Thumbs down for educational technology?

It is exactly 30 years ago today that I took delivery of my first personal computer. It was an Apple Macintosh, and it had an incredible 1 megabyte of RAM and, er, no hard drive. A week later I produced my first computer-generated presentation for my industrial relations class, which however I had to print out on acetates in order to display the slides on an overhead projector. For me, technology-enabled education had begun. Colleagues looked on in admiration.

We have of course come a long way since then. Nowadays every higher education curriculum in any institution will feature a truckload of technology-enabled learning, the assessment of which is then crunched on various data programs to produce good-looking spreadsheets to please any board of examiners.

But is it adding value to the learning experience? No, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by Inside Higher Education. Or rather, not necessarily. Academics seem to value the opportunities for innovation provided by technology, but are sceptical as to whether the accumulated data gathered by IT systems is being used appropriately; or whether the quality of the learning experience is being much enhanced. They suspect that technology is deployed more to impress those evaluating institutions than to help students.

We must not be Luddites: educational technology is here to stay. But it must be used properly, and for the right reasons. This must mean in particular that the design of technology must be driven by academics rather than administrators, and must target the student experience and pedagogy rather than efficiency of processes. And there must be a clear understanding of how standards are affected – for good or bad – by online methods.

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4 Comments on “Thumbs down for educational technology?”

  1. Vince Says:

    What do you see as being delivered effectively on-line. Me, I think languages can be dealt with that way, or at least the basics. I think processes in low maths can too. Where it fails is in the finesse. And I suppose the lack of published and current materials that can be used without a vast cost.

  2. paulmartin42 Says:

    Death by PowerPoint has evolved into boredom via Blackboard. In between the one-to-many economies of scale of lectures and the Oxford tutorial are many roads paved with IT systems and potholes.

  3. NiallW Says:

    It seems in many cases the data gathered by IT Systems is not being shared with academics though I expect it needs both analytical tools and a simple interface to use. We are still early in the days of ‘big data’ with both ethical and technical issues to be resolved,

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Maybe we should work more with the students to find a solution. After all, they are the customer of these institutions, and if their needs aren’t being met, the schools aren’t doing their job!


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