Teacher Learning, ICT, and Cultures of Connectivity #edchat #edtech

I have been in the midst of a literature review of educational research titles pertaining to digital technology in teacher education. My primary interest in this literature review has been to look at teacher candidate ICT learning in teacher education, as well as teacher educator ICT learning and teacher education program ICT curriculum. In recognition that teacher education educators are drawn from in-service teachers, I have also been looking at in-service teacher ICT learning. My database of article titles numbers 2,137. I have been coding them to identify the focus of the research: 1) in-service teacher ICT learning, 2) pre-service teacher ICT learning, 3) teacher educator ICT learning, 4) ICT use in schools, 5) student learning with ICT, 6) online teaching, and 7) other (subjects that don’t fit into items 1 – 6).

My first pass over the titles has been to give each article at least one code, with some annotations for clarity. I am working from titles collected from journals and conference papers published 2010 – 2014. One gap in this collection of research literature that keeps jumping out at me is the lack of studies into in-service teacher ICT learning. As I review the articles pertaining to in-service teacher learning, I notice there are a number of articles that investigate teacher knowledge, knowledge sharing, teacher use of ICT, teacher beliefs and attitudes about ICT, teacher ICT intentions, changing educational practice through ICT interventions, teacher ICT practices, teacher ICT professional development, teacher ICT presence in online learning environments, teacher pedagogical beliefs and ICT use, teachers’ use of ICT in specific subject areas (literacy, math, science, social studies, art, music, etc.), and teachers as ICT instructional designers. What I have not found is research investigating and discussing teacher learning. Specifically, there is a glaring absence of research reporting teachers learning ICT: how, why, when, where and what. 

The teaching profession and the field of education are undergoing many changes due to complex forces at play in early 21st century society. One of the most profound changes our human society is undergoing is our ubiquitous use of ICT in all our human knowledge and social systems. Our society relies on teachers to provide learning opportunities and instructional support to our citizenry, from pre-k to adult learning, and yet, there appears to be a dearth of knowledge about how teachers learn, and how they learn to teach with, about, and through ICT devices, software applications, and network infrastructures.

Part of my work with this literature review is to prepare my presentation for CSELP 2014 Symposium taking place on February 22, 2014 at the Segal Graduate School of Business, in Vancouver, BC. The topic of this symposium is the idea of changing technocratic conceptions of digital technologies in the service of education to think of our relationships with digital technologies and the multitudinous ways learning takes place when we engage media, networks, libraries, and temporary connections in shared interests and issues. It appears one of our most urgent, and necessary tasks, is to actually understand how teachers learn: how they learn to change their beliefs, their practices, their technological knowledge, their pedagogical practices, and their inter-collegial cultures for learning, and learning to change, particularly with regards to digital technologies for learning, and digital technologies in society.

I think it is safe to say there is not one teacher in British Columbia who shares identical ICT beliefs, practices, pedagogy, and online learning relationships, with any other teacher in this province. The fact is that every teacher has a unique history that has informed the formation of their relationship with digital technology in their professional practice. At the same time, many teachers have experienced similar phenomena and ICT events with their colleagues that have shaped their beliefs, attitudes, pedagogy and practice. I would argue that one of the most important steps we can take to transforming educational uses of digital technologies is to share our stories about our encounters with ICT in practice: in the staff room, at professional development events, and above all, in our classrooms. We need productive opportunities to talk about where we have come from, and where it might be possible for us to go. These discussions must be informed by the work of others, by research and literature that can broaden our perspectives and deepen our understandings. We won’t truly engage 21st century learning in our education system until we have made sense of what it means to do this, and we can’t make sense of it if we don’t talk about it.

I look forward to the day when every education professional in this province considers themselves a ‘thought leader’ (and discussion leader) as we formulate a vision for learning, digital technology, and cultures of connectivity in British Columbia. The stories we share become the research literature we can draw on to inform our imaginings for a dynamic, evolving, knowledge-generative ecology of learning in BC education.

