Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again

Any system is a collection of different sub-systems and components that must work together well to be effective. Systems are less effective or not effective if too much emphasis is placed on certain prominent components and others that are less prominent but no less important to overall system success are neglected.

In the world of technology this often is seen in a focus on the technology itself (selection, purchase and installation) and neglect of the human element–the needs of the people using it and the technical support provided. Humorists have found a rich source of material in this. One of my favorite examples suggests this issue is not confined to the modern age:

Support does not always go so smoothly. This example from the British sitcom “The IT Crowd” is described as the “truest moment ever”:

Two types of poor support are demonstrated by the actors in this video clip. The first is frustration that the person needing support does not have the same level of knowledge as the person providing it. This ultimately results in conflict. The second is the IT specialist’s inability to explain things in non-technical terms. He is so absorbed in technical jargon that he does not recognize others’ need for explanations in plain English. Acronyms and Jargon can foster efficient communication within a group of specialists but it also can create barriers to communicating with non-specialists.

This problem is not confined to the IT world. Instructors potentially can interact with students in similar ways. Denial of climate change and evolution, for example, suggests scientists are not always effective in communicating with the general public. Educators need to help specialists communicate effectively with all audiences. This is particularly important for those who will be employed by organizations that provide customer service or who will become educators themselves.