TLRP TEL at the AERA conference


AERA presentation 
I’ve just got back from the AERA conference which was held in San Diego this year. I still can’t quite cope with the size of the conference - 15,000 delegates this year I understand! Eileen Scanlon and I were part of a TLRP Technology-Enhanced Learning symposium, in which 5 of the 8 projects funded under the programme presented.We focused in on three themes: Design, Interdiscplinarity and Transformation.We had a slight change at the last minute - Vic Lally was unable to come and so Margaret Cox presented on her project “Personalised learning with Haptics when Teaching with online media, PHANTOM”. It was a great session lots of interesting discussions afterwards and we have plans to do a follow up next year. Our draft paper relating to the Personal Inquiry paper is available here. We are planning to work this up and submit to a journal soon.  Here is the abstract for the session:

Innovations in design and methodology in technology-enhanced learning: findings from the TLRP Technology Enhanced Learning programme

Session submission to the

Advanced Technologies for Learning (SIG #7), AERA conference 2009

Chair: Professor Richard Noss

Discussant: Professor Sir Tim O’Shea 


Personal Inquiry (PI): Innovations in participatory design and models for inquiry learning

Eileen Scanlon, Gráinne Conole, Lucinda Kerawalla, Karen Littleton, Mark Gaved, Alison Twiner, Trevor Collins, Paul Mulholland, The Open University

MiGen: Intelligent support for mathematical generalisation

Richard Noss and Celia Hoyles, University of London

LSDE: Transforming teaching practice through planning and design

Diana Laurillard, Institute of Education, University of London, George Magoulas, Birkbeck College, University of London, Elizabeth Masterman, University of Oxford

SynergyNet: Innovative and immersion

Liz Burd, University of Durham

Inter-Life: Interoperability and transition

Victor Lally University of Glasgow


Technology continues to have a radical impact on all aspects of society and offers much for the educational domain. Information of relevance to learning is now available in abundance – through the Open Educational Resources movement and via a range of sites which offer ‘media-rich’ resources. This is coupled with the increasing impact of web 2.0 technologies characterised by user-generated content and social networking. At face value this might suggest that technologies are radically changing educational practice, however, in reality the impact in education of technologies has not being as profound as in other spheres of life. The reasons are complex and pose important technological, pedagogical and organisational challenges and dilemmas.

In the UK an ambiguous Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) programme (ca. $22 M over five years) is underway, funded by the EPSRC/ESRC, which at its core is about tackling these challenges of educational significance from an interdisciplinary perspective:

Technology enhanced learning (TEL) requires interdisciplinary collaboration across the disciplines of learning, cognition, information and communication technologies (ICT) and education, and broader social sciences… To achieve the highest ambitions for education and lifelong learning we need to exploit fully what new technology offers – for personalising learning and improving outcomes… for creating more flexible learning opportunities and for improving the productivity of learning and knowledge building processes. But to do this, we need a more explicit understanding of the nature of learning itself, both formal and informal, and the way it is responding to changes in society and the opportunities created by new technologies… This… will support innovation from both research areas, each challenging the other, to rethink ways of making learning more effective and to develop the new technology solutions to make that possible. Such interdisciplinary research is intended to help build new understandings of how technology can enhance learning.

The first phase began in September 2007; a second phase begins in September 2008. The symposium is structured around five of the projects in the TEL programme and will consist of thematically linked presentations.It will explore how the projects are tackling the challenges set by the programme and more generally on how to instantiate the rhetoric of radical transformation of educational practice through the use of technologies. In particular the objectives of the session will be to consider the following questions:

·      Issues of design: How can we design for innovation and adopt a more participatory, inclusive approach to design? What is the relationship between design and instantiation of practice?

·      Transformation of practice: How might innovative technologies lead to real transformation of practice? What are the barriers and enablers? What new forms of pedagogy are possible?

·      Methodological development and interdisciplinary inquiry: What are the methodological challenges and what are methodological innovations? What are the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary research? 

