Today I had the remarkable experience of eavesdropping on ICT peer learning as it actually happens – from person to person. Usually I don’t eavesdrop and it’s not really something I should be blogging about, but in this case I learned something very useful from it so wanted to share.
I was blown away about the conversation. It was:
- purposeful and impactful
- tech agnostic – no particular enthusiasm for any particular tool or practice
- urgent – it was clearly important to know and understand various tools available
- dignified, respectful and patient
To me, listening to this person speaking is a humble reminder about how mission-driven people actually look at and use ICT, and that geeks like me that are dreaming up the tools to serve them should probably spend more time listening to them. It was unusual to be able to eavesdrop on two practitioners really helping each other, and I wondered how much of this is going on every day around the world as people help each other figure out how to use today’s ICT to maximum benefit with least hassle, and how much insight we are missing because we are not hearing them.
So here’s how I came to be eavesdropping. I was minding my own business, eating my lunch in a very public place – on a park bench overlooking the bay and watching seagulls, fishermen, and boats pulling in and out. Sitting on a bench near me was a neatly dressed African American who was, I soon learned, a pastor. He was speaking with, I presume, another pastor on his mobile phone and having an easy conversation with him about life and work. It was so easy, in fact, that, to my shame, I tuned in. It was like listening to one part of a very fascinating interview on the radio.
After a while he started giving incredibly valuable advice about the ICT tools he uses in his work: kindle, email , facebook, and skype.
Finally the pastor stood up and left while still talking, and I was left alone again with my thoughts. So I never had a chance to confess my crime and ask him if he’d like to talk to me some more about it. I also had some ideas that I thought he might find helpful.
Here are the tools the pastor talked about:
1) Kindle: he keeps a full copy of the King James Bible on his kindle, as well as a book he called the “60 chapters”, which provides brief summaries of all the chapters of the bible. He refers to his kindle frequently – and especially finds the summaries very useful to show people so that he doesn’t have to quote long sections of the bible all the time. The other pastor apparently has an iPhone and so he suggested that he look for apps to load bible resources on that instead of getting a kindle.
2) Email: he acknowledged that they use email effectively to keep in touch and that he appreciated it very much and wanted to keep it going as much as possible. Email is a crucial tool that he uses every day and that it’s very important to get the email addresses of the people you need to be in touch with and organize them into an address book so you can reach people when necessary.
3) Facebook: the person on the other end of the line was not already on Facebook, and the pastor fairly firmly recommended that he not bother to join unless he has someone in particular who has invited him that he wants to keep in close contact with. This surprised me somewhat, since he also then proceeded to give an account of how he already uses Facebook himself to keep in touch with people, and explained in a great deal of detail how Facebook works from invitations to sending messages to friends to groups. The problem he mentioned (and he didn’t mention any other problems) is that strangers find you through mutual friends and groups, and that he found himself not wanting to ignore friend requests from people he doesn’t know – but friending them meant that these strangers were contacting him all the time.
4) Skype: this came up mainly in the context of staying connected with elderly parents, but also about low cost communications generally. He walked through all the benefits of skype in terms of cheap voice calling and video calling. He joked about how when they were younger they would dream about seeing video of people when talking on the phone – and that the future is now! He felt the video was particularly beneficial for really seeing how his parents are doing. In the end he advised his friend not to bother with Skype since his parents didn’t have a computer. I would have suggested perhaps getting them an Android device with the Skype app which now supports video calling.