Making headway #dissertating

I have a schedule for completing my dissertation. I am now on extension, so I absolutely must stick to this schedule. When I started writing for academia, I thought it would be easy because I was a fast typist. Yes, that worked out well, didn’t it. My most recent chapter draft for chapter 2 weighed in at 57 pages. It’s all good, too.

I am working on trimming it down without losing the important connective concepts and topics.

In the meantime, I do have a nice version of chapter 1 done. One of the aspects of this project that has taken so much time is getting my own brain into the game of academia, and then into teacher education. Let’s face it, I am not an educational insider. I have come into the field from the outside, and then fought my way into the labyrinth of history, culture, and normative practice that make up the field of education.

Many years ago I was a self-taught data management professional. I was designing and managing relational databases in Microsoft Access. At the time, the BC Government was implementing a new system for health management in the province. A hodge-podge of centralized systems were being decentralized to local regional health boards and health councils. As part of the transition, the regional health boards needed to conduct their own inventories of services, so they could understand what health services were being delivered in their region, at what cost, and in what facilities. This was a huge undertaking. I was brought in to support data management, as there were problems with with surveys and databases from the original data collection.

As I started to familiarize myself with the system, I realized one of the key problems of the entire field was that similar services had different names in different institutions, and, similar names referred to different services in different institutions. It made it very difficult to figure out what was being reported, and it made it impossible to summarize data in a meaningful way. Part of my job became a coding problem, of ensuring these disparate services and terms were being compiled to reflect appropriate categories and groupings.

My entry into academia and the field of teacher education has been a similar experience. For those encultured from the inside, systems of organization that might appear haphazard or chaotic from the outside are simply the way things are organized from the inside. I have had to go through an extended process of reading, research, and observation, to finally grasp how the system works, how it makes sense to those familiar with its environs, and how I might position myself within it.

It does feel like I am finally making some headway.

The problem to be addressed #edchat #edtech

My research addresses the problem of teachers’ ICT perspectives and practices assumed but not prepared. This has led to a continuing problem of teachers’ lack of innovative uses of ICT in their professional practice. With this lack comes an undeveloped technological disposition in the cultures of schools. Despite billions of dollars invested worldwide in equipping schools with digital infrastructure, there is evidence that these investments have not been utilized to actually influence the emergence of social learning practices. More troubling, these investments have not resulted in a teaching cohort with sophisticated knowledge of digital technologies and their significance in the formation of future human societies. At present we do not have adequate leadership to develop sophisticated understandings of the significance of digital technologies as an apogee of human connectivity and communication. Instead, we have corporate and government initiatives that would assign our technological communicative capabilities to serve the interests of administrative expediency and market messaging.

We have a problem with in-service teacher learning regarding ICT perspectives and practices, we also have a problem with pre-service teacher learning ICT perspectives and practices. This makes sense, because the teacher education system is a quasi-mentoring system: more experienced educators teach pre-service teacher candidates how to teach. If the more experienced educators have not developed an innovative ICT disposition and an ethical commitment to ICT leadership as an integral component of the teaching profession, they are not going to be able to convey these dispositions, and ethical values to a new generation of teachers coming into the field.

However, we can interrupt the cycle of non-ICT engagement in the teaching profession, and we have a very real opportunity for the teaching profession to assume a leadership role in education citizenry for the 21st century. At present, there is no system in place to: 1) address the problem; and 2) implement a systemic intervention for change.

Part of the problem is that traditionally the teaching profession has been concerned with a very narrow realm of educational activity. Specifically, educators have been concerned with conveying pre-determined knowledge about pre-determined disciplinary fields (e.g. math, science, language arts, etc.). It is only in recent decades that teachers have been given the responsibility of more diverse topics and issues (politics, the environment, ecological studies, social justice, etc.). Throughout the history of the field of education, technological knowledge has been relegated to hard sciences and vocational studies. There has never been an educational focus, or leadership, investigating our social uses of technologies, including digital technologies. However, at this point in our human evolution, we must pay attention to our human involvements with technologies, all technologies, as it is through our technological phenomena that we are destroying natural resources, habitats, human populations, and the humanities.

