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Chapter 1 introduction

  1. 1. Chapter 1 Introduction 1
  2. 2. Overview....................................................................................................................3The context of modern education...............................................................................3The nature of educational technology........................................................................4Today’s learners.........................................................................................................5The need for a new learning design methodology......................................................6Learning design: a definition......................................................................................9Audience and structure of the book............................................................................9Chapter sixteen is the conclusion chapter, which provides a summary and overviewof the book. It also looks at the implications of this work, along with reflections onits importance and the associated challenges. .........................................................12The process of writing the book...............................................................................12Acknowledgements..................................................................................................12 2
  3. 3. OverviewIn this book I will argue that in today’s technologically rich context, where content andservices are increasingly free, we need to rethink approaches to the design of learningactivities and content. I introduce the concept of ‘learning design’ and argue that makingthe design process more explicit and shareable will enable teachers to develop more ef-fective learning environments and interventions for learners and help make the intendeddesign more explicit and shareable with other teachers and learners. It will help learnersto make more sense of their educational provision and associated learning pathways. Iwill provide a number of illustrations of adopting a more open approach to designinglearning interventions, from a set of design representations through to the use of open, so-cial and participatory media for sharing and discussing designs. I draw on the areas oflearning design, pedagogical patterns and OER (Open Educational Resources) research toexplore the creation, sharing and discussion of learning and teaching ideas and designs.The context of modern educationMany are arguing that there is a need for a fundamental change in the way in which wedesign and support learning interventions. That traditional outcomes-based, assessmentdriven and standardised educational systems and processes do not meet the needs oftoday’s learners (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007; Borgeman, et al., 2008; Sharpe & Beetham,2010).A number of triggers are evident. Firstly, there is the broader societal context withinwhich educational sits. Giddens (1999), Castells (2000) and others describe the net-worked and globalised nature of modern society, and the impact of the changing nature ofsociety values (including the defragmentation of the family unit, polarised perspectiveson secular vs. religion-based beliefs, and changing roles for individuals and organisa-tions).Secondly, Reigeluth (cited in Reigeluth & Carr-chellman, 2009, p. 390) argues that wehave seen a shift from the industrial to information age, where knowledge work has re-placed manual labour as the predominant form of work. Within this context he argues thatwe need to place a greater emphasis on lifelong and self-directed learning. The greatercomplexity of modern society (both in terms of societal systems and technological tools)requires specific types of competences to make sense of and interact within this context,such as higher-order thinking skills, problem solving, systems thinking and the ability tocommunicate, collaborate and interact effectively with others.Thirdly, in terms of approaches to learning there has been a general shift away from indi-vidual, behaviourist approaches to those that are more authentic, contextual and social innature, as these are perceived as more appropriate to equip learners with the skills theywill need to participatory in a constantly changing broadly societal context. In otherwords it is no longer about knowing facts and procedures, but more about being able tolocate and use relevant information on a needs basis. 1
  4. 4. Fourthly, constructivist and dialogic approaches have become more prevalent, with a richset of empirically based case studies of the application of strategies such as problem-based learning, case-based scenarios and inquiry-based learning.Fiftly, over the past thirty years or so technologies have had a steady, increasing impacton how learning is designed and supported, from the early days of programme instructionand computer-assisted learning packages through to the use of the web and more recentlyWeb 2.0 tools and services, online gaming environments, mobile devices and 3D environ-ments such as SecondLife. As a consequence a body of research around the competencesand skills needed to effectively use and interact with these new technologies hasemerged. Terms such as digital literacies, information literacies, 21st Century literacieshave been used; each with subtle nuances and different foci. However fundamentally thecentral issue is about