#ocTEL Catching up #1 – introduction

I’ve dedicated part of my blog to ocTEL (http://octel.alt.ac.uk/), a massive online open course or MOOC run by the Association for Learning Technology (http://www.alt.ac.uk/). The reason why I’m taking this course is because I’m currently in my final year of a Master’s in Technology Enhanced Learning, so any additional insights into learning technologies and pedagogies is always welcome; because I’ve agreed to support other people who are taking this course; and because I’ve always wanted to try a MOOC and this seemed a good opportunity.
I work as a learning technology advisor and my role involves supporting people in the use of learning technologies. This predominantly involves supporting our VLE but a lot of the rationale for my Master’s and this MOOC is to get to grips with the pedagogical aspect of learning technology. Since my post is technical in nature it’s also useful to get an academic perspective on these things.


Research proposal

Show me, and I may remember: using multimedia to enhance post-training recall


The author works as a Learning Technology Advisor, providing support for learning and teaching technologies  in a busy school at a northern university. It is currently the largest school in the university with 300 teaching staff offering courses in a range of subjects from health through to social sciences.

The author frequently delivers training, in the form of small group workshops or elbow-to-elbow sessions.  Although this kind of activity has many benefits, on of the major drawbacks is that unless participants practice or use the skills they have learn from the training sessions then recall of these skills deteriorates and further support is needed. This can be inconvenient for staff and inefficient for the author, therefore this study is going to examine the effectiveness of a web-based resource in enhancing outcomes from training.


To develop and evaluate a training resource to support the training of staff to download grade data out of Unilearn, and which will be delivered be delivered in the following formats: group and elbow to elbow training with a supporting web-based resource combining screencasts and an instruction sheet.

The resource will contain both screencasts and instructions sheets because although screencasts have many benefits they can be difficult to navigate, and there is anecdotal evidence that some staff prefer to follow an instruction sheet than watch a video guide.

This research will also help the author understanding user preferences of the staff he supports and will aid developing better resources.

Research methods

Data collection methods: post-intervention questionnaire and semi-structured interviews; it may be possible to collect usage stats for the resource and compare those with number of requests for post-training support.

Sampling method: Willingness to take part indicated by filling in the questionnaire, which contains invitation to interview in questionnaire.

Reliability: precision of instruments will be evaluated by piloting.

Generalisability: it may be that the results are specific to the nature of the group that the author is invesitgating, however it is hoped there may be some recommendations about the use of post-training support resources.

Validity: It is hoped that the validity of the research will be supported by the use of both quantative and qualitative research methods

Bias: Estimator bias/Selection bias

Ethics: All participants consent to take part. All participants are capable of consent. All data is confidentiality,
anonymity of participants will be ensured and  there is freedom to leave the research at any point.

Risk assessment: minimise potential for harm; support for participants and researchers will be signposted.

All appropriate Ethics Panels identified and consulted.

Harvard referencing task

Since most of the resouces I produce are of a quite instrumental nature, the theoretical perspective which has the most affinity for this approach is Behaviorism. Behaviorism is notable because its practitioners were the first to attempt to examine behaviour in a rigorous and systematic manner:

“Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute. The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity, forms only a part of the behaviorist’s total scheme of investigation.” (Watson 1913, p. 158 in Wozniak 1997)

The tenets of behaviorism are as follows:

  • that mind is unobservable and therefore incompatible with the scientific study of behavior;
  • a theory of mind is unnecessary for any theory of behaviour, since behaviour is physical, observeable and testable.
  • behaviour is shaped by enrvironment
  • behaviour which elicits a positive outcome is more likely to be repeated (re-inforcement);
  • behaviour which elicits an unpleasant outcome is less likely to be repeated (punishment);
  • complex behaviour can be built from aggregations of simple behaviours (operand conditioning);
  • behaviour can be generalised to other stimuli.

(Mcleod 2007).
This perspective explains how the complex behaviour of using a particular tool or can be built from reducing the operation of the application into its component parts which the individual practices with the appropriate feedback. This also helps us to understand individuals who have a negative view of their abilities with technology, typically due to a specific, unpleasant experience with technology in the past which has become generalised to other interactions with technology.


