Week 1 – Concepts and strategies for Learning Technology

This week we’re looking at concepts and strategies for the effective use of Learning Technology – approaches that can benefit learners and enable you to keep pace with innovation. If you are new to the theories underpinning TEL, this may be a chance to ‘ground’ yourself within the learning landscape by exploring the examples in this week’s resources. If you are not new to this it is an opportunity to explore strategies for Learning Technology, the approaches they take and the outcomes they achieve.

This week’s aims

By the end of this week, we aim for you to:

  1. review a range of concepts and approaches relevant to TEL (activity 1.3, explorer activities)
  2. start reflecting on how different approaches could be applied with your learners or to your own learning (activity 1.1)
  3. reflect on a strategy relevant to your own context (activity 1.2 and webinar)

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10 Points

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If you only do one thing…

Share your thoughts on practice and strategy from the first of this week’s activities (choose from activity 1) and join the small group discussion forum on strategies for Learning Technology. Comment on or contribute to at least three posts made by other participants, examining or comparing how your practice relates to theirs.

TEL One Badge

150 Points

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Come and join the live webinar

Presenters: Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, University of Bath and James Little, University of Leeds

This week’s webinar is about sharing approaches to and strategies for what we do and how we do it. We will have two short presentations, introducing examples of approaches to and strategies for Learning Technology. We will then facilitate a discussion with presenters and participants on how to share our approaches, identifying common issues. Following the webinar we invite you to join one of the small group discussion forums on strategies for Learning Technology.

Date/Time: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 – 12:30-13:30 BST (timezone conversion | iCal)

View the live session recording in Blackboard Collaborate: http://go.alt.ac.uk/octel2014-week-1-recording
Watch live session recording of Blackboard Collaborate session on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHEeB4VKjog

See Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou’s slides [.pdf]
See James Little’s slides [.pdf]

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100 Points

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Activities for this week

There are three main activities for this week. You can choose one that is most relevant to you to get started and contribute to the group discussion.

Activity 1.1: My Practice (45 mins)

If you are a teacher, this is an activity for examining and reflecting on your methods of practice. If you are not currently teaching, or work in a teaching support role, think about the last learning situation you were involved with.

The purpose of this task is to examine the different dimensions that affect teaching and learning and to imagine what might happen if the dimensions were altered.

First, think about a learning activity (this can be anything from a written test to a discussion set), and think about which quadrant these activities would lie on the matrix below. For example a written test (in most circumstances) would fall into the individual/ directed quadrant or a lab experiment may be directed/ social if you conduct it in pairs. (Note the above examples are intended only for illustration)

Dimensions that affect teaching and learning

Dimensions that affect teaching and learning

Now try to imagine how you might shift the activities into another quadrant and what other factors would be affected if you did so (e.g. time, resources, physical location, virtual environments). For example if you decide that learning new vocabulary is best achieved more socially through greater opportunities for discussion rather than individually by rote and test, then it would change the dimensions of your practice, as you would need time to schedule these new opportunities into the curriculum, which would affect other activities and resources.

The aim of this activity is to open ourselves to doing things differently, and understand the components and dimensions of learning and teaching practice. It is when we lay the learning process out like this that we can see where technology can best expedite parts of the process or where a change of dimension could improve outcomes.

For yourself, reflect on:

  • How you could achieve your learning outcomes if the activity were conducted differently?
  • Whether this would be an improvement? If not, why not?
  • What technology you would require if you did things differently?

For your learners, consider:

  • At what points of your course are there opportunities to express opinions and instincts?
  • At what point do you have to absorb information and how?
  • At what points do you work with fellow learners?
  • What percentage of the course is assessed individually or as a group?

As well as sharing your own ideas (on your blog or via Twitter, on this forum topic) please read others’ contributions and comment on them. It is really rewarding to receive comments on your blog post, so please do try to reply to others. If you are unsure what to write, a suggestion for framing your comments could be ‘something you like about the post’ and ‘something you would like to change’.

