What is educational development, exactly?

Well, I don’t know, exactly. But recently, I have been doing a lot of research into models of educational development units and I have come to the conclusion that slightly different perceptions are held by those who work in them, by those who pay for them, and by those who use their services.  This is actually a massive oversimiplification but essentially the first group see themselves as working collegially with academics to enhance the quality of learning and teaching, the second see the units as a mean to achieve specific objectives, (e.g. getting more students into university and keeping them there, or making more use of the technologies that institutions have spent a lot of money on) and the third see them as a sort of support service, especially with regard to using technology.  That isn’t a negative critique – there are valid reasons why they might hold such positions, but they do lead to misconceptions.

I raise this because this quote, taken from Jim Groom’s admirable bavatuesdays blog made me think a little bit more about how these different perceptions affect the technology aspect of our work. 

“For too long, instructional technology has been enveloped within the broader notion of information technology. We need to drive a permanent wedge between those two areas of university life in the understandings of our communities. Information technology makes our phones and networks and computers and smart boards work, and collects and protects student, staff, and faculty data so that we can get credits and get paid. This is crucial stuff. But it doesn’t foreground teaching and learning.

Instructional technology is about pedagogy, about building community, about collaboration and helping each other imagine and realize teaching and learning goals with the assistance of technology.”

Just as “information technology” is not “instructional technology”, “educational development is not staff development”.  Yes, of course they have things in common, possibly even a shared foundation, which is why I’m not entirely sure about the image of “driving a wedge” between them. But we still have work to do in getting the fact that they are growing apart (quite rapidly) to our colleagues.

2 thoughts on “What is educational development, exactly?

  1. Hey Julian,

    I can definitely see the connections, and it’s interesting how the conflation between information technology and instructional technology can also be seen with educational development and staff development. Oddly enough, we are all being required here at UMW to take “Customer Service” training, and it just strikes me as a weird logic for what we do here at universities. I understand we are a service, but the idea of customer and subservience really breaks the logic of partnership and collaboration that is key to what universities should do. I think the more the university moves to the Wal-Mart logic, the less relevance they will have.

    As for the quote above, I would love to take credit for it, but Luke Waltzer is much smarter than me, and nailed the whole issue in his post here, which is a doozy 🙂

  2. When I first saw Jim’s post about Luke Waltzer’s strategy, I jumped up and drafted a rant comment about how much I disagreed with it all. Thankfully I didn’t post it but instead I read the whole of Luke’s post which adds a lot of necessary context to the quote that Jim pulled. Like you, Julian, I still don’t like the line of ‘driving a wedge’ between Information Technology and Instructional Technology but Luke’s post does articulate what he means by this (it’s a conceptual wedge rather than about dividing people).

    For myself, I like to keep a hand in each space. Having relatively low-level ‘IT skills’ has been a significant enabling factor in my ‘EdTech’ work and the more IT skills I acquire, the more I feel liberated to do good work in EdTech.

    ‘Respect’ to my IT colleagues!

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