#futurehappens - Challenging educational paradigms and the changing role of the learning technologist
London School of Economics
Challenging educational paradigms:
The changing role of the learning technologist
The future is
already here —
it's just not very
One one hand…
‘Six years ago, for the first
time, the number of “things”
connected to the internet
surpassed the number of
people … Experts estimate
that, as of this year, there will
be 25 billion connected
devices, and by 2020, 50
US Federal Trade Commission Report 2016
Mobile ownership in
Africa is on the
ownership (but not
On the other…
Source: internet.org 2014
affordable mobile data
Source: internet.org 2014
“Information is also a vital form
of aid in itself. People need
information as much as water,
food, medicine or shelter.
Information can save lives,
livelihoods and resources. It
may be the only form of
disaster preparedness that the
most vulnerable can afford.
And yet it is very much
Red Cross 2005
‘Now that we're in that future, of
course, plastics are no big deal.
Is digital destined for the same
banality? Certainly. Its literal
form, the technology, is already
beginning to be taken for
granted, and its connotation will
become tomorrow's commercial
and cultural compost for new
ideas. Like air and drinking
water, being digital will be
noticed only by its absence, not
its presence.’ (Negroponte,
What kinds of experiences do learning
‘Thirty years from now the big university campuses
will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a
change as when we first got the printed book. Do you
realize that the cost of higher education has risen as
fast as the cost of health care…such totally
uncontrollable expenditures, without any visible
improvement in either the content or the quality of
education, means that the system is rapidly becoming
untenable. Higher education is in deep crisis.’
Peter Drucker -1997
The Museum of Broken Relationships
Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for
recovery from failed loves, the Museum
offers a chance to overcome an emotional
collapse through creation.
“No museum has ever made me feel more
connected to everyone else in the world
that achieves the objectives
builds on the art principles of line,
space, colour, texture and unity
Malcolm Knowles 1980
Affordances v Resistances
Technologies v Pedagogies
Now v Future
Systems v Cloud
Service v Strategy
The use of technology is the exclusive
privilege of the technically adept, the young
or the innovator
Technology is a ‘nice to have’,
not an essential, integrated part
of the action
Learning has been and always will
be the same and new technology
simply enhances and builds on the
successes of the past
The blurry myths of technological change
We need to focus on ‘the basics’
Innovators are ’out there’ on the fringe
The ‘harsh’ reality
The agility of society and learners to adapt and innovate
their learning with and through technology often far
outstrips the ability of the educational institution to keep
each other as
a contest to
Investment is rarely commensurate with
outcome and impact
Learning, teaching and role of the learning
technologist have changed
Change in leadership
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE
TEACHER? HoD? BELIEVER?
Rule 1: We are teaching and
learning focused and
Rule 2: What we talk about is
agnostic but is all about
making the institution better
Rule 3: We are in the room
with the decision makers.
What we decide is critical to
the future of our institutions.
We are the institution
Rule 4: Despite the chatter, all
the tech ‘works’ - the digital is
here, we are digital institutions.
Digital is not the innovation.
Rule 5: We are here to build not
smash or protect or defend
“…an education that is understood in complexity
terms cannot be conceived in terms of preparation
for the future. Rather, it must be construed in terms
of participation in the creation of possible futures”
Davis and Sumara (2009)
• Tensions between systems
support and innovation
• Delivering on our previous
promise of ‘solutions in a box’
• Tensions around who owns
‘pedagogy’, ‘technology’ and
• Get the current stuff or the
basics right before you start
‘playing’ (Boys/Girls with toys
• Shifting the pioneers to the
business as usual
Scaled projects that
have institutional impact
that cross function,
discipline and faculty
through high profile,
Projects that make an
impact with learners,
teachers and the
- And what do they do in the middle out?
Thanks to Audrey Watters who found this image from 1973
Change the conversation
Change the process
Bring the word in
Fail and Succeed
Reward and recognition
I believe everything we
can come to pass
through our union
we can turn the world
we can turn the earth's
we have the power
People have the power
Patti Smith, People have the Power 1985
The transformational potential of learning technologists in a post digital age The worlds of educational development and learning technology are merging MOOCs were a warning shot where our activity was dictated to us
This is not a discussion about potential, this is a statement that the future happens, and the future as we describe has already happened
Learning, teaching and assessment are contested fields, where the people saying things have changed are the ones are seen as the barbarians at the gate, where as the people defending existing practice dictate the terms of the debate, creating and supporting systems that replicate and reinforce existing practices
What I want to argue today is that we cannot allow the future to be dictated to us by forces not operating in the bests interests of students, teachers, society and ultimately our institutions, and that the learning technologist, the educational development, the digital education practitioner, the teacher and the learner need to be in the room, advocating and arguing for change.
(I will use the term learning technologist to cover a wide variety of practice)
Let’s take a step back We always talk about technology as potential, the fractured debates around natives, the transormative/disruptive nature of technology, the social media generation, netizens, clickivism
This is not a function of technology, or of access to technology. So, what is important for the learning technologist?
