Technology and People

Human hands holding global network and data customer connection on nature background.

When you teach in a physical classroom, workshop, or lecture space, you are a person interacting directly with other people, in real time.

When you teach in an online format, you are a person interacting with other people (either in real time or not) by means of digital media.

The word "media" is the Latin plural form of "medium", meaning something that is literally "in the middle".

Digital media serve the function of  a membrane --  allowing information and communication to flow from your mind to your learners' minds, and back again.

What this means for us as online educators, is that

a non-human component

 has been inserted between ourselves and our learners.

That non-human element --including the digital media that make up all the levels of our courses, ranging from course platform to individual videos, pdfs, etc. -- takes on the burden of representing US, our human selves, to other humans who want to learn from us.

What does it take for humans to learn from other humans?

Humans learning from other humans is the foundation of our social and biological evolution and survival. 

Learning is one of the most challenging activities we can engage in. 

In order to truly learn something new, we have to make ourselves vulnerable.

Baby Boy Baffled By an Orange

We have to take off the shell of our old selves, of what we used to know or thought we knew or did know that no longer serves us... in order to be open enough to learn something new that will, once we've actually learned it, make our lives better.

In the process of moving beyond our old knowledge and into our new, as yet unmastered knowledge, we are in a state of limerence... we are like a young child encountering something we've never seen before, or like a new bride being carried over the threshold from one stage of life to another. 

And like a young child or a new bride, it is important that we be carried with care and respect and a tremendous amount of love.

Do you see the problem here?

Digital media, being non-human, are not capable of love. Digital media are THINGS.

The love, care, and respect that create an environment that allows humans to learn from other humans (based on the model of how we, ideally, learn in families), must be IMPRINTED on and embedded in the digital media we use to convey learning in an online course. 

That imprinting and embedding can only be done by us, by humans, at the time our digital media are created.

Once digital media have been created, they are set in concrete.... until and unless we decide to edit and re-create them.

This is why it is most efficient and effective to apply an instructional design process BEFORE  you create the digital media for your course.

Selecting and creating the media to convey your course to your learners' minds, should be one of the LAST steps you take as you design and build your course.

The reason for that is that we don't want the affordances and constraints of digital media (the things those media allow us to do, or prevent us from doing) to be the deciding factor in how a course is built. 

The deciding factor in how a course is built 

should be the learning requirements and needs of  HUMAN learners.

Once human learning needs are determined, THEN we can select the media to meet those needs, as an effect of our course design decisions, rather than a cause.

Technology makes a great servant, but a dangerous master. It's fine, helpful, and efficient for us to use technology to keep track of our calendars, remind us when to get up, and make it easy for us to interface with other people for work or socializing.  

What's not fine, and is in fact very dangerous to our health and wellbeing on every level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, is for technology to dictate any aspect of our lives based on ITS terms, rather than ours.

We've been watching those dangers play out on social media, in areas ranging from politics to disinformation to keeping us socially distant from people in our immediate surroundings while remaining seated in one position for too long.

As humans, we are noticing we don't like being dictated to by technology. We are waking up and fighting back, and I think that's as it should be.

In order to teach effectively online:

  • We have to understand how different types of technology work.
  • We have to understand how humans learn best.
  • And we have to understand how human learners and technology interact with each other in multiple complex ways.


We'll continue to explore this topic

 at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting

on Saturday, September 26th ....

hope you can join us!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, September 26th,  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call