Opinion: How technology impacts learning

Opinion: How technology impacts learning
by Alex Rutherford

Early this year I enrolled in a further education course. True to the nature of these things, there was
a last minute venue change. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one impacted by this sudden change of location. As the woman leading the seminar came rushing in 15 minutes late, flushed and flustered, having set up her entire presentation in a building three streets away, I had to wonder if someone didn’t deliberately orchestrate these kind of ridiculous relocations, just to remind everyone how much chaos administration could create should they put their mind to it.

As the woman fumbled to put down her belongings I could almost hear the internal groan going through her mind as she turned around to survey the equipment at her disposal. “Oh no. Technology.” I feel like this is a common response people have when faced with an unfamiliar environment. What god awful ordeal will this bipolar projector inflict on me? Is it compatible with my laptop? How do I even connect to it?

I mean let’s face it, not everyone can be a technology whisperer (or birth one to exploit in the case of my parents). And why learn it anyway? As the woman leading my seminar was about to find out, you could have everything correctly cabled but if the stars didn’t align, it just wasn’t going to happen. She called for reinforcements. Enter hotel concierge one and two. They’re confused. Hospitality 101 never covered temperamental technology. Concierge one tries to maintain professionalism whilst concierge two is on the floor, following cables on his knees like a cartoon character following a fuse line to the giant comical pile of TNT.

The course speaker decides that enough time has been wasted and launches into her introduction without the assistance of her prepared media. It’s good and she knows her stuff, but I can’t help but be distracted by the two hotel employees running around behind her.

Eventually, the projector decides it’s ready to co-operate. Now she has her PowerPoint running, the speaker is getting more animated and I have to admit, it’s contagious. Mid-discussion though, a sudden awful sound has everyone straining to see what is going on. Concierge two is back. Part of their fix for the projector involved running a lot of cables across the room so naturally (OH&S tripping hazard and what not) they now have to stick all those cables down. Good naturedly the speaker laughs, commenting something along the lines of “Ugh technology is never easy, is it?”

It’s a statement that bothers me. Technology doesn’t have to be hard. Not with the right equipment. Like any normal human being, the idea of getting up in front of people and presenting is a daunting one for me. But at least at my office and that of our resellers I can approach all my presentations with a level of confidence.

Confidence that comes from knowing our Commbox Touchscreens are going to work. That I can turn them on and plug in my laptop and just start. No need to install drivers, or muck around with multiple cables. I don’t have to think about where I am standing, or dim the lights or call for IT reinforcements.

When I finished my course, I felt like I had learnt a lot. I had all these fresh ideas and felt overall positive about the experience. It was only when I got home, and re-read some of the handouts, that the truth became obvious. Those first few pages of notes were foggy to me.

I vaguely remembered them, but not nearly as clearly as the rest of the content. Technology had let the speaker down. All the delays and distractions in getting the projector working had had an impact. Small, yes. But measurable. I had notes, and I could relearn the information. But I wanted to learn. What if the speaker had been an ordinary teacher? Presenting not to adults, there by choice, but children who already have 1,000 reasons to be distracted.

I wanted to share this story because I wanted to demonstrate just how crucial technology can be – more importantly, the correct technology.  

Alexandra Rutherford is a graphics designer and marketing consultant at Commbox, a market leader in the manufacture of Interactive Touchscreens.

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