Teachers and Technicians

EDUCAUSE (http://www.educause.edu/) always seems an interesting read. Though based in the US, and mainly focussed on the US, it encourages contributions from around the world, including developing countries. As a non-profit org. all of its publications are available online for free but this has not stopped it gaining a good name in the e-learning field – many well-known writers (e.g. for example Laurillard; Downes) are published there.

Jugovich and Reeves (2006) is particularly interesting and seems quite relevant to us at Leeds Trinity. They provide a short case study of a university in which ITS support technology, and the pedagogy is left to someone else. This would seem similar to our situation, though once could argue that Leeds Trinity sub-divides even further – ITS looking after IT; media services looking after media and someone else (?) looking after the pedagogy.

The authors make the point that this artificial division is not helpful:

During ITSS [their ITS] workshops, however, faculty began asking us how to teach effectively using technology tools (such as PowerPoint), in addition to questions such as how to animate a slide. Faculty recognized the need to combine instruction on using the tool with using it effectively for teaching. We realized that the organizational separation between ITSS and IDS [their pedagogical support] was artificial and, as technology became woven into the fabric of teaching, made progressively less sense.

The suggestion to weave IT skills with pedagogical skills during staff development makes sense. A more situated type of session, in which lecturers attending the session can actually learn new skills that they can make use of when preparing and teaching should increase engagement and the attainment of transferable skills.

So should ITS know more about the pedagogy so that they can show staff how to make use of the software for teaching and learning, not just “click this, click that”? Such an increased awareness of the pedagogical rationale for certain technologies would certainly help break down the “silicon curtain” between academic and technician – surely anything that allows colleagues to understand each other better is a “good thing”.

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