So long…

“So, I guess that’s why I’m here. I want to be able to reflect on my own practice. I want to work with others to discuss what educational technology and digital education mean. I also want to reflect on what is seemingly mundane – a picture being shared on Facebook – and see that, once again, for the complex and vital interchange which it really is.”

My stated aims and objectives, outlined at the start of our IDEL studies seem, on reflection, modest in comparison with what we’ve experienced in the last 12 weeks or so. We have achieved so much more than reflection and discussion. I have…

  • been introduced to new ways of thinking about digital education;
  • read…and read…and read…;
  • experienced new ways of communicating, interacting and learning;
    Voice tutorial_017
  • created teaching and learning artefacts using new tools;
    new tools
  • experienced ontological uncertainty;
  • come first…
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  • …twice;
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  • …reinvigorated my own practice;
  • …made new connections;

…and much more. I have found the IDEL course challenging, exhilarating and enlightening. I have recognised how stale and static my own thinking and practice had become and, through our readings, our discussions, the tasks and, importantly, my blogging, I have reset my own professional mindset.

My journey as a learner has led me to reflect on the journeys the students and teachers I work with are on when it comes to understanding, seeing the value in, and using educational technologies. The ‘loop input’ design of the course has enabled us to experience what it is to study online, to use different media and to learn, communicate and create using new technologies and tools.

My thinking about technology and its role within education has changed over the course of this term. I used to, somewhat unthinkingly, refer to technology as a tool which was there to support teaching and learning; the pedagogy had primacy and the technology was a medium for delivery. However, the experience I have had of studying educational technology through educational technologies is – of course – very different to that which I would have had had technology been absent from the process. As Cousin asserts, ‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them’ (Cousin, 2005, p.118); this renewed awareness has impacted on my professional approaches to thinking about technology adoption and training. I have changed the way that I talk with teachers about technology and its role within schools, highlighting that the digital medium is vital, it has impact on how we teach and how we learn and it is not ‘in service’ (Cousin, 2005, p.117) to our practice. I have also developed more coherent responses to educators who retreat into the safety of the digital native/immigrant binary which is, I believe, a damaging dichotomy. Helsper and Eynon’s separation of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ has proven to be a useful distinction to make when discussing these issues with staff.

I have learned about and experienced the co-creation of learning spaces, of learning experiences and of effective communities of inquiry. I have been part of the ‘social brain’ of the IDEL course, and, as I noted in Week 3:

“…this social brain is one of the real benefits of online learning. In a classroom, exchanges can be transient and lost; online, we have a record of contributions, references, links and ideas. We are developing a learning text, a multi-modal, multi-authored sociotechnological educational space across a multitude of online places.

lord-acton-historian-quote-learn-as-much-by-writing-as-byThis blog has captured some of the essence of the broader learning text which we have co-authored on the IDEL course through Moodle discussions, Skype conversations, Twitter exchanges, Second Life experiences and more. It has also allowed me to reflect in a quieter, slower way on the ideas, readings, tools and practices we have been introduced to and worked with. It is a space which has offered me a place to test new technologies, work out my ideas and play with my thoughts.

Although my writing has improved in recent months, I’m still no good at endings. I am, however, good at quoting other people who are much cleverer than me. I started with Douglas Adams all those weeks ago, so I’ll end with him here.

so long

Cousin, G. (2005). Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. London, Routledge-Falmer. pp.117-129.


Potential research ideas

Rory suggested that it was worthwhile posting some potential research ideas this week so that they are not lost as we move on from the course.

There are a number of areas of interest for me. One in particular is looking at how we can effectively introduce and embed new technologies within schools. How do we use our understanding of, amongst other things,  presence, embodiment, synchronous vs. asynchronous media and creating effective learning communities to ensure that new technologies are valued and adopted effectively within teaching and learning practices?

Although I’m tackling it to a degree in my assignment, I’m also interested in exploring digital literacies within schools and how we can both ensure that learners acquire the appropriate skills and how we can use digital media more effectively within core teaching and learning practice.

Nebulous, unwieldy ideas currently but ones which may, as I progress through the Masters, develop some form and substance.



I’m currently writing this (at 21:00 on Thursday night) in OneNote, not in WordPress and, as I write, I’m panicking. I’m panicking because this has happened…Panic 1 I can’t access my blog; I can’t access the course pages, I can’t even access the Edinburgh University webpage.

Panic 2

I guess the servers have gone down and all will, eventually, be well. However, what’s of interest to me is just how disabling this is: I’ve lost all that I need to participate in the course: I can’t access the discussions; I can’t access the links to the useful tools I need to make my adapted version of the dialogue from Phaedrus.

And there’s the rub with online education. When the online disappears, so does the resource, the community, the notes, the links and the content. My class, my exercise book and my teacher have all disappeared. In a week where we’re contemplating and playing with a text which examines the negatives of an over-reliance on the written, my reliance on the multimedia hypertexts that comprise IDEL is exposed.

I’ll just keep shouting for help…


What font are you wearing?

Last week, I reflected on the notion of online ‘presence’, and how we create ourselves in words online. At the end of that week, I tuned in to Saturday Live (with the Reverend Richard Coles of the parish of the Communards) and heard this item about fonts.

Sat 26 Sep 2015

The sensory experiments which graphic designer and font aficionado Sarah Hyndman conducted on the show, where she showed that fonts can be associated with different senses, were fascinating.

