I’m Kerry Lorette. eLearning designer. Neotenous learner.

Years ago I heard the term neoteny in relation to learning and fell in love with it. The meaning of it away from biology is to retain a childlike sense of wonder and attitude of play.

I came to elearning after several years in a variety of communications roles – from broadcasting and copywriting to video production and website projects. As an immigrant to a country almost half way around the world from where I grew up, technology-enabled communication has been a blessing for me to communicate with family and friends. As an opinionated so and so, participating in intelligent, robust discussion has stretched me professionally and personally.

For Christmas 2020, my parents sent me an Amazon Echo Show. This smart video device allows us to drop in on each other and chat via video. We are having so much fun with it – and marvel at how the Jetson’s video phone, Dick Tracy’s wristwatch and the tablets from 2001 A Space Odyssey are increasingly a part of so many lives.

But, as Howard Rheingold observed, it’s important to not just focus on technology but what people know about how to deal with it. If we don’t we risk being distracted and deceived by the people who do. Before Howard, Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was a big influence on my thinking in terms of the incidental skills and savvy we need to arm students with in addition to their discipline-specific knowledge. And in the past few years, we’ve seen the devastating effects of those who manipulate social media to push false narratives.

Therefore, I believe my role as an educational designer and the role of academics goes beyond helping students to achieve course and program learning objectives. We must keep learning ourselves – about information and digital literacy, representation and inclusion, and about the new technologies that students are likely to encounter in their professional and personal lives. It is a fascinating space where we can be exposed to the most diverse range of viewpoints than at any other time in our history but yet need to be mindful of the algorithms that reinforce narrow, tribal views.

I remain optimistic that learning with internet-connected devices has and will continue to change our world for the better. And that educators can be both diligent in teaching information and digital literacies while having fun with what technology can do.

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