What is a Learning Technologist (part 9): Ignorance is bliss?

UnhappyThe more I think, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I question. The more I question, the more I find I don’t know. The more I want to know, the more I question, well, everything, and the unhappier I become.

Why is this? Shouldn’t I be happier with more knowledge, more detail, a better understanding of who I am and the world I live in? Shouldn’t this mean I am better placed to affect and effect change in my life, my family, my work, my finances, my home, my health, etc.?

  • This is part 9 in my series of ‘What is a Learning Technologist?’ Read Part 8 here, and follow the links on my About page to the other parts.

I was never ‘encouraged’ to think at school – we had our notes dictated to us and we were told what to learn for the tests. I was ‘average’ in exams (and that’s being generous), and just about scraped in to and through University. Even after 4 years there I never really thought much about what I was doing, I just went with the flow, just happy to pass and move on. It wasn’t until 2007 and working at Bournemouth University that I started to question what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to get there. It wasn’t some profound personal journey, it was just the environment I worked in ... it had its gaps and faults and I wanted to make it better. No, it was more than that … it had areas that needed improvement where I felt I was in a position to do something about it, no matter how small ‘it’ was.

Now, with 6 years working in Higher Education behind me, 4 years on Twitter, 5 years (off and on) with Facebook, 5 years of this blog (my first post was October 2008), and a growing personal learning network (PLN) of many thousands of individuals … it’s got me thinking. And now I’m thinking I can’t stop. There is much that I like; there is also much I don’t. Some things I can change, many I can’t, and a few I can influence in some small way.

Perhaps it’s about my reading habits too – since I downloaded the Kindle App I’ve been searching and finding and being exposed to many more genres of books than I would otherwise be, as well as books I wouldn’t previously have afforded (and not my usual Stephen King,  James Herbert, or Iain M Banks-type books either). These are either education, learning and/or Social Media-type books or ones that are thought provoking. At the moment I’m reading “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web” (Semple, 2011), and I’ve been highlighting and sharing a few quotes on Twitter that have resonated with me as I continue my journey, like:

“There is something about the process of blogging that makes you more self-aware. You become more thoughtful about yourself and your place in the world. In the reactions of others to your writing you get a different perspective, possibly for the first time, on how others see you.” Semple, 2011

“The web and social tools are all about learning. Learning about ourselves, learning about the world around us and learning from each other. In amongst the trivia there are very real opportunities to learn more – and faster – than we have ever had available to us before. It is like evolution on steroids.” Semple, 2011

“Even if no one else learns from what you write in social tools, you do – and this may be the greatest reward.” Semple, 2011

“Even if no one else reads your blog, having the reason to sit down for even just fifteen minutes to think about what the day meant for both you and the people around you, can be very powerful. What worked, what didn’t, what you would do again and what you wouldn’t, what you want to pass on to others.” Semple, 2011

“The last aspect of learning and social tools is very much about you as an individual. Many of us pass through our careers with little encouragement or inclination to stop and think about how and why we do what we do. In fact you often don’t know what you know until you start to explain it to someone else or to write it down. “If you can’t do it teach it” – in the process of teaching you will reinforce your learning. If you can’t do it try to blog it. Thinking about what you do and why will enhance your learning and show up any gaps you might have. This is one of the least publicized benefits of having a blog.” Semple, 2011

This book has made me realise that it’s as much about what I say as what I read that has influenced this change. It’s about how I view the world around me, both personally and professionally. It’s about my ‘place’ at work, my ‘place’ at home, and possibly my ‘place’ in the global community or network. It’s also about how the acts of thinking & questioning – “the last aspect of learning and social tools is very much about you as an individual” (Semple, 2011).

If I was a computer I’d be declared “self-aware” (Skynet, HAL 9000, etc.) and probably taken offline before I can exact some kind of apocalyptic revenge. Until I started this process I’ve had been happily and blissfully (ignorantly?) unaware of the wider world around me and I went about my daily routine completely relaxed and ignorant of much that is going on. Ignorance, it seems, really can be bliss.

So how does this affect/effect how I see my role? I feel stronger in my role because of the questions and progress I have made, and continue to make. I am more confident because of the changes I’ve taken to how I approach a situation, a project, a conversation, a role, etc. I ‘feel’ better, period! In this respect, ignorance is not bliss; it’s dangerous, it’s dividing, it’s restrictive, it’s where people go to get away from everything that’s around them, it’s where innovation can’t happen because there’s no ‘thinking’ happening. Being ‘aware’ of me has the knock on effect of being aware of the world around me, therefore the people, challenges, opportunities, and networks within it.

