Listening to Cyberspace

The moment we invent a significant new device for communication – talking drums, papyrus … – we partially reconstruct the self and its world, creating new opportunities (and new traps) for thought, perception and social experience.
E. Davis cited in Cousin 2005, p. 119

Over the weekend, I was fortuitous enough to read the Student Expectations Study (Ipsos MORI, 2007) after reading Cousin’s rather thought-provoking piece about how “inextricably linked” technology and pedagogy are.

My own background is very much technology-biased but always followed the belief that: “exploration and play are the building blocks of learning“. So it was good to see Cousin espouse this sentiment. Indeed, when talking to academics, I don’t like (nor want) to “shoe horn” a particular technology into a teaching and learning practice. I’d much rather that I “open the door” to a technology for them to see. If they do step through the door, I want them to undergo their own personal “lightbulb moment” (should it occur). To cultivate that “moment“, they really ought to be playing and exploring the tool / technology and make those connections for themselves.

A colleague of mine has invested a lot of time, trouble and effort to match different technologies, such as blogs, discussion boards, chat rooms, etc., against a different range of “traditional” pedagogies backed up with the relevant case studies to reinforce his point. It is a conceit to show the academics how they can take a traditional teaching and learning approach and transform it into it’s online equivalent. But as Poster (cited in Cousin 2005, p. 121) points out:

Reassurances about the primacy of pedagogy and the purely enhancement value of technology offer false protection to academics because they promise a stable transition in an inherently unstable process of change from one media age to another and they promise no loss where there is always loss.

Whilst it is an interesting and useful instrument, I wouldn’t want to slavishly adhere to it. What Cousin’s article does is to hint at the new opportunities (and those yet to be discovered) that would bring about a paradigm shift in teaching and learning. However, we are still hampered by the traditional “old skool” methodologies and applications that somehow prohibit us from thinking outside of the box.

So it was with interest that I read the Student Expectations Survey (2007) from JISC which consisted of 27 interviews with 15 to 18 year olds and an online survey that resulted in 501 returns. Whilst this was not a big sample, it did glean some interesting tidbits (this would be particularly pertinent for the Web 2.0 section next week) on how the target group ultimately “perceived” I.T. use at University. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Students see technology as a core part of social engagement.
  2. Prospective students struggle, however, to see how social networking could be used as a learning tool.
  3. Students are cautious of publishing / sharing coursework online for public scrutiny.
  4. Students don’t believe in technology for technology’s sake.
  5. Students see traditional methods of teacher / pupil learning as neither hierarchical nor outmoded; they see personal, face-to-face interaction as the backbone of their learning.
  6. However, students do not fully understand how ICT and learning can work together outside the school context.

What is abundantly clear is that if we do “experiment” with the technology as Cousin suggests; we do need to make absolutely sure that our students understand why this particular technology is being used within a particular teaching and learning context; so that they can make some sense of it and benefit from it.


Cousin, G., (2005). Learning from Cyberspace. In: Land, R. & Bayne, S. (eds.). Education in Cyberspace. London: RoutledgeFalmer. pp. 117-129.

Ipsos MORI, (2007). Student Expectations Study: Findings from Preliminary Research. JISC [online]. Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2007].