“If you don’t reconcile yourself to technological change and advancement and make good use of it, you’re going to stand still or go backwards.”
Inspired by the early Internet
John Ewens has been involved with training and education as a direct result of his initial encounter with technology back in 1992. As a junior at a PR firm working with a company called Global Online Delivery, he saw a page being loaded on the Internet for the first time. It was a black and white image that had come all the way from the US and was displayed on a 12” screen supported by a monitor the size of a wheelie bin! John says that this was every bit as exciting as it sounds: “It took about a minute to load… but I thought ‘wow! This could really be something.’”
While, in those early days, the Internet was mainly used in universities, Global Online Delivery recognised it as an effective tool for business. John decided to leave the creative industry and began to look at ways in which technology, business and education could benefit from one another.
John went on to develop his expertise in learning technologies in order to design and develop tools that could help people to teach and learn. He now, though, likes to look beyond the development of tools to concentrate on strategy.
He is advisor to four Learning Futures’ projects, helping those involved to see the bigger picture. He ensures that he keeps an open mind without making decisions on their behalf. His job, he says, entails, “helping the projects with updates to their original submissions, with initial project planning, and with producing progress reports.” He is in contact with Harlow College’s e-learning lead, Dave Monk, almost weekly; he works with Westminster Adult Education Service to help improve the development of their video project; and he advises PETA Ltd on their decision to buy digital tablets—a core element of their project.
What the future holds
John would like to write a book on technology in education one day, but for now he is focussed on Learning Futures for, he says, “giving me an opportunity to share my experience with organisations in a way that is genuinely useful”. He adds that, “Unlike other programmes, it is based around action research, which creates a realistic framework for staff to share, develop, and test practices that are then robust enough to support others across the education and training workforce.”
It is important to John that technology and learning are realigned because, he says, the world is changing rapidly and in unanticipated ways: “Some seem to think that technology is eroding core values, but I don’t believe that. If you don’t reconcile yourself to technological change and advancement and make good use of it, you’re going to stand still or go backwards.”