The age of modern day learning has arrived. It is no longer a matter of whether we want to integrate technology and education; it is a necessity. The reality poses an immense problem and threat to the longstanding educational institutions that have for the most part remained unchanged for nearly a century. Who would have imagined that the alphabet’s letter “E” would forever transform the face of education to E-Ducation?
Technology in education has progressed from basic tools such as the abacus, pencil, ruler, paper and calculator to computers, laptops, iPads, tablets, software and apps. The technological advancements alone are forcing the manner in which teachers teach, how students learn, the ways schools are structured and breaking the barriers between home and school life. At its core, technology is impacting the very essence of the future of humanity.
Digital Natives: A Generation Dedicated to Learning with Technology
The prominence and rise of technology in the world applies to all aspects of life including how we learn. It appears that the days of “open your textbook, read the following pages and answer the questions” will be for the most part a thing of the past.
As educational institutions resist and make attempts to adapt, it is crucial to keep in mind the learning needs of today’s digital natives. The digital natives are those that were born during or thereafter the inception and introduction of digital technology.
This generation is not only accustomed to technological advancements and devices they expect it. As such, drastic measures will have to be implemented to meet the student’s expectations for learning. The key will be to adapt to an uncertain, modern, changing and dynamic global world.
Pivotal Technologies and Learning Portals
Technological advancements will allow education to be universally accessible, customized, individualized and highly adaptive. In essence, learning with technology is propelling independent learning to the forefront.
Now more than ever, students will have the opportunity to individualize and navigate the knowledge portals through pivotal technologies such as the Internet, Open Sources, Virtual Learning Environments and Mobile Learning Devices. Open Sources includes MOOCs and Web 2.0.
Massive Open Online Courses will allow students the autonomy and flexibility to choose what they want to learn independently. The Web 2.0 is simply the way new web pages are designed and used. Students will have a multitude of options by virtue of using Open Sources through a variety of Mobile Learning Devices.
Virtual Learning Environments will only enhance the learning experience by making it fun and interactive. Students will have a wide selection of learning mediums to complete assignments and receive feedback. Hence, the learning would be more interactive and engaging.
Individualized Learning and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The role of the teacher would alter to monitor and provide feedback at an unparalleled level. Technology would of course also help the teacher with the many independent learning assignments, projects, presentations etc. of the student’s through the use of Learning Analytics. Learning Analytics is the accumulated of created data to continually evaluate and precisely guide student learning.
The digital natives are choosing their own devices to learn in a world that has cloud computing and the Internet. They are living in a digital information literacy online world. Their reality encompasses learning through educational games and virtual learning platforms. They are living in a world where the physical and virtual have amalgamated.
Learning with Technology from Students’ Perspectives
As such, what do kids think about technology and learning? How often do we really ask for their thoughts and opinions? Do we really take into consideration how and what they want to learn? Should what they have to say really matter how we as educators make decisions? Personally, I do believe that they do bring value to the decision-making table.
My sister in law is an eighth grade social studies teacher at a middle school. In a conversation with her, she mentioned to me the various ways she integrates technology in the learning. What I found especially of import was her comment on how the students use technology as easily as breathing.
She explained to me that now only do students expect it but that they demand it. She further informed me that it is a necessity and it brings lots of fun to the learning. As an educator, I firmly believe that learning should be continuous, fun, engaging, inquisitive, and ongoing.
Students are Right at Home with Technology
Humanity should be learning something new each and every day. It should be viewed from a window looking out into the horizon of each new day. It seems logical to catch a glimpse of learning through the eyes of children.
I often reflect on how my 7 year old niece sees the world and how through her eyes I learn something new every day. As Digital Natives do, she carries an iPad with her and frequently shares videos, cartoons, games, songs, etc. with me. I can literally say that I am learning things that a 7 year old child is learning.
Wow, the whole idea seems to put me in awe. What she has learned through the use of technology can be only termed as amazing. The ease, comfort and curiosity that impel her to learn independently without her parents or teachers imposing “because you have to” are truly remarkable.
