The argument for slowing down…

I’m preparing for my keynote this afternoon at the AECT conference in Indianapolis and it got me wondering about how ‘new’ each talk should be. For normal talks I think it is good to focus on something, report on new findings from a project, etc., but a keynote has a different purpose. It is more about providing a big picture of currant issues, for me these are around the use of digital technologies for learning, teaching and research. It’s good to align the talk to the conference themes, my talk is entitled ‘Slow and fast learning with contemporary digital technologies’, which aligns, I hope, with the conference theme on ‘Accelerate learning – racing to the future’. My outline is:

       Education 2020

       E-learning timeline and emergent technologies


       Facets of e-learning


      Mobile learning

      Social media

      Digital identity and literacies

      Distributed cognition

And then I conclude by arguing that we need to slow down; digital technologies offer us a multiple number of ways of interacting, communicating and collaborating, resulting in a speeding up of our connection with materials and others. Access to rich resources, tools and expertise is great for learning, there is no doubt about that, but a core facet of learning is the need to appropriate knowledge, to align with existing understanding, to apply to new contexts and perhaps most importantly to reflect on our learning. This, I would argue, takes time and is at odds with the nature affordance speed of digital technologies. So I end the talk by making an analogy between the slow food movement and slow learning.

Slow food movement

Slow learning movement

     Reaction against the increase in fast food

     Defending regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life

     Reinvigorate people’s interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us


     Promoting deep learning in the context of a broad curriculum that recognises the talents of all students

     Quality of the educational engagement between teacher and learner is more important than judging student ability by standardised tests

     Importance of quality, creative teaching which enables students to think independently and cope with the challenges of life today


We need to figure out as teachers and as learners how to harness the affordances of digital technologies and make the most of being part of a rich global community of resources, tools and peers, as well as fostering the best aspects of learning. I would welcome thoughts on this! A version of my slides are on slideshare. 

I think the concept of slow learning has a lot to offer and I am interested in seeing how it can be instantiated and how digital technologies can be used. This is something I would like to explore with colleagues at Bath Spa University over the coming months.

4 Responses to “The argument for slowing down…”

  1. Margot Says:

    Thanks so much for this insight of time. Have thought this to be so for a while, but colleagues counter with how we can learn so much more now. Having taken a number of condensed courses and come to the end wondering what I’d really gained, I wasn’t so convinced about how much I’d learned. Indeed, there were reflection exercises, but done on such a short timeline that the reflection was more of a knee jerk response. Affordances of technologies offer so much in building breadth and depth of learning but maybe too often there’s emphasis on reaching a pinnacle in the shortest time possible instead of thoughtful foundations.

  2. Marta Fondo Says:

    Thank you very much for this reflection. I have also been working on defending the necessity of slowing down the “fast learning effect” we are suffering nowadays. We are not giving time to the learners to embrace all the learning changes and new technologies. Racing to the future can lead us to crash. Maybe would be better to bring about an evolution instead of a revolution.

  3. Carolina Says:

    Nice to read your post Grainne,
    Have you read the blog about slow learning?
    I haven’t read it in detailed, but some time ago I skimmed through it and at least the following post matches with your current reflection:
    I am subscribe to the “slow” movement in several aspects of my life, including learning. The main reason is I need to be in harmony with the fact that I am a mortal, meaning every single human being has its own pace.
    However, in my opinion the problem of “speed” goes beyond education, but in a society pressed by an economical system in which ALL must be done by yesterday.
    The system, imho, is very complex. Interesting times we are living.
    Take care and keep enjoying the Sunday,
    - Carolina

  4. Gráinne Says:

    Thanks for the link Carolina!

Leave a Reply