Week 6: Communal Constructivism – Introducing the concept

"Builders" by Roger Reuver. Creative Commons licence CC BY

“Builders” by Roger Reuver. Creative Commons licence CC BY

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 6 Question

Make a post introducing a collaborative intelligence concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of collaborative intelligence. Collaborative intelligence concepts might include:

Distributed intelligence; Crowdsourcing; Collective intelligence; Situated cognition; Peer-to-peer learning; Communities of practice; Socratic dialogue; Community and collaboration tools; Wikis; Blogs; Or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

The fifth of the seven “e-affordances” is introduced in week 6 of the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC. It is the turn of collaborative intelligence which describes a process whereby knowledge is co-created and co-produced by a collective of individuals. The concept that I would like to introduce is communal constructivism.

Communal constructivism is a term that was first introduced in 2001 by Holmes and colleagues and they defined it as:

…an approach to learning in which students not only construct their own knowledge (constructivism) as a result of interacting with their environment (social constructivism), but are also actively engaged in the process of constructing knowledge for their learning community. (Holmes et al., 2001)

Drawing comparisons to Vygotsky’s (1978) theories and social constructivism, Leask & Younie (2001) argue that communal constructivism is significantly different to social constructivism in a number of ways:

  • the emphasis on communal building of knowledge (rather than the individual);
  • drawing on actual and real situations (rather than ideal or theoretical situations) through contacting communities with specialist knowledge around the world, to build this knowledge;
  • the integral role that technology plays in the high-quality application of communal constructivist approaches.

Scrimshaw (2001) argues that social constructivism is “best seen as an explanatory and descriptive theory of learning” (p.136), whereas communal constructivism could be perceived as a “pedagogic theory” that is concerned with the “research and understanding [of] the ways in which good learning is brought about” (p.136). However, constructivism is, perhaps, best understood as a “continuum” rather than a “distinct theoretical position” (Doolittle, 1999), though Vygotsky’s (1978) social constructivism perspective has emerged as the dominant and “commonly acceptable form of constructivism” (Pountney, Parr & Whittaker, 2002).

But for Holmes and colleagues (2001), they felt that social constructivism failed to given an adequate account of the way that information and communications technologies (ICT) could “add something else to the learning process”, suggesting that communal constructivism offers a useful explanatory mechanism:

What we argue for is a communal constructivism where students and teachers are not simply engaged in developing their own information but actively involved in creating knowledge that will benefit other students. In this model students will not simply pass through a course like water through a sieve but instead leave their own imprint in the development of the course, their school or university, and ideally the discipline. (Holmes et al., 2001:1).

Girvan & Savage (2010:346) go on to list six core features that have been identified with communal constructivism, these being:

  1. interaction with the environment, group members, and learning objects;
  2. active collaboration;
  3. engagement in knowledge construction;
  4. publishing of knowledge;
  5. transfer of knowledge between groups;
  6. dynamic and adaptive course.

As Leask & Younie (2001:131) conclude, communal constructivism provides a useful explanatory mechanism to account for the ways in which ICT brings something extra to the learning process.


Doolittle, P.E. (1999). “Constructivism: The Career and Technical Education Perspective”. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 16(1). Available at: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JVTE/v16n1/doolittle.html [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Girvan, C. & Savage, T. (2010). “Identifying an appropriate pedagogy for virtual worlds: A Communal Constructivism case study”. Computers & Education, 55(1), pp. 342–349. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.01.020 [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Holmes, B., Tangey, B., FitzGibbon, A., Savage, T. & Mehan, S. (2001). “Communal Constructivism: Students constructing learning for as well as with others”. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) 2001 Conference, Orlando, FL, 5-10 March 2001. Available at: https://www.cs.tcd.ie/publications/tech-reports/reports.01/TCD-CS-2001-04.pdf [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Leask, M. & Younie, S. (2001). “Communal Constructivist Theory: Information and Communications Technology Oedagogy and Internationalisation of the Curriculum”. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 10(1-2), pp. 117-134. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14759390100200106 [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Pountney, R., Parr, S. & Whittaker, V. (2002). “Communal Constructivism and Networked Learning: Reflections on a Case Study”. Proceedings from Networked Learning 2002, University of Sheffield, 26-28 March 2002. Available at: http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2002/proceedings/papers/30.htm [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Scrimshaw, P. (2001). “Communal Constructivist Theory: A Response to Leask & Younie”. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 10(1-2), pp. 135-141. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14759390100200107 [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Week 5: Learning Analytics – Introducing the concept

"Super Crazy Dashboard" by Aaron Pareckl. Creative Commons licence CC BY

“Super Crazy Dashboard” by Aaron Pareckl. Creative Commons licence CC BY

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 5 Question

Make a post introducing a recursive feedback concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of recursive feedback. Recursive feedback concepts might include:

Formative assessment; Continuous assessment; Criterion-referenced (versus norm-referenced) assessment; Intelligent tutors; Educational data mining; Learning analytics; Dashboards and mashups; Quizzes; Computer adaptive testing; Diagnostic testing; Peer review; Automated writing evaluations; Or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

Week 5 of the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC takes us to the fourth of the seven “e-affordances”. This time we are looking at the notion of recursive feedback – this is suggestive of feedback that is timely and can include continuous machine-mediated human assessment from multiple perspectives (peers, self, teacher, parents, invited experts etc.). The concept that I would like to look at that could potentially play a very powerful role in recursive feedback approaches is learning analytics (LA).

