H808: Learning about learning technologists

Yoga

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This post is a response to Activity 5.5: The profession of a learning technologist

While I am familiar with the term ‘learning technologist’, it was interesting to delve a bit deeper into what this means thorugh the required readings. Learning technologists (LTs) provide expertise that balance a pedagogical approach with the use of technology within a given environment and according to available resources. Working primarily in Higher Education but also in other spheres such as organizations, schools and external consultancies, LTs provide an ‘alternative source of pedagogical expertise’ which helps to distinguish them from teachers and other educational managers (Lisewski & Joyce, 2003). According to Oliver (2002), LTs exercise their professional judgement in response to requests to make sure that work is pedagogically viable and there is also a focus on interests of students. This is revealing as it might suggest that other educators are not working in the interests of students and perhaps hints that the LT could be viewed as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for new pedagogy.

Overall these defintions accorded with my previous view of individuals that exist both as a central resource for educational delivery where technology is required as well as experts who may specialize in very specific operations such as VLE management and operation or synchronous tutoring.

The definition is however a moving one and the ALT website itself states

Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology. A very wide range of people in industry and in private and public sector education have learning technology as a core part of their role: you do not have to be called or to call yourself a learning technologist to be one!

This seems to suggest a diversely skilled profession which encompasses varying levels of specialization. The literature suggested that the profession is a developing one that has to balance the acceptance of frameworks such as Salmon’s ‘five-step guide to e-moderating’ or Wenger’s Community of Practice (which contributes to the profession’s credibility), with the other aspect of learning technology which is to constantly innovate and question pedagogical frameworks that may not be relevant in particular contexts. Lisewski & Joyce’s paper in evaluating the implemetation of the ‘five-step’ model in a particular context suggests that there is a danger of such frameworks being ‘reified’ (set in stone) and yet not being appropriate to a particular context.

However, some of these papers were written in 2002/2003 and feel a bit dated: there are constant debates about pedagogical approaches such as VLEs, LMS, or e-portfolios, while the role of social media and web 2.0 technologies in education are another current area of research and experimentation focussing more clearly on students’ needs. Wenger’s CoP paradigm is similarly challenged, questioned and developed by alternative conceptualizations of community or networked learning through Activity Theory, Connectivism and Rhizomatic learning. This is not to say all learning technologists are actively questioning and challenging, but as a field with a lively blogosphere and networked community, it would seem that Lisewski & Joyce’s fears have proved unfounded.

Further reflection on ‘elearning’ and ‘learning technologists’ as labels.

In a previous post about elearning professionals, I had mentioned that perhaps the term elearning may become obsolete in favour of ‘technology-enhanced learning’. Consequently, I noticed with interest the following on the ALT website:

ALT believes that as e-learning becomes embedded as a normal part of most learners’ experience the term will fall into disuse. In contrast we are confident that the term “learning technology” (i.e. the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment) will remain an acknowledged field of study, research and practice.

I am not sure that ‘learning technology’  or ‘technology enhanced learning’ has replaced elearning as yet in common or academic discourse, but it is a prevalent trend in more recent literature about where the learning technology profession is heading (Browne and Beetham, 2010).

For me, the term ‘learning technologist’ seems broader and stronger with the use of both words ‘technology’ and ‘learning’, while I am also seeing ‘educational technologist’ being used (Browne and Beetham, 2010). The ‘e’ in ‘elearning’ on the other hand feels like it might drop away rather like ‘e-marketing’ or ‘e-commerce’. Is it a case of ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, or do terms matter?

References

Browne, T. and Beetham, H. 2010. The positioning of educational technologists in enhancing the student experience. Project Report. Association of Learning Technology and The Higher Education Academy. Available from:http://repository.alt.ac.uk/id/eprint/831.

Lisewski, B. and Joyce, P. (2003) Examining the five???stage e???moderating model: Designed and emergent practice in the learning technology profession. Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11 (1). pp. 55-66. ISSN 0968-7769

Oliver, M. (2002) ‘What do learning technologists do?’ (online), Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 245–52. 

 

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3 thoughts on “H808: Learning about learning technologists

  1. Yes it is rather like our previous discussion on the eLearning professional, in defining what it means and how names evolve and new titles emerge on a regular basis. The lack of understanding of the title (Yvonne notes on her blog that she had to look up what her role meant before attending interview), as my blog and tgf comment suggests – roles change due to institutional pressure and staff expectations. It seems that some learning technologists are lost within the system, perhaps unaware – like many other employees (who we are not researching).I think it is the case that technology developments mean instututions must stay up to date, some staff adapt and/or learn IT easier than others so it is their role which emerges into a new position.

  2. I enjoyed your discussion of the issues. I think the situation is even more complex since in different sectors of education and training the language used to describe learning technology changes. A simple example is that in Further Education colleges the term ILT – Information and Learning Technology is employed while in community based adult education the term e-learning is used instead. This adds to the fog of identifying the role of learning technologists. It probably shows the youth of the area. We have not had time yet to define the terms.CheersAlan

  3. Thanks Amanda and Alan for your comments.Alan – I appreciate your insights into the complexity of this field. I was on the right lines in being somewhat bemused! I think ‘elearning’ as a term does seem to have a stickiness to it, despite my earlier thoughts that it was nearing its sell-by date.

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