“Supported” versus “unsupported” ICTs in a network age

Just heard of a PhD student exploring the question behind where teachers’ decide to use unsupported learning technologies in higher education. A topic near and dear to my heart. Not to mention I think part of the challenge that Deb faces.

The question that immediately arose – mostly from the NGL course I’m currently participating in – was what’s the definition of “supported” and “unsupported”.

I imagine that the official enterprise definition of “supported” would include officially evaluated and approved by the organisation and its IT experts. Not to mention that the support resources and staff provided by the institution have some training and expertise with the supported tools.

Assuming we’re in a “network age”, many of the assumptions underpinning that definition appear questionable. For example

  1. The only or best form of support for a tool is within the institution.

    When I have a problem with Moodle – the approved institutional LMS – I do a Google search and find help on the wider web. Knowing where to find the institutional support is too difficult, time-consuming and probably not going to match or exceed what I can find online.

    I would suggest that the community/network around most of the widely used tools will always exceed what an institution, especially a small one, can provide.

  2. The institutional support people have to be trained and have expertise in order to support a tool.

    A connectivist perspect suggests it’s the ability to know where to find information/knowledge that is more important now than knowing something. You can never know everything you need to know, it’s more important that you can learn what you need as quickly as possible.

  3. The staff and students need a middle-person between them and the broader community of support around tools.

    This assumption is probably still applies. However, if institutions ever achieve the goal of having digitally fluent staff, then what will institutional support staff do? Won’t the digitally fluent staff know how to engage with the broader community – they’ll have good “know were”?

I have to admit to feeling significantly better supported with the “unsupported” tools that I use in my teaching (Diigo, WordPress etc), then I do with the “supported” tools provided by the institution. Even with the “supported” tools, I predominantly use the “support” provided from outside the institution, not inside.

6 thoughts on ““Supported” versus “unsupported” ICTs in a network age

  1. You bring up some interesting points David. The definition of unsupported vs supported definitely needs clarity. My thoughts are that an unsupported tool is one that the university does not provide support of any kind to assist academics. This translates to no IT support, no guidelines, no training, no help desk access. Of course, depending on the university this does not prevent academics from using unsupported tools, and of course touches on the issue that unsupported tools may provide in some instances better support!

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  4. Thanks David for your thoughts on “supported” versus “unsupported” ICTs – my awareness of these issues is growing daily as I am right in the thick of it where I work at USQ! Am formulating ideas for where this issue may fit in the first and second assignment tasks.

    1. Always important Deb to realise that my views are my views and hence are limited to a certain perspective. They might be indicative of something, but that won’t be the only consideration, especially in the reality of having to support 100s (or more) of staff.

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