“Life and work are fundamentally about building relationships. In today's world, this can occur effectively over large distances via online learning.”
(Getting Online research respondent from a not-for-profit organization)
There is an overall attitude shift and increased comfort with online learning and technology. We live in a world where technology is interwoven into much of what we do and how we live our lives. We live in a time of increased Internet use and instant online communication. We live in a time where there are 79 million users of YouTube, five billion searches on Google each month, and 100 million Facebook users.
You only need to look to the use of the Internet and computers as evidence of the shift in attitudes. As mentioned earlier, Canadians are avid Internet users, with 68% of the population using the Internet for personal reasons in 2005. In an example of computer use in Canadian schools, research by the federal government found that already in the 2003-2004 academic year, students in schools across Canada shared computers at a ratio of five students for each computer. As well, even in 2003, 40% of 15-year-old Canadian students reported frequent use of computers at school. (See: Indicators of Well-Being in Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada at: www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=28).
The positive attitude towards technology is probably the most pronounced in young people. Young people, or “digital natives” as they are sometimes called, have grown up with technology. We live in a time when many kids sit at a computer playing an online game, listening to music they downloaded from the Internet to their iPod, and texting their friends on their cell phone…all at the same time. Canadian author, professor, and technology guru Don Tapscott has studied the digital generation and has written several books, including Grown Up Digital: How the net generation is changing your world. In this book, Don Tapscott compellingly demonstrates how technology has transformed young people in a positive way and encouraged them to be more collaborative, social and engaged in their world. You can learn more at the “Grown Up Digital” website at: www.grownupdigital.com/.
The Getting Online research also revealed this shift, with almost one fifth (19%) of research respondents from literacy organizations noting that a positive shift in attitude towards online learning has occurred. While some were once resistant to online learning, overall, skills and comfort levels were growing and people were now using a variety of technologies such as blogs, Moodle, Blackboard, Skype, and Elluminate.
As well, there can be no doubt about it: we are living in the information age. There has been rapid growth in access to information via the Internet and other technologies. In fact, more new information has been produced in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000. (See: Peter Large, The Micro Revolution Revisited as quoted in www.wordnews.info). The advent of the information age means that so much more is possible in terms of education and sharing information and resources.
Coupled with the information age, another attitude shift is the sense that technology has created a global village. Thanks to technology, people can readily connect and collaborate with one another in their communities, across their province, throughout our country, and around the world. Because of the wide reach of the Internet and the lack of geographic barriers, online learning can readily expand to reach international audiences as well. One of the organizations interviewed in the Getting Online research was successfully offering online training and resources to youth and youth-serving organizations all across Canada and had recently expanded to offer training to an international audience as well.
To learn more about the information age, our global village and the shift in attitude towards technology, please watch this video created by Karl Fisch on educational trends around the world: “Did You Know? Shift Happens – Globalization and the Information Age”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljbI-363A2Q.
And for those still struggling with the technological shift occurring in our country and around the globe, just watch this YouTube video called “Medieval Help Desk” at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ. It will provide you with an excellent reminder that technological change can be difficult!