Educational technology expert Scott McLeod urges faculty to rethink scholarship; addresses technology in schools

by The College of Education   /   May 09, 2012

Scott McLeod is a man on a mission. He'd like academics everywhere to rethink scholarship in today's immediate, ever-changing technological landscape.

Information is obviously available in different forms via different formats than it was 10 years or even 10 months ago. But unlike ever-evolving technology, the traditional research paper remains black and white; linear; flat; static.

McLeod came to the College of Education to share his thoughts and his crusade for changing the way we think about technology during two presentations, "Rethinking Scholarship in a Digital Era," on April 25, and "The World is Changing but my School Organization isn't Moving Fast Enough" on April 26.

McLeod, who holds both a J.D. and a Ph.D., is an associate professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky (who fittingly telecommutes from Ames, Iowa). He also is the founding director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education, the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens).

"The world of academia seems to be stuck in the traditional research article," he said during his "Rethinking Scholarship" presentation. "But we must rethink how we can represent our knowledge," referring to websites that present information, research findings, and knowledge with a mix of text, videos, pictures, and interactive modes of learning such as interactive tables, with the user having the ability to pick entry and exit points.

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During his presentation, he referred to an interactive digital textbook by Al Gore titled "Our Choice." "We, as scholars, now have the capability to create active, dynamic simulations for learning," McLeod said.

He also talked about a learning concept called collaborative construction, a concept where he believes, "we are stronger together than individually." By using this method, different groups of students might analyze a book, each group taking a chapter, and then use Wiki to post their findings, instead of those same groups reading the entire book and working independently and non-interactively.

"Those conversations and discussions can be very powerful," McLeod said. "There are ways of doing collaborative construction whereas together we can create things of value to others," he added, saying that the field of Humanities is already engaged in this way of learning, but "education, not so much."

As one might imagine, McLeod relies heavily on information that comes to him electronically by using stream feeds to which he subscribes. "I sit back and watch the information come to me; that way I'm not dependent on a point-in-time search" on any given subject. He then organizes that information into electronic files.

He likes to explore "half-baked ideas," as he calls them, by putting them on his blog and letting others weigh in. "We don't think about the value of that enough as scholars," McLeod said. He likens the process to the hallway and dinner conversations scholars have at professional meetings. "It's not the formal sessions, but those side conversations that are the most valuable. And I can do that every day if I like instead of waiting for an annual meeting."

Thursday’s workshop, "The World is Changing but my School Organization Isn’t Moving Fast Enough," engaged a small group of 20 local educational leaders in an interactive workshop in which participants learned about the potential use of technology for enhancing teaching and learning.

McLeod demonstrated how to integrate technology into education environments and discussed the implications for school districts that are often trying to keep up in a digital world. For example, workshop participants learned about electronic teaching tools being used by educators such as Knewton, Rocketship Education, and New Classrooms.

One activity involved a YouTube tour that featured ways in which educators are using technology to elevate student voice and develop student agency. Participants then collaborated and generated ideas about how to implement and operationalize the use of technology in educational contexts.

Both of McLeod's presentations were co-sponsored by the Forum on the Future of Public Education, the Ubiquitous Learning Institute, and the Office of Community College Research and Leadership. In addition, the events were supported by the Richard E. and Ann M. O'Leary Fund.