The notion of learning analytics (LA) is a relatively new one, though it may have its’ early roots in “business intelligence”, a term created by H.P. Luhn in 1958 (Cooper, 2012b). Like many new terms, there has been a number of attempts to try and define it. The problem with defining any “buzz word”, as we have seen with digital literacy, is that over-use and “band-wagon jumping” reduces the specificity of the word or phrase into an “empty shell” definition (Baume, 2012) – by that, such definitions need to be “filled up” or fully developed before it can be applied to policy, strategy and practice. The gamut of LA definitions currently include:

…is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs (SOLAR, 2011:4).

Analytics is the use of data, statistical analysis, and explanatory and predictive models to gain insights and act on complex issues (Bichsel, 2012:6).

Analytics is the process of developing actionable insights through problem definition and the application of statistical models and analysis against existing and/or simulated future data (Cooper, 2012:3).

Cooper’s (2012) definition sees analytics as three activities: 1) data provision, 2) interpretation and visualisation and 3) actions based on insights.

SOLAR’s “Open Learning Analytics” (2011) proposal associates learning analytics with the type of “big data” that is being used in “business intelligence”, a term that is used to describe this intersection of data and insight. When applied to the education sector, these analytics fall into two broad “schools of thought”: learning (course and departmental levels) and academic (institutional, regional, national and international levels).

Greller & Drachsler (2012) suggest that learning analytics is made up of “soft” (e.g. society) and “hard” (e.g. data) “critical dimensions”. However, they warn against technological (i.e. biometrics), ethical (i.e. data surveillance), legal (i.e. privacy), social (i.e. exploitation of data for commercial purposes), and human (competencies in making sense of data) issues and constraints that could undermine the LA project. Buckingham Shum (2012:6), on the other hand, argues that “data is not neutral” and is “infused with human judgment” and it would be naive of us to think that the data we hold is wholly accurate, correct or complete, or “data fragmentation” as Miller & Mork (2013) would describe it. However, Pardo & Siemens (2014:443) suggest that a way forward in dealing with privacy and ethical issues is to look at other areas, such as medical research, with a view of “analyzing the possibility of translating some of the policies used in those fields to learning analytics”.

We currently use the rudimentary learning analytics tools within our virtual learning environment (VLE) to monitor student engagement with the course. This is especially useful with our first year students as they transition from school or Further Education (FE) to Higher Education (HE) and provides tutors with an “early warning system” to enable them to offer proactive interventions. The flip-side to this around maintaining healthy student attrition and retention rates which, in itself, is linked to student fees. As the 2011 Horizon Report in Higher Education (Johnson et al., 2011) notes, learning analytics has the “considerable potential to enhance teaching, learning, and assessment”.


Baume, D. (2012). “Digital Literacy and Fluency: SEDA initiatives supporting an enlightened approach to Academic Development in the field”. Educational Developments, 13(2), pp. 6-10. Available at: http://www.seda.ac.uk/resources/files/publications_129_Ed%20Devs%2013.2%20v3%20%28FINAL%29.pdf [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Bichsel, J. (2012). Analytics in Higher Education: Benefits, Barriers, Progress and Recommendations (Research Report). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE. Available at: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERS1207/ers1207.pdf [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Buckingham Shum, S. (2012). Learning Analytics: UNESCO IITE Policy Briefing (Draft). Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK: Milton Keynes. Available at: http://people.kmi.open.ac.uk/sbs/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/UNESCOIITE-LearningAnalytics.v4.pdf [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Cooper, A. (2012a). “What is Analytics? Definition and Essential Characteristics”. Analytics Series, 1(5). Bristol: JISC CETIS. Available at: http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2012/521 [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Cooper, A. (2012b). “A Brief History of Analytics”. Analytics Series, 1(9). Bristol: JISC CETIS. Available at: http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2012/529 [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Greller, W. & Drachsler, H. (2012). “Translating Learning into Numbers: A Generic Framework for Learning Analytics”. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), pp. 42-57. Available at: http://www.ifets.info/journals/15_3/4.pdf [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A. & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report: Higher Education Edition. The New Media Consortium: Austin, Texas. Available at: http://redarchive.nmc.org/publications/horizon-report-2011-higher-ed-edition [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Miller, H.G. & Mork, P. (2013). “From Data to Decisions: A Value Chain for Big Data”. IT Professional, 15(1), pp. 57-59. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/MITP.2013.11 [Accessed 20.2.2015].

Pardo, A. & Siemens, G. (2014). “Ethical and Privacy Principles for Learning Analytics”. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(3), pp. 438-450. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12152 [Accessed 20.2.2015].

SOLAR. (2011). Open Learning Analytics: An Integrated & Modularized Platform. SOLAR. Available at: http://solaresearch.org/OpenLearningAnalytics.pdf [Accessed 20.2.2015].

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Week 4: Digital Literacy – Introducing the concept

Rosetta Stone

“*rosetta.stone” by Elsabeth.Skene. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 4 Question

Make a post introducing a multimodal meaning concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of multimodal meaning. Multimodal meaning concepts might include:

Multiliteracies; Literacies (in the plural); New media; Digital media; Multimodal knowledge representations; Visual learning; Video learning; Simulations; Learning games; or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

We are now into week 4, half-way through the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC, and the third of the seven “e-affordances” has been introduced: multimodal meaning – which draws upon a variety of literacies, such as multiliteracy, visual literacy, information literacy and such like. This short post will address the concept of digital literacy.

Once you start to scratch the surface of digital literacy, it soon becomes clear that it is an highly contested term, in what Baume (2012a, 2012b) describes as an “empty shell definition” because it places the development of “the definition on to the particular users, and thus increase local ownership” (ibid., 2012b), so that definitional variants spring up all over the place to suit a particular population or agenda.

