Did FOTE reveal anything? Actually, I’m really not sure. There was a clear split in the agenda. Amongst the top quality educational technology content, at least two sessions appeared to be something of a sales pitch. There were a few signs of ‘conference bag syndrome’ too; something I didn’t notice last year.
The first pitch came from IBM, proclaiming how great benefit can be found in analytic facilities which they will be more than happy to produce on our behalf. I have no issue with this (no doubt a better approach than individually working with limited developer resources). It happens to be on our organisational agenda too – even if we don’t have the developer clout that IBM does. What I would have preferred was a presentation more clearly focused upon technology and learning. Whilst learner outcomes were part of the theme, I don’t feel this came across strongly enough.
In the afternoon sessions we heard from Microsoft; it promised to be very exciting – being focused upon their Kinect product. Um… not quite. Lots of technical descriptions, but what of learning opportunities? Hardly mentioned, and with only a mildly entertaining glance at the Kinect in action.
Two slots in the agenda really stood out for me. The panel session at noon: “byod” was the start of some great converssation centred around the ability for an organisation to accommodate consumer devices in their infrastructure. A least, this is how it began. With some valuable commentary from Nizam Uddin (@nizamuddin1), the only student voice on the panel, quickly this shifted from the devices themselves, beyond the ability of an organisation to accommodate them and eventually challenging the audience to consider the position of IT support teams and whether several important conditions exist:
- are we listening clearly to our students; do we have enough conversations in order to understand their needs
- are we delivering the necessary levels of guidance, support and assistance in the tools that students wish to use (or simply prescribing our own)
- are we responding to the feedback we receive by adapting our practices and changing our approach (just as students may be changing their approach to learning through the consumerisation of technology)?
@amber_miro Get your jeans on and buy some coffees – face to face interaction is the best! Use the JCR and talk to them! #fote11
Some of the realities that emerged in this debate make for difficult listening. It’s not easy being in a technical team and knowing that some of what you strive so hard to achieve may be rapidly becoming outdated – not just in the technological sense, but also in the methods we adopt for delivery. Support teams are being challenged to work in different ways – ways in which we aren’t accustomed.
Listening to learners may not be familiar territory to technical teams. We’ve grown accustomed to prescribing solutions, implementing the standard from which greater achievements eventually may become possible. It’s now time to unpick these standards and rethink. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else – it would be foolish not to admit that in the natural and required development of our technologies over the past decade we have failed to include flexibility in our delivery model. Unfortunately the rigidity and standardisation of our systems (and even developing our staff and students into ‘standard’ individuals) will be our undoing if we do not shift our thinking and respond in the right manner.