What is at stake, as we consider preparing teachers’ ICT perspectives and practices isn’t simply figuring out how to load a powerpoint lecture into Slideshare, or reversing instructional activity using Khan academy videos. What is at stake is the kind of human societies we want to create as we evolve as a species. Our involvements with digital technological phenomena signify a developmental ‘level-jump’ at a par with the invention of the Guttenberg press. We absolutely need a cohort of educators capable of providing leadership and instruction to our citizenry to ensure the amplification of human communicative capabilities made possible by digital technologies is used for the betterment of living conditions for all humankind, and not to simply empower and enrich a few, at the expense of the many.

Pushing through #dissertating

My workflow was interrupted last week with a trip to the university and now it is time to take up the traces once again and continue to plough this field and sow these seeds.

I notice this clarity of purpose is starting to imbue the work as a matter of course rather than a sentence by sentence battle of wills. I wonder if I can write a conceptual summary.

My thesis is concerned with the lack of preparation of teachers’ information and communication technologies (ICT) in the field of Canadian teacher education. Canadian teacher education signifies a greater problem, the lack of preparation of teachers’ ICT perspectives and practices. It is this greater lack that contributes to the situation in the field of teacher education in Canada. Additionally, the lack of teacher ICT preparation is not limited to Canada, but has been reported for decades in educational institutions around the world. The problem is recognized by UNESCO, which authored ICT Competency Standards for Teachers in the form of a framework, policies, and instructional modules.

The problem I am addressing is one that was identified by Larry Cuban in his landmark study, “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. Cuban identified three key elements to the lack of engagement on the part of teachers: 1) historically the field of education has not placed great emphasis on our human involvements with technology, particularly in the ways human learning and teaching are shaped by technology; 2) teachers did not play a part in the deliberations or decisions that led to the introduction of digital technologies into educational venues, they do not share a common vision of what it means to use digital technologies in their professional contexts; and 3) teachers do not feel adequately prepared to re-cast their teaching practices through the incorporation of digital technologies within their educational institution, nor their professional cultural beliefs and values.

The background of the problem shows educational researchers reporting a continuing problem with teachers’ and teacher educators’ uses of ICT: 1) a lack of congruence between ICT policy frameworks and day to day teachers’ practices; 2) the use of ICT in the service of traditional learning activities; and 3) the absence of innovative uses of ICT that actually change teachers’ and students’ roles and responsibilities as learners. The background of the problem also shows how these issues are also found in teacher education programs.

The background of the study reports our research experiences from a two-year pilot study that preceded the implementation of the three year full study reported in this thesis. The focus of the two-year pilot study was to introduce ICT mentoring to teacher educators as an in-class service to support their uses of ICT. As teacher educator mentors, we were involved in observing teacher educators’ instructional designs and offering suggestions for enabling, enriching, or enhancing learning through the use of digital technologies. After these consultations, we supported the teacher educator as he/she learned to use digital technologies, and learning to teach with digital technologies in their teacher education courses. Concurrently, the pilot study also worked with the teacher candidates. The teacher candidates spent time with the research team in the computer lab, learning with, about, and through, the uses of digital technologies. They were encouraged to develop their own instructional resources that utilized ICT to enable, enrich and enhance learning. When these teacher candidates went out on their extended practicum, they had the services of the research mentors available on request. Research mentors attended their classes in their practicum schools and supported their fledgling uses of ICT in these varied contexts.

We learned several important lessons from this study, which we incorporated into the design of the full study. First, if teacher candidates do not have an opportunity to learn to use ICT, and develop their own instructional designs that incorporate ICT, they are not likely to use ICT on their extended practicum. The schools in our local school districts did not have an even distribution of ICT resources at every school site, nor did they have timely, appropriate support for teaching with ICT in school settings. Without exception, the elementary sponsor teachers overseeing our teacher candidates’ practicum teaching were not regular users of ICT. In fact, we had at least one instance where one of our teacher candidates’ was prevented from using the ICT instructional design because her sponsor teacher did not want her to set up expectations of the students that the sponsor teacher would not be able to continue after the practicum was concluded.