One of my preferred definitions for digital literacy comes from the work by Martin & Grudziecki (2006) as part of their Pan-European DigEuLit Project (Martin, 2005), who propose that:

… digital literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesise digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action, and to reflect upon this process. (Martin & Grudziecki (2006)

The reason I particularly like this definition is that it expresses digital literacy as being constructed with some depth and breadth. There is some substance behind those words, it is not made up of bland, woolly platitudes – the definition firmly nails it colours to the mast, raising the term well beyond that of a set of competencies. Contrast it, then, with this recent re-interpretation of the term:

Digital literacies are those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society. (JISC, 2014)

I am, however, reminded by Weller (2011) who suggests that definitions “should probably be resisted, and [at] best interpreted as a shorthand term” (p.5). He goes on to argue:

As Wittgenstein argued with the definition of ‘game’ such tight definitions can end up excluding elements that should definitely be included or including ones that seem incongruous. (Weller, 2011:5).

As Buckingham (2008) carefully notes:

… a much broader reconceptualization of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. (ibid., 2008:88)

Thus, the Martin & Grudziecki (2006) definition soon loses its currency as the “improvements in technology mean that the goalposts are continually shifting and thus altering social practices” (Belshaw, 2011:179), and all that we are left with is the JISC (2014) definition of digital literacy that has been stripped to its bare essentials. Mindful of Weller’s (2011) warning and taking the essence of Martin & Grudziecki’s (2006) early definition, Belshaw (2011) has developed eight essential elements of digital literacies:

  1. Cultural
  2. Cognitive
  3. Constructive
  4. Communicative
  5. Confident
  6. Creative
  7. Critical
  8. Civic

Here, Belshaw presents to us a series of principles or precepts that are sustainable which provide the very building blocks of what it means to be digitally literate.


Baume, D. (2012a). “Digital Literacy and Fluency: SEDA initiatives supporting an enlightened approach to Academic Development in the field”. Educational Developments, 13(2), pp. 6-10. Available at: http://www.seda.ac.uk/resources/files/publications_129_Ed%20Devs%2013.2%20v3%20%28FINAL%29.pdf [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Baume, D. (2012b). “Digital literacies and digital fluency – a process of development?”. SEDA SIG blog, 14.11.2012. Available at: http://sedasig.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/digital-literacies-and-digital-fluency-a-process-of-development/ [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Belshaw, D.A.J. (2011). What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation. EdD. Durham, England: Durham University. Available at: http://neverendingthesis.com/doug-belshaw-edd-thesis-final.pdf [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Buckingham, D. (2008). “Defining Digital Literacy: what do young people need to know about digital media?”. In: Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (Eds.), Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

JISC. (2014). Developing digital literacies. JISC InfoKit. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/infokits/digital-literacies/ [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Martin, A. (2005). “DigEuLit – a European Framework for Digital Literacy: A Progress Report”. Journal of eLiteracy, 2(2), pp. 130-136. Available at: http://www.jelit.org/65/ [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Martin, A. & Grudziecki, J. (2006). “DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development”. ITALICS, 5(4), pp. 249-267. Available at: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/italics/vol5iss4/martin-grudziecki.pdf [Accessed 11.2.2015].

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London, England: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/files/thedigitalscholar.pdf [Accessed 11.2.2015].

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Week 3: Partners in Learning – Introducing the concept

"teamwork 5" by D I. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

“teamwork 5″ by D I. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 3 Question

Make a post introducing an active knowledge making concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of active knowledge making. Active knowledge making concepts might include:

Project-based learning; Inquiry learning; Authentic pedagogy; Progressive education; New learning/transformative learning; Participatory learning; Gamification; Prosumers; Knowledge society/economy; Learning for innovation/creativity; Research-based learning; Online project spaces; Makerspaces; or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

Week 3 of the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC now draws its attention to the second of the seven “e-affordances”: active knowledge making. I am reminded by a comment made by Dr William Cope at the beginning of the course where he notes that some of these “e-affordances”, as concepts, have been around for some time. It is here that I want to introduce the concept of Partners in Learning, which is a philosophy and a set of values that my institution wishes to underpin across all of its’ learning, teaching, research, assessment and student engagement activities and processes. The Partners in Learning concept and, indeed, the notion of active knowledge making, itself, draws upon an enterprise that emerge over 200 years ago from Humboldt’s notions of the modern university and that of “organic scholarship”:

The relationship between teacher and learner is … completely different in higher education from what it is in schools. At the higher level, the teacher is not there for the sake of the student, both have their justification in the service of scholarship. (von Humboldt, 1970, [1810])

My institution is not the only Higher Education Institution (HEI) in the United Kingdom (UK) embarking upon “partners in learning” style projects. A number of initiatives, funding opportunities and campaigns have stemmed from the UK’s Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the National Union of Students (NUS) to try and promote student engagement through partnership (Dunne & Zandstra, 2011; Neary & Winn, 2009; NUS, 2012; HEA, 2014; Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014). The NUS has been quite vociferous in “rejecting the student as consumer model” (NUS, 2012:5) and proposes that:

At its roots partnership is about investing students with the power to co-create, not just knowledge or learning, but the higher education institution itself. (NUS, 2012:8)

A conceptual model for students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (Healey, Flint and Harrington 2014).

Figure 1: A conceptual model for students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education (Healey, Flint and Harrington 2014).

A report on behalf of the HEA suggests that the “students as partners” cuts across four broad areas (see Figure 1) in which students can act as partners in learning and teaching:

  • learning, teaching and assessment;
  • subject-based research and inquiry;
  • scholarship of teaching and learning;
  • curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy.