the literacies needed to communicate with others and make sense ofinformation (and more specifically how to do this in a digital context). Of particular notewithin this broader discourse, Jenkins et al. (Jenkins, et al., 2006; Jenkins, 2009, p. 4)have identified twelve skills which they argue are necessary to interact in what they termthis new participatory culture, namely – play, performance, simulation, appropriation,multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia naviga-tion, networking and negotiation. The executive summary to the report states that ‘foster-ing such social skills and cultural competences requires a more systemic approach to me-dia education’ (pg 4). This is at the heart of the learning design methodology approachoutlined in this book. The aim is to present a more systematic approach to the educationaldesign taking account of all the stakeholders involved in the process.To sum up, because the context of modern education is rapidly changing, traditional ap-proaches to the design and delivery of learning interventions are being challenged andmay no longer be appropriate to meet the needs and expectations of modern learners.New pedagogies and innovative use of technologies seem to offer much promise in termsof providing new, exciting educational experiences for learners. However in reality thereis little evidence of this happening. As Rogers argues (Rogers, 1995), educational innova-tions in both pedagogical approaches and innovative use of technologies remain the remitof educational innovators or early adopters, there is little evidence of mainstream adop-tion and indeed depressingly taken as a whole the majority of educational offerings arestill based on fairly traditional approaches, with a primary focus on content and assess-ment of outcomes, delivered via traditional didactic approaches. See for example a recentreview of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education (Conole & Alevizou, 2010).The nature of educational technologyResearch into exploring how technologies can be used to support different pedagogicalapproaches can be traced back to the emergent of educational technology as a researchfield in the sixties. De Vaney and Butler provide an overview of the field, its founders,key trends and areas of research focus (De Vaney and Butler, 1996).Molenda (2008) states that educational technology as a field has developed through aseries of phases as new technologies have emerged. Its origins are in the use of visual andaudio-visual systems, then radio, television, teaching machines, the design of instruction- 2
  5. 5. al systems, computers and ultimately the use of the internet for both storage/processing ofinformation and communication.Spector (2008; 12) argues that the foundations of educational technology include: thepsychology of learning, communications theory, human-computer interactions and in-structional design and development. The work of both Dewey and Vygotsky are drawn onextensively. Dewey argued that in terms of how we think we need to understand thenature of thought to be able to devise appropriate means and methods to train thought.Vygotsky argued that all learning involves language (Spector: 24) and of course hisconcept of mediating artefacts has been drawn on extensively in the field. I will return tothe way in which we are using the concept of mediating artefacts in our learning designfield in Chapter 15.The educational technology field has developed and is defined in many respects by thenature of and interaction with technologies. For as long as there have been technologiesthere has been a rhetoric around their potential use in education and also the associatedchallenges with uptake. Molenda (2008) observes that the barriers cited for the lack ofuse for audio-visual tools in the 1940/50s are similar to those cited for lack of use ofcomputers in the 1990s; namely: accessibility issues, lack of training, unreliability ofequipment, limited budgets and the difficulty of integrating them into the curriculum.Despite the promise of technology, we have not seen it revolutionise education (Beaboutand Carr-Chellman, 2008: 620). This was also a point forcibly made by the much citebook by Cuban (Cuban, 1986). It seems that although the technologies may change thebarriers and reasons for lack of uptake remain much the same.There has been a paradigm shift in the field due to new thinking around learning theoriesfrom behaviourism, through cognitivism and finally constructivism (Mayes & Freitas,2004). These theories led to the development of particular uses of technology designed tosupport the underpinning principles of the theories. I will return to this in Chapter 18.Later in this book, I will argue that new approaches to design are needed for teachers tomake effective use of technologies and for learners to productively navigate throughcomplex digital landscapes. Graeser et al. (2008: 212) suggest that most students do notknow how to use advanced learning environments effectively, so modelling, scaffoldingand feedback on their optimal use are necessary. This resonates with recent research intothe ways in which learners are using technologies (see Sharpe et al., 2010 for example). Anumber of authors have argued that new digital literacies skills are needed to make senseof new technologies, such as Jenkins et al. (2009) for example. Similarly in terms ofteachers/designers, Sims and Kozalka suggest that the term instructional design should bereplaced with learner/learning design.Today’s learnersThe internet and associated technologies have been around for around twenty years now.Networked access and computer ownership are now the norm; at least in the developedworld. As such the context within which today’s students learn is radically different fromthe context for learning in the past (see Sharpe and Beetham, 2010 for an editedcollection of resarch on learners perceptions and use of technologies). Some argue (Ob-linger and Oblinger, 2005; Prensky, 2001) that these learners are technologically im- 1
