What We Have, and What We Wish We Had

Musings from the Technology Test Kitchen Team about the tech that has had the most impact on how they work and tech they hope to see developed some day.

Sometimes I imagine technology solutions that do not exist. My imagination goes off on tangents envisioning learning tech tools and apps that might make the work of learning design easier. I still have not created anything useful, but I have had some phenomenal conversations with my colleagues about how we envision the future of our work.

During a recent conversation with the Technology Test Kitchen team about what flip-flops can teach us about technology, I was reminded of how insightful this group of “chef” colleagues is. To bring you a glimpse of what works for us now (and what we imagine for the future), I reached out to these learning tech gurus for answers to these two questions:

  • What technology/tool/app has had the most significant impact on the way you work?
  • What technology/tool/app does not yet exist that you wish did?

Here are their responses.

Neal Rowland

As we have moved more virtual with COVID-19, not having the ease of drawing on paper or a whiteboard while talking with others or brainstorming has been debilitating. Replacing that is critical in any team comprising knowledge workers. Virtual whiteboards, such as Mural, Miro, or Ziteboard, have had significant impact on how we work. Now we regularly go to whiteboards where all of us are engaged from the start and there are fewer constraints as to what we can do while there.

Tasks are at a low level and actionable. Yet, what needs to be done often requires the larger context. If there were tools that could pull the actionable items out of our notes, recorded conversations, documents, etc., then we would have a more meaningful “to-do list”—one that was smart enough to stay current and easy to cultivate. And that connects the action items to their sources and context, while at the same time presented in a simple user interface (UI) to ensure the highest priority items are done when most needed.

Ann Musgrove

I love cloud-saving solutions, especially ones with an auto-save feature. Collaboration in the cloud is awesome. My employer’s cloud solution is wonderful, but I need my tool, too, so I use Dropbox. Oh, and, of course, I use Google Drive, too. All of these give me access to my files from any device, and I know they will be there after the thunderstorm cuts off my power.

Bring on more artificial intelligence (AI) options at work and home! I love my robot vacuum and turning my lights on and off, adjusting my thermostat, but I’m ready for more options. How about a robot to clean my entire house? Did you know you can get a robot to clean your gutters? How about one to clean and organize my desk?

Hector Valle

Cloud computing has had the most significant impact on the way I work, specifically, cloud tools and applications. Google docs and Microsoft Office 365 have revolutionized the way I work and collaborate. I’m able to create documents and share notes from any computer with an Internet browser.

I wish we had more complex AI/machine learning (ML) tools and technology to pre-train, to be our digital-equivalent clone. This technology could allow us to monitor our social media and communication channels easily and build pre-canned responses. It also could organize our files, clean up our desktops, and archive unimportant e-mails based on our habits and preferences. Better AI and ML technology could open up more free time for creativity and planning.

Shereene Twum-Barima

I am going to cheat a little and give you two apps. Lately, I have found myself reaching regularly for the Microsoft Lens and Google Lens apps. As someone who had the opportunity to work from home for an extended period due to the COVID pandemic, submitting documents online has become the norm. From submitting scanned copies of hard-copy documents to my child’s written homework to an online learning platform, having an app that makes scanning and submitting documents easy and as legible as possible has made life so much easier. There is no need for a scanner or printer, just the Microsoft Lens app on my phone. Additionally, with Google Lens, I can perform contactless actions when I do have to be in a public space, by scanning QR codes or searching with my camera for a picture that was taken.

An app that I think does not yet exist, but is possible by combining a few apps already out there, is a productivity app with an AI assistant. It would be one that can provide me with a customized and flexible schedule based on priority, time on task, and optimal flow, while being able to adjust as the unexpected arises. It would have the ability to learn from my work patterns, identify action items from recorded meetings, prioritize and pull together the necessary documents and resources, and even create e-mails and documents from predictive actions for incoming requests.

Paul Bills

Loom recently caused a big shift in the way I work. Loom is a video creation tool with free and paid tiers that is meant for quick screen share and Webcam combination videos to explain software or other onscreen content. Loom has helped me work much more efficiently in an asynchronous environment and helped solve time zone issues with collaborators overseas.

A tool/service I’ve thought a lot about is something I simply call “See my Internet.” I often see friends and family sharing strong opinions on the Internet that I either strongly disagree with or simply don’t understand because I don’t have the proper context. I would love to be able to glance into what other things they’ve been reading/seeing that helped them form that opinion. We all know that algorithms dominate the content that’s presented to us, and I’d love the ability to step into someone else’s algorithm and see what they’re seeing so I can better understand where they’re coming from. Obviously, there are privacy concerns with this service, as well as other issues, but there’s something in this idea that I think could be a great help for people to better understand each other.

Enzo Silva

It goes without saying that knowledge is power. If access to knowledge can be impersonated by one single tool, it would be Google. The impact this pioneer knowledge faucet has had on my life as a learner is immensurable. With a “simple” search, for which I acquired many skills, I can find exactly what I need, when I need it, in the format I can consume with the time I have to learn a task or information piece. The simplicity, personalization, and quick, noise-free access to an experience that gives me what I need still shapes how I think of learning experiences I create for my audiences.

I’d love to see a practical YouTube-like app with augmented reality (AR) showing how to fix items around the house. It would be like on-the-job problem solving. Sometimes we just need to fix the kitchen sink and get back to our other activities; we don’t need long videos or elaborate eLearning packages to get the job done.

Bobby Carlton

One tool that has made a difference in how I work, my workflow, and the result of my work is my mobile device. I find that I work through my phone more than I work through my computer. Various apps on my phone have allowed me to use my device differently, depending on what I need to do. I use my phone for research, staying connected with work colleagues, staying connected with friends and family, virtual reality (VR) and AR experiences, entertainment such as movies and gaming, staying mentally and physically fit, and so much more. I’m able to explore ways organizations and industries are using new tech, and it helps me explore learning opportunities for myself and my clients.

A tool that doesn’t exist, but I wish it did would be something that would let me enjoy the wonderful things about life without the data collection. Technology has stripped us of independence and privacy. Taking a vacation to relax requires giving up data—GPS tracking and credit card purchases from dining out and lodging all leave a digital fingerprint. I’m not saying I’d like to be off the grid. What I wish is that there was a tool that let me be on the grid but remain invisible. This applies to work and personal life. My phone has made life easier, but it comes with a cost. I’ve sacrificed a lot for that easier life. Why can’t I have both?

My Most Impactful Device

I love the variety of responses from this Test Kitchen team. I have a few of my favorites in here, as well, and I love the patterns that have appeared from this group of talented learning design professionals.

For me, the technology/tool/app that has had the most significant impact is my keyboard. A simple Logitech K350 Wireless Wave Keyboard makes all the difference in the world. With all the gadgets and gizmos at my fingertips, this is the one that has the biggest impact on my work. I am comfortable. I can touch-type and listen to the clickety-clack of my work. I can orchestrate so much of my work from this one device. Take it away and I’m lost. It centers and empowers me.

The tech I want in the future will enable me to bring these brilliant Test Kitchen chefs together in an instant around my backyard firepit so we might imagine the learning tech solutions that will shape the future. And talk about flip-flops, of course.

If you’re curious about how flip-flops can teach us about technology and learning design, join us in the Training Technology Test Kitchen at TechLearn 2021 Virtual Conference October 25-29! Click here to register today.

Phylise Banner
Phylise Banner is a learning experience designer with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, aviation enthusiast, and currently training to be a private pilot.