The Technopédagogue

Occasionally I like to trawl through the stats on my blog – seeing where people come from and how they find this sight. I’m still somewhat astounded by the global audience this blog gets, so am always keen to find out how people might have arrived here. It was on one of these occasions I came across this post “Créativité, innovation… des mots qui perdent leur sens à force d’être galvaudés” or via Google Translate “Creativity, innovation … words lose their meaning through being overused“. The post by Jean-Sébastien Dubé peaked my interested for a number of reasons:

  1. It was in French!
  2. I seem to be mentioned alongside Stephen Downes and Donald Clark
  3. There were a couple of pull quotes from one of my recent posts that I really like.

My knowledge of French is limited to counting and terrible mispronunciation so I had to utilise Google Translate to find out if this was a hatchet job or not. I got a smile out the fact that my post was described as a rant – but hey, it’s probably apt and what I seem to be good at if my stats are anything to go by. The post links the fact that Donald and I seem to be fed up with the overuse of certain terms in education – but also the fact that they seem to being “claimed” as something unique and to our times. Something shared by Audrey Watters too:

I think we need to call bullshit on this appropriation of language, particularly when it seeks to deny history and redefine meaning according to a specific narrative.

However, what really caught my eye was the fact that I was being called a technopédagogue. This was an entirely new term for me and so I went looking for a definition. I found one developed by Samantha Slade over on consulting firm website Percolab – again in French. I really liked a lot of what was there so I’ve had a go at taking the Google Translation and working it into a better English version:

The technopedagogue is a kind of bilingualist, one foot in human needs and learning process, and the other in technology and its potential. So a technopedagogue can oversee the design, implementation and even the implementation of interfaces, environments and the digital tools that support learning or various processes. The technopedagogue communicates easily with system architects and programmers as well as administrators, trainers and teachers. They can also act as a translator between the two, often translating the educational needs into the technical requirements. What makes this techno-pedagogical bridge so vital to our digital society is the ability to maximise the potential of the technological tools to meet our needs, which are first and foremost, human.

As someone who has tried and failed to find a job title that actually encapsulates what I actually do – this is the closest I’ve found. I am not a teacher, nor am I programmer – but I bridge the gulf between.

I’m not sure I’m ready to change my bio and add technopédagogue to my CV just yet – but I’ll definitely use this definition to describe what it is I actually do for work.


The precious thing we do

Dying is the most precious thing that we do, the most important and generative capacity that we share, and it’s the one thing that should restrain our chasing of productivity, status and stuff.

— Kate Bowles, Writing and Dying

I’ve long struggled with the way Western Cultures conceptualise death. Death is something I’ve been forced to come to terms with, to make peace with, and I think I have, but I’ve never been able to externalise that feeling or process. Kate has. This is how I think about death. Inevitable, but often avoidable and sometimes unnecessary at the same time. Giving while at the same time taking. It’s a force within us that’s equal to life itself. It often brings more power and clarity to our decisions. Death is precious, not something to be feared. Respected, acknowledged and contemplated.

Technology can humanize

A great deal of energy and attention has been focused on using technology to automatically grade quizzes, to “capture” lectures, to make the most massive MOOC . . . to McDonaldize education. There is another path. Technology can humanize. It can augment, extend, and empower. There is real transformative power for students and instructors when they interact and build with these tools. The ability to make useful products, to unite the abstract and concrete, to compress action/feedback cycles, to allow for fluid and interactive presentation of data towards new and deeper understandings – this is where technology starts to matter.

— Tom Woodward, Aspirational vs Operational EdTech

A beautifully composed statement! This is what drives many in EdTech not to give up or surrender to corporate colonisation of the space. It’s the belief that people are what really matters.

We are on the way

We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.

— Martin Luther

Thinking this has plenty of resonance going into 2015.

Designing under constraints

Design is the process of making goal-oriented choices under constraint.

– David Wiley

In his post David describes the challenge of designing for “open” when the (perceived) constraints of copyright loom over head. It reminded me that what shapes good design is not the goal but the set of constraints it must be done under. Good design is often a result of making the constraints tougher not the goal more expansive. More with Less. Less, but better.

The Disruption Machine

The idea of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the twentieth century, and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt, and you will be saved.

  • Jill Lepore

This critique of Clayton Christensen’s work is fantastic! Not only does it discuss some of the many, many flaws in the theory of Disruptive Innovation, I think it contextualises it really well as merely part of our current crop of mythology that we employ to explain nature – rise/fall, birth/death and the changes in between. I think this sums the whole thing up perfectly:

Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature. It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. Transfixed by change, it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.

Online doesn’t replace offline — they are now one and the same

“This idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline.”

– Nathan Jurgenson

Online doesn’t replace offline — they are now one and the same. Our new reality is augmented, and there is no going back.

From The End of the Offline World as We Know It? 28 August 2012

An escalator can never break – it can only become stairs. You would never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there.”
Mitch Hedberg

Our solutions should still work when the technology fails, they might just be less convenient to use.