Guest post by Chris Pedersen
Today, I want to take a brave step into the conversation about the use of technology in facilitation. I will discuss two things: what happens when when we fail to understand the positive and negative impacts technology has on facilitation, and what occurs when we put technology away just for a little bit.
If technology permeates offices, organizations, education, companies, homes and many more places and we are now able to connect with people all over the world with a tap on the screen (or for the more technologically inclined, voice automation), we need to ask ourselves – at what point have we lost control and technology has taken over?
Digital, modern technology has also permeated the facilitation landscape. Where are the good old days when all we had was paper and pen (ironically also modern technology)? Many times facilitation is done completely online, through online meeting spaces such as zoom, skype, google hangouts, blackboard and many more. Technology has changed and will continue to change facilitation. I believe that it will continue to do so in a positive and negative manner.
I am not here to bemoan (alright not completely) the impact that technology may have had on facilitation. However, I believe that sometimes we need to look very carefully at what we use and its impact on what we do. If we are not careful, technology is nothing more than a fancy coat of paint on a rusty car. Or worse, technology will control us and the decisions we make. The famous German philosopher Heidegger once said, that if the only tool we think we have is a hammer then every problem will start to look like a nail. We become absorbed in our activity and the use of various technologies without stepping back and understanding what we are doing and the impacts of the technology we use. We often fail to have awareness of our place, and the the place of technology in what we do.
This reliance on the hammer,that is, an over-reliance on technology to solve problems and seeing it as THE solution, is prevalent today. I have seen a lot of this in education over the past 8 years. Teachers, administrators, superintendents, school boards love to jump on the latest technology bandwagon without pausing to think what effect this has on teaching and learning. Often times, teachers use technology to hide poor teaching and the fact that they have not created a viable space for dialogue and learning. I have seen this in companies as well. Organizations embrace the latest messaging systems, virtual meeting spaces or any other contemporary technology but they fail to deal with any underlying problems in their organization. They slap a technological coat of paint on and carry on. We have been given a hammer and treat every problem as a nail.
I also worry about the prevalence in technology within facilitation. Technology can’t make up for poor facilitation. It can’t. I implore us to look at the philosophy behind what we do, hone our skills and be the best facilitators and creators of space for dialogue that we can. Then we can look to inject some of the latest technology into our facilitation (as long as it enhances what we do and does not make up for a lack of will, skill, passion, etc). I also fear that we will focus so much on technology that we will stop pushing for dialogue. This can’t happen.
First be a good facilitator, then embrace technology. Dive into facilitation with reckless abandon and embrace technology with reckless caution. Establish an awareness of the hammer and its relationship to what you do. Don’t treat every problem like a nail, don’t slap a coat of paint over a rusty car, and don’t let technology replace good facilitation.