Looking at the influence of emerging technology on my teaching (or in my case training) experience, the biggest impact has been that it has facilitated my attempt to implement social constructivist theories into a learning environment. Theories like distributed and situated cognition are more easily facilitated in practice thanks to the vast amounts of social software and information sharing tools available today. One way that I have incorporated these theories into my own work experience is through post training session follow up attempts. I traditionally have developed paper training manuals that I distribute copies of to participants in my training sessions so they can follow along during my presentations. In addition, I always email an adobe PDF copy of the manual out to everyone who participated once the training is over. I do this so that each participant has quick access to a digital copy of the manual on their computer or email. Most recently I have incorporated Google docs into my post training follow up in an attempt to put social constructivist learning into practice. Along with emailing the original training guide in PDF, I now also include a link to a shared Google docs version of the guide after the training session concludes.
By making the Google docs version editable by everyone who participated, the training manual moves from being a static source of information to a dynamic document for people to build upon and continue learning from. Since I can’t possibly predict every situation that a user will come across in the applications I deliver training on, the Google doc allows people to add a topic or question to the original guide. The learners can then add in any of their own knowledge to that newly created topic or question. In addition, other users can go in and add to it and I myself can go in and refine that information, or tweak it so that it fits the style of the original guide. Using this new approach, I feel that I have been able to facilitate users in creating knowledge together and filling in knowledge gaps that my training guide initially didn’t address. On top of creating a better learning experience for everyone involved, this approach has alleviated a lot of the personal frustration I always feel when designing training modules for my department. I used to have to cut content that I would like to include in my trainings in order to meet time constraints. Now however, even though I still have to limit the length of the initial guide I initially create to the most important core functions, it eventually becomes what I would create on my own if I had the time to do so.
Given the success I have had so far in taking social constructive theory and applying them to my trainings I have begun looking for other ways to implement the ideas into the workplace. One avenue I am currently pursuing is creating an online blog where anyone in the office can post a problem they are having or a question they might have regarding one of the many financial aid software packages or websites we use. What I hope is that just as in the Google doc approach, people will be able to collaborate in creating a knowledge bank by exposing and then filling in knowledge gaps within our department. I feel that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential that technology can have on my training and professional development work.