Do. Or do not… there is no try. Or is there?

It is with these words that Yoda inspires the brash Luke Skywalker to master the Force and become a Jedi knight. How might they work, I ask, when applied to learning technologies and their uptake by academics?
Like the severe challenges that Yoda poses to Luke – challenges of the will and body, more challenges than Luke had ever faced before – helped mould a reckless youth into a Jedi knight, academics in Higher Education face a range of internal and external obstacles in their day-to-day work, before even engaging with learning technologies.
These challenges range from making sense of wider, sectoral issues like student retention and ever shifting, government education policies, to more ‘at home’ issues like meeting research and recruitment targets, battling institutional cultures and keeping up with the ‘state-of-the-art-knowledge’ in their chosen disciplines.
An earlier post to this blog suggested that there is a widespread but misinformed trend among academics of converting Word Documents to PDFs, putting them into a VLE and declaring that they have come to terms with learning technologies and that they are ‘do e-learning’. The author, rightly, declared these approaches to be wrong!
Is there then a case for academics to ‘unlearn’ their preconceptions?
When asked to raise his sunken craft from the Dagobah swamps with the power of his mind alone, Luke responded he would try. ‘No,’ chided Yoda … ‘Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try’.
Luke did not believe the Force could lift such a massive object. He was proven wrong when Yoda telekinetically lifted the X-wing fighter and placed it on dry land. Again, Luke was incredulous. And Yoda, pointed out that he failed because he did not believe.
The challenge is to get academics to believe in learning technologies and commit to their use in learning and teaching. But unlike Luke, they HAVE TO TRY it first. The thought of University academics transforming their courses en masse, with learning technologies overnight – and unlearning the experience of several millennia worth of face-to-face teaching is barely credible.
So beware of the Yoda who prophesizes that unlearning will be easy. Easy not it will be!

Jaideep Mukherjee, 20 Feb 2009

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