Friday, 1 February 2019

How is learning technology evolving?

Oh no, I'm getting all scientific again.  Big question for a Friday hey.  This is just a bit of a mind dump on some thoughts that occurred to me while reading 'When the Whales Walked' by Dougal Dixon - I love my natural history stuff.  I'll save the scientific explanations of evolution, but hopefully you'll know the basics of it.  I may sound like a mad scientist here, blending nature and digital technology?!  We're all part of nature, digital technology was born from us...

Digital technology changes and is changing, very quickly as many of us know - but whom by, us individually (how we use it that informs computer science and design, which then big technology companies take lead on - which do a great job in making it tools a reality for us 👏), organisational/strategy/policy, technology companies, our environment (local, national, international).  For the sake of an argument, perhaps a mix of all.

Devices, hardware, software and the internet can be seen as the 'first shells' that enabled educators to try all sorts of new and innovative ways to teach through, becoming learning technology, the 'first skeleton' if you like.  The skeleton was a successful design by nature, which is still here today so it obviously works and hasn't changed a great deal other than across species in specific habitats and environments.  Digital technology will always change constantly as we know, but learning technology, maybe this is still going through the trial and error phase to see what works - just like nature did millions of years ago getting a skeleton.  We know that digital technology supports and enhances people's lives in an array of forms and there is a lot of evidence for this.  But as digital practices are now well and truly here (but often invisible to us as we use it every day) and are a tangible thing, it allows for new digital technology to be invented that we haven't thought of and visualised yet - if observed and studied diligently.

I know we can't control evolution (or can we to some degree?), it's invisible and happens during a change in habitat and climate.  Well, I guess we can and learn lessons from the likes of Jurassic Park/World, may be we shouldn't intervene too much?!  But may be we can guide the evolution of learning technology more purposefully by leading with more educational principles, i.e. principles and practices of pedagogy rather than being led by 'this piece of digital technology allows you to do this, that and the other'.  So I guess what I'm saying is the ol' where do educators see education in the next <insert years> and what is the role of digital technology in that?

All learning technologists get asked, "what is the next big game changing technology", "what predictions do I have for the future?"  We can have an insight of what is/may be upcoming, but we're fooling ourselves if we think we know the actual answer , given how much the technology changes quickly and public response i.e. social media flavour of the month/year.  But when we do 'horizon scan', we may often look to big technology companies.  So again, who's driving who?

Related, but this gave me a bit of food for thought when I was in this conversation...

"Interesting statements around table tonight... Sister-in-law: "funny how knives and forks haven't evolved like most things". Partner: "I guess there's no need to change it, if it's fit for purpose". Good considerations for #edtech I think."

"To me, the message here for #edtech is that not everything is a problem to be solved or needs to be enhanced with digital technology. If it works well, why change it? It's always about the purpose..."

On the latter, I used to have it in my head that a learning technologist should continuously find answers that validate the use of learning technology.  However, I now see it as continuous development of technology enhanced learning that is progressed through new and emerging digital practices.