Scared of Technology?

This entire post is inspired by the space station…and its technology. Mainly how they are proposing to create drinking water from the urine and sweat of the astronauts! I don’t know about anyone else, but that is a little off-putting to me. What am I talking about?  Ot grosses me out! OK, so my question is this: At what point do you stop trusting technology? In the case of the space station, how do they know that all the urine stuff is gone? What if machine is working at 97% instead of 100%? ugh

And that, I think, is what we have to face with using technology in training. Powerpoint is now accepted, but what about blogs, wikis, IM, facebook, etc.? How do we know that these will work at 100% instead of 95%? And is it bad if they’re are not at full potential? Unlike the space station, no one will be drinking the excretions of others. What are the ramifications if these new technologies don’t work? I think they are:

  1. Learners will have a bad experience. I cannot overstate how disastrous this is. I was reading the blog Tickled by Life, and found this entry called Why People Hate Training talking about this very thing. Think of it like this — if you have a bad experience at the dentist (root canal) or the doctors (mis-diagnoses), are you going to be anxious to go back, and have an open mind? Of course not! And that is what we have to fight against.
  2. Management will have a fear of the technology. It’s like the space station and the drinking water machine. If you promise that it will work, but it’s not perfect, then you taint the expectations of everything else you suggest.
  3. Learners won’t learn what you want them to learn. Think about it. If you spend their entire training time troubleshooting, or worse, if they have to spend their time with the help-desk, what are they really learning? They’re learning that you’re not to be trusted, and that every time they take your training it won’t work.

To me this means that the technology you use should work as you promise the first time, and you need to be very very clear about what it is that you want the technology to do. Of course, this won’t overcome the other issue — that of fear.

Some people are just afraid of technology. Some are afraid of a negative impact on productivity. Some are afraid of a lessening of their power, since information will no longer go through them.  Remember when e-mail first came on the scene at work? What about IM?  Remember that the discussions were all about workers wasting time and goofing off.  Well, new technology is here — wikis, blogs, facebook, LinkedIn — the 2.0s. How can we get people to stop being afraid of the new technology?

For me, the best way to overcome fear is familiarity. In other words, get people to use the very technology that they are afraid of. However, you can’t really proscribe how they should use it. Just let them get familiar with it. It would help if you could set up a situation where the technology will help them solve a problem, or get them information quickly. Once people see that it works for them, and it’s easier than what they are doing now, they’ll use it.

I had started out with a specific direction for this post, and over the past couple of days, I’ve started to ramble. I’m going to refine on this over the next couple of weeks, and make it more coherent, I promise!

To close — will technology solve all of our training problems? Of course not. However, will it provide additional methods and alternatives to classroom training and the perception of information bottlenecks? I firmly believe that if done right, that the answer is YES!

About Tricia Ransom

Patricia Ransom: wife, daughter, friend. Learning, laughing, living. Chicago, Illinois, downstate. Townie, urbanite, traveller. Note: The opinions expressed on this blog belong solely to me and should not be assumed to reflect the opinions of any of my employers past, current, or future.
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