I was involved in a session at this conference.
This was my first JISC CETIS Conference. It had all of the elements of a great gathering: a fantastic venue (the National College in Nottingham), a well-designed programme, and informal sessions. Not to mention, of course, very committed delegates.I was there having been invited to provide some input to a session being run by Phil Barker and Simon Grant (both from JISC CETIS) around the topic of Open Badges. I was delighted to be involved – you can see my slides and listen to the audio above. It was good to catch up with some JISC folk and others in the sector with very much a technical bent. It did make me realise, however, just how different the mindsets of educators and developers are. The former camp want technical solutions to well-defined problems. The latter are mostly concerned with successfully-realised technical solutions – even if there’s not a well-defined problem to be solved. An assumption that’s prevalent in all sectors is that if you’re interested in learning technologies then you must be a techie. Whilst I may be slightly technically-minded, I’m actually not that interested in how to get from A to B. I kind of just want it to work – preferably using open standards. I suppose the upshot of this is that I pitched my input into the Open Badges session for those interested in how they could change education. In hindsight, this was a mistake as I don’t think most developers are actually that interested in the problem; they’re interested in the technologies. As one person who came along to the session told me during a coffee break, “We’re sick to death of hearing that X, Y or Z is going to change the world. Accept that it isn’t and move on.” Oops. It seems to me that most development and innovation in learning technologies (from the developer side) comes from neat, pragmatic solutions to existing (perceived) problems, or ways of combining data streams to get interesting mashups. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. That’s absolutely what we need. The final keynote, for example, from Prof. Mark Stubbs (Head of Learning and Research Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University) showed how his institution had gone about a curriculum design process for over 50,000 students. I can’t remember pedagogy being mentioned once. I’m not being critical of the conference or the community in my comments above. What it really brought home to me, however, is the need for educators to engage more with things that are technologically possible – and for learning technologists to engage more with pedagogy. We talk about ‘mainstreaming innovation’ but, in all honesty, just getting techies to talk to teachers (and vice versa) seems to me to be the whole barrier.