  6. 6. mersed and as a consequence learn differently through technologies. Others are more cau-tious, arguing that although these students maybe digital savvy they do not always knowhow to use the technologies effectively for academic work. Furthermore, they are not ahomogenous group, they vary in terms of their technology skills, the ways in which theyuse technologies and there preferences for which technologies to use or not (Jones, 2011;Kennedy et al.., 2008).Despite the different views on how learners are using technologies, there is no doubt thatthere is a plethora of technologies that can be used to support learning, offering differentways in which learners can communicate with each other and their tutors, and providingthem with access to interactive, multimedia content. The so-called ‘net generation’ hasgrown up in this technologically rich environment. There has been a lot of hype abouthow this generation is used to and comfortable with using a range of technologies to sup-port all aspects of their lives (Sharpe & Beetham, 2010). However, these generic skillsdon’t necessarily translate seamlessly to an academic learning context. Appropriation ofthese technologies for academic purposes requires specific skills (Jenkins et al., 2006;Jenkins, 2009), which means that the way in which we design and support learning op-portunities needs to provide appropriate support to harness the potential of technologies.The diversity of offerings available to learners also means there is more potential forthem to get lost and confused; more than ever before learners need supportive ‘learningpathways’ to enable them to blend formal educational offerings, with free resources andservices. This requires a rethinking of the design process, to enable teachers (used in thebroadest sense here, from those in K-12 through to tertiary education, as well as design-ers/trainers in more commercial settings) to take account of a blended learning context.The need for a new learning design methodologyThis new learning context also raises some thought-provoking issues. In a world wherecontent and services are increasingly free, what is the role of formal education? Whatnew teaching approaches and assessment methods are needed? How can we provide ef-fective learning pathways to guide learners through the multitude of offerings now avail-able? How can teachers develop new approaches to the design of learning activities andwhole curricula that takes account of this new complex, technologically enhanced con-text?The emergence of so-called web 2.0 tools has shifted practice on the internet away frompassive, information provision to active, user engagement. Many of the affordances (Gib-son, 1977; 1979) of new technologies (user participation, peer critique, sharing, collectiveconstruction) appear to align well with what are considered to be the hallmarks of goodpedagogy (socially situated learning, constructivism, dialogic and inquiry-basedlearning). However in reality there is a gap between the potential of these technologiesand actual use in practice. Teachers lack the necessary skills to make informed decisionsabout how to use these technologies effectively in their teaching. The term affordanceswas coined by Gibbons, originally in an ecological context. He defines them as: All "action possibilities" latent in an environment… but always in relation to the actor and therefore dependent on their capabilities. 2
  7. 7. For instance, a tall tree offers the affordances of food for a giraffe because it has a longneck and can reach the leaves, but not a sheep. This term is useful in a technological con-text because it infers that although technologies have an inherent set of characteristics oraffordances (such as promoting reflection or collaboration) these are only relevant in rela-tion to individual users’ own characteristics (such as individual skills and personal prefer-ences and the context of use). Technologies and users therefore co-evolve.The gap between the potential and actual use of technology is a paradox and this is at theheart of the growth of a new area of research that has emerged in recent years. Learningdesign research aims to better understand this mismatch. It focuses on the development oftools, design methods and approaches to help teachers design pedagogically effectivelearning activities and whole curriculum, which makes effective use of technologies.A key theme across the book is the centrality of design as an approach to the developmentof more pedagogically innovative learning activities and resources, which make effectiveuse of new technologies. The book describes the design processes and reviews the rangeof approaches that have been developed to support more effective design practices. Theseapproaches include: learning design, the promotion and use of Pedagogical Patterns andOpen