In my job there are days when I could do a little dance on changing the way someone thinks about and approaches the use of learning technologies and improves the learning experience for their learners. They start to use learning technologies to solve problems they are facing, make things better for their learners or even just to do things differently to engage the learners.
Then there are days when I think… really… I start to realise that the journey my college is on is on a long and winding road…
Let me tell you a story.
In my job I am in charge of the libraries as well as learning technologies and now and again I sit on the desk and help learners and staff using the library to find and use a range of learning resources. I find this a useful way of seeing how our learners use learning resources.
A lecturer came into the library the other day and asked where the journals were, we’ve just had a refurbishment, so I guessed that she didn’t know where we had moved them. So rather than point in the general direction, I took the opportunity to show her where they were and maybe also get her to think about using the e-book collection or other online resources we have.
We found the journal she was looking for and she asked about back copies, I said we have a few on the shelves, but knowing that we subscribed to Infotrac said we also (probably) had an electronic archive. She had not heard of Infotrac, so we went to a computer and I showed her how to access the collection on the web.
She seemed impressed how easy it was to find the journal, the back issues and find archived articles. She then said that she would recommend using the service to her learners.
Just as I thought, yes success, she said,
“I normally tell my students not to use web sites”
I must have looked a little shocked as she then added pointing at Infotrac,
“That website is okay as it is a journal, but I don’t like my students using web sites”.
Then off she went….
Sometimes in my role I think yes we are changing the culture and then a member of staff says something like that dismissing the web out of hand and I think I still have a long way to go!
I really feel sorry for her learners who in the real world will be dealing with web sites all the time with excellent content and here was their lecturer dismissing the web out of hand out of pure ignorance and a lack of understanding of how the web is used for academic research, teaching and learning.
How can anyone be so ignorant of progress and change? How can anyone be so backward in their understanding of how the web is used in their profession?
Back in the 1990s there may be an argument that content on the web, well sites on GeoCities anyhow, were probably not “useful” for teaching and learning and there were issues with the authenticity.
I wouldn’t be surprised by an academic in 1997 making these kinds of assumptions, but fourteen years later haven’t we moved on?
Today even Wikipedia has value (especially in the references) and can’t just be dismissed, there is also a huge amount of valuable content on the web that learners can use to support their learning. There is some “dodgy” content on the web, so learners do of course need to have information skills to find, judge and use web based material. There is also curated content from information professionals. Think of all the open access journals now available as well as online collections of digitised resources, journal articles, and e-books.
From experience the academic in this story is quite rare in my institution, but they do exist, they are ignoring the change that is happening around them, they are not attending the training, reading the communication about the new possibilities that learning technologies and the web can bring to teaching and learning.
Part of me says that it doesn’t matter as someone who has such entrenched views will probably never change regardless of what I say and therefore I should not worry about them, ignore them and work with practitioners who are more open to the possibilities. However part of me thinks about the learners and the fact that they are losing out on the potential that the web can bring to their learning, to make it better, easier and improve accessibility. I can’t ignore them, therefore I can’t ignore the ignorant.