Hype is part and parcel of technology enhanced learning (TEL), particularly when gurus evangelise about what’s hot and what’s not in the world of eLearning. At some stage in our lives, we’ve all been seduced by the slick patter of any number of individuals passing themselves off as a leading Authority on the role of technology in education. From their ivory towers they proselytize about the benefits the latest technological developments will bring to learning. More often than not this is based on speculation and a one-size-fits all approach to learning. Subjective viewpoints are articulated in terms that make them seem like common sense and visionary. These are circulated, take hold and before you know it we are buying into the next big thing or eLearning concept.
While I acknowledge that innovative thinkers are necessary in order to keep ideas from becoming entrenched and out-dated, they need to be challenged in order to avoid what they say as becoming the accepted way things are. This is particularly important when considering the role technology plays in educational settings. Buying into technologies/concepts that are all surface no depth can be an expensive error both financially and pedagogically. For this reason, it is vitally important that we critically evaluate the effectiveness of technologies for the purposes we envisaged them fulfilling. More importantly, though, we need to be wary of ‘Experts’ preaching about what we should and shouldn’t be using/doing.
The next time an item of technology is heralded as the panacea to all our learning woes it’s worth actually thinking how relevant it might be to learning/teaching scenarios we are familiar with. It’s also worth looking at documents like the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and IT Study, 2010 (http://www.educause.edu/Resources/ECARStudyofUndergraduateStuden/217333) to get an idea of what technologies students are using. Admittedly, the study covers use in the US and Canada, but I don’t imagine our students are that different. Given the importance of criticality with regards to academic practice, I believe it is vital that we adopt the similar approaches when evaluating the effectiveness of technologies.