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Miles Metcalfe :: Blog :: The moving finger

April 12, 2007

I read a letter in the Guardian recently where a reader recounted their experience of a Quaker boarding house. It was a sociable place, and Friends took breakfast together. Except for one Friend who sat at a table on his own. The correspondent was naturally concerned, and went over to talk to the man. Fortunately, they spotted the small notice on the table in time, please don't talk to me, and left him alone. As Groucho Marx said, I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member. So what am I doing here?

Technological determinism is the top of a slippery slope. Take mobile phones and changing attitudes to promptness and punctuality amongst the young. It's too glib to say mobile phones have changed the way people plan their time. Do mobile phones make ad hoc lifestyle scheduling easier? Are teenagers just more slapdash and likely to use technology along their existing faultlines? Is the market for some of the affordances of mobile phones partly driven by the progressively more informal post-war culture? Just so stories are clearly insufficient to explain complex techno-socio-cultural changes. But something is afoot. Reality TV would be impossible without computers - disk-based video storage and transmission, desktop video editing. We can thank Final Cut Pro for Big Brother. It's not just TV programme formats - the broadcasting industry could well be out-competed by Google, Apple, or the "pirates". The newspaper industry in the US lies in ruins as Craigslist has soaked up classifieds revenue. The list goes on - everyone has their favourite examples, I'm sure.

Education isn't untouched by the changes technology is bringing about. From the galaxy of ringtones that marks the inevitably delayed start of a class to realtime fact-checking on Wikipedia in lectures. From Essays'R'Us to Rate my Professors, things have changed, and are changing still.

Did you follow the link to Shapiro and Hughes' piece? If you did, you'd be beginning to see why I'm here. (If you didn't, go back and check it out). It was written over a decade ago - and some of it still sounds pretty radical. It shouldn't. Not now we're living in the future where every phone is a smartphone, and every undergraduate has a laptop.

There are many in the Academy who struggle with email and Word. Many for whom the internet is nothing more than a vast, inaccurate, and unindexed encyclopaedia. There are others who are wedded to the corporate behemoths of user-hostile technology. They sign off the VLE/MLE subscription every year. They Shibbolise their journals as rest of the world backs OpenID. Then there are the Ebeneezer Goodes - the digital exceptionalists who shift more paradigms than Apple shifts iPods.

In short, like many people in the business, I take an Enlightenment view of education. I worry that institutions don't understand new technologies, and practitioners may never have heard of them. We run the risk of making ourselves irrelevant, or, worse, of failing to prepare our students for the world they'll inhabit. And if so, we fail in our mission.


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Blogs with Keywords: education, elearning, rant

Posted by Miles Metcalfe


Comments

  1. Hi Miles. Good to see you on site & thanks for a great introductory post. 

    "I worry that institutions don't understand new technologies, and practitioners may never have heard of them. We run the risk of making ourselves irrelevant, or, worse, of failing to prepare our students for the world they'll inhabit."

    This very much sums up one of the enduring edtech dilemas. And thanks for the link to Shapiro and Hughes - 1996!  

    Josie FraserEmerge info on Friday, 13 April 2007, 10:27 BST # |

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