The Anti-Racism & Learning Technology Community of Practice: Research Connected Activities -Part 3 of 4

Research into anti-racism in learning technology

Teeroumanee Nadan; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; Dominic Pates, City University of London; Jim Turner, Liverpool John Moores University; Katie Gardner, University of the Arts London

About the group

We are a subset of the larger group of members of ALT who have come together to think about how we can make changes in our workplaces, our work and our wider learning technology community. We have shared interests in conducting research which pays attention to the power structures and historical structural inequalities in workplaces. We understand that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. These include a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, sex, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parental status amongst others.

We recognise that a person’s membership of a professional identity group such as ‘researcher’,  ‘management’, ‘learning technologist,’ ‘HR professional’ can also affect how we are perceived by ourselves and by colleagues. Racism is a deep-rooted issue that is emotionally intertwined with emotions, stress and anxiety, which in a professional world, can easily lead to an unproductive team or even department, and sometimes even institutions.  Our own backgrounds and identities shape our interest and choices in championing anti-racist activities, whether that be as strident campaigners or as tempered radicals. 

We hope to carry out original research under the auspices of this group. In our meetings we have identified several areas of potential research and we would be happy to hear your suggestions for more, feel free to contact any of the working group members.

What is the gap?

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI)  leadership is an area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that they are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly diverse digital world. The experiences and attitudes of learning technology leaders to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion is key to institutions’ organisational culture and the context in which institutional vision, policy and strategy for digital education is developed and delivered.

The experiences of professional staff in universities is a growing area of interest to researchers as evidenced by several recent publications, but there are still only a few studies looking at professional groups and even fewer looking at diversity in universities’ learning technology communities. Universities, colleges and schools provide an interesting context for research into leadership in diversity because they are complex organisations in which both their diversity and their digital stance play a role in both their business and their contribution to wider society. In many parts of the UK, universities are one of the largest employers in any given city and the priority given by their senior management to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion will be reflected in the policies and practices experienced by their workforce and students.  

There are various sources of evidence which can be combined to improve strategic decision-making around diversity, inclusion and  anti-racism. These include: data from within organisations, research literature, professional expertise, and the views of key stakeholders. Of course, every organisation is different, and what works in one place may not work in another, so gathering case studies and stories will be important to capture the range of actions and activity in our sector. 

We hope, through undertaking research, to gain a better understanding of the nature of diversity within the learning technology community, the perceptions and experiences of learning technologists in relation to anti-racism and to help you become more aware of this issue and aware of the steps you might take individually, as a team or even as an institution.

Ultimately, we might hope to establish a visible and accountable set of equality and diversity actions tailored specifically to learning technologists. Perhaps you might want to join us on this journey. 

  • Data gathering to capture more detailed data about the population of learning technologists and how that relates to the institutions, roles and cities in which we work.
  • Myth-busting to challenge assumptions about our community and our work.
  • Telling personal stories.
  • Understanding the sphere of influence and power to make changes within our workplaces,  learning, teaching or research.
  • Mapping the landscape with examples of change leadership and of activism.
  • Exploring the literature to highlight examples that might help our practice to be more inclusive.
  • Tackling techno-racism by challenging choices and frameworks for decision making about technology which may have biases built in (facial recognition, racist/harmful algorithms, data population, usage of data, and filters among others).

Watch out the space for our next blog in June!

Short introductions

Teeroumanee Nadan has a cross-disciplinary doctorate and 15 years of experience in learning technologies. She is an EDI enthusiast and a firm believer in the use of complex technologies for complex analysis and reporting, and simultaneously advocates for simplicity due to her works with less-abled and neurodivergent users.  Find me on: LinkedIn | Twitter

Melissa Highton is the Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh and a researcher in the area of diversity and digital leadership. This is one of the emerging challenges for higher education leadership and management: that of ensuring that their digital leadership is diverse and inclusive.Find me on: LinkedIn | Twitter

Jim Turner is a Senior Learning Technologist in the Teaching and Learning Academy at Liverpool John Moores University and is interested in identifying more inclusive practices to improve teaching and learning.
Find me on: LinkedIn | Twitter

Katie Gardner is a Digital Learning Producer at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art, University of the Arts London. She is particularly interested in how the adoption and promotion of anti-racist and inclusive digital pedagogies in arts education can transform artistic practices and creative industries. Find me on: Twitter

Dom Pates is a Senior Educational Technologist at City, University of London. He has a long term interest in critical/ethical perspectives on the social uses of digital technologies, particularly in educational contexts. At City, he is currently exploring opportunities for decolonising the curriculum for business, law or STEM subjects. Find me on Linked In | Twitter


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