Blog Post

Learning Enhanced Technologies

A colleague remarked recently that he was hoping to update his program and curriculum with technology enhanced learning, and for some reason, this term - “technology enhanced learning” - which I've used myself dozens of times in reference to our work at the IML, suddenly sounded anachronistic. Through our collaboration with IDEPSCA on the Mobile Voices project, I’ve come to think a better term might be "learning enhanced technology," where a tool - such as the mobile phone - is used for many activities, with learning moving fluidly in and out of the flow of those multiple potentials. Learning becomes mobile and mutable, and the technology fades from dramatic machinery to calm and pervasive technology, in the phrasing of Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown in “The Coming Age of Calm Technology.”

This aligns nicely with IDEPSCA’s foundation in popular education, a tradition that grows out of Paulo Freire’s writing in which learning occurs through critical thinking and an analysis of social and political structures. Reading and writing in this context are reading and writing the world, and education fades from a very specific kind of event that takes place in an institutional setting to an ongoing practice that unfolds in, and produces, the world. Rather than being the top-down imposition of tools connoted by “technology enhanced learning,” then, “learning enhanced technology” suggests ways that people, including the workers crafting stories for Mobile Voices, appropriate tools for their own uses, allowing us to move away from instrumental “enhancement” to something more akin to what Mark Shepard calls “propagative urbanism,” which he says is “a way of thinking about shaping the experience of urban space in terms of a bottom-up, participatory approach.” The notion of learning implied by Mobile Voices is indeed situated in the city; it’s participatory; and it’s productive.

From the perspective of the university, then, one goal is to imagine the potential of this model within a far more formal setting and indeed, at the IML, we’ve already witnessed the shift in our program over the last decade, from the early emphasis on our digital lab spaces where much of what we offered was access to computers, to distributed, participatory practices that use many kinds of tools, minimizing the emphasis on the dramatic machines...

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