Clive Sheperd’s blog posting on “A solution looking for a problem?” really hit home.

Never before can I remember the release of so many disruptive technologies that directly affect learning. With new tools emerging such as mobile delivery, rapid development, Second Life-style immersive experience, and augmented reality… how do we know which are going to be the best fit for learning?

I often see learning professionals put off making a decision, waiting for more certainty. The point I think Sheperd is making is that we so often address these technologies by looking for the problems they solve, and so each new technology is seen as a new “solution looking for a problem.” But I agree that’s the wrong direction. Our only real problems are those that affect us: What hinders our learning community? What inspires our learners? How can we give them what they need, when they need it? How can we integrate technology, whatever it may be, so transparently that it doesn’t “disrupt” their lives? We need to remember these problems when choosing technologies.

Still this requires analyzing so many new technologies. As an eLearning solution provider, walking an exhibition floor at Learning conferences can be disorienting. It reminds me of that scene in “Nauseau” by Jean-Paul Sartre, where the main character suddenly realizes how many choices there truly are in life. The character becomes literally ill when recognizing the sheer number of possibilities. Should I invest in a technology? Which one? What if it’s the wrong choice? Will it survive?

These are the same concerns we had in the early days of interactive learning –with interactive videodisc, LAN servers, TenCore, Icon Author… and then Macromedia Authorware, and Director. But back then, technology felt more exciting. This was when the term “multimedia maven” became popular, and there was such anticipation with each new product or version release, because each represented some new possibility that it might solve our problems.

I think we need to view this new world with an old eye toward potentiality. As educators living amid so much disruptive technology, it is our responsibility to be aware of the latest technology, embrace those we really believe in, and then start applying the technology to create solutions to our real problems.

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