EENEE presentation

November 29th, 2018

Mark Brown and I have been working on an EENEE report on the impact of digital technologies on educational outcomes. Last week I presented at the NESET II and EENEE conference in Brussels on 22nd November. The presentation was entitled “Education Outcomes Enhanced by the use of Digital Technologies”. The research questions underpinning the report are:

  • How does digital technology enhance teaching and learning?
  • What are the enablers for successful digital technology use in school education? 
  • What are the implications for education policy, in terms of harnessing the potential of digital technology in schools?

 

The report builds on the 2015 seminal OECD report, which helps to frame the significance of recent changes and the impact of digital technologies on school education. It largely supports the OECD’s (2015) assertion that connections among students, computers and learning are neither simple nor hard-wired; and the real contributions digital technology can make to teaching and learning have yet to be fully realised. However, there are many examples of innovative practice and given the complexity of educational change we need to be realistic about what we can expect from schools as there is no single off-the-shelf solution to harnessing the potential of digital technologies. 

 

Six strands when woven together help explain the conceptual underpinnings adopted in exploring the questions outlined in the introduction, which are the primary focus of the report (see Figure 1). To summarise these six strands, technologies have the potential to enhance pedagogical approaches but good teaching remains fundamental. New technologies are arising all the time, offering new opportunities for teaching, learning and assessment. Generalisations and finding direct causal effects from the implementation of digital technology remains problematic as learning takes place in a complex ecology. Although technology offers educational institutions a variety of mechanisms to support a myriad of learners, context is crucial to understanding the conditions whereby the affordances of new digital technologies enhance educational outcomes. In a similar vein, institutional and discipline cultures have an impact and need to be taken into account in efforts to understand the conditions for the successful use of digital technology in schools. 

 

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The report then describes the nature of today’s digital society, arguing that it is complex and dynamic. In this wider societal context, it discusses and critiques the trustworthiness of many taken-for-granted claims around a number of themes: the changing nature of work, the concept of the ‘millennial generation’, the wide spectrum of learning activities, resources and educational offerings, the changing role of teachers and learners, and the potential impact of new and emergent technologies. It argues that there are a number of competing and co-existing mindsets or perspectives influencing the pressure on schools to use new digital technologies. 

 

The report argues that the affordances of digital technologies differ according to the technology and the educational contexts in which they are used for teaching and learning. It argues that the use of digital technologies in schools is not a single entity and that today’s educational context is complex and dynamic and digital technologies add to this complexity; i.e. there is a complex ecology of digital technologies in schools.

A number of frameworks for effective and innovative pedagogy are described and the report argues there is no single pedagogical or theoretical model in terms of guiding or underlying the successful use of digital technologies in schools. More to the point, the adoption of learning-driven approaches to school education which seek to embed digital technologies at the heart of the curriculum require an intentional combination of pedagogies that respond to a complex inter-play between the particular context, nature of the learners, learning intentions, discipline cultures, and so on. 

 

In looking to the future of learning, the report describes a number of new and emergent developments in digital technologies which might be able to help reimagine the curriculum. It argues that, in the future, students will be likely to learn across a range of formal, non-formal and informal contexts, with increasing digital leakage across different places and spaces of learning. Examples of the ways in which digital technologies might provide engaging learning environments are provided, along with some scenarios for the future. Alongside of these examples and scenarios, the perceived advantages and disadvantages of digital technologies in school education are described. The report demonstrates the potential opportunities digital technologies can offer, especially when fully embedded in the classroom, but argues that the field is still dominated by hype, hope and disappointment.

 

A key message throughout the report is that teachers matter most and that the teacher’s role is central in the design, delivery and support of learning interventions. With respect to this, the report argues that key to harnessing the educational potential of digital technologies is the need for, and importance of, Teacher Professional Learning (TPL). Some of the principles of effective TPL are introduced along with the importance of addressing teachers’ mindsets or deep-seated pedagogical beliefs if the goal is to go beyond merely taming new digital technologies based on traditional practices.

 

The main barriers and enablers to the effective use of digital technologies in schools are discussed, in terms of first and second order factors that influence enhanced educational outcomes. The discussion of barriers and enablers illustrates that there is no simple answer to overcoming the reasons why schools and teachers do not fully embrace the educational opportunities made possible by new digital technologies. Arguably, one important lesson is that policy-makers and educational leaders would benefit from more explicitly framing discussions about the potential of digital technology for real problems faced by teachers , rather than falling into the trap of promoting digital solutions in search of problems. Slides for the presentation are available on Speakerdeck.

