Steve Walker

Some less or more well-organised thoughts

Archive for September 2010

80% of UK HE students don’t think lecturers’ ICT skills are inadequate

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A couple of days ago, a tweet “UK students call for better ICT-trained lecturers” did the rounds on the #altc2010 tag, linked to this article: at Checkpoint learning, reporting on a presentation at the recent ALT-C conference. According to the article, marginally less than 50% of students reported that they saw their lecturers’ ICT skills as adequate, and just 21% said they should receive more training. At the time I tweeted that 80%, we might infer, did not think lecturers needed more training but ‘overwhelming majority of students satisfied with lecturers’ ICT skills’ is not quite such a snappy headline.

On reflection, I think this would be a story – the so-called ‘net generation’ are broadly happy with the ICT skills of their lecturers. Well done us! (Actually, I’d suggest that interested readers have a look at Chris Jones and colleagues’ recent work on the ‘net generation’ of students, where they’ll find a rather more complex picture including, for example, HE lecturer’s roles in developing the skills of the ‘digital natives’).

Without having seen the survey instrument (I haven’t looked, to be honest) the more I think about this, the more remarkable it seems. Only 21% of students thought lecturers needed more ICT training, even without consideration of alternative uses of time/resources. For example, were students asked something like “which of the following should lecturers spend more time on, and which less – a) student contact time; b) maintaining subject expertise; c) providing feedback in marking d) developing ICT skills” I’d be very surprised if ‘d’ were the most popular option.

So why the pushy headlines about the need for technology training? My guess is that it’s case of a rather dated technology-fix approach to the impending financial problems confronting universities. The surprise is that it’s coming from the NUS.

Written by Steve

September 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm

A rule of thumb for thinking about the consequences of technological innovation

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In a recent discussion about the efficacy/shortcomings of ‘Haystack’ tool for safeguarding communications in contexts of state interference with the net, on the Liberation Tech mailing list, Jerome Ravetz offered the following, which I think deserves wider circulation at least as a rule of thumb when thinking about the outcomes of technological innovations.

“As my offering, here is a useful principle. Every new device has:

Intended use
Creative new use
Incompetent misuse
Malevolent abuse.

If we always run through that checklist every time we are considering an innovation, we might have some protection. It does represent a big shift, since for a very long time it was assumed that innovation is essentially benign, and ‘unexpected consequences’ could be managed as they occurred. In some IT development it seems to have become recognised; but it’s still a long way from being universal.”

Added: 19/9/10: On reflection, there should be ‘unintended consequences’ for at least three of these categories as well. That is, unintended by either the designer(s) or the (ab)users…. that’s the trouble with rules of thumb, I suppose…

Written by Steve

September 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Posted in technology use