Mcleod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology; Skinner | Operant Conditioning. [online] Available from: http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html [accessed: 25 November 2011].
Watson, J.B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, pp. 158-177. in
Wozniak, R.H. (1997) Behaviourism: The Early Years. [online] Available from: http://www.brynmawr.edu/psychology/rwozniak/behaviorism.html [accessed: 25 November 2011].

Design Project

Three ideas:
(1) Developing a learning resource for students to teach skills for using Web 2.0 tools in an academic context;
(2) Developing a learning resource/training session for staff around using web 2.0 in an academic context.
(3) Developing a screen capture tutorial for using Grademark online marking tool.
The first two might be two broad and the latter might be too specific. I’ll explore this further in the design rationale page.

What do I make off blogging?

…or growing up in public!

Laurillard’s conversational framework models learning as an active process in which the student engages in a dialectic with her tutor to acquire and develop her knowledge. Blog tools have an affinity for this kind of activity, if in an asynchronous manner; the student can post about her learning for her tutor to respond to. The obvious point though is that blogging is not a private conversation between student and tutor, but rather a very public activity which any interested party can engage with. This has trememndous affordance for developing personal learning networks – developing a network of people and resources to support learning – but also potentially exposes the student to the risk of censure and castigation from those who are more knowledgable or simply have a psychological disposition to such activities. Conversely the risk is that no-one responds…

This styill leaves blogs as a useful tool for reflective activity because of its immediacy, accessibility and (relative) permanency, and which allows the student to build simple but effective portfolios of reflective activities which can be used to chart academic development.

What is interesting though is developing a voice for this kind of activity. It may not be a requirement to use an rigorously academic style but text-speak will not help establish academic authenticity.

Cooper, M. (2009) The Laurillard Conversational Model & Accessibility, online http://martyncooper.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/the-laurillard-conversational-model-accessibility/ (accessed 3 March 2011)
Downes, S. (2004). Educational Blogging. Online: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0450.pdf (accessed 18 November 2011) in Wintner, R. (2005) Weblogs – A Powerful Tool for Educators. Online: https://www.sbg.ac.at/zfl/eTeaching_Skills/eTeaching_Weblogs/index.html (accessed 1 November 2011)

What I am talking about when I talk about what I do

My main skills cluster around design, which I’m going to arbitarily define as the abilities and/or processes to take bunches of disparate stuff and attempt to bind them together into a coherent form, by identifying commonalities between stuffs or by developing structures which stuff can be sensibly fitted into.
It’s the same cognitive processes whether I’m writing assignments, designing print materials, creating websites or trying to co-ordinate my daughter’s clothes (there is an incredible number of shades of pink which don’t match, with each other or with anything else).
I’m interested in the affordances of constructivist pedagogy for multimedia design and the utility of behaviorism in explaining human interaction with technology.
My technical skils include:

  • Coding in HTML4 and CSS;
  • Adobe Illustrator (illustrationa and design);
  • Adobe Photoshop (image manipulation and design), Adobe Dreamweaver (web design and management);
  • Adobe Indesign and QuarkXPress (desktop pulishing);
  • Adobe Premiere (video production).

Some notes on VLE’s, PLE’s and PLN’s

VLE = Vritual Learning Environment
PLE = Personal Learning Environment
PLN = Personal Learning Network

VLEs – advantages: don’t require high level of technical skill for users; easy to use and access documents.
Disavntages – access can be restrictive (requires log-in), content restricted by teaching structures (eg. modules, courses), limited variety of content types.

PLE – advantages: tailored to individual need and abilities; multiple media types and application types.
Disadvantages: – managing access to content (eg. anyone can see it!); teaching skills to use applicatons; often needs multiple enrolments to different applications.

PLNs – advantages: user contributes to knowledge base and can interact with users with more advanced knowledge.
Disadvantages: exposure to more advanced users can be intimidating; masses of information to be processed.