Geekly interference

In one of my roles, I work for a company which has been commissioned by a Multi-Academy Trust to develop and embed a learning platform into their schools (we don’t refer to it as a VLE because of the now negative connotations the term has). The suite of tools harnesses Office 365 technologies to offer much of what would typically be found in a VLE.

I have spent two years in what has felt like a war of attrition trying to encourage, cajole and persuade staff to adopt these new technologies, these new ways of working, of creating knowledge, of constructing learning. Throughout this time the constant refrain, which has been repeated by the Trust and by the schools, is a variant on ‘teaching comes first, the technology should support the teaching’. There is a frequently expressed concern that ‘geekly interference’ (Cousin, 2005, p.117*) should get in the way of practice.

It was, therefore, a relief to spend some time in the company of Glynis Cousin this week. Her assertion that ‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them’ (ibid, p.118) defines what we need to convey (with sensitivity and empathy) to the teachers and leaders with whom we are working. Cousin’s stance offers a refreshing counterpoint to the ‘mantra’ (ibid, p.117) that humans and technology are separate and the ‘latter is neutral and in the service of the former’ (ibid, p.117):

‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them, and in the process they become mutually determining.’ (ibid, p.118)

We have to figure out ways to counter the notions that technology is a threat, a tool, or ‘a neutral extension of some rock-solid human nature’ (ibid, p.119). We need to recognise that the media serves to construct the self, imprinting ‘our imagination with the realm of the possible’ (p.119).

I have no ready answers as to how we can shift teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards the technologies we are introducing. At the heart of much of the resistance, there is a sense of threat and disempowerment and a weary disillusionment with the false promises which edtech brings. However, what Cousin’s article has highlighted is that what I can readily shift and change is my own lexicon; I need to treat terms like ‘tool’ with care. When working with teachers, I also need to challenge the notion that the pedagogy defines the technology and the use of the technology; a more nuanced exploration of the interrelationship and interconnectedness of our selves, our practices and our technologies is required.

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

2 Replies to “Geekly interference”

  1. Hi Helen,

    Sounds like a tough challenge you have there! I’ve found it easiest to bring reluctant colleagues online with me when I’ve been able to do some of the online teaching myself and show by example what the positives can be. Are there any opportunities for a more enthusiastic teacher in your context to make interesting use of the online and show it to her colleagues.

    You might find this paper interesting?

    Angus, T., Cook, I. and Evans, J. (2001) A manifesto for cyborg pedagogy? International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education . 10(2): 195-201.



  2. Hi Velda,

    That’s what we’re hoping to do within the schools: build teams of active, enthusiastic advocates in the form of ‘digital leaders’ who will work to encourage the other members of staff. As a remote coordinator of this team, I established the aforementioned forum of failure in order to enable us to work together, share ideas and enthuse. Hopefully, with this forum bubbling back into life we can make progress.

    It was so much easier when I was physically present within schools: cajoling and mithering is easier when you can offer cake and chocolate. I need to think of some virtual rewards which are an acceptable substitute!



    ps: some schools (like Essa Academy in Bolton) have credited their success in ‘e-transformation’ with the establishment of teams of student (not staff) digital leaders. It would be good to chat through this with Joy as I know her school is using a similar scheme. However, I haven’t seen her on the forum for a while.

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