The lived experience

“you can’t go on that – it’s too dangerous!’

“have you been on it?”


“then how can you tell me it’s too dangerous?”

Sound familiar – it’s a conversation I’ve heard (or something like it) on numerous occasions – and recently I’ve been thinking about how it applies to the world I work in – of the use of ICT in education.

Recently I was in conversation with a group of businessmen discussing the use of email in their workplace. One person commented on his boss who, despite having a computer on his desk for some years, still insisted on having his emails printed out for him by his secretary so he could annotate them with a reply for her to re-type and email back to the original sender.

The comment was greeted by an appropriate round of smirking and knowing looks – but underneath this out of office banter lies a very serious concern. How can anyone who works with technology in that way have a sufficiently well developed understanding of the affordances of such technology to be able to make informed decisions about investment in and use of the technology by others?

Unless one’s understandings of these technologies has been developed through lived experience I doubt it is possible to make a truly informed decision, or to contribute to the decision-making process in any useful way. Without the lived experience one’s understanding of the impact of technology is most likely to be additive, not ecological.

My musings on this have been heightened in the past few days following discussions with a school leader who, in the midst of making decisions about investment in a Learning Management System, took me aside to explain what an LMS actually does, and in hearing of a senior government official who is contributing in significant ways to the discussions about the roll-out of high broadband around NZ, but who doesn’t currently see the need to have basic ADSL connection at home.

I may be wrong – perhaps there is a form of intellectual engagement that enables some people to understand the complexities of disruptive technologies without actually experiencing them. If so, it’s certainly beyond my comprehension.

6 thoughts on “The lived experience

  1. Thanks Derek,
    I can understand your frustration with the perspective of the decision makers, but I can’t help but think that the paper print out guy is on to a good thing in adapting technology to the way he likes to work. Does he need to understand the technology or does he just need to understand the people behind it?… but I guess those two things are getting closer by the day. As for the bigwigs making calls… they precis information by taking advice from experts… and who those people are is a crap shoot. Hopefully a few people will ask you.

  2. Hi Pete
    thanks for your comment – not sure that I agree re the paper print-out guy has adapted to the technology, rather he has successfully insulated himself from it 🙂 I guess as long as there’s not imperative for us to be immersed in using the technology ourselves there’ll always be the paper print-out guys among us.

  3. Kia ora e Derek!

    I would not have been able to understand this behaviour and point of view of the ‘school leader’ if it were not for the reading and learning I did in 2001 when a gentleman came to head our section at TCS. 🙂

    He urged me and my colleagues to become more knowledgeable about postmodern society and what impact postmodernism could have on our students. I’d read a bit before then but delved deeper, only to find that the more I learnt about it, the more amazed I became. I was reminded about this recently when a friend lent me a copy of Shelley Gare’s book, The Triumph Of The Airheads, which I read quickly for I understood what it was delivering perfectly. I had déjà vu at least once in every chapter.

    For as much as I tried to deny what this all added up to in the early days, postmodernism, like the mycelia that run through rotting foundations, is ubiquitous. So much so that it now requires a discerning mind to identify it. Yet it is so prevalent. The leaky-building-syndrome is just one development of it – and it hasn’t stopped yet.

    A message I learnt in the mid 90s was about ‘walk-the-talk’. That ideal is now so faded with the growth of postmodernism within society. The ‘don’t-do-as-I-do do-as-I-say’ approach has unfortunately become a standard attitude that thumbs its nose at the ‘walk-the-talk’ point of view.

    As you know, I have been thinking digitally for a decade now. I have also been listening to advice from on high about the need for thinking digitally as a teacher over that same period of time. Yet 99% of what I have to do (and can only do that way) is done on paper, printing stuff out and sending it snail-mail to recipients – fact! Thank goodness for the last 1%.

    Catchya later

  4. There is potentially another view to the story of printed emails. Malachi Pancoast (The Breakthrough Coach has been in NZ recently working with school principals getting them to redefine their role. Having the secretary manage the emails in this way is one of his suggestions for helping the principal get out of the office and into the classrooms as a coach of learning. That boss just might have a clearer understanding of his/her role and be specifically avoiding the distraction and time wasting that email often is. Just a thought.

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