From Ink to Pencils to Pixels

President Gillett and Student Association President, Jacob Sancartier are joined by Federal, Provincial and Municipal Officials to Open the Algonquin Mobile Learning Centre

Higher education in the 21st Century is both complex and exciting.  One of the most challenging aspects we face is demonstrating how to effectively leverage emerging educational technologies to enhance the learning experience for students.  Yet, not only are these educational technologies sometimes not used effectively; sadly in some cases they are banned all together.

Upon reflection, this fear of technological adoption should not come as a surprise. We know that even Socrates cautioned that emerging writing technologies would result in forgetfulness; that capturing the written word would result in memory loss.  In fact, as we have moved from ink to pencils to pixels over the years, it is ironic that all three have been banned from the classroom at one time or another.

The Real Challenge

Notwithstanding the technology adoption challenge, I am reminded of the article written by Robert Barr and John Tagg in the mid 1990s.  They remind us that colleges exist not to provide instruction but rather to produce learning (see:  If this is true, we must challenge our well-ensconced instructional mental models, particularly with respect to educational technologies.  That is, we must shift our focus off the technology and onto how the technologies can be used to advance learning.  Quite simply, the technological tools must be used in order to supplement the instructional process not control it.

Education continues to change; needs to change.  Technology begets technology and it is the responsibility of professional educators to think in terms of how technology can help them as opposed to hinder the learning paradigm.  Juxtaposition to banning technology in the classroom, Algonquin College opened its new Mobile Learning Centre in early 2011.  As the College moves towards being a fully mobile institution by 2013/14, this Centre provides faculty, staff and students with a collaborative learning environment where mobile and cloud computing technologies are used and tested.  Visitors to the Centre are asked to turn on their devices as opposed to turn them off.

For more information, visit:   As always, we welcome all visitors to Algonquin College and the Nation’s Capital Region.


Algonquin faculty and staff designed the Mobile Learning Centre to reflect the need to effectively use mobile technologies to enhance learning.




About kentmacdonald

President and Vice Chancellor Professor, Faculty of Education St. Francis Xavier University
This entry was posted in Leadership and Higher Education. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to From Ink to Pencils to Pixels

  1. Pingback: Gamer Psychology + Taxes = Student Engagement

  2. jmcquigge says:

    Thank you for this great article! I have truly enjoyed seeing the students using the new Mobile Learning centre. Its remarkable how many students meet there without any mobile devices at all. Students are starting to associate the space with checking-in with each other and that’s a power convergence when students learn how to harness the power of technology with the human capacity. What a great initiative and I hope it continues to spread across our college community.

  3. Pingback: Gamer Psychology + Taxes = Student Engagement | Jeremy McQuigge | Student Life

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