I got it wrong….. Or did I?

Posted on Sep 23, 2011

I recent attended the eLearning Network event ’10 things every learning designer should know’ and whilst the event gave me a few ideas to mull over, what really had an impact on me was a chance conversation that I had during the mid-morning break, which if I’m being honest, shocked me a little and distracted me for the rest of the day.

Allow me to explain…

During the first session of the day Bryan Hopkins from UNHCR made a general reference to the fact that “people can’t possibly be learning effectively if they are tapping away on mobile devices“(paraphrased). This led to a few giggles on my table, as at that very moment I was tapping away on my iPad.

iPad

During the mid-morning break I made reference back to that incident and drew a parallel to a meeting I was in during the early Summer where everybody was taking notes, however I was the only one taking them on an iPad, whereas everybody else was taking them with pen and paper. The meeting organiser actually stopped after 10 mins and asked what I was doing; when I told (and showed) them what I was doing, they still admitted that the fact I was on a mobile device made them feel uncomfortable.

Pen and Notebook

Now I had expected the people I was regaling this tale to over a cuppa to be sympathetic to my situation however I was wrong!

Instead 3 of the 4 people indicated that it would also put them off and make them question whether or not I was truly paying attention during the meeting and whether I was genuinely taking notes. We threw this around for a couple of minutes with me even pulling the old “who’s to say I’m paying attention/taking genuine notes, just because I’m using a pen and paper” but even this didn’t sway them.

I quickly popped smoke and withdrew back to the safety of the main area and discussed this back at my groups table, where, you may be surprised (or maybe not) to discover that the majority of those people also expressed doubt/concern/worry/frustration etc over people using mobile devices to take notes during learning events, meetings etc.

Had I been in any other environment than the one I was in yesterday I probably wouldn’t have been overly surprised….

… But this was an eLearning Network event!!!!

Surely eLN members would ‘get’ the advantages of using technology to aid productivity even if it wasn’t in an overtly ‘learning’ context, wouldn’t they?

And that’s what led me to this particular blog title, because it appears I was wrong.

Or was I?

Is it reasonable to expect us and our learners to use technology to aid our/their productivity in areas and in situations that have traditionally used pen and paper?

Should we maintain traditional practices for meetings but attempt to push forward with new practices when the output has an overt ‘learning’ tag attached to it?

Do you use technology to aid your personal productivity or not?

Are you encouraging/discouraging of others to do so?

Oh and for those of you who are wondering exactly what I was tapping away on my iPad for, I was producing this mindmap of the days sessions, which I am now sharing with others.

For those of you I was annoying, why not share your handwritten notes with us all?

Image sources: Click one each image to be taken to the individuals Flickr profile page.

81 Comments

  1. Another thought provoking piece Craig. I think that we have to ‘let go’ in a training situation, the ego of the trainer must take second place to the learning that needs to happen. Let’s face it – it’s not a lecture by F.R.Leavis, so why should the trainer be worried that delegates aren’t writing down every pearl of wisdom? On a piece of paper? I know that when I was delivering(4or5years ago now) I would be worried if someone was always texting on their phone-but even I that short period of time, technology has moved on sufficiently that the can have a convenient way of taking notes. Maybe the learning comment has to learn to ‘let go’ before there will be a revolution in the business! Keep up the good work as ever….

    • @Dames20 Hi @dames20. As always Damian, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this blog post. I absolutely agree with your reference as to how you would have felt 4-5 years ago as I would have been the same. I think perhaps nowadays I would take a moment during a break to enquire what note taking/mind mapping app etc they were using and then ask them if they would share their reasons for doing so with the remainder of the students later in the session – after all why look a gift horse in the mouth in terms of using using a member of their peer group to promote the use of technology?

      Craig

      • Hmm what a spirited debate you’ve inspired, Craig! My pennyworth is that much as I love technology, I use pen and paper to take notes at a presentation since I find it quicker and helps me concentrate. And I know that pen and paper does not ask me to spellcheck a word I have just typed, or let me copy and paste something into a quick tweet, or dash off a quick email having had my memory jogged by something the speaker said.

        But let’s also consider other people too. As a presenter, it is good to have eye contact with the audience, rather than see a sea of ‘top of the heads’. Then you can see from their expressions that you are reaching them and they are finding it useful/interesting/fascinating or just plain boring. Because an iPad is so much more multi-functional than a pen and paper, the eye contact one can give the presenter is going to be less.

        I have been in meetings of 10 around a table where everyone except me and the speaker were tapping into their keyboards with eyes down. The neglected speaker eventually suggested to make the meeting a ‘laptops down’ meeting so we can communicate better and progress at speed.

        • @richardnaish Hi RIchard, thanks for commenting. I can certainly see your point about it being of benefit to the facilitator to peoples faces in order to gauge connection etc, my (admittedly devils advocate) response would be how do facilitators manage to engage with learners who are at the end of a virtual classroom or are accessing asynchronous materials? The absence of a physical presence removes the option of eye contact/body language in an environment where I would argue it is EVEN MORE difficult to maintain interest and momentum than a face-to-face activity?

          Also, I find myself asking the question “who/what is more important”? The ability for the facilitator to gauge interest and connection with the learners or the ability for the learners to capture and filter the content that is being discussed?

          A tricky one and one I hope we can discuss further over a pint some time?

        • There are some excellent points being made here. I think as long as the technology is aiding the learning, it is something to embrace. I too check with my learners during the session about their “note taking” technology if I notice they seem distracted by their phones. Although when training hospitality folks, it is almost always SMS or BBM that distracts them as compared to new learning technologies.

