Martin Weller’s „Next-big-thingism“

Although Martin Weller, professor of eduactional technology at the Open University in the UK, advocates the great potential of digital technologies in teaching and research, he does point out that our new  practices come along with many drawbacks and serious concerns. In his book The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice he wrote a very interesting chapter that deals with the most common concerns, mainly because „as we can’t know what those benefits are if we don’t engage with technology, so will we be unaware of what we lose if we do not apply our critical faculties to technology adoption“.

His blog post  Criticisms of digital scholarship is an engaging invitation to think about the validity of most concerns and warnings and come up with the ones that we should be seriously concidering.

One of them, which made me think about our next online course, discusses the exerimentation of teachres with new tools in education, and is called „The Next-big-thingism“. It’s about students beeing confronted with new tools for learning and even asked to use their own private social networks at university. He writes: „These tools may have significant potential for learning, but students don’t want them to become the next LMS: organisationally controlled, bland and singular in focus (i.e. teaching). For the teaching function of scholarship then the question is ‘How can educators utilise the potential of these tools without destroying what makes them valuable to students?’“

And even if educators and students don’t like this, the answer is really „by making mistakes“.

„Knowing which approach to try, and then which tool to use to implement it, is something that workshops, training courses and examples can help with, but it arises much more from experience and experimentation.“

The next very important question is: are we aloud to experiment with students and their education? Martin Weller agrees with Erik Duval (2010) on this, who argues that „we can afford to disrupt education, largely because the existing systems are far from perfect anyway“

I also don’t see another way and personally find experimenting with new tools and new forms of teaching very rewarding experience.

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