Educational Resource, as well as the more traditional Instructional Design.The book introduces learning design as a methodology for designing for learning in an‘open’ context. I argue that it is no longer possible for any one teacher to be an expert inknowing about all the ways in which technology can be used to support learning or beaware of all the latest innovative learning activities or resources that are freely available.Drawing on the research we have been doing in this area, along with related research inthe learning design field and closely aligned research areas (in particular work on ped-agogical patterns, Open Educational Resources (OER) research, learning sciences and in-structional design), I will argue that there is a need for a more formal approach to design-ing for learning. Specifically, that we need to shift from the traditional craft-based teach-er-design (where design draws on practice and is essentially implicit) to a more systemat-ic, explicit design approach, drawing on empirically derived and validated tools andmethods for design (Figure 1). 1
  8. 8. Figure 1: The essence of learning designI will describe the tools and resources that can act as Mediating Artefacts (MAs) to sup-port teachers in making informative design decisions. For a fuller description of how theterm Mediating Artefacts is being used in this context, see (Conole, 2008). MediatingArtefacts are discuss in more detail in chapter five. I will show how the research we havebeen doing demonstrates the value of adopting a more open approach to the design pro-cess, to enable teachers to represent, share and discuss learning designs with each otherand with students.To my knowledge the book would provide the first single-authored coherent overview oflearning design. The book will draw in particular on the research work as part of theOpen University Learning Design Initiative (OULDI).1 However it will also locate thiswork within the broader context of design research from across the learning sciences andInstructional Design fields. The work we are doing as part of the OULDI is at the fore-front of research in this field. We have developed a range of innovative tools and designmethods, which are generating a lot of interest in the field. We have an evolving LearningDesign Toolbox, which gives some indication of the scale of our work.The book aims to provide a coherent overview for this work, along with a theoretical un-derpinning and contextualization with related research in the field. The book also aims toprovide a good balance of theoretical underpinning for the field, innovative tools andmethods, and practical examples and case studies. I will articulate my position in terms ofdesigning for learning, through a definition for the concept of learning design by introdu-cing the notion of adopting a more open approach to the design process. I will situate theresearch work alongside related areas such as Instructional Design, learning sciences, re-search into the development and use of Pedagogical Patterns and Open Educational Re-sources (OER). The book will also describe the theoretical underpinnings to this work,which are essentially socio-cultural in nature (Daniels, Cole, & Wertsch, 2007;Engeström, Punamäki-Gitai, & Miettinen, 1999), through articulation of the range of Me-diating Artefacts (MAs) that can be used to support and guide the design process.1 Http:// 2
  9. 9. Learning design: a definitionLearning design as a term has being used in a number of different ways, the book willclarify these different perspectives, positioning the approach I take as being about‘designing for learning’. I define learning design as follows: A methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing, which is pedagogically informed and makes ef- fective use of appropriate resources and technologies. This includes the design of resources and individual learning activities right up to curriculum-level design. A key principle is to help make the design process more explicit and shareable. Learning design as an area of research and development includes both gathering empirical evidence to understand the design process, as well as the development of a range of resource, tools and activities.The book will provide a rich basis for critiquing design considerations in learning and in-struction. It will make clear both the distinctiveness of learning design as a research in-quiry, but also demonstrate how it is related to and builds on other design work from thefields of learning sciences and Instructional Design.Audience and structure of the bookI see this book as marking an important turning point for research in this area. It will beof broad interest to a number of audiences given the increased use and impact of Informa-tion and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Thus its primary intendedaudience will be existing researchers in the field. In addition, a major second market willconsist of new researchers, reached through the use of the book as a core text for post-graduate programmes (including masters and PhD study) in this area. Finally, I believethat there will be interest in this book from a substantial third group, consisting of teach-ers and trainers, staff developers, learning technology practitioners and managers whowould use the book to orient themselves to these new forms of learning and teaching ineducation.The book sits at the intersection of a number of research fields and