What teledvisor means and why it matters

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Colin Simpson – co-convenor TELedvisors network

When we* coined the term “edvisor” – for our context at least – we (Kate Mitchell, Chie Adachi and I) were looking for a term that captured our collective identity as learning designers, learning technologists, academic developers and the multitude of other titles people in our line of work hold. An umbrella term that we could use, which would both explain what we all do in our own varied ways and the value of this work.

I’m not sure that we ever pinned down whether it is short for educator advisor or education advisor and maybe given the general fluidity surrounding most of our job titles and roles, this is kind of fitting. I’d argue strongly though that educator advisor makes more sense because we advise educators and frequently we also are educators (educator/advisor) ourselves, even when that is mainly in terms of educating educators.

The choice of name is significant because one of our central aims is to raise the profile of the work that we do and to have it valued appropriately by our institutions, their teaching staff and institutional management. In Higher Education particularly, there is often a status gap between academic staff and professional staff. In some cases, professional staff are even referred to as “non-academic” staff – defining them by what they are perceived to lack. (Fortunately, this is rarely the case anymore). Our early discussions about a name included variations on Teaching Support Staff but it quickly became clear that “support” carried a certain amount of negative baggage for many edvisors and was seen as downplaying our contributions.   

Adding TEL to edvisors is a strategic decision in some ways. Ultimately the focus of the work that we do is about facilitating better teaching and learning experiences. Arguably technology is involved in many of these experiences now, though at different levels and in different ways. (In the same way that a chalkboard or a whiteboard might be seen as technology). In a time of significant change, institutions like to be seen as innovative and the use of technology – rightly or wrongly – is one of the most visible examples of that. Highlighting our strengths in this space then makes sense in terms of garnering high level support for our teams and our work. Similarly, some teachers and academics feel that they are expected to already know about pedagogy but seeking advice about technology (and TEL) is more socially acceptable.

As edvisors, we tend to be well aware that technology alone makes little difference in the quality of teaching and learning, it is the pedagogy behind its use that makes the difference. But if our expertise in the tech side opens doors to have these conversations about pedagogy, then why not own it? (It’s important to note that people working in these kinds of roles – particularly academic developers who don’t spend a lot of time with technology – should still feel welcome and included in this group because our common goal is still better teaching and learning).

Some might wonder, why does the name matter? One of our challenges as practitioners is the fact that many people that we work alongside still aren’t clear about who we are or what we do. How many ‘so what do you do?’ conversations have you had – if you’re an edvisor – where your title wasn’t enough, and you had to go into a description of the work you do (and then still clarify that you’re not a teacher)? Actually, it would be great to hear what you do say – please share it in the comments. (For me, I tell people that I help academics use technology to teach better, I’m like a bridge between IT and education/pedagogy).

So please, if you work in any role in this space, please feel free to consider yourself an edvisor and a TELedvisor and be a part of our community. https://TELedvisors.net

* When I say “we”, Kate was the one to actually suggest ‘edvisor’ but we had collectively been workshopping educator advisor, education advisor and ed advisor (among other terms), so it feels like a group effort. Web searches have since shown that there are other uses of “edvisors” (edvisor.io) out in the wild, including library staff, admin staff, accessibility teams and research support units, to name but a few.

2 responses to “What teledvisor means and why it matters”

  1. Terrific read Colin. I need to work on my long-winded explanation of my role as an ED. I often find that people strongly relate to their own experience of experts…just because an expert knows everything about a topic and may even be globally recognised…doesn’t mean they’ll teach well – I explain my role in that paradigm – I’m the go-between.

    • Thanks Lisa (excuse the delay in response, missed this one) Go-between is absolutely a good starting point – bridge is another

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