An Appreciation of Our Learning Technology Grandparents

Longevity, perspective, and a future orientation.

October 5, 2015

Do you work at the intersection of learning and technology?

Are you a grandparent?

Please tell us your story.

We have no idea about the numbers or percentages of our colleagues that have grandchildren. We don't know if these numbers are increasing as career span lengthens, or falling as fertility declines.  

My guess is that there are more grandparent learning technology professionals than we realize. My guess is that you are everywhere. I'd like to say hello.

If learning technology is going to cross the chasm from a technocratic occupation to an academic discipline then we are going to need your wisdom and guidance.

3 reasons why we need our learning technology grandparents:

#1 - Longevity:

If you’ve lived long enough to have a grandchild then there is a good chance that you’ve lived through, and survived, many seasons of higher education change. I worry that an edtech career is a recipe for burnout. The pace of technology change is rapid and unrelenting. The boom and bust cycles of technology professions can make us conservative and fearful. Who amongst us has not lived through big swings in headcount and the inevitable downsizing?

We need to hear your stories about how you have surfed the fads, survived the hype, and managed to stay intact through all the rounds of department re-orgs. We need to understand how you have been able to navigate both pedagogical and technological change, while always staying up-to-date and future oriented. We need to learn from your ability to navigate university politics.  We want to know how you’ve been able to stay upbeat, gracious, and generous.

#2 - Perspective:

Today's world of academic learning technology bears little resemblance to that of a decade ago. Back in 2005 we had no iPhone, no Kindle, and not much in the way of cloud based applications. Mobile learning was more a fantasy than a reality.  Instructional designers, if they existed, were thin on the ground. Online learning was going strong, but open online resources were just emerging. 

The rapid pace of learning technology change creates the feeling that we are constantly making it up as we go. We have few examples of people who have come before us, mentors who have faced and solved the big challenges. We need the grandparents to give us perspective on how they have navigated all this change and uncertainty throughout their careers. We need to understand the trends to which we should pay close attention, and those trends that should be ignored as fads.  We need to know what battles to fight, where to put our energy, and the best way to develop allies and collaborators.

#3 - Future Orientation:

Today's grandkids will be tomorrow’s college students. Grandparents have reached the pinnacle in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They are concerned largely with the future world that their grandkids will inherit. When grandparents work on improving learning it is because their grandkids will soon be coming to campus. The work is personal and mission driven. The responsibility is to tomorrow’s students, as well as today’s.

We need to be reminded by you that our work has a history, not just a future. That not all of our ideas are new, and that even good ideas poorly executed will do nothing to improve things.  We need you to help us understand how we got to where we are, and what this history tells us about our future.

Are you a learning technology grandparent?



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