Digital technologies

May 7th, 2021


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This article provides an overview of teaching with digital technologies. It defines digital technologies and digital learning as follows:


·      Digital technologies are electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store or process data. Well known examples include social media, online games, multimedia and mobile phones.


·      Digital learning is any type of learning that uses technology. It can happen across all curriculum learning areas.


It lists the following set of tools that can be used for developing the curriculum:


·      FUSE is a content library of teaching materials and educational resources. It covers traditional text resources, multimedia, video and interactive materials.

·      Virtual conferencing is where students can interact and learn with others outside their classroom by using virtual learning and conferencing.

·       Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 online services provide access to contemporary digital classroom tools and support for BYOD through services that can be accessed on Windows, Apple, Android and ChromeBooks.

·       Minecraft: Education Edition is a collaborative and versatile platform that educators can use across subjects to encourage 21st-century skills.

·       ClickView is a suite of thousands of interactive videos and related resources that support learning and teaching across all subject areas. 

·       Stile provides over 70 Science units, each containing a mixture of content delivery, formative assessment, summative assessment, experiments, projects, classroom activities, and STEM career profiles.

·       Sibelius is a music notation program designed for composing, orchestrating and designing workshops. 

·       Wolfram software are internationally recognised, industry standard, powerful learning tools that can be used across STEM with applications in the areas of computation, problem modelling, coding and more.  

· is an online learning platform that provides anytime, anywhere access to a library of over 209,200 unique “how to” videos across three areas - Business, Creative and Technology Skills.

·       Boardmaker Online provides a multi-level approach to creating engaging print and interactive materials for special education needs. 

·       Comic Life can be used across a range of Learning Areas for the creation of comics and storyboards. 



This site suggests the following ways technologies can be used by teachers and students:


  • Students can use programmes or applications designed for problem solving or open-ended learning
  • Examples of technologies that teachers can use include interactive whiteboards or learning platforms


It goes on to suggest the following:


  • Effective use of digital technology is driven by learning and teaching goals rather than a specific technology: the technology is not an end in itself.
  • New technology does not automatically lead to increased attainment.
  • Consider how will any new technology support pupils to work harder, for longer, or more efficiently, to improve their learning.
  • Pupils’ motivation to use technology does not always translate into more effective learning, particularly if the use of the technology and the desired learning outcomes are not closely aligned.
  • Teachers need support and time to learn to use new technology effectively. This involves more than just learning how to use the hardware or software; training should also support teachers to understand how it can be used for learning.


This site lists the following useful articles on digital technologies:


  1. Video technologies for working from home
  2. GPS, What3Words and Location
  3. 5G and Virtual Reality
  4. Smart homes
  5. Cloud and SaaS
  6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  7. Deep fake and AI
  8. Bitcoin and blockchain
  9. Cybersecurity and Biometrics
  10. Combination of tech such as AI, IOT, Drones and connectivity
  11. Mobile Phone Roaming & Digital Connectivity using eSIMs



Innovating Pedagogy Report 2021

May 4th, 2021



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The Open University UK produces a valuable annual report, Innovating Pedagogy. This aims to explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers. Ten innovations are considered which have not yet had a major impact on Education. These are:

·      Best learning moments

·      Enriched realities

·      Gratitude as a pedagogy

·      Using Chatbots in learning

·      Equity-oriented learning in pedagogy

·      Hip hop based education

·      Student co-created teaching and learning

·      Telecollaboration for language learning

·      Evidence based teaching

·      Corpus based pedagogy

COVID and learning and teaching

May 4th, 2021


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I have been reflecting on the impact of COVID on working practices. Many of us are now working from home. This is made easier by the range of online tools now available to share and discuss our ideas; Google Docs is now frequently used to co-create documents, and tools such as Teams and Zoom are now commonly used. Most of us are comfortable using these and of course there is the opportunity for sessions to be recorded. Whilst this is good in that it enables us to continue working together many of us are missing face-to-face interaction. There are a number of benefits, for example: visual clues from colleagues and the value of coffee room interactions. A key question is what will the longer-term impact be? Will we return to our previous ways of working or adopt a more blended approach and continue to use Google Docs, Teams and Zoom? This useful link lists the following factors:


