It was suggested to me yesterday by a senior manager that we should not focus on the new and emerging technologies that only 5% would embrace but stick to the ‘basics’. Unfortunately the ‘basics’ do not include the new and emerging tools and applications that provide ease of mastery, or which enable multimodal spaces for creation, engagement and collaboration… instead think LMS, anti-plagiarism and assessment.
It’s a depressing state of affairs that promulgates antiquated teaching practice and unengaged learners.
But even where contemporary applications are promoted and supported there is poor take up. Why?
In some cases support mechanisms are ineffective, in others there is lack of policy level encouragement, lack of time, lack of resources, etc etc – an endless list of excuses that does not explain why a small number DO take up new approaches and opportunities. Even in an ideal context where excellent applications are carefully chosen, and time and resources are allocated to mentoring staff in their use I suspect take-up would remain low.
I’m starting to wonder if the key issue comes down to culture and personal philosophy.
The underpinning philosophy behind many of the contemporary learning applications is openness. They support a collaborative learning community that positions the learner as a valued content creator; that values sharing, discovery, connections, opinion, reflection, partnerships. Unfortunately however openness and collaboration are threatening and foreign to many educators. They are not a part of their lives and they are not a part of their teaching practice. It’s a very difficult task to live one set of values and to cast them aside at the workplace gates.
In higher education academics are part of a system that dictates the PhD hurdle be jumped to obtain permanency; a PhD that in essence requires secrecy and non-collaboration lest ideas be stolen and which results in a piece of work that is read by 1.8 others. Without knowledge of contemporary education practice they lecture, providing content and grading papers. They teach as they were taught in a system that prizes paper publications and revenue generation, not which celebrates and expects innovative teaching. So presented with, and trained in the use of, social media/software spaces and applications the focus is on two things: content and assessment. Wikis look good (if kept private) because they allow PDF uploads or easy authoring of lecture notes and are used for such until the users is lured away by LMS assessment and grading admin functionality. Blogs and podcasts (if kept private) might be used to post concepts. FlickR is used to illustrate course content (we’ll use the work of others but not put anything back). And that’s as far as it goes until told that you can do all of those things together in one place via the LMS and its automatically private – no risk, no exposure.
The few that do embrace new applications and approaches I suspect live that life of openness and collaboration. They gravitate towards technology that supports their core values; that position learners to embrace (or at least be exposed to) what they themselves are passionate about; a different way of living.
How can the minority reculture the majority? Should they? The developers of collaborative/ social applications and open content, and the few that can model effective use, are change agents. They are laying at the feet of the masses a new approach to life and learning and working but what does it take to value what is offered in its entirety?
CC FlickR image by anmuell