Category Archives: learning technologies

We are all of these…

Avon Gorge

Over on “Don’t Waste Your Time” David Hopkins posts a nice cartoon of how to support staff in using emerging technologies and his interpretation of the roles within the cartoon.

Supporting emerging technologies

‘Laggards’. Those who follow on once a technology has proven itself.

Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support its use.

Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.

Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.

Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

This is a nice model and people who are responsible for embedding the use of learning technologies will very likely recognise these stereotypes.

David asks with whom you identify with?

My observation is that we are all of them. Which one we are depends on which technology we are using.

For a long time I was a laggard (sceptic) with regard to Second Life and virtual worlds, really couldn’t see the value and how it could be used in an effective (and efficient) manner to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It took a while and I remember seeing a fantastic presentation from Bex Ferriday on how Second Life was been used to create art displays that couldn’t exist in the real world. However despite that really nice exemplar, I still remained very much a conservative sceptic with regard to Second Life.

On the other hand, having used mobile technologies for years before the iPhone and the iPad (going back to the 1990s), I would describe myself as an innovator with regard to mobile learning. Very much the enthusiast and early adopter.

I would describe the model above more of an continuum than discrete roles that we fit into, and that where we sit on that continuum depends on where we are and how we use the technology. When you start to talk like that you suddenly realise that the Visitor and Residents model from David White and the work undertaken by him and Donna Lanclos resonates much more.

You could describe the enthusiast and early adopters as resident’esque behaviour and the behaviour of sceptics and the conservator majority as that of visitors.

One of the aspects of the V & R model I like is that as well as the horizontal continuum you also have a vertical continuum where technology is used between a professional and personal capacity.

Many years ago I was delivering training to a group of sixth form staff, one practitioner was quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology to support teaching, learning and assessment, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life. These individuals can be sceptics in a professional capacity, but early adopters in their personal use of technology.

Models like the one above which shows learning technologists as bridging the chasm assume that there is a chasm that needs to be bridged and that people aren’t willing to cross it. It assumes that people’s view of technology is consistent across all technologies. It can be a starting point, but if you then move to the mapping exercise of the V & R model then it helps practitioners (and managers) realise that they are early adopters and sceptics and everything in between and that all of them can help each other to cross the many different technological chasms out there.

Of course one of the real challenges is to do this is from an holistic organisational perspective and get everyone to start to embed and increase their use of learning technologies where appropriate to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment.

Learning from massive open social learning

Learning from massive open social learning

There has been lots of chatter and talk over the last two years on MOOCs.  One of the challenges of MOOCs is that they lack the social interaction that traditional small campus based courses offer.

MOOC providers such as Coursera and Futurelab are recognising this and starting to build in social networking to their massive online courses.

The recent OU publication on innovating pedagogy talks about massive open social learning.

Massive open social learning brings the benefits of social networks to the people taking massive open online courses (MOOCs). It aims to exploit the ‘network effect’, which means the value of a networked experience increases as more people make use of it. The aim is to engage thousands of people in productive discussions and the creation of shared projects, so together they share experience and build on their previous knowledge. A challenge to this approach is that these learners typically only meet online and for short periods of time. Possible solutions include linking conversations with learning content, creating short-duration discussion groups made up of learners who are currently online, and enabling learners to review each other’s assignments. Other techniques, drawn from social media and gaming, include building links by following other learners, rating discussion comments, and competing with others to answer quizzes and take on learning challenges.

When developing online learning, the lesson we can take from MOOCs and as outlined in the OU report is the importance of adding online social elements to courses. We need to ensure that these social aspects are as much a part of the learning journey as the content and the activities.

An expectation that these social elements will “just happen” is a flawed approach, and as with other aspects of the learning design, the social components of an online course must be thought about, designed and delivered in a similar way to the learning and assessment components.

Activities can be designed to motivate participants to engage with each other and create social networks within those taking part. Obviously with a large number of learners (such as you find in MOOCs) you will probably find this easier. With smaller cohorts it will be significantly more difficult.

It can also help embedding aspects of the course into existing social networking services and tools, but it is useful to audit which of these tools, if any, the participants actually use external networks.

