3 min read

e is for everything

e is for everything

Tom Whitby's useful post outlines a plea to remove the technology aspect from the debate about education and learning. He asks the question,

"When will we reach a point where we will discuss education, teaching and learning without having to debate technology?"

To be honest, it's the fascination with the shiny that drives even this sort of conversation. Conversations in which we discuss the validity of the letter 'e' in e-learning.

Because of the nature of our profession, we project some measure of pedagogical validity onto the 'e' in an effort to rationalise our conversations. We then use this fascination to justify our roles in shaping, leading and creating those conversations.

Conversations that we refer to as "professional development" and "conferencing".

As a culture we're constantly looking for the latest and greatest, and Apple, Google, Microsoft and every startup coming out of the block, is selling us the world on that basis - that the new is the future.

Therefore we'd better prepare our students for the future, because otherwise they'll fail.


Because in 2008, as a profession who knew this fact, we were all preparing our students for a future in which learning would be delivered by tablet devices.

Weren't we?

Mainly we weren't... because Apple didn't release the iPad until 2010.

Most of the time the new of Apple, Google, Microsoft isn't the future, it's their future they want you to buy into, because without that buy-in from enough consumers, they don't exist.

If anyone is following the current discussions at the SXSWedu conference - it's all about shiny technology and startup mentalities and new ways of doing things.

It's a whacky-baccy mix of culture, entertainment, corporate sponsorship, startup breathlessness, and vacuous spouting of a veritable truckload of nonsense.

Nolan Bushnell's talk was: Education & Gaming and included these pithy soundbites via @audreywatters:

  • "Within 5 years learning will be 10x faster"
  • "If you're good the market will reward you."
  • "We have adaptive flashcards based on brain science"
  • "It's like Wikipedia meets Zynga"

All of this means nothing - but we accord it everything.

The tweet that summed up the ethos and the emperor's new clothes-like nature of this whole mess for me was:

"Content development teams. I can see how that will work. But I can't see how to get the money for it yet"

I can only assume that this is the theme tune for all of this edu-tech ethos.

Learning, the actual learning process is simple connections taking place. For every "shiny-eureka-running-down-the-path-naked" connection, there's a thousand simple, unadorned, non-shiny ones.

All of those connections that as a process amount to people making sense of, and shaping the world around them. A process we call life. And/or learning.

In the case of Archimedes, the process of taking a bath while pondering a problem.

Here in NZ, one of the main professional development initatives has had a name change. What was the "Blended e-learning Programme" is now the Learning with Digital Technologies Programme " Arguably this is merely semantics - because behind the name the same processes apply.

I don't mean that it's just a rebranding exercise, but that those processes will continue to reflect current practice, past experience, teacher input and ongoing conversation.

Namely, learning.

But we as a profession surround ourselves with gobbley gibberish - like this from SXSW:

  • "To create smarter demand we have to invest in the capacity of our schools & teachers by teaching user-centered design"
  • "Games are addictive, we need education to be addictive”

... we miss the point.

As Whitby makes the point in his conclusion:

Educators need to be digitally literate and that doesn’t happen on its own. It takes an effort.

An effort that requires us as educators to be critical and conscious consumers, to articulate what it is we want to achieve with our students, and to pay attention to the regular and ongoing processes that allow us to foster their learning.

The 'e' bit that we call 'electronic' is part of that conversation - but it's just one part in everything that we do as teachers and as learners.

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