This is the second of a series of practice presentations to build up to the biggie in Las Vegas (yeah baby!) in early November. In this session I talked to a group of fellow IT professionals and tried some simple slides as well. See also a previous talk about Communication Technologies.
Thank you to the lovely people at DPiP (Digital People in Peterborough) on 7th September for indulging me and letting me explain a little about myself and the story behind IT elementary school 🙂
I want to talk to you about [the] IT elementary school, but first a bit of background and context.
In all my years in the IT industry very little has stayed the same; new technologies and gadgets, approaches and roles have come and gone. Today’s next-best thing becomes tomorrow’s legacy system and next week’s Betamax!
The only constants seem to be Jargon, Change and Communication
This constant flux, I believe, feeds through into the public perception of an industry that is unsure about what it is and is difficult to break into and be successful unless you are a hard-core tech geek!
I may be a geek, but I am a definitely not a nerd (nerdy joke).
As a Business Analyst my main role is facilitating change, understanding and sometimes explaining jargon, particularly where it blocks progress or inhibits clear communication.
Two years ago I was finishing an MSc in computing (Computing for Commerce and Industry) and was looking for a piece of primary research that I could carry out that combined my interests in IT, education and communication styles. By communication styles I’m including how we are taught and how we learn.
I started with the topic of Projects, a recognisable term to most people, although possibly only as a vague concept, with inconsistent understanding and little or no formal training.
I wanted to know how a small self-contained module was received by self-learners from different backgrounds. I also wanted evidence, if I could find it, of knowledge acquisition. To make the research slightly more interesting I delivered the same material in two different modes, as a simple linear eLearning module and on paper (pdf).
I wasn’t trying to prove a particular hypothesis and this was admittedly a small scale pilot but my findings were illuminating nonetheless. Here are some highlights:
- All ranges of [IT] experience found the material interesting and engaging
- Younger people in non-IT jobs or studying non-IT degrees did not see the value of the material compared to IT professionals
- Both groups preferred eLearning to paper as a medium, but there was no measurable difference in knowledge retention/acquisition between modes*
- When prompted everyone would like additional features, as chosen from a list. The highest ranked were; knowledge test, interactive exercises & external links…lowest ranked was interaction with other learners… (there was no measurable correlation with preferred learning styles or solo/group preference)
(*I did not measure or benchmark prior knowledge)
As well as passing my dissertation and MSc (hooray) I got the bug for writing and education, particularly the opportunity to fill a gap that I saw in the market for entry level self-learning material that explains basic IT concepts.
One of the areas that I particular want to explore is the link between different learning styles, and in the broader sense communication styles, and the way that people access and consume the material. I did some work on the instruction design of the research materials but I want to do a lot more with different media, with richer features and personalisation/customisation.
Like most of you I guess I use a host of different [communications] technologies in a typical working day and in my social life, from face-to-face, to voice and video conferences, instant messaging, wikis, written reports (words, charts, diagrams), demonstrations and other interactive participatory activities.
However, seldom do I ask myself questions such as; ‘is this the best tool for the job?’; ‘what are the expectations of the sender and receiver?’; or ‘does the technology enhance or detract from the message?’
- Digital Literacy and Digital Inclusion are a good thing
- More people from different backgrounds and with different skills are needed [in the technology sector]
- We all communicate and learn in different ways and want to consume content in a form and a time and place of our own choosing
- Learning materials should be designed with the learner in mind, and be clear, consistent and open
- In a world of constant change help is needed to debunk jargon, explain technology-agnostic basics and give everyone the tools for lifelong learning
- IT elementary school is trying to help!
Thank you for your time and attention. Any questions?
(c) 2016 IT elementary school