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!


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)