Thursday, November 16, 2017

Conference Reflections - How Relevant is AECT?

My great friend and associate Dr. Lewis Chongwony just posted a GREAT reflection on his experiences at the international convention for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. He asks some critical questions about AECT and its fundamental purpose and impact. I highly recommend reading the post.

I also attended AECT's convention this year, and I had some similar thoughts. Here are my reactions in bullet-point form. (You will notice that I use the term we in these questions - I am a scholar and a member of AECT and the Educational Technology/Instructional Design community).
  • What is our purpose? This is something I have wondered about for several years. What is the purpose of AECT? It feels like it is essentially focused on supporting and rewarding research related to educational technology. But, I and many others have wondered what positive result this has achieved outside our own circle of discussion.
  • How can we impact education instead of simply researching it? I am not saying that no impact has been made, but many problems continue to plague our educational system. Right now higher education institutions and typical tenure policies are focused on rewarding research and research-related activities. This is important, but it seems to be disconnected from the issues we see in the systems we are trying to understand and influence.
  • We are topic centered instead of problem-centered. The very structure of AECT is based around different topics, and as scholars we tend to ask "what is the topic of your study?" Even though we know the power of a problem-centered approach, we still think in a topic-centered way. If we want to have an impact, we must select a problem or a series of problems that we are going to take responsibility to solve.
  • How can we share our scholarship more effectively? I see this as an attempt to make our knowledge more accessible and therefore more used by practitioners. A few observations - first, academics have been trained to do a specific style of writing. It can be inherently boring, very long-winded, and hard to interpret and apply. Second, the cost of our publications can be prohibitive. I attended a session on an excellent book that had been written by some peers of mine, but when I went to purchase the book, I found that it was nearly $100 for the book. Seriously? $100? We can't figure out a way to reduce the costs of publishing that book? It didn't have any special color illustrations or anything like that, so why in the world was it so expensive? I can only assume that it was a result of some kind of strange publisher relationship...
I have considered AECT my scholarly home, and it is an outstandingly supportive community. But I certainly join Dr. Chongwony (and many others speaking at the convention) in questioning the direction we have been heading and our relevance and impact on the actual practice of education. My deepest desire is to positive impact peoples' lives and improve the nations and people I work with. Am I doing so through my work with AECT? I have found myself over the past couple of years branching out to different ways of sharing my knowledge (like this blog and an upcoming book that I have written) to make this knowledge more available to others. Will AECT as an organization make the changes it needs to remain relevant and have a deeper impact on the practice of education?
Post a Comment