A recent exchange left me disheartened at where the practice of educational technology might be leading us. I don’t get disheartened all the time, but spirits do seem to evacuate me when I experience a wonderful affordance of digital communication used in a dogmatic way – like chasing a tail, trading the dogma of traditional instructional design for the dogma of contemporary instructional design gets us nowhere. The recent experience that I feel a need to get off my chest has to do with openness.
Openness is great. The word can relate to many things, and in the case that prompted me to write this, it was about open communication – also a great thing. Nowadays when educators communicate online we have the ability for that conversation to be distributed, archived, and accessible for others to read, learn from, and join in, even long after the initial exchange. Open communication can create nuggets of knowledge that communities can build on.
Some people are new to a more open communication and, although those who advocate for all openness all the time might not realize it, not everyone wants to gravitate to open communication all the time. It’s not a matter of experience, it is presumptuous thinking that a certain amount of experience with online communication will naturally lead to this mode of communication as a default – it’s a matter of looking at situation. For any given situation, I can think of numerous reason why communicating in the open might be beneficial, and I can think of numerous reasons why communicating in private might be beneficial. The danger comes from not looking at situation…if you’re not practicing Education from Situation, you’re doing it wrong. This is true regardless of your experience, your klout, the number of followers you have, who you hang with, and when you joined the game.
When a leader in the ed-tech realm doesn’t realize this, this is, and was the disheartening part for me. An influential practitioner who tries to offer up their experience as evidence of how things should be, is disheartening. (And I’ll keep using this word because it fits perfectly here, and typing it out kinda fills that void.) A spokesperson infatuated with technology disheartens me.
And that’s what this is, an infatuation with technology. Some examples of tech infatuation are easy to spot – the teenager on the train with six cellphones, an iPad, and a set of headphones plugged into who knows where is infatuated – and other examples of infatuation are more slight. The person who lets technology draw the line for things like ethics and best practice, this person is also infatuated with technology although it is more difficult to see.
Openness is not goodness.
Openness is not badness.
Openness is a great and important option to have, as is privacy.
It’s tough sometimes to talk to leaders in any field, they’ve gotten where they are by doing what they do…which usually includes heaps and heaps of useful contributions to a field. So, I’m writing this for the the non-leader, the follower, I suppose, someone who is confronting ed tech concepts in recent days. In language learning, there are a lot of educators out there newly embracing technology, and I strongly urge these educators to keep it balanced. Look at situation to select your options.