Refusal and leadership – keynotes from the Academic Practice and Technology (APT) conference

By Julie Voce and Sarah Ney

“Value the people who refuse. They are the ones you should be learning from” (Lanclos, 2019)

Dr Donna Lanclos opened the 17th Academic Practice and Technology (APT) conference with a keynote entitled Listening to Refusal which started by critiquing the Department for Education policy paper Realising the potential of technology in education. She highlighted that whilst the paper had a strong emphasis on innovation, it contained 13 references to procurement, but lacked mention of pedagogy. The overarching message was that more technology, in the form of supporting educational technology start-ups, was needed in order to drive change.

She then referred to research she had carried out with Lawrie Phipps on the teaching practices of lecturers in HE and FE and reported on the barriers and enablers to the use of educational technology. The research found that the barriers were human and organisational rather than a “lack of access to educational technology markets”.Considering the issue of compliance – “how can we make them… use a VLE? record their lectures?” – she highlighted that not using a VLE might be an active choice, rather than a lack of action and noted that the Luddites weren’t anti-technology, rather against what the technology replaced. Perhaps academics who don’t want to use the VLE are concerned that it reduces their teaching to just being a piece of content in the VLE. She also highlighted the institutional approach to refusal is to treat this as a compliance issue, such that refusing to use lecture capture or to take attendance can simply be solved by providing more training. What we should be doing is asking why they are refusing. As we look to increase the use of lecture capture at City, Donna’s words will be echoing in my mind and will certainly shape how we move forward on re-development of our lecture recording policy and promoting lecture capture to academics.

“Educational technology mainly reinforces traditional educational norms, we need more imaginative leadership to capitalise on the potential that technology affords” (Quinsee, 2019)

Professor Susannah Quinsee, City’s Director of Learning Enhancement and Development, closed the day with a keynote on leadership in Technology-Enabled Learning (TEL). After discussing definitions of Higher Education leadership and proposing her preferred definitions, including that of e-leadership (mediated by advanced information technology), she invited the audience to remember what Higher Education looked like in 2010 and share memories from their experience as a teacher or student. She highlighted some key differences between then and now in terms of numbers, such as the increase of tuition fees and mental health conditions amongst students, or a falling number of part-time undergraduates.

She then took the example of what she imagined 2025 would look like back in 2010 (see below) and asked the audience to suggest what it would be like in the future. Suggestions included accounting for the climate crisis and robot teachers! She concluded that it is challenging to predict the future and that universities may be slow in adopting meaningful change.

Predictions of 2025 made in 2010 - flexible learning, a university without walls?

This raised the question of what kind of leadership would be needed to prepare us and predict the future. Leadership and change management are two key areas of focus in Susannah’s current research. She concluded that the role of leaders in Higher Education was multi-faceted and that TEL experts needed to support them with embracing creative thinking about the future, especially to avoid falling into a culture of compliance.

Susannah’s keynote was thought-provoking and led to many follow-up discussions among physical and remote participants.



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2 thoughts on “Refusal and leadership – keynotes from the Academic Practice and Technology (APT) conference

  1. Interesting comment about the DFE, as I was at the DfE sponsored conference Education Estates and heard a lot about procurement and efficiency but not once the word pedagogy.

  2. thanks for your post and mentions. Am hoping to do more research and writing on this (with Julie) as its an interesting subject.

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