Confusing terminologies: #e-learning, learning technologist, educational technologist,…discussed by @A_L_T members

confused Recently a thread on the ALT mailing list discussed the evolving terminologies used in education field related to both the (e) learning activities and (e) learning support professionals.

For (e) learning activities, terminologies were mentioned including TEL (Technology-enhanced learning), CAL (Computer Assisted Learning), CT (Curriculum Technology?), e-learning, CALL (Computer-assisted Language Learning).

It was argued that creation of those terminologies might be due to various reasons: political, business reason, or trying to differentiate the activities from the crowd.  Using those terminologies has had mixed effects.  The downside was to cause confusion. Some of the terminologies are only known or understood by the people who are actively involved in creating/developing them. Some terminologies have evolved and changed from their original meaning.  For example, when I met Steve Down and asked him about MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) -http://www.mooc.ca/newsletter.htm.  He said that the MOOCs currently discussed by the community was very different from what he and his colleagues initially defined when the term was brought to life.   Looking at from the positive side, creating and developing various terminologies have attracted people and funding to develop those specific areas such as VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), MOOC, etc.  If we put the terminologies on one side, people who were involved in those activities have experienced different (sometime very positive) ways of learning/teaching.   This is good and I would like to see more of these positive activities.

Some argue that in the future “it will all just be learning”.  However, I tend to agree with another member who said: “I suspect there will still be similar debates about whatever the terms and techniques in vogue at the time are.”

Onto the people who support use of technologies for learning and teaching, again there are a number of titles, learning technologist, educational technologist, learning adviser, etc.  Part of the reason is that clearly people brought a wide range of experience and skills into the learning support roles.

It was agreed that it might not be possible to ditch the terminologies as they were so widely embed in the field. Furthermore, ditching the terminologies may lead to loose people who do TEL support while at a time when TEL support is becoming more and more important.

In conclusion, terminologies come and go. We should not loose sight that we are here to support learning and teaching by making full use of the appropriate means regardless if they are pen and paper or the internet.   Putting learning and teaching at the heart of what we do may also help to improve the unfortunately situation that one member mentioned:  “the reality is that many teaching colleagues view technology with fear and wariness.”.  Finally I would say: “we are all here for the same goal – to support our students”.

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