Reflecting on 2015

Yes, it seems strange to ‘reflect’ on 2015 already, but here I go.

I am not going to join many other and write about my predictions for learning technology in 2015, or wax lyrical about developments over the past few years and where we’re heading. I’m just going to use my experiences as a Learning Technologist and my insider knowledge [wink wink] from collating and editing The Really Useful #EdTechBook – I’ll outline some of these ‘observations’.

There is plenty being written about developments in both technology and how we use it. Whether it’s wearable devices or looking at the increasing power and miniaturisation of our tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices (although I acknowledge that smartphones are getting bigger. Yeah, go figure).

No, what I see happening in discussions I have, tweets I read, posts I comment on, etc. is that there is a growing unease in what we ‘want’ to see. While some of us want to investigate and develop learning resources around shiny new devices in wonderful new ways, many of us are becoming increasingly exasperated at these developments while underlying issues, approaches, or techniques are standing still. Have we actually answered the question(s) yet about how to use a VLE effectively and efficiently for learning? Are we ever going to address that within our own institution, and move forward?

In her chapter for The Really Useful #EdTechBook, Lesley Price writes about her experiences of more than 30 years with technology that has been used in learning environments. It is unfortunate, says Lesley, that we are still asking the same questions today that we’ve ben asking for years already:

“Why are we not making more effective use of technology to support both formal and informal learning in education and in the workplace?” (Price, 2015)

What I see happening is precisely what Lesley asks about … some of us are going back to our roots and looking at ‘what’ we do, ‘why’ we do it, ‘how’ we do it, and ‘who’ we do it for. I see a growing community growing on Twitter who talk about the reason we have the tools we do (as well as inclusion of new tools or new systems), and how we can maximise them for well-defined roles or activities. I see many more people asking deeper questions about the technology and what it can offer the mobile student, and what that mobile student can then offer the institution. I hear more about  the issues of getting staff buy-in to new approaches than ever before; it’s less about ‘lead and they will follow’ and more about ‘engage and they will engage’.

Sharon Flynn, who chapter “Learning Technologists: Changing the culture or preaching to the converted?” is in The Really Useful #EdTechBook, notes that there is a “shift in culture happening‘ and that “empowering more reluctant academics” has a greater long-term effect on both staff and student engagement of a technological solution than a training-first approach.

“There is evidence that good practice in the use of technology is being embedded in teaching and learning activities.” (Flynn, 2015)

David Walker and Sheila MacNeill write about the Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue in the book too: their investigation looks at the development of the role and the people in those roles and that

“there have been significant advances and recognition of the central role that the Learning Technologist plays particularly in relation to collaborative curriculum development, networking, scholarly activities and increasingly recognised influence in the development and implementation of institutional, and indeed sectoral, strategic goals relating to learning and teaching. ” (Walker and MacNeill, 2015)

We, as a community and professional entity, are becoming more aligned to the ‘reason’ for the technological implementation and not just the ‘point-and-click’ training tasks we often undertake or have been known for in the past.

What do you think? Are we going ‘retro’ and leaving the shiny new developments behind in favour of consolidation of existing practices and the understanding of basic pedagogic needs? Are there aspects of a Learning Technologists role that ought to be more reflective than they are, to better understand the historical and cultural impact on future developments?


Flynn, S. (2015). Learning Technologists: Changing the culture or preaching to the converted?. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.199-217.

Price, L. (2015). Times they are a changing .. or not?. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.107-128.

Walker, D. and MacNeill, S (2015). Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.91-105.

Image source: Philip Howard (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)