A short thought about the pyschogeography of the VLE(s) in my life: #JuneEdTechChallenge

So ALT have a bit of an ed tech twitter challenge for this month with of course its own hashtag #JuneEdTechChallenge. Each day people are invited to share pictures, words anything really on a phrase, topic. For day one it its “the VLE in my life” – an endless source of discussion/debate/joy/frustration for anyone who has to use one.

I don’t have a particular VLE in my life anymore – one of the advantages of being independent. In a sense I wander around the digital landscape and work with any system that clients use. Ah, the freedom I hear you say. Well maybe not.

Today I was thinking about pyschogeography. I’ve come across this field quite late, but I am exploring it more in terms of my practice as an artist. However, as I was listening to Will Self give a short overview, I couldn’t help but think about it in terms of learning environments. One of the central notions of psychogeography is the notion of the “dérive” or the drift. The notion of one drifting around an environment, in a random, not planned way. Doing that in our physical spaces is actually quite challenging, but it’s darn near impossible to do in a digital learning environment.

Our paths and pathways are designed and structured, they impose directions, keep us enclosed, close down pathways and exit points to stop us drifting away from the platform/VLE. So whilst I may wander between different VLEs, ultimately when I am in any of them, they force me to stick to their structured paths. This reminded me of a session I was part of in OER17. I can only drift when I am in open spaces.

Probably much more thinking to do around this, but it’s all I’ve got time for today. What do you think? Do we need more drifting in our VLEs or do we need to provide as much structure as possible?

The angst of time, technology and VLE sediment #altc

As an additional #hashtag activities at this year’s #alt conference, participants were asked to use the hashtags #my #altc to highlight their “best bits” of the conference.

I had high hopes for the “are learning technologies fit for purpose?”  session, however despite Lawrie saying he didn’t want this to be a re-hash of “is the VLE debate” of a few years ago, it did seem to turn into a bit of VLE bashing, with the underlying inferences that learning technologies = VLEs and they weren’t fit for purpose.  I did have to have a bit of a rant at the direction of the discussion leading to #my #altc moment

screen shot of twitter message

(which did seem to go down quite well with the rest of the people at the session

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To VLE or not to VLE, that seems to always be THE question.  It is, imho, actually the elephant in the room. We have them, so can we just move on please.  It’s how we use them that’s important.  Martin Weller has a good post on the session too, and blame him for the VLE sediment phrase!

As all the keynote speakers either explicitly stated, our digital footprints, data and access are all changing.  Even our so called “learners 2.0” spoke about the ubiquity of technology in their lives but the scary moment when you have to use in “in the real world” in your job, in their case as they were trainee teachers, in the classroom. Confidence levels can swing dramatically from using digital “stuff” for your own purposes to when you have to use it in learning and teaching.  I know in my institution we have many new teaching staff who come directly from professional practice and their knowledge of “learning technology” is very limited, and based on their own experiences. What’s new there, I hear you ask dear reader. We know that all teachers just do what their favourite teachers did.  Well yes, but just now not everyone has had experience of blended, and or fully online learning. They are often still trying to figure it all out as well as cope with a very different working environment.

In the discussion the issue of time came up. Some people think this is a non starter as if someone wants to to do something,then they will make the time. Which is true to an extent. But, if staff member isn’t confident in using whatever their institutional VLE is, then the chances of them being able to find the time with increasing teaching loads gets smaller. New technologies (learning or otherwise) alone won’t solve this. If we want to create digitally confident learners and teachers we need to give time for digital experimentation and failure. A closed, (relatively) safe space such as a VLE is good place to start that.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post called “Living with the VLE dictator”, a year on my thoughts are much the same. However, I do see an opportunity to reframe the debate around people digital capabilities and use of (learning) technologies not just the technologies themselves.