  1. The test optional movement will become permanent
  2. Higher education institutions will be increasingly and lastingly held accountable to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics
  3. Although most students desire a return to in-person learning, the majority also want to continue having the option to take classes online
  4.  The norm that all lectures are video recorded for student review later
  5. There will be strong and lasting demand among both faculty and staff to continue to have work-at-home or other virtual work options
  6. The long-standing emphasis on building the physical infrastructure of college campuses will give way to an emphasis building the virtual infrastructure
  7. Virtual internships and jobs will grow in prevalence
  8. Employers will continue to drive a growing movement toward non-degree education and non-traditional degrees
  9. Many universities made innovative changes to their academic calendar during Covid and are now recognising that these changes can provide valuable flexibility to both students and faculty while also providing degree acceleration opportunities for those looking to graduate more quickly
  10. There will be a new kind of price war in higher education
  11. Elite colleges and universities are no longer role models

ITU Academic Partnership Meeting

December 3rd, 2019


This week I was supposed to be talking at a conference in Atlanta, unfortunately I filled out my visa application wrong so wasn’t able to get my flight. However I was able to participate last night, online.  The progamme is available here


I was on a panel with three others; the topic was ‘The challenges faced by the 21st Century university’, with the following details:


Responding and adapting to the rapid technological change is a challenge for all organizations, including Universities. How can academic institutions ensure they remain relevant in the future and continue as leaders in research and teaching? This session will feature a debate among academics on some of the main challenges they are facing in the face of the digital transformation. Some of the issues to be covered are: 

  • Advent of the virtual university and implications for the traditional classroom
  • Ethics for the use of technology in education
  • Use of open source educational content
  • Role of social networks in University education

Here is the gist of my response. I began by providing some contextualisation. Firstly, that there are a variety of ways for learners to interact with rich multimedia resources, and to communicate and collaborate across a range of devices and across formal and informal learning spaces. Secondly, mobile devices mean that learning anywhere and anytime is now a reality. Thirdly, social media enable learners to connect together and beyond their cohort. Fourthly, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence offer rich immersive environments. Finally, there are new approaches to Learning Design and the use of Learning Analytics. In terms of the challenges I listed the following:

  • Microcredentials and new forms of assessment
  • The changing nature of work meaning that we need to move from knowledge recall to enabling learners to develop new digital literacies and skills
  • The impact of OER and MOOCs
  • The potential of learning design and learning analytics
  • The emergence of new technologies such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
  • Issues associated with surveillance and ethics
  • The use of social media and what is the appropriate mix of social media and institutional systems
  • The need for leadership with a good understanding of technologies
  • The importance of appropriate CPD for teachers

I pointed to the Open University UK’s Innovating Pedagogy reports and listed the following for this year:



  • Artificial Intelligence in Education
  • Post Humanist perspectives
  • Learning through open data
  • Engaging with data ethics
  • Social justice pedagogies
  • E-sports
  • Learning from animation
  • Multisensory learning
  • Offline networked learning
  • Online laboratories 



Offline networked learning

October 2nd, 2019





Each year the Open University UK produces the Innovating Pedagogy report, which highlights the ten things that are most likely to have an impact in the near future. I always look forward to reading the report. This year I am delighted to be involved as an author. I am working with Mark Gaved on the concept of offline networked learning. Here is the draft section. Comments welcome, do you agree with our focus? Is there anything we have missed? We are particularly interested in what people think of whether there are distinct pedagogical characteristics / challenges of ‘offline networked learning’ that we might have missed, and whether we’ve correctly captured the relationship between offline networked learning and slow learning. Plus good examples of offline networked learning in action that they know of.

Networked learning beyond the Internet



Learning has been revolutionised by networked technologies. Learners and teachers benefit from being able to access educational resources, study, and collaboratively create via digital networks. At its core, networked learning promotes connections: between learners; between learners and tutors, and between a learning community and its learning resources.


