H808 5.5 Learning Technologists

What do learning technologists do?  Well, this is a question I should be able to answer because at some level I claim to be a learning (educational) technologist.  According to the Association for Learning Technology, learning technologists are “people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology” (ALT, 2011).  This is quite a broad definition, and one which could apply to all kinds of professionals.  But we wouldn’t want to call everybody who fits this definition a learning technologist, would we?  After all, everybody who works in a university is arguably supporting learning.

For me, my professional identity is bound up with a committment to particular set of methods and domains of enquiry.  At the same time, working in research involves an openness to revising one’s views about the best methods to use for investigation.

Jacqui’s forum post argues that one problem is that the role of the technologist is not standardised across institutions.  However, I would suggest that this kind of standardisation is often prohibited by the nature of the work.  If one’s job is to innovate, then it can be difficult to enshrine this is a job description.  In practice, there is a somewhat abstract relationship between the nature of the work that I do in researching and supporting research projects and the eventual application of that research in reconsidered practice.  In any case, one thing I liked about the defintion that Jacqui provided was the idea of focusing on the outputs of a technologist: the design, delivery, support, management and development of technological solution for education.  This seems more specific than ALT defintion.  My first thought was that, as a professional, I don’t really do that unless one frames it in terms of ‘support’.  But thinking about it further, I do contribute to the development and delivery of technical solutions… though often one step removed.

Lisewski and Joyce (2003:63) suggest that many learning technologies are ‘highly reified’.  Thinking in terms of reification is one way of understanding a sense of distance or alienation from the products of one’s labour.  But I find the treatment of reificiation in the paper somewhat discomforting.  Wenger’s account seems to just refer to non-participation or ineffectiveness (something that can be quantified).  But true reification is surely concerned with the formation of human subjectivity through and in interaction with the world.   Reification affects the whole of the social world; else it doesn’t exist. It cannot be limited to a particular context because it necessarily represents or expresses an ideology.  Reification is not a Heideggerian term, but as Heidegger (1954) reminds us, technology by its nature reveals a certain interpretation of the world.  We need better ways of understanding the impact technology has on our thought, motivation and autonomy.  And that seems to be something to which a philosopher can contribute.

ALT (2011) What is Learning Technology? Available at: http://www.alt.ac.uk/about-alt/what-learning-technology [Accessed December 10, 2011].

Heidegger, M. (1954) “The Question Concerning Technology”, from Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings from “Being and Time” (1927) to “The Task of Thinking” (1964), rev. ed., edited by David Farrell Krell. Harper: San Francisco.

Lisewski, B. and Joyce, P. (2003) Examining the five‐stage e‐moderating model: Designed and emergent practice in the learning technology profession. Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11 (1). pp. 55-66. ISSN 0968-7769 Available from http://repository.alt.ac.uk/399/ [last accessed 30 Oct 2011].

Wenger, E. (1998), Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

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