On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

UK Education resources : changes afoot

My usual mode of operation in the edu-game revolves around the annual round of production and feedback linked to the academic year. I'm looking ahead to future concepts right now, and it's around this time that I start trawling around the national resources. I've just spotted that the entity formerly known as LSTN has mutated into the UK Higher Education Academy.

The reason I'm looking here is to get a sense of what practitioners are doing with learning technology around the country. I'm suspicious that what I'm seeing is not representative of the best. Certainly sites the the UK HEA don't fit the zeitgeist of now, and more importantly my working practices. No attribution (Who are you guys?), no contribution (no comments boxes!), no RSS (what, none at all?). Too many empty strategy papers (aarrgh PDF!! arrgh dead URLs in the PDFs!!!) and out of date case studies.

An example, I came across an LSTN-branded working paper, in the Physical sciences subsite (why?), entitled Virtual Learning Environments stating that
The most basic form of asynchronous communication with computer technology is the use of email, where a message is sent and the reply is sent later i.e. asynchronously. So, all VLEs should provide at least basic email facilities.
What, university students don't have email they can use? Why are these dated papers still being circulated? Hasn't the community moved on in the last two years?

I suspect the valuable practical lessons are out there somewhere not being reported, at least not here. Back to the blogfields.

I'm ramping up my orbits around blogdom looking for inspiration. A very small sample can be seen in the sidebar of e-learning reports, an e-learning blog I'm involved with. I'm getting a consistent impression that the best learning technology practitioners, at least the ones who blog, are seriously struggling against two things.

1. Managerialism and corporate approaches to learning technology implementations. Example: teachers being required by directive or circumstance to use a particular VLE tool.

2. Directed experiences of the learner, i.e. prior programming of a student's responses at course-design time.

To some extent these two aspects support each other. Heavy tooling up leads to industrialisation of production, whereas the opposite models are also mutually supportive. Many commentators are advocating a pick and mix (a.k.a. the filling station model) toward both provider technology (blog, wiki, podcast, webpage, VLE if you must) and learner acitivity (browsing, using Google, emailing each other, discovery).

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