Photo of a man lookign at starry night.

By Gil Dekel, PhD.

In his excellent talk, Peter Bryant explained that the number of devices that are connected to the internet is larger than the number of people on the planet. By 2020 there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet [1] – but how can we make effective use of these opportunities for learning?

Here is my summary of 3 key insights form Peter’s presentation on technologies and educational paradigms:


1. Fit technologies to experiences (not the other way around).

We should not ask whether online teaching is more effective than face-to-face teaching. What we should ask is: what makes teaching effective? Then we should fit the technology to it. It is about what experience we want students to have, and then we will figure out the design to support it.

Disruption does not happen because of technology change, but because of changes in experience. Technology follows from experiences.

Joe White explained that people buy a drilling kit not because they need the drilling kit but because they need a hole…  they need to drill a hole. The same thing goes for technology. Technology is a tool to facilitate user experience. We should not care about the specific type of the technological device (phone, screen or PC).  What we should care about is the experience around using them, how we use them, and what we do with technology.

How do students use technology? University students seem to use their devices in the middle of the classes, so it seems that they are not paying attention to the lecturer. Pete’s colleague wanted to check this, so he got access to the Wi-Fi data in his University. Wi-Fi records all access from devices, and can tell you how devices are used. They found out that most of the students were connected through their devices to the slides that the lecturer was showing. Students could not see the slides on the lecture screens so they watched them through their mobile devices… So, whilst students are ‘stuck’ to their devices during lectures, they were actually using the devices for learning purposes.

85% of the students also had Facebook open at the same time. But it turned out that they used it to talk to each other about the lesson. They were actually asking questions about the lecture itself, via Facebook.

This experience is very similar to previous generations’ experiences, where students would communicate with each other through notes they would pass in class. Some students would ask
questions about the lecture using notes. That kind of chatter is part of education, whether you write it on a piece of paper or sending it as a message through chats or Facebook.

Photo of home office, laptopp and a paper notes on a desk.

Figure 1: Using paper or computers, the concept is similar: communicating messages… (Photo © ‎unsplash/pixabay. Used with permission from the photographer).‎

So how do you turn this technology with its chatter activity into learning experience?

You could use student response systems, which are interactive online voting websites. Or, you can raise questions in class, and ask students to post them on Facebook and have a dialogue with their friends online. Students can then come to the next lesson with views that they gathered from discussions with their friend online. Students that may otherwise not want to openly express any opinion in class may now speak openly about what they have read in Facebook, and what they friends suggested online. This is how we can use popular technologies to facilitate experiences (and not the other way around).


2. Design courses for spatial experience (not linear).

A lot of modern teachings are based on a structural process, like a scaffold structure – step-by-step, one after the other. There is the notion of: you have to learn the basics before you get to the higher-level…  However, the way we live our lives – the way we share, connect and interact – is not sequential; it is not linear.

People’s interactions are spatial. Here is an illustration: people donate to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia [2] relics and objects that connect them to end of relationships. A lady who received a letter from her boyfriend saying he decided to leave her has glued that latter to a mirror, smashed the mirror and donated it to the museum.

Photo of A smashed ‘separation letter’. Photo of exhibit from the Museum of Broken Relationships‎

Figure 2: A smashed ‘separation letter’. Photo of exhibit from the Museum of Broken Relationships (© ‎the Museum of Broken Relationships. Used here with permission.)‎

This lady is connected to her ex-boyfriend through memories and also through the broken relationship, the notion of being separate – the demise of relationship. Being connected to people through relationships – as well as the demise of relationships – is spatial experience, not linear.

There is tension between the linear way we teach knowledge and the spatial way we experience life. In the 1980’s Malcolm Knowles suggested a solution to this tension, when he proposed the concept of ‘learning experiences’. Learning is not just about achieving objectives but also about engaging with principles around us, such as lines, space, colours, textures and unity.

As kids, we all went to science museums, and put our hands into one of those discovery boxes where you cannot see what’s inside – and then touching what’s inside, discovering it, finding something. That’s learning experience, where you discover and engage.

Photo of a man lookign at starry night.

Figure 3: Discovery should come first. Technology should follow. (Photo © Bhoj Rai. Used with ‎permission from the photographer).‎

Any learning experience should be the experience of discovery, yet the notion of finding something in acts of discovery is not usually part of first year undergraduate students. Usually, the learning process for them is linear, dictated.

Discovery is the opposite of a linear learning process. We can develop discovery learning, or at least some discovery elements to be included in learning programmes.


3. Use technologies to promote lecturers’ work (not the other way around).

Institutions tend to lock technologies because they want to prevent misuse, and also because of resistance from some lecturers.

In term of misuse, there can be problems with uploading content to YouTube, for example, because of branding. There could also be legal issues, where students may say something inappropriate and upload it online.

In terms of resistance, some lecturers tend to resist new technologies because they are worried that technologies will replace them. Hence, learning technologies’ task is to promote use of technology not in order to replace any lecturer, but to empower lecturers.

Learning technologists focus on teaching. They propose technologies not for the sake of technologies, but for the purpose of improving learning. The innovation is not in the digital tool but rather in the learning experience that arises from the tool.

Learning technologist need to work more with lecturers, to empower them. We need a middle-out approach. Middle-out approach is more powerful that bottom-up or top-down approaches.

The bottom-up approach is not always working because when a CEO comes and says, “I want you to do this,” they are basically saying they will give you the funds and tools to do it – and that’s what will happen…  So, while bottom-up approach is important as colleagues are coming up with ideas, it is not always working.

The middle-out approach, on the other hand, is more beneficial. In middle-out approach you get support from the ‘middle’ people; from existing lecturers. You gain their trust by empowering them, and making their work easier through use of technologies. If you do that then they will support you in return.



[1] Bryant, Peter. #futurehappens – Challenging educational paradigms: The changing role of the learning technologist.  Keynote CELebrate16, Bournemouth University. Wednesday 13 April 2016. Accessed 10 May 2016, from:

[2] See:


© Gil Dekel. 30 May 2016.
Figure 1 – photo © ‎unsplash/pixabay. Used with permission from the photographer.‎ Original photo cropped by Gil Dekel.
Figure 2 – photo © the Museum of Broken Relationships. Used with permission of the museum. Original photo cropped by Gil Dekel.
Figure 3 – photo © Bhoj Rai/unsplash. Used with permission from the photographer.

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Challenging educational paradigms: 3 strategies by Dr. Gil Dekel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.