Moreover, the report goes further indicating the different types of strands and agendas that the “students as partners” concept touches upon:

Students as partners is a concept which interweaves through many other debates, including assessment and feedback, employability, flexible pedagogies, internationalisation, linking teaching and research, and retention and success. (Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014:7)

However, whilst it is argued that “all partnership is student engagement”, it is not necessarily the case that “all student engagement is partnership” (ibid., 2014:15). As the HEA and the NUS, in partnership with HEIs, try to make a compelling case for the “student as partners” as a creative enterprise, more prominence is being placed on the importance of presenting “quantifiable information and the achievement of specific outcomes and impacts” (ibid., 2014:10). In the UK, this has taken the form of the National Student Survey (NSS), Key Information Sets (KIS), institutional key performance indicators (KPIs), and the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The challenge, therefore, is how we try and balance these two fundamentally opposing ideologies.


Dunne, E. & Zandstra, R. (2011). Students as Change Agents: New ways of engaging with Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Bristol, England: University of Exeter / ESCalate / The Higher Education Academy. Available at: http://escalate.ac.uk/downloads/8242.pdf [Accessed 7.2.2015].

HEA. (2014). Framework for Partnership in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/students-partners-framework-action [Accessed 7.2.2015].

Healey, M., Flint, A. & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through Partnership: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher-education [Accessed 7.2.2015].

Neary, M. (2010). Student as Producer: Research engaged Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln – User’s Guide 2010-11. Lincoln, England: University of Lincoln. Available at: http://studentasproducer.lincoln.ac.uk/files/2010/11/user-guide.pdf [Accessed 7.2.2015].

Neary, M. & Winn, J. (2009). “Student as Producer: Reinventing the Student Experience in Higher Education”. In: Bell, L., Stevenson, H. & Neary, M. (Eds.). The Future of Higher Education: Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience. London, England: Continuum.

NUS. (2012). A Manifesto for Partnership. London, England: National Union of Students (NUS). Available at: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/campaigns/highereducation/partnership/a-manifesto-for-partnerships/ [Accessed 7.2.2015].

von Humboldt, W. (1970, [1810]). “On the spirit and the organizational framework of intellectual institutions in Berlin, in University reform in Germany”. Minerva, 8, pp. 242-250. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01553214 [Accessed 7.2.2015].

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Week 2: Connectivism – Introducing the concept

"and Rossi" by Anne Petersen. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

“and Rossi” by Anne Petersen. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 2 Question

Make a post introducing a ubiquitous learning concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of ubiquitous learning. Ubiquitous learning concepts might include:

Ubiquitous computing; Cloud computing; Web 2.0; The flipped classroom; Blended learning; Over-the-shoulder learning; Virtual schools; The internet of things; Mobile learning; Social media learning; Networked learning; Informal learning; Lifelong and lifewide learning; Work and community-based learning; Learning management systems; ePortfolios; Collaborative workspaces; MOOCs; or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

The week 2 block on the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC introduces the first of the seven “e-affordances”: ubiquitous learning. Ubiquitous? Because it suggests learning that is “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” (older readers may recall that this was the marketing slogan used in an iconic TV advert of a popular alcoholic drink of the 1970s).

By way of explaining these activities, a number of “learning theories of the digital age” have been proposed: c3-learning (Sims, 2008); rhizomatic learning (Cormier, 2008, 2012, 2014), borrowing the term from Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) work, and its variant mycorrhizae (or wildfire) learning (Engeström, 2007, 2009) which takes its name from the symbiotic relationship between the fungus and that of the roots of the host plant. But chief amongst these is connectivism (Siemens 2005, 2006) underpinned by connective knowledge (Downes, 2005). Connectivism has been conceived as a:

…learning organization whereby there is not a body of knowledge to be transferred from educator to learner and where learning does not take place in a single environment; instead, knowledge is distributed across the Web, and people’s engagement with it constitutes learning (Kop, 2011:20).

The origins of connectivism can be located within the theories of “chaos, network, and complexity and self-organisation” (Siemens, 2005:3) and has a couple of distinctive features. Firstly, learning can reside in “non-human appliances” (such as databases, devices and tools); and secondly, learning is about “creating paths” to knowledge, when required, rather than acquisition of knowledge itself (Anderson, 2010:34), or as Siemens (2005:5) puts it: ” the pipe is more important than the content within the pipe”. The connectivist learning theory has generated considerable debate between its advocates (Mak, 2013) and its sceptics (Kop, 2011; Barry, 2013) since its inception.

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), perhaps, best represents the concept of connectivism in practice. Though I should be clear and stipulate that the cMOOC variant is better aligned to connectivist principles than the xMOOC, which has long been perceived as being more instructivist in its approach and application. Though current discourse suggests that this is, perhaps, an over simplification of the xMOOC/cMOOC dichotomy as it conceals much more “nuanced approaches” and practices that are yet to be fully understood (Bayne & Ross, 2014).

Much research has been done on a variety of MOOC courses and platforms that have examined course engagement that has witnessed learners in active participation, passive participation or lurking (Milligan, Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013); and the development of “new digital literacies and learning roles” to prepare and expose learners to “open, decentred practices and distributed expertise” to enable learners to participate in these massive, open spaces more effectively and efficiently (Stewart, 2013) – it had been noted that more work needed to be done to provide the necessary scaffolding to support learners who were very new to these over-abundant, uncertain and confusing environments (Downes, 2012b), as well as understanding how learners engaged in these spaces so that more appropriate and effective pedagogies could be developed to exploit these educative and technological opportunities (Wintrup, Wakefield & Davis, 2015; Wintrup, Wakefield, Morris & Davis, 2015).


Anderson, T. (2010). “Theories for learning with emerging technologies”. In: Veletsianos, G. (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. Available at: http://www.aupress.ca/books/120177/ebook/02_Veletsianos_2010-Emerging_Technologies_in_Distance_Education.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Barry, W. (2013). “Connectivism: Theory or Phenomenon?”. The Accidental Technologist blog, 29.4.2013. Available at: http://www.waynebarry.com/blog/?p=702 [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Bayne, S. & Ross, J. (2014). The Pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): The UK View. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/elt/the_pedagogy_of_the_MOOC_UK_view [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Cormier, D. (2008). “Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum”. Dave’s Educational Blog, 3.1.2008. Available at: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/ [Accessed 13.3.2013].