Good practice in PhD writing

November 13th, 2018

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I have been reading and examining a lot of PhDs recently (4 in as many weeks!) and this has got me to reflect on some principles of good practice. Doing a PhD is a significant undertaking and dominates the person’s life for a number of years, so it is important that this adventure isn’t taken lightly. Chosen a good supervisor is vital, their role is to guide you and keep you on track, it’s all too easy to go down blind alleys, it is important to remain focused on your core research questions.

I always advise my students to keep an ongoing bibliography of references and for each reference to summarise the main points and indicate how the reference might be used in the thesis. It is a good idea to keep references in referencing software, such as Endnote, Zotero or Mendeley. Write as you go along and stick to a standard structure such as: introduction (setting the scene, explaining why the focus is important, an indication of the contribution to the field and research questions), literature review and explanation of key terms, methodology (data collection and analysis), findings, discussion, conclusions and suggestions for further research. The THES provides a useful set of tips for writing a PhD. 

At times you will be daunted by the scale of the mountain ahead of you but don’t give up! People are productive at different times of the day, some like working in the morning, others at night, reflect on what your preference is.  Therefore at points in the day you will be more productive, use this time to focus on your data analysis or writing of chapters, at other times you will be less productive, focus on routine tasks such as ensuring references are in the correct format.

A PhD is a major achievement, I always ask candidates at the end of the viva, did they enjoy the viva? And usually they say yes. I also point out that it is the only time in your research career when two people will have thoroughly read your research ;-)

The ABC Learning Design Workshop

November 13th, 2018

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Mark Glynn (who heads up our Teaching Enhancement Unit) and colleagues are involved in an Eramis+ project, ABC Learning Design. Last Thursday I attended one of the project’s workshops. I was aware of the ABC work and have recently written something about it for a chapter in Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpes 3rd Edition of Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age, along with a number of other Learning Design frameworks. The workshop was run by Clive Young and Natasa Perovic from University College London. ABC is designed to be a ‘light touch’ approach to design. The workshop was two hours, consisting of a half hour introduction followed by 90 minutes of activities. The aim was to create a visual storyboard, made of a sequence of learning activities. The learning activities are based on the taxonomy developed by Diana Laurillard as part of her well known Conversational Framework.

The first task was, focusing on a module or programme, to agree a ‘tweet-size’ description of the course. We then drew a rough shape of the project against Laurillard’s learning activities:

  • Acquisition: Learning through acquisition is what learners are doing when they are listening to a lecture or podcast, reading from books or websites or watching demos or videos.
  • Collaboration: Learning through collaboration embraces mainly discussion, practice and production. Building on investigations and acquisition it is about taking part in the process of knowledge building.
  • Discussion: Learning through discussion requires the learner to articulate their ideas and questions, and to challenge and respond to the ideas and questions from the teacher, and/or their peers.
  • Investigation: Learning through investigation guides the learner to explore, compare and critique the texts, documents and resources that reflect the concepts and ideas being taught.
  • Practice: Learning through practice enables the learner to adapt their actions to the task goal and use the feedback to improve their next action. Feedback may come from self-reflection, from peers, from the teacher, or from the activity itself, if it shows them how to improve the result of their action in relation to the goal.
  • Production: Learning through production is the way the teacher motivates the learner to consolidate what they have learned by articulating their current conceptual understanding and how they used it in practice.

Then we indicated to what extent the course was face-to-face or online.

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Next we added the various learning activity postcards to the timeline of the course. On the back of each of the six types of learning activities are examples of how these can be realized either through conventional activities or online activities. We ticked which of these we thought were appropriate. Then we used silver and gold stars to indicate which activities were formative or summative. Finally we returned to the graph drawn at the beginning and re-drew in relation to our chosen activities.

I was amazed at how much we managed to achieve in 90 minutes. As a team we had an excellent discussion and it was interesting to hear the other team’s thoughts on their design process. I particularly liked the ‘tweet’ of the module as it really gets you to think about what the essence of the course is.