Second, we learned that teacher educators in the teacher education program were not regular users of ICT in their teaching. Those teacher educators who did use ICT were most likely to use it for powerpoint lectures. There were no examples of innovative uses of ICT for teaching and learning demonstrated by the teacher educators. Moreover, when offered the services of the research mentors, several teacher educators were enthusiastic to challenge their regular teaching practices to try using ICT. That said, of those teacher educators who were enthusiastic to try new ICT practices, their efforts needed to be ‘shoe-horned’ in to their existing curriculum and teaching. There was no systemic provision or requirement to prepare teacher candidates’ to learn to teach with, through, and about, ICT. Interestingly, we found the teacher educators who already used ICT for powerpoint lectures were unlikely to be interested in more innovative uses of ICT. They believed they were already accomplishing that in their practice. We also found teacher educators who were not only resistant to using ICT out of fear because their own skills and knowledge were so undeveloped (one teacher educator did not use email), we also found teacher educators who believed the use of ICT in society was a problem and they did not see a value in using it in their teaching practice.

Third, the policy conditions for the use of ICT were not conducive to innovative uses of ICT. Provincial educational policy did not require ICT skills or knowledge for teacher accreditation. Although provincial educational instructional resource packages included limited uses of ICT, these were not required for course completion, thus, the IRP aspect of provincial curriculum did not mandate ICT curriculum as a requirement in the teacher education curriculum. At the level of the Faculty of Education, there was no ICT policy articulated for the preparation of teacher candidates. The informal policy at the Faculty level was to have individual departments and teacher educators include ICT on a case by case basis. Thus, there was no Faculty level policy compelling teacher educators to include ICT as a required component of their courses or their teaching and instructional design. At the level of the teacher education program, ICT proficiency was not a requirement for being hired as a teacher educator. Additionally, ICT proficiency was neither an admissions criteria, nor a graduation requirement for the teacher candidates.

This is the basic rationale for my thesis.

We need to look beyond competencies and standards #edchat #teched

Several questions come to mind as I look at the BC Education Plan with regards to digital literacy standards and the idea of teaching ‘competencies’.

First, I question the use of the term ‘tool’ to refer to the complex living systems of human interactivity and the phenomena of technology that attends it. I argue that our tendency to reduce our involvements with technologies to ‘tools’ sets up a false conceptual basis by which we might understand how our uses of any technologies (including digital technologies) extend, amplify, or enrich our human capabilities. If we are going to re-conceive our human position on this planet as part of ecological systems, rather than superior entities under which other living organisms, objects, and environments are subjugated within our dominion, we must examine our notion of ‘tools’ and the kinds of relationships we form as a consequence of that conceptualization.

Second, I question the use of the ISTE technologically deterministic approach to understanding digital technologies in relation to learning, our socially constructed technological systems, and the social life of information. If you examine the top 10 priorities ISTE has identified as essential for boosting student achievement and closing the achievement gap, you see an inordinate amount of confidence placed on the role technology should play in changing the potential for individual student success in education. However, in the course of our human history, technological innovation has not significantly altered the basic socio-economic strata of human societies. Yes, it is important to become technologically proficient and capable of adapting to changing technological conditions. But technology does not drive change, if it did, the billions of dollars spent on educational technologies in schools would have resulted in massive changes in the education system. It is our uses of technologies that change our social organization. With the advent of each new significant technological change (in concert with the social and cultural capacities to conceive those technological changes) we re-organize ourselves cognitively, culturally, and technologically. It is our cultures of technological use that change the possibilities for human achievement with technologies. ISTE promotes a notion of social and cultural change determined by technology. “Build it, they will come” has not worked to date.

