book_heart_blueThere is a better balance yet to be achieved – between technology and learning in higher education (well K-16 education for that matter). I don’t believe we are there yet.

There is a lot of “technology talk” these days….. technology training, technology tweets, technology blog posts, technology spending, technology conference keynotes, technology hype, technology expenses, technology hardware and software, technology problems and solutions, technology design of online courses, technology institutional plans, technology competencies, technology tools and on and on ….these all seem to flood our mailboxes, Twitter accounts, news outlets and websites these days. One conference after another seems to pop up on topics such as open education, blended learning, MOOCs, data analytics, software, learning management systems, higher education technology initiatives  – most of them focused on technology in education. One hot topic after another seems to be about technology in higher education – is it sustainable, are there enough funds, how will institutions keep up, is there enough bandwidth?

For faculty who are just trying to get their heads around good teaching and learning in the classroom – all this information on technology seems to overshadow the discussion of design of solid learning experiences for students (aka good pedagogy). For faculty who don’t have strong competencies in technology, the deluge of technology information can be extremely overwhelming and daunting and cause undue stress. For new faculty who are trying to figure out where to start with their courses and lesson plans, technology can be seen as the ‘push of the moment’ or the ‘tool to have’ to use in the classroom. For faculty who are trying to engage with the students of today, they are acutely aware of how much technology permeates their lives, but are unsure how to best use it within the discipline and for optimal student learning.

The balance isn’t there – I feel it is weighted too much on the technology side. Even I am attempting to move the focus, the efforts and the time spent on technology – to what we should see more tweets on, what we should see more blog posts on, what we should see more articles in magazines and scholarly publications….and that is designing learning experiences for optimal cognitive, affective and physical learning…. meaningful learning, deep learning, experiences that are sustainable, engaging and contributing to life long learning. I will just come out and say it…I want to talk more about learning, read more about learning, and achieve more balance with teaching and learning – and technology only when it is appropriate.

Running a teaching and learning centre (which includes multi-modal learning tools -blended/online, the educational technology tools, learning management system, video streaming and blogging systems etc…)…..it will seem that all we are about is technology ….and faculty and administrators would not be wrong. The greatest number of staff I have are all technology-focused. The budget is spent mostly on technology licenses and technology staff salaries. Our learning innovation and teaching enhancement grants typically support purchases of technology tools as requested by faculty. Our conversations tend to mostly be around technology – systems, service, support and student requests. When merging three centres (teaching/learning, educational technology and online learning) you tend to focus on the ‘fires’ and where the issues are and they were all in technology. The servers, the software, the access, the infrastructure….it was all about technology as that was where the urgent matters were – still are.

Quite simply, the balance to more teaching and learning needs to happen…..everywhere. I think we are missing the boat here – we need to have more conversations, more resources, more time spent on helping faculty be good teachers first and foremost. The technology talk can come second, but the foundation has to be around designing learning experiences (the how, the why, the what and the when). Too often the hype and the talk of MOOCs, social media or blended learning or what have you tends to focus more on the technology… and I see a small fraction of educators talking about the design of the asssessments, the learning activities and the reasons for learning first.

class_discussion_studentsWe need more conversation about topics like this:

Don’t get me wrong. I have a strong comfort level with technology and support its use in post-secondary education. I’ve been part of two all-mobile (laptop) universities and know the benefits and strengths of when to use technology and how to do so as a tool for learning.  However, the majority of educators today (and many at post-secondary institutions) need support, resources and guidance in how to design a good course, put together a solid lesson plan and know how to constructively align learning for students from outcomes to assessment to teaching and learning strategies. This must happen first – long before you can start the technology talk, the tweets and the conferences. I want to bring more balance to the learning and technology scale.