Home > Conference, CPD, teaching > Luddites Alive in a College Near You

Luddites Alive in a College Near You

The Luddites were a band of artisans who rebelled against the introduction of machinery during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, claiming that the machines would lead to unemployment. The term ‘Luddite’ has come to be used as a derogatory term to describe those who eschew technology.

With the great advances in digital technologies, both at home and the workplace, one might expect modern day Luddites to be a dying breed. Fortunately this appears to be the case, however a few still linger on, and worryingly, in the education sector.

I had the great displeasure of meeting some Luddites this week whilst leading a workshop for college lecturers at the University of Dundee. While the vast majority of the delegates (studying for the Teaching Qualification in Further Education) seemed comfortable with modern educational technology and approaches, there were a few technology naysayers that took me by surprise.

In my workshops on the Flipped Classroom I talked about my experiences of using video lectures with two groups of students, and the subsequent changes to my classroom practice. I explained that it seems a waste of time to be teaching basic facts in class, the lowest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy; that time could be best spent working with students on more difficult tasks that require higher order skills at the higher end of the taxonomy. Flipping the classroom involves taking the traditional homework tasks and doing them in the classroom in a supported environment, and taking the traditional ‘delivery’ of knowledge out of the classroom and onto the web, usually in the form of video. The idea seems perfectly acceptable to me, and although student results increased after introducing the approach, it became obvious that a minority thought it was complete madness.

One lecturer claimed that putting his lectures online would lead to him being put out of a job. Another claimed that using Facebook with students sent out a message that a lecturer would be on call 24/7, and that he would never do it. I tried arguing against these claims, but it was clear that there was no room for movement on any of these opinions. I explained that the same claim about lecturers losing their jobs had been made with the introduction of Virtual Learning Environments a decade ago, but  the job losses hadn’t happened. I also explained that I didn’t get so many questions from students via Facebook or other means that it had become an intrusion into my personal life. However, so vociferous were the modern day Luddites that it completely spoiled the workshop for me, and I expect it did so for some of the delegates. From trying to suggest a new approach to teaching and learning I’d ended up battered and bruised on the ropes.

I was quite shocked at these people’s attitudes. The blank refusal to accept a technology, based on incredibly weak arguments, was not the attitude I would expect of an educated person in charge of educating modern day youngsters. I honestly wonder what kind of experience their students have in their classrooms and sincerely hope my own children never face such narrow minded educators.

Later I posted some questions on Twitter, asking peoples opinions. I know it is asking the converted (they wouldn’t be on Twitter otherwise), but it went some way to restoring my faith in education after a day that frankly dented my hopes and aspirations.

Here are the questions and the responses I received:

Question 1

It’s 6.30pm on a Saturday & I just answered a college student’s question on Facebook. Do other lecturers do this? Is that acceptable?


  • I say yes and yes. We’re in their world performing, not the other way around.
  • Anytime, any place anywhere – it’s OK so long as you have a Martini.
  • I am more impressed they are thinking about college at that time
  • I do the same on our #glow blog. I figure if they’ve taken time to ask, it’s only polite to give a prompt reply. #neveroffduty
  • I once answered a (school) student’s question in the middle of hosting a dinner party …
  • I do. Keeps their engagement and ensures that at least some of the FB time is about college.
  • Totally acceptable & fab they’re thinking about college work on a Sat! Great use of social media-hopefully not tons extra work for you

Question 2

Does putting your lectures online in video format jeopardise your job? Had this response at a workshop on Flipped Classroom. Thoughts?


  •  If “teaching” is standing and the front and reading/speaking things which simply watching a video could replicate, then maybe…but I think that /could/ say more about the teaching strategy being used than the implications of flipping a classroom…
  • I use @udemy quite a lot and it’s great for learning. I think more lectures should be done like this. Learned so much from them…Well a video can help someone complete a task and learn to a point, but without the support I think it can be hard to go further
  • Not if you keep updating and improving them. The online lectures probably serve as recruiters.
  • “Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.” Arthur C. Clarke – It’s up to us to change… I found (this quote) via Sugata Mitra, whom some accuse of trying to do teachers out of their jobs……!
  • Teaching is so much more than delivering a lecture – worrying if this is what others perceive our role as!?
  • If learning could be done by all from flipped resources, then teachers would already have been made redundant by the Web.
Categories: Conference, CPD, teaching Tags: ,
  1. February 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I’ve just stumbled apon this in my quest to prep for a Media Assets class & your blog popped up. Ironically, I’m on the TQFE course you mentioned, but couldn’t make it to the workshop day – sorry I missed it as you’re presentation and commentary looks like it would have been worth the trip!

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