Rooted in the distinctive approaches and context of each specific project, we will address the issues identified above with reference to key findings to date.

Phase one – the PI and MiGenprojects

Personal Inquiry (PI) is designed to help school students learn the skills of evidence-based inquiry (Conole et al. 2008). The aim is to understand how effective learning can be enabled with technology across formal and informal settings. Our focus is on designing for evidence-based inquiry learning and we are developing an innovative ‘scripted inquiry learning’ approach, where children aged 11-16 carry out scientific explorations supported by a personal inquiry toolkit. This toolkit, running on an Ultra-Mobile PC provides ‘scripts’ in the form of dynamic lesson plans that guide the learners through a process of gathering and assessing evidence, conducting experiments and engaging in informed debate on topic themes of relevance to the secondary-level UK National Curriculum (Myself, My Environment, My Community). The aim is to encourage thinking and debate about issues that affect students’ everyday lives, such as fitness, diet and waste. Project partners include schools, technology companies that develop sensing and data-logging equipment, and museums, community resource centres and fieldtrip sites.

The project sees pedagogy and technology development as inextricably interwoven and the team have adopted an iterative, participatory approach to the design, development and evaluation of the scripts. We have conducted focus groups, design workshops, and discussions of the prototypes with teachers and learners, as well as with key educational experts, software designers, curriculum developers, curators of informal learning and discovery centres. Initial trials, carried out in Spring 2008, involved each site (Open University and University of Nottingham) working with local partners. These are being followed by a further iteration from September. Key questions driving the design and evaluation include, how:

1.      do students and their teachers adopt the technologies as tools for learning?

2.      does the experience of scripted inquiry learning assist and change learning activities?

3.      do scripted inquiry learning activities develop children’s learning skills?

We will report on the development and trial activities conducted by the OU team with local participants. It will detail our participatory design approach - which aims to involve true cross-stakeholder engagement in the design and enactment of innovative inquiry-based scenarios. We will report on the research findings of the first set of trials involving two school-based interventions, one a location-based inquiry learning toolset to support an eight-week Geography project on urban heat islands, which has been completed by 78 students aged 15-16 years-old, and a second with younger students on microclimates.

The work presented will draw on videotaped observations, the data students collected and the notes and products created by the learners and teachers in the trials. Video records of the stakeholder workshops involving teachers, pupils and others will also be used. Drawing on Engstrom’s (1999) analytic approach, we will explore how the outcomes of both the initial trial and the participatory design workshop have informed the subsequent design of activities and the associated personal inquiry toolkit.

MiGen aims to co-design, build and evaluate, with teachers and teacher-educators, a mutually supportive pedagogical and technical environment for improving 11-14 year-old students’ learning of mathematical generalisation. There is a clearly identified need to engage students in reasoning and explanation on the basis of recognition and articulation of pattern and structure. This challenging agenda has been well documented and theorised (Healy and Hoyles, 2000, Stacey et al., 2004, Mason and Bruning, 2004; Kieran and Yerushalmy, 2004; Kaput, et al. 2002). One fruitful approach has involved students constructing, evaluating and sharing their own computationally-based mathematical models (Noss, Healy, and Hoyles, 1997). Despite some successes, difficulties coalesce around the need for intensive, timely and appropriate pedagogic support from the teacher. In particular, the need to:


  • provide students with appropriate pedagogic support during the modelling process; and support the building and sustaining an online learning collaborative community.

We have developed a prototype microworld – the eXpresser – designed to promote the learning of mathematical generalisation through model-construction where tools have been designed that afford building with the general case, building with the specific, while the system provides an ‘eye to the general’. Our work adopts a “lightweight” strategy that focuses on supporting the individual without artificially constraining his/her explorations, and therefore renders unnecessary a large-scale complete learner model (Veermans, 2003, de Jong, 2006). 