An excellent set of resources associated with the project are available online, well worth a look.

The future of education: design, literacies and digital technologies

October 26th, 2018

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Today I am doing a keynote at University College North, Aalborg, Denmark. This is timely as along with Mark Brown and Miroslav Beblavy (from CEPS) I am involved in an EU-commissioned report on best practices in the use of digital technologies and the future of education in Europe. It’s been a long time in the making and is particularly challenging as we are focusing on literature post 2016, but the end is now in sight!

The report focuses on the following questions:

  • How does digital technology enhance teaching and learning?
  • What are the enablers for successful digital technology use in school education?
  • What are the implications for policy and transformative curriculum reforms in terms of harnessing the potential of digital technology in schools?

To answer these questions, we developed a theoretical lens which consisted of six aspects:

  • Mismatch between rhetoric and reality
  • Good teachers matter most
  • Technology is not a static or single entity
  • Traditional modes of instruction and assessment dominate
  • Competing and co-existing drivers
  • Many factors mediate success

Clearly digital technologies enable teachers and learners to interact with rich multimedia resources and a variety of ways to communicate and collaborate. They have the potential to support innovative pedagogical approaches and to offer learners an engaging and motivational learning environment. Free resources and courses are challenging traditional educational offerings. However, there is a gap between the promise of technology and the reality of how it is being used. Institutions and practitioners are reluctant to change, and traditional teaching and assessment practices prevail. No matter how good the design and the match of pedagogy to technologies, the teachers’ role is still central, teachers matter most. Today’s educational landscape is complicated and dynamic, and we have a kaleidoscope of evolution technologies with a myriad of affordances. Traditional modes of instruction and assessment still dominate; institutions and practitioners are reluctant to change. The reasons for limited progress are complex and there are many competing and co-existing drivers for the adoption of digital technologies in schools ranging from serving narrow vocational ends, preparing children for a different future and to more broadly promote better educational outcomes for students. it is difficult to establish direct causal relationships between pedagogy and technology interventions, many situational factors mediating success and the risks of drawing causal inferences.

Today’s digital society is complex and dynamic. A key facet is that we are preparing learners for an uncertain future, to do jobs that don’t even exist today. Some argue that 65% of jobs of the future don’t exist now. Therefore, it is important that we enable learners to develop higher order competencies (such as critical thinking and problem solving) rather than focusing on knowledge recall. There is much hype around the concept of the ‘Millennial generation’; such as the fact that this generation have grown up in a digital world and have different needs and expectations. A recent Open Universities Australia report I was involved in coined the phrase IWWIWWIWI (I Want What I Want When I Want IT) to encapsulate the nature of todays’ learners. Although this generation are digital savvy, they don’t necessarily know how to use digital technologies for academic purposes.

The presentation concludes by cautioning against the hype discourse around the use of digital technologies in education. The following examples are provided.

  • 65% of future jobs don’t exists – debunked. There are too many overly positivist accounts of the potential of technologies, which do not take account of the nuances and complexities of the educational landscape. Much ‘research’ lacks credibility and is not build on empirical evidence.
  • The much hyped ‘Millennial generation’ discourse has recently been discredited
  • There is an uncritical adoption of popular teaching and learning ‘catchisms’, and Selwyn provides a nice paper on the claims and counterclaims.

The slides for the keynote are on sendspace, comments welcome!

A new start

September 4th, 2018

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So as of yesterday I am officially Professor/Head of Open Education in
the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University.
There has been a lot to organise in advance. Getting my PPS number
(which was very stressful), securing a flat (perfect location, tiny
but nice) and of course bringing all the stuff I will need over from
the UK. My initial two days have involved finding my feet and meeting
people, as well as an outline from the Director, Mark Brown, of the
kinds of things I will lead on or be involved with over the next few
months. It was particularly nice to meet with members of the Open
Education Unit yesterday and I plan one to one meetings with each of
them over the coming months. Technology wise I am almost set up. I
have a DCU email account, a new laptop and an Irish phone. This is one
of the busiest times of the year as the university gears up for the
arrival of the new students. An important event associated with this
is the Welcome day for our Open Education/DCU Connect students on
Saturday 29th September. I’m really looking forward to meeting the new
students!

Ar aghaidh agus os a chionn!

