I was asked recently about my thoughts on the development and advancement of technology in teaching and learning, and what are the most (!) significant developments to look out for.
I did not give the answer that was expected – I could have quoted one of the many Horizon reports, but didn’t. I think I was expected to name a particular device, system/website/tool, and the like – artificial intelligence, chatbots, etc. What I actually said was that technology, in all it’s various guises, needs to have and to fulfil a purpose and be integrated with the institutions’ ecosystem. That is more important than any individual device or system.
Let me explain.
I have seen many new tools adopted quickly, and sometimes rashly; sometimes to be the first-in-market to give all students an iPad, or to provide students with Amazon Echo in halls of residence, or other such technology-focused solution to a problem that wasn’t actually a problem? Have you heard of schools or universities changing their current online VLE or LMS from one provider to another, where the new solution doesn’t actually solve the problems (lack of use, lack of buy-in, poor tool set, lack of integration to institution ecosystem, etc.)? Technology itself is not always the solution, it’s how we use or plan to use it that counts. Without adoption, and without a purpose, it will fail.
What you often find is that the current set of tools and systems are only understood across the institution at a basic level, with pockets of more advanced useage where team(s) explore it more deeply and have actually found a purpose to it and integrated it into their daily workload or teaching. Yes, new devices and fun and shiny. Yes, new tools and systems are exciting as, on the face of it, they promise to solve the issues or problems you’ve been having or will at least fill the gap something else has.
But first off we should evaluate the current situation, decide on how well we are integrating this into the existing ecosystem, are we using is as well as we could/should, and does it fulfil a purpose? Sometimes we’ll find we’re actually not exploiting the tool fully and we can do better. Sometimes we’ll find the new ‘thing’ is actually going to offer us something we never had before (e.g. voice activated home/office automation).
But does the new technology, in any form or function, actually have purpose and can it be integrated into the wider institution?