Learning with Technology: A Necessity
Never in the history of our world has the trajectory of technology education been a certainty to create a better global society where one and all will have the opportunity and accessibility to be literate.
A view from a student’s perspective about learning with technology as mentioned above is a 6 part series that will include technology and students, learning with technology, student’s and iPads, learning with games and virtual learning. Stay tuned to next week’s blog article on students learning with technology.
Technology & HR-Leverage one for the other: “Technology and HR are enablers of business. Integration of the two would mean not only harmonious co-existence but also leveraging one for the other. Leveraging of technology for HR would mean digitizing the mundane HR activities and automating the back office and transactional activities related to recruitment, performance management, career planning, and succession planning, training and knowledge management. Leveraging HR for technology implies managing change associated with technology by way of communication, training, hiring, retraining, stakeholder analysis and conscious keeping. Thus they can play complementary roles.”
Technology and HR both have one thing common i.e., both these are enablers of business.
In recent times, technology has become synonymous with information technology, as hardly any other technological development of the past would have impacted all spectrum of business as information technology has impacted. Irrespective of the kind of business you are in i.e., services or goods, commodity or branded, trading or manufacturing, contemporary or traditional deployment of information technology in one form or the other is a foregone conclusion. To manage and deploy technology in an effective way, all business Organizations would need knowledge workers. Managing of these knowledge workers is the responsibility of HR function. Hence the integration of technology and HR is an absolute must.
Having understood technology and HR in the present context we must understand integration in this context. Integration would not only mean harmonious co-existing but would also mean one enhancing and complementing the other i.e., technology is used to enhance effectiveness of HR and HR functions helps in adopting and managing change which technology deployment brings in.
Leveraging technology for HR
HR management as a function is responsible for deliverables like business strategy execution, administrative efficiency, employee contribution and capacity for change. All these are accomplished through what HR people do i.e., staffing, development, compensation, benefits, communicate organization design, high performing teams and so on. In majority of these areas technology is being deployed.
Recruitment is one area where all the companies worth their name leverage IT. There are two different models of e-recruitment, which are in vogue. One is recruitment through company’s own sites and the other is hosting your requirement on the other sites e.g., monster .com, jobsdb.com, jobsahead.com, naukri.com, and jobstreet.com and so on so forth. The first models is more popular with the larger companies who have a brand pull for potential employees e.g., G.E., IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, HCL, ICICI, Reliance, Mindtree consulting etc. Other companies prefer to go to the job sites. Some are adopting both.
E-recruitment has gone a long way since its start. Now these sites have gone global. Sites like jobsahead.com and monster.com have established global network, which encompasses separate sites for jobs in Australia, Denmark, Belgium, and Canada etc. Job seekers are able to search job by region or country and employers target potential employees in specific countries. For example, 3 Com recently posted a company profile on the Ireland site that highlights the contributions of 3 com’s Irish design team in its global projects.
In the early days e-recruitment was plagued with flooding the employers with low-quality bio-data’s. Again technology has come as a savior. Now pre-employment testing like the one introduced by Capital One, a US based financial company, help in filtering the applicants. These tools test online e.g., applicants for call centers. ‘Profile International’ a Texas based provider of employment assessments, has developed tools that allow instant translation of assessment tests between languages. Further developments like video- conference specialized sites, online executives recruitments and combining online and offline methods are leading to more and more companies adopting e-recruitment at least as a secondary recruitment method. Arena Knights Bridge, a US based IT company conducts video based interview of its prospective employees and only short listed employees are met in person. Even Cisco was to launch the same.
Employee Self Service
Employee self-service is perhaps one utility of IT, which has relieved HR of most of mundane tasks and helped it to improve employee satisfaction. Employee self services is a plethora of small activities, which were earlier carried out by employee through administration wing of HR. These are travel bookings, travel rules information, travel bills, leave rules, leave administration, perk administration, etc. Earlier all these rules and information were in the custody of HR. Every user employee was expected to reach out to HR and get it done. Now with deployment of ESS in most of the companies, employee can request for travel related booking online, fill his/her T.E. bills, apply for leave, log time sheet and see his perks value disbursed and due etc. E.g., in Ballarpur Industries Ltd. leave administration is completely digitized in its corporate office. It is working towards digitizing travel related activities, perks and even compensation management and performance management administration. ‘Digitize or outsource all the mundane and routine focus only on core and value add’ – Vineet Chhabra V.P. -PDC BILT.