Farewell to a lovely person…

August 8th, 2018

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I was very sorry to hear today of the death of Ingeborg Boe. She was a leading light in the field of e-learning and a lovely woman and she will be sorely missed by our community. I have many fond memories of her, she was always cheerful and smilie. Her son wrote a lovely tribute to her on facebook.  She had suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of it’s ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. Her son asked that rather than send flowers, people might like to make a donation here. The picture is one I took of Ingeborg at the EFQUEL conference in Granada in 2012. She was actively involved in both EFQUEL and the EDEN communities. My thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.

All change…

July 17th, 2018

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I have really enjoyed doing consultancy over the past couple of years, lots of interesting and varied work with clients from Ireland to Australia! I have also been lucky enough to be involved in a range of fascinating e-learning projects over the years, but I am keen now to take up a position where my expertise can make a difference in practice. I have always seen the consultancy work as something of a transition phase until something I really wanted to do came along… and it has!

In September I take up a new position as head and professor of the Open Education Unit, located in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at Dublin City University (DCU). I have been a visiting professor with NIDL for a number of years and have been very impressed with how the Institute has developed and blossomed. The post will entail working with the NIDL team and the faculties to expand online provision through the University’s DCU ConnectEd platform. In addition to the Open Education Unit, NIDL has two other units; the Ideas Lab and the Teaching Enhancement Unit. Each of the units has distinct areas of interest:

 

The Open Education Unit focus is to support the design, delivery and effective management of distinctive and transformative online learning experiences for online distance students. DCU has a long history of opening up access to higher education through distance provision and I’m really looking forward to building on this tradition in working with the Open Education team.

 

The Teaching Enhancement Unit focus is to support the design, development and evaluation of distinctive and transformative professional learning experiences for staff. Helping DCU staff harness the potential of blended learning for campus-based students is a major aspect of the TEU’s work.

 

The Ideas Lab focus is to support the design, development and research of new and emerging models of blended, online and digital (BOLD) education with the potential to help transform lives and societies. Notably this year the Ideas Lab has led DCU’s Irish Language and Culture MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform which I’m told have attracted over 20,000 learners from more than 120 countries.

 

I’m very much looking forward to working with others in NIDL and staff across the University to build on DCU’s already substantial presence in digital learning. My new role will also provide an exciting opportunity to contribute to NIDL’s growing research programme and support planning and preparations for next year’s ICDE World Conference on Online Learning which DCU is hosting in November.

 

Le gach dea ghui

 

Pros and cons of EdTech

June 26th, 2018

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Got an interesting email about a guide to the pros and cons of educational technology, which apparently builds on my blog post on this topic from sometime back. Some of the benefits of using technology in the classroom include:

  • Making learning more fun
  • Personalising the education experience
  • Instant access to knowledge
  • Facilitates collaboration amongst peers
  • Reflects the real world of work
  • Can make things easier for teachers

Some of the downsides include:

  • Lack of support
  • Extra cost
  • A source of distraction
  • Health concerns
  • Not inclusive

Mapping tools to types of activity

May 15th, 2018

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As part of a three-day CLICKS workshop on Learning Design I created a new section on tools to support diferent types of activities. I classified them as tools to support the following types of activities:

  • Presentation
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Brainstorming and concept mapping
  • Reflection
  • Feedback
  • Assessment
  • Recording
  • Voting
  • Annotation
  • Curation
  • File sharing

Table 1 lists examples of tools under each category. I also provided tips and hints for ensuring these tools are well used. For presentations I suggested the following. Include an outline for the talk. Keep text short. Add a relevant image with a URL to the source. Use bitly/com to shorten URLs. Use an appropriate background so there is a contrast with the text. Check spelling and grammar. Have a logical structure and a clear message. Include a summary and if relevant include references.  

 

For supporting effective moderation I suggested the following. Have a clear introduction. Avoid questions that are likely to lead to yes/no answers.  Guide the discussion and summarise at key points and encourage reflection. Keep an eye on back channels. Keep to time and consider recording key points.

 

Collaboration is about working with others to achieve a common goal, with a shared vision and purpose. I suggested the following as the benefits of working collaboratively. Firstly, it is important to have clear communication, with trust and respect. Secondly, it is useful to assign roles and have a clear division of labour.

