Instruments of Restraint

Almost any technology can be a learning technology, I wrote a while back. It’s how it’s used, not what is used.

  1. What’s the difference between a conference room and a classroom?
  2. What is the difference between a CMS and an LCMS?

A learning technology is mostly about branding  and I’m more interested in non-educational tools (social networking, wikis, blogs, social bookmarks) in that they are not limited by some pre-conceived notions about learning or a constrained pedagogical framework. I can use general tools for instruction, guided study or discovery learning; just as the same physical classroom can be alternately an exciting learning environment or a temporary prison cell.

I believe that special *learning technologies* actually restrain us.

Restraint may be defined as:

1. The act of restraining or the condition of being restrained.
2. Loss or abridgment of freedom.
3. An influence that inhibits or restrains; a limitation.
4. An instrument or a means of restraining.
5. Control or repression of feelings; constraint

First, the notion of learning technologies as separate from working technologies continues to keep learning separate from work. This makes little sense in a networked workplace. Second, learning technologies become a special class of tools that only learning experts understand or care to learn about. Third, they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization. My experience is that the only organizations that benefit from learning technologies are those whose core business is learning with a focus on formal, structured delivery – schools.

Learning technologies, by their limiting nature, are instruments of restraint for the networked organization.

5 Responses to “Instruments of Restraint”

  1. mike whatley

    “they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization”

    Man you got that right.

    So what’s the answer for the large enterprise? I recall former IBM Chief Sam Palmissano said, all large companies need their own “university” inside or when Robert McDowell former Microsoft Exec said, “We’re all technologists now!” or the repetitive results of Forbes magazine’s annual CEO questionaire, “What’s your biggest problem?” A majority of respondents answer, “Employee education”

    I’ve been the beneficiary and victim of large enterprise learning systems. Some work most dont’ I’ll keep reading your blog, in case you publish the answer!

    mike whatley
    pasadena, ca

  2. Gilbert (Formative Assessment Guy)

    Very good post.

    Learning Technologies have not been invented yet. Teaching technologies are also in their infancy.

    LCMS is by definition a “content approach” that has very little to do with enabling learning. Content has been redefining itself so quickly that most LCMS cannot handle modern content.

    The “learning attitude” required for the next wave of change has also not been invented yet. We need some kind of “learning renaissance”.

    The new technologies will have a major role on learning, but my guess, it will me more at the level of setting the stage for the “renaissance” than direct use of technology.

    Learning Renaissance…. soon we will be coming out of the dark ages of learning.

  3. Reuben

    “Learning Technologies have not been invented yet”…..not sure I agree. Google.

    The title of this post got me all furious until I read your post and you are dead on my man. I make the same argument in my upcoming book and explore the technologies fuelling organizational growth in a networked world. L+D professionals had better wake up before we become ever more irrelevant.

  4. Dave Ferguson

    There’s some sense in which all technologies restrain (or perhaps constrain) us, especially over time, because one of the strongest forces in day-to-day existence is inertia. We go with what’s going; we stand with what’s stood.

    I’m not arguing with your main point, though. In the workplace, there are technologies that are essential to the organization’s mission and goals. When the mission shifts and the goals change, some organizations adapt or even discard what had been core technology, because it doesn’t get them where they need to go.

    To the extent that some subset of a large organization is removed from its core mission — staff functions rather than line functions, for example, or a product that so dominates its market that competition is nonexistent — the technologies used by that subset are insulated from the pressing need to change.

    And often that’s where those technology-specific experts come in. There’s an unavoidable dynamic between process and product, but the specialists tend to cluster at the process end.


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