Well I think differently!

I use to think that the “message” of e-learning could be sold to practitioners.

I use to think that once the “message” was sold that these practitioners would then embrace e-learning and use it to enhance and enrich their teaching and their students’ learning.

I use to think, once sold, that these practitioners would continue to use e-learning as e-learning evolved and changed over the years.

I use to think, that these practitioners would sell the “message” to others in their curriculum area and the cycle would continue.

I know others think this way.

I no longer think this way.


I no longer think this way because I have seen it tried and used in many different institutions, over many educational sectors, across varied curriculum areas and have never seen a holistic success made of this process, it does not work across a whole institution. For example, in FE we had ILT Champions who would “champion” the use of ILT in their curriculum areas.

So what do I think now?

Well I think differently.

We need to think differently if we are to make the best use of e-learning to meet the challenges (and opportunities) over the next few years.

We can’t continue to do what we have always done, just because we have always done it that way.

My methodology now, is more about changing the culture of an organisation so that when new technologies come along, we see it as an opportunity for enrichment, and not a threat to an existing practice. Learning technologies are there to provide solutions to practical, administrative and pedagogical problems, not to be a problem in their own right waiting to be solved.

Practitioners need to be wanting and able to take advantage of the opportunities and solutions that learning technologies can provide, and not see it as something that is annoying, unsuitable, inappropriate or dangerous.

We need to move away from excuses and obstacles, and move towards opportunities and solutions.

It’s not just about “not enough” staff development and training, it’s about practitioner taking responsibility for their own staff development, to seek out a community of practice, to build on their skills, share, collaborate and move forward. It isn’t enough now to rely on a single staff development day, week or event. Staff development is an activity that happens every day.

Community is important, local, regional, national and even international. Sharing practice, ideas and problems is a way of changing culture. Building communities of practice and personal learning networks should be the responsibility of every practitioner, and no they don’t all need to be based around Twitter!

We need to start thinking differently about how we do things, and not do things just because we have always done them that way. Sometimes we will continue to do it that way, but for the right reasons.

Well I think differently!

Do you?

14 thoughts on “Well I think differently!”

  1. From my own point of view, this a timely post. I started in a new school at the beginning of this month and I have found a staff ready for change, willing to try new ideas, open to suggestions and advice and keen to learn. They are a creatively minded bunch who think differently.

  2. I totally agree James. It is disheartening still, 8 years in to my teaching career, to know that some teachers don’t wish to develop, evolve and embrace new ideas and/or technologies; that so many seam to scorn the very notion of professional development. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now!

    While there may be credence in the old analogy: “You can take a horse to water…” I think there is actually a message for us all in there. If you know they are not going to drink the water, why bother taking them at all? You have to make them want to drink first, that’s the key. And I think you are right, a “community of practice” is exactly what is needed.

    I guess the problem is: how do you create that in a school with its many pressures and disparate staff make-up? On Twitter we are a community of like-minded souls who have found each other. A school is not like this, for every one potential tweep there are two naysayers ready to shoot down the ideas or perhaps even worse ignore them all together.

    I appear to have gone very negative and that was not my intention. I think at the heart of the problem is breathing room. If you took away Ofsted, data, and many of the other pressures, perhaps room would be opened up for teachers to focus more on their own practice. They may see the true value in assessment for learning, the joy that elearning can bring to a group of students and actually give consideration to the notion that it’s time to try something a bit different.

    I think differently too, and I suspect that most of the people who will read this do as well. How do you make the people who won’t be reading this think differently?

  3. I’m pleased to see James (first poster) thinking differently, but there are still echoes of his original thinking in James Michie’s comment on making teachers think differently.

    It’s not about making teachers think differently. They already think about their teaching. They already think about how to improve their students’ learning. Where e-learning people can help is to listen more and to learn more about teaching. What do the teachers want to change? What teaching issue do they want to address? E-learning will be taken up, no problem, if it’s offered when, and only when, it is actually going to solve a real issue.

    Create a community of learning where teachers have space to talk about their teaching, and e-learning people listen to what they’re trying to achieve – then you’ll find some openings.

