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??Is it orchestration or assembly/re-aranging, participative orchestration, find a word and replace “re-arrange” below with that word

You’ve just entered the room pictured below for the first time. Quite soon you’ll be teaching the first tutorial for your first year course. Quite possibly, the first University tutorial for these students. What do you do?

Image of room with tables and seats

Chances are you might re-arrange the tables and chairs. Chances are that rows of desks don’t quite meet the purpose you want to achieve or the pedagogy you want to use for this tutorial to achieve that purpose.

If you were unable to re-arrange the chairs and desks, then chances are the quality of the learning and teaching experience is going to be less than you had hoped for.

And you may not be alone in wanting to re-arrange how the furniture in the room is arranged and used. Students are just as likely to want to be able to engage in some re-arrangement to better suit: their personal needs; a specific activity they are called upon to do; or, any number of other reasons.

The ability for students and teachers to re-arrange the furniture is beneficial to learning and teaching.

Why is this hard with institutional digital technologies?

Institutional technology is hardening. Give examples (e.g. OLDaily article about unapproved applications)

The lens of Dron’s definition of educational technology

Drawing on Arthur’ (2009) work, Dron (2021) offers a definition of what educational technology is….more here …introduce it here…

From a certain point of view, some of the ideas and implications of Dron’s work echo some of what I see in literature from very different theoretical assumptions.

Possible insights

Technologies need to be assembled and orchestrated

The technologies by themselves aren’t enough. They need to be assembled by students and teachers with existing technologies, knowledges, practices, preferences etc

Orchestration is hard and help with orchestration is not provided

Training is generally not available. quote from ascilite paper

When it is available it’s typically seen as being separated into technological and educational. Technological explains the fundamental of the technology, hopefully talks about the technologies model, and offers advice on how to use it. Educational help explains the fundamentals of some educational practice, hopefully talks about the principles and offers advice on how to use it.

Under the Dron definition, what is typically seen as separate types of training - technological and educational - offered by separate parts of the organisation are not actually separate. They are both providing training in the use of educational technology.

This could be seen as yet another pointless definitional difference, but I believe it might be more.

Different purposes, different assemblies and orchestrations OR Lack of a common purpose OR Purpose Proxy

Not surprisingly, when it comes to teaching, academics hold many different ideas of what is the purpose of education. These might be personal, disciplinary, or fundamentally different assumptions.

e.g. Jessifer and a first year comp sci person. Or perhaps point to Dron’s differences with a colleague.

Hence why you have fundamental differences like invigilated exams or assignment based, grading versus ungrading, lectures are esential or they suck, use the LMS or other tools.

What this means is that it is almost impossible for considerations of digital technologies, their assembly and orchestration to be informed by purpose common to the entire institution. Except for the common purpose of having to implement some form of institutional digital technology. Is this the reason why corporate IT and corporate L&T drive the purpose. The need to implement something at the institutional level becomes the proxy purpose.

That proxy purpose is typically some form of strategic goal or plan that is so generic as it can’t respond to different purposes. e.g. the tendency for graduate attributes to be all the same across institutions.

Another difficulty here will be again the separation between technology and L&T

Teaching as design as the purpose

Designing activity systems - which involve contextual assembly.

Functionality versus assembly (or perhaps orchestration). Institutions select technology largely of functionality checklists and maybe how easy it is to assemble that technology into the institutional IT infrastructure/policies. How that functionality is assembled in the act of L&T is left entirely up to students and teachers. The separate technologies don’t assemble easily with other institutional technologies, let alone personal technologies. e.g. PebblePad (and just about everything else) and its integration with Blackboard. Training tends not to focus on assembly. Technological and educational training tends to focus on the basic principles or features. Not on assembly/orchestration. In part because of the artificial distinction between technology and education, rather than Dron’s “it’s all technology”. Help with assembly is limited in quality and quantity. Most of what the LTCs and GO do is help with assembly. But often the assembly we help with is more about our fixed assemblies and our ideas of purpose, rather than contextual assemblies. And we only help very few of the total # of courses. What passes for purpose is abstract and decontextualised. Ideas about the purpose of L&T are hugely variable (e.g. invigilated exams versus assignment based, grading versus ungrading etc). Traditional management practices requires common institutional purpose. That becomes abstract and decontextualised (e.g. the tendency of institutional graduate attributes to all be a variation on a theme) Hence any orchestration that happens is focused on this abstract/de-contextualised purpose. Not on the purpose of offering the best orchestration for a specific course of learning experience. Here comes the proxy purpose. But abstract/de-contextualised is hard to use as a guide for daily work. Hence those purposes get replaced by proxies. e.g. our job is to keep Blackboard going. Our job is to roll out the HEA Fellowships.


Arthur, W. B. (2009). The Nature of Technology: What it is and how it evolves. Free Press.

Dron, J. (2021). Educational technology: What it is and how it works. AI & SOCIETY.