Social aspects of learning are important to many learners and that is one of many reasons why learners choose to attend a programme of study at a physical location such as a college. The social aspects of an online course are not a replacement for face to face social interaction, but are for many learners an important aspect of an online course and will help support and motivate them as they go through the online course.

Image Credit: Empty by Shaylor

So how do you make children eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

Do you eat broccoli?

If you have young children you will know how challenging it can be to get them to eat new foods, or eat those that are healthy.

When asked why they won’t eat, let’s say broccoli, children (and to be honest some adults) will say they don’t like the taste, they don’t like the texture or they don’t like the colour. The end result is that they won’t eat the broccoli.

What they will not say, any may not realise, are the potential benefits of eating broccoli.

Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber. It also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Or to put it more simply…

Eat your greens, they’re good for you.


They won’t focus on the real health benefits of eating broccoli they will focus that they don’t like, they don’t like the taste, it gives them stomach ache. They will talk about how they prefer chips, that they have always eaten.

In many ways helping staff in using specific learning technologies for teaching, learning and assessment is like eating broccoli.

If you discuss the use of various technologies, you will hear from teachers and lecturers that they don’t like certain aspects of the tool or service, for example the look or the colour. They might say how it won’t allow them to do something in a particular way. Often you will hear them say, that though the tool does lots of things well, because it does one thing badly, or doesn’t have that feature, then they won’t be able to use it. They don’t like the taste, they don’t like the colour, they prefer doing what they have always done.

So how do you get children to eat broccoli?

Well shouting at them to eat their greens, generally doesn’t work with children.

If you try and explain the health benefits of broccoli, this generally fails too.

Sometimes you can try and mask the broccol, maybe with cheese or in extreme examples chocolate.

Though, personally, I find the best way to get children to eat new (and healthy) foods, is to create an environment in which they are not only willing to try new foods, they do so, and also seek out other new tastes on their own. This means they want to not only eat broccoli, but also, then want to try other things.

This isn’t easy or simple, but it does have the greatest impact.

So how do you make people eat broccoli?

Image via Steven Lilley on Flickr

Thinking Differently: The Persuasion


Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post called “I think differently”, back then I said then that

I use to think that the “message” of e-learning could be sold to practitioners.

I use to think that once the “message” was sold that these practitioners would then embrace e-learning and use it to enhance and enrich their teaching and their students’ learning.

I use to think, once sold, that these practitioners would continue to use e-learning as e-learning evolved and changed over the years.

I use to think, that these practitioners would sell the “message” to others in their curriculum area and the cycle would continue.

I no longer think this way.

I still agree with this.

I am still told though today by managers that the “case” for using learning technologies needs to be “sold” to the practitioners, and that persuasion should be enough to “convince” them of the value that using these technologies will add to the learner experience and learner engagement.

The problem I have with this, is if it worked then it would have worked years ago!

Don’t get me wrong I know that this way of engaging with practitioners will, and does work with many practitioners (or should that be some practitioners), it will also work for most learning technologies.

However let me ask you another question, is this the approach used when using administrative systems such as registers or assessment tracking? No you wouldn’t try and persuade practitioners to use the register, you would tell them that they have to use it as part of their job.

If managers want practitioners to be “sold” the benefits of technology and persuaded to use them, then they shouldn’t be surprised if practitioners “choose” not to use them, or not use them to their full functionality and benefit. That choice many not necessarily be an informed choice, or a rational choice.

However I also know that “forcing” or telling people that they “must” use learning technologies also doesn’t work, or isn’t very effective.

I should say that at this point my view is that learning technologies should not just be used for the sake of using learning technologies. They are best used when they help either to solve a problem, improves efficiency, makes things better or more effective, or allows for learning to happen in a totally different way that makes it more open, inclusive and accessible.

In order to get practitioners using technology extensively and creatively is to change the culture, from one where technology is the problem, to one where it is part of the solution. Now that is easier said than done.


An interesting product was voted best of show at CES this week, a wireless SD card for your digital camera.


The card allows you to upload photographs direct from your camera to a photo sharing site on the interent via your wireless network (or a wi-fi hotspot).

I have been using a similar function (via shozu) with my cameraphone, but Eye-Fi allows you to use any camera which uses a SD card slot.

Very clever, though not yet available in the UK or so I believe.