All the best, David