How to use technology

Technology in the digital age has not given us anything we don’t already have.  It has only given us new ways of doing them.  Once you come to realise this you come to realise that you have a lot more flexibility and power than what you thought you had.  This can be scary.

So the first thing you say in reply is along the lines of:

“No way,  before the internet I couldn’t just tun on my computer and within minutes be watching a video of a cat jumping into a box and falling over.”

And the answer is no,  you could not.  But you could have found that video by way of various other means.  In fact,  when you think about it,  what you were actually doing was seeking entertainment,  and you could have done this in many other ways too.  A lot of which may not involve technology at all.

Technology has merely provided more convenient ways of doing things we could already do.

Technology has had the effect of making us rather inflexible and also very broad in out thinking rather than very deep.  This is because we have become lazy due to the convenience that technology provides.  However we believe we are actually achieving the exact opposite.

We think we can do more and more due to what technology offers us.  What is in fact happening is that we are more and more falling into the pathways that technology defines for us and not deviating from them.  We think that because we have access to vast amounts of information that makes us wise.  What is in fact happening is that we have so much information coming our way that we spend little time actually thinking about it and so develop little in the way of knowledge which holds value.

Back in the old days we had pen and paper.  What wonderful times.  A piece of paper and a pen could be used to achieve a multitude of different tasks from organising a shopping list to brainstorming ways to create a rocket and fly it into space.  The tools were always the same,  we were creative in how we used them.  You don’t say things like “Darn,  I need to write a shopping list,  I’ll have to go and get my shopping list pen.”  We were creative and could achieve anything we wanted.

Now we have technology.  It offers many benefits as we can program templates and rules.  Essentially it automates certain aspects of the task and makes life easier for us.  As a result we have become lazy and tend to happily accept whatever is given to us.

We need to think of all technology as generic tools.  We need to start asking what do I have available to me?  How can I use these tools to achieve what I want to achieve?

You can see many examples of this in other articles in this blog.  I have outlined various ways you can use activities in Moodle in other ways to achieve interesting outcomes.

Another example of this is brainstorming.  We wanted to conduct brainstorming in structured ways in order to make our sessions more productive.  The first thing a lot of people did was start searching for brainstorming software.  Now there may in fact be ideal software out there but I took the approach of first looking at the tools we already have.  I decided that the essence of brainstorming was discussion and that you had a structure defined on top of that.  From that I said why don’t we use a forum.  They replied that it doesn’t have the structures we need.  I replied that we can just state the intended structure in the first post and everyone else can agree to follow along.  It worked nicely.  The added advantage is that we are not limited to only implementing structures that the software developers thought of,  and in the ways they programmed it.  We can use whatever structure we like in whatever way we like with little effort.  We can also easily deviate from that structure if it suits where the discussion goes.

You can see examples of this on the website http://brainstorming.mintranet.com.au

What you have to realise is that no piece of technology has a fixed purpose.  All technology does is provide you a set of steps or processes.  Those steps and processes can be used in various combinations and with those provided by other pieces of technology to achieve many different purposes.  Just because a particular app is called a Shopping list organiser does not mean in any way you can’t use it as a daily task list for example.  A text editor can be used to strip formatting information from text copied from another source such as a word processor before pasting it into an on-line wysywig form.  But people are wary of this because it because a text editor is for writing,  not for stripping formatting.  You are free to use these tools however you like.  So start being creative and realise all the powerful things you can achieve with the tools you already have.

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