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Leadership Foundation for HE

This higher education event held at the Law Society in London was directed at senior university management and was titled 'Technology and Learning - Myths and Realities'. It was jointly presented by Oracle and Ultralab. I co-directed and co-presented the day with Alan Matcham of Oracle with support from Martin Doherty of Ultralab.
When Dec 08, 2005
Where London


On arrival - A4 page of guide opportunities for participation and methods

Mobile number

13.00 lunch

Participation 1 - text us your expectations of the day, why you are here

14.00 (20 minutes) Alan makes introductions

  • 'Please leave your mobile on' - for expectations or impressions
  • Brief account of our individual background
  • Something about our partnership, Oracle and Ultralab
  • Intentions of the day - myths and realities etc
  • Outcomes - consequences and actions
  • Programme of activity
  • Acknowledge expectations

14.20 (20 minutes) Big issues in Society, Technology, Learning -  Alan to lead

  • 3 slides from us
  • Chance for delegates to input

14.40 (50 minutes) Presentaton - Richard to lead

  • Myths
  • What are they - what society tends to believe
  • Realities -  what we believe and the evidence supports
  • Participation -
  • Your myths or commentary
  • Captured on screen by us

15.15 Review of contributions - Alan to lead

15.30 (15 minutes) Comfort Break and coffee or tea

15.45 (45 minutes) Participation in groups - Alan and Richard 'floating'

  • Consequences for one myth
  • Actions for one myth
  • Recording through 2 rapporteurs per group using SubEthaEdit

16.15  Report back from groups - our fill in and responses as commentary

16.30 (30 minutes) Round up and conclusion

  • Evaluating expectations and delivery
  • Why we think the participative technologies have been useful
  • Participant - feedback and remaining concerns

17.00 Depart

Technology and Learning Myths & Realities

Putting the whole education scene in the context of today’s reality and try to highlight how our deeply held beliefs/myths can actually be barriers.

The context is shifting and the nature of the world we live in is changing………


  • Time poor
  • Nature of organisation is changing – industrial/information/relationship age
  • Critical skills, computing, communication, cultural understanding, collaboraion, creativity.
  • Joined-up knowledge based economy, from efficiency to effectiveness.
  • An academic/industry divide


  • Technology all pervasive, ubiquity of ICT tools. Man’s historical relationship with tools.
  • Technically literate society by the time students exit school they have experienced – 10k hours of video games, 250k emails, 10k hours on mobiles, 20k hours of TV, 500k commercials.
  • Technology brings choice, choice brings new demands – multi media, 1 to many, many sources of info, problem solving options, exploration.
  • Imperfect market – we don’t know what we don’t know.


  • Learner opportunities are changing, mass/packaged/personalised
  • Huge importance of effective learning experiences for corporates
  • Shelf-life of subject knowledge reducing
  • Need to reinvent oneself (continuous learning)
  • EU legislation harmonising educational standards
  • Funding and measurement models driving clearler value propositions


Myth 1 - Technology can never replace the classroom experience

Technology can never replace the classroom experience, e-learning will help but only in the context of a blended model.

Explain the reality (evidence)

  • Not School
  • Ultraversity
  • Oracle University
  • Quest/Oracle Academy
  • IESE Global EMBA


It’s a constructivist model not a transmission model.

Interaction, trust and rapport can all be developed in a purely technical environment. Trust comes from the opportunity to debate.

It starts with with the pedagogy. A lot is fundamentally flawed thus making neither face to face or technology effective.

Built on digital comfort, familiar tools, and learner needs.


Consequences of it?

It’s not supposed to replace the classroom, it’s a bigger shift in mindsets we need.

Compete to collaborate

Class to community

Prescribed results to diverse results

IT as a subject to tool of learning

An increased focus on work related issues and content, real world experiences.

The use of e-learning technologies without changing the pegagogy will simply result in the same outcomes but perhaps cheaper and quicker.

Requires a teaching skills change from teaching to facilitation

Impacts on the very nature of building new teaching institutions – a fresh look at physical environments, personal spaces for digital as well as physical equipment

Actions proposed

Become familiar with the tools

Seek out what’s working, what isn’t

Connect more closely to the needs of learners and corporates



Myth 2 -Young people cannot concentrate anymore, and technology is to blame.

Kids/students can't concentrate for long enough to write linear essays

Children are deficient in their cognitive ability due to technology – actually more critical.

Kids use technology as adults do

Explain the reality (evidence)

  • eViva,
  • Summerschool
  • More evidence?


Young people will concentrate as long as they like when motivated and creatively engaged. Motivation to concentrate on boring activity has always been a challenge, for every generation. New media is all about choice (satellite television, world-wide web, interactive games) and this requires more complex structuring to meet the reader’s needs unlike the traditional essay with its linear logic. Young people are less likely to be motivated by authority and more likely to be motivated by challenge.

