The importance of dull technology

Who needs a computer when a typewriter will do!

Over the years I have gained a reputation at my college (and out and about) of talking about shiny stuff. I even called a mobile learning project Shiny as a result.

Though one thing that came out of a recent conversation with some extremely clever and bright people at a JISC symposium was the importance of dull technology. Dull as in not shiny rather than, dull as in boring.

For those of us involved in extreme e-learning or technology enhanced learning, we sometimes focus on the innovative, the exciting, the new, the shiny stuff. Well it’s where we want to be isn’t it, cutting edge and all that? We want to be using iPads, Android Tablets, the latest and best Web 2.0 tools and services. We get so excited at times that we even do projects and research on them, before writing it up, putting the stuff on a shelf and moving to the next new shiny thing.

I don’t think that there is too much wrong with that, some people do need to be at the cutting edge, they do need to be the blue skies thinkers, the people who innovate and create new ways of learning, inspired by changes in technologies and thinking.

As a result it can be very easy to forget the dull, the stuff we were using last year, two years ago or five years ago. We can even be dismissive of these dull technologies, pointing out how old they are, how useless they are “now” and that they are dead!

The main reason why dull technologies are important is that the majority of practitioners within an institution will not be at the cutting edge, will not be using all technologies innovatively. This means when planning training and staff development it is vital that dull technologies are included and allowed for. Just because we are bored with something doesn’t mean that someone else in your organisation will find it exciting and just the thing to solve the particular problem they are facing.

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5 thoughts on “The importance of dull technology”

  1. I think it is Clay Shirky who says that the point where technology gets boring is the point where it becomes socially interesting. In other words, when something is ubiquitous then you can really start doing useful stuff with it.

    Also, when a new technology becomes less shiny, it’s also less scary, meaning the IT barons etc will just let you get on with stuff!

  2. I agree Dave, Brian Condon said the same once. ‘Once computers and the internet are boring everyone will use them’ or words to that effect.
    Once everyone has access to a fit for purpose internet connection it will be gobsmackingly fantastic what they will start to do with it. Once is it boring, and it works that is. Don’t forget a third of the country don’t have a decent connection, and a third (maybe part of the same third) aren’t interested.
    Currently it is too much of a challenge to many. Computers are not that difficult but getting a connection is a nightmare to millions. I agree also that to many a challenge is to format a document nicely, get bullet points in or do a mail merge… to them that is shiny and a great achievement.
    We need the movers and shakers to open up new things, but we also need a back end that delivers consistently. Until Everything is Ubiquitous and Easy we are driving uphill. And its more boring than a boring day with a bad cold.

  3. Interesting post. A few years ago I ran a series of workshops for a Skills for Life project (Motivating Skills for Life learners to persist, progress and achieve) on using everday technology in the classroom. I wanted to help practitioners understand what technology is available to them, in the broadest sense. It doesn’t have to be the latest mobile platform, technology can even be something as ‘old school’ as radio.

    These sessions were very well received, with practitioners feeling more confident about the use of technology and eager to experiment.

    A rough guide for teachers was developed alongside this:

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