Found is at the heart of my artistic practice. The notion of found is fundamental to the work, as something that is lost can eventually be found. Found sounds, footage, fragments of words reconstructed, often without context or description, perhaps with just a vague sense of where. Bricolage and discovery are very powerful learning tools. The sheer scope and scale of many social media communities can create a shattered web of fleeting connections or weak ties between users (Mackey and Evans, 2011, Manago, 2015, Siemens, 2005). Users pass by each other in disconnected and transient ways, connecting with some by the way of a single photo or a comment. Rarely do users go back to those interactions to form lasting bonds. However, Siemens (2005) argues that these ties can create small hubs of innovation and creation, as users are exposed to networks wider than their own.
Found is about discovery
Identity is critical to modern teaching and learning Challenging notions of identity and realness are at the core of my own work Identity as fluid can be discontinuous, out of sync and Challenging stereotypes (students facebooking) Constructing positive approaches to digital identity (not stranger danger) (change slide) Criticality and engagement Make connections that are authentic and real, outside and inside (Issue with LSE, first years friends, last year nodding) Digital stranger – These connections don’t have to be deep to be lasting, they can be about a construction of identity, harnessing the complexity of engagement in a digital world
Making is fundamental to how I live my life Making is a philosophical approach to holidays, to eating, to engaging, to working DIY philosophy of zine making (PhD work) Digital tactility, physicality to making digitally (move to next slide) Pedagogy positions making as a form of practice and separate theory from practice Lectures and exams are great examples of that
These are the functional tensions that learning technology teams are dealing with. These shape the relationships we have with academics, the institution, professional services and to some extent students
These tensions manifest themselves in these often unspoken myths of learning technology. So, we often work with the people who want to work with us, provide systems that replicate existing practices or even worse have little or no benefit to the student experience.
But the harsh reality is that things have changed, there are both tacit and explicit conflicts and tensions that impact on our role
Learning has changed ( 21st century skills, apps to solve problems (and problems found by apps), media consumption…knowledge acquisition, knowledge transfer, knowledge verification and authenticity
Teaching has changed Peer led and student co-creation, expanding outside the networks and boundaries of the class, EDx use at MIT, ending of broadcast mode, enhanced role for gaming, DIY coding, social media use
Learning Technology has changed Skills of integration, cloud, UX leading to working with staff to adapt, change, innovate and transform their teaching and learning.
The VLE of 2015 needs to be able to do that, some of the Moodle competitors have moved towards ‘some’ of these
The aim of the document is to frame the discussions and debates we need to have at our institutions in order put innovation and the digital at the heart of the institutional approach to learning and teaching. There is a case to be made that institutionally, we have failed. ‘Traditional’ custom and practice is legitimised in the digital, whilst practice based innovation can be banished to the fringe or the grassroots. Techno-solutionism is equally legitimised, where ‘solutions in a box’ and services drive our activity; an activity that often replicates existing practice rather than transforming it. This widens the gap between ‘academic’ practice and the changing nature of learning in a digital era, masked by the procurement of new, and by implication, ‘innovative’ technologies
At a strategic level, these tensions shape the way we in which implement change Top down or bottom up
Bottom up We can leverage the bottom up enthusiasm of our champions, who have been piloting and practicing for decades. Their momentum and enthusiasm will eventually infect the rest of the faculty. We can take their interventions and scale them to larger cohorts and bigger projects. But the problem with bottom up is that institutions are a bit like a cow, impossible to tip over (yes, that myth has been dispelled). The pace of change and the fear that a lack of tenure creates means that an intransigent block begins somewhere above the grassroots and steadfastly refuses to engage. Time. Resources. Policy. Custom and Practice. We all know the reasons, and they are legitimate (in part). They simply do not create a fertile environment for change.
Top down We can expect strong leadership from the top down. They wrote the strategy. They want the university to go in singular direction, to position itself against the competition and deliver on the KPIs. People will listen to them because all we ask for is direction from our leaders. But the problem with top down is that management and leadership across higher education has become diffused, disaggregated and siloed. An inspired direction from the VC becomes a call to do more with less from the DVC and a set of rolled eyes from the Dean. We have all heard it before. Another strategic plan, another restructure, what are we this time; faculties or Schools? Departments or Divisions? Keeping your head below the parapet, doing your job to the best of your ability without changing too much is the only way to survive. Once again, this is not a fertile environment for change. And in both cases, technology becomes the cause célèbre for resistors and the politically savvy. And from that arises so many myths and misconceptions about technology that have blighted our sector for decades.
We argue that the role of learning technologists as agents and leaders of change at a strategic level is often compromised by tensions and actions arising from implicit internal practices or explicit external relationships. In both cases we found that as teams who led learning technology initiatives we continually found ourselves in untenable positions, arguing for the ongoing support and efficacy of institutional systems that may run counter to engaging the institution in more innovative pedagogical approaches. At the same time, functional tensions arose over who owned ‘pedagogy’, ‘technology’ and ‘learning’ institutionally, and whether there was a role for collaborative stakeholder experimentation and evaluation as opposed to reactive project and systems support.
Scaled projects that have institutional impact Connected approaches the cross function, discipline and faculty Activity that is part of a strategic vision The learning technologist and the educational developer working together as advocates of change Alignment of policy to practice
This would be a role where the learning technologist argues, lobbies, supports and resources change and where they work to break down functional barriers and siloes between academic and professional services, in order to seek change through the development and celebration of a collective identity. A role which shapes and integrates a shared orientation and argues for the need to challenge the status quo and to address change through practical action (James and van Seters, 2014) and where they flip the support of practice at a local level to one where they advocate and lead change at an institutional level.
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