Activity 1.2: Reflecting on strategies for Learning Technology

(60 mins)

This activity is about strategy and how you or someone in your role might contribute to a strategy for using Learning Technology in face to face, blended or online learning context. As an example, you can use a strategy you already have or work to, or a strategy you would like to have. Choose either part A or B.

A: If you have your own example, reflect on these questions:

  • Did you contribute to the strategy, if so, in what capacity?
  • Is the main focus of the strategy on Learning Technology, or if not, what is its main focus?
  • How often is it reviewed and is it flexible enough to adapt as things change?
  • Does the strategy impact on your practice and if so, how? If not, why?
  • Finally, if you were to provide input to a new version, what, if any, changes would you make to it?

B: If you don’t have a strategy yet, consider the following questions:

  • Who and what might your new strategy be for?
  • What key issues could a strategy help with?
  • If you were to contribute to or write a strategy document, what kind of input would you seek?
  • If your strategy could only be 2 pages long, what main headings might you include?
  • Finally, if you are feeling inspired, make an outline draft, no more than two pages.

If you aren’t sure where to start with Learning Technology strategies, don’t panic, just try to tune into the LIVE webinar by Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, University of Bath and James Little, University of Leeds who will give examples of approaches to and strategies for Learning Technology.

As well as sharing your own reflections or strategies (on your blog or via Twitter, in small groups on this forum topic) please read others’ contributions and have a look at examples of strategies posted.

Activity 1.3: Champions and critics of teaching machines
(45-60 mins)

Watch this six-minute video on Teaching Machines, presented by B.F. Skinner (exact date is unverified but believed to be in the 1950s). To put it in historical context, you may find it useful to skim this short history of instructional design, which is itself a historical artefact from the early years of the World Wide Web.

Pick one or two of the following thinkers or approaches and read a bit about them, starting with the resources linked. What would they like about the Teaching Machines approach? What would they oppose, and what alternatives would they propose? Explore the notes made by two or three of your fellow participants. What patterns do you detect?

Please share your ideas on your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic, or via the JiscMail list.


  • Post your reflections and contributions #ocTEL via your blog, Twitter, the online forums or other channels
  • Join the webinar/watch the recording
  • Check out the TEL Explorer activities
  • Tweet about your experience of #ocTEL and find other participants on Twitter

Resources and more to watch, read and research

Resources for online expectations and readiness

Be a TEL Explorer

These activities are additional content, provided to enable you to explore topics that are really relevant to your own practice. Explorer activities are part of the course, so we’d like to encourage you to share your ideas on your blog or via Twitter (using #ocTEL tag), on this forum topic.

Explorer activity 1.4. What’s the theory?

Here are five stories about how technology has enhanced learning. Pick two that interest you. Review the evidence we’ve provided and decide which one you think is more powerful and relevant for you. Write down and share why you feel that way. Then find someone else who has argued for a different example. Discuss with them, and see if you can articulate and settle your differences.

  1. How Eric Mazur brought peer instruction into the lecture theatre using simple ‘clicker’ technology in his lectures – watch Mazur’s 2012 keynote from 18 min 25 sec for about three minutes
  2. How Sugata Mitra designed a physical and social environment around computers so that young children would self-organise and teach themselves new skills through peer interaction and ‘emergent learning’ – watch Mitra’s 2010 keynote
  1. How Stephen Downes and George Siemens pioneered the development of massive open online courses where the participants’ knowledge and understanding is developed and co-created by articulating ‘connectivist’ links between resources and people on the web – watch Howard Rheingold’s interview with George Siemens from 1 min 27 sec for 4 minutes 10 secs and from 17 min 47 secs for 1 minute 50 secs
  2. How Margaret Cox and colleagues developed technology that could simulate the tactile and visual experience of drilling a tooth, so that dentistry students can achieve mastery before they are set loose on our teeth – watch the HapTEL video from 25 seconds for four and a half minutes and the HapTEL booklet (PDF)
  3. How Helen Keegan devised a full Augmented Reality Game (ARG) with a fake identity that unsettled her Advanced Multimedia students and gave them a truly vivid experience of the power of social media and digital identity – watch Keegan’s spotlight talk from 12 min 2 sec for 25 minutes

(If you’re feeling ambitious, or have more time, you can either review three of the stories or, better, find more evidence about the two you have reviewed and see how it colours your original view.)

