Q6: What are the different emphases in the roles of educational technologists?

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Rebecca Galley
26 August 2009

'Newcomers being inducted to the field need to know the parameters of the field and its knowledge base. Members of the research and professional community need to agree where their shared areas of interest, focus, approach and projects lie'. Czerniewicz (2008, p. 177)

Does the literature affirm this view?

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Susi Peacock, Ann Robertson, Sarah Williams, Maria Giatsi Clausen (2009) The Role of learning technologists in supporting e-research, Alt-J 17 (2): 115-120

Helen Beetham
09:58 on 11 September 2009

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Tom Browne
12:34pm 3 September 2009 (Edited 8:39am 4 September 2009)


One of the authors of this paper emailed me directly because he is having difficulty with this Cloudworks site.  We are attempting to resolve the problem.   Meanwhile, I thought I would post this reference on behalf of the authors because it really does merit wider reading.

It could have been posted in response to several of the questions, (and there are interesting parallels with the Hannon ref. posted in Q7) but to give you a taster, I include several quotes from the article below:

' ... direct participation in the learning community is essential for learning technologists and that common codes of practice for learning technologists are required, both as a benchmark and as a framework by which professional practice can be measured and developed'

'This article set out to explore the ways in which learning technologists affect the learning environment in which they work and the implications this may have for the development of professional guidelines for learning technologists'

and finally (following both theoretical underpinning and a suite of interviews):

'An essential component of the role and working context of learning technologists has been shown to be their practical and ethical alignment with the learning environments they support and serve.'

Helen Beetham
10:00am 11 September 2009


I think the Peacock et al article in latest issue of Alt-J is also relevant to this and several questions, even tho it deals mainly with the role in relation to research. It concludes that we need a 'more inclusive model of the learning technologist's role' if we are to avoid polarising the field into theorists and practitioners. But in practice, given the distinction between academic/non-academic/academic-related contracts, the inclusivity they are asking for would require major rethinking of roles across the board, IMO.

Gráinne Conole
10:35am 11 September 2009


Although a little old, the chapter we did on this in 2007 is relevant - have added a link about.

Gráinne Conole
10:37am 11 September 2009


Also Alison Hudson's PhD work is relevant I think - http://www.iml.umu.se/alison-hudson/

Martin Oliver
3:46pm 25 September 2009


This is also something that came up when scoping the CMALT qualification. The project's website is still accessible at:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/calt/alt-accreditation/

I still wish Rhona and I had forced ourselves to get some sensible publications out of that... still, the reports are up there.

The obvious tension was between people working primarily on technology, and those working primarily with people, but the award deliberately required both if people were going to get through it. (Not to a massively high level, it must be said, but both had to be visible in the evidence submitted.)

However, there were other tensions in there too, such as in relation to setting (industry and academia were pitted against each other).

Giota Alevizou
11:30am 28 September 2009 (Edited 11:35am 28 September 2009)


I can't help but adding some links to the communities of practice prespectives (CoP) (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Very recent workshops and events have featured Ettiene Wegner among others - principly educational technologists and academics in education -  revaluating notions of  participation and the positionality of the educational technologist in communities of practice around learning. Participating or observing some of such debates made me think how, perhaps, the role of the educational technologist has become - or can become - more integral or legitimate (rather than peripheral) in both knowledge management within instutions, and in the facilitating the conduct of learning. This, I think, relates to Helen Beetham's comment above. It also relates to the ways in which the educational technologist can mobalise integral participation by both academic faculty and students (cf. clouds on students' experience).

Links to the events  'Mirandamod: CoP: do they have a role in Education' (http://mirandamod.wikispaces.com/Communities+of+Practice+of) and 'E Wenger  broadcast: the learning theory behind communities of practice' (http://www.l4l.co.uk/?p=854). MirandaMods are events organised by MirandaNet.

Giota Alevizou
11:44am 28 September 2009 (Edited 2:48pm 1 October 2009)


And an interesting reflection by an academic cum  educational technologist (sic) cum open source practitioner, Miles Berry, here

Tom Browne
1:43pm 30 September 2009


Stimulated by the URL posted by Giota above, it got me wondering how much overlap there is between  CoP and what is increasingly being called the Teaching Research Nexus (TRN).  There is now a lot of literature on the TRN, but I like the material at http://trnexus.edu.au/index.php?page=what-is-the-trn  Currently, they are pursued as different strands of literature.  But in neither have I found the role of the educational technologist particularly prominent.  I'd be pleased to stand back and be contradicted.

Martin Oliver
1:53pm 30 September 2009


I think that one of the links here is that Learning Technologists usually work across different contexts - they have to support practice in a range of departmental settings, and liaise with technical/library specialists, as well as (sometimes) having a culture of 'generic' educational concerns within their own base. In this respect, I think they operate as what Wenger calls boundary-crossing agents. I think this 'cross pollinating' aspect of their work would be lost if learning technologists 'go native' and locate themselves purely as a support function within one teaching context. (I won't say department or faculty or whatever, because I think the important issue here is homogeneity or the lack of it, rather than size.)

I would suspect that their need to engage with researchers, educators and so on may be one way - albeit a modest one - in which they actually constitute part of the "research teaching nexus".

Giota Alevizou
1:54pm 30 September 2009


Hi Tom

I haven't come across anything like this either (as yet!!). But Ettiene Wenger's talk last Tuesday touched upon some overlap - I think. This is definately something that we can perhaps explore further in our OpenExeter study.

Tom Browne
1:46pm 12 November 2009


I'd strongly encourage participants to have a look at Laura Czerniewicz's blog at: http://blogs.uct.ac.za/blog/laura-cet/2009/11/05/recruiting-academic-amalgams.  Laura has contributed elsewhere within this Cloudscape.  But in her blog she makes the inciteful comment:

We run the danger of framing the position around the conditions of service rather than the needs of the job itself. 

This observation was made in the context of what to include in a job description for an educational technologist.   Despite the incredibly wide ranging nature of the role, we invariably have to choose between an academic or a 'non-academic' conditions of service.  Laura then proposes the term 'blended professionals'.

Interestingly, the Registrar at Exeter used the same term in an article in a recent edition of the THE (see: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=408783&c=1

As higher education becomes less exclusive, its workforce has become more inclusive, recognising that nothing can be achieved without teamwork. Thankfully, ....  professional staff defined by what they are not, in the term "non-academic". I refer always to the professional staff and the professional services because the words "professional" and "service" seem to me to epitomise the identity of those who devote their working lives, alongside their academic colleagues, to advancing knowledge and overcoming ignorance and prejudice.


Giota Alevizou
10:25am 13 November 2009


Very interesting Tom. I wonder what sort of measures should educational technologists alongside other learning professionals will have to take  in the future to exclusionary or divisive definitions. One such thing that comes to mind is to promote a culture of 'collaboration', rather than a culture of 'service'.

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