Tech weenies, learning, and risk

Dorothea is starting a masters program in library science and finding herself one of the tech weenies in her group. She makes some interesting observations about the differences between those who are and those who aren’t comfortable with technology.

One asked me yesterday during break in reference class how I learned what I know. Being dropped in the deep end, I told him honestly. There s this weird sense that technogeekery is a higher calling, a priesthood. Nah. It s what ordinary people do to keep from throwing very expensive pieces of equipment out top-story windows.

There s also a sense that we technogeeks think what we do is a higher calling. And I suspect that s substantially our fault, and it irritates me because it makes techno-evangelism (when it s warranted) just that much harder. But and here I will whinge a little for all their techno-envy, these people will not stir a step to learn from me and people like me. [Caveat Lector]

One thing I’ve observed about the tech weenies I have known is a predisposition for learning in the “deep end” that others in organizations don’t seem as comfortable doing. If you are technically inclined you quickly discover that there is always more to learn and that it is dangerous to trust documentation (read authority). You learn by experiment and you become inured to mistakes and failure. All of these are characteristics that are associated with effective learning.

By contrast, think how many other roles in organizations interfere with learning. It’s little wonder that so many stay technologically illiterate. You can’t learn it in a training class and you can’t take the risks, small though they are in reality, needed to acquire workable knowledge.