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Editorial: Strategies in the Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning

Jay Dempster, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick

Two types of educational technology strategies will always fail. 
Those which do not address pedagogic need and those which try to alter behaviour or values. 

Addressing pedagogic need

Much of my role at Warwick is aimed at encouraging academic staff to reflect on educational goals and problems with which technology might assist. In this way, we keep clear educational objectives in mind.  Nevertheless, the availability of technological tools often enables us to see where they might be effective in teaching and learning.  With those two things in mind, neither pedagogy and nor technology should lead strategy development. 

Getting started using educational technologies in your teaching can be quite daunting.  Producing a good strategy means thinking back to first principles in course design.  You are forced to ask questions about what you are trying to achieve as a teacher and what skills and abilities you wish your students to acquire consequent of the course.

Technology does not change behaviour

It is no wonder that attempts to implement a technology into teaching and learning that directly conflicts with behavioural patterns and their underlying values is an uphill struggle. Technologies themselves rarely change behaviour, but can make what we already do more efficient.  Examples include the word processor allowing us to produce and edit documents more efficiently than the typewriter, and email, the asynchronicity allowing us to communicate more easily than telephone or face-to-face. 

Perhaps the best strategy for developing your strategy (sigh!) is to identify key needs and key behaviours.  Together, this will assist in engaging the object of the strategy – staff, students, administrators, etc. – that is, the stakeholders.  In terms of change management, this is essential if you are to move away from the actual state to the desired state towards which your strategy is directed. 

Discriminating between the hype and hope of technology, Phil Hobbs suggests three important adoption benchmarks for technology– the three Ps:

  • Practical costs less than the benefits derived
  • Proactive be more efficient that existing alternatives
  • Professional meet user expectations 

In this model, if a technology is to succeed, it needs to score positively against all three criteria.  If you want to see how the Internet and other up-and-coming technologies score against the three Ps model, have a read of the full article published in the Learning Technology Support Network newsletter at the University of Bristol. 

In change management terms, a model for a successful strategy is fitted to a mock mathematical equation (by Richard Beckhard): 

C    =    A + B + D   > x 

where 

C = Change (will only take place if)
A = level of dissatisfaction with current status 
B = desirability of changed state 
D = practicality of the change  x = 'costs' of change  (e.g. money, training, support, disruption)

In principle, we should be able to use these models in the wider contexts of educational technologies to select those approaches and tools most likely to go with the grain of the major stakeholders.  At a curriculum level, such models might assist staff in mapping technology-assisted teaching and learning methodologies onto specific educational goals, the needs of certain types of students and their different learning styles. 

In this issue of Interactions

The first article in this issue of Interactions describes the experiences in introducing and extending technological means of course delivery into the distance learning MBA programme in the Warwick Business School. It provides valuable insight into the lessons learned about effective implementation into established and reputed programmes. 

The second article mirrors a paper by Stephen Erhmann, Director of  Flashlight, a research-evaluation project under the Annenberg/CPB programme. Steve is a prolific writer and speaker on educational technologies with an excellent "head screwed on right" approach to effective practice. In this tone, he addresses What Does Research Tell Us About Technology and Higher Learning?

The third article mirrors a paper by Bob Fulkerth, Assistant Professor in the School of Technology and Industry at the Golden Gate University in the United States.  The author suggests that in order to develop distance programs that will enjoy long-term success and that will find a lasting fit in our institutional cultures, we will have to take a new look at our core constituents  -students.  Entitled "A Bridge for Distance Education: Planning for the Information-Age Student", the articles outlines some of the key considerations in planning distance courses. 

The Innovations section includes summaries of teaching innovation in educational technology in the Science Faculty departments.  The Resources and Links sections in this issue all provide useful access to papers, guides, resources and services that assist the development of strategies in using educational technologies. In the Linkssection, I have included links to several interesting and useful articles that discuss strategies in adopting technology for effective teaching and learning practice. One article in particular is well worth a browse through: "Strategic Teaching in Concert with New Technologies" by Jamie McKenzie, Editor of From Now On - The Educational Technology Journal. He advocates that strategic teaching requires teachers to employ a toolkit of strategies which can dramatically modify student performance provided the choice of tool fits the situation  and the individual student. The best teachers are great at "sizing up" a student's learning and problem-solving patterns in order to figure out how to "jump start" improvement. 

I sincerely hope this issue is of value to you and assists you to start off in a viable direction in using IT for teaching and learning. Please feel free to come and discuss any of the ideas with me (Warwick staff only, I hasten to add, although I am happy to receive comments on the usefulness of this issue from anyone.) 


Editor

Dr Jay Dempster
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7657 2737
Email: jay.dempster@warwick.ac.uk


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