I have been working in the intersection of technology and learning for the last five years. I first started using technology in the classroom as a teacher. It was new for me and was just experimenting with it. I tried new digital tools with the kids just out of personal interest and curiosity. They loved it. I loved it. Soon after that, I realised I wanted to discover new possibilities out there in this intersection and quit teaching. Since then I have been in education projects that naturally use technology. In all of them there is one thing in common: They are all innovative and pioneer in a lot of ways. Universiteplus was the first e-learning platform that brought the MOOC-style learning to Turkey. TIDBAU was (and still is) the most comprehensive e-learning content developed to teach Turkish Sign Language online. European Leadership University — in which I currently have a role in programme development— is the first university model from Turkey with a global focus that challenges the traditional higher education. It has a strong emphasis on the skill sets that people really need for ever-evolving jobs like data science rather than course completions, lectures and grades.
With some more experience in EdTech outside of classroom, I now see tech even more central and natural part of any educational activity. Here are a few ways of how I see it — perhaps from a very idealistic and sometimes a little bit futuristic perspective.
Let’s call it learning, not “digital” learning.
It may be still a bit too early to get used to it but sooner or later the terms “digital” and “technology” will be redundant in the context of learning because learning is hardly something we can think of without the use of “digital”. There is in fact only learning, not “digital learning” or “educational technology”.
We used to use the terms “Computer-assisted learning” or “technology enhanced teaching” a few decades ago because technology was something new in schools, but we no longer call it that way as computers have become integral part of our lives. Same will happen with “digital” and “technology”.
It is not only about education, it also applies to almost all businesses today. Technology is now an inseparable part of almost any process in a business, so we are already at this critical point where we need to abandon the mindset of seeing technology as something to be “integrated” to what we do. It is already there and invisible.
And even in our daily lives we can not differentiate between the times we go online and offline. The lines are so blurry and we do not say things like “I was online for 3 hours yesterday”.
There is an app or a platform for everything in education. It is not what you use; it is why and how you use them.
There are thousands of digital tools out there. There is a mobile app or a web platform for literally anything you can imagine and there are tons of equivalents to the one you already use. It does not matter which one you use. It does not even matter whether you use any of them or not. The conversation in the context of technology use is not about “Oh, I use this or that app in the classroom” anymore. Tell me about your learning or training goals and the learning experience you design to meet those goals. The tools will follow. I first want to hear how you do your design to teach the skill “team-work” not that you use Trello in your school for team projects or Moodle for an LMS. Tools are just a medium. They can change and go but your objectives and the learning experience stays and matters most.
When you know how your learning experience design looks like, what follows is how you curate the tools to go there. One essential skill for learning designers here is to be able to bring the right tools together for the overall architecture they want to achieve.
Talking about technology use on the basis of tools is not helpful and becoming obsolete because it is already part of your practice, so stick with your higher level design and your core goals.
Technology is invisible in teacher professional development as well.
Everybody talks about fourth industrial revolution driven by several disruptions such as rapid digitisation of businesses, high volumes of data generated every day, emergence of analytics, artificial intelligence and so on… These are real and happening now. The current and future state of work is directly related to today’s education and educators, so there is a pressing need for educators to keep up-to-date with all these dazzling developments . The mindset of today’s educator is (and should be) technology-oriented as well, therefore the opportunities for professional development are also a good blend of online and offline. It is not only about attending conferences or certificate programmes. Teachers develop new skills by taking online courses or attending online programmes. They participate in social networks and communities and connect with each other online. They develop new perspectives and stay updated through digital devices in more informal ways. It is now more personalised, relevant and happens anywhere anytime.
If you are an educator or in learning and development…
Technology is not something that stands far away from you. It is here and now. It is not anything scary but it is not the ultimate goal either. It is only what you use — like a pen and pencil — to take you to your goals.