 

I listed the following as the benefits of brainstorming and concept mapping. Firstly, it is useful as a way of generating ideas on a topic. Secondly, it can be done individually or as a group. Thirdly, it is a way of building on the ideas of others. Fourthly, ideas can be grouped. Finally it is a way of generating solutions to a problem.

 

Thinking about and reflecting on what you have learnt is known to be an important aspect of learning; I suggested the following benefits of reflection. An online journal or blog can be to collect ideas and thoughts. It is a mechanism to relate new concepts to prior experiences, and a means of critically evaluating of the learning experience. It can lead to the development of an action plan.

 

There are four types of feedback: diagnostic, formative, summative and peer review. Benefits include the fact that it can help learners understand and gives them guidance on how to improve their learning. It is also a mechanism to have evidence of achievement of learning outcomes, leading to accreditation.

 

Recording can bring resources to life; audio and video can enhance the text. Students can listen/watch numerous times, can stop and rewind and can take notes. Video can be used to provide a welcoming message or to demonstrate something. Audio can be used to record a lecture or to provide personalised feedback.

 

Another way of introducing interactivity is by using vorting or response tools. These can be used to check class understanding, to provide formative feedback, to check students’ preparation for a class, or can be used to stimulate debate. Arguably they not only make lectures more interactive, but also to enhance learning and motivation. Feedback from students can be used to adapt content to meet their particular needs.

 

Annotation is a powerful tool for enably deeper and more active forms of reading, which is likely to result in more knowledge being retained. Students can add questions, comments, links, and keywords, and can highlight text.

 

The amount of information available on the web is bewildering. Curation is a good way of dealing with this. It is possible to co-located related resources and these can be shared with others.

 

Finally, file sharing tools can be used to share resources with specific people or make them available to anyone with a link. Some tools enable you to see how many people have viewed or downloaded resources. File sharing means that the resources can be accessed from anyway and is a good means of backup.  

 

Table Summary of how tools can be used to support different types of activities

Type of activity

Tools

Presentation

PowerPoint

Facebook live

Prezi

Google drive and classroom

Google slides

YouTube

TedEd

Communication

Skype

Twitter

WhatsApp

Tlk.io

Flipgrid

Google sheets

Collaboration

Kanban Trello

Google wiki

Brainstorming and concept mapping

Linoit

Padlet

Mindomo

coogle

Reflection

Wordpress

EduBlogger

Feedback

Annotated word files

Audio feedback

Assessment

E-portfolios: word, google drive, dropbox, pathbrite

Recording

iPhone

Audacity

Voicethread

Screen-o-matic

Voting

Facebook poll

Easypolls

Polleverywhere

Survey monkey

Kahoot

Annotation

Diigo

A.nnotate

Curation

Scoop.it

Pinterist

File sharing

Drop box

Slideshare

Google drive

 

Table 2 maps various tools to the 7Cs of Learning Design.

Table 2: Mapping the 7Cs to activities and tools

7Cs

Activity

Tools

Conceptualise

How to ruin a course

Linoit

Padlet

Mindomo

coggle

Personas

Word

Google drive

Create

Find and collate resources

Scoop.it

Pinterist

Diigo

Create resources

Powerpoint

Prezi

Google slides

YouTube

TedEd

iPhone audio or video

Audacity

Voicethread

Screen-o-matic

File sharing

Google drive or classroom

Dropbox

Slideshare

Communicate

Teacher-student(s)

Students- students

Students – broader community

Skype

Twitter

WhatsApp

Tlk-io

Google sheets

Collaborate

Joint project work

Group work management

Working up ideas

WhatsApp

Kanban Trello

Google wiki

Linoit

Padlet

Mindomo

coggle

Consider

Reflection

Wordpress or Edublogger

Feedback

Skype

Annotated word file

Audio feedback

A.nnotate

Voting

Facebook poll

Easypolls

Polleverywhere

Survey monkey

Combine

Activity profile

Complete the excel spreadsheet and take a picture of it

 

Storyboard

Powerpoint

Complete on a flipchart and take a picture of it

Consolidate

Feedback from learners

Easypolls

Polleverywhere

 

 

Tools for different types of activities

May 9th, 2018

Mapping 7 cs_to activities_and_tools from Grainne Conole

As part of my workshop I developed a hand out on tools for different types of activities.