How your choice of technology could be impacting the learning experience…
BY ALEXANDRA RUTHERFORD
Early this year I enrolled in a further education course. Of course, by the time it eventually came around the excitement that had blossomed at the prospect of furthering my education in the industry had naturally been weathered into a healthy, if not determined, resignation to just get through it.
True to the nature of these things, there was a last minute venue change, completely inconsiderate to all my careful research on where to park, where there was good food for lunch, what the traffic was like in the area, and of course, the all important question, was there free wifi.
Thankfully I wasn’t the only one impacted by this sudden and inexplicable 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 flex their muscles and remind everyone how much chaos administration could create should they put their mind to it. Having worked in administration myself, I can understand the temptation.
As the woman fumbled to put down her bag, papers and laptop 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? OK yep, that’s my screen but why is it all skewif? Its working!…wait it just turned itself off.
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 1.0.1 never covered temperamental technology. Concierge one tries to maintain professionalism whilst asking redundant questions. “So it’s not working?”
“It never works.” The course speaker was not impressed. Meanwhile 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 “despicable me” minion-esqe figures running around behind her.
Eventually, the projector decides it’s ready to co-operate. It’s kept us in suspense long enough. The class of 14 literally cheer and the hotel concierges smile and leave with one last apology. Now she has her powerpoint running, the speaker is getting more and more animated and I have to admit, it’s contagious. We are all getting involved, and I’m actually starting to internally praise the past version of myself for orchestrating this genius idea instead of my usual grudging resent for it. This course is amazing. I’m learning so much.
Mid-discussion of the importance of brand positioning came interruption number two. An awful sound has everyone straining to see what is going on. Concierge two is back. You see, part of their fix for getting the technology working 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. The speaker doesn’t care. She is determined. So, so determined to get through this. As a show of solidarity, the rest of us nod along to her next slide, vigilantly pretending a small man isn’t crawling around on his hand and knees under our table, tearing strips of gaffa with his teeth for the greater good of the collective.
You’d think that the worst of it was over then, but there was to be just one last technology issue. It was just after morning tea and I had such pity for what this woman had been through I let it go on longer than I should have. I kept praying that someone else would speak up so I wouldn’t be the one to make this poor woman’s day worse, and not just because she looked like she was going to snap and I was seated dangerously close to the front. Because it was unfair. She knew her stuff, she was an excellent speaker, she had even memorised all our names and backgrounds, and yet technology was determined to undermine her. You see, at some point, during all the pacing and emphatic hand gestures and constantly returning to her laptop to click onto the next slide, she had come to stand directly in front of the projector. There she was, making specific references to good and bad examples of logos, asking us if we recognised specific colours or shapes as a brand. Trying desperately to drum up student participation and not one of us could see the slide she was referring to. Well we could, it was just really small and in the middle of her chest. Thankfully, she was obviously a very well natured person, because when I eventually plucked up the courage to tell her we couldn’t see anything she managed to laugh, commenting something along the lines of “Ugh technology is never easy, is it?” At the time I laughed along with her in agreement. I wasn’t about to argue with her on top of everything else. But her comment stayed with me. Isn’t it ever easy? Technology doesn’t have to be hard. Not with the right equipment. Perhaps I have been spoilt by the mere fact that I work in the technology industry, with a product specifically designed for presenting with ease on any platform. I wanted to tell her that it didn’t have to be that way. In fact, I even tried coaxing some of the support guys at my work into letting me take one of our Interactive Touchscreens with me for my next course. 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 the office of our dealers 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.
I’m excited for my next course, but I’m also a little sad. When I left my course, I felt like I had absorbed and learnt so much. I had all these fresh ideas I was keen to put into action 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, the user issues with the speaker standing in front of it had had an impact. Small, yes. But measurable. I had notes, and I could relearn the information. But I wanted to learn. I had a vested interest in it. What if the speaker had been an ordinary teacher? Presenting not to adults there by choice but children who already have 1000 reasons to be distracted. What if the speaker wasn’t teaching course content, but making a sales pitch or outlining an important strategy? I wanted to share this story because I wanted to demonstrate just how crucial technology can be. More importantly, the correct technology. I may be biased but I honestly believe that had the speaker of that course been running a CommBox Touchscreen and not a projector her day would have run a lot smoother.