Communication which is most talked about management tool has always been a gray area in HR management. In large companies with vast geographical spread communicating with all employees had really posed formidable challenge to HR professionals. Technology has again come for rescue. Starting with telephones, faxes, e-mails and maturing into video conferencing, net cast, web cast etc. communication is one area of HR, which has been greatly benefited by technology. Mouse & click companies like Oracle, IBM has an intranet which caters to most of the information needs of its employees. Brick & Morter companies like BILT also have made a foray into deploying intranet for internal communication, which has corporate notice board, media coverage, and knowledge corners.
Another area of HR, which is leveraging technology, is employee development. Programmed learning (PL) i.e. learning at its own pace is one of the most effective ways of adult learning. Use of technology for this purpose can’t be over emphasized. Aptech Online University and ‘The Manage mentor’ are some of the Indian sites, which are in this business knowledge management, which is an integral part of any learning organization, which cannot become a reality without technology. Companies can harness the knowledge of its employees by cataloging and hosting it on the intranet. Talk to ‘Big-5′ or not ‘so big’ consulting companies you will find that main stay of their business is the knowledge repository. Technology has enabled them to retrieve it swiftly. In the competitive environment where speed is the name of game technology driven Knowledge Management constantly provides a strategic advantage.
If you look at HR module of ERP solutions like people soft, SAP, Oracle and Ramco they provide you with a comprehensive package which helps in man-power planning, recruitment, performance management, training and development, career planning, succession planning, separation and grievance handling. A transaction happening in all these areas are digitized and form a closed loop ensuring employee database is always updated. E.g. a joining letter of a new employee is system generated. It will be printed only when all mandatory fields of information are entered. Similarly a transfer order or a separation letter is issued from the system only if that transaction has been carried out in the system.
For career planning, success planning, skill and competencies matrix methods are used by most of these systems. They search an employee with the required skills first in the in-house database of employees. Once put in practice in letter & spirit, this system not only enhances business results by matching the right candidate for right job but also improves retention of employees.
Processing payroll, churning out time office reports, providing HR-MIS are some other routine activities of HR which have been off-loaded to technology.
Leveraging HR for Technology
All HR professionals, preaching or practicing, learning or experimenting, teaching or studying have experienced leveraging technology for HR. But most of us come across a situation where we need to leverage HR for technology. Let us understand what do we mean by this.
Whenever technology is deployed afresh or upgraded it involves a change. The change may be at the activity level e.g., applying for leave through the intranet or at the mental model level e.g., digitizing the process succession planning which have been HR professionals forte. The people have always registered adopting change. This is one area where HR professionals are to deliver i.e., become change agents and lead the process of technology and change adoption. The resistance to change is directly proportional to speed of change. Now speed of change has increased and hence resistance.
Just to take an example, most of ERP implementation in the world have not been able to deliver all the expectations. Some of these have failed to deliver at all. While analyzing the cause of failure it has been observed that 96% of failures are because of people related issues and only 4% are because of technology.
It is the people who make the difference; hence HR should exploit its expertise to facilitate the adoption of technology. I would like to put together some of the thoughts on what HR should do for this.
At the time of recruitment, stop hiring for skills rather hire for attitude and a learning mind. Skills of today are no longer valid tomorrow. Managing ever changing change is the only criteria for success.
Functional or technical skills can be acquired during the job. Hence recruitment in the technology era needs to undergo a paradigm shift i.e., from a skill/competency based it needs to be attitude and learning mind/ ability based interview. That would translate into hiring for skills for future. In IBM every employee has to fill in his/her individual development plan where the employee commits its learning one/two new skills every year thus remaining competitive every time.
If we look at the chemistry of resistance to change it is either a skill issue or a will issue. To address the will issue we need to work at a comprehensive solution starting from recruitment (as discussed earlier), reward, compensation and leading to organization culture which promotes change. A living example is 3M, a US based company, where innovation is way of life, where 10% of revenue must come from new products every year. For them change becomes way of life.
