Reflections on change

After talking to others who attended ALT-C and those who followed the Twitterings it became clear that there was a feeling from those who have been involved in Learning Technology for over the last 5 years that some things haven’t  changed and many discussions covered the same areas that have been discussed at the last few events.  How do we put a fine line under past technologies when they are still being considered by institutions as new? What discussions do we want in their place?

This issue can be demonstrated by a local college that has just implemented a VLE, while others have been running one years.  How do we support both colleges? Do we ignore the late adopters and expect them to read through the experiences of those before them? Where would they find that information and how do they know what is relevant to them? Would the public information be truly representative of what happened? Plus people are often happier to talk about failures face to face than put that information online for all to see.

Lots of questions leap to mind, including: Should there be an embargo at conferences so that they present only on using technologies introduced in the last year, but how would we be able to tell then what a successful implementation looked like? Have institutions themselves taken the “fun” out of learning technology with lack of investment in infrastructure and by blocking tools such as Wikis, Blogs and Twitter? Can we really spend more time talking about what is mainstream technology when the need to change is more important than ever? How can we get back to embracing the new, the wacky, and the exciting?

I believe that a lot of this can be down to culture, the lack of “need” to change, this can be seen at the perspective of a member of staff or a learner (as demonstrated in a recent post) and the lack of investment in infrastructure. What incentive does a lecturer have to use new technologies when rooms don’t have projectors and internet access, and learners can’t connect to the institutions network other than for simple web browsing? How many institutions can truly say that they have developed an infrastructure that allows, and more importantly supports,  teaching using technology choices up to the individual teacher (or learner)? This might be the two main points – supporting teachers and learners and giving responsibility to the individual. Tutors often see the choice of tools as confusing (as demonstrated in recent JISC projects WBL-Way and WBL) and can often blame technology with problems that could be to do with processes or data, which can turn them off from using anything new until it is fully proved in other institutions. I have hope for Enable here, that we can at least address some issues around processes and data, enabling (sorry!) staff and learners to use technology to support their work, giving them time to look at how other, new, technologies can support their teaching/ learning with the assistance of blogs and twitters from colleagues around the world.