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Knowing Stuff Used To Be Important

By Steve Bentall, Coaching Network Manager

Now we can just find stuff out. This was the message that opened my first session at this years UK Coaching Summit in Cardiff. The theme of this year’s Summit was ‘The Future of Coaching’ and I chose to attend a number of sessions that would embrace this theme across the two days.

So back to my first session, ‘How technology changes the way we learn’. For those of you who have been following my series of blogs, it will come as no surprise that this was a session I was really excited about. The session was being delivered by Julian Stodd from Seasalt Learning who wasted no time in telling the audience “it's not just about technology, it's about the way we use it”.

Let me put the title and opening into some context here. ‘Stuff’ used to be the things that we learned. We would attend school, college, universities, courses, workshops to learn this stuff to apply to our roles. Now, we use the Internet to find this stuff out, turning to Google and YouTube to tell us how to do things.  So technology at an applied level lets you find stuff out and do something with it.

Within the session, Julian used a series of self sketched images to bring to life the messages he was giving. Technology changes the space in which we operate, we now have a wealth of resources to turn to that aid us to learn and to find stuff out. The sources of knowledge that we now trust are no longer solely in academic circles but they exist in the bloggersphere, on your timeline or YouTube channel. We know that YouTube is used by 59% of Internet users looking for information (or stuff) and that 19% of coaches find it one of the most useful online learning experiences in their development. The way in which we are accessing the information is changing too.

Our phones are no longer used for just making calls. Research published this week has shown that there are now over 2 billion smart phone users worldwide, and that adults in the US are now spending more time using their smartphones as a way to access online content. During the Summit,  I found that for the first time I was able to sit in one session while being kept up to date on other sessions by a constant stream of tweets on my phone. A number of people were also making full use of video streaming app ‘Periscope’ to broadcast live from within sessions, allowing those not in attendance to hear key messages and most importantly to be able to interact.

As we move towards more wearable technology we are being taken to new places in the way that we learn. We know that digital natives want information fast, can multi-task, want random access, want to be able to network and are motivated by rewards and gaming. Wearable technology such as Fitbit is beginning to deal in micro-reward and failure, ‘gamifying’ the way in which people are now consuming their activity. Young people want experiences that provide interaction, are social and rewarding and personalised to their needs. Wearable technology taps in to the primal needs of the digital natives and it's possible that coaches who shy away from technology are disengaging their audience. This was a key point in the Future of Coaching debate where wearable technology has been identified as an opportunity to engage with a new generation of consumer.

Research to be published soon by sports coach UK has found that some young people find it frustrating that coaches do not engage with technologies, especially when it could inform their practice.

During the ‘what do young people want?’ session I was leading a discussion around digital natives and technology in coaching. During this the discussion moves through coaching apps and video analysis and the impact that this has on the consumer and how many coaches may be shying away from using technology because it's “not for them”. This theme continues again in the Future of Coaching debate with the focus turning to coaches embracing technology. It seems that as an industry we’re still unsure as to what how role is and how it should be delivered. The discussion moves to young people using video technology to learn and share with their communities their own journey through their chosen activity and this poses the question of what role the coach and coaching as an intervention? That's not something I can answer here but I'm keen to hear your thoughts below.

Bringing together what I've heard during the summit about technology and the future of coaching is that we have to embrace the digital and social age that we are now living in. It's a changing society where consumer demands are challenging and yet also provide an opportunity. We're at the start of the journey and we've a lot to learn.

Time to find stuff out?