Monday, September 7, 2009

The Medium is the Message - a personal response to new technology, learning, and ideas on morphing, slavery to and freedom with technology. I will comment on the effects on morphing, learning, and personal connections within the electronic age.
Earlier this year, I was laid off after working for a company for almost two years. It was a contracting company that designed web-based training solutions for large corporations that provided soft skills and technical training. I had previously worked for 9 years for a large corporation and purposely left with hopes to learn new technologies and expand my skill sets. I thought I was blazing new trails (MORPHING) by working from home. I would save travel dollars, be green because I had no commute. I saved money on clothes because I did not have to dress to work. I used multiple lap tops at a time – multi-tasking my days away. I thought I was being progressive. That’s what I thought. HA!
One of my yearly responsibilities at the web training development sweat shop, in addition to my required billable tasks, was to create a presentation for our team that discussed new trends and technologies. My presentation suggested that our current modes of teaching are outdated and that there were many new ideas, free applications, and new learning collaboration options that we could offer our customers to engage learners in schools and the workplace. See link http://www.rheingold.com/ I presented my findings via webinar and did not receive any feedback. (DISCONNECTED) This presentation was very close to the information presented in your YouTube – Did you know? I don’t know if the group was stunned unimpressed or just bored. Then shortly after my presentation I was laid off…my group (training solutions) was downsized. But I feel that my presentation was spot on, insightful and predicted our demise.
I thought I was escaping the corporate machine…but actually I became more of a slave to the corporate production machine – I was just detached. Unfortunately, I ended up working longer hours, had multiple deadlines at any given time, and consequently did not report many additional hours that I worked. I was stressed all the time, isolated, and almost went nutty from social deprivation. This was a real example of some of the growing pains that McLuhan speaks of in his articles when you make sudden and rapid changes as communication and technology morph our world and work.
You see, even with technology, we had a clearly defined quality process that met government standards (automation) but was so cumbersome that it crippled our marketability. As a result, even when using new technology we were restrained by the process and our turnaround time was so long that we essentially eliminated ourselves from winning any new contracts. We became extinct.
I embraced technology by jumping out of the comfortable corporate life, and experienced the pain of failing but learned a great deal about myself in the process. Often embracing new things as Marshal McLuhan suggested does not mean it is easy or without pain as it requires change. Most people do not embrace change. They want to remain as is. They do not think “What if?” and are basically lazy, afraid or both. That is why I believe the artist as McLuhan says, is able to visualize a new different way of seeing, doing, sensing, feeling, and creating possibilities that other are not able to grasp. “The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception.”
As information is more available and shared at an accelerated rate due to alternative modes of communication, we must see that traditional modes of creative teaching must change as well.
Moving on, I MORPH into my new career. Having a Masters degree, I sought to gain accelerated certification as an art and technology teacher. I have ideas of a collaborative learning environment where the teacher is merely a facilitator. The student are given multiple modes and methods of learning and the learning experience is exploratory, experimentally, and investigative. With this said, this idea of creating a challenging environment where student are encouraged to go beyond traditional linear learning paths, is not fully embraced now as it requires hours of planning, experimentation, and research along with creativity. I can image what administrators would think about my ideas. I did pass the tests, get interviews but eventually was hired by UT Southwestern and am working with some of my ideas to deliver technically training in my new role.
Actually this is a better environment for me as this idea and delivery method eliminates the superior/inferior role of the teacher/professor as the keeper of knowledge. This idea of learning collaboratively puts the students and facilitator on the same plans/level which is contradictory to the current hierarchy system found in our education environment. But could it work? Think of place which is more like a think tank where everyone is there to expand their level of thinking, and learn together. Everyone bring information to the table. Everyone contributes and the media is the format for gathering information, transmitting research, and collaborating to come to a conclusion. The teacher provides the facilitation for learning.
What a new way of thinking! I am glad I got laid off. I am free, to create…I am morphing again.
Part 2: The Internet affair. We went to see a friend of ours who recently (around the same time I lost my job) lost his wife as a result of a medical mishap. After 9 months, he is dating again…choosing his next possible mate from selections via eBay style found on the Internet. How glad I am not out there. After careful consideration, he screened his applicants and made selection on one Barbie style blond. We made a delicious meal, and with anticipation, awaited her arrival. She arrived and exceeded the image of this age’s epitome of “the plastic perfection” –long blond hair, long legs, perfectly toned and sculpted body, and beautiful in every way. She had a high sing-song voice and a long list of adventurous experiences that richly added to the less than stupendous meal we had created…We delivered our part, the meal, and the rest is up to the two of them. Will there be the lover and the non-lover?
Yes, the medium is the message.

4 comments:

KEHS said...

Melanie,
I hope you haven't completely abandoned your goal of becoming a teacher. Your ideas may not be considered mainstream enough to be fully embraced - yet - but it is incredibly important that individuals like you enter the profession. You are exactly what many students need in that you want to reach them at their level of comprehension/understanding rather than force-feeding them a steady diet of standard lectures. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as the semester progresses.

April said...

As soon as I started reading your blog, I could see the inevitable: that you would work yourself out of a job (so sorry, btw). However, I completely agree with you that growing pains are always difficult, and our society is evidence of that. Change in never easy, people will always find something to be dissatisfied with, to blame for their children's problems (rock music, the internet, video games), and at the rate that things are going, we will always be struggling to keep up with the latest technology. My mom also works from home, and it's extremely maddening for her at times. Like you, she had the same ideas of freedom and good intentions, and at times it backfires. She works like she is being watched, feels guilty if she takes a break, and can't escape the ringing phone. Whereas people in her office probably surf the 'net for hours a day and socialize with their co-workers over coffee, my mom gets up at 7, walks 5 feet to her "office", and works up to 12 hours a day in her pajamas. Luckily, her boss recognizes her efforts and hard work, but it's a lonely existence, and one that has isolated her via technology and all that that does to "enhance" her life.

Gary said...

Melanie,
Your ideas for education and training are spot on. I have numerous friends who are elementary school teachers. They complain that education kids today is really more about entertaining them. Well, duh. Entertainment is fun. Fun is something we want to do for a long time. Wouldn't it be great if we had fun while we learned. Jeez. The folks that are recognized as superb teachers by their students are usually the ones their students describe as fun.

annisleung said...

Melanie,

After reading your blog post and learning your leaving-comfort-zone experience you have had with the new technology and career challenge, I was so encouraged by your brave action. Although the trial didn't succeed at the first time, I could see that it was a great start of your new career life. I always believe that one door is closed, and another door will be opened. The laid off wasn't the dead end of your career path, and it was just the growing pain like what you said.

There are lots of people in the world who are fear to go out of their comfort zones to learn something new, refuse to change the old ways, and always follow the crowds. Sooner, they will be left behind (or laid off) when the new technology embrace the world. As we are the ATEC and EMAC people, we have to be innovative and fear no challenge.

Keep morphing!!!