Superpowers are everything – whether in a title or in a device that sits comfortably in the pocket of 3.3mn people worldwide. In the former case, it is (currently) about a certain President of the United States surviving impeachment the same way he built his powerful presidency – by assaulting facts and seeking to expand the limitations of the office he is accused of abusing. The latter is far more reassuring as mobile learning is projected to grow at a rate of 26 percent by 2026, to reach USD 95 billion in 2026 from USD 8 billion in 2018. That mobile technology is touching the lives of almost every human being on this planet is reason enough for L&D to sit up, take notice and adopt. It’s a superpower that’s handy, affordable and always on.

As for me, I have my personal superhero.

With a scarf tied around his neck, trunks pulled over his ill-fitting slacks and a fisted hand sticking out in the sky, my 6 year old dashes around the house calling himself Superman. While I find this deeply endearing, I often worry if his spidey craze will ever wear off. Not from the standpoint of considering himself invincible, but wearing what best belongs underneath the clothes, secretly “under”.

Well that’s hardly a secret when the US has got a bitter ‘secret’ news pill to swallow in the form of an Apple engineer formerly accused of stealing trade secrets from the technology giant for a Chinese startup has now been found to be hiding a classified file from the Patriot missile program.

I digress.

But when distractions in our everyday lives have become the norm, we are all but derailing from our intended objectives.

It has taken just one episode for everyone back home to know that my well-meant suggestion, “Come, let’s read you a bedtime story” actually means “Baby, you read the story while I get my last dose of social media for the day”. Are we really to be blamed when we have got our phones vying for our attention, offering distractions every minute, every day?!

It’s no different at work too. That email notification, that IM, that Like, that this, that that, everything eats into our mind space negatively impacting productivity. But not all’s lost.

Citrix Systems is trying to improve the office technology experience by bringing a Facebook-like newsfeed to work computer and smartphone through an Intelligent Digital Workspace that uses machine learning (ML) to aggregate information from dozens of outside apps into a single place. Yes, that reduces toggling between windows and systems, the signing in and the signing out, but distraction does it cure? Time and use cases will tell.

Speaking of ML, it’s now known that Apple uses privacy-preserving machine learning, called Federated Learning, to improve its voice assistant without hoovering up data on our phone. In simpler words, it is this technology that wakes up the voice assistant on your phone when you say “Hey Siri,” but not when the same phrase comes from your friends or family.

What Siri has done for Apple users, Amazon’s Alexa is doing for the Android (and iOS) community. My kid, till date, thinks that Alexa is a grown up child hiding inside a speaker diligently processing his requests – from Nerf Blasters to AI-provoking questions like “Why does my mumma always boss me around?”

With such a wide user base and diverse applicability, the marketplace for virtual assistants is global. So much so that AI Assistants are touted as the future of corporate training. Training will become more engaging and personalized with an intelligent assistant, regardless of whether it is related to organizational information, policies or processes.

However, this technology influx is giving rise to some serious workplace challenges. A new research by Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce and YouGov, reveals Australian workers are not sufficiently preparing for work being transformed by digital technology with 61 per cent of Australian workers thinking that their current skill set is not suited for the next five years of work. Closer home, paucity of talent in high-growth sectors like Fintech underlines the need for adaptive and personalized learning solutions delivered through technology platforms to bridge the skills gap.

Interestingly, learning is the only way to stay ahead of the disruption curve and Telangana state (in India) has ranked number one by reaching 20,000 field staff during 2018-19 to impart training on 12 soft skills modules and three domain-specific modules on RTI, Office Procedures, and Finance & Accounts, apart from Sustainable Development Goals. Now that’s a lofty goal achieved!

Meanwhile, the US House Judiciary Committee has postponed a vote on two impeachment charges against President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing and life goes on for all US citizens.

That’s perhaps what superpower in real life looks like.

Me, I don’t consider myself a superhero. I am just an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things.

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light, easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.

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