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SACRAO 2013 - Letters from America 8th Feb

This is my last venture at blogging from the SACRAO 2013. Having considered how the conference is organised along with the differences between the US and the UK culture, I have spent some time thinking how to conclude my ‘Letters from America’ slot!

After a little thought, I have decided to focus on the thorny issue of technology convergence. It crossed my mind in one particular session, that technology had the potential to be an amazing change agent when handled correctly. So, I thought this blog would look at the pros and cons in its introduction within the education environment. So here goes with my third ramble…

The power of technology to streamline the business processes is good. As a technocrat, I can see how the potentials of technology can transform business processes. For professional services to push for students to manage their course information, timetables, accessing resources such as e-books, uploading coursework, class information all via technology supplied by the institution is… cool. That is my starting point. I see how technology can save time, effort and supplies students the information they need instantly so they can manage their study, all very efficiently. A presentation at SACRAO described how one institution introduced a new scheme supplying iPads to their students, to do just this very thing. As a confessed technocrat, you would assume this would delight my core beliefs.

Technology in education has had a revolutionary effect on the delivery of learning. The development of educational technology within the learning environment has transformed how to impart knowledge and engage with students, to stimulate their learning. It has afforded educationalists to shift the students learning experience from passive reciprocates of knowledge to using experiential learning through alternative teaching methods. This has been very successful especially in the delivery of social studies learning. My favourite example is the teaching of communication (listening and responding) skills where the experiential approach using alternative teaching methods moves the theory into practise, controlled within a safe environment. The didactic delivery of knowledge through a formal style delivery to an eclectic learning environment has been achieved in schools, all due to the inventive use of educational technology by the teacher, combined by having taught the teacher to use new educational techniques.

The presentation at SACRAO made a claim that through the provision of iPads to the students, they had encouraged the academic staff to change how they taught. They reported the introduction of tablet technology facilitated the academics to move from the traditional lecture to ‘ripping the lecture’. This is where the lecturer records their session and posts this to the students via the institutions VLE, releasing the lecturer to support, mentor, answer questions during the actual timetabled lecture session. They stated,

Have you wondered how to address the growing needs of the millennial student without flying over the heads of your employees??? One institution’s initiative to integrate technology into the classroom resulted in a campus-wide transformation of both the staff and faculty.”

Personally I hear a couple of alarm bells ringing!

Who is leading the horse here? Is it not the academics that decide how best to deliver content? I’m sure there are directors of learning and teaching across the country investigating how, where and when such innovation should take place. The considerations on any future transformation of teaching should be driven by the curriculum, not through a by-product of an administrative strategy. Are our lecturers actually prepared for this shift that technology is creating; do they have the teaching skills to successfully utilise new teaching methods that result from the introduction of this type of teaching provision?

I feel there is a real risk that the availability of this type of technology in the classroom without supporting the teacher in using new teaching techniques will create problems which could well damage the students HE experience and more importantly, their learning.

The introduction of new technologies to support the administrative process that is part of the student journey is commendable and probably very cost effective. Please do not sell the idea that it will transform the delivery of education, or if you do, please ensure the academics receive the appropriate training and support needed. I suspect a large number of experienced and professional academics, do not necessarily have the skill set to monopolise the new learning environments this technology enables.

All a personal thought. I know up and down the UK, institutions are supplying academics involved in teaching with in-house courses on many of the teaching techniques needed to compliment the potentials of ‘ripping the lecture’. However at this time where ‘what students want’ and the Governments view on what constitutes ‘contact time’ are predominant, any universal supply of institutionally supported iPads or other tablets to students, could well have a negative effect.

My advice is… tread carefully.

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