EDUCATIONAL TRANSFORMATION OR AN EMERGING ECOLOGY? UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES IN A HIGHER EDUCATION ENVIRONMENT
Universities are continuing to try and exploit the increasingly saturated media-rich environment they now inhabit, and create greater accessibility for learning, and new ways of widening participation. Although the increased use of technology in education is often viewed as a catalyst for change, it is actually underpinned by the demand for quality improvement in teaching and learning. Understanding the diversity of experiences, skills, motivations and capabilities of students and staff is fundamental to developing, supporting and promoting the innovative use of learning technologies in learning, teaching and assessment.
Our ethnographic research draws on some of the current key debates in relation to learning technologies to examine perceptions of lecturers, students and management at a UK university and explores the diverse experiences of using learning technologies on a day-to-day level. This paper presents the key findings identified by the research based on three themes related to the interdependence of humans and technologies as part of an emerging educational ecology. We suggest that technologies cannot magically transform the learning experience, but are actually integral as part of the wider socio-technical network. It is, therefore, essential to understand the diverse ways people use technologies in education and the implications that they have on learning and social cohesion in the educational environment.
The paper makes recommendations for developing aspects of quality through understanding the relationship between technology and learning and that this should deeply embedded within practice. We also consider the demand for greater collaboration regarding teaching, the evolving nature of higher education learning spaces and encourage a critical awareness of digital literacy across the organisation as a whole.