We will present the eXpresser, its pedagogical rationale and the epistemological and pedagogical-design criteria and the ways we have sought to devise intelligent support. We will outline the architecture of the technical system and illustrate its operation in trials with students and teachers. The challenging issues confronted include:

·      What to model – knowledge in constructionist environments is not well-specified and often ephemeral;

·      Recognising correctness – in an exploratory environment, it is difficult to label strategies as correct or incorrect, without taking account of the contingencies of overall student goals, strategies and characteristics;

·      Accounting for situated abstractions – knowledge is not usually expressed in conventional abstractions, but rather within the tools and relationships of the system;

·      Attempting to characterise student strategies from student-system interactions;

·      Finding ways to represent student knowledge to the teacher, in ways that can suggest helpful intervention trigger-points and pedagogic strategies.

Phase two: the LDSE, SynergyNet and InterLife projects

LDSE is developing a ‘learning design support environment’, based on our analysis of the gap between current and potential best practice. ‘Potential best practice’ includes, for example, an informed analysis of the comparative benefits and costs of alternative learning technologies and realistic planning that exploits the potential of innovative technologies alongside conventional methods. LDSE includes a set of design support tools, links to relevant existing good practice documents and exemplars, and learning activity management tools. We will focus on the issue of how to transform teaching practice using interactive tools to support them in planning and design for the blended use of innovative learning technologies alongside conventional methods. The project adopts a design-research approach (Bell et al. 2004) with interdisciplinarity as a fundamental principle. It is through melding the knowledge and expertise of computer scientists, educational researchers and teaching practitioners that we can clarify the complex requirements of the learning design process and implement them in a computational form that is viable for teachers. Moreover, by engaging teachers in a more research-based approach to teaching as part of their everyday practice, we hope to accelerate the development of their understanding of how to engage more effectively with TEL. We will draw on previous findings (Masterman, 2008; San Diego et al., 2007), initial practitioner needs analysis, initial modeling of practitioner design decisions, and user evaluation data for the early prototype, completed in the first stage of the three-year project.

SynergyNet involves the development, operation, and evaluation of an innovative ‘Interactive Immersive Classroom’ in which advanced technology is introduced to provide high quality collaborative learning experiences.  Central to SynergyNet is a new form of computer interface (for both desks and presentation boards) that integrates a large built-in multi-touch surface that can detect simultaneous contacts by fingers or pens. Therefore, two or more students can operate the desk concurrently. Therefore a single multi-touch desk can operate both as a set of individual computerised work spaces and as a single large digital workspace allowing students to work individually or collaboratively on a task.  Our research involves capturing and analysing the learning experiences of students while they use the multi-touch equipment, and subsequently assessing how these differ from those learning experiences gained in more traditional classroom environments in primary, secondary and higher education settings. We are focusing on two broad issues: collaborative engagement through ICT and the impact of this upon knowledge and understanding. Our data-collection system enables analysis of the level of students’ cognitive engagement and achievement (Moseley et al. 2005) using Bloom’s revised taxonomy and considers any changes in the relational complexity of their contributions (using the SOLO taxonomy: Biggs and Collis 1982). This analytic work is complemented by microgenetic analysis of group discourse (Schoenfeld et al. 1993) and group solutions (Taylor and Cox, 1997).  

Inter-life is investigating the use ofICTs to support skillsdevelopment by young people to enhance their management of life transitions . It has developed a mobile and three-dimensional (3D)virtual community called ‘Inter-Life’.  Educational and social transitions have significant impacts on performance, motivation and identity formation.  Inter-Life offers the opportunity for participants to work together on transition activities in thiscommunity, whether they are logged in, or using their mobile deviceaway from the desktop.  It provides reflective and personal development tools and scenarios for transitions, to demonstrate theflexibility and robustness of the educational and technical designs.In particular, the research focuses on: user engagement, co-design, and development, identification of learning outcomes, processes, and skills acquisition, participant identity formation and development associated with Inter-Life usageand professional development of educators working in 3D-communities. The project uses mixed-method, technology-enhanced data gathering andanalysis. Phenomenographic techniques are used - analysing personalaccounts of participants across a range of settings. The project isinvestigating identity development from an Activity Theory perspective, viewing identity as individually and sociallyconstructed, rather than a fixed quality or ‘given’.


