We are social animals, said Aristotle;
the technology of writing is bad for us, said Socrates;
we learn so much more through play, said Plato!
These thoughts, I think sum up nicely our journey on this planet and beyond and also say loads about my life as an academic developer and our purpose to change practices and the student experience in Higher Education. When I started writing this post, my thoughts took me to places which might seem disconnected but if you read this post carefully you will discover that it is deeply interwoven with thoughts about learning and teaching, and reveal how I see things and how these are inter-connected.
We are explorers, we use our curiosity and imagination for discoveries. We experiment, we use and make tools and we learn and evolve; we survive and thrive and push the boundaries and make the impossible possible!
And while we keep saying it is not about the tools, I would like to reflect on the importance of tools. We shape tools and the tools shape us said Marshall McLuhan. Humans were always resourceful. When we lived in caves, in big forests, in villages, in towns, in big cities, in hostile environments, in physical and digital spaces, in space. And we have mastered to connect these spaces and we are connected communities. Our brain grew because we started using it more and more; we pick up objects and use them as tools, we modify them and make our own tools and we make tools to make other tools. Progressively our tools have became more complex and sophisticated as we realised the significance of these for human kind and the potential and the places and spaces they were and are taking us. Our shopping basket of knowledge is full and expanding rapidly as we speak. Aesop said we are only limited by our imagination. Exchange and co-creation; learning from our own stories and experiences; our mistakes and misfortunes but also from our successes, connecting information, resources and ideas but also people, living, working, creating, learning and changing together. Playing too, is a necessity. Shaping and re-shaping who we are, what we know and imagining the future… shaping the today and tomorrow. The human web!
There will always be voices and actions to hold us back, boulders on our paths, some of them strategically or politically. The world is moving and we move on it and with it. Stopping is no option. We need to adjust and adapt to the environments we live in and make it a life worthwhile for us and future generations. Nothing can happen without learning. Learning is change! Change is learning!
We live in the digital age where opportunities for learning have exploded, literally. We live in physical and virtual jungles and try to make sense of it all. And we keep learning. We still love learning with others, we still love making stuff, we still love sharing. We always will… I dare to say. Digital technologies have ‘invated’ our lives, diversification, internationalisation and massification of higher education are on the menu. We express our hunger for creation and are now enabled to do so easily and quickly. We carry around with us smart devices that constantly link us up with information, resources and people. We learn how to navigate, communicate, co-operate and collaborate in vast networks. We learn how to harness digital technologies and create new opportunities for learning and teaching using these. Learning happens everywhere. Learning and teaching that happens exclusively within institutional walls, detouched from the world around is anachronistic and presents an utopic way of being. Opening-up, embracing change is vital to thrive and create new paths that will lead us into a brighter future. This is easier said than done and there is resistance… I have experienced this many time in my role as an Academic Developer. Kinash & Wood (2013, 184) wrote recently, and I can’t resist quoting it here, that “academic development means that people in these roles figuratively put their heads where bullets fly.” This is so true! Often we are indeed in the firing line! I have a little message hanging on my office door saying “only dead fish swim with the stream”. I think this says something about my approach to academic development, and learning and teaching more generally. We do need to learn to cope better with change and take advantage of changes. We need to take risks! We need to be the change we want to happen. After all learning comes from change! Learning is change!
Kinash, S & Wood, K (2013) Academic developer identity: how we know who we are, in International Journal for Academic Development, Vol. 18, No. 2, 178-189.