However, there are circumstances where networked learning via the Internet is not possible: this may be due to lack of access, a desire for autonomy, the need for privacy, or for playful/creative reasons. For example, there are many places where Internet access is unavailable and phone networks are limited or too expensive to use. This includes rural areas, developing countries, and spaces where access to the Internet may be purposely limited, for example in prisons.


In such situations there are learners and teachers who have or can be given access to smartphones, tablets or laptops. Enabling such learners and educators to leverage the power of these devices and take advantage of the affordances of networked learning when beyond the Internet has been made possible by low cost, low power networked hubs like Raspberry Pi’s. We call this approach ‘offline networked learning’. While it might be deployed at a large geographical scale, it is most practical and achievable in its support of hyperlocal networking: enabling people in the same room, or immediate proximity, to enhance their conversations through digital tools. It is important that educators consider not only technical constraints and opportunities, but also pedagogical implications such as the learners’ and teachers’ competencies, capabilities, motivations and support networks which may enable or hinder effective teaching or learning using this approach.

Ensuring good learning



There are a number of facets to good learning. These include the opportunity to reflect on what has been learnt, opportunities to visualise learning, undertaking dialogue with peers and tutors to co-construct understanding, and collaborative activities. Offline networked learning can enhance learning between participants to extend over time, to allow consolidation and conversation enhancing the process of learning as well as the product.


For example, the MAZI project developed a web-based set of tools running on a Raspberry Pi computer, battery powered and portable, that has enabled ‘a webserver in your pocket’. This has been used in rural Zambia to enable teachers to come together from different village schools to access digital teaching resources, share their own materials with their peers during training workshops, and take their selected materials back to their own schools. It has been used to enable indigenous communities in Guyana to upload, share and discuss videos they have created recording their traditional knowledge, creating knowledge repositories that build over time to empower communities and inform policy-making (


The Personal Inquiry project enabled school students to walk together in groups across a town, gathering data about urban pollution and loading into a netbook running a webserver based on an inquiry learning framework. The students could observe readings varying from different places as they were input, and draw down the collected sets later to analyse on their own machines. This has been developed further in collaboration with the UK Field Studies Council to enable species observation in different habitats: students can collect samples along a river, and make sense of the diversity, refocussing efforts in rapid response to live conditions to enable a more agile approach to fieldwork.


The World Bank funded iBox project in Ghana enables up to 100 learners at once to connect via WiFi in schools in underserved areas. Students can access a learning environment that support the science curriculum, providing video lessons, exercises, and content assessment. Digital tools are being developed, including a virtual microscope, 3D artefacts for manipulation, and a fully immersive lab, which provide virtual equivalents to teaching and learning resources not otherwise available in this low-resourced schools.


Brown describes a digital learning ecology consisting of four elements across formal and informal learning contexts, and physical versus virtual. Offline sits on the right hand side of the diagram, but the diagram illustrates the four facets of the digital ecology across which learners can permeate.

Supporting slow learning



I first came across the concept of slow learning via a keynote Peter Goodyear gave; some of his thoughts on the concept are available onlineThere is a relationship between offline networked learning and the concept of slow learning, which is a reaction to the frenzied fast pace of learning generated by the Internet. It is about connection to knowledge, deep and real learning. In this respect the quality of the educational engagement between teacher and learner is more important than judging student ability by standardised tests. Finally, it is about the importance of quality, creative teaching, which enables students to think independently, learning through curiosity, passion and interest rather than through fear of the exam hall. It is important because many within the education sector feel that we have gone too far down the road of standardisation, measured by outcomes. This not only affects their mental health, but prepares them poorly as independent thinkers, able to deal with the challenges of the 21st century society. Slow learning is not focused on teachers spending time on particular teaching strategies. Instead, it focuses on the need to provide space to work together and engage in the complex thinking needed to find more effective ways of educating hard-to-reach learners. Kahneman describes two systems of thinking. System 1 thinking refers to subconscious and automatic processes, as well as emotional responses and those that rely on biases or intuition. System 2 thinking is defined as “slow”, more concerted and conscious thinking.


