Steve Wheeler’s fascination with technology can be traced back 40 years to a very particular trip to a museum. A schoolboy in Maastricht in the Netherlands, where his father was stationed in the RAF, Steve visited the technology archive of the Philips electronics company, and as he looked at early examples of computers and video conferencing devices, he instantly recognised its potential.
“I thought, ‘This is the future’,” says Steve, Associate Professor within the Plymouth Institute of Education. “Star Trek had just come out, and it featured video communication and futuristic technologies that you could see would one day become a fixture in people’s lives. I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.”
That early enthusiasm, coupled with a passion for science fiction writers such as Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov, has inspired a teaching and research career which passed the ruby anniversary mark in January of this year. And technology has always been firmly embedded within it, from building his own computer in the late ‘70s, to using Twitter and blogging as a means of connecting with new audiences in recent years.
Steve’s particular field of expertise is around the use of technology in education, starting out with those early computers and now moving to the fields of social media and smartphones. It has been the subject of a number of research collaborations over the years, and is something he lectures upon to students on a range of Education courses within the University.
“Technology in schools has to be done properly, and that has always been something I try to convey to my students,” Steve says. “I encourage them to question everything they find out, by having an open mind but a critical eye. And I challenge them to think about the issues schools and universities need to solve, and then to identify how technology might be part of the solution. Used properly, there is no doubt that it can be an amazing platform and something that should be embraced rather than feared.”