Vicki Suter

Discovering the power of good questions

Naming what it is that I do

I wonder about disciplines that have references to technology in their name. And, does it matter whether the term is an adjective or a noun? My discipline is learning technology, and in this case, the term learning  is an adjective, maybe to be read as a special case of technology studies. But it turns out, most of those degrees come out of education, not computer science, and the body of knowledge that I’ve focused on has to do with collaborative learning and learning communities, and the affordances of technology that both support and transform education.  In fact, I’m not that  interested in the bright and shiny – I’m interested in ideas of social learning, co-creation of knowledge, collaboration, communities of practice and the sense of presence. It happens that technologies can transform and extend what is possible in these practices and ways of seeing the world.  So, learning and technology is a good name, and it starts with the center of my study.

I’ve chosen a field and a profession that always operates slightly outside but adjacent to many disciplines. Well, maybe all disciplines. My life has operated at the margins – from the 60′s open school movement all the way to collaborative learning in virtual environments (arguing that the fundamental basis for learning is . . .play). I love frontiers, where the edges are dissolving. Technology is just such a great solvent, and I love working with faculty who are curious about the scholarship of teaching and learning in their field. So I’ve worked with faculty in the fields of physics, music, chemistry, English and writing, literature, religious studies, philosophy, animal studies – You get the drift.  (Meanwhile, I’m also feeding my pathological curiosity.)

I am passionate about the transformation of the higher-education learning environment (from content packaging and forklifting to learner-centeredness); another reason I chose to go into the field of learning technology was to be in a position where I  might be able to disrupt (in a good way) all aspects of higher education, and all disciplines – the technology is just a means.

There are many other fields that name themselves by taking on a noun or an adjective that references technology; digital humanities is a good one. I don’t know, maybe naming is a part of a process that starts with emergence through disruption (new technologies used in the humanities), requires differentiation (but not so much as to leave the original domain) evolving toward specialization, and then, through a natural process of evolution, the development of a new interdisciplinarity across domains. I appreciate that dynamic process, and even more, an end point that puts the learner at the center.

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One comment on “Naming what it is that I do

  1. ___123___Naming what it is that I do | Vicki Suter___123___

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