    See how this attitude helped e-learning uptake in the School of Education at Nottingham:

  4. I also agree. Culture change is what is needed. I’m just not certain how this can be achieved. Although I believe I think differently and advocate the use of technology in teaching, I myself am not a member of the teaching staff and therefore feel at times that curriculum staff consider there is no credence to my ideas.

    To encourage the Horse to drink there is a need to increase it’s thirst and I feel there is a better chance of doing this when real benefits are shown by exemplar teaching by teachers, for teachers. In addition to this you need the executive of an institution to reward those that demonstrate the benefits of technology and actively embrace technology themselves.

    If the head of your institution is neutral to the use of technology then there is always going to be an avenue for the naysayers to take to circumvent the advocates efforts. I also wonder if it’s not just about using technology for teaching but a wider problem about the use of IT in general

    Many people that I speak to have IT pressed upon them rather than IT being used to solve problems. Not enough effort seems to be made to look at typical problems facing teaching staff and then finding an IT solution to alleviate the problem. When IT is used wisely to save time rather than hinder it promotes a more positive attitude to utilising it elsewhere.

  5. For people to change their practice they need to have an incentive. For the early adopters this can be summarised by “Ohhh Shiney”.
    For most this is not enough, what they need is a problem! Nothing motivates like a problem 🙂
    When I was a VLE manager staff tended to contact me when they wanted to do something, normally because there was a problem.
    I would show them the bit of eLearning that solved their problem, train/support/help them.
    After a while I got a reputation for being someone that solved problems, so more people got in contact.
    When we did training on new tools mainly the early adopters turned up, but thinking back there was a second group that tended to attend training and then crucially act on it. They were the staff that realised what they had just learnt solved a …. problem!

    But how do you scale it up – Im only one person, there were 2500 staff at my last institution.
    More eStaff? – there were 4 of us when I started 5 years ago, 10 when I left 2 months ago (and another 30 with some eResponsibilities). But there are budget limits to how far you can go with that.

    So we are back to James’s suggestion about communities, there are already ones out there or we can build our own, all we now need to do is
    …make sure the “message” of e-learning communities can be sold to practitioners…

    Ah well, its a problem – but im good with problems 🙂

  6. As an experienced classroom teacher and..well…OLD person..I had to laugh at your original statement. You could have substituted ANY subject matter into that paradigm and summarized the reality that hits most first year teachers in any discipline. We are so enamored with the beauty of our own particular discipline that it comes as a true shock that the students don’t just LOVE math/science/English/technology/insert-subject-matter-here. I agree with Rachel – listen more. They are intelligent people who have entered a profession keen to make a difference. How can technology help them achieve the goals they already have? Motivation 101….how can I help you see that what I have can help you get what you want?

  7. Yes indeed. The concept of learned helplessness is apposite here. Its about culture, its about attitude and its about an acceptance of a standard of make do that would not be tolerated in any other professions. I am getting quite hard line on this in my old age. Why should teachers be able to ‘opt out’ of keeping up to date and using the latest tools and developing their own informed practice.

    Recently blogged about this contrast between doctors and teachers and how we would not put up with ‘old fashioned’ doctoring so why should we put up with old fashioned teaching?

  8. My experience as an academic and now heading up e-learning in a post92 university is that resistance comes when there is limited clarity in reasoning or where it is seen as “forcing” change.

    Labelling strategies as “e-learning” or other technology based term is not always helpful. It puts up personal barriers and people have too many individual viewpoints as to what “e-learning” might be.

    Where I have seen greatest success is where you can demonstrate “no brainer” transformations. Demonstrating clear and unequivocal benefits to staff is the most powerful “weapon” against resistance. These benefits should always be personally relevant to staff (e.g time saving, rewarding (recognition), transformative). At the point where staff begin to think “it’s a no brainer” is when you know you have cracked it. Even at that point if those who are really resistant still do not want to change you can be safe in the knowledge that deep down they know you are right.

    I have seen this culture change first hand where I introduced formal use of Open Educational Resources in the University. It has been able to generate significant “no brainer” experiences for staff, to such an extent that we are asking all undergraduate courses to look at using some open educational materials in their curticulumn delivery.

    It’s not an easy task we have as evangelists & early adopters. But if you can demonstrate “no brainer” benefits they would be crazy to resist.

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