Cormier, D. (2012). Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJIWyiLyBpQ [Accessed 13.3.2013].

Cormier, D. (2014). Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum. Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU). Available at: https://p2pu.org/en/courses/882/rhizomatic-learning-the-community-is-the-curriculum/ [Accessed 18.2.2014].

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by B. Massumi. London, England: The Athlone Press.

Downes, S. (2005). “An Introduction to Connective Knowledge”. Stephen’s Web, 22.12.2005. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2012a). “What a MOOC Does – #Change11”. Half an Hour, 1.3.2012. Available at: http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/what-mooc-does-change11.html [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2012b). “Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better”. Stephen’s Web, 12.3.2012. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/post/57725 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2013). “The Quality of Massive Open Online Courses”. MOOC Quality Project, 13.5.2013. European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL). Available at: http://mooc.efquel.org/week-2-the-quality-of-massive-open-online-courses-by-stephen-downes/ [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Engeström, Y. (2007). “From Communities of Practice to Mycorrhizae”. In: Hughes, J., Jewson, N. & Unwin, L. (Eds.), Communities of Practice: Critical Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Engeström, Y. (2009). “Wildfire Activities: New Patterns of Mobility and Learning”. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 1(2), pp. 1-18. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4018/jmbl.2009040101 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Kop, R. (2011). “The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course”. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), pp. 19-38. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882/1689 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Mak, S.J. (2013). “Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory?”. Learner Weblog, 30.4.2013. Available at: https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/is-connectivism-a-new-learning-theory-2/ [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A. & Margaryan, A. (2013). “Patterns of Engagement in Connectivist MOOCs”. MERLOT: Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp. 149-159. Available at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/milligan_0613.pdf [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Siemens, G. (2005). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1), January 2005. Available at: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Siemens, G. (2006). “Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?”. elearnspace, 12.11.2006. Available at: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism_self-amused.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Sims, R. (2008). “Rethinking (e)learning: a manifesto for connected generations”. Distance Education, 29(2), pp. 153-164. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01587910802154954 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Stewart, B. (2013). “Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?”. MERLOT: Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp. 228-238. Available at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/stewart_bonnie_0613.pdf [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Wintrup, J., Wakefield, K. & Davis, H. (2015). Engaged Learning in MOOCs: A Study using the UK Engagement Survey. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/10346 [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Wintrup, J., Wakefield, K., Morris, D. & Davis, H. (2015). Liberating Learning: Experiences of MOOCs. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/10315 [Accessed 31.1.2015].

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Week 1: The Philosophy vs. The Application of Pedagogies

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 1 Question

We don’t want to criticize didactic/mimetic pedagogy. It had its place in its time. It has done its job, sometimes appropriately, and in some circumstances it may still be appropriate. However, our focus in this learning module is on the affordances offered by e-learning environments for collaborative/reflexive learning. Not that the underlying ideas of collaborative/reflexive learning are new—in fact, many of them are quite old. It’s just that they may now be easier to realize, with the application of a new generation of e-learning technologies.

What do you think? When is didactic/mimetic or collaborative/reflexive pedagogy more appropriate? Or when has/does the one worked/work better than the other? Speak from your own personal experience, and respond to these questions in your post.

"Classroom" by William Creswell. Creative Commons licence CC BY

“Classroom” by William Creswell. Creative Commons licence CC BY

My Response

As the title of the week 1 block on the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC suggests, it’s about conceptualising learning, and what a stellar cast of philosophers, educators and practitioners we have: Confucius (c.500 BC), Aristotle (c.350 BC), St. Benedict (1949, [c.530AD]), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1921, [1762]), John Dewey (1963, [1938]), and Maria Montessori (1964, [1912]). An honourable mention should (and must) be conveyed to James Paul Gee (2005) as he also features in this extraordinary dramatis personae of thought leaders.

I was struck by the very different approaches towards the didactic/mimetic pedagogies which seem to range from learning through sensory information and curiosity (e.g. Confucius, Rousseau & Montessori) through to something that is akin to indoctrination (or to use that current political buzzword: radicalisation) (e.g. St. Benedict) and it bears a passing resemblances to the notorious headmaster in Dickens’ “Hard Times“, Thomas Gradgrind, who wishes to “pour facts” in to the “empty little vessels” that are awaiting his instruction. Thus giving rise to this notion of the authoritative and authoritarian “sage on the stage”, or teacher-preacher, whose words and utterances are considered and treated as law:

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim. (Dickens, 2003, [1854]:1)

This got me thinking about how the philosophy of didactic/mimetic pedagogy (i.e. theory) is not necessarily the same as the application of didactic/mimetic pedagogy (i.e. practice), which seems to exist across a liberalist-fundamentalist continuum. We have seen examples of this continuum in politics, religion, sport and fandom, so it calls into question something about our identities, values, ideals and beliefs. For Dewey (1963, [1938]), education was about preparing children to be good citizens, to value their communities and to cherish life – it’s not all about books and facts. Gee (2005) touches on this suggesting the education should be about children having “control, agency, and meaningfulness” and that learning should be “hard work and deep fun”. Drawing upon the ideas of Freire (1970), Illich (1970), and Foucault (1991), Gee makes the following sobering statement:

School has taught people to fear and avoid learning as anorexics fear and avoid food, it has turned some people into mental anorexics. (Gee, 2005)

In this course, we are asked whether the affordances offered by e-learning environments for collaborative/reflexive learning will facilitate a new forms of pedagogies, which will be easier to realise and better inform us as educators. The question is will we make the same mistakes between the philosophy of collaborative/reflexive pedagogy and the application of collaborative/reflexive pedagogy? Will we create new forms of educational tyrannies? Take, for example, learning analytics (LA). On the one hand it could be used as a useful tool for students to reflect on their achievements and plan their learning trajectories. For the tutor, it offers a means to locate which students require extra support and attention and build supportive interventions around this. From a Foucauldian perspective, LA could be conceived as a tool for surveillance and performance management resulting in the misuse and mismanagement of vast data sets relating to both student and staff performance. But then, like a lot of things in life there are shades of light and darkness, we just need to be mindful and respectful of them and ensure that we choose our paths wisely.


