A train wreck

Virtually met up with a bunch of friends last night and the talk eventually turned around to education technology implementations in colleges, universities and other teaching organisations. Here are some of the thoughts.

Education technology. Some people feel uncomfortable with that term. Education technology. It is just technology. Education technology has been around for a long time now. In recent years there has been much hype about education technology. It is like a journey on a train, an education technology train.

Many organisations and individuals have jumped on the education technology train. Some of these individuals are driving the train but the trouble is they do not know the destination and they have no idea where the train came from in the first place. They announce, “all aboard”, blow the whistle “toot! toot!” and the train begins its journey, rattling along the tracks, with no stops along the way, to a destination unknown.

What will the passengers on this train journey think? Can they alight, change trains and consult a map so that they at least have an idea of the destination, know where they are headed and take a rest from time to time to reflect on the journey so far? Do they have a say on the route for the journey? Will they reach the destination? Are they headed for a train wreck?

Decision makers in education control the budgets and the vision. They need to pay closer attention to what is actually happening and not accept the situation at face value. Decision makers should understand the technology. Not just be users. They should be able to grasp, mould and work the technology so that it seamlessly facilitates the desired teaching and learning outcomes. The technology should be rendered invisible and not be deployed as a gimmick or a marketing point.

Technology implementations are being effected in education where an understanding of the technology is not a core function of the equation. It is simply usage. There is a profound lack of depth in the decision making process in some instances. In some education sectors technology implementations are being driven, in part, by marketing considerations and the unforeseen availability of funds. That is not education technology per se. It is marketing technology. It is driven by politics. There is no vision.

Technology implementations are taking place without a fundamental grasp of the whole process. The implementations lack research, stakeholder input (particular from the students) and  SWOT analysis. In some instances the students have not been consulted at all. In other instances the implementations copy and paste implementations elsewhere.

Ineffective and shallow software tools, particularly some online tools, are being promoted. Tools that were never designed with education in mind. The tools are promoted and it is the up to educators  to make sense of it all and endeavour to fit a square peg into a round hole. It does not always work.

In other instances content management systems are being deployed in a manner that is inefficient in terms of time management and ineffectual in terms of pedagogy. The learning content management systems are simply distributing content. No learning is taking place. They are content management systems. They are not learning activity management systems.

In short we all agreed that decision makers must understand the technology. They need to know the technology. Not simply use it.

Attribution: Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895. By Studio Lévy and Sons (Studio Lévy & fils) [2] ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.