Third, the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century are actually dispositions that have been necessary for social and economic success throughout our human history. The advent of digital technology does not change these dispositions. The realms within which they are applied change, the qualities and characteristics of individual cognitive, cultural, and technological capabilities, in the service of building strong networks and communities of learners, citizenship, and productivity, are unchanged. It might be difficult for educators to admit that the need foreground ’21st century competencies’ is actually a comment on the deficiencies of industrial age educational philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy. In this sense, if we need to call it ’21st century competencies’, then, let’s do that, if it improves the philosophical, curricular, and pedagogical basis of our education system. The challenge is going to be actually understanding that implementing ’21st century  competencies’ is a paradigm shift in conceiving of educational purposes and what constitutes successful educational outcomes. Attempting to instrumentally attach ’21st century competencies’ to an education system that has systemically constructed learning that did not support these dispositions is not going to result in lasting change.

Fourth, the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century are also knowledge and skills educators need to be able to teach and prepare students for life in the 21st century. However, teachers have been trained and disciplined within a system that is now admitting that the competencies for success in the 21st century have been absent from 20th century education systems. The qualities and characteristics we hope this new education system to foster must be qualities and characteristics that are encultured into the entire education system, a systemic response to changing the beliefs, values, policies, and practices of professional educators. If anyone has ever tried to change a belief or practice in their own lives, they know how difficult it is to change a habit of thought or routine. For educators, their beliefs about what is important in their profession may be strongly or loosely held, their practices may have been hard won solutions to recurring problems in their professions. It is no simple matter to simple say, “And now we are going to do it this way.”

What we are facing, at this time in our human evolution, is a evolving growth through our ‘technological adolescence’. Our education system is part of this evolution. We need to understand the foundational conceptions of education, and the kinds of thinking that is going to hinder our transformation form industrial age knowledge transmission factories to knowledge age learning networks. Some of these conceptual positions – human superiority and subjective positions of domination; technological determinism and enduring structures of social hierarchies; learning paradigm change and institutional structural change; and processes for cognitive, cultural and technological change in the profession – require programmatic responses to learn (and unlearn) educational perspectives and practices conducive to forming new human societies in relation to digital technologies.

I do believe our education system, and teachers, have an unprecedented opportunity to provide leadership in our social evolution to the digital age. In order to do this, we, as educators, must become sophisticated leaders in the development of ICT philosophical, curricular, and pedagogical responses to envision the emergence of Canadian society in this new age.

baffling contradictions

Here are some examples of concepts and practices about information and communication technologies (ICT) in education that leave me shaking my head in bafflement:

1. ICT is just a tool; using ICT transforms education

This example demonstrates two antithetical conceptualizations of digital technologies. The first example exemplifies as subjective view of digital technologies as a separable tool within the dominion of the perceiving subject. The second example exemplifies a technologically deterministic relationship between our uses of digital technologies and the influence these uses have on transforming educational practice. The first example demonstrates cultural determinism, that is, our human cultural practices determine which tools we may select and why. The second example demonstrates technological determinism, that is, the technologies we use determine the possibilities for human cultures of learning.

2. Learning in educational institutions needs to resemble learning in life; learning in educational institutions needs to demonstrate achievement of standards-based learning assessments

These two points of view are contradictory. The first point of view shows an appreciation for the efficacy and enthusiasm engendered by organic, emergent learning processes that arise from the pursuit of individual interests and curiosity. The second point of view maintains the organizational structure of educational institutions, an organizational structure that is rationalized through assessment processes. If we think about how we take up an interest in life, and pursue that interest to develop knowledge, skill, experience, and finally expertise, we do not need to rationalize our investment of time, energy, and money, because we are responsible for the investments we make in our lives. In an educational institution, the very existence of the institution needs to be rationalized in order to sustain the flow of financial support that makes the existence of the institution possible. Assessments of learning are the criteria by which an educational institution justifies its existence and the investments of stakeholders. Assessments of learning are not in the interests of the learners, they are in the interests of the institution.

3. 21st century learning should foster criticality, creativity, innovation and collaboration amongst students; 21st century learning must ensure all student learn core subject knowledge

These two curriculum represent contradictory views of the purpose of education. The first curriculum fosters a student body that is comfortable with change, who is trained and skilled at imagining new realities and capable of planning, testing, and implementing their discoveries. The second curriculum is a conservative program designed to ensure each succeeding generation is schooled in what the previous generation considered important or essential for the formation of a civil society. These two views are not necessarily contradictory, but are potentially at odds with each other, if their natural tendency to form tensions between these two forces are not acknowledged and negotiated. There isn’t anything inherently beneficial about searching for new ideas, approaches, or solutions, however, it is necessary for our human survival to keep searching for qualitative improvement to the perplexing problems evident in our human condition. Similarly, there isn’t anything inherently beneficial in conserving traditions or values that have been shown to be ultimately destructive to human civility, safety, or sustainability.

