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Keeping It Old School

Friday, September 7, 2012

I rarely post on the Learning Technology CoP blog; I want to leave it to practitioners sharing ideas with other practitioners. But readers of this blog, like me, are interested in most things techno. And something happened today that got me thinking about new versus old technology… 

As I left my neighborhood for my weekly drive to ASTD’s office (fortunately, I get to work online the other four days), I passed by the Google Maps car. Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. It was launched on May 25, 2007, in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. 

As someone who travels a bit, I have come to rely on Google Street View. Before heading out, I find it comforting to log on and “see” what my destination actually looks like, not to mention check out the parking situation and if there are any good restaurants nearby. I rely on my GPS, to be sure. But Google Street View is essential. I use it. I like it. A lot. But I never considered how Google created and supported its functionality—as we tend to do with new technology that we use often. We almost take for granted its existence as a natural occurrence.    

So upon seeing the Google Maps car, my first thought was: “So, that’s how they get those street view pictures? How simple? How Old School? I thought it would be something more cool—like invisible drones. ” My second thought: “Oh no. Are they going to take our picture today? We need to mow the lawn.” 

Okay, I didn’t really think that there were invisible drones taking pictures of all of our houses. But I also didn’t think it would be something as simple as a car just driving around town with a spinning camera on its roof. And this revelation about the Google Maps car got me thinking about other things “Old School.” That even though there may be a new, more techno-savvy tool or innovative way for doing something, many of us still revert to the tried-and-true (and most likely less exciting) method of performing certain tasks.  


As a writer and editor who covers technology, I embrace and champion new technology. I never have my tablet, smartphone, or laptop far from reach. But I am guilty of using Old School tools nearly every day. And I know I cannot be alone in this Old School addiction.  

I welcome you to join me in admitting our Old School guilty pleasures. I will go first: I admit that I am a technophile who still uses Old School tools.  

I admit that when asked to help proof T+D pages, which we now make directly to the electronic file with the printer, I still prefer to print out the pages and mark them up with my trusty red pen. I know it creates more work for me in the long run—because I have to transfer those edits to the electronic file. But it just feels right to do it this way. This is not just because that is how I was taught to edit the magazine when I started at ASTD in 1995. (Did I really just admit to working here for that long?) No, I am certain I would not do as thorough job of proofing if I only looked at the pages on my monitor. You will never be able to convince me otherwise. 

I admit that I have a board in my home office on which I post sticky notes indicating all the articles I am working on for the next few months—with author, due date, and go-live date posted. I could put this info in some sort of neat and tidy spreadsheet, I know.  But I have nine blogs to post content on weekly, and sometimes I just need to be able to move around all those sticky notes—block-to-block—until I get it right. And sometimes I just like to walk up to my board and breathe it all in. It is a LOT of content. 

I also admit that I would bodily harm anyone who tried to take away my steno pad. Whether I am conducting interviews, sitting in on conference sessions, or covering industry meetings, I put pen to paper to take my notes—and I always have my laptop or tablet with me. And when not at a table, I might add that my tablet makes a terrific surface upon which to place my steno pad and jot down my ideas. 

Whew! I feel better. Now it’s your turn. I open the floor—I mean, blog—to others.

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About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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