Ed tech’s rosy glow of happiness

BETT Tech was fun – I could have played all day but it’s also business. Walking around, I had a moment of doubt. Was this the wrong place to be talking about low levels of digital engagement? I should have read the BESA introduction in the BETT handbook. ‘The importance of CPD is vital to the effective adoption of technology.’ Yes! While not a fan of the T word, I agreed with ‘…never lose sight of the importance of budgeting for training with all technology investments…or only a fraction of the investment potential will be realised…training and support continues to be a very significant barrier to the successful adoption of new technologies.’ Just wish I’d read it before not after my presentation!

Bett Learn Live Higher Education lecture theatre

But doubts were dispelled. The Learn Live Higher Education Space filled up and people stood three deep in the doorways. The microphone might have helped. To me it sounded loud enough to reach all of London so may well have attracted curiosity. Typical tech when the sound is tested and the speaker is only one who doesn’t get to hear it.

There was lots of useful conversation. This included experiences of online seminars where student expectations were passive rather than active so not dissimilar to traditional lectures. Interaction was embedded but collaborative learning not happening. It’s clear discussions about digital engagement are not only about staff who teach and support learning, they’re about student learning practices too.

Opening slide to e-teaching presentation

Digital resistance needs attention. Ed tech is presented in a rosy glow of happiness and stories of disengagement, which challenge the dominant discourse of transformation, rarely appear in the literature unless there is a happy ending. The language of Bett Tech is predominantly about success; flick through the handbook to see examples of achieve, attract, empower, enrich, be effective, inspiring and innovative. It’s good to be positive but there is a need for realism too.

BETT is like a techie Christmas with lots of children opening their pressies and getting excited all at once. That was just the adults. The coolest gadgets were in the Steam Village and BETT Futures located at opposite of ends of the Hall. My feet hurt. Wear comfy shoes and watch out for the floor height difference on the stands. Step up!  I wasn’t there long enough to make the most of it. Once I’d registered, found my space and searched unsuccessfully for the Minecraft Big Green Stand (everything looks blocky. you can’t miss it, but I did) it was time to head back to Kings Cross for my off-peak trip home and a couple of hours for reflection.

comparison of presentation titles showing the range of digital technology usage
Presentation titles show the range of digital technology usage

Whether it’s an institutional VLE, 360° VR landscapes or crafting a succinct sentence in 140 characters or less (with an collectible hashtag), I do believe technology can make a difference. Not as rhetorical transformative promise but through more gently enhancing and extending the student learning experience.

Technology has become part of the social world and to be digitally aware and competent is an essential graduate attribute. Students arriving at university with mobile devices and social media confidence is not the same as demonstrating critical management of digital ways of working. Somewhere between induction and graduation the appropriate and effective use of internet enabled communication and collaboration has to happen. Where better than embedded into the curriculum students come into higher education to experience.

If more reluctance and resistance towards digital education were surfaced, and digital development time allocated and protected, institutions might be in a better place to utilise the platforms they are investing in.


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