A digital difference at Docklands

On the 24th November I attended a research symposium on how technology is used in secondary schools, held at the Library at the Dock and hosted by Dr Selena Nemorin, Dr Nicola F. Johnson, Dr Scott Bulfin and Professor Neil Selwyn.

Making a digital difference - new technology in secondary schools is a three year joint research project between the Learning with New Media research group from Monash University, Federation University Australia with funding by the Australian Research Council.

As an educational technologist and solutions engineer at D2L I was interested to hear the pain points of secondary school educators, but as a father of a 12yr old, I have skin in the game so to speak.

The first part of the day focused on the actual research process, and the theories underpinning research in education in general, and drew on Neil Postmans 7 questions about new technology -

  • What is the problem that this new technology solves?
  • Whose problem is it?
  • What new problems do we create by solving this problem?
  • Which people and institutions will be most impacted by a technological solution?
  • What changes in language occur as the result of technological change?
  • Which shifts in economic and political power might result when this technology is adopted?
  • What alternative (and unintended) uses might be made of this technology?

The research aims to look at the 'state of the actual' rather than the promise of the 'state of the art' in educational technology, to look at the 'messy' realities of digital education across three secondary schools in Victoria.


During the lunchbreak, we took the opportunity to explore the library makerspace

While the report is still in progress, some key issues so far are around the different contexts across the three schools, the difference in educational activity and roles (learners and learning vs students and studying vs teachers and teaching) and surveillance and dataveillance. Teachers find they can only utilise technology to a lowest common denominator in respect to the devices learners have, which can bring socio-economic issues into play in the classroom. Learners struggled with different apps being used by different teachers, which gave an inconsistent delivery between classes.

There was a healthy backchannel on Twitter

Some early recommendation areas included changing technology culture to be more accepting of the realities of digital technology in schools. The management and provision of technology seemed adequate but somewhat haphazard and so improvements this aspect could be a focus area.

I look forward to reading and reviewing the resulting book which is due early-mid 2017.