Week 3 – Materials & Platforms for Learning Technology


Having just returned from a period of sickness and a much needed rest over Bank Holiday, I needed to catch up with ocTEL again. So I have decided to work backwards starting with Week 3 – Material and Platforms for Learning Technology. In this blog I am reviewing the following:

Screen shot 2010-09-21 at 3.59.53 PMAs mentioned this is my first day back from illness etc and quite honestly my brain was feeling pretty mush. However, the Khan Academy tool turned my mushy brain into an active one very quickly. Thinking about the site from a learner perspective, and deciding to try my hand at learning Computer Programming, I found it an extremely stimulating and enjoyable experience. The video tutorials are clear and are pitched at a level that would appeal not only to students but also to fuddy duddies like me, who have no experience of programming. Very quickly I had mastered the code for drawing a rectangle. The fact that I could also switch on the interactive transcript also allowed me to follow along. This would be useful for those students that either have auditory problems or indeed for those students who struggle with comprehension. I could pause the tutorial at any time and therefore scroll back on the transcript to review what had been said. As with most big kids the fact that I could earn points and gain badges spurred me on to complete the activities and this idea of gamification will appeal to students. It was useful to have the ability to ask questions of the community and also the ability to share tips with others, therefore becoming a social network of learning. All in all a useful learning tool.

ELearning ExamplesThis site is the curation of the best multimedia learning examples. I found this a fascinating site to explore. The interactive elements of the the content really engaged me. I decided to take a look at the Interactive Museum page and chose to take a look at the The Secret Annex Online: Discover Anne Franks Hiding place. As many millions do, I remember very well the story of Anne Frank as a child, but have never been able to visit the Anne Frank museum. This interactive learning module provided me with the ability to explore the tiny hiding place that the Frank and Pels family had to endure for all those years. There are also additional links embeded, which takes you to additional material such as biographies. There is also audio and video commentary as the learner moves through the various rooms etc. From a learning perspective this is such an engaging tool. It really brings the history to life and allows the user to stop and start and jump to the points that they need and allows the learner to explore at their own pace, as well as filling in a lot of detail about the families lives. The only downside is there is a lack of transcription, which will obviously have an impact on those students with any kind of hearing impairment as well as navigation may be an issue for those students with motor skills difficulties. However, all in all a thoroughly engaging and immersive experience.

iEthicsThe final site is iEthiCS,  which is a Virtual Patient Scenario from St George’s University London and uses video to teach realistic case-based and clinically contextualised ethics and law education. Not being a medicial expert of course, a lot of it went right over my head! I enjoyed the concept and am familar with this type of scenario based resource. Learners enjoy this type of learning experience, as they can find there own pathway through. The videos were clear and there is also a text based option as well, which was useful as I also tried it out on a tablet and naturally found that the videos were not compatable. However, the navigation still functioned on this type of device well. The only issue I thought was there was not enough feedback to the student. It was difficult to see how the student was also being assessed about their knowledge along the way, so this would be a good feature to build into the resource. Students could very quickly get bored, as there is only limited amounts of interactivity. I’m not sure, therefore, that it would be a resource that they would want to return to once used.

All in all I enjoyed exploring these three resources, and it was a useful exercise to see how online resources can both engage learners and aid their learning, but it was also a reminder of how important it is to design the right structure and content when producing these types of resources in order for students to gain the best out of them. Now to build my own!


Activity 1.3: Champions and critics of teaching machines #ocTEL

Image of Socrates from Louvre

Some rights reserved by derekskey

I thought I would have a go at discussing Activity 1.3 on the ocTEL course. Firstly, having watched B.F. Skinner’s video on Teaching Machines, my immediate thought was here is the start of personalised learning! The children were able to monitor their own progress, work at their own pace, build on their knowledge in small steps, with the teacher being a facilitator of learning rather than the expert. It also struck me as to why, therefore, personalised learning systems are still yet to be fully developed, when here in the 1950s the concept was being understood, although in a fairly simplistic way.  It did feel like, as with so much in education, that the wheel had gone full circle. That sounds quite cynical, I know, but the point I think I am trying to make is, in terms of technology in education, yes there have been advancements, but we never seem to address the underlying issue, which is that we apply the traditional to the new i.e we still teach in the same way but use technology instead to do it. The children were answering questions in a traditional manner by writing down an answer and moving onto the next, we still apply this concept to online quizzes, they were sitting in rows at desks, our classroom spaces are still laid out in many institutions in the same way that we have done for 100’s of years although learners may have a laptop in front of them. The video also introduced the concept of learning design that is applied to e-learning, the idea that a student follows a path of learning, building knowledge in small chunks, with prompts and hints along the way.

I then chose to explore Socrates and his Socratic Method and think about what he would have liked and disliked about the teaching machine approach. It was a little disturbing to know that he was a teacher who died for his craft and a little confusing to know that he hadn’t actually written anything down, other people had done that for him. But then maybe this is an example of a brilliant teacher! He would have approved of the teaching machine in the first instance as his method was about “ideas generated by the learner in terms of understanding and retention”, as well as “education not being a cramming in, but a dawing out”. The teaching machine allowed the students to work at their own pace and allowed them to form their knowledge in small chunks. He also believed that “Questions lie at the heart of learning to draw out what they already know, rather than imposing pre-determined views” and the machine is all about questioning. However, he also believed “Learning as a social activity pursued through dialogue” and at no point were the children engaged in any dialogue with each other. They weren’t able to learn from the peers or even question the question so to speak, so they were still simply learning and repeating facts. So I go back to my original point, when it comes to technology in the classroom educators have not yet addressed the underlying issue. We still teach in the same way, but we simply use a different tool to do it. Comments appreciated!