4. administrators and educators must harness the power of digital technologies and social media; concepts for educational organizational structures are conceived as models and frameworks, a continuous search for best practices to replicate throughout the system

These two examples demonstrate the opposing forces educators find themselves working within. On the one hand, the inexorable changes in human societies on a global scale, as a result of our involvements with digital technologies cannot be ignored. On the other hand, the very foundations of the educational institutions that have formed an edifice to learning prior to the digital age are based on artificial organizational structures, institutionalized interpersonal relationships, and operational protocols that do not exist outside the life system of the institution. If administrators and educators were to truly harness the power of digital technologies and social media, they would be undermining the organizational structures from which they derive their livelihood. When administrators and educators attempt to impose industrial era constructs such as models, frameworks, and universal best practices, they are hobbling the power of digital technologies and social media.

These are the central tensions that I have identified through my review of literature on ICT perspectives, practices, and the dynamic contextual conditions of educational institutions. It is these tensions that I argue must be addressed as politicians, administrators and educators attempt to adapt to the changing cognitive, cultural, technological terrain of life in the 21st century.

Internal coherence : external incongruence

There is ample evidence of a systemic problem in the field of education when it comes to comprehending the social significance of digital technologies, and adapting educational organizational structures to reflect our involvements with digital technologies. I have been conceptualizing the problem of teachers’ ICT perspectives assumed but not prepared as a phenomenon of hidden bias. I am working with Banaji and Greenwald’s work, which explains how the physiological phenomenon of blindspots and blindsight can also be applied to understand hidden bias toward social groups.

A recent example of educational blindspots and blindsight with regards to educational responses to digital technologies and knowledge-age societies can be found in an email broadcast from the President of a large regional university (LRU) in Western Canada. This email announces changes at the university level to implement flexible learning through new learning models and online delivery formats. The president writes, “LRU has long been strong in learning innovation and takes pride in offering a creative mix of experiential learning and traditional lectures to its students.  In areas such as Medicine and Education we are seen as leaders in providing broad access to the best programs through creative use of flexible and distributed options.”

This statement, referring to learning innovation through the creative use of flexible and distributed options in the Faculty of Education, is not supported in fact. For instance, there is no coherent university response with regards to FIPPA legislation and the innovative use of online social resources in public education. Additionally, even last summer (2012), in one of their last courses of their teacher education program, there were teacher candidates who had never used the computer lab at the university for learning in their courses, much less for learning to teach using digital technologies. These teacher candidates were struggling to understand the relevance of learning to teach with and about digital technologies in their teaching practice, much less acting as leaders to guide future social formations in digitized human societies. The President’s reference to “new learning models and online delivery formats” should be a red flag for anyone interested in an evolving education system capable of utilizing digital resources to enhance, enable and enrich learning. The use of the term ‘model’ and the idea of using ‘delivery formats’ speaks to a standardized approach for educational interaction. Institutional standardization is not conducive to flexibility, innovation, creativity, nor criticality. The very conceptualization of structuring the initiative based on models and delivery formats indicates in incongruent conceptualization of the intention of the initiative and the application of the initiative in the real world.

The President describes the strategy for implementing these changes on the university campus as, “…we need to evolve our teaching model further to one that more systematically blends traditional classroom environments with online components, interactive distance dialogues, and small support groups.” However, the strategy to ‘evolve our teaching model’ involves supporting participating faculty in transitioning their courses to this new approach. The strategy is to work with faculty most interested in new teaching methods. The problem with this approach is that it does not address the relational aspect of these changes. It assumes that faculty are simply going to re-write their courses to fit new teaching methods: personalized learning, flexibility, and integrating online and face to face interactivity. The President is assuming the social, cultural, and technological dimensions of these changes are going to take care of themselves through redeveloping teaching programs according to individual faculty most interested in new teaching methods.

