Institutions are complex ecosystems, exposed to massive pressures arising from metrics, competition, government policy and a changing structure of demands and expectations from students, alumni, staff and society. Writers such as Ron Barnett (2000) and George Siemens (Siemens, Dawson and Eshleman, 2018) have described the current educational landscape as existing in a time of complexity, of uncertainty, unpredictability, challenge and change. Learning technology and pedagogical change represent two critical lenses to understand how institutions react and respond to the pressures arising from operating and thriving in this complexity.
Staff in learning technology related roles who undertake change activities often reside in contested and sometimes tenuous locations within their institutions, where their roles and status can be challenged, reinvigorated, split or abandoned in response to these institutional pressures (Mitchell, Simpson & Adachi, 2017). They are often required to ‘keep the whole thing together’, with whatever technology, bits of string and goodwill they can muster. Like front line academic staff, educational developers, librarians and other teaching and learning professionals, learning technologists are the multi-taskers, the improvisers and the fixers, yet their voice in allocating resources, shaping strategy and determining how best to adapt and change as an institution is variable; ranging from critical to peripheral (Fox & Sumner, 2014).
“The role of effective leadership in institutions must now include how leaders see and use digital; both in terms of how new digital practices are emerging and using digital to respond to change.” (Phipps, L and Lanclos, D. 2017)
This challenging workshop will seek to address the opportunities and threats of being a learning technologist in a modern institution. Our roles are sometimes uncomfortable, confronting and difficult positions to be in, especially where job security can feel precarious. How do you as a learning technologist enhance your capability to engage in the debates and discourses, have a voice that is heard, be in the room (saying the right things) and shape the way teaching and learning happens at your institution?
Through a series of scenarios and case studies, enabled by the Siemens, Dawson and Eshelmen principles of working with complexity in HE (networks, emergence, self-organization and social coordination, feedback sensitivity, and agility), participants will explore their own reactions to current common institutional positions and discourses around the use of technology in learning and teaching. Through the application of “far future” scenarios, they will ‘test’ how their current approaches to learning technology and pedagogy work in the wider notions of complexity and disruption, and perhaps need to change and adapt (and not resort to rehearsed solutions or resistances).
For the delegate, the key outcome will be an examination of, reflection on and perhaps the challenging of their current strategic philosophy and practices in digital education and technology and the development of critical strategic responses to inform future practice. The delegates will also be provided with a template for this workshop to implement and apply at their own institutions.
This workshop will be highly participative and creative. Through the use of scenarios and rapid problem solving techniques (guided by multimedia prompts and tools for idea generation), the workshop will (for a brief time) try to disrupt current patterns of working and practice around digital education. Delegates will be asked to set aside their current notions of what is, and think about what if. A brief introduction of our rationale (10 minutes) will be followed by a description of two scenarios (10 minutes). The room, divided in half, will work on these scenarios, building a strategic road map, organograms, resource and activity requests and identifying critical learning technology and pedagogical practices (30 minutes), before feeding briefly back to each other and finally wrapping up (10 mins). We will use collaborative platforms to ensure a more lasting engagement with the feedback from the groups.
Barnett, R. (2000) Realizing the university in an age of supercomplexity. Maidenhead, UK: McGraw-Hill/Open University
Fox, O., & Sumner, N. (2014). Analyzing the roles, activities, and skills of learning technologists: A case study from City University London. American Journal of Distance Education, 28 (2), 92- 102
Mitchell, K.,Simpson, C., & Adachi, C. (2017). What’s in a name: The ambiguity and complexity of technology enhanced learning roles. Facilitating social learning through learning design: A perspective of collaborative academic development in Proceedings of ASCILITE 2019, Toowoomba, Australia
Phipps, L., & Lanclos, D. (2017). Leading with digital in an age of supercomplexity. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 3(1), 1 – 11. https://doi.org/10.22554/ijtel.v2i2.22
Siemens, G, Dawson, S., Eshelmen, K. (2018). Complexity: A Leader’s Framework for Understanding and Managing Change in Higher Education, Educause Review, November/December