attempts to tackle oneof the key challenges facing education – how can teachers design innovative learning ex-periences for learners in an increasingly technology-enhanced context? The primary audi-ence is researchers in the field of technology-enhanced learning/e-learning. This includesthose with a broad interest in researching the use of technology in learning and teaching,as well as individuals with more specialist interests, in particular the research areas of in-structional design, learning design, pedagogical patterns, learning sciences and OER re-search. More broadly, the book will have appeal to researchers in a number of relatedfields such as computer science, education, information sciences and psychology.The book should be of interest in a number of fields, including: educational technology,learning technology, education, open and distance education. It is envisaged that it wouldbe of relevance to a wide range of masters-level courses in this area and associated areasacross Higher and Further Education (including programmes in e-learning, learning tech-nology research, networked learning, educational masters programmes, etc.). There arenow a significant number of masters courses concerned with the use of technology in 1
  10. 10. education (ranging from specialised Instructional Design courses through to e-learningand open and distance education courses). In addition, I anticipate that it will be used as areference text for induction programmes for new lecturers. It will also be of relevance torelated masters in computer science, education, business studies and psychology for ex-ample. This will also be of value to consumers of research such as managers, policymakers, learning technologists and staff developers. In addition because the book coversboth the theoretical and practical aspects of the subject, it will also be of interest to thosewith a support role in institutions, such as: learning technologists, instructional designers,educational developers and librarians.A central argument that will be developed in the book is that effective and systematic ap-proaches to design are essential in today’s complex, technologically rich learning context.Teachers need tools and methods to help guide them to make informed decisions abouttheir designs. As such teachers will also find this book valuable; in particular the descrip-tion and case studies of a range of specific tools and design methods. The book is likelyto be of particular benefit to new teachers, as part of induction programmes for new fac-ulty.Finally, the book will look at design from the perspective of different levels of granularity(from the design of small-scale learning activities through to whole curricula design), aswell as across the whole design lifecycle (from initial concepts through to evaluation). Iwill argue that in most institutions, current structures and processes are woefully inad-equate to take account of the affordances of new technologies and that effective designusing new technologies will require a radical rethink of the whole curriculum process.This has significant implications for institutional strategy and policy. As such the book islikely to be of interest to those in managerial roles within institutions as well as policymakers.The book begins with this introductory chapter, which provides an overview of the bookand a rationale for its relevance. This includes an overview of the context of modern edu-cation. I argue that we now operate in a context of rapid technological change, which isinfluencing the nature of education and its purpose. Boundaries between formal and in-formal learning are changing, as a result I argue that, within this context, the way inwhich we design, support and assess learning needs to change and the nature of educa-tioal technologies. Next the characteristics of today’s learners are discussed drawing onkey research in the field. It provides a brief definition of the term ‘learning design and ar-gues for the need for a new learning design methodology is discussed, which is the mainfocus of the book. Finally the audience and structure of the book are described.Design languages are the focus of chapter two, in particular the use of design notation inmusic, architecture and chemistry are described. The chapter discusses the challenges ofdesigning for learning, and then focusses on learning design, along with the spectrum oflearning design languages that have been developed. The origins of the OU LearningDesign Initiative are described, along with a description of how OULDI adopted aDesign-Based Research (DBR) approach. 2
  11. 11. Chapter three situates the Open Learning Design methodology discussed in this book inrelation to related research fields such as learning sciences, instructional design and ped-agogical patterns.Chapter four provides a review of new open, social and participatory media and gives ex-amples of how these are being used to support different pedagogical approaches. It con-siders the changing digital landscape of education and provides a review of new techno-logies, which includes: i) the characteristics of new technologies, ii) the impact of web2.0 technologies, iii) the use of web 2.0 technologies in education and iv) the impact onpractice. Highlights from a review of web 2.0 tools and practices are then discussed.Chapter five describes the key theoretical perspectives and methodologies that underpinlearning design research. Chapter