          I think the “sea of heads” visual mentioned earlier is something that trainers just have to get over and use to improve their sessions – maybe add more visuals in the next session to target more attention towards themselves? Those are my two cents.

        • @msvaid Hi there, thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I absolutely agree with your comment about embracing the tech if it is being to aid learning, but I think part (probably a big part) is that whilst I (and in fact everybody who has commented on this blog) can see how tech can enhance and enrich the learners experience, so therefore we ‘do’ embrace it, there are probably far more people who have not yet developed that understanding. Unfortunately many of them are senior people or people with influence in businesses and organisations whose personal lack of understanding and subsequent embracing provides lost of lost opportunities for others.

          Your point about adapting a session to target attention is one that has got me thinking and I have a cunning plan……..

  2. OMG Craig, I really can’t believe this but as it comes from you I most definitely do. Fortunately, when I attended the BILD’s Conference back in June I used my iPad to make notes and to send many tweets about what was taking place and NO one ever questioned me, showed they were concerned, etc. Mind you if they had, I very much doubt I would have been as charitable as you. Your recent experience at an ELN meeting simply astounds me and, yes, I am a member of this august body too! Knowing their new chairman, Rob Hubbard, very well, I’m sure he would be equally horrified at such outmoded and antediluvian views.

    • @JudithCC Hi @judithels Thanks for commenting on a Saturday afternoon. Whilst I don’t think you’ve misunderstood my post I am keen to clarify that neither Bryan Hopkins nor indeed anybody else actually challenged me or commented in my use if the iPad; Bryans’ comment was in relation to the wider world and the comments I received from other attendees were as a result of me opening up the debate with them.

      I can assure you that if there had been a direct or open challenge to me personally then my response may have been more robust.

      It is interesting that you mention @robhubbard as he was sat a few metres from me, also tapping away his iPad!

      • @CraigTaylor74@robhubbard I think I may very well have misunderstood what you were conveying in your post Craig and, for which, I apologise. However, this does not excuse or hide the fact that these comments were made to you because, for the life of me, I can’t see any differences exist between meetings, conferences and ‘classroom’-based events. As Jane Hart has said already on Twitter, people should be allowed to use whatever devices they choose (and in whatever circumstances). IMO, the people who expressed such contrary views belong firmly in what Jane Hart has categorised as the ‘Command and Control’ brigade, a category that I regard to be synonymous with dinosaurs!

        • @JudithCC Hi Judith, thanks for dropping by again. Your reference to Jane Harts @c4lpt recent blogs about ‘Command and Control’ and your linking to dinosaurs has got me thinking…..

          I think that many people, and I’m including myself in this might consider that the like/dislike of using personal devices in meetings, conferences etc could be a generational

        • @CraigTaylor74 @JudithCC I’m not sure it’s a generational thing after all I’m clearly not a millennial. I think it is just a symptom of lack of exposure to the way that the world is changing and that the way we learn and work now is also changing.

        • @JudithCC
          JudithCC Hi Judith, thanks for dropping by again. Your reference to Jane Harts C4LPT recent blogs about ‘Command and Control’ and your linking to dinosaurs has got me thinking…..
          I think that many people, and I’m including myself in this might consider that the like/dislike of using personal devices in meetings, conferences etc could be a generational thing however there are stacks of people who use, accept and promote the use of tech where it adds value and in fact 3 of the people who were challenging my use of tech at last weeks event, were quite younger than me, so I’m wondering what indeed the concern is. However as I have been typing this I have noticed that Jane Hart @c4lpt has also dropped a response in, which is probably very accurate in it’s diagnosis

        • @C4LPT@CraigTaylor74 I quite agree with you Jane as I’m not a millennial either! In fact, all this categorisation stuff about the behaviours, personalities and habits of generational groups leaves me cold and, thank goodness, has recently been shown to be largely a load of old tosh! Like you, I think it has far more to do with how a large number of people still see face-to-face training and presentations in terms of learning, and do not/cannot accept the way in which many of us have now changed in the way we learn. If I look back over the last 20 years the way I now learn is nothing like how I used to learn. I also need to add into that reflection all my work and life experiences as these too will, no doubt, have had a significant impact on this change.

  3. If we are not ok with learners taking advantage of the very technology we are developing for and promoting in the workplace what is the chance of us succeeding? Who, once they have seen how great a tablet is for taking notes, or in my case mind mapping, during a meeting or session would go back to paper? I really want my learners to take out a device, I really look forward to everyone sharing their notes and scribbles after the event. I want to see them taking advantage of the ‘wall wisher’ I set up, I want to see and hear their blogs and podcasts. Until all these things are a matter of course in my organisation I am going to continue to struggle as a ‘learning technologist’ if the technology everyone wants to use was invented by László Bíró!

    • @memarkyb Hi memarkyb Thanks for taking the time out to read and comment on my blog. Of course I agree with you in terms of our shared desire to see a more pervasive use of tech within our working lives, be it a learning event or not (I could argue that a meeting is a learning event if you learn something whilst you are in it – but I won’t).

      However I would be (actually I am) accepting of those people that were using more traditional methods to take notes/mindmap etc, after all we’re not all at the same stage are we? It would appear that the recognition of that however in some people’s cases doesn’t go in both directions………. ;-)

      • @CraigTaylor74 I have been lucky enough not to come up against the attitude you saw the other day, at least not since the early days when I was using the old Orange SPV, and I probably deserved it then. The majority of people seem interested in the capabilities of the device, I don’t think I’m winning too many over though. Firstly I still haven’t found a note taking app and stylus combination that feel completely natural, although one or two come very close. Secondly I think people worry about security; after all, paper based notebooks can be encrypted, protected by password and wiped remotely if necessary – hang on, that’s not right is it!

