Acquisition or Participation

Also published on the Educational Technology and Change Journal

When you think about the various options for using technology in teaching and learning there is a stark contrast between those that come from the Web 2.0 movement which are often free/easy to use; and those that come from the commercial software companies - expensive and often cumbersome. Overall, you can also draw a pedagogical dividing line between these two areas - acquisition or participation.

Acquisition is all about preserving what we have, transmitting the knowledge in the way we have done in formal education. I'm talking here about web conferencing system, Learner Management Systems (I mean the core products not the added on interactive stuff), Lecture capture systems. They are complex, bandwidth heavy and are usually accompanied by a manual or require expensive training and support.

Participation is about... well participation, collaboration, knowledge construction, all that stuff. The tools to achieve these are usually stand-alone, free, easy to use, graphically impressive, and have build in communities of support to draw on.

I wonder why this is. Perhaps it's because commercial companies know they can make money from building a product that fulfills what the customer wants rather than what some people think they should want; it might be that it's more natural to make a tool about communication and collaboration online than it is to build something that is all about preserving the face-to-face lecture, it's certainly easier.

Whatever the reason, it feels from where I'm sitting that acquisition stuff is made the priority. No matter what it costs we want technologies to preserve what we do already. Ok, there is all this collaborative stuff but we can think about later once I get my head around this LMS control panel!

I'm simplifying things of course. The divide isn't that stark and in reality you need a combination of both. What's interesting is that if ever we want evidence for the dominant pedagogical model we only need to look at how we are using technology. Despite all the affordances for collaboration and communication it's the transmission we want it for.