Bell, P., Hoadley, C.M. and Linn, M.C. (2004) Design-based research in education, in: M. C. Linn, E.A. Davis and P. Bell (Eds) Internet environments for science education (Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum).

Biggs, J.B., and Collis, K.F., (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning – the SOLO Taxonomy (1st ed.), New York: Academic Press.

Conole, G., Scanlon, E., Kerawalla, C., Mullholland, P., Anastopulou, S. and Blake, C., (2008), From design to narrative: the development of inquiry-based learning models, Edmedia Conference, July 2008, Vienna

de Jong, T. (2006). Technological Advances in Inquiry Learning. Science, 312, 532-533.

Engeström, Y. (1999) Innovative Learning in Work Teams: Analysing cycles of Knowledge Creation in Practice, in Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, and R.L. Punamaki (eds.) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge University Press

Healy L and Hoyles, C. (2000), ‘A Study of Proof conceptions in Algebra’. Journal for Research  in Mathematics Education, 31, 4, 396-428.

Kaput, J., Noss R. and Hoyles, C. (2002) Developing New Notations for a Learnable Mathematics in the Computational Era. In English, L. (Ed) Handbook of International Research in Mathematics Education. London: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 51-75.

Kieran, C., Yerushalmy, M. (2004) Research on the role of technological environments in algebra learning and teaching. In Stacey, K., H. Shick, H., Kendal, M., eds.: The Future of the Teaching and Learning of Algebra. The 12th ICMI Study. Volume 8 of New ICMI (International Commission on Mathematical Instruction) Study Series. Kluwer Academic Publishers. 99–152.

Mason, B, and Bruning, R. (2004). Providing Feedback in Computer-based Instruction: What the research tells us. Retrieved 2004 from MB/MasonBruning.html

Masterman, L. (2008). Phoebe Pedagogy Planner Project: Evaluation Report. Available at:

Moseley, D., Baumfield, V., Elliott, J., Higgins, S., Miller, J. and Newton D. P. (2005) Frameworks for thinking: a handbook for teachers and learning Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Noss, R. and Hoyles, C. (1997) The Construction of Mathematical Meanings: Connecting the Visual with the Symbolic. Educational Studies in Mathematics., Vol 33, 2, pp 203-233

San Diego, J.P., Laurillard, D., Boyle, T., Bradley, C., Ljubojevic, D., Neumann, T. and Pearce, D. (2007) The feasibility of modelling lecturers’ approaches to learning design, ALT-J, 16(1), 2008, 15–29.

Schoenfeld A. H., Smith, J. P., III, Arcavi, A. (1993). Learning: The microgenetic analysis of one student’ s evolving understanding of a complex subject matter domain. In R. Glaser (Ed.), Advances in instructional psychology: Volume 4 (pp. 55-175). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Stacey, K., Chick, H., and Kendal M. (2004) The Future of the Teaching and Learning of Algebra. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Taylor, J and Cox, B.D. (1997) Microgenetic Analysis of Group-Based Solution f Complex Two-Step Mathematical Word problems by Fourth Graders. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 6, 2:183-226.

TLRP ESRC (2006), Announcement of forthcoming EPSRC/ESRC call for research on technology enhanced learning, (30/6/08)

Veermans, K.H. (2003) Intelligent support for discovery learning. Enschede, The Netherlands: University of Twente Press.


One Response to “TLRP TEL at the AERA conference”

  1. TLRP-TEL at AERA 2009 « Says:

    […] conference in San Diego (13-17th April). Further information can be found in this news story and in Grainne Connole’s blog post on the event. News   News   « Digital Inclusion Forum launched    […]

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