To address the will issue further organization need to prepare a communication strategy which creates a ‘pull’ for the technology. For example, in Ranbaxy, when they went for SAP implementation they anticipated resistance. To address this they started a house journal, which was aimed at educating the employees on the benefits, which will result from adoption of ERP, SAP. This created a need rather a potential need or a latent need was brought out. Adoption of ERP did not become much of a problem.
At times adoption of technologies is perceived as a threat by the employees e.g., automation leading to reduction in workers, office automation leading to retrenchment of clerks etc. HR needs to be associated with the technical adoption right from the beginning till the end. At the selection of technical stage if HR is associated, it can map the skills required and create a pull during implementation and adoption. Post adoption it can release the excess non-re-allocatable employees.
To understand this process more clearly we can take example of ERP implementation. ERP is taken as an example as this is one technology adoption which effects employees across the org. irrespective of function and position. Any other automation may have affected only a segment of organisation. ERP implementation in any organization goes through the following stages.
1. Selection of package
2. Business analysis
3. Solution design
4. Configuration and customization
5. Conference room piloting (CRP)
6. Go-live and production
At each stage HR has to play a role, which will help in mitigating resistance to change.
During selection process, the change agent can understand the business benefit ERP would bring. This would help him to draw a comprehensive communication plant aimed at creating a ‘pull’ for the change. The communication plan may use its various weapons from the armory. The obvious examples are Newsletters, Newsflash. In-house journal, addressing by the top management, web cast, open house sessions, meetings formal and informal.
During the business analysis phase implementation team is supposed to analyse the existing business processes. At times this leads to surfacing of some data which is not very desirable by the process owners, leading to resistance at this stage, HR has to be again proactive and carry out a detailed stake-holder analysis. Such an analysis should give a lead to potential areas of problem and potential champions of change.
Solution design involves defining ‘To-be processes’ i.e., the way business would be carried out in future. At this stage HR has to play the role of catalyst to turn the heat on. The idea is to ensure to make maximum out of an opportunity of package enabled business transformation. HR can play a role by arranging to educate and train the right people on best business practices, just before this phase.
During the configuration and customization HR has to keep on beating the drum, the customization of a standard package is a big no-no. Similarly, during the conference room plotting (CRP) it should help in identifying the right persons to be involved in CRP. A thorough testing at this stage would result in lesser pain at the time of going live. This is also time to focus on training of end users, the employees who are going to use the system once implemented. Training- retraining -training to ensure all the prospective users are comfortable with usage of software before the system goes live.
During the go-live stage HR has to work over time to keep the motivation levels high. This is the time when management starts losing patience as one glitch after the other keeps appearing and virtually bringing the business to halt. At this stage, HR has to play ‘conscious keeper’ for the top management once into product relocating the surplus is a challenge for which it has to be prepared before it.
This examples makes it clear that involvement of HR during the entire life cycle of technology is valuable. ERP is not an isolated case. It is true for any other technology adoption only finer details may vary. Hence HR must play a proactive role rather than being just a silent spectator or mere executers of the wishes of business or chief technology officer in case of technological changes.
Having set the case in different perspective, it seems only logical to leverage technology for HR and vice-versa.
Mr. Amarendra B. Dhiraj is a frequent speaker at internationally renowned global events, CEO/CTO/CIO Roundtables, Technology Conferences and Symposiums. He hosted and organized the Executive Technology Leadership Forum. He specializes in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. His strategic and practical insights have guided leaders of large and small organizations worldwide.
The development of Wireless technology owes it all to Michael Faraday – for discovering the principle of electromagnetic induction, to James Maxwell – for the Maxwell’s equations and to Guglielmo Marconi – for transmitting a wireless signal over one and a half miles. The sole purpose of Wi-Fi technology is wireless communication, through which information can be transferred between two or more points that are not connected by electrical conductors.
