Learn to love your tools

Old tools
Not so long ago I was at a conference, and I went to see a session being jointly presented by an elearning supplier and their client (a large organisation, represented by someone with the job title of Elearning Manager). The client gave a good introduction to the business issues they had faced and the problems they set out to solve, before handing over to the supplier to talk abut how this was done. The troubling thing was that the client handed over the presentation by saying something like “of course I don’t understand how any of this techy stuff works, so let me pass you over to someone who does”.
It would be nice to think that this was a joke, but I know that it wasn’t. I’ve met a good number of people with responsibility for learning, who almost wear it as a badge of honour that they know nothing about technology – probably because they are aware that this lack of knowledge is an issue and making a joke of it is the easiest way to deal with it.
I sympathise with anyone in this situation. In a world in which it appears that digital content is all around us, and everyone and everything is online, it can be difficult to admit that you don’t actually know what’s going on.1
For me, it’s critical that people with responsibility for learning understand more about how digital learning content is created. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to code, create interactive scenarios, build websites or make videos (although some of these things could certainly be advantageous), but they should understand how these things are done.

  • Trainers can benefit by being able to produce better assets to use in the classroom.
  • Instructional designers can benefit by better understanding how to combine different media in their content.
  • Managers can benefit by being better able to manage the relationship with their suppliers, and with people producing content in house.

When I started out as a trainer it was a given that we all knew how to use a flipchart and an overhead projector, because they were the tools of the trade.
Today the tools of the trade includes video, slides, podcasts, quizzes, tutorials, interactive content, web sites, mobile apps, PDFs and so much more. We need to learn to love our tools and the first step to doing that is to understand them.

  1. This isn’t limited to learning. I recently met someone that runs a completely online business, who confided with me that he had never actually logged in to his own online store as he was afraid he might break something.