Explorer activity 1.5: Are you ready for online learning?

There are a range of questionnaires and instruments produced by universities and online learning providers which claim to predict whether you are ‘ready’ for online learning – see the sample list to be provided. e.g.

Complete two or three of these questionnaires depending on the time you have available and make a list of the characteristics they have in common. Publish this list and add a short comment/reflection, considering how the questionnaires:

  • If they can help us plan to introduce learners to online learning and TEL,
  • accurately identify your readiness, and
  • how you might use them with your own students.
  • if you have come across other such questionnaires that you would recommend – please share these too via the communication and publication channels

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250 Points

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3 responses to Week 1 – Concepts and strategies for Learning Technology

  1. comment on 1.4 (1,2) Interesting concepts of peer learning. Whilst it certainly works with children, it challenges the ‘structured’ and ‘safe’ learning environments that are drilled into traditional teaching and learning (children moving around a classroom with computers etc). Additionally, factors such as parents perception of education are also challenged, ‘is my child learning, in the way I understand learning takes place?’. Whilst it is an engaging and child centred learning environment, stakeholders in the ‘traditional’ classroom environment (or should I say, what parents and society perceive as tradition) are much more difficult to persuade. Unless this is ‘structured’ into day and learning activities as part of the timetable (which many teachers actually do). Other factors such as behaviour management (an inner London secondary school with it’s own demographic issues, and associated social & economic consequences, beyond the classroom) and the additional health and safety issues in the classroom come into play, such as bullying, cycberbullying and . Having said that as ‘devil’s advocate’, it is a wonderful learning experience from both child and adult alike, and it certainly does work. I personally enjoy the peer learning aspects of education, such as group work and projects away from the linear desk arrangements, that remain the style in many IT rooms, even if the other classrooms have adopted the group desk styles. Have I raised more questions, such as need for structure and safety, or change management in school leadership? Or a debate on this particular aspect of learning?

  2. comment on 1.5 , I guess I only attempted the 2 and 4 surveys which seem very similar and have a thread running through of independent learning and self motivated, computer familiarity and time flexibility (your own). With a reliance on a ‘scaffolding’ or guided approach to learning. There are probably more but I couldn’t connect to the others (errors).

  3. These questionnaires assess suitability using the same broad headings:

    Adequate access to computer and the internet
    Degree of digital/computer literacy
    Possession of necessary learning style
    Willingness to participate online
    Self-discipline and suitability for independent learning
    Particular need such as distance contraints etc
    They are all easily and quickly completed online and they all gave a suitability rating or ‘answer’. All four offered some useful feedback.

    Some of the questionnaires were more leading than others. For example, the Illinois Online Network tool exacted a total of 12 simple Yes or No answers and it was easy to see which were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. There was, however, some useful feedback if an unsuitable student was to answer honestly.

    The Penn State University was a better assessment tool. There were more questions and they were more thought-provoking which would arguably elicit more ‘honest’ answers.

    Tools for assessing suitability for online learning could help a student consider their readiness for online learning if they answered honestly and were careful to read the feedback and advice offered after completion. Student responses would help a Course Director judge if a blended learning approach would be likely to succeed, but I would advocate the tool to be used in conjunction with other decision making processes.

    One way of using such tools would be as ‘before’ and ‘after’ questionnaires. Students would complete the assessment tool and then participate in some online or blended learning. The students and staff could then revisit the responses to see how accurate they were at predicting. They could also complete the same, or slightly modified, questionnaire after the online learning pilot, to see how much their answers had changed.

    Another online suitability test is at Mildred Elley