‘Who Are The Learning Technologist?’ by @HeyWayne

Regular readers will know I have written my thoughts and experiences about ‘what is a Learning Technologist’ for a number of years. Indeed the series of posts is into double figures now and consist of my own  reflections, posts I read, research, and conversations I have with others in my ‘profession’.

In these discussions and collaborations I have also been attributed as a spark for others who have also started to question the role, and their role, in ‘learning technology’in others. This is by no small feat, but an honour in that the conversations are widening and engaging many more individuals and helping to focus and drive a deeper understanding of the roles, the individuals in the roles, and the expectations placed on the role (from ourselves, our colleagues and peers, our networks and associated organisations – like ALT or SEDA – and our employers).

One such, ongoing, conversation is with Wayne Barry (@HeyWayne) who is himself writing a series of posts on ‘Who are the Learning Technologists?’ on his blog. Now on his fifth post I thought I’d add a little to the conversation here to highlight, broaden, and engage the question(s) further.

Who are the Learning Technologists? (Part 1)

In this first post in the series he plans to write, Wayne explores and enhances my original post of ‘what is a learning technologist‘ with reference to published articles and reports where the roles and names of learning/educational technologists are discussed. Wayne concludes this saying that

“As society, technology, culture, politics and the economy shifts and develops, it would be expected that the definition of educational (or learning) technology will evolve to reflect the times.”

You would hope, wouldn’t you. But are we as guilty as other professions where the terminology, and thus the expected role and responsibility, are stuck in a time-warp and unable (or unwilling?) to expand or evolve or reinvent itself for the different and often conflicting experiences? I still come back to my original post and original thoughts on the name and role of a learning technologist, in that each person is different, has different backgrounds and interests, and that each different institution (as well as departments within them) have different requirements based. There is no way one job description or specification can cover all the possible iterations and requirements. Is there?

Who are the Learning Technologists? (Part 2)

Looking at the history of educational technology and, by inference, learning technology Wayne brings a useful list of references and interpretations to the question, looking at established and published work to investigate the history and progress that has been made into the field(s) of educational and learning technology.

Who are the Learning Technologists?

Who are the Learning Technologists? (Part 3)

Bringing the work of respected authors like Beetham, Caplan, Joyes into the arena Wayne is bringing a wealth of experience and credibility to the question. As I mentioned in the eighth edition of my series, Sarah Horrigan identifies and puts into word exactly how I and so many others feel about being a Learning Technoligist:

“The best learning technologists aren’t all about the technology. They’re not all about the pedagogy either. They walk the line between the two and care about what they do and what they *could* do as well. And if you come across a really good learning technologist – talk to them. They’ll fire you up so that you’ll believe you could do anything with your teaching!”

What Wayne is also doing is highlighting the research that the role is about being a ‘broker’ (Joyes, 2006) and that we are a broker “between academic and professional staff; between academics and students; between academics and ICT systems; between academics and pedagogic practices.” Precisely!

Who are the Learning Technologists? (Part 4)

That we Learning Technologists already understand the divergent roles we play on a day to day basis is not new to us, but it possibly is to senior management or to HR. We occupy a ‘hybrid’ or ‘marginal’  role (Oliver 2002) but are also seen as being ‘central to institutional processes of change’ .. I wish it were even as clear cut and simple as that!

Wayne correctly states that issues of credibility and legitimacy of the role and those of use who inhabit it are not made easier by the different bodies or qualifications we can obtain to help prove our worth and knowledge. I am a member of ALT, holder of CMALT, and, until recently, SEDA (I did not renew my SEDA membership purely due to cost and having to tighten the purse strings at home).

Who are the Learning Technologists? (Part 5)

Bringing Wayne’s series up to date the fifth part references some of the differences in the interpretation of the ‘field’ of learning technology, and therefore the differences in those who work in and around them.

Wayne closes the post saying that the “path towards professional identity and academic acceptance has proven to be a turbulent and contested one for the field of educational technology, the struggle is far from over” based on the various academic publications that seem to contradict and yet support each other. Are we indeed working in a ‘discipline’ or a ‘field’, is it continued research we are working

Don’t just read what I’ve interpreted here, please read Wayne’s posts on his website and let’s continue the discussion and questioning of what is, and who is, a Learning Technologist?

Image source: Parading by leg0fenris (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Joyes, G. (2006). “Bridging cultures in designing for learning: An eChina project case study”. In:Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Networked Learning 2006. Lancaster University, England, UK, 10-12 April 2006.

Oliver, M. (2002) “What do Learning Technologists do?”. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39(4), pp. 245-252.

  • Steve Parkinson

    An interesting blog and a good read.

    I think one of the reasons the ‘Learning Technologist’ might not always seem to be evolving is that there is a role evolving for a new kind of Learning Technologist, one which is not necessarily on the same evolutionary path as the traditional sort.

    The traditional role works at an operational/tactical level utilising technology at the chalkface, enhancing education within broadly traditional models. The technologists themselves academic in nature.

    The new role is concerned more with the strategic shifts needed to align organisations so that they may survive and thrive in the emerging world of ubiquitous tech. Considering new models, some of which may grate with traditional academic thought. These technologists may not have an academic background but understand the value the education just as much as their traditional counterparts.

    There can be friction between the two, as there often is when new faces with new ideas enter an environment with established values, ideals and ‘hierarchy’.

    But, if new strategic models are accepted they may well lead to a more fertile learning environment for the traditional learning technologist to perform in. An environment in which they may be much more free to evolve and flourish.

    • Tim Klapdor

      I agree with you there Steve! I definitely fit the second group and it’s a fundamentally different focus than your traditional Learning Technologist. I find it increasingly difficult to define what the hell I do – but it occupies the space between traditional notions of technology, teaching, learning and innovation. I don’t have an educational background but have over the years developed a deep understanding of the practice and business of delivering education and am able to mix that with an insight into the workings of digital technology.

      I don’t think that this is an evolution of learning technologist – I think it’s an emerging field of practice bought about by the inherent complexity of integrating technology to improve education from both operational and strategic perspectives!

      Are we a related branch, an off shoot or an entirely new species? And if so – *what are we called*!?

      • “I don’t think that this is an evolution of learning technologist – I think it’s an emerging field of practice bought about by the inherent complexity of integrating technology to improve education from both operational and strategic perspectives!”

        Thanks Tim, well put. I find myself shifting emphasis and direction regularly to sidle between academic-orientated and practical- or operational-orientated tasks and perspectives. This doesn’t mean conflict between a new / traditional Learning Technologist, it just means a dynamic and flexible approach to the work.

        All the best, David

    • I’m not sure I agree with you Steve – the role and the individuals in it, form my experience, are constantly evolving, it is the presumption of ‘what’ the role is that isn’t evolving. Job descriptions, management understanding, interview processes (including tests!), etc. that are holding back the development of the role.

      I communicate and engage with people who have the same ‘role’ or ‘title’ per se but are vastly different examples of what a Learning Technologist is. Yet, if we were able to look closely, we’d have pretty similar responsibilities and descriptions at the core of the role yet we are all working above and beyond this core / minimum requirement.

      Discussion of new/traditional flavour might have more to do with the interpretation of the need and requirement of the individual to fill the role, therefore a shift in understanding of exactly what is a Learning Technologist?

      All the best, David

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