Every week I’m faced with at least one educational technology call. Educational technology is the study of the use of any technology which can be used to improve the educational experience of a student. The age of the student does not matter, it really depends on the need of the client. Age comes into play when the student can’t use the technology or the level of technology interferes with the learning experience of the student.
This week’s challenge was posed by a hospital friend looking for a method for quizzing and teaching her nurses without adding a significant workload to either her or the nurses. The setting is a busy emergency department with over 100 nurses. These nurses work both shifts and 7 days a week. The work of touching each nurse on a regular basis is almost impossible. The nurses all use computers in their regular job and are familiar with the use of smart phones, although some may not use them for more than email and calls.
The idea was to deliver a newsletter to the nurses with an educational topic identified as a weakness in the department. The nurses could read the newsletter and then take a quiz. Those completing the quiz successfully were entered in a monthly drawing to win a gift card. Each month the newsletter would be updated, sent out and the quiz updated and deployed.
Early in my technologist career, I would take problems like this and immediately deploy a high level technology heavy solution. The client would be happy for about iteration of the deployment. Why? Because I failed to recognize the need for a technology trained person to maintain this system. I can build the system and deploy it as often as they ask but now instead of a creative engineer, I’ve become a technician. My workload would increase with each new project. When my time was all used up, my ability to solve new problems would stop. No fun for me.
Now, I look for solutions in the open domain meaning, the manager of the system could not only own their project and make changes them self, but the support for the product was already out there. I did not need to do anything but develop the prototype and assist with the start up and they were on their way. If they later need help, I’m their guy. This not only reduced my workload, it gave the client the freedom to control their future, speed of changes, expansion to other projects, etc.
I know I’m not going to talk about how I solved this problem in this post but I will in my next post. This post was to kick things off and share my philosophy as an educational technologist.
Educational technologists are not just technicians, they are teachers of technology to teachers and users of technology in the educational setting and where education crosses other industries. Their skill is in knowing how to use technology to an educational advantage to solve various problems both educational and beyond. Don’t get bogged down into a technician role; You are much more valuable and trained than that.
Match the client to the solution not just the solution to the problem. This sounds wrong but if the client can’t support the solution you will need to find another solution to the newly created mismatch problem. Clients called you to provide a solution… don’t give them a new problem.
Know your end users. The end user may not be the client. The end user is the person who will ultimately use the product. While the end point of the problem may be for the data to come back to the client or an associate, if a user along the process line is not technologically savvy, your solution, no matter how creative will rest on this technologically weak user.
Next week I’ll walk you through my solution to this problem and share what we discovered along the way.