I don’t have a role in technology enhanced learning formally at my university. I wonder how many other people involved in the #BYOD4L course this week would say they have ‘developing our understanding of BYOD4L’ specifically on their work plan. This is a significant question for me personally and for ‘the cause’ of BYOD4L I think.
One of the claims, or at least hypothesises, for BYOD4L and smart devices is that they are disruptive phenomena and we should be considering their impact in terms of disruptive innovation. I whole heatedly agree with this position. Smart personal technologies, in my opinion, should challenge any assumption we may have about learning environments and many assumptions we hold about learner engagement and pedagogy. I would argue that this at last demonstrates how learners and teachers can reinvent their relationship to make it more rewarding and engaging. I want to refer back to this hypothesis in a minute.
But first, a bit about me.
I came into educational development in the early ’90s. My role then was as a courseware developer, making ‘monolithic’ CD ROMs, and the term of the moment was Resource-Based Learning. More or less, this became Reusable Learning Objects and currently we refer to this area as Open Educational Resources. And if you know anything about any of these you know they are not the same, just that they share a history. Along the way important themes have been and still are user-generated content and the recorded voice in learning. That’s my history. The role of technology and ‘media’ in university level teaching and learning. You don’t stick to that theme without being curious. As I have developed (in more than one sense), my scholarly and academic dimension has become a key driver that allows me to think creatively and critically about this field.
My role now is about academic innovation and professional development. That ‘innovation’ bit works on several levels: curriculum innovation; being a forward looking university; personal innovation in academic practice, etc.. Actually ‘forward looking’ is really helpful here.
So, back to the hypothesis – the importance of creatively and critically considering smart personal technologies as being disruptive (that is a very positive and constructive word for me by the way [see Clayton Christensen]). Should I, in my innovation role, leave BYOD4L to my TEL colleagues, to our IT people, to our Facilities people, to a small enclave of geeky academics (if they exist), to..? Who owns it? Should I leave it to them? Also look at the Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen). Christensen says in this video The Idea”The only way you can look into the future is to have a good theory.”
Look at that hypothesis above and you will immediately know (as if there was any doubt) where I stand.
- On a personal basis I’m not going to throw all that experience away. That’s the easy bit. I’m very clear about that.
- If BYOD4L sits with, or rather is identified with learning technologists or TEL teams it will be forever cursed by being perceived as for those people and the small percentage of academics who always have ‘got it’.
Let’s explore this second point.
Roger’s theory of the Diffusion of Innovation (2003) is problematic. It suggests, to put it crudely, that you and I ( the Innovators) and the Early Adopters will lead the way and all the others should eventually follow. It doesn’t say it will be easy, but the point is that if it’s good it will happen. Either it is taking a very, very long time (and a lot of money) or it is not turning out that way with the disruptive embedding of learning technologies at scale. I still see the same people coming forward to take part in the innovating with technology work, though many are retiring now and are being refreshed. But the problem in HE is that subject groups and Faculties tend, in my experience,bro hive off the difficult things to individuals. The ‘problems’ are side-lined or parked. It’s not just technology, it’s assessment, quality, student engagement, employability, and all the rest – anything you can give a name, put it in a box, treat it like a toy, manage it. But don’t give the problem (opportunity) to everyone because there’s only so much anyone can do. Impasse! The one speciality we all do have in HE! (It’s my birthday, I’m allowed to be bitter and cynical for a moment. Please do excuse me!).
OK, so what I am arguing for is a shared appreciation of the problem (opportunity) of BYOD4L. We must be careful not to put it into a box and protect it or, more to the point, want to own it exclusively. Whatever our role we must work out what our interest is and the compatibility of this interest with all the other people we know. That is the MELSIG philosophy and why collaboration is such an important topic. Always. We need to do everything we can to open discourse and keep it open. Even when filthy lucre comes on board (which is why I am so committed to being open. I am not religious but the only thing I remember from school, it seems, is the parable of the surmount on the mount and all that bread and fish that got shared. It’s that spirit that gives me my logic).
For me, this means thinking about and articulating my interest in all this. Let’s finish with a list. [It seems to be a habit in my blogging style]. Why I am passionately curious about and interested in BYOD4L in my professional role:
- informal learning – taking a student view of university, it is often the spaces between formal engagement that colour their learning experience (I am talking about learning, but the other things as well). The thinking, the personal challenge, the peer support, the sense of social presence, being part of something, becoming something (quick refs: Erault, Wenger, Kanu, Ku, Bryson, Trowler(s). Contact me for details);
- learning environments – this follows on, but if I ask people to tell me about learning environments, people usually respond with “Well we have lecture theatres and classrooms and we have Blackboard/Moodle.” Yes, anything else? “Labs. And the artists use studios I suppose.” Anything else? Etc, etc. When you stop and push most people appreciate the range of different formal spaces (doors with different labels), but don’t necessarily get close to thinking about personal and interpersonal engagement, and the cognitive, psychological or social dimension of learning spaces. They might think about modern looking seating layouts representing an injection of cash (CETL legacy) but they don’t picture the learner being and becoming, and their associated identity and feeling;
- innovation – as already noted, innovation is a complex thing (!). It works on so many levels and from the academic’s perspective can fall into the “well I’d like to, but I’ve got a job to do”. In order words, behaving differently, or enhancing practice, are often understood as bolt-on and not integral to the academic role. (And if I’m talking about academics I could be talking about anyone with a professional role in university, or about the university and it’s constituent parts). Scholarship and CPD are really the academic dimensions to this for staff who teach or research. Not research, but scholarship. It’s about staying fresh, relevant and keeping up with all dimensions of the academic role. It’s not really optional or an add on. To be a good academic you need a scholarly dimension underpinning your practice (hence Professional Recognition and the importance of the UKPSF and Vitae). So innovation isn’t technology or BYOD/Smart learning, but these things and others create context for innovative practice.
- etc, etc.
So I do know what it’s got to do with me (and there’s more). It’s is very much to do with me. I think it’s very much to do with you too. Would you spend spending a few minutes writing down a list like mine that explains why it is to do with you?
Bass, R. (2012). Disrupting ourselves: the problem of learning in higher education. EDUCAUSE Review, 47(2), March/April. Online at: http:www.educause.edu/ero/article/disrupting-ourselves-problem-learning-higher-education.
Christensen, C. (2013). The Innovator’s dilemma: when new technologies cause great firms to fail. New York: Harvard Business Review.
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusions of innovation, 5th edition. New York: Free Press