five describes how the Open Learning Design method-ology described in this book draws on Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and inparticular the notion of Mediating Artefacts. It also considers the nature of theory andmethodology in the field.Chapter six defines Mediating Artefacts, including the different ways in which practicecan be captured and represented. It describes a range of Mediating Artefacts and con-cludes with an illustrative example that demonstrates how an OER created for use in onecontexts can be repurposed.Chapter seven introduces the concept of affordances, discussing the range of definitionsfor the term. It goes on to discuss the affordances of technologies and argues that thesecan be used as a means of structuring and guiding use of particular technologies for dif-ferent learning interventions.Chapter eight gives an overview of different design representations and how they can beused to promote new ways of thinking about designing learning interventions.Chapter nine then goes into more detail on different tools that can be used to visualiseand represent designs, and in particular on the CompendiumLD tool that we have de-veloped. It begins with a description of the ways in which practitioners currently go aboutdesigning learning interventions.Chapter ten critiques the notion of ‘openness’ in terms of open design, delivery, evalu-ation and research. An important aspect of open delivery is the use of OER, chapter ninegives an overview of the Open Educational Resource movement, whilst chapter ten out-lines two recent OER initiatives, namely Olnet and OPAL.Chapter eleven provides a review of the Open Educational Resource movement. This in-cludes a review of OER initiatives and a description of four illustrative examples.Chapter twelve discusses the outputs and findings from the work being undertaken as partof the Olnet and OPAL initiatives.Chapter thirteen returns to the ways in which open, social and participatory media areresulting in new forms of online communities and interactions. It defines the terms andlooks at different pedagogies of e-learning. It concludes with the introduction of a new 1
  12. 12. Community Indicators Framework (CIF), that can be used to guide the design and evalu-ation of new social and participatory media.Chapter fourteen describes the Cloudworks social networking site, and in particular theways in which it is promoting new forms of online interaction, communication and col-laboration.Chapter fifteen reviews a number of pedagogical planners that have been developed toguide practitioners in making informed learning design decisions. These planners, thechapter argues provide more structured support for the design process than the visualisa-tion representations and the use of social and participatory media discussed in earlierchapters.Chapter sixteen is the conclusion chapter, which provides a summary and overview of thebook. It also looks at the implications of this work, along with reflections on its impor-tance and the associated challenges.The process of writing the bookThe writing of the book is intended to be adventurous, in terms of adopting an open ap-proach to the process of writing the book. This consists of an ongoing series of blogposts about the book on my blog.2 These posts include initial ideas around the nature andscope of the book, articulation of particular issues I encounter as I am writing, fleshingout some of the ideas for the chapters and associated references. Coupled to this, period-ically a series of “clouds” on the Cloudworks site,3 invite the broader research com-munity to participate in a discussion around some of research issues and questions thatarise from the content of the book as it develops. Cloudworks will also be used as ameans of adopting an open approach to the literature review associated with the book andthe aggregation of relevant links and references. The blog posts and the clouds provide arich set of associated resources alongside the book, as well as a continued space for ongo-ing discussion once the book is published.AcknowledgementsThis is building on an established area of research, which I have being involved with overthe past ten years or so. In particular it follows on from the development of a LearningDesign toolkit, called DialogPlus,4 as part of a NSF/JISC funded project and more re-cently the OULDI work at the Open University.5 In particular I would like to acknow-ledge the contributions of this work from the folloring people: Andrew Brasher, SimonCross, Paul Clark, Juliette Culver, Nick Freear, Richard Lovelace, Rebecca Galley andPaul Mundin. I would also like to thank Martin Weller for providing invaluable feedbackon draft chapters of the book and also colleagues who provide comments on the draftchapters on Cloudworks.Aspects of the work have been published in chapters and journal articles but this bookprovides a synthesis the work to date and provide a clear position/”take” on the field. In2 http://www.e4innovation.com3 2
  13. 13. addition it aligns this work alongside related learning design research and more broadlyresearch in closely aligned areas (such as instructional design, learning sciences, pedago-gical patterns and OER research). The aim of the book is to provide a synthesis and co-herent overview of learning design as a research area, within the context of an education-al context that is technologically rich and increasingly open. 1