Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning and the Future of Technology in HE

Earlier this week I gave at keynote a the Embracing Technology Enhanced Learning Forum  in London. The event was organised by Inside Government who brought together a wider range of speakers from across the sector to talk about a range of ways technology is not only being embraced by HE, but is well and truly embedded into practice.

I was there in my capacity as Chair of ALT and it was lovely to share “the stage” with fellow Trustee Peter Bryant and also to hear from our current Learning Technologist of the Year, Chrissi Nerantzi. Maren Deepwell our CEO was also in attendance and she has written a very useful overview of the day with her reflections.

I was asked to speak about the future of technology in HE, with particularly in light of the TEF.  Events in the recent UK Government cabinet reshuffle gave me a really nice in, around the dangers of predictions and the transient nature of seemingly important metrics.  The new Minister for Education may not be as concerned with the TEF as his predecessor, and a review of HE might be of more importance in his future to do list.

So in my talk, I took a leaf out of Audrey Watter’s book, and asked the audience to think about the the hype and reality of predictions particularly around technology and the stories we tell and get told to us about educational technology.   I also took the opportunity to highlight the results of the ALT annual member survey, which is a really useful source of data about the concerns of the learning technology community. All the date from the surveys are also openly available.

In terms of our future now, and immediate future present, VLEs, electronic assessment and feedback, and collaborative tools are key priorities and have been for the last three years.  Now, whilst many may shake their heads in despair, wondering why the prediction of “the VLE is dead” hasn’t come to pass. I have to take more pragmatic and practical stance. VLEs have been embraced by the sector, they provide a key platform to engage and manage interactions, groups and assessment and feedback.   What I think we need to be celebrating is the importance of collaborative tools. They are want allow great flexibility for both staff and students within and outwith the University and the VLE.  We need to creating and sharing more stories around that.

The other key thing I wanted to highlight in terms of embracing technology and being able to increase staff and students digital confidence and capabilities is the need for staff development. Again and again in the ALT survey the most important enabler for technology adoption and use is people. Staff development is key,  and initiatives such as CMALT  are a fantastic way to reflect and share use of technology.

So the only prediction I was, and still am, willing to make as part of my presentation is that the future of technology in HE is about people. What we do with it, how we share how we use it and how we create and share our narratives. We shouldn’t have to sit and listen to vendors telling us what our future is;  why myths such as learning styles will make any kind of technology more useful and engaging for students and ergo their profit margins.  We need to embrace the future on our terms, with our priorities, our data and our knowledge and expertise.