Wireless technologies were in use since the advent of radios, which use electromagnetic transmissions. Eventually, consumer electronics manufacturers started thinking about the possibilities of automating domestic microcontroller based devices. Timely and reliable relay of sensor data and controller commands were soon achieved, which led to the discovery of Wireless communications that we see everywhere now.
With the radios being used for wireless communications in the World war era, scientists and inventors started focusing on means to developing wireless phones. The radio soon became available for consumers and by mid 1980s, wireless phones or mobile phones started to appear. In the late 1990s, mobile phones gained huge prominence with over 50 million users worldwide. Then the concept of wireless internet and its possibilities were taken into account. Eventually, the wireless internet technology came into existence. This gave a boost to the growth of wireless technology, which comes in many forms at present.
Applications of Wireless Technology
The rapid progress of wireless technology led to the invention of mobile phones which uses radio waves to enable communication from different locations around the world. The application of wireless tech now ranges from wireless data communications in various fields including medicine, military etc to wireless energy transfers and wireless interface of computer peripherals. Point to point, point to multipoint, broadcasting etc are all possible and easy now with the use of wireless.
The most widely used Wi-Fi tech is the Bluetooth, which uses short wavelength radio transmissions to connect and communicate with other compatible electronic devices. This technology has grown to a phase where wireless keyboards, mouse and other peripherals can be connected to a computer. Wireless technologies are used:
· While traveling
· In Hotels
· In Business
· In Mobile and voice communication
· In Home networking
· In Navigation systems
· In Video game consoles
· In quality control systems
The greatest benefit of Wireless like Wi-Fi is the portability. For distances between devices where cabling isn’t an option, technologies like Wi-Fi can be used. Wi-fi communications can also provide as a backup communications link in case of network failures. One can even use wireless technologies to use data services even if he’s stuck in the middle of the ocean. However, Wireless still have slower response times compared to wired communications and interfaces. But this gap is getting narrower with each passing year.
Progress of Wireless technology
Wireless data communications now come in technologies namely Wi-Fi (a wireless local area network), cellular data services such as GPRS, EDGE and 3G, and mobile satellite communications. Point-to-point communication was a big deal decades ago. But now, point-to-multipoint and wireless data streaming to multiple wirelessly connected devices are possible. Personal network of computers can now be created using Wi-Fi, which also allows data services to be shared by multiple systems connected to the network.
Wireless technologies with faster speeds at 5 ghz and transmission capabilities were quite expensive when they were invented. But now, almost all mobile handsets and mini computers come with technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, although with variable data transfer speeds. Wireless have grown to such a level, where even mobile handsets can act as Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling other handsets or computers connected to a particular Wi-Fi hotspot enabled handset, can share cellular data services and other information. Streaming audio and video data wirelessly from the cell phone to a TV or computer is a walk in the park now.
Wireless Technology today, are robust, easy to use, and are portable as there are no cables involved. Apart from local area networks, even Metropolitan Area networks have started using Wi-fi tech (WMAN) and Customer Premises Equipment ( CPE ). Aviation, Transportation and the Military use wireless technologies in the form of Satellite communications. Without using interconnecting wires, wireless technologies are also used in transferring energy from a power source to a load, given that the load doesn’t have a built-in power source.
However, the fact that ‘nothing comes without a drawback’ or ‘nothing is perfect’ also applies to Wi-fi technology. Wireless technologies still have limitations, but scientists are currently working on it to remove the drawbacks and add to the benefits. The main limitation is that Wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can only be used in a limited area. The wireless signals can be broadcasted only to a particular distance. Devices outside of this range won’t be able to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But the distance limitation is becoming reduced every year. There are also a few security limitations which hackers can exploit to cause harm in a wireless network. But Wireless technologies with better security features have started to come out. So this is not going to be a problem for long.
Speaking of progress, Wi-Fi technology is not limited to powerful computers and mobile handsets. The technology has progressed enough that Wi-Fi enabled TVs and microwaves have started appearing in the markets. The latest and the most talked-about wireless technology is the NFC or Near Field Communication, which lets users exchange data by tapping their devices together. Using wireless technologies are not as expensive as it used to be in the last decade. With each passing year, newer and better wireless technologies arrive with greater benefits.