        • @memarkyb Hi memarkyb What notetaking app are you using? Are you looking for one that accepts handwriting (I’m assuming you are, as you mentioned a stylus) or a keyboard input?

          I know of a well documented case within the nuclear industry many, many moons ago where technology secrets were stolen by an insider, not using email, or USB sticks, or digital photographs, or covert recording equipment but good old fashioned physical notetaking/smuggling

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Qadeer_Khan#Proliferation_of_URENCO_technology

          Such a shame that the ignorance or naivety of the few causes problems for the many (well maybe not the many yet, but you know what I mean) ;-)

  4. Great post Craig – and I am thoroughly shocked that you got that sort of response, especially from the attendees from the ELN. You are NOT wrong – they are. Thanks for highlighting this as I believe it’s an important point.

    As I am heavily involved with virtual classrooms and webinars, this has brought up a point that I have been thinking about and hopefully we can get some views of those is this area. What I am thinking is this. I am comfortable when running webinars that we should encourage a backchannel to share content with others – webinars are information proving events. But what about live online courses?

    I have made a point to ensure that we encourage learners to switch off anything that distracts them from the lesson – notably email pop ups, twitter, mobiles, desktop phones. I am intrigued as to what others in this area think about this.

    Before you ask, my take is that we should continue to ask learners to switch off devices to concentrate on the lesson, which is, as you know, more difficult to concentrate when you are attending remotely.

    So dilemma is, why am I taking this view for virtual classroom learning events, if I disagree with what happened at the ELN event?

    Simply, the answer is that we insist that all learning events are recorded so that they are available to learners after the event, for reflection and note taking etc.- and of course for the facilitator to review their performance.

    I would love to get others’ views on this.

    • @csteed Thanks for posting this colinsteed as it brings an interesting new perspective to the discussion that is taking place here and one that I hope people will contribute to.

      My initial take on your comment when I first skim-read it was one of disagreement (which is why I let myself sleep on it overnight), however now I have come back to it this morning I can see the sense and logic in asking students to remove/reduce all external potential distractions because as you highlight, it can be more difficult to concentrate on the session when it is being delivered remotely.

      Having said that, an equal part of me is thinking that if I were attending an live online learning event and something were said/mentioned/shown/discussed that I did not understand that I would immediately Google it, Wiki it or crowdsource an answer via Twitter, quickly absorb the surface information and then process it to (hopefully) be able to add context to the situation in which it was being mentioned in the virtual classroom. That would be impossible to do if I had turned off all of these performance support tools prior to commencing the live online course

      1/2….

    • @csteed Hi colinsteed Here’s the second part 2/2

      Of course, the text book answer to the conundrum posed above is that I should ask the other people in the online course for some assistance, context or clarification be it other students or the facilitator, however in practice does this always happen? Do learners always raise their hands in a ‘physical’ classroom to ask for assistance, context or clarification? Of course they don’t and it is my suspicion (and that’s all it is, as I have no evidence to suggest otherwise) that learners exhibit the same behaviours in a virtual classroom.

      So I’ve now swung back the other way and feel that allowing (and promoting) access to the sort of tools that we are referring to here is actually a very positive move as long as it has been made quite clear to the learners that they need to exert self discipline to ensure that their use adds value and doesn’t detract from the live online event itself.

      I’m going to sign off now before I change my mind again but I’m really hoping that other people will weigh in with their thoughts in particular philipgreen and barrysampson as they assisted me greatly with my first steps into the ‘virtual classroom’ world.

      2/2

  5. Very interesting. I couldn’t make this event unfortunately but had I then: (a) I probably would have choked on my biscuit at the original speaker’s original remark and (b) I would have been as shocked as you by the reaction of others.

    A few things spring to mind. The younger members in our organisations are more than capable of multi-tasking. I don’t know how they do it, but they seem very capable of listening, validating what you’re saying to be true via their own searches and taking themselves off on learning safaris (heck, how I hate that term) to dig deeper into related topics in which they are particularly interested. I call that “learning” in my book.

    The role of any trainer/facilitator is to engage their audience. If I’m doing a damn good job that day, then hopefully my audience is taking notes in paper or electronic form that are related to the topic I’m covering and helping them to process and retain that information. I’m probably also “distracting” them from non-related activity through a constant dialogue and interactions that show me that they’re engaged with the topic at hand. If I’m not, then they are perfectively entitled to go off and catch up with the news on the BBC News app or put pen to paper to remind themselves to pick up some potatoes on the way home.

    Yesterday I reviewed the Idea Flight app (http://bit.ly/oLFre4) that enables the trainer to what people see on their iPads. I never thought of this sort of application in a negative light, but now you’ve got me thinking/worried.

    • @timdrewitt Hi timdrewitt Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about facilitators engaging with their audience and when they fail to do so, they should be accepting that their audiences attention will wander be it onto paper, onto a screen or let’s face it ‘out of the window’ – we’ve all been there right ;-)

      Great review of the Idea Flight app by the way, have you used it ‘in anger’ yet?

  6. Quite a timely post as it’s something I was thinking about too. I’ve just come back from the ISTC’s tech communication conference where on the first day laptop users were told to be considerate to other attendees. They had feedback from last year’s conference that people were distracted by laptop users tapping away. So laptop users were advised to sit away from central areas. There weren’t many iPad users this year but I found them at lot less intrusive especially when the screens were dimmed.

