My first job in learning technology was as a computer teacher in an international school teaching 7th graders in West Africa. I entered the field of technology through education. My expertise is in how technology and learning work together.
That is what I do.
But is it my job?
Our team recently did a “motivational analysis quiz” to look at what motivates each of us. It is based on McClelland’s Needs Theory. The theory says that it is the need for achievement, power, and/or affiliation which motivates you. I didn’t need to take the quiz to know that it is affiliation which motivates me. Do people understand? Do they get it? Do they own it? Can they do it? That is what I strive for in my work.
I think of myself as an educator, rather than a tech person. If you knew the models of phones and laptops that I have and how I use tech, you would agree.
My job is officially in the ICT4D unit. I do technology. The choice of technology is the easy part. The implementation is the hard part. It is the learning field that I happen to know how to use it as a tool.
I have experience in learning in and of itself. I can create workshops. I can facilitate workshops. I can develop curriculum, lesson plans and digital materials. I know about open educational resources and am familiar with learning systems. I can teach and help people learn.
My job is to assist with how to use technology for learning. Does it also include the learning part such as developing curriculum and modules and facilitating workshops? Should it? I entered the field of education by teaching with and about technology. Technology AND learning is ‘what I do.’ It is an integral part of me.
But is it my job? Parts of it might be. Parts will not. It is evolving. It is new territory. Anything new feels awkward. It is smoothing out. As I get more and more involved in projects, it will become clearer what I do can also be my job; however, whatever I do as my job does not change for me what I do.
Remember this joke as a kid? It was a silly one. The answer is a newspaper. ‘Red’ is ‘read’ said in the past tense. A newspaper is black and white. That is the “correct” answer. In the past week I had two interactions where people wanted to know what the correct answer was. In both cases there was no correct answer, but they kept pressing for one. Is everything black and white?
A friend who recently started to become involved in international development wrote me an email and referred to the third world. I replied to his email and told him that if he ever referred to countries as third world, I would “shoot” him. I explained that the terms, first, second and third worlds, have not been used for years to describe the differences in levels of income and development among countries. It is politically incorrect and insulting. Many people use developing and developed worlds.
NPR’s ‘Goats and Soda’ did a nice post recently entitled ”If you shouldn’t call it the third world, then what should you call it?”. They went through a list of terms: developing/developed, global south, majority world, low and lower-middle-income countries, fat/lean. For each term, as you think, there are those people who accept and use them and those who vehemently disagree.
NPR says it tries their “…best to use the right terms for the right stories” and “aim for specificity…” in their stories. Fair enough.
My friend’s response: What term do you use? That is the point. Use the term most appropriate in the context that you are describing. It is not black and white. The world constantly shifts.
What do you use?
In the second interaction, I was again asked what is the correct answer. I shared a poll taken by Jane Hart asking “what is blended learning?” with my colleagues. The poll had three possibilities and a space for other.
750 people responded. They choose out of the three possibilities which they thought best defined blended learning:
49% chose “A training programme containing a mix of face-to-face-and e-learning.”
21% chose “A training activity containing a range of formats and media.”
23% chose “A strategic L&D approach to supporting a wide range of learning initiatives”
7% wrote their own definitions.
My colleague replied to my email asking what is the correct answer. That’s the point. There is no correct answer.
It is about learning. Learning takes many, many forms. Learning is not black and white. We know some approaches are terrible, but we also know that lots of approaches do work. What helps someone learn might not help another.
Black or white. They needed to know if it was black or white. They wanted to know what is the correct answer.
Sometimes, you have to accept there is no correct answer but know that they are options to choose from depending on the circumstance. And that’s ok.
Someone called me that the other day after I told her the number of years that I have lived and worked in Africa. She is African and has spent many years living and working in the States. She has returned to Africa, leading the Africa division of global technology company.
We both ask the question: “Where do I belong?” She has many friends who have also spent years in other countries. They ask the same question.
“I am living at home but the other place is home, too.”
“I miss home. Which home am I referring to?”
I have days where I yearn for Africa after living back in the States now for a few years. I recently went to Zambia and Malawi for work. I was so happy to be back on the continent.
She called me first generation African. I loved it. It fits. Never heard that expression before. You hear first generation American all the time. But first generation Africa? Really? Can it be a trend?
Whatever it is, it is a way that connects me to another place that was and still feels like home.