Sarah is fascinated by fonts and claims that the font you choose is as important as the clothes you wear. It’s an interesting proposition and one which pertains to some digital and printed communications (I judge users of Comic Sans harshly). However, within the media which we have been communicating in so far, we have little to no choice about the fonts which are used: they’re preset. As to which font I might choose to use, it would be Trebuchet or Segoe UI Semilight: I think those mark me out as dull…

You can find out more about this particular episode and about Sarah’s work more generally here.


A thought snippet: Pigs in (Cyber) Space

smart_pigI’ll not go into the details of *that* Cameron story but, one of the articles about the ‘scandal’ which I read this week used a phrase which struck me as interesting “…the Internet has decided…”. Now, I’ve probably happened upon that phrase hundreds, if not thousands of times before but my engagement with this course is having the effect of ‘making the familiar strange’ (Selwyn 2011, p.16).

The Internet as artefact cannot ‘decide’ anything. As artefact it is, as Shelly and Urry note, composed of ‘multiple fixities or moorings on a substantial physical scale that enable the fluidities of liquid modernity’ (Shelly and Urry, ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm’, Environment and Planning A 2006, volume 38, p.207).

The phrase ‘the Internet has decided’ highlights Selwyn’s repeated proposition that ‘technology’ is not just the artefact, the thing, but also activities, practices, and context (Selwyn, 2011, p.8, p.17). The ‘Internet’ is a community and it is the epitome of ‘liquid modernity’.

“Ow! My brains!” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

‘…education is on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies; however, it has been on that brink for some decades now.’ – Laurillard (2008, p.1)


This picture was produced by my 12 year-old nephew in Art today:


He brought it home and it was posted up on Facebook by my sister (ignore the lack of capitalisation – she’s grammatically lazy on social media):


10 minutes later, I had stolen acquired it, messed around with it a little in Photoshop and had it posted on here as my new blog header:


The process by which I discovered, acquired and used this image is quotidian, mundane; we stumble across, come upon or seek out knowledge, images, help and companionship daily via the web, and we share, disseminate, communicate and engage instantly. It’s the norm. It’s obvious. But, in a week in which I’ve been asked to reflect on why I’m doing the course and what I hope to get out of it, I began to think about this knowledge exchange in different terms.

The image of the bird was purloined by gifted to me via technology. But, as Selwyn notes, ‘technology’ – etymologically at least – ‘has always referred to the processes and practices of doing things, understanding things and developing knowledge’ (2011, p.7). So, nothing too different here then. Is what is really different the digitisation of knowledge, of images, of self? That’s where the immediacy is after all, isn’t it? But again, it’s more than that. This digital bird flew in from the internet and ‘when people talk about the internet they are usually referring to the activities that they engage in online, the cultures that can be said to surround these social activities, and the knowledge that results from these activities. As such, it is far more useful to describe the internet in terms of its social ‘content’ rather than its technical forms (Wessels 2010).’ (Selwyn, 2011, p.8). I got the bird from my nephew, via my sister via the internet. And many other people in our particular social milieu got that bird too.

I first graduated from Edinburgh University in 1996. When I left, the most advanced piece of technology I had used to help me in my studies was my much loved Brother electronic typewriter. A few months after graduating in English, I was at Napier studying multimedia technology. It was a dizzying and exciting shift. After being a (contented) reader and writer, I now felt like a maker, a producer. We used Macromedia Director and Authorware to produce interactive content. My first product was a little programme which used Mr Men characters to teach spelling. I remember the thrill of making things move after years of (wonderful) passivity. From Napier, I went to SCET and worked on a CD-ROM to teach children Gaelic. My Gaelic was non-existent and my programming skills weren’t too much better, but it was exciting. I worked with teachers and pupils for the first time, collaborating with them to determine what worked and what didn’t; what helped them to teach and to learn. And I was hooked: education was surely ‘on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies…’ Laurillard (2008, p.1)

Since then, I’ve spent most of my career in educational technology. I’m a qualified teacher, but I now work as an ‘EdTech consultant’ (“whatever that means” – thank you Mother). I like a lot of the work that I do. It’s thrilling to work with augmented reality, with 3D technologies and with apps and it’s good to share that thrill with teachers and pupils. However, a phrase which really stuck when I came across it in this week’s reading was ‘the realities of technology use are often more mundane and compromised’ (Selwyn. 2011, p.32). A lot of the time, I am called into schools to deal with broken kit, broken budgets and broken enthusiasm. I see more dead, unused and under-used technologies than I see ‘guides on the side’ or ‘flipped classrooms’. The artefact has, in too many instances, been confuted with change. Technological determinism has ensured failure from the outset. And, therefore, we remain, after decades, ‘on the brink of change’.

So, I guess that’s why I’m here. I want to be able to reflect on my own practice. I want to work with others to discuss what educational technology and digital education mean. I also want to reflect on what is seemingly mundane – a picture being shared on Facebook – and see that, once again, for the complex and vital interchange which it really is.

I am hoping that I can keep up: it’s a vibrant, talented and global community of IDEL students.  I’m concerned about the limits of my own creativity: I am diligent, industrious and organised but my creative capacity pales in comparison with some of the artists and musicians on the course. And writing this hasn’t been easy: I’ve spent years writing IT strategies, business plans and training plans, so my reflective, engaged, academic prose is, to say the least, rusty. Still, it’s written, it’s done. My first blog post finished. And the process hasn’t felt mundane at all.