    • @tompsk Hi tompsk Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, it’s much appreciated. I’ve read and re-read you comment a few times and I laugh out loud each time, especially when in the same sentence I read that laptop users at a TECH COMMUNICATION conference were asked to be consider others when it came to key tapping!!!

      Talk about a contradiction ;-)

      And as for segregating the laptop users from the non-laptop users, how about segregating the non-tech users away from the others…… in 1993? ;-)

      Thanks again for commenting

  7. @CraigTaylor74 Interesting points Craig. And I wonder how many were mindmapping with pen and paper? Love your final comment about sharing their written notes. If we open up the description of mobile devices to include laptop computers, I’m still surprised how many of my colleagues turn up to meetings with full print-outs of the meeting papers in their hands, whilst I have them all on my laptop…

    • @niallgavinuk Hi niallgavinuk Thanks for commenting Niall and I’m pleased that you considered there to be some interesting points in there.

      Whilst I can’t comment on everybody that was there, certainly those people that were within eyeshot that *weren’t* using tech *were* taking paper based notes. Or writing shopping lists. Or doodling. Or playing noughts and crosses ;-)

      On the point of meeting attendances, I can’t imagine that there are many organisations that don’t wish to reduce their environmental impact…. maybe they should start looking to their meetings as another way of doing this?

      Thanks again

  8. Craig thanks for adding the mind map really useful as a non attendee.

    I understand you paraphrase but the assumptions being made that people aren’t learning effectively whilst tapping on a mobile device is one that the learning community really need to move away from – quickly!

    Since when did it become all about the facilitator – I need you looking at me, centre of attention, I’m the most important person here etc etc blah blah blah. Surely it is still about the people who attend your session taking away what’s important to them in a way that suits them? Or have I missed something?

    Linked to this and something that stood out for me was that a number of people who said that if THEY were facilitating would question if you were paying attention by tip tap tapping on a mobile device and whether you were genuinely taking notes!! WHAT!? “No I travelled to ELN in Sheffield to play on Angry Birds”. In an adult learning environment surely it is up to individuals how much attention they pay or how they pay that attention, especially at a paying event. It’s up to the attendee to assimilate, process, and (share) then apply the knowledge. In university a lecturer isn’t going to go round to 200 students to check they’ve made notes or were listening – it’s up to the student!

    Sounds very much like old school views of……..well school…..very Parent / Child here “You will attend my class and listen attentively, use standardised methods of taking notes and will not deviate from this or be different”

    For the people who are put off by the person next to them or on the same table using something other than a pen and paper it would be good to understand why? Is it the loud noise that the devices make, it is the strong light that they emit or is it a genuine misunderstanding around what the devices enable people to do and that’s what actually makes you feel uncomfortable?

    I use a pen and paper, my phone and my tablet or laptop in sessions depending on the setting and type of session – the point is I have a choice and choose methods that work for me and my needs.

    A suggestion to ELN in the future could be on the booking form to ask people if they are going to use a mobile device in the session and arrange seating accordingly.

    Something like a tick box ____ 21st century learner / ______ Other

    • @Mike Collins Hi @mikecollins007 Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Having read yours and many other peoples comments (many, many times) I keep coming back to a key issue – Trust!

      There appears to be a lack of trust when people are using technology “what are they doing” “are they checking emails” “are they listening to me” etc etc

      These questions don’t appear to materialise when traditional methods are used, I wonder why? Whatever the reason, if my ‘trust’ suspicion is correct then it suggest a far greater problem than a facilitator wanting to “see the whites of their eyes”?!

      • @CraigTaylor74

        Maybe if it is a trust issue then we need to figure out how to tackle that – both as presenters and as attendees. How about:

        1. attendees – eyes-up often enough to keep ‘in touch’ with the presenter

        2. organisers – screens with # backchannel comments streaming by

        3. presenters – a space for sharing – that goes both ways – i.e not just the presenters notes, but everyone else’s notes/links too

        Any of that grab anyone?

        • @WendyTagg@CraigTaylor74 Great ideas Wendy. The power of the backchannel has bene demonstrated many times and adding a sharing space for notes etc would add even more value.

        • @WendyTagg Hi Wendy, I particularly like the idea around point No 3 that you make….. in fact you’ve given me an idea for the next time I speak…… cheers!

        • @WendyTagg Hi wendytagg , I particularly like the idea around point No 3 that you make….. in fact you’ve given me an idea for the next time I speak…… cheers!

        • @CraigTaylor74 @stevebatchelder Glad you like the shared space idea – it would be really nice to get this sort of genuine sharing going. I find that when I attend these events there is a great pressure to hand over my email address, which inevitably ends up with the sales team, who then send endless spamfantastic emails. Mutual sharing is much more attactive in so many ways.

  9. Hi Craig,
    Great post and I too find it incredible that you experienced this at an ELN event of all places.
    I recently experienced the same “objection” at a recent event I was at yet no such objection to those taking notes using pen &paper.
    I agree you (we) are NOT wrong, those around us just haven’t realised the potential yet.

    • @allan.eportfolio Hi allan_isdale Thanks for the feedback and comment on the post. What was the event that you were at when you received the objection? Was it ‘to be expected’ given the nature of the event/attendees? Or like my experience, did it take you by surprise?

      • @CraigTaylor74 @allan.eportfolio @allan_isdale

        • It was actually an event promoting my own organisation where there was actually a presentation re our VLE, yet they objected to my use of an iPad for note taking. Just wait till I suggest backchannel use in my strategy document!

