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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Brown shoe, try something new!

By Vicki Dale, on 18 February 2013

Today, I did something I’ve NEVER done. I wore – wait for it – BROWN shoes with a BLACK outfit. Crazy, eh? Like I say, it was something I’ve never done before but I had slowly become aware that quite a few people around me were wearing brown shoes with black clothing. It wasn’t my intention to go out to buy a pair of brown shoes at the weekend. No, I most definitely went out to buy a pair of black shoes. But I thought ‘What the heck’ when I saw a pair of brown shoes with some nice shiny buttons that I liked the look of. Well, I tried them on, and suddenly knew I had to have them. It was like walking on air. They did exactly the job I wanted them to, even if they hadn’t been what I was looking for originally.

Technology’s a bit like that. If you are a teacher, maybe you aren’t sure of using a new technology in your teaching. What you do works, so why risk rocking the boat when your students are satisfied with what they’ve got? Maybe you are using technology but you’re not sure whether to try out some new social media, such as blogs, wikis or social bookmarking. Maybe, as a student, you have got used to working in a particular way and it’s worked for you so far, so why change it? One of the much touted advantages of technology enhanced learning is efficiency; however, when used well, technology can be used to promote more effective learning and teaching through improved student engagement. We can also harness the capabilities of new technologies within collaborative learning, to help students develop teamwork and critical thinking skills.

Technology isn’t a panacea; it’s a tool. How successful we are using it depends on us really thinking about our aims and underlying pedagogy (teachers) or study preferences (students). Sometimes it’s easier to chat to someone who is already using the technology and who can then share their experiences. Teachers might want to approach the staff at ELE and the friendly folks at CALT. UCL has also recently welcomed a cross-disciplinary network of E-Learning Champions. These are academic and administrative staff who are championing the way for innovations in learning and teaching, and we’re looking forward to seeing this community of practice grow and help to share good practice in technology enhanced learning.

I felt a bit radical walking to the train station this morning. Surprisingly, no one fell about the street laughing and I didn’t cause any unintentional traffic incidents. But I smiled quietly to myself as I walked (comfortably and confidently) along the road in my new brown shoes. Sometimes changing just one thing (however small) can make a big difference.

2 Responses to “Brown shoe, try something new!”

  • 1
    Matt Whyndham wrote on 18 February 2013:

    Not the best analogy I think. Brown+black is more of a class convention than anything meaningful. More like trainers with a suit?

  • 2
    Vicki Dale wrote on 18 February 2013:

    I don’t think I’d thought of it as a class convention – more conservatism. What analogy would you suggest as a good one for engaging with new technologies?

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