Adults use technology to work with, kids use technology to have fun and be creative

Kids work collaboratively, working together, taking role of teachers

Use language loosley, misspelling, failing to gain basic illiteracies, uninhibited


Consequences of it?

Innovation is required in assessment tasks to match the kinds of media that society/industry/academia young people to produce. This won’t be easy, because we are all so used to the ‘author in control’ narrative, but is undoubtedly a sea-change in authoring.

Transform the education system to make it more effective and “sticky”.

Actions proposed

Invest in R&D in assessment processes


Myth 3 - Content is king

The essence of the university is all to do with domain knowledge and expertise – content is absolute king.

Explain the reality (evidence)

  • Virtual Heads (NPQH)
  • Ultraversity
  • MIT and opencoureware
  • Continuous learning ethic in Oracle/Software Industry
  • ELW corporate members


Process is key – a loop of experiental learning followed by action, expressing ideas and then evaluation feedback is how effective and deep learning takes place. (Kolb, Millwood etc)

Analysis of the process of learning (active not passive)

Corporate Talent Development Heads increasingly requireing work related learning solutions.

Shelf-life of knowledge is diminishing.

The internet is the worlds biggest window on content, available to most

Consequences of it?

Students will increasingly seek universities where emphasis is on learning process and relationship to personal context and experience.

Lecturers may have two roles – facilitator AND expert

Growth of Corporate Universities.

Actions proposed

Change mindsets from content to process

Rethink university/school value propositions

Reframe the value and role of technology


Myth 4 - Knowledge always resides in the teacher

The teacher/pupil relationship is clear;

  • Knowledge always resides in the teacher
  • People learn by being told and this requires classrooms
  • Traditional pedagogical models work
  • Only teachers know how to teach.

Explain the reality (evidence)

Corporate Executives/specialists have same/better domain knowledge

[More evidence needed]

Personal experience and context-bound knowledge is a better starting point for many, especially mature, students.

Executives often know more about a subject than a Professor, learning is therefore a process of collaboration and sharing experiences to create new insights.

The growth in corpoate universities is strong.

Teachers know how to teach but is that valued as much as it used to be.

It’s not about teaching but process and engagement

Consequences of it?

All other forms of knowledge are undervalued and ignored. Opportunities to create new knowledge are minimised.

Learning is ineffective, one way, bland and unemotional.

Actions proposed

The role of the teacher is changing from teacher to coach/facilitator.

The role and value of technology changes from LMS repositories to collaborative tools.


Myth 5 - The education system prepares you for work

Higher Education understands what business needs and the schooling system prepares students for the world of work.

Explain the reality (evidence)

Circa 80% of UK plc sources Executive learning solutions outside of the Business School environment.

The 80/10/10 rule and rise of corporate universities

The value of MBA’s is increasingly questionable

Universities and Business Schools mainly teach disciplines not work based scenarios and stories.

Business Schools/HE have vested interests not compatible with business problems and issues.

No connection between the technology in a Business School and that in commerce.

Pedagogical experiences bear little relationship to the complex social systems people work in and therefore the skills required to deal with them.

Drop out rates

Loss of apprenticeships

Performance criteria do not compliment what business needs.- pass rates, publications, rankings, grants, chairs funded, books published

Learning how to learn is now the reality, the shelf life of knowledge at work is very short. Huge detatchment of business and schools

Execs have minimal time to address theory without practical and relevant problem solving in their context

Consequences of it?

A gulf is appearing between HE/Business Schools and commerce

Lost business opportunities

Technologies for learning are disconnected from reality

Employment opportunity mismatch. Skills match for the new economic reality

A static pedagogy results in confirmity to standards

What have many of the above got to do with learning?

Energies and resources are diverted

The ability to present your learning credentials is increasingly important. Need to move from packaged to personalised education

Actions proposed

Develop a more balanced dashboard to reflect the core raison d’etre

Greater use of “in the workplace” technology and siimulations

An alignment is necessary between industry and academia to focus on developing talent able to cope with the complexities of the day.

Greater emphasis on the “teaching school” medical mode


Myth 6 - The only way to test real learning is through examination

Explain the reality (evidence)

Digital portfolios and embedded assessments

Growth in 360 reviews and peer assessments

Consequences of it?


Actions proposed

Move from tests assessed on norms to performsance assessed by experts, peers, mentors and self



Another thought - Technology for learning is defined in terms of relationships between the learner and teacher not teacher and teacher. i.e. Vlearning E not VStaffE

“Soon enough, virtual universities will be undistinguishable from real universities, they will both look a lot like work”

Roger Shank

Professor Emeritus Nothwest University

(Words: 2229 )

Filed under:

Lewis Carroll describes a fictional map that had:

"the scale of a mile to the mile."

A character notes some practical difficulties with such a map and states that:

"we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well."
— Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, Lewis Carroll, 1893

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