  10. Hi Craig,

    Interesting post. I think you’ve unearthed a common but disturbing problem, and it’s been amplified in the comments too: Just because we’re comfortable using technology to communicate, doesn’t mean we’re comfortable with others using technology to consume our communication.

    I sat next to Clark Quinn at one of the LT11UK sessions earlier this year and he was playing solitaire on his iPad throughout the whole thing. I asked him about this and he said it allows him to free his mind to listen. Sure enough, when a noteworthy point was made, he switched to a note taking app and quickly captured it.

    Whilst it’s true that people tap tapping on iPads and Laptops may be distracting to a speaker, as speakers we/they need to get over that quickly. Looking at the stats around 75% of students in US universities take notes using a mobile device, and they’ll take that into their organisations. We need to keep up. The older ones among us need to learn the new modes of consuming.

    Personally, I draw pictures on my iPad during meetings, allowing me to free my mind (a la Mr Quinn) and then note the key points on Mindnode. If I was to share all my meeting notes they’d be a mind map and a picture (and not a good one) of a tree, or a coke can, or whatever took my fancy :)

    • Hi @AndyJones

      I think that it is very true that doing something with your hands does help clear the ‘fidgets’ from the brain that get in the way of making connections.

    • @AndyJones Hi @andyjones Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment, but I’ve got to ask….. What were you doing up at such a godforsaken hour?

      Your comment about @quinnovator made me smile as I have seen some of the incredibly detailed mind maps that he produces post-event, so there must be something to be said for ‘freeing the mind’.

      I am already seeing a large disconnect between the formal technologies that many apprentices and graduates coming into Industry are expecting in their workplace and those that are provided and I’m just talking about the likes of VLEs, videos, podcasts etc. If businesses and organisations widen that gap even further by making suggestions that personal use of tech to aid productivity is a thing to be avoided, then I suspect we are heading for a bigger problem…….

  11. My favourite cartoon of all time was published in the Times Education Supplement about 40 years ago. It showed a girl and a boy aged about 9 in an upstairs classroom. He had turned to her with the caution, “Don’t look out of the window; she’ll make you write about it”.

    Now before some of the more proselytising and evangelistic responders (topical words of the day) to your posting turn your blog into an auto da fe, or start burning books or effigies, let’s put this whole matter into proportion. I was there, as you know, and I too was blogging, mind-mapping, doodling, and yes, I confess, emailing during Bryan’s session, Andrew’s and Gill’s too. If I find some pearls of wisdom worthy of embedding in my psyche sufficient to note them, challenge them, or check associative links, then I pay the presenter as much homage and respect as if I bore into them with intense eye contact.

    I have a horror of censorship of any kind, and I think there is a kind of fascism that lurks inside classrooms, and boardrooms too. It is generally born of the insecurity of the teacher/trainer/manager/faciltator. It is fed by the leader’s fear of losing control and passing the power to the audience; of not being in charge of the pace, content and impact of the session.

    Personally, I WANT to surrender the power; after all why should I, unilaterally accept all responsibility for the content of my session in a world where knowledge atrophies faster than ever before, and it is beyond my powers to hold everything in my head, or even in my session notes? Whatever would lead me to believe that my own wisdom added up to more than the combined expertise of 38 other professionals, just because they happen to be on the other side of the podium?

    However, a horror of censorship is attuned with a relentless advocacy for a fundamental human right; I refer to Freedom of Speech and Expression. If the Elearning Network or indeed your blog, ever becomes a cosy gathering of like-minded people, afraid to utter anything other than the same mantra as all their pals, then count me out. I want to raise my voice in praise of Bryan Hopkins for the courage to dare to be controversial, and maybe even a little mischievous and Devil’s Advocate in his approach. I know of few who have contributed so much to corporate L&D than Bryan, and I thank him for his willingness to provoke, as well as inform.

  12. My favourite cartoon of all time was published in the Times Education Supplement about 40 years ago. It showed a girl and a boy aged about 9 in an upstairs classroom. He had turned to her with the caution, “Don’t look out of the window; she’ll make you write about it”.

    Now before the earnest responders to your posting turn your blog into an auto da fe, or start burning books or effigies, let’s put this whole matter into proportion. I was there, as you know, and I too was blogging, mind-mapping, doodling, and yes, I confess, emailing during Bryan’s session, Andrew’s and Gill’s too. If I find some pearls of wisdom worthy of embedding in my psyche sufficient to note them, challenge them, or check associative links, then I pay the presenter as much homage and respect as if I bore into them with intense eye contact.

    I have a horror of censorship of any kind, and I think there is a kind of fascism that lurks inside classrooms, and boardrooms too. It is generally born of the insecurity of the teacher/trainer/manager/faciltator. It is fed by the leader’s fear of losing control and passing the power to the audience; of not being in charge of the pace, content and impact of the session.

    Personally, I WANT to surrender the power; after all why should I, unilaterally accept all responsibility for the content of my session in a world where knowledge atrophies faster than ever before, and it is beyond my powers to hold everything in my head, or even in my session notes? Whatever would lead me to believe that my own wisdom added up to more than the combined expertise of 38 other professionals, just because they happen to be on the other side of the podium?

    Then again, the whole matter is about managing group dynamics in general; it’s situational, by which I mean sometimes the task-in-hand may depend upon group collaboration on an intimate, enquiring level that works best with eye contact and deep concentration. 

    Maybe it’s simpy a function of teaching style and leaner personality and preferences. I wonder what Howard Gardner would say? Are the mappers and bloggers stronger on Intrapersonal than Interpersonal Intelligence using his terminology.

