Being human #altc

One of the key messagesI took away form the Donna Lanclos and Dave White keynote at ALT-C this year was that we need to remember that there is no such thing as “the university” as we are “the university”.

When someone says “the university” won’t let us  do something, what they are actually saying is that a person in the university won’t let them do something.

We have to remember that policies, procedures and processes are not set in concrete and can be changed. I do realise that there are some legal aspects that mean some illegal activities are still illegal and that’s why you can’t do it!

The other key message for me was that tech and digital are not solutions, but people are. They may use digital for those solutions, but digital in itself is merely a tool to provide a solution. Without adequate training and support, digital tools are just tools.

I also liked their message that models  can hinder development, the use of hierarchical models that imply that this is a ladder to climb, when in reality you can often jump in at any point, and move between different sections, without necessarily needing to move on a linear journey upwards!

I made a couple of sketch notes from the keynote and as rightly pointed out to me, there isn’t much in them, but I did them more for me, than for other people.



These were done using Paper by 53 on an iPad pro with an Apple pencil.

2 thoughts on “Being human #altc”

  1. I was very struck, James by your statement that “we are the university”, and this idea has set off quite a few thoughts for me over the weekend. Firstly, it struck me that “we are the university” is probably less true now than it was several decades ago. At that time universities (and indeed schools and colleges) very much operated along collegial lines, with individual staff, departments and faculties having considerable freedom in how they worked, and with little overt ‘top-downism’. I remember that at the first school at which I taught (in the early 1970s) the head teacher was very proud of the fact that he had never held a meeting that did not involve all the teaching staff. None of us at the time would have had any concept of what a ‘senior management team’ might be! But collegial and consultative approaches have been largely replaced by managerialism. To quote from “… professional power is being incrementally diluted and displaced by ideological new managerialist reforms.” So I would question the idea that “we” are still the university (unless “we” happen to be the senior managers). Surely for the rest of us educators the reality is that “they [senior managers and their political masters] are the university/college/school”.

  2. The second train of thought that was sparked by “we are the university” relates to the potential impact of digital technology on learning – which is, I guess, the main focus of your blog, James. You see if we accept (to go back to my earlier messages) that senior managers and politicians are the ones who are really calling the shots in our educational institutions, we have to ask what value they and the institutions they control add to the students’ learning. My suggestion is that the REAL impact of technology in learning is (or should be) to challenge our conventional assumptions about the relationships between institutions, managers, teachers and students. In Chapter 8 of ‘The Social Life of Information’, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid identified and analysed five constituents or components of a university: students; degree-granting; faculty; research; facilities. In a conference talk I gave a couple of years ago I showed how online technology means that each of these five components/functions can now thrive without the need for a monolithic, hierarchical, managerialist, ‘top-down’ high-overheads institution. So, I would want to expand on the first sentence of your post. Instead of “… there is no such thing as ‘the university’ as we are ‘the university’”, I would suggest that:

    … there is no longer any need for the university/college/school as we currently know it, as we are the educators, and technology will enable us to thrive outside the confines of a monolithic managerialist institution.

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