Kevin Costner has a lot to answer for and so do we. In ‘Field of Dreams’ he was told that “if you build it, they will come”. This parallels the approach to innovation in educational technology, “if we install it, they will use it”. Given ‘At the forefront of innovation’ is one of this year’s themes it is the right time to ask whether limited innovation, impact and staff engagement is our fault?
Learning technologies are surrounded by fallacies and we are guilty of propagating them. Inspired by the recent debate at Jisc Digifest 2017 which asked “[I]s technology fundamentally changing learning and teaching?”. Neil Morris argued that “it is undeniable that digital technology is already fundamentally altering learning and teaching” (Morris and Thomas, 2017). We will ask whether this cult-like belief is creating barriers between ourselves and the staff we are trying to engage.
Technology has been described as “digital pixie dust” (Morris and Thomas, 2017), a panacea that will fix all ills. We will ask whether our limited impact across institutions is because we “go to technology to be the solution and everyone is disappointed” (Lanclos and White, 2016). After all, poor teaching practice will not be improved by the use of technology, usually it draws more attention to it.
James Clay (2017) argues that “[W]hen an academic asks ‘for the evidence to show technology can make a difference’ the problem is not the lack of evidence, but one of resistance to change, fear, culture, rhetoric and motivation.” We will explore an alternative perspective that a request for evidence is a result of our exaggerating and overestimating the transformative power and impact of technology on teaching and learning.
We will argue that our dismissal of any scepticism, negativity or fear of technology leads to resentment and disengagement with learning technologies and those who promote them. For example dismissing concerns that learning technologies provide “no room…for the recording of intellectual tasks pursued for their own intrinsic usefulness or interest” (Selwyn, 2016, p.119) and that they are reducing education to “finite services or contracts rather than sustained human interaction” (Selwyn, 2016, P119).
We will argue that in an effort to promote the importance of technology we have created a perception that technology is adjunct to learning and teaching, that it is a ‘thing’ in and of itself. Because “TEL-people inhabit sequestered spaces, frequently separated from the Units, Centres and Libraries which house us. Located at the far end of a corridor behind a swipe card or on the periphery of the campus where no one bothers to tread” (Watling, 2016).
Aside from a desire to have a Kevin Costner film marathon, participants will evaluate their perceptions and preconceptions of TEL and critically examine the discourse surrounding TEL investment and practice.
We will attempt to persuade delegates that we need to drop the fallacies, false assumptions and arrogant attitudes to rebalance higher education to one where people are more important than machines. After all “Digital is people” (Phipps, 2016).
Clay, J. 2017. Show me the evidence… 13 February. e-Learning Stuff. [Online]. [Accessed 21 March 2017]. Available from: http://elearningstuff.net/2017/02/13/show-me-the-evidence/
Lanclos, D. and White, D. 2016. Keynote: Donna Lanclos and David White – Being Human is Your Problem #altc. [Online]. [Accessed 21 March 2017]. Available from: https://youtu.be/OUw0RKDiWHE
Morris, N. and Thomas, A. 2017. Digital technology is fundamentally changing learning and teaching in higher education. Jisc Digifest, 15 March, Birmingham.
Phipps, L. 2016. Presence, Digital, Well-Being, People. 14 September. lawrie : converged. [Online]. [Accessed 22 March 2017]. Available from: http://lawriephipps.co.uk/?p=8336
Selwyn, N. 2014. Digital Technology and the Contemporary University. London: SRHE.
Watling, S. 2016. The invisible tribes and territories of the TEL-People. 19 August. Digital Academic. [Online]. [Accessed 22 March 2017]. Available from: https://digitalacademicblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/the-invisible-tribes-and-territories-of-the-tel-people/