Staff need to be using the same tools they use to teach to also learn

The title of this post is from a presentation by someone at a University responsible for the institutional e-learning systems. It doesn’t matter which university because I imagine it’s a line that has been used at quite a few of them. It does matter that I think it’s completely wrong-headed and illustrates perfectly the problem with institutional e-learning systems and the processes and people that support them.

They are designed to ensure people use the provided systems, rather than what’s best for learning.

philosophy by erix!, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  erix! 

They’ll be better at the LMS if we use the LMS to support them

The idea is that any staff development that occurs should be done via the LMS and other institutional e-learning systems. The benefit of this is that learning through these tools not only addresses a learning need, but it also provides teachers with experience from the perspective student.

Who learns with an LMS?

What would happen if I ran a survey asking people what tools they use to learn every day?

I’d imagine tools like Google, Twitter, Diigo, Pinterest etc would be near the top. I don’t imagine an LMS would be anywhere near the top.

It’s a focus on the selected tool (hammer), not on learning (the egg)

The problem with this statement

Staff need to be using the same tools they use to teach to also learn

is that it reflects the mindset that what’s best for learning is using the tools that have already been adopted by the institution. Those tools are the starting point.

What’s not the starting point are the tools people are already using, or the tools that are better for learning. Especially for the time when they stop studying at the institution. This connects to my recent post about the failure of institutional eportfolios.

Another example is getting help with Moodle. Moodle is the LMS used by the institution for which I work. When I want to learn about something related to Moodle I use Google which invariably takes me to either the main Moodle site or some of the good quality Moodle related resources shared on the websites of other institutions (e.g. UNSW). It is my understand that I will never find any of the Moodle how-to resources created by my current institution because they reside in a Moodle instance that isn’t searchable by Google. An example of how the focus is on the tool, not on how people actually learn.

Another example is past experience when talking about BIM. BIM is essentially a tool to enable the use of individual student blogs. But whenever central L&T folk at a Moodle institution hear blogs, their first question is something like, “Did you know that Moodle has blogs built-in?”.

If all you have is a hammer….

2 thoughts on “Staff need to be using the same tools they use to teach to also learn

  1. I agree with your reservations about staff learning with an LMS but I’m not sure that invalidates the original statement. Perhaps we need to look at it from the other direction. Staff do need to be learning with the same tools they use to teach but we get that wrong if we assume that the appropriate tool set is the one they are provided for teaching. The appropriate tool set is more likely the one they chose for learning and they should be able to use that for teaching. Perhaps we need to turn it around: “Staff need to be using the same tools they use to learn to also teach.”

    1. Your last point is where I was leading to with the above. Rather than starting with the institutional tools as the basis for how staff should learn, the institution/staff/students should be starting with the tools that people use to learn as the basis for what they use to teach.

      There was a phrase for this back in early days of educational computing when there were special Word processors etc for education. I need to pull that out of the archives, I think the LMS world is in danger of going the same way with learning tools

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