Monday, 5 May 2014

Is time to think again about taking the T out of TEL? #ocTEL

Earlier last week I came across a post that Kathrine Jensen had written last year when taking #ocTEL for the first time. In the comments someone had referred to a conversation on Twitter where it was suggested we take the T out of TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning)

It took a bit of detective work but I found the originator of this quote - Alejandro Armellini  also taking the course at the time. This was his big question: 

Image source: Public Domain CC

It left me thinking.....
Technology Enhanced Learning has in many areas replaced the term 

e-Learning where 'e' referred to electronic and is defined in Wikipedia as: 

'The use of electronic media and information and communication technologies'

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in their revised e-learning strategy (2009) define TEL as:
‘Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology’

As educators and for all the right reasons we often say technology should not come first. Putting pedagogy before technology is now somewhat of a mantra. Steve Wheeler quotes Michael Fullan:

'Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator' 

Michael Fullan

When you look more closely and scrutinise the phrase 'technology enhanced learning' just doesn't quite sit right. It is not the technology directly that enhances the learning but the pedagogy and learning approach. We know that learning can be enhanced in many different ways. Is it right therefore to emphasise technology first? Alejandro argues that this should be transparent.

The call to remove the 'technology' or the T out of TEL and to focus on the enhancement of learning is therefore something to consider. This would actually brings us back again to e-learning, but this time placing the emphasis on a capital E for enhanced and therefore seen as Enhanced Learning


HEFCE (2009) Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology 
A revised approach to HEFCE’s strategy for e-learning.

Higher Education Academy (2009) Transforming higher education through technology enhanced learning 

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is ‘enhanced’ and how do we know? A critical literature review. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1) pp. 6–36.

Wheeler, S. (2014) Learning First, Technology Second


  1. Many years ago I wrote an article e-learning b*****-learning and f-****learning ( which addresses much the same issue. I think that the answer is that once technology is sufficiently embedded in the teaching (and learning and I use the parentheses advisedly) that it has become invisible, in the same way that books are effectively invisible (we rarely talk about book learning as something apart), then we can drop the T. Until then we will need the T as we experiment with what is effective in which set of circumstances.

  2. I couldn't agree more!

    In fact my new #ocTEL blog is called "E for Enhancing" ( and the tagline is "Enhancing learning – with or without technology", so we are definitely on the same wavelength here.

    Maybe I should suggest changing my job title from Learning Technologist to Learning Enhancer.

    A positive aspect of learning technology is that it makes people think about teaching and learning, which is certainly a good thing.

    Having read about Socrates this morning in the #ocTEL Week 1 readings, I could say that I see myself as a midwife - helping people to explore their teaching/learning/assessment situation by questioning and then, hopefully, delivering an enhanced experience, with or without technology.

  3. Thank you for your comments Tom and Moira. I agree there is work yet to do and this was in my mind as I wrote it.

  4. If we shift from TEL to EL we would encompass a much wider of range of people (than those who would currently identify as TEL). Unintentional positive consequence?

  5. Transform TEL to EL and it embraces a much wider group of people. Unintentional positive consequence?

  6. It could and in my role as educational developer encouraging enhancement in any form is a good thing!