Archive for January, 2018

In conversation…

Friday, January 5th, 2018



I really enjoyed the ‘in conversation’ session with Gregor Kennedy and Matt Riddle in December at Melbourne University. This post summarises the structure of our conversation and some of the key themes. Gregor was chairing the session and focused the conversation around three themes:

  • Disruption rhetoric
  • Automation rhetoric
  • And digital being both the disruptor and the solution to the disruptor

He suggested that the technological de jour are the leading lights and highlighted four important aspects:


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Learning Analytics
  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality

However he argued that when we wander through history we can see the same tone, the same tenor, the same hype, the same hyperbole. Pointing to past hypes that failed to deliver, such as the information superhighway and the digital revolution, interactive multimedia, social media, mobile learning and most recently MOOCs. He posed the question, are we seeing something new here … is the current argument, commentary about digital disruption real and are we really on the cusp here? Or are we hearing the same again … a re-run of the digital revolution re-named as digital disruption?


He introduced the session by stating that it was about the role that technology has played in Higher Education in the past, where we have come from, and what we can learn from it. What we know about it how to design and use technology for teaching, learning and assessment. And what the future holds in terms of its future use. How do we negotiate the hype, side steps fads and move to harnessing the real value of digital technologies in higher education?


The following are the questions he planned to cover, but of course we went off task ;-)


We often hear about the transformation power of technology … Do you think technology has had a genuinely transformational impact on higher education? Now I am not interested in the technology of the pencil … or the wireless for that matter. But let’s say since say the rise of the personal computer … has there been a digital transformation in teaching and learning?


What about the whole online learning revolution … again you would both know this terrain pretty well. I remember online subjects that Matt designed in Law from when I started in this game. After decades what do we know about how online learning works and why?


In addition to Disruption we often hear about … UNBUNDLING of education … what is this and what are the implications for the way in which Universities — no departments, course coordinators and teaching staff — operate?


I hear it that leaning design is important in our use of technology and we are well-versed in the truism that we should be “pedagogically-led” with our use of technology … but taking a more techno-centric approach  … what are some of the technologies that are here now … that are being used .. maybe in early stages or in pilots … that you think are exciting … and why ?


Finally I am interested in the juxtaposition of digital technologies and notions of access, speed, anytime anywhere, mobile learning chunks – makes me feel like vomiting – binge learning. The “speed” and “networked” rhetoric is almost synonymous with the digital revolution in education. This for me … and I know for others… perhaps runs counter to ideas about education being contemplative, reflective, considered … maybe even slow. Do we need a more explicit conversation about a slow education movement akin to the slow food movement.


Below are some of the key points I made:


  • There are now a rich variety of ways for learners to communicate, collaborate and interact with multimedia resources. 
  • We are seeing the increasing importance of mobile devices and the need for technology-enhanced learning spaces.
  • We are seeing the impact of OER and MOOCs on traditional educational offerings and the unbundling of education.
  • We need to recognised the importance of utilizing Learning Design and Learning Analytics to enhance the learner experience.
  • There is evidence of the increasing impact of open practices on learning, teaching and research.
  • We are teaching students for an uncertain future to do jobs that don’t even exist today, we need to move beyond knowledge recall to teach them the skills and competencies they need to be lifelong learners, such as critical thinking, problem solving and team work.
  • Teachers and learners need to develop academic digital literacy skills to harness the power of technologies.
  • We are seeing the emergence of tools for Curriculum Mapping, such as the work being done at CSU, QUT, Deakin and Woolongong.
  • Pedagogical patterns coupled with Learning Design support tools can be used to make more effective use of digital technologies. Interesting work being done by Open Learning on this.
  • Technologies have sped up the way we interact and it is arguable that there is a need for slow learning, analogous to the slow food movement.

This was a very enjoyable and lively session, a nice relaxed format to explore some of the key challenges we face in education.