We all have them; Smartphones, Blackberries, iPads, cell phones, and laptops are all devices designed to help us stay connected. We can now take our work lives home with us and our home lives to work with us. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin enable us to connect with family, friends and business associates literally all over the world in seconds. Wow! Isn’t it amazing the ability we now have to get, and stay, connected?
But I have a question. Are we really connected? It certainly depends on your interpretation of the word connected. Technologically speaking, of course, we can get connected and stay connected more easily than ever before. We can connect electronically and virtually but with these devices are we really connecting with each other on a deeper level?
As more companies turn to e-learning and virtual classrooms to replace or supplement traditional training strategies I often wonder how our ability to connect with learners on an interpersonal level will change with this technology. I recently saw a futuristic video of Microsoft office products that show people relating to co-workers and family members strictly on a virtual level without even being in the same room with them.
What will this mean for us as instructors? We will need to adapt our existing instructional techniques to relate better to our learners in a virtual environment.
For example, in a traditional classroom I can use eye contact to connect with someone to let them know I approve or in some cases disapprove of their behavior. In a virtual classroom, we might “see” each other virtually but our eyes cannot literally meet. So, I would have to adapt and use some kind of verbal technique to communicate my thoughts with the learner.
In a traditional classroom I can arrange people in small groups to work on activities. In a virtual world I would need to have people work together in separate “chat rooms” which might require them to collaborate in written form based on my technology.
In a traditional classroom I can usually conduct the training on my own if the class size is manageable but in a virtual world I may need an assistant to run the software functions which would enable certain operations to happen with the class members.
Time will tell whether people can learn virtually just as well as in person. In the meantime, we instructors may need to adapt our teaching styles and preferences where necessary. The bottom line will always be learning; we need to continue to choose and use only the tools that will facilitate the learning process instead of hindering it.
How do you “connect” with your learners?