My big TEL question

4 Apr

Just how important is technology to teaching and learning?


As I look at this question, two things strike me. Firstly, it’s a very big question! I hope the ocTEL course might help me to establish where I stand on the issue. This leads to my second observation: it might appear from this question that I dislike, or doubt the value of learning technology.

This is not the case. I love new technologies: I love finding out how new tools work, what others believe they can offer and what I feel I can do with them. But exciting new tools are nothing without effective teaching practice and this, at times, is forgotten in the techno-joy which drives us TEL-enthusiasts. It’s easy to be excited about the ‘power’ or capacity of a new technology, but are we sometimes guilty of going straight into questions about how to get academics and students to engage with it, before we properly consider its actual pedagogical value? Earlier today I read this article on the ‘power’ of Twitter to reach people all over the globe: this is something I love about all forms of social networking, but if ‘power’ implies the capacity to effect change I fail to see how this aspect of Twitter is intrinsically empowering, particularly in an educational context.

So my question should perhaps be this: what do learning technologies allow us to achieve in teaching and learning that could not be achieved without?

For me, the debate on the value of TEL ties in with broader social narratives about the importance of technology in our everyday lives. In education, the discourse goes that we must use new technologies that our students increasingly expect: yet at the same time we discuss ways to improve staff and students’ information literacy, so this cannot be the whole story. It seems we are simply living in an age where, for a multitude of complementary reasons, technology is being increasingly integrated into all aspects of human life, including education. The fact that we do not fully understand this process is, I believe, justification for returning regularly to my big question.


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