I’ve been a learning technologist since 2002, at the LSE since 2009. Ten years ago I presented a short paper at a conference about the purpose of the learning technologist, because even we as a group didn’t really know. It’s only short and it ends with a suggestion that what we learning technologists should be doing is stamp on people’s toes, and so it is, if not agreeable, still interesting, and still relevant. If you’re in the mood for speculative musings on what learning technology is about, give it a read: ‘What are we for?‘.
Fast forward ten years and puzzlement as to what we do or what we are for remains. That’s fair enough, after all, if you’re an engineer and you meet someone who tells you they are a dentist, you would also ask “oh, dentist, I see, but what does that mean, I mean what do you actually do?” And so with Learning Technologists. We’re a bit like dentists. Unfathomable. Mysterious.
I’ll try once more to lift the lid on that mystery.
Here’s the good news: what we do is really easy to understand, you just have to be prepared to listen. To prove this, and to allow for different tastes and learning styles, I offer you three different explanations, with the keywords highlighted, so you can skim through.
1. Generic: in short
Here’s a generic overview of what LTI (found on our LTI page):
“Learning Technology and Innovation (LTI) supports staff in the use of technologies to enhance teaching and learning at the London School of Economics. We […] promote the integration and use of technology in teaching and learning by supporting key technologies, through staff development, advice and guidance, research, collaboration and networking.”
Put differently: we provide pedagogical support and guidance to academic teaching staff with a focus on technology.
Or as a question: How can technology help improve your teaching and your students’ learning? We’re here to find out for and with you.
2. Concrete: drilling down
Academic staff (incl GTAs) are our core focus, but in many cases we deal with administrative staff too, especially in dealing with routine queries about setting things up in Moodle, or using TurnItIn and so on. We write materials too, from basic training materials, to guides on how to use educational technologies, to policy and guidance documents on copyright for example. A large part of our work is staff development. We develop and run workshops on the use of educational technologies – each of which will always incorporate theoretical discussions on how these might impact on student learning. We work closely with TLC, and teach about learning theories on the PG Certificate in Higher Education. We do research – you can’t really expect to persuade academics at a research intensive university about the benefits of changing practices, adopting different pedagogical approaches, trying out technologies etc if we didn’t. We read up on what’s new, engage with our colleagues across the UK and further afield. We make connections with interested teachers and persuade them to try new things – that is, we track them down and buy them coffee and have exciting chats and then we hit them over the head with a mallet and force them to do a pilot with us. Maybe with clickers, or iPads, or flipping lectures or eAssessment.
3. Contradictory: we are not
We are not a lending service. So you want to borrow an iPad from us to see what it can do? Of course you can. First of all, we are super approachable and we all tend to say yes rather than no. Nevertheless, there should always be a “using it for teaching” aspect.
We’re not IT training. While our workshops have elements of ‘hands on how to use technology x’, the main emphasis is on how it impacts on teaching and learning, how best to use the technology in a teaching and learning context. Most of our workshops are discursive.
We are not technical support. Most of us are pretty tech savvy, but all of us focus on impact that technology (as concept) and educational technologies.
See, that wasn’t so hard. And one of these days dentists will be equally well understood.