    Daniel Goleman and the Emotional Intelligence fraternity might have a view too, and my dear old friend Howard Hills would surely find some correlation between Myers Briggs (The MBTI), and the more introspective behaviour of he blogger.

    Ultimately, my abhorrence of censorship is attuned with a relentless advocacy for a fundamental human right; I refer to Freedom of Speech and Expression. If the Elearning Network or indeed your blog, ever becomes a cosy gathering of like-minded people, afraid to utter anything other than the same mantra as all their pals, then count me out. (more…)

  13. (continued….) I want to raise my voice in praise of Bryan Hopkins for the courage to dare to be controversial, and maybe even a little mischievous and Devil’s Advocate in his approach. I know of few who have contributed so much to corporate L&D than Bryan, and I thank him for his willingness to provoke, as well as inform. I congratulate you too, Craig for sticking to your own beliefs in the face of onsiderable peer pressure. You deserve a bit of a Kipling, so here it is, “If you can keep your heads when all around you….” (You can Google the rest).

    Phil

    • @philipgreen Hi @philipgreen As always Phil whenever we meet, you’ve gone and made me learn something new dammit! I looked up auto da fe and found that it referred to a process within the Spanish inquisition with a ‘burning at the stake’ being the most profound aspect. I hope you weren’t hinting that I was suggesting that we burned anybody at the stake???? I wouldn’t dream of it…… can ou imagine the Risk Assessment involved? ;-)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-da-fé

      I absolutely agree with your comments about any network worth it’s salt being made up of individuals with individual thoughts which may or may not conflict with one another but being respectful of the opposing view, which I believe I was during #elndesigner and in the original blog post, I never once said that those people who were not using technology were behind the times or that their pen scratching the surface of the paper was distracting me from the content being delivered. Instead I was accepting of the choice that they made at that point in time and allowed them to continue without comment.

      2nd lesson learnt from this (again)? If a facilitator says something I disagree with, challenge them. There and then.

      Now I must shoot off as I need to prep for the October eLN event…… Now where is my papyrus……?

  14. I agree that people should take notes, in whatever form they like, on whatever device they like.

    I’m still being old school about this – when I go to a conference or a show, I like to ‘dump the tech’ and go back to good old paper and coloured pens. Even this does not guarantee that I will be left to take my notes unimpeded. On a number of occasions I have been scribbling happily away – connecting the speaker’s ideas to my own projects, noting things to investigate further, making mad little drawings that hint at connections I haven’t figured out yet. Then … there is a deafening hush followed by the speaker telling me, in teddy bear language, that their presentation, notes, white paper etc. will be available on line … blah blah blah.

    But … I don’t want a copy of their talk, like @CraigTaylor74 with his Mindmap, I am already taking the information to the next level and beginning to apply it to my own needs. Undoubtedly they are trying to be helpful but they have actually: interrupted themselves, distracted their audience and embarrassed me.

    • @WendyTagg Hi Wendy, I LOL’d at your blah blah blah line. I have to admit that I very often tell people at the beginning of a session whether I am sharing any of the resources or underpinnig research and then leave it to the attendees as to what they want to do with the info.

      • I think it is good to tell the audience at the beginning and remind them at the end – it’s interupting the flow to fulfil a non-existant need that is troublesome … and you’ve started something here, haven’t you?!

        • @WendyTagg Av I eva, I dint do vis much writin at skool

  15. This is a really interesting debate… I’m a bit surprised at the objections to be honest…

    However, my own experiences have not been exactly rational…. I feel really uncomfortable taking notes either on a PC in a computer lab, or on a laptop in a lecture/conference/etc…. BUT don’t have the same thing when I do it on my iPad – this doesn’t seem rational to me…

    When I think about it, there might be a few reasons why….

    a) My discomfort at taking notes on a laptop comes more from a feeling of guilt… I know I’m likely to get distracted, while as my iPad doesn’t really do multitasking it is a lot less likely…

    b) Tablets seem to be more ‘open’ or ‘social’ – again, not sure that this is rational… but I feel more like I’m participating using a tablet than using a laptop

    Maybe these are just my own personal prejudices, but hey,….

    • @pysproblem81 Hi thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. I wonder if the fact that a laptop requires a screen to be folded up, thus inevitable causing a ‘barrier’ (albeit it negligible) between yourself and the facilitator is another reasons why you prefer using a tablet?

      • I think there could be a lot in this…. It is probably easier to have eye-contact while using a tablet than while using a laptop – personally I think notetaking on a tablet and using pen & paper is probably similar for me (and I’m more likely to be able to read the notes I taken on my pad…..)

  16. I enjoyed this post I can understand both sides but as an avid note taker I see nothing wrong with using an I-pad during a talk or meeting for this purpose. Although knowing my weakness for a quick game of angry birds I can see how this might be dangerous!

    • @Alexsaffron Hi Alex, thanks for dropping by and commenting. If you read the comment by @andyjones, you may be interested to read that Clarke Quinn plays solitaire whilst listening to live session, so I think you can be forgiven a quick game of Angry Birds ;-)

  17. Mixed views on this one as a presenter I would want to know that people were engaged with what I was delivering and would want to see eye contact, nods, smiles frowns etc so that I could guage their reaction and enter into dialogue with people if their expressions indicated that they had a question or needed clarification.

    As a delegate I would want the freedom to make notes using whatever I thought was appropriate and with my appalling writing some form of electronic device would ave me time later trying to interpret what I had scribbled down at the time.

    The fact that I could later share my notes via a mindmap without having to later create that mindmap is an added bonus. I guess I would eventually get used to a lack of eye contact etc if everyone was busy making electronic notes but I think I would always find it slightly disconcerting all the same.

