Where next with planners?

 Helen Beetham gave an excellent and thought provoking keynote this morning at the LAMS conference. Here are my rough notes on the points she made: 1) Teaching is a human skill that can be enhanced by technology, 2) Teaching is a different skill to learning though in close dialogue with it, 3) Teachers intentions can be articulated and enacted with the support of technology and can be shared with other actors – teachers, learners, systems in the learning process, 4) A design should be generalisable across different situations whereas a plan should work in one situation, 5) Different decisions take place in practice and we need to take account of this, for example before learners enrol, after they enrol etc and how they work through a set of activities, 6) Plans and designs must in practice both be contingent and flexible, because learning is a contingent response and personal activity. Therefore there is a spectrum of educational design/planningKey questions
  • How do designers intentions accommodation learners intentions?
  • What balance of scaffolding and flexibility is appropriate?
  • When and how should designers intentions be made explicitly and represented and when in the background?
  • Which are important to learners?
  • What are the relationships amongst different decisions – logistically or educational (relationship between an outcome and activity)?

Overview JISC programme

Two pedagogy planner tools have been funded which expose the challenges both developmental and conceptual, also helped in terms of gathering requirements about design and providing proof of concepts in the field which we can critique. The LPP planner is for regular use to support course planning, scaffold support for decision making process, educational values build in to it. In contrast  Phoebe might be more appropriate for initial teacher training, CPD, time to reflect and think, educational values more fluid, more flexible. The  LPP is based on the notion of collaborative online planning and design tool that supports lecturers in developing and sharing learning designs. Add in learner needs, link module level to individual week planning. In contrast,  Phoebe is a wiki-based planner to promote innovative practice in design for learning, provides a complement to LAMS providing up-front and contextual planning that is currently doesn’t support, separation of planning and guidance.Challenges exposed
  • Development challenges – lead to more refined understanding of requirements, many of which are already being addressed by tools in development
  •  More fundamental challenges – require us to question where we are going

Development challenges

  •  Diversity of existing approaches to design
  • Complexity and non-linearity of educational decision making
  •  The need for contingent emergent and flexible designs giving teachers and learners scope to adapt the curriculum as they engage with it
  • Diversity of educational activities and tools (and rapid change) – generic terms, activities, pedagogic approaches, technologies, media
  • The XCRI project has identified a range of institutional processes which demonstrates the complexity of the terrain such as e-admin, e-application, curriculum management, etc
  •  The programme has identified a range of requirements:

o      customisability, design at different levels, flexible to take different paths and iterate between levels, alternative interfaces for different tasks, educational rationale, make explicit the consequences of design decisions in terms of the learner experience, to represent the context in a way that can be shared, constructive alignment among the components of the curriculum such as topics, outcomes, methods, tools, staff resources and student workload, support for collaboration, outputs of different types (runnable instantiation, institutional processes - XCRI), ability to link to repositories, ability to link with context-relevant advice and guidance, learner-related information systems

Challenges – big questions

  •  What do the tools add to existing planning tools such as mind mapping decision support software even basic web authoring tools?
  •  What do the tools add to existing educational tools (eg VLEs and CMSs), which increasingly have design capabilities and viewpoints built in?
  •  What do tools add to social software solutions to sharing good practice?
  • social bookmarking site has been created on del.cios.us Design_for_learning which raises challenging questions about semantic interoperability i.e. how can educational intentions be meaningfully represented and shared? 


      There are also issues arising from the impact of web 2.0 as summarised in a talk by Stephen Downes ‘Trends and impacts of e-learning 2.0’ ICCE 207, Tawan 2007. Key point: learners are becoming more connected and self-sufficient, do educator intentions matter any more?


Conclusions – planners provide a focal point for drawing down teaching centred services around the process of educational planning just as e-portfolio are becoming the focal point for drawing down learner centred services around the process of personal development planning. Reusable educational ‘memes’ or design elements can be shared using existing standards (such as IMS LD, XCRI) sharing educational purposes and contexts in a meaningful is beyond the scope of existing standards.  The concept of ‘memes’ is very powerful, simple and therefore can be spread virally but there is a contrast here with IMS LD as a mechanism for conveying this which is contra to this and complex – raises a dilemma for how to spread and share ideas. In the discussion which followed Helen concluded that maybe we need a higher level process map to put this all together, to see how it all fits; make the jigsaw pieces of Learning Design fit.

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