Technology and the
Transformation of Learning
Graduate School of Education
University of Bristol
Stellar Network of Excellence
ICT is not an IT
The modern computer is a multipurpose tool
which incorporates (at least) the following
“Being able to use these ICT configurations is
reliant on a variety of competencies and
literacies [ ] this much broader view of multi-
literacies sees individuals requiring the
language, number and technical skills which
give them access to the evolving digital world,
alongside a set of creative and critical skills
and understanding required to productively
engage with technology use in their lives”
(Selwyn & Facer, 2007, p 11).
A person-plus perspective
The environments in which humans live are thick with
invented artefacts that are in constant use for
structuring activity, for saving mental work, or for
avoiding errors or they are adapted creatively almost
without notice. These ubiquitous mediating structures
that both organise and constrain activity include not
only designed objects such as tools, control
instruments, and symbolic representations like graphs,
diagrams, text, plans and pictures, but people in social
relations, as well as features and landmarks in the
Pea, 1993 p 48
The socio-cultural perspective foregrounds the idea
that all learning is mediated by tools. Tools can be:
• digital (e.g. word-processor, dynamic geometry
software, music composition software, e-mail,
• non-digital (e.g.book, paper and pencil, ruler,
An ICT tool potentially
People have to learn to use the tool in a
What do we know about
• Living is learning
• Learning involves learning to use new tools
• People actively make sense
• All learning is influenced by previous learning
• Learning is social — and language is the
• Teachers orchestrate ‘learning’ in schools —
People actively make sense
It has four sides
they are like train tracks
they are parallel
it’s the colour turquoise
it can be a diamond
All learning is influenced by
Teach: It’s not real, it’s like a
simulation.So it’s a bit of
James: It’s a bit like a game
Teach: It is a bit like a game
Sunita: Don’t die we gotta beat
Learning is social — and
language is the master tool
Nabil: Ehi Sam look at this! Sam, it turns around……
because it’s going minus isn’t it so it goes the
other way .. so it… if say ..if we … wow…….It’s
running away Sam! It’s running away!
Teach: Oh, it’s running away! That was an interesting
thing. What happens when you do a negative?
Nabil: It goes the opposite way.
Resources for learning
• Playing and experimenting
• Interacting with people
• Creative copying
• Learning from texts
• Working alongside more knowledgeable
• Families and friends as knowledge building
Boy1 School's boring because you're
not allowed to ...
Boy2 School's more limited.
Boy3 Yeah. Because they say 'Right,
you've got to do this, you're not
allowed to do this this and this ...’
Boy 1 And you've got a certain time
but ... my mum gives me a
certain time and I say 'Oh, can't I
have 5 minutes more?' and she
gives me about 5 minutes and I
keep on getting 5 minutes
Playing and Experimenting
Janine Yeah I do. I like poking around with them to
see what it looks like.
I like to change them to bright colours. I
don't like the boring screen savers like the
dinosaurs walking across the screen, I'd have
asteroids walking across the screen or
something like that.
Int And how do you find those?
Janine I just look. We go to the control and it gives
us a list of like colours and mouse controls
and things like that. Just look in and see
what they do.
Interacting with people
Boy 2 I got to learn how to use a computer by
my brother. He was telling me ‘You use
it like this’, ‘Do that’ and “Do this’.
Boy 3 And PC magazines often have good
advice and that. I’m always like looking
up things, how to do things.
Boy1 My uncle, he is qualified in IT something,
and he comes once in a while from
Birmingham and teaches me a little bit of
Working alongside more
Int: Do either of you use Excel at home (Alan shakes head)?
Ray: Sometimes. My Dad uses it for his paper work
Int: And when you use it what do you use it for?
Ray: Umm, he uses it, cos when he’s got paper calculations
and some are hard like for him, he puts it in Excel and then
he puts, he circles it and then presses the equal button
and it tells him what the sums are.
Int: What do you use it for?
Ray: Maths homework.
Alistair Well I was sort of fiddling around with it. I was
trying to figure out how it worked but I never
succeeded until I got this one book out of the
library and at the beginning it gave a small list of
a Basic program.
Int And you put it in did you?
Alistair Yeah, it sort of told you how to write some text
to the screen and how to ask for input from the
user. That's what I'd been searching from for
ages. And from that I could read a bit more in
the book, how to use maths in my programming.
The diversity of young people’s activities
with ICT out--of-school tends to be
constrained by their personal interests
In the home, learning could be
characterised as ‘deep’ rather than ‘broad’.
Could schools help overcome these
constraints by providing access to diverse
ICT and Learning
At Home At School
Young person Teacher chooses
chooses activity. activity.
Time for exploration. Insufficient time for
Learning is the
Learning is incidental. purpose.
Expertise celebrated. Expertise not
Designing for learning —
• choose a focused area of the curriculum which
students normally find difficult to learn
• use widely available and yet under-utilised software
• design a learning environment which is informed by
• evaluate the learning initiative — using digital video
Students are motivated by
using ICT in schools
• Analysis of video data showed that in
schools young people can work with
ICT for long periods of time,
investigating their own questions and
experimenting with ideas.
• There is a creative tension between
incidental and intended learning.
Creating a knowledge world
•To enter the world of science you have to learn
to speak, to theorise, to act with the tools of
science. This is the same for music, for English,
for mathematics, for geography, for
•People are central to the creation of these
knowledge worlds which are constantly evolving
because of the invention of new (increasingly
Professional development is
Most of us when we look at ICT we go for what’s safe.
We go to what we know. Whereas this sometimes is
not particularly safe — I like that. Have a go and get it
wrong. The video was the important thing — watching
myself teach and being able to see kids when I’m not
there. I had a very negative attitude to being
observed — OfSTED and others — but this allowed
me to sit and watch and be comfortable with it..it’s an
important process. I can now refine my teaching…sit
back and reflect properly. I never had the chance and
video made it happen.
Teacher-partner in InterActive Education project
as risk taking
Int So why do you think you took the risks?
Marnie Because I could, because I actually had an excuse to,
without messing up. And also the time factor. It’s very
very hard with the curriculum to take any bits of time
out….and risk them……but what it seemed to show me
was that by hands on they learnt the subjects anyway.
The teacher is central
“No educational reform can get off the ground
without an adult actively and honestly
participating — a teacher willing and prepared
to give and share aid to comfort and to scaffold.
Learning in its full complexity involves the
creation and negotiation of meaning in a larger
culture and the teacher is the vicar of the
culture at large. You cannot teacher-proof a
curriculum any more than you can parent-proof
Bruner 1996 p 84
“Professional development requires a
‘breaking out’ of set roles and relationships in
which researchers are traditionally seen as
knowledge generators and teachers
knowledge translators or users”.
One of the major roles of leaders is to
create the context (and culture)
conducive to sharing and creating
knowledge. Much valuable knowledge is
tied up in people in the form of so-called
tacit knowledge. Capitalising on these
individual riches requires a culture that
fosters exchange and collaboration.
as sharing knowledge
You will remember from school other
students preventing you from seeing
their answers by placing their arm
around their exercise book or exam
The problem with hoarding is you end up
living off your reserves. Eventually you’ll
Somehow the more you give away the
more comes back to you.
Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim
The collective wisdom of
crowds (Surowiecki, 2004)
The members of the organisation need to:
• feel independent of one another.
•be diverse enough
There needs to be some formal or informal means of
turning independent judgement and information into