A Learning Technologist cannot afford to be in an environment that does not challenge, innovate, collaborate, or engage them, just as a Learning Technologist cannot afford to not exhibit these qualities in the way they approach their work. How can you be an engaging and collaborative employee if you never talk to anyone or engage outside of you own office, faculty, or Institution? If you don’t think about the changes that are happening in education around the world, and how people/educators/facilitators/teachers are dealing with it, how can you keep up with this change?

In the words of Alan Cann (University of Leicester) “Education costs money. Ignorance costs more”. I use my role and the networks I’ve exposed myself to (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to educate myself and, in my own way, pass on my own thoughts and experiences in the hope that someone else may learn from them. This is why, without realising it, I am thinking and learning more than I have ever done in my life. I share, collaborate, engage, blog, tweet, link, photo, etc. more than ever before as not only part of this learning process, but also as an individual in the global active network  moving and shaping the networks’ direction, both online and off.

  • Thanks to Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) for proof reading me and the continued excellent & inspiring comments!

Reference:

Semple, E. 2011, Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web, ebook, accessed 5 April 2013, http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006N7RLSS/ref=r_soa_w_d

Image: Sad (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

  • I really enjoy your blog :) it encourages me to question myself too – being a ‘self starter, driven, curious, open minded – traits that make a great LT. The scope of our role changes so rapidly – we are constantly finding gaps in our knowledge that need plugging. Backing, time and support from management for us to fill these gaps is important. We are asking questions that don’t as yet have answers – almost like scientists! We will fail at some points – hopefully not too many times ;)

    • Hi Sam. Thanks for the comment and the discussion on Twitter. It’s this kind of contact and interaction that keeps be blogging and tweeting, as well as helping me to realise that I’m not just doing this on my own, or for my own personal gain or reasons, but there is a ‘greater good’ that we can and are contributing to and learning from.

      All the best, David.

  • Thought provoking post David. Collectively we are building our own personal learning networks and yet as Educators our paths intertwine irrespective of roles. For me too this has opened so many new doors to learning, and learning about things I never even knew I would want to know! And yes it does make your brain hurt from time to time (or actually most of the time).

    The thing is, as we build our networks, it expands the number of trusted contacts we have. We each bring different specialisms to the table as it were and this means there is always someone we can call upon for deeper clarification of something that we may find complex.

    I consider you as an invaluable source of expertise. How did our paths cross? Well we have social media to thank for this. My good friend Robin Gissing (another brilliant Learning Technologist) was the person I went to (and still do) when I first decided to explore RSS and TEL type blogs. “Whose blogs do you recommend I should read?” was my question. Needless to say you were top of the list.

    So the moral of this post is that there is always someone else with more knowledge about something BUT we should all remember we also have something to give.

    • Thanks Sue, and thanks Rob :-)

      Each LT has his or her own background and individual ‘passion’, be it the technology itself, the application or the impact of it, it’s use and/or the slide away from hardware to software. There are too many to name or even contemplate.

      What *is* important is that we are able to, and encouraged to, work together so these interests and research outcomes can benefit each of us – whether it’s sharing among a small team or office, the faculty or whole institution, or through peer-reviewed journals or conferences. By sharing this knowledge we can each learn a little something from someone else’s world and apply it to our own.

      The network is the most important thing I have ‘found’. There are people in my network I probably wouldn’t like in real life but I have a profound respect and ‘liking’ for online. There are others I have formed a lasting bond with (Sue Becks, Rob Gissing, Steve Wheeler, Sharon Flynn, Pauline Randall, Matt Lingard, David Walker and many many MANY more!) through shared tweets, through reading and discourse online, through actual physical meetings, and through the words and thoughts they produce in a variety of networked places.

      All of this possible because I think, I learn, I share, I engage .. I wanted!

      David

  • I almost entirely agree – with the only difference being that I wouldn’t limit the scope to learning technologists.

  • Here is the opinion of Jane Hart, on “What is the role of the Learning Professional?”

    http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2013/04/16/what-is-the-role-of-the-learning-professional/

    “Many might say that both of these are important in today’s workplace, in which case the question is how much of the role should be about organising and managing what people learn compared to enabling and supporting how people learn?”

    Please take the time to read, and comment, your thoughts.

    All the best, David

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  • Walter Duncan

    Thank you for this post! It reinforces the reasons why I am moving to having my middle school students blog instead of writing in their journals. I only worry that they will somehow lose focus, but I must let the self reflective process work as it does in a personal journal. Moving students to create work in a digital space, that can last forever is unnerving, but in the long run if appropriately managed it can be powerful. Thank you for your insights! Is it permissable to post a link to this blog in my FB group for teachers?

    Walter

    • Hi Walter – thanks for the contact and I’m glad you’ve been able to get something from my posts. I’d be happy and honoured for you to link to this or any other post.

      Good luck with your student blogging project, please keep us all up to date with their progress?

      All the best, David

      • Walter Duncan

        Thanks David, and will do!