The Spaces for Knowledge Generation project explored ways in which learning spaces can be Technology-Enhanced. It found that students move in nomadic but purposeful ways across a learning landscape of which the university is only a part. Students are typically already enmeshed in a work/home/study continuum, and the problem for the university is to replicate and indeed advance these open and flexible communities on campus, which is best done by providing multiple, welcoming, aesthetic and reconfigurable spaces.




Adopting offline networked learning brings a number of challenges. Technical issues include the problems associated with synchronising contributions with others: offline means the work carried out and recorded on the local hub isn’t necessarily easy to share more widely. Running an independent, offline networked system may require that greater local technical competency is in place to support and maintain services rather than when using Internet based services. Offline networking can expect students to ‘bring their own devices’. Some students may be excluded if they don’t have their own smartphone or tablet, or there may be resistance by institutions, teachers or families to students using their own devices in schools and learning spaces. Pedagogically, learners may not have the digital literacies needed to engage effectively and can struggle if not provided with enough support. Learning designs for activities have to take into account the different scale and speed of interactions mediated in this hyperlocal manner. Also there is the issue with balancing online and offline networked learning.




Offline networked learning can provide the benefits of networked learning for educators and students who either cannot or choose not to learn online. Collaboration, reflection, and learning over extended timeframes can take be supported using smartphones or other network-capable personal devices, via low-cost hubs like Raspberry Pis, particularly in very localised learning environments. Careful learning design is required to take account of the challenges as well as benefits. Offline networked learning requires ensuring technical and digital skills capacity and competencies are sufficient to enable a successful initiative. Given the barriers to access to the Internet for a large percentage of the global population for the foreseeable future, and the value of enhancing learning via digital networks, it is likely that this approach will flourish and mature over the next decade, and can enhance the concept of slow learning. As we look to the future we can consider how to best design and support both online and offline networked learning, and enable teachers to help students navigate across the four quadrants of the digital ecology. 





Brown, M. (2015), Looking over the horizon: New learning platforms, old technology debates (pp.40-48), In B. Mooney (Ed.), Education matters: Shaping Ireland’s education landscape, Galway, Ireland: Education Matters.


Collins, Trevor (2015). Enhancing outdoor learning through participatory design and development: a case study of embedding mobile learning at a field study centre. International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction (IJMHCI), 7(1) pp. 42–58.


Educational researchers call for ‘slow school’ movement


eTwinning project



Goodyear, P. (2005), Educational design and networked learning: patterns, pattern languages and design practice, AJET 21(1), 82 - 101.


Kahneman, D.  (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4299-6935-2.


The MAZI project: DIY approaches to offline networking to support education and community challenges:


World Bank funded iBox project in Ghana to bring networked STEM education to underserved schools:


The OER debate

September 17th, 2019


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I am involved in a panel tomorrow on OER and have been asked to address the following question.

Open Educational Resources have sparked a wide range of collaborative projects in the education sector. What are major lessons that archives can learn from the long established success of OERs? What kind of impact could open access archives have on OER and open education?

This is my initial response, is there anything else I should include?

The term OER was defined in 2002, the first example was MIT’s courseware, shortly followed by OpenLearn at the Open University UK. There was a naïve assumption that simply making OER available would mean that they were used by teachers and students. This was not the case. To address this the OPAL initiative defined the concept of OER practices, which explore how OER were designed, used and adapted by teachers and students. The project developed a framework for benchmarking organisations’ maturity of OER, along with an implementation plan to used OER more extensively. OER are part of a broader portfolio of Open Education and the EU has recently published the outputs of this initiative. OER have implications for learning, teaching and research. Students can supplement their official course materials with freely available OER. Theoretically for teachers OER provide examples of good practice and can help them be more innovative in their teaching practice, by adapting existing OER to their teaching context. In terms of research more open practices are challenging traditional modes of publishing. For example making research open access, writing research blogs and disseminating via social media, means that the research is made available to a far larger audience. Researchers are part of a community of peers. Making research available openly means that others can comment on it. I blog on a regular basis at If I tweet a blog post it goes out to a network of over 10, 000 colleagues. For a Springer book on Learning Design I live blogged draft chapters, which people then commented on; the final book was much stronger as a result. We now see a spectrum of open access research through to formal closed publications. Institutions have yet to take account of/credit for more open approaches and still rely on peer review publication. Some people are making a stand refusing to publish in or review closed journal articles. There is an indication of change as a number of granting authorities are now requiring that the outputs of the research are made openly available.