    I guess the surprising thing is that this was at an elearnining event where you might expect a more positive view of such devices but again speaker/presenter preferences are as individual as our note taking & learning preferences.

    • @stevebatchelder Hi Steve, your closing comment was my point exactly. If this session had been taking place at my previous employer, then it would not have come as a surprise, but it shocked me that it came from people who ‘get’ the use or tech to enhance overt learning activities but did not see or support the use of it to aid personal productivity.

      • @CraigTaylor74 Hi Craig – this is a really interesting debate – as @WendyTagg Tagg says you have started something here!

        One additional thought that occurred to me today is that I could understand that people using laptops wold be more distracting because the screen acts as a barrier and prevents the facilitator seeing what the user is doing and may lead to objections to their use. However a tablet has no such barrier and can clearly be seen and so it is unlikely that people would be off topic if they are using a tablet and so I would have thought it would be a more acceptable form of note taking almost like pen and paper!

  18. Thanks for your reflections on this Craig.

    My response is that we are all adults. Any speaker worth their salt would not be put out by audience members tapping away on their keyboards or tablets. If they are put out, perhaps they should reconsider their own positions. As for other audience members, unless they are severely distracted by those using their keypads, they should continue to concentrate on their own learning. What does it have to do with them anyway?

    It’s quite simple. If I’m interested in the talk or presentation, I will record the highlights of what is being said or attempt to summarise, and probably also share them instantly with my professional learning network through Twitter or live blogging. That’s what I do at such events. If anyone wants to question my motives for this, let them. We all have different ways of meaning making. Mine, like yours is to create content that is relevant to the presentation for later reflection or for sharing with others. If I’m not interested, I won’t play Farmville or check my e-mail account. I will probably just get up and leave the room.

    Keep up the good work and don’t be put off by those who don’t quite get it yet.

    • @timbuckteeth Is their a ‘Like’ Button anywhere here?

      • @memarkyb Hi Mark, you know what I don’t think there is…… To the plugin store……….

      • memarkyb There is now!

    • @timbuckteeth Craig, for me, Steve’s response sums it up so well. I spent a sleepless night (not because of this discussion, I hasten to add) and in the course of it had sort of planned a response in my mind, only to find that I’d been beaten to it this morning. Over and out :-)

    • @timbuckteeth Hi Steve, thanks for the comment and support. You are of course quite right in your observation and question as to what business it is of theirs, if everybody (including the facilitator) was concentrating on the activity, content, learning etc then as long as nobody is really kicking the arse out of their tech use then it really shouldn’t affect them….. Unless of course they’re not concentrating/engaged/etc ;-)

      If I’m feeling brave enough the next time I’m in a boring session then I may follow your advice and ‘up sticks’!

  19. Hi Craig. Excellent, thought and discussion provoking piece!

    I think your right!

    For me, as for @WendyTagg. Personally, I need to take notes (whether it be in a meeting or a training event) to ‘process’ the information and relate to my relevant context. Else…what’s the point? I don’t let this distract me from the speaker/presenter, and I hope in doing so they always appreciate I am not being rude…on the contrary I am be respectful and really considering the subject matter.

    So back the the original question – electronic notes or pen and paper. Until recently I did use pen and paper – not because I wanted to but simply because I couldn’t type fast enough and had no chance of inventing my own short-hand! What I have to say (without plugging Apple) is that using an iPad and a stylus has revolutionised my note talking. No more pen and paper for me! It’s a s balck and white as, either:

    a) leave an event with reams of paper covered in my writing (that I may find difficult to interpret – handwritting problem!) that I cannot easily share, update or store; or

    b) leave an event with an electronic note that I can easily share, update and file……(although I may still have an issue understanding my handwriting!).

  20. @CraigTaylor74 Thanks for replying to my post. It is obvious that the people responding to your blog are all in favour of freedom of learning applications and I agree that there are many people higher up that do not buy into the same way of thinking. I do think there are many L&D professionals too who are not very open to welcoming these new learning technologies because it threatens the norms of classroom learning. I’m sure when new technologies were initially used, it might have seemed like a fad or trend (which was not threatening) but it is evident that learning-on-the-go is here to stay and more companies are investing significant funds into these technologies.

    Also, I think there are many L&D professionals are scared of the IT-savvy nature of learning because let’s face it, not all L&D professionals have a strong background in technical skills since it wasn’t needed/not used as much before. I think there are those who are excited by this continuous growth and the ‘unknown’ and as always there will be those who are scared of the unknown because it threatens their job security and maybe even their professional skills. I don’t want to get too philosophical here and imply that many L&D professionals are rethinking their purpose in life or anything; I just think the distinction between “job” and “passion” is surfacing. It is a positive movement for everyone involved.

    So enough with my ramblings, what is your cunning plan of directing more attention towards the facilitator during sessions?

    • @msvaid Hi @msvaid Thanks for dropping by again. It’s interesting what you say about the possibility of some traditional L&D people feeling threatened by growing use of technology.

      A friend of mine @niallgavinuk attended #WOL11 earlier this week and after prompting an audience of 50 people to scan a QR code only 2 people raised a smartphone to do so. Now of course, this could be down to a whole host of factors such as a lack of smartphone, dead battery, lack of signal etc however I am willing to bet that a significant part of the audience had never been exposed to QR codes and thought that Niall was some sort of wizard or witch doctor for suggesting the idea, despite QR codes being very ‘high street’ now.

