Contextual Statement

Troubling Technology

My story for today begins outside the Parkview public library. A lot of my
kit (laptop and Ipad) was stolen a few weeks ago. I’m waiting for an
insurance claim to be processed. I work on OneDrive and Dropbox. It means
that the rough draft my contextual statement is available for me to work
on. Thanks to the Cloud. The library closes at 1 p.m. and kids need to be
picked up at 1:50. Free W-Fi leaks out of the building, and if you stand
close enough to the wall, there’s a decent signal. It works for me! Thanks
City of Joburg. With my iPhone and cloud storage, I’m able to use a spare
half hour to update and reflect on my contextual statement.

My name is Derek Moore. For want of a title, I describe myself as an
“ed-tech support specialist”. Other’s within my area of expertise might use
the label “educational developer”,” instructional designer”,” learning
technologist” or “learning engineer” to describe the positions that I might
be expected to fill. If you were a little more critical of people like me,
you might call me “ICT evangelist”, “a roaming auto didact”. To keep things
simple, I call myself an “ed-techie”.

I run a consultancy called Weblearning. I have had the liberty to take a
step back and look at my history and the range of voices who influence. I
thought I introduce you to four South Africans who capture the challenges
and ambiguities of using technology for education.

The first is Seymour Pappert , a South African by birth
and co-founder of the media lab at MIT. I’ve never had the privledge of
meeting him, but have read a number of his book. Long before the PC
computer became a household object, Pappert began think about children and
computers. Computers in his world, were instruments for learning and for
enhancing creativity, innovation, and “concretizing” computational
thinking. One of his key ideas about learning, communicated in Mindstorms,
is that we “construct” knowledge. Learning is an iterative and the process
by which we learn is not one of “absorbing” knowledge fully formed.

The second is Johannes Cronje, who supervised my thesis
entitled “Dirty Learning – innovative teaching o the World Wide Web”.
Johannes co-ordinated a masters course entitle Computer Assisted Education,
which I completed. The course was about computers and learning, and the
three lectures embodied behaviourist, cognitivist and constructivist
theorie. He ran one of the first Internet-based higher education
“classrooms” in Africa. the world. This virtual classroom was available at http://hagar.up.ac.za/rbo (sadly
defunct)

The third is Laura Czerniewicz, Director of CILT at UCT.
Laura’s has become a leading voce for the scholarship of ed tech in the
global south. Her focus is intersection between inequality and educational
technology in higher education and through her presentations, papers and a
few conversations , I have been prompted to reconsider some of my
assumptions about the levelling effects of technology.

The fourth is Paul Prinsloo, Research Professor in Open
and Distance Learning (ODL). Paul describes himself as self curious and in
trouble. He combines his interest in social media with a very critical
position about educational technologies like big data, artificial
intelligence, analytics and privacy. Into the mix he throws an academic
perspective around higher education and learning distance. Alltogether Paul
offers a refreshing counter narrative to the ongoing chatter about
“innovation”

From the people I admire, you may have discerned that I’m interested in
troubling ed-technology in South Africa. The narrative, the big promises to
transform post-apartheid education, its unacknowledged disappointments,
public failures and unanticipated effects. I’m interested in the way that
different people and organisations respond to changes and challenges
associated with the use of digital technologies both in formal and
nonformal settings.

While my technology works for me (I can edit my saved work on an iPhone on
free library Wi-fi), it does not work for everyone anywhere . The relative
ease with which I can access and use tech to update my portfolio is good
for me. The shift towards using and incorporating digital into education is
not necessarily good for all Rather, we should be a little more sceptical
about what we exactly would like to enable. Enquire whether this
appropriate? What are the pedagogical underpinnings of the use of this
technology.

I battle with the ongoing celebration of the digitization of education. All
around me, i see many teachers, parents, managers taking a “Pollyannish”
view to the role and use of technology. Ed-tech is being presented as an
automatic good. But the substance to back up these assumptions are at best
shallow. The unintended consequences of our technology choices both
fascinate and disturb me. I try to “problemitize” how we conceptualise the
uses of education technology. The way that we shape it or how we let it
shape our teaching and learning practices.

I’ve decided to apply for recognition from CMALT for a few reasons.

· The interplay between technology and learning is rich varied. I’m curious
about what people who share my interest do within this field. Making my
work more visible is one of the ways for others to see what I do, and for
me to see what they do. I’m hoping this portfolio will allow others to see
more of my work.

· Recent technologies and institutional pressures have led to a greater
interest in “ed tech” and there is a need to unpack assumptions and
identify good practices that are suitable for here

· Many have identified the need for ongoing and recognised professional
development for those who work in this space. I’m hoping that my CMALT
accreditation will prompt others “ed techies” in South African to recognise
the need for an independent cross sectoral recognition of expertise

· Much of what passes for professional development is really training about
products or platforms. While I appreciate the efforts of Silicon Valley to
invest in human capital, I would prefer to participate that my professional
expertise is certified by acknowledged peers and not a multi-national.

· I’ve found that I’ve learned more when I am in relationship with other
people from a range of diverse backgrounds. I’m hoping that this portfolio
and the associated recognition will offer me additional opportunities to
connect with specialists, share our experiences and expertise and
reciprocate appropriately

· I’ve had the misfortune and opportunity to re-consider my practice and
recognise various influences that make up my professional identity. The
portfolio offers the opportunity to add structure to my past work
experience, catalogue what I have done thus far and allow me to think about
future trajectories for my career.

My contextual statement began with my my iPhone, my portfolio and Parkview
library. It was about how I can access, use and apply what I know about
technology to make a learning experience meaningful, despite a few
technology constraints. I’m back home now, working on an old computer that
I borrowed from my wife’s cousin. I have the skills to tidy up
inadvertently auto corrected words, shift paragraphs around, make sense of
my ramblings, post it all to WordPress.