Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:
This time last year, I decided to take advantage of the fact I have built up a number of smaller Postgraduate qualifications over the years, and use the Accreditation of Prior Learning route to put myself in a position whereby completing a 15,000-word dissertation would give me an MA in Education. Naively, I assumed I could do this over the summer, but it ended up being a mad scramble to submit.
The research was based on a project I had completed the previous year, using funding from the Institute of Learning and Teaching, but with the addition of a second iteration of the research, and a model I was trying out.
The research part was based on the delivery of sessions using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, piloted in 2016/17 and rolled out in full in 2017/18. The idea of the model started with a more or less throwaway line used in a keynote presentation at the ILT Conference in 2017, about making sure that when we use technology in teaching, we are not using it just for the sake of it. I borrowed a phrase from my environmental law teaching, and called it the “Best Available Technique) – it also allowed me to close the presentation with a version of the Batman symbol.
I looked at how we as educators use technology, and the results were quite interesting. Young argues that smart classrooms are not the whole answer, and that without training teachers and students how to get the most from the technology, it is not effective. Students, he suggests, believe that a teacher using technology badly is worse than one who is not using it at all. This is backed up by Guess who says that “good teachers are good with or without IT and … poor teachers are poor with or without IT.” IT therefore, and by extension TEL, can be regarded as a tool, an enabler, or a means to an end (the ‘end’ being better teaching and enhanced student experience) rather than the end itself. It is not a novel approach – Laurillard posed the provocative question “what is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution” and concludes that for her purposes there is a problem (global lack of teachers in primary level education) and that “MOOCs could be part of the solution” (my emphasis).
Cuban rather archly observed two unexpected outcomes of a study into e-learning in California in the early 21st century, namely that “the overwhelming majority of teachers employed the technology to sustain existing patterns of teaching rather than to innovate … [and] … only a tiny percentage of high school and university teachers used the new technologies to accelerate student-centred and project-based teaching practices.”
Having suggested that teaching will not be rescued by indiscriminate use of technology, I had to come up with a way of filtering things, so came up with this very early BAT in TEL model, to try and map the environmental law BAT standard to TEL.
Proposed BAT in TEL Model, with an explanation of each stage.
|Definition (based on Directive 2010/75/EU)||Explanation|
|BAT shall mean the most effective and advanced stage in the development of activities and their methods of operation which indicate the practical suitability of particular technologies for providing the basis for the enhancement of student experience and attainment.||This means that innovation which is adopted for its own sake will never be BAT-compliant. However, innovation which is adopted as a pilot (to understand its pedagogic implications and applicability), could become the BAT of the future.|
|‘Techniques’ shall include both the technology used and the way in which the teaching space is designed, built, and operated||This satisfies the points made by authors about appropriate use of smart classrooms, the IT provision and the ability to develop competency.|
|‘Appropriate’ techniques shall mean those developed on a scale which allows implementation in the relevant sector, under technically viable conditions, as long as they are accessible to the operator||For large-scale adoption of an aspect of technology, and the way in which it is used, the approach would have to have a proven track history of pedagogic value. It would not include, for example, techniques that have not been previously applied in an L&T context, but would allow for innovations which have been used in one subject area, or for one particular task, to be used in a different subject area, or a different task. For example, taking an approach from the business sphere (block chain) and applying it to L&T would not qualify as BAT until it had been proven to have a positive impact. Taking a technological advance used in Geography, such as Geomapping, and applying it to specific aspects of Law could qualify, however (see BHRRC, OLM).|
|‘Best’ shall mean most effective in achieving a high general level of student enhancement||As with the original (1996) BAT, and notwithstanding the grammatical problems, there can be more than one “best” in each sector, and across sectors.|
What this table demonstrates is that mapping the pollution control BAT onto a TEL BAT is possible. In addition to the basic framework, which could be adopted at subject, faculty, institutional or sectoral level, further guidance could be provided by subject centres and AdvanceHE, in the form of BAT Reference Documents (BREF) as articulated by Article 11 of the 2010 Directive.
These would be a central depositary for research into the use and effectiveness of different technological interventions. Whether this is classed as “dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants” (Bernard of Chartres, Troyan), or “sharing best practice” (McCarthy & Bagaeenand others), “avoiding worst practice” (Felder & Brent) is purely a matter of semantics. The important aspect is that such a database, which is already starting to emerge in a fragmentary way (e.g. the HEA / Paul Hamlyn Foundation / Action on Access “What Works” programme), would allow learning and teaching practitioners to assess the viability of different approaches to their own teaching, their own subject areas, their own expertise and their own students.
There would still be space for those at the cutting edge of technological learning and teaching research – as Sharma puts it “[w]hat is normal today will soon be obsolete, and what is innovative today will soon be normal. Adoption and keeping pace with new technology is not an option but is core.”
This is an area in which I will continue to work, and I hope to develop a more nuanced model in the future. I would, of source, welcome any input.
 Thank you to my supervisor for being so understanding!
 Young, J. R., 2004. When Good Technology Means Bad Teaching, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51 (12), A31 at http://www.chronicle.com/article/When-Good-Technology-Means-Bad/10922
 Guess, A., 2007. Students ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology. Inside Higher Ed. at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/09/17/it.
 Laurillard, D., 2014, What is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution? IOE London Blog, https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/what-is-the-problem-for-which-moocs-are-the-solution/
 Cuban, L. 2001. Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, p134
 Troyan, S., 2004, Medieval Rhetoric, London: Routledge
 McCarthy, J., & Bagaeen, S.,2014, Sharing Good Practice in Planning Education, York: Higher Education Academy, https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/sharing-good-practice-in-planning-education1.pdf
 Felder, R., & Brent, R., 2015, Teaching Blunders to Avoid: Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes, Iowa State University, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/teaching-blunders-to-avoid-ten-worst-teaching-mistakes
 Sharma, A., 2017, If you are not innovating today, you won’t be around tomorrow, https://forge.autodesk.com/blog/if-you-are-not-innovating-today-you-wont-be-around-tomorrow