Who said learning technologies are (just) for learning technologists?

July 24th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

This is indeed an assumption many tend  to make when they are introduced to it. Is it because at the first sight it doesn’t seem to comply with the traditional ways of teaching? Is it because learning technologists sometimes may sound like geeks – when getting involved with social media in a rather overwhelming way? Is it because one doesn’t feel comfortable using these new media which are meant for our “kids”? Is it because one doesn’t care about new approaches that will make them “lose the expert” seat once again? Or maybe it is all/none the above… who knows…

The fact is that lately every conference I have taken part in, I always meet these brilliant minds who are thinking of doing something fantastic with educational technologies. They are usually people who either are developing a new piece of software or came up with this great idea to approach their practice differently. It also turns out that 9 out of 10 of those people I meet in these conferences call themselves Learning Technologists, Learning Technologies researchers, Lecturers in learning technologies, and so on!  Although there is nothing wrong with it, the fact is that we end up preaching to the choir; talking to those who have already perceived the potential and educational side of learning technologies. And all of a sudden everything seems so easy because our audience nods with conviction while we enthusiastically present about our topic. However, outside the conference building, our audience is not always like this.

We often come away from those venues reassured we have made important contributions to the educational world and that this will probably trigger more practitioners to follow our steps. In a way – YES – but we also tend to forget one thing: most times it’s researchers presenting research finding to other researchers. And although this is not bad, this is also not all we can do. Where are the teachers and all those lecturers who are preparing our youth to a future which more and more relies on technology? Well, they are probably attending and presenting at conferences of their own area of expertise, talking to other professionals who share the same interests and most probably the same kind of experiences. And this is not bad, but we can do better than this, especially at a time like this when we all seem to believe collaboration and cross-discipline cooperation is important.  Apart from the foreign language learning and teaching contexts of which I am part of, I don’t come across a great diversity of examples where learning technologies have been applied to the curriculum in a rather impressive way. Usually, I only come across new approaches by the same small group of  people. However, However, I am well aware that a wider variety of excellent practices exist both in number and diversity, and that there are lots of educators doing great stuff. The problem is that they tend to present the ideas and the results of their projects at conferences of their own subject, which is only fair. But more collaboration across sectors and disciplines is also desirable.

The example I am about to report is one of these cases.

The MSc in Advanced Occupational Therapy is a programme “totally delivered online” – so was it yesterday announced during the launch event of this new Masters programme hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care- University of Salford.

This programme has been a dream that after two years of hard workfinally come true.   – Angela Hook and Sarah Bodell – occupational therapy lecturers – have done a magnificent job by putting it all together. In their own words – two years ago they ”knew nothing about learning technologies and powerpoint hadn’t been part of their practice for that long either”. Today this seems hard to believe, if we bear in mind these two ladies have just projected and launched a magnificent programme which incorporates the latest approaches such as podcasting for content deliver and discussion trigger, blogs for reflection, wikis for peer collaboration, SL and Facebook for socializing and skype for personal tutoring, because in the end it is the individual who really matters! The student’s assessment will even be negotiated by students themselves!! How cool is that?

As Sarah stated yesterday in the launching ceremony, this programme aims at putting occupation in occupation therapy. She also emphasized their passion for learning and the awareness that in this new century new ways of pursuing further development have to be taken into consideration, in order to provide professional people with the opportunity to engage with the latest development in their field of practice and also get updated qualifications.
Angela also excelled with the way she presented the structure of the programme. Before emphasizing the learning approach mentioned above, she said the programme was aimed at anyone who wants to engage with it and they only need very little ICT skills to do so. As she put it, “if you know how to use word, if you can manage email and you use the Internet to search for information, then you will be able to do this, because you already master the hardest part of technology.” And I could only agree. The hardest part is to get started. Once you do, everything will become easier, all the time. And to reassure learners of that and also make sure they will be looked after, this programme will provide their students with a four week induction period where they will have a chance to try all the tools and overcome all the fears they might have while doing so. ANd all of this with the personaizedl support of a team. Is this something or what?

This is indeed a great initiative. It becomes even more relevant, when you think that this team has been working on this for quite a while now, engaging themselves with all the applications and technologies they decided to include in the programme. It is like the old saying: Don’t expect others to do, what you yourself are not ready to. And in this case I think they can expect a lot, because they are guiding – and inspiring I’d say –  by example.

They themselves have meaningfully engaged with the approach they are trying to pass on to others and they are doing a great job at it. Example of that is their blog which has already enabled them to collaborate with other practitioners in their area who just happen to be on the other side of the globe. They even have already had the chance to write a paper together and present with them at a conference dedicated to Occupational Therapy issues, of course!

I am sure there are many other great examples like this one out there. Like I said before, I know quite a few in the Language learning / Teaching field, but apart from that my knowledge is quite limited to the people I usually engage with. I would be interested in knowing about other instances of outstanding practice in many different areas.

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