Classifying different approaches to learning

March 12th, 2019


I can across an interesting article via fb (via Ebba Ossiannilsson) on ‘Modern trends in education: 50 different approaches to learning‘. Deborah Arnold wrote:


Interesting! Though they would probably benefit from some kind of classification as they’re not all at the same level. Looking forward to seeing your slide that does just that, Gráinne!


So… this post is my attempt to take on the challenge and group the approaches. It seems to me there are three types: those based on the format of the session, those based on pedagogical approaches and those based on niche or specialized approaches to learning, foregrounding a particular principle or vision. Using these categories, the approaches can be grouped as follows.



Social networking

Schools in the Clouds

Learning with technologies

MOOCs and e-learning

Mobile education


Blended learning

Flexible learning

Flipped learning

Classic education

Sharing voices

Talking education

Lesson study

Invisible structures


Pedagogical approach

Problem-based learning

Constructivist learning

Self-directed learning

Constructive struggling

Competency-based education

Expeditionary learning

Personalized education





  • Finnish education
  • International objectives 
  • The Bologna Process
  • Smart capital
  • Free post-secondary education
  • Global view



  • Ground up diversity
  • Navdanya
  • High quality teachers
  • Change agents
  • Common core change
  • Economic empowerment
  • Catalytic role



  • Underground education
  • Social status
  • Start-up education

Work focused


  • Degree qualification
  • Vocational training
  • Readiness testing



  • Herbert Stein’s law
  • Disruptive innovation
  • Open innovation



  • Social support strategy



  • Religious education
  • Moral education
  • Character education

Of course these are not necessarily mutually exclusive for example ‘Religious Education’ could be enacted through a ‘Flipped Classroom’ approach using a ‘Self-Regulated Learning’ pedagogical approach. Would welcome thoughts on this.

Documenting Erasmus Student Experiences Through e-Portfolios

March 12th, 2019



Today I attended an e-portfolio event funded by the National Forum which was organized by Orna Farrell. Orna shared her slides and encouraged us to be interactive during the session. The session had four main parts: an overview by Orna, two case studies of using e-portfolios to support Erasmus students (Naoimh O’Reilly, from the Business School and Julie Ui Choistealbha, from MARINO), and an interactive session to create an assessment outline for an e-portfolio. The session was funded by the National Forum and more on the outline of the session can be found on the National Forum’s blog


Orna provided a definition of e-portfolios:


Corley & Zubizarreta (2012) defines a learning portfolio as: “a vehicle for bringing together judiciously selected samples of students’ work and achievements inside and outside the classroom for authentic assessment over time. A typical learning portfolio may include both academic materials and personal profiles and may designate some of its contents as public or private.The learning portfolio, then, becomes more than a product, a simple repository of artefacts; it becomes a process of reflection, of organizing, prioritizing, analysing, and communicating one’s work and its value, which may prompt insights and goals” (p.65)


She suggested the following as some of the advantages of e-portfolios: focuses on the process of learning and encourages reflection, integrates learning and makes connections between modules, provides the student with a sense of belonging, facilitates authentic learning, enables self-regulated learning and critical thinking.