Aristotle. (c.350 BC). Poetics. Translated by S.H.Butcher. Available at: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.html [Accessed 25.1.2015].

Confucius. (c.500 BC). The Analects. Available at: http://classics.mit.edu/Confucius/analects.html [Accessed 25.1.2015].

Dewey, J. (1963, [1938]). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Collier Books.

Dewey, J. (1956, [1915]). The School and Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Dickens, C. (2003, [1854]). Hard Times. London, England: Penguin Books.

Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by A. Sheridan. London, England: Penguin Books.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by M. Bergman Ramos. London, England: Penguin Books.

Gee, J.P. (2005). Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul: Pleasure and Learning. Melbourne, Australia: Common Ground.

Gee, J.P. & Hayes, E. (2009). “Public Pegagogy through Video Games: Design, Resources & Affinity Spaces”. Game Based Learning, 19.1.2009. Available at: http://www.gamebasedlearning.org.uk/content/view/59/60/ [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. London, England: Marion Boyars Publishing Ltd.

Montessori, M. (1964, [1912]). The Montessori Method: Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in “The Children’s Houses”. Translated by A.E.George. New York, NY: Frederick A Stokes. Available at: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL23543162M/ [Accessed 25.1.2015].

Rousseau, J-J. (1921, [1762]). Emile, or Education. Translated by B. Foxley. London, England: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. Available at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2256 [Accessed 25.1.2015].

St. Benedict. (1949, [c.530AD]). The Holy Rule of St. Benedict. Translated by Rev. B. Verheyen, OSB. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/benedict/rule.html [Accessed 25.1.2015].

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The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC

Having promised myself that I would not do it whilst I am currently embarking on the EdD (Doctorate in Education), I have signed up to do another MOOC course through Coursera. The course, in question, is called “e-Learning Ecologies” and is being run by the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The course is being taught by Dr William Cope and Dr Mary Kalantzis (both Australians working in an American university) from 19 January to 15 March 2015 (around 8 weeks).

Screenshot: e-Learning Ecologies module in Coursera

Screenshot: e-Learning Ecologies module in Coursera

I find myself with a bit of spare time between now and the final taught module on the EdD, which is scheduled for March 2015. Having said that, I am spending the time wisely reading lots of books and articles on professional learning, higher education and various sociomaterialist concepts and theories. The “e-Learning Ecologies” MOOC, I felt, would offer me with a nice little distraction as well as providing me with some ideas and approaches that I could use in my role of a learning technologist. According to the course blurb:

This course introduces innovative approaches to learning and teaching, with a focus on the use of e-learning and social web technologies.

Althought not essential or dependent upon participants completing the course, I suspect some elements of the course has been influenced by the course tutors’ book (Kalantzis & Cope, 2012). The course introduces the notion of the “7 affordances of e-learning ecologies”, which consist of:

  1. Ubiquitous Learning
  2. Active Knowledge Making
  3. Multimodal Meaning
  4. Recursive Feedback
  5. Collaborative Intelligence
  6. Metacognition
  7. Differentiated Learning

As Dr Cope notes, there is nothing particularly innovative with these 7 affordances, indeed some are quite old concepts. What is, of interest, is the ease in which current and emergent educational technologies are able to incorporate those affordances to open up educational opportunities and encounters that are described as “New Learning”. The course team suggest that:

These affordances, if recognized and harnessed, will prepare learners for success in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital information flows and tools for communication in the workplace, public spaces, and personal life. This course offers a wide variety of examples of learning technologies and technology implementations that, to varying degrees, demonstrate these affordances in action.

The MOOC predominately makes use of in-house videos (the course has its own YouTube Playlist), articles (the course makes use of a website that complements the “New Learning” book) and discussion boards. Intriguingly, the course content also resides in a “social knowledge platform” called “Scholar“, which has been devised by Common Ground Publishing. So, the student can participant in either one or both of the platforms (though if you want to gain a certificate, your contributions have to be submitted in the Coursera platform only to qualify). It seems the course team appear to be “fans” of the “Scholar” platform and are conducting research into its use and viability as an education-led learning system.

This is my first non-UK course (virtual or otherwise), so I am excited to see how this is delivered and their approach to teaching the subject matter. What has caught my attention is that the course “supports 3 levels of participation”.  These being:

  1. (O)verview: Spending roughly 1-3 hours / week watching some videos, reading some articles and participating in the forums.
  2. (I)ntermediate: Spending roughly 3-8 hours / week watching some videos, reading some articles, participating in the forums, and posting an original contribution.
  3. (A)dvanced: Spending roughly 8-10 hours / week watching all of the videos, reading all of the articles, participating in the forums, posting an original contribution, and creating a peer-reviewed case study (You would have to do the “Advanced” level to qualify for the verified certificate).

I am aiming to do the Intermediate level where I will be posting my “original” contribution to the Coursera and Scholar platforms as well as my blog, so that you can see what I am up to.


Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. (2012). New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education. 2nd Edition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Coming soon to 2015

“Happy New Year!” by Chris Chabot. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC

“Happy New Year!” by Chris Chabot. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC

There are a lot of exciting things happening for me in 2015. January (with fingers, toes and eyes crossed) will see the publication of The Really Useful #EdTechBook, which I posted about earlier, and will feature my book chapter “‘…and what do you do?': Can we explain the unexplainable?”. I had written another chapter for the #EdTechBook called “Educational Technology in the UK: Tracing our heritage” which didn’t make the finish cut as it didn’t quite fit the overall ethos of the book. I’m planning to redraft that chapter into an article for the Research in Learning Technology journal (thanks for the suggestion David) as I think that article would be a useful reminder, especially to those new to educational technology, as to where learning (or educational) technology in the United Kingdom (UK) originated from and why it has taken such a powerful hold in Higher Education (HE).

I have another book chapter on the horizon with the deliciously lurid title of “Confessions of an Online Distance Learning Junkie: From Personal Experience to Professional Practice” for a new book to be published shortly by Open University Press on enhancing learning and teaching in higher education. It is aimed at helping academic practitioners put Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship applications together; it is neither a manual nor a textbook. The book will speak more towards the contested nature of HE, giving the reader things to think about rather than telling them what to think. Furthermore, the book will have contributions from both students as well as academics.

March 2015 will see the completion of the seventh and final taught module of the Doctorate in Education (EdD) and then the clock starts ticking on the thesis stage of the EdD. This, of course, is dependent upon my research proposal being accepted and for my ethics application to be given the green light. My EdD research will explore ways in which the ‘whole’ academic in higher education invest themselves through professional learning and the conditions in which this takes place. I am framing this research within a sociomaterial perspective. I will be using this blog and other social media channels to develop an autoethnographic account of my own professional learning activity, which will critically situate me as a “technologist-researcher” (Barry, 2014) with the participants and the organisation within a social, political, economic and cultural context (Spry, 2001:710), thus I “become part of the inquiry” (Patton, 2002:116) given that I am already inducted in a culture that provides educational professional development (EPD) for academic staff.

So watch this space…


Barry, W. (2014). The Learning Technologist’s Tale: A Liminal and Intellectual Pilgrimage. Assignment submitted for the Doctorate in Education. Canterbury, England: Canterbury Christ Church University.

Patton, M.Q. (2002). Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods. 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Spry, T. (2001). “Performing autoethnography: An embodied methodological praxis”. Qualitative Inquiry, 7(6), pp. 706-732. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/107780040100700605 [Accessed 28.11.2014].

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The Really Useful #EdTechBook

"The Really Useful #EdTechBook" by David Hopkins. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

“The Really Useful #EdTechBook” by David Hopkins. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

Back in July 2014, I was approached by David Hopkins to participate in a collaborative book venture that would be written by learning technologists for learning technologists, and so The Really Useful #EdTechBook was born. David, as the book’s editor, has done a sterling job of assembling some very creative and talented individuals to participant in the production of this book and I feel very honoured and humbled to be amongst them.

We are hoping that the book will published on 28th January 2015 and will be available in both ebook and paper versions. The ebook is already available for pre-order through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. As part of the book’s pre-launch publicity, David interviewed a number of the authors, myself included, to find out about their use of technologies in their personal and professional lives. You can find out more about the book, the chapter authors, the launch details, the world of learning and educational technology, and other aspects of The Really Useful #EdTechBook by joining our Google+ community.

So what is the book about? I shall leave it to the book’s editor, David Hopkins, to explain:

Technology has invaded our working and recreational lives to an extent that few envisaged 20 or 30 years ago. We’d be fools to avoid the developments in personal, mobile, and wearable technology. Even if we tried we’d still have to deal with other developments and distractions in classroom and learning technology like smart boards, blogs, video, games, students-led learning, virtual learning environments, social media, etc. More than this, however, is how the advances in technology, the economic and physical miniaturisation of computing devices, have impacted education: the students, the teachers, the classrooms, the spaces, the connections, the aspirations, etc.

‘The Really Useful #EdTechBook’ is about experiences, reflections, hopes, passions, expectations, and professionalism of those working with, in, and for the use of technology in education. Not only is it an insight into how, or why, we work with these technologies, it’s about how we as learning professionals got to where we are and how we go forward with our own development.

In this book respected individuals from different education sectors write about many aspects of learning technology; from Higher Education (Sue Beckingham, Peter Reed, Dr David Walker, Sheila MacNeil, Sarah Horrigan, Terese Bird, Wayne Barry, Inge de Waard, and Sharon Flynn), Further Education (Rachel Challen and James Clay), to Museums (Zak Mensah),  workplace learning (Jane Hart, Julian Stodd, Julie Wedgwood, and Lesley Price) and primary schools / early years education (Mike McSharry and Jo Badge). With a foreword written by Catherine Cronin, from the National University Ireland, Galway, the breadth and depth of the experiences here are second to none.

The knowledge these leading learning practitioners, researchers, and professionals, share, under the same cover, is a unique opportunity for you to read about the variety of approaches to learning technology, the different perspectives on the same technology, and how technology is impacting our culture and learning infrastructure, from early-age classrooms to leading research Universities and from museums and workplace learning providers. It is about our passion for our work and our desire to make our work better through our own learning and development.

What of my book chapter? It’s called ‘“…and what do you do?”: Can we explain the unexplainable?‘. Here is the chapter abstract to whet your appetite:

Unlike other occupations, the job title of ‘learning technologist’ does not elicit the same kind of shared, universal understanding of most other professions, such as teacher, doctor or solicitor. We find that even within our own communities of practice that it is a little difficult to explain or define what it is that we do. Furthermore, Browne & Beetham (2010) note in their report that there are “varying nuances” between the terms ‘learning technology’ and ‘educational technology’. Thus, exasperating an already complex and divergent field that is still trying to make sense of the confusing and contradictory nature surrounding the terminology and interpretation of names and job titles that have been generated through the likes of definitions, lists, and socially constructed discourses.

