Technology – Encourage or Enforce?

While completing my annual leave this week I was able to listen in on the tweets from the Association for Learning Technology Conference from Warwick University. Although I was unable to attend the actual conference, sitting in drinking coffee watching and interacting with the tweets was very interesting and, being still new to higher education and learning technologies, allowed me to gain an insight to the views and opinions within the learning technology community. It also allowed me to add more learning technologists to my personal learning network on Twitter! One point of discussion which I found very interesting was whether to enforce or encourage the use of technology within learning. Of course, after thinking about this, I couldn’t resist writing a waffle about it.

Encourage or Enforce the use of technology (Original Image from

Encourage or Enforce the use of technology
(Original Image from

A few week’s ago I wrote a waffle about whether technology impacts on the quality teaching and learning in which I presented that everyone’s teaching style was different and that, over a series of modules, lessons or years, the variety of style would benefit each learner. Technology would have a negative impact if used ineffectively or by someone who did not have the passion to implement it. While this is true for teaching, it is always true for learning. While teaching any of my modules, I often cast an eye over what the learners are using to record notes/information. These range from paper and pens to laptops and other technical devices. Each learner has found the way of recording information which works best for them and uses it effectively.

“I would not ever consider enforcing them to participate – this would probably lead to resentment as well as not promoting an enjoyment of learning.”

Sometimes, learners might approach me and ask for advice over technology and how it could improve their learning or note taking. I often introduce technologies which I use which have been beneficial for me but I also encourage them to explore other applications to ensure they find something which not only meets their own learning needs but also a method which they are feel secure in using. In a similar way to teaching with technology, if they tried to use something which was not suitable for them personally then it could have a negative impact on the way they learn. In this scenario, enforcing any use of technology could have a negative impact.

Wilson Waffling Live!

Wilson Waffling Live!

There are, of course, some instances of technology that are essentially part of the course, programme or learning. I would not suggest that virtual learning environments should be optional or that electronic submissions could be voided if the learner preferred to write on parchment with a quill. These are, what I could consider the minimum requirements of technology for the course. When considering whether or not applications such as Twitter should be enforced and become essential then I somewhat waiver. I do believe that Twitter can have a valid impact on learning, whether this is on the actual content of the course or beyond the course content. I would want to encourage the use of twitter with the learners, demonstrating first both the advantages and disadvantages of twitter in order for the learners to make an informed decision. When using social media to support learning within my modules, I use the technology to further enhance the learning rather than making it essential to the module. When broadcasting Wilson Waffling Live, engaging in TweetChats or conference chats using Google Hangouts, Skype or Big Blue Button, I want to allow the learners to differentiate for themselves, providing opportunities to engage and use the technologies to further their own learning. I would not ever consider enforcing them to participate – this would probably lead to resentment as well as not promoting an enjoyment of learning.

The future of teaching technology?

The future of teaching technology?

There is the issue of inclusion that needs to be addressed within this topic. Should this additional information only be available on Twitter which would exclude anyone who feels that do not want to participate within the Twitter Sphere. When sharing or participating within social media, attempting to duplicate information on a variety of social media sites does support this inclusion. Everything I post on Twitter also goes onto my Wilson Waffling Google+ page in an attempt to allow everyone to access these. There exists a range of publishing tools, e.g. Hootsuite, Buffer which allows for this to easily be employed when sharing any posts.


If I was to enforce various uses of technology within my modules, I would be concerned of the negative impact this might have initially on the learning and secondly on the actual technology. As you can probably guess from this waffle I would prefer to encourage the use of technology within my modules – demonstrating how they can impact on learning and then allowing the learners themselves to reflect on these and making their own informed choice. It might be possible that I have missed the initial point of discussion from the ALTC on twitter – I was sipping coffee in my favourite coffee shop while attending virtually.

I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later