Julie gave the following useful list of ways of evidencing learning and providing content for a portfolio:

  • Padlet: Photo a day
  • MindMup: Review of meetings, goal setting, skill development
  • Storyjumper:   Personal journey
  • Voki: Avatar creation instead of written reflections
  • Checkli: ‘To do’ list tracking.
  • Pixabay: High quality images to represent personal learning
  • SurveyMonkey: Feedback from placement provider

To foreground the session on designing an e-portfolio assessment, Orna listed the following assessment best practices:

  1. Identify the clear purpose of the eportfolio task
  2. Clearly articulate the purpose to the students
  3. Integrate into the assessment plan for the module
  4. Provide front loaded tech support to students and staff
  5. Scaffold student reflection through the use of prompts
  6. Give students support with reflective writing
  7. Give example eportfolio
  8. Design a specific rubric for the assessment

A picture of our final product for this activity is below. Overall a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.






UCD EdTECx conference

March 12th, 2019


Yesterday I attended the UCD EdTECx conference at University College Dublin. UCD has recently moved to the BrightSpace Virtual Learning Environment and the day provided the opportunity for people to share their experience of using it so far. There were a range of interesting talks and discussions, and good attendance with about 130 registered. This blog posts summarises some of the key messages.


Shane Foley described his experience of creating an online module and in particular compared his experience of using BrightSpace with Blackboard. Of particular note were the student monitoring function and the intelligent agent feature.


Joe Twist described his experience of using module builder. He suggested a number of ways of making modules look more friendly, such as including a picture, a welcome message (possible audio or video based). He also had some useful tips, such as: ensuring content is organised logically, being consistent with file names, ensuring materials are accessible, providing text alternatives to images.


Suzanne Guerin focussed on strategies for maximising the use of technologies in classrooms. She believes in the importance of creating practical tasks to reinforce skills and the value of providing feedback in different ways. She described the Mentimeter tool which can be used to get classroom engagement and enable students to ask questions and rate their confidence.


A particularly interesting session was given by Sharleen O’Reilly who described her work on the development of rubrics. She also argued that peer- and self-feedback were valuable and should be encouraged.  


David Jennings talked about e-portfolios and argued that they are student centred and give student autonomy. He referenced Cooper and Love’s (2017) definition of e-portfolios.


The afternoon began with a series of practical ‘how to’ sessions on: module design, feedback and annotation of assignments, feedback and grading in quizzes and rubrics for letter grading.


I finished the day with a keynote on ‘A vision for the future of Technology Enhanced Learning: key trends and implications. The slides are available on slideshare.



Cooper, T. and Love, T. (2007), Electronic portfolios in e-learning, in N. Buzzette-More (Ed.), Advanced principle of effective e-learning, Santa Rose: CS, Informing Science Press.


Open Education Week Webinar

March 6th, 2019


Today I participated in a Webinar for the EDEN Open Education Week. The session was chaired by Lisa Marie Blaschke, EDEN Senior Fellow, Chair of EDEN Council of Fellows, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany. The focus of the session was on the following:

A number of innovative and unique initiatives around the topic of open education have been emerging throughout Europe, specifically in the areas of micro-credentialing and prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR). Three EU initiatives in open education will be presented in this webinar: OEPassMicroHE, and ReOPEN. In addition, the session will include retrospectives on the challenges and opportunities of open education, as well as on the open education movement’s impact upon higher education over the past decade.

Speakers included:

  • Jochen Ehrenreich, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Heilbronn – OEPass project
  • Raimund Hudak, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg Heilbronn, Germany – MicroHE
  • Airina Volungevi?ien?, EDEN President, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania – Validating Open and Online Learning for Recognition, ReOPEN solutions
  • Elena Caldirola, University of Pavia, Italy – Open Education in Italy: Challenges, Opportunities and Perspectives
  • Andreia Inamorato, European Commission, Joint Research Centre – Practical Guidelines on Open Education for Academics: Modernising Higher Education via Open Educational Practices
  • Gráinne Conole, Dublin City University, Ireland – Reflecting on the Impact of the Open Education Movement

The talks included reports on the OEPass project, the MicroHe project and the ReOpen Solutions project. Elena gave an overview of the open education movement in Italy. Andreia talked about the EU Opening up Education initiative and associated reports. I talked about the future of the Open Education movement focusing on the impact on learners, teachers and researchers. My slides are available online. At one point there were 50 participants and there was an excellent backchannel with some challenging questions and good discussion. The session has been recorded