Unfortunately, the President is implementing a program approach that has been shown to be profoundly unsuccessful in the field of education: signalling technological change without providing adequate preparation to incorporate the change in teaching practice. According to the President, these changes are being implemented as a strategic response to changes in the field of education rather than faculty initiated change in response to philosophical, pedagogical, and curricular needs. If the changes were being initiated because faculty recognized the significance of knowledge-age society and the need for all educators to take an ethically based responsibility for providing societal leadership in the field, the President would not be implementing this initiative. The President would be scrambling to accommodate faculty requests for flexible, faculty-led, online server resources to support their philosophical, pedagogical, and curricular initiatives arising from their student-led experiential inquiry-based learning approach.


If the President truly understood the significance of the change the university needs to undertake, he would not be talking about new learning models, rather, he would be talking about active learning networks, distributed leadership, efficacious pedagogies, and evolving methods of study. Instead, the President is attempting to utilizing existing industrial era hierarchical organizational structures to implement knowledge-based social learning networks. What the President is missing is that these are not simply models that can purchased over the counter and implemented in a learning organization. These are cognitive, cultural, and technological dispositions, that reflect complex dimensions of human interactivity, learning, and connectivity.


This example shows how, from the President’s point of view, a coherent initiative is being implemented to address a problem the university if facing. What the President is incapable of perceiving is the tautological self-reproduction of the organizational structure of the institution, which is antithetical to the very initiative and problem the President hopes to address. For those whose tautological self-reproduction are aligned with the President, this initiative is going to seem coherent and logical. What the President cannot perceive is the unexamined assumptions that are forming the basis for the initiative, assumptions that are incongruent to the espoused outcomes of the initiative. The President is unable to perceive the influence of these unseen assumptions because they are operating below conscious awareness. They are so normalized they are unquestioned.


This seeming internal coherence, however, can, and likely, will, be experienced as external incongruence by those who face the day to day realities of teaching within the organizational structure of the university. They will not have adequate preparation for these changes because the magnitude of change, the complexity of the change process, and the implications of these changes in what constitutes exemplary teaching are so far removed from the day to day realities of teaching within industrial era hierarchies. These are the unseen cognitive, cultural, and technological dimensions that actually constitute life in the institution. If these dimensions remain in operation below the level of change implementation, they will influence the experiences of those who are attempting to implement the changes, even if they are not immediately understood as barriers or obstacles to real, and lasting change.


In this sense, I am applying Banaji and Greenwald’s explanation of blindspots and blindsight operating in hidden bias toward identifiable social groups, and bringing them to help explain why educational change, with regards to the social life of digital technologies in a knowledge-based society, are going to continue to struggle and fail. The internal coherence that has resulted in billions of dollars expended to equip schools with digital technologies only to have them used to reinforce unimaginative knowledge transmission, is still at play in this initiative.

Unfortunately, many people will put their best efforts into making this initiative a success, only to find, in two or three years time, that faculty have reverted to familiar teaching techniques, simply adapting digital technologies to traditional learning activities. The problem facing every educational institution today, is that students have a new power of agency and autonomy with regards to their learning. If educational institutions are unable to significantly adapt to a new reality of human learning networks based on real social imperatives, they are simply going to become an anachronistic institution whose activities are devoid of meaning. What they are doing in that institution might make sense to those who perpetuate the organizational structure and systems of connectivity, but they will appear incongruent to the realities of knowledge-age society facing multiple crisis of human existence.

It is actually not so difficult to implement these changes when one considers ecological formations of learning networks. But the essential structural component of ecological formations is that the participants whose interactivity and communicativity give the ecological system life. By attempting to individualize the implementation of this initiative, the President has neglected to foster the very properties that will transform industrial era hierarchical organizational structures to evolving knowledge generative learning networks. These networks are not formed and sustained through individual effort, they are the result of collective agency enacted through day to day practice.