Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The opportunity for government in the training industry

I've been following the ADL Implementation Fest #ifest stream on Twitter today and some of the conversation with my PLN has sparked some thoughts, maybe perspective, on how, or where, I see the government being able to lead the way in training. And, what prompted me to write this post, the ways in which its misdirecting its energies.

First, let me say, there are some great examples of people in government doing things the right way. Just from my immediate experience, Dr. Alicia Sanchez, who works for DAU, is the games czar who is helping integrate gaming into their curriculum. Mark Oehlert, also at DAU, is integrating social media technologies to support learning and knowledge management. Judy Brown at ADL is an industry recognized expert in mobile technologies and how they can be leveraged for learning. (Just realized, ironically, that these three will also be showcasing their knowledge at DevLearn 2010. You should go.) These three people, who happen to be people I know and respect, understand the unique positions they hold, and their opportunity to leverage technology for innovative applications. In short, they recognize that they have the chance to DESIGN really cool applications of existing technologies within the government and talk about how these projects are helping to improve learning, collaboration, and communication.

What I'm hearing out of iFest (so far...its the first day...;) is that the focus is still really on what technology can do for you and what technology initiatives ADL has been focusing on. To which I say...REALLY?!?! Sigh.

I don't need or want government agencies to fancy themselves technology companies. They aren't a start up, nor are they Microsoft. In short, there are companies who actually do that. And those companies need to make money doing it, which means that they need to build things that the market needs (even if the market doesn't want it...that's a totally different thing...).

What I'd love to see is that agencies within the government start looking at what REALLY helps support learning...good design. I'd love if they saw themselves as master implementers, not builders. Our government has tons of people that need training, its got tons of money and resources...why not leverage it for those things? Try innovative solutions. Experiment with design. Conduct research to establish best practices. That's what the learning technology industry needs. The government could provide this...it could LEAD this. But for the most part, its not.

If a technology is needed, the market will push it because that's what the market looks for: meeting unmet needs to make money. I'm tired of hearing about how a technology the government is developing is going to solve some problem.  Let's face it, even Google has struggled with implementing innovative technologies (see: Wave, Lively) and that's their business...its what they do to make money...and they are arguably the best at it.

I'm hoping that as I hear more at iFest that its focused on design. Fingers crossed. If not, its an opportunity lost...


  1. Keep hoping and pushing.... Hopefully change will come, but its doubtful since different and innovative thinking is often shunned. Same=same. Good luck & kudos to those you mentioned who 'get it'.

  2. design + technology = quality solution.

    i agree with your overall sentiments here. too much emphasis on technology; too little attention on the problems that need to be solved.

    seems like there are some like-minded folks in the audience here, beyond those you mention. so why does the proverbial tail wag continue to wag the dog? defense industry agenda? industry dominated by contractors that build jets and subs; not design learning? lots of institutional inertia to battle here.

    Good luck and regards from Orlando. ;-)

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