In this book chapter, through my own personal experience, I will try and derive some sense of meaning behind those troublesome terms and consider how this impacts on how we, as learning professionals, are perceived from within and outside of our professional communities and institutions.


The Stories that Learning Technologists tell

I wrote five articles called “Who are the Learning Technologists?” which was inspired by a series of articles written by David Hopkins (Hopkins, 2009). David was very kind and gracious to critique my articles (Hopkins, 2014) which seemed to have generated a lot of interest and debate about the role and nature of a learning technologist.

It was in David’s critique that he brings to my attention another learning technologist, Sarah Horrigan, and I would like to recite a quote that David took from Sarah’s blog entry:

The best learning technologists aren’t all about the technology. They’re not all about the pedagogy either. They walk the line between the two and care about what they do and what they *could* do as well. And if you come across a really good learning technologist – talk to them. They’ll fire you up so that you’ll believe you could do anything with your teaching!” (Horrigan, 2012, para 10).

Sarah goes on to explain what she thinks are those qualities that maketh a learning technologist:

  • Curious
  • Playful
  • Connected
  • Proactive
  • Passionate
  • Learners

In a similar vein, Preskett (2011) asks the question:

What are the qualities I need to possess to have the maximum positive impact? By positive I mean giving people a good understanding of key issues with regard to LTs and allowing them to make informed decisions on their appropriate use” (Preskett, 2011, para 2).

Though Preskett’s list of qualities is perhaps a little more pragmatic than the ones offered by Horrigan:

  • Good communication/good teaching
  • Finding opportunities to spread the word
  • Adapting your message to the audience
  • Initiating and taking control of your own learning

Indeed others have attempted to list those qualities that are inherent in a learning technologist’s DNA (Beetham, Jones & Gornall, 2001; Conole, 2004). What I am struck with by David and Sarah’s blog posts are the stories that learning technologists tell as a way of making some sense of our role as we see it (which would vary according to our institutional contexts) – if we can articulate what we do to ourselves, it makes it a little easier to articulate what we do to others. It’s a way of addressing our own “ontological insecurity” (Unwin, 2007) within the Higher Education sector. It’s is a way of positioning ourselves within a much wider political and societal perspective (i.e. The Dearing Report [NCIHE, 1997]), especially in a disruptive and turbulent climate of change and uncertainty. Indeed, Alison Hudson (2009) devotes a whole chapter entitled “Professional autobiographical narrative: insights into the practices of a new professional” in her doctoral thesis which positions herself as a “new professional” within a changing political and educational landscape.

These narratives are currently on my mind at the moment as I begin my own doctoral “pilgrimage” and will need to look at my role as technologist-researcher within it and try to make some sense of it within a much wider political and historical perspective. I will need to consider my own positionality, which is currently changing and shifting as my liminal and intellectual pilgrimage begins to navigate its way through the “swampy lowlands“.


Beetham, H., Jones, S. & Gornall, L. (2001). Career Development of Learning Technology Staff: Scoping Study Final Report. JISC Committee for Awareness, Liaison and Training Programme. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/reports/2001/cdssfinalreport.aspx [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Browne, T. & Beetham, H. (2010). The positioning of educational technologists in enhancing the student experience. Report funded by The Higher Education Academy under their Call4: Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the use of Technology. Oxford, England: Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: http://repository.alt.ac.uk/831/ [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Conole, G. (2002). “The evolving landscape of learning technology”. Association for Learning Technology Journal (ALT-J), 10(3), pp. 4-18. Available at: http://repository.alt.ac.uk/386/ [Accessed 23.10.2013].

Conole, G. (2004). “The Role Of Learning Technology Practitioners And Researchers In Understanding Networked Learning”. In: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Networked Learning 2004. Lancaster University, England, UK, 5-7 April 2004. Available at: http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2004/proceedings/symposia/symposium1/conole.htm [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Conole, G., Ingraham, B. & Cook, J. (2003). “Learning technology as a community of practice”. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 11-13 September 2003. Available at: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00003204.htm [Accessed 21.10.2013].

Hopkins, D. (2009). “What is a Learning Technologist?”. Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, 13.8.2009. Available at: http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/blogging/what-is-a-learning-technologist/ [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Hopkins, D. (2014). “‘Who Are The Learning Technologist?’ by @HeyWayne”. Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, 18.2.2014. Available at: http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/elearning/who-are-the-learning-technologist-by-heywayne/ [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Horrigan, S. (2012). “On being a learning technologist… and farewell!”. Learning Technologies at the University of Sheffield blog, 18.12.2012. Available at: http://learningtechnologiesteam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/on-being-learning-technologist-and.html [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Hudson, A. (2009). New Professionals and New Technologies in New Higher Education? Conceptualising struggles in the field. PhD. Umeå University, Sweden. Available at: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:236168/FULLTEXT01 [Accessed 24.11.2014].

National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE). (1997). Higher Education in the Learning Society (Dearing Report). London, England: HMSO. Available at: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/ncihe/ [Accessed 22.11.2013].

Preskett, T. (2011). “What a Learning Technologist Needs to Be Good At”. Educational Technology & Change Journal, 24.2.2011. Available at: http://etcjournal.com/2011/02/24/what-a-learning-technologist-needs-to-be-good-at/ [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Unwin, A. (2007). “The professionalism of the higher education teacher: what’s ICT got to do with it?”. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(3), pp. 295-308. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562510701278641 [Accessed 22.10.2013].

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