Value Learning Design not E-learning Design

Originally published in the Educational Technology & Change Journal.

I've been reflecting over the last few days on common questions I get asked as I go about my job as a Learning Technologist. Questions like "I don't have time to think about this" or "why should I use this?" come up a lot. It's clear to me now that a key skill in my role is to be able to respond to these questions effectively, in such a way as to cause the questioners to rethink their position and begin in open up to a new viewpoint. I can tell you now that this isn't easy. Here are some pointers:

- In my education context, the worst thing you can do is throw blame around. Talk about "what we need to do" rather than "it's terrible that we don't do."

- Another important point is don't just talk about the technology. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, in education in 2010 understanding of learning technology is low, so talking about technologies they don't have any experience of and don't know anything about is confusing and off-putting. Also, you want to be talking about processes and value they understand and can relate to. Further, it should always be about how the technologies fit into the bigger picture and it you just bang on about the ICT it's feel alien to their world.

- I also like to stress the the possible incorporating of learning technologies is an element of the learning design process. So, as an organisation, the key is to value learning design; to value giving time and space to reflect and think about how you teach. The potential use of learning technologies is part of this process in the sense that they exist as tools in the toolbox from which you pick and choose. I spoke about the tools in the toolbox metaphor a few days ago. Valuing learning design is key and it comes from the educators themselves and the management of organisations. So the subtle difference here is that you are NOT pushing e-learning because it ticks a box that needs to be ticked, but you ARE promoting good teaching and learning by engendering a culture of giving time and space to reflect on learning design.

- Yes, there is learning to be done. But I think a good quality educator should be prepared to continually learn and adapt. Learning and adapting is an important part of living.

- The change isn't so drastic. Learning online isn't different to learning offline. Learning is the same as it's been forever. Learning strategies may change as we have more options (more tools) but the end result is the same thing you have always been asked to deliver. All you need to do is understand how to work the new tools and, more importantly, understand the values behind each one.

Web 2.0/Social Media overview

I've created a presentation which gives an overview of Web 2.0/Social Media and framed within the structure I introduced in the post Structuring Web 2.0. I haven't been creating presentations in this way for long so my technique needs a bit of work.

Anyway, I thought I'd share it here:

Tools in the toolbox

Tools in the toolbox is a phrase I use a lot when I talk about learning technologies. The basic message I want to get across is that there's no imperative to use these new tools but you should at least know about them. I've been mulling over whether I can stretch this metaphor.

If you have a toolbox (which I don't really) I would guess that you would want to know how all the tools work. For any DIY job you don't necessarily need to use all the tools but you can make an informed decision about which tool to use if you know how they all work or at least what they are and what they do. As time goes by new tools come out and you have to adapt because that's how life works. Often new tools perform the same functions as the old tools so they act as alternatives. So learning about new tools is a fact of life. For education the toolbox is the toolbox for learnign design and the tools are the ways the educator can deliver the learning.

I will probably soften this slightly if ever I voice this metaphor so that it's less threatening but I think the bulk of this could be a useful way of explaining where learning technologies fit into education.