E-learning challenges one year on

But is there a sense that we’re moving smoothly along? Are the majority of our students any more skilled and less technophobic than they were 12 months ago? Are institutions encouraging and providing opportunities for teachers to develop their own e-learning skills … and rewarding them when they do? Does government understand that giving every kid a computer isn’t the end of the road? Have telcos brought down the costs of web access, ensuring that ubiqitous little ‘fourth screen’ can truly become a computer in your pocket aka a hand held learning device? Do pigs fly?

It’s the end of the first week of instruction in the first semester of a new academic year, and already the panic buttons have been hit in some quarters. Students are befuddled by this ‘tech stuff’ (again), colleagues by the ‘what does it mean for me and why do I have to do it?’ argument, and resistance out of confusion seems to be on top again! Not that there haven’t been small wins.

In my neck of the woods, the early uptakers seem to be fielding more queries either formally to give presentations to colleagues, or informally … my favourite method … in the ‘how do you?’ sharing of ideas, tips and techniques that come in conversation. I like small group or one on one learning, and I’m convinced that cluster groups work best … mini communities of practice where the water-cooler model of information-sharing turns into professional development.

I know students are messaging and harnessing Facebook more than ever and in imaginative ways, so the soft-learning in their own Web 2.0 world is already happening beyond the academy walls (hooray!). How we harness what they already know, and challenge them to extend their learning inside their courses remains the quest for this academic.

Meantime, I try to model, share, enthuse, assist, use the stuff and experiment. People do like to see practical outcomes to all this effort; I know time-poor academics do. I’ve been spruiking the value of regular blogging as part of scholarly activity for a while now. I invite colleagues to check out what I do here, and leave not so subtle hints around the place. For example, I’m using this blog address as part of my professional signature. It’s going on to the next batch of business cards I get printed, and I’ve installed a WordPress app on my Facebook, which is used by a lot of my current and ex-students, for another discipline-focussed blog that I write. Shameless self-promotion? Well, maybe, but mostly I see this as encouragement through modelling of what one academic can do. Resistance to change is probably inevitable … but it’s the gentle and insistent dripping away at the stone that will do the trick.

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