      I truly believe that it is the responsibility of all of us, including conference organisers to showcase and promote the use of technologies at every opportunity that arises. Even those technologies that haven’t gained traction yet, should be showcased, because until they have an audience, how will we ever know whether they could become the next big thing?

  21. We can meet our learners on their devices. Autotweet from our presentations, create a collaborative mindmap, a WallWisher. Set them up in advance, it’s nothing new ‘promote & maintain the desire to learn’. Just using the available, free, tech to do it.

  22. Totally agree Craig, I have been to conferences and for one reason or another I haven’t got my iPad or phone, so I’ll make paper based notes, when the conference is finished I fold that paper up and put it in my bag and never look at it again. Alternatively when I make notes with my iPad like you, I mind map, create links, share them, tweet them, all in all do something useful with them. I find it strange that people at an eLearning conference would question what you are doing. Oh dear maybe I’m not as good at my job as I thought, sharing the wonders of technology is obviously not getting through, lol.

    • @bossholt Hi bossholt Your comment has made me look back over the dozens if not hundreds of courses I undertook when I was in the Army, which inevitably resulted in some form of physical folder being produced. That folder then got thrown in the back of a locker (if it was lucky) only to reappear when it was time to clear the lockers out. I now compare that to the events that I attend and the notes that I take and find that the ability to keep all my data in one conveniently sized, reliable place *AND* be able to syn those notes to other ‘back up’ areas has really improved my productivity and inevitable my learning.

      I’m quite accepting that not everybody can/should/will want to use tech to support them and that’s OK with me, just as long as ‘my’ preferred use of it is accepted by them.

  23. Hi Craig, I recently came across your blog which made me smile as I experienced the complete opposite in a network meeting I recently attended. Here is the link to my blog:

    http://www.thirdforce.com/technology/to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet-social-media-etiquette/

  24. Hi Craig, a little late to the party, but just wanted to say, well done on challenging the situation and causing others think deeper about the scenario. Last year at Like Minds, with barry sampson , I remember looking around the conference room thinking, wow, at least 60% of people have their heads down in a device for a very large section of the presentation. My gut reaction was also, is anyone listening to the speaker? Does body language no longer play a part in conveying information? How can the Speaker build a relationship without a cheeky smile or a wink? It got me thinking, why we’re these people even in the room, we could have just been virtual or watching a YouTube video and making notes… I then realised something… those with their heads down, intensely concentrating, were involved in an advanced form of multi-tasking, ie, listening, deciphering, recording, sharing with occasional pauses for visual observations. The Internet and associated technological tools such as laptops and tablets have rewired us in this way and in these kind of scenario’s, ie. conferences, it’s becoming more than the norm… Is it a good thing? Is the human touch gone? I don’t know? You know me, I love my tech toys, as you do too, but I have to say, my gut reaction was, Mmm… something ain’t feeling right here… Anyhoo’s take care and good luck with the move to the coast. Adios!

    PS: Glad you’re still using the Livefyre jordan kretchmer :)

    • @simbeckhampson @barry sampson @jordan kretchmer I’m glad he’s still using Livefyre too. I’m pretty sure he’s the number 1 finder of bugs from mobile devices! :)

      • @jkretch Hi jkretch Thanks for commenting, glad that I’m keeping you on your toes ;-) Speaking of which, any idea on the timescales of increasing the character count in blog comments?

    • @simbeckhampson Hi simbeckhampson Thanks for dropping by and commenting. It seems like you’ve been out of the loop for aaaaaages??? I think your observation of “something ain’t feeling right here” is a very honest and in my opinion accurate representation of may peoples perceptions of the move towards using tech to record, filter, publish blah, blah, blah content (including mine when I first witnessed and participated in it) however I have no doubt that with the passage of time, this will become the norm and be accepted just as pen and paper have been for many years.

      I wonder if timbuckteeth could weigh in here and direct us to the great series of quotes he regales whereby people over the centuries have decried using bark, paper, ink, biros ete etc?

  25. Just prompted by what Simbeck has said.
    The point that everyone has their head down looking at a device just demonstrates that we have not developed the device fully yet. When we can look up at the presenter and see the digital information we desire overlaid on that live view we will be a little closer. I know it’s already possible using some of the AR apps but it’s not quite ready yet.

    • @memarkyb Hi memarkyb sort of like a pilots HUD? I know that this capability has already passed the prototype stage for man-portability in the Defence sector, so who knows when the HUD/tablet integration will happen along……. maybe sooner than we think?

  26. I used my iPhone to take notes today whilst interviewing 4 different people. I apologised 4 times and explained what I was doing when I saw the look on their faces… They didn’t say anything, but you could see it

  27. This is the exact scenario I recently experienced at a technical communications conference. I was also surprised that there were those in a techncial industry that were against the use of technology. Personally I found it very off putting NOT being able to save time by tapping away.

  28. Hi Tony, thanks for reading and commenting. It’s very rare that anybody comments via Facebook so thaks dor

  29. …. So thanks for proving that it works. As you quite rightly point out, this wasn’t any old traditional business or corporate but a group of people who embrace the use of technology to enhance and enrich a learners experience and add value to a business, however when it comes to using tech to aid personal productivity (and personalise an individuals learning experience) it appeared that some of them were wary of that approach. Anyway enough of this shoptalk, how are you and Shannon keeping?

  30. And here’s another posting to add to the debate. This one via jiiiii

    http://www.fastcompany.com/1792478/giving-a-kick-ass-presentation-in-the-age-of-social-media?partner=rss

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  8. To tweet or not to tweet? P1 | Saffron Interactive - […] sharing with others and lead to a more active contribution than passive listening. Craig Taylor’s article makes the point …

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