Thursday, 22 October 2009

Introducing Learning Technologies - the Utopia, the Reality

I've was asked the below question on the Educational Technology and Change Journal. I thought I'd post my response here as well as on there.

What would you suggest for helping teachers move beyond this passive use to the more active use that VLEs are capable of?

That's a good question. My utopian answer approaches the issue from a pedagogical point of view - promoting a collaborative and personalised approach. I would use the phrase teaching methods instead of pedagogy to keep things simple and talk in terms of allowing the learner to be creative and involved in the learning process – active rather than passive. I don’t think many educators would disagree that these techniques have a positive impact in principle. Once this is established, the idea that a particular Learning Technology artefacts or tool can be used to achieve such an approach, can be introduced. It’s important the Learning Technology itself isn’t seen as what’s valuable or important but the value or particular pedagogical stance behind it. That’s the utopia. The reality is different.

In Higher Education, for a standard lecturer in my context the standard way of teaching is lecturing with a bit of group discussion. It’s all face-to-face even though a VLE exists. It’s a tough sell to challenge both the delivery and the pedagogy that lies behind this. Where we are at in my institution is challenging the delivery by introducing the VLE as a tool for file repository and maybe assignment submission and grade management. This is seen as an important first step. However, we seem to have been on this first step for quite a while now. I have been talking about the other tools available both within and outside our VLE but they fall, largely, on deaf ears.

So the main barrier is promoting the collaborative and personalised approaches to learning mentioned earlier. Promoting them challenges the way an educator teaches. Who am I to challenge this? People will reject such an advance for a variety of natural human reasons. You could also argue that this isn’t my job. I’m a Learning Technologist not a pedagogical adviser (not that such a thing exists). The problem is that I think that changing the way we teach is at the heart of what a Learning Technologist is trying to do. So what can I do? My goal is to build up enough of an educator base so that an element of peer pressure exists. This would also give validity the Learning Technologies. Apart from that, keep chipping away.

I’d be interested to hear what others think.

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