Thursday, December 01, 2011

Physics of the Future leads to the Learning of the Future

NPR Story - Text + Audio
Dr. Michio Kaku opened up DevLearn this year.  He was outstanding! And yet, I kept hearing feedback like this, "I LOVED Dr. Kaku, but it was strange to hear the people around me whispering that it doesn't have anything to do with eLearning".  I want to know who these people are that didn't enjoy what Dr. Kaku had to say.  I want to understand.  If our eLearning is about technology being used to deliver learning experiences then why wouldn't a look at the future of technology be interesting to some people?  That confuses me, but doesn't surprise me.

eLearning Follows Technology
I've often said that our industry is a lagging indicator.  Some economist once used that term and to an economist I'm probably butchering the term.  However, I use it to simply mean that we don't invent new technologies.  That's NOT our job.  Our job as designers/developers of learning experiences is to understand the current technologies available to us and our users.  For example, some organizations are still developing strategies for mobile learning solutions with FLASH.  Oops.

Its our job to understand the CONTEXT of our learners work environment FIRST.  That includes a complete assessment of the current technology available to our learners.  One of my pet peeves is Sharepoint bashing.  Yet in MANY organizations that's all they have and its as close to a "social media" platform that they'll ever see.  Some eLearning pundits will still speak quite negatively about Sharepoint.  What's the point?  (Pun intended) If that's what you've got to use then why not use it?  Buying ANOTHER system and forcing your users to learn and manage BOTH is not likely to win you any converts to support your learning solution.

Certain technologies never make it into the mainstream consciousness.  Let's take RSS for example.  I'm a big fan for many reasons.  Its such a simple technology that can be used in very innovative ways.  I was talking about it well over 5 years ago and today my guess is that many still don't know or care about what it is.  AND THAT'S OKAY!  RSS, or something like it, will take hold and none of our learners will be the wiser.  They don't care.  And that's okay too.  They don't need to care.  But WE DO!

What Does the Future Hold?
Doesn't that question intrigue us all even a little bit?  At DevLearn, Dr. Kaku made the case for some very radical new technologies coming in 10, 30, 50, and even 100 years.  You can read his book Physics of the Future: How Science will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 to find out what he talked about.

Even if you only see yourself living for another 50 years, then what he foretold should have at least SOME impact on you.  For example, we are all currently very excited our smart phones.  In essence these devices give us access to a very large percentage of the world's knowledge in the palm of our hands.  Doesn't that blow your mind?  And that's REAL!  That's TODAY!  Not some pipe dream.  So, is it that hard to believe that in 40 or 50 years (or less) we will have the same access to knowledge and information via a contact lens?  If you are one of the people who didn't understand the relevance of Dr. Kaku at an eLearning event then this article is for you.  University of Washington researches have proven that bionic contact lens technology is possible...and safe.

My Fears for our Industry
I cringe at the thought of a powerpoint to contact lens conversion tool.  I know some of you were thinking it.  Let me just remind everyone that with the first mobile devices all we did was squash our elearning "courses" down to fit on the smaller screen.  And we all know that did not work.  We can do so much better.  And many of your colleagues have do a LOT better.  Check out the

I don't care if you didn't like Dr. Kaku, but don't blame me if you're in that organization in 30 years that thinks a "blink now" button will be a good idea to replace the click next button.

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