Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Post-digital provocations #4: 'in recovery from' the digital

I'm feeling lucky today. Just as i was preparing to write this final provocation and wondering 'what kind of recovery can I possibly offer?' a wonderful pdf landed in my intray. This report from the National Union of Students is called 'Radical Interventions in Teaching and Learning: How the partnership agenda can help create radical and inclusive learning spaces'. Alongside quotes from Paolo Freire and Nelson Mandela, it argues that:
  • a focus on students as consumers undermines the learning/teaching relationship, the ethos of collaborative knowledge-building and the capacity of learners to develop as human beings;
  • our current system of quality assurance in HE - driven by marketisation, standardisation, and human resource management - is measuring the wrong things and does not value radical, inclusive (or indeed any truly transformative) approaches to learning;
  • innovative technologies have a role to play but 'it is not the technology in itself that is transforming education and society; it is, rather, the creative ways in which people are using technology to educate and drive change'
  • 'We are moving towards a more open access environment, where access to research and teaching is more egalitarian, but also more open to abuse by market forces... the potential benefits of open and mobile access to learning resources could be marred by the profiteering of private providers or by the unfair exploitation of academic labour.'
You see how I just gave up summarising and started quoting. I am hoping to find out where this report is hosted so I can put in the link and you can read it in its entirety for yourself. I promise you, it will be time well spent.

Meanwhile, how does this tie in with what I originally planned to say today (my slides are here)? 

CC Perry McKenna: https://www.flickr.com/photos/63567936@N00/4585933619/
My main message was (and is) this: if 'post-digital' means attending to agendas other than technology in education, that is surely what we need to be. There are much more important and - frankly - interesting things for developers to commit ourselves to. The NUS report highlights one of them: post-compulsory education has lost the democratising aspirations it had - however weakly theorised they may have been - as recently as ten years ago. We must ask how our institutions redress rather than entrenching inequalities of opportunity and outcome. 'Inclusivity' is the term used in the NUS report. Inclusivity (and again I'm quoting because I can't put it any better) 'not only means that teaching and learning takes account of students’ diverse backgrounds, but that we should be embracing this diversity by valuing and utilising the many different capabilities, expectations, aspirations and prior knowledge that students bring to their course'. Now digital technology can play a role here. Some kinds of disadvantage can be positively addressed in digitally rich spaces, such as sensory and accessibility problems, and problems of confidence in speaking out face to face. Providing of course there are appropriate resources, and the educational will and know-how to use technologies in this way. But other kinds of disadvantage are likely to be exacerbated, such as access to educational capital. Put simply, better-off learners come to college with better digital devices and better home-based experiences of using them for learning. So we can't afford to be blind to the role of technology, but technology is not the end-point of our development work: inclusivity is.

Looking beyond the crisis in education itself, we should be developing people who can tackle our most pressing human, economic and environmental problems, and who believe these to be their concern. As I argued in my first set of slides ('in the wake'), digital technologies are relevant to many of these probems. And as with inequalities of opportunity, we need to understand the contribution that digital technologies make to amplifying or dampening the crises around us. But as developers we need to move on from asking 'are there digital technologies in the curriculum?' to asking: does the curriculum foster an awareness of sustainability? of fairness and justice? of global citizenship? And then: what role do digital technologies play in this? We need to move on from delivering 'digital literacy' as a set of competences and ask how are students are becoming critical (and creative and empowered) in relation to practices of knowledge, and in relation to the tools they are offered to accomplish that.
 So if we better understand the ways in which digital technologies change the context for learning and development, how can we (do we need to) get over our obsession with the digital as an agenda for change? That is the last of the three questions I will ask delegates to discuss with me on Friday and that I have tried to open up in these posts:
  1. What real changes have digital technologies brought about in educational practice? ('in the wake')
  2. How do those accord with our values as educational developers? ('in response')
  3. (If we need to), how do we move on from 'digital' as a positive agenda for educational change? ('in recovery')
  Tune in to Collaborate at 0930 to follow live, or catch up with the outcomes here.

13 comments:

Lindsay Jordan said...

Great post Helen - I also really enjoyed the Radical Interventions paper and seeing the connections between this and our own institutional 5-year plan, which focuses on diversity and inclusion, and the hooks and Freire I'm reading for my doctorate. There is an interesting tension between the paper and our plan - reading between the lines of the latter, there is a financial, consumer-focused imperative, whereas the paper is saying similar things but from a moral standpoint. I'm not sure what tree I'm barking up here, but I certainly agree with you that these are the key issues at the moment that are really influencing our teacher development activities, and stimulating some deep consideration of exactly what (and how) the technology is enabling and who (and how) it is excluding.

Hope you have an awesome conference - can't be there in person but will be online tomorrow :)

HelenB said...

Great to hear some of these ideas are making their way into formal statements - but as you say they need to live outside of those in our actual practice with students/staff. Look forward to your participation - I hope there will be time to take questions from collaborate as well as in the room.

Paula Nottingham said...

Helen - Just saw this blog from a twitter connection - these are issues learning practitioners need to think about. It may be that practitioners now do this by using personal (sometimes institutional) facilities to 'even the chances' for learners in terms of communication and the time needed to develop new skills. The issue is to make a difference to the learning the students are experiencing at the moment.

Tom said...

I can't find the NUS document. Do you have a pointer (or a copy) PLEASE

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