The tools available in a training professional’s toolbox are constantly evolving. Trying to understand better ways to use these tools reminds me of how a master craftsman’s tools have evolved over the years.
Craftsmen are tasked with efficiently building a home that conforms to the design of the architect and the needs of the owner. Master carpenters traditionally used tools such as hammers, rulers, straight edges and saws. As technologies have advanced, the carpenter’s tools are now power saws, pneumatic nail guns, and electronic rulers.
In the early days of training, our tools were rather simple with the classroom, chalkboards, paper and pencils. But the advancement of technology now has us using tools such as video instruction, virtual classrooms, simulation platforms, virtual reality, adaptive tools, reinforcement apps, and much more.
Even with all the advancement in technology, why we use tools to assist us in the learning experience remains constant. Our purpose is to help learners perform better on the job and technologies help make that process more efficient and effective. Very much the same as the carpenter using new tools. They build the houses relatively the same, but they are faster, more efficient, and the homes are sturdier.
So why all the fascination with new tools? Why is it that each time a new technology is introduced, there is a stream of interest in understanding how to use it, and whether that tool will work in our environment? Is there an expectation that we should always use the latest and greatest tools? Or is it that we are truly looking for a more inexpensive way to get the job done? Or are we trying to find the Holy Grail that will help us demonstrate that learners are performing better because they can learn with new technologies?
I believe all those reasons are at play depending on the situation. My concern is that with all the technologies available to us, as a profession we are still struggling with the fundamentals of developing learners to perform better, faster and at a lower cost. How can this be? It has a lot to do with how we use tools. Tools are great if they enhance the process by which learners consume information, practice the behavior they need to learn, or have better access to information at the time of need when on the job.
The greatest use of technology is when we understand the best process for a learner to gain proficiency in a skill, then we leverage tools to help improve the process. Fundamental techniques for improved performance still require a learner to practice the behavior they are trying to perform. And it requires a learner to have access to information that helps them when they need it.
I think it’s important that we recognize that learning occurs over time, and not in one event. Learning is an experience, and how we use tools to enhance the experience is of incredible economic value. We’ve seen through research that tools such as adaptive platforms allow learners to focus their experience on the information they most need. Collaborative platforms allow learners access to coaches in real time. Simulation environments allow learners to practice skills for high-risk situations but in low-risk environments.
From where I sit, we can’t lose sight of the fundamentals of learning science. Learning occurs over time, through repetition, through feedback on when they perform well and when they do not, and with support and reinforcement from coaches and mentors. If used correctly, many of the innovative technologies we see today are in line with helping us achieve our primary objective.