A lesson for universities from Gordon Brown and the Arctic Monkeys

Reflecting on the Jisc Cetis conference and trying to distill my key learning I remembered the Gordon Brown Arctic Monkeys gaff.

When in response to a question from a journalist from New Woman magazine, he said of the Arctic Monkeys on his iPod it “really wakes you up in the morning”. Subsequently put on the spot by a mens magazine he failed to name a single track and was forced to admit he was more of Coldplay man really aka middle of the road soft indi-rock.

This takes me onto Universities and Web2.0 and the whole raft of cool social software applications. Do I really want my university to try and be cool by appropriating these technologies or would I rather that they remain somewhat dour but trustworthy and effective in what they do?

The argument is made that teaching staff need to ‘go where the students are’ (YouTube, facebook, etc.) if they want to be relevant and effective educators. However, this somewhat ‘false’ adoption may have just the opposite effect as we in fact appear shallow, fickle, untrustworthy, etc. Back to Mr Brown…

What we really need to do is identify the ‘added value’ that the institution offers to students in this fast changing technological world. This may well require staff to use new and different technologies, but it shouldn’t be characterised by a ‘headless’ rush into the fashionable technologies of the day.

An initial analysis of a recent survey of 10 online facilitators, who are technologically capable and experienced, indicates that the adoption of new technologies at a reasonably steady pace resulted in tremendous pressure for them in integrating it with their teaching practices and reported corresponding difficulties for their students.

Some university staff will feel comfortable using the new technologies and will be readily able to integrate it into their teaching practices, others will not or will take a long time to do so. Very diverse practices will and have emerged.

This doesn’t really matter so long as everyone, students and university staff alike, have a clear understanding about what the added value that the institution brings is and expectations of staff and student responsibilities are aligned.

3 thoughts on “A lesson for universities from Gordon Brown and the Arctic Monkeys

  1. stephen

    The most relevant study I have come across is the Jisc, 2007“Exploring the learner’s perspective on e-learning”:

    “Increasingly, they look for flexibility and openness in the institutional policies and provision that support their learning.”

    “Using a complex mix of virtual and face-to-face environments, personal and institutional technologies, learners of all ages are developing new working practices around the technologies available to them. Increasingly, they look for flexibility and openness in the institutional policies and provision that support their learning.”

    Page 32/33 if you are short of time. I suppose my take on this is that students expectations are changing rapidly and a reactive approach by universities won’t be sustainable.

  2. Gina

    I am in complete agreement that teachers at any level don’t have to try to use the software just because it’s there and they have to be hip too. I think the focus ought to be on ALLOWING students to incorporate technologies into their work. I guess that requires a certain level of understanding by the teacher – but you could know who the Arctic Monkeys were without having to listen to them yourself to wake up in the morning.


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