Supporting Teachers in  Optimising Technologies for Open Learning, Prof Diana Laurillard

Laurillard argues that educatpors, and not policy makers, or politicians, should be t the driving edge in terms of technology implementation in the classroom, and should also be supported in this – with training, and time sufficient for implementation, as they are the chalkface experimenters, and also characteristically driven to deliver techniques and expoeriences that actually work in practical, educational environments.

Although the idea of the teaching profession as a universally driven, ethical, hard working and ruthlessly dedicated cadre of excellence is a myth, there’s probably enough of it that’s more generally true to make this a worthwhile proposition. Again, there’s no evodence put forwarde for this claim, but, where it IS true, the assertion bears weight and consideration.

My question, in terms of my project here si, how to support those teachers who do want to achieve changes in their practice best in terms of a MOOC.

There have

been several initiatives in recent years to develop computer-based tools to aid learning

design (Laurillard and Ljubojevic in press), but the aim here is to support adoption,

adaptation and innovation in a way that enables teachers to build knowledge of learning

design through sharing their innovative ideas.”

This a perfectly quoteable and accurate precis of what I think I should be setting out to achieve.


Teachers given the opportunity enjoy innovation. Every type of new digital opportunity has

been recruited for use in education, even though almost none are actually developed for

education. But pilot projects and small-scale isolated innovations do not create the engine

of progressive innovation we need if the sector is to optimise its use of technology. The

project is the ‘Learning Design Support Environment for teachers and lecturers’ (LDSE), a

collection of tools to support learning design and the exchange of ideas on how best to use

technology” LDSE

I’d hope this is the case – the teacher support for innovation, the engegagement with technology, and desire to do so. And I accept the point about the design aspect of the tools – we are in a position where the designed tools – VLE’s – are inferior to the casual tools – Twitter, forums, Facebook, Google+ – in many respects, and educators are adapting themselves, their practices, and these casual tools for pedagogical use. Sometimes instinctively, or opportunisitically, sometimes with a pedagogical framewrok, sometimes without, and sometimes in new and engaging ways.

Many studies of educational innovation have

concluded that without key factors, such as additional time, additional training, cultural

change, senior staff involvement, or a link to personal reward, it is very difficult to change

teacher behaviour (Dowker 2009; Griffin 2004; Knight, Tait, and Yorke 2006). In most

countries, teachers in post-compulsory education have no compulsory professional

training, as schoolteachers typically do, yet they are expected to embrace significant

changes in the way they carry out their professional duties, and build considerable

knowledge of how to use TEL, with little time and with minimal training or resources”


This speaks to my aims, somewhat, and with provisos. The idea that, in order to alkter and change practice significantly, training,m support, time and, ultimately funding, has to be applied. Without this, a general change is unlikely to happen (and as claimed previously, small schemes, pilot projects, and localised programs are not enough to achieve this overall step change) So, a MOOC style project fits into this somewhat, though in the localised, or small (ish) scale aspect – it’s not going to create an overall change in general practice, or be enough to suppoprt such a change, and nor should it claikm to do so (that coiuld be counter-productive). So, it is a support network, it does help build ongoing support networks (PLN’s), and it does leverage technologies to provide this in a resoutrce poor environkment. But it’;s not the final aim and resolution. That’s likely to be a policy issue


Students are developing their own capabilities in ICT, and are often adept in the digital

skills of networking and browsing, though not necessarily in the exploitation of these skills

for educational purposes:

“students are appropriating technologies to meet their own personal, individual needs –

mixing … ICT tools and resources, with official course or institutional tools and

resources” (Conole, de Laat, Dillon, and Darby 2006).”

This is an aspect that i had engaged with to a degree, the idea that students are already using technology in their own lives, and adapting it, and their devices, to their own needs, sometimes without realising the data exhaust, privacy and ownership issues that involves. What hadn’t occured to me were issues regarding transfer – will students be adept at transferring those literacies into educational environments, does the shape and type of environemnet have an effect on transgerence (if it’s an instructionist tyoe context, or a task based Papertesque c?ontext, or a connectivist anythi9ng goes context, to what degree might these effect transfer) and how should we address that?

“Lecturers and teachers are rarely in a position to lead the fundamental

reorganisation of a sector or institution that is needed to make radical change. And radical

change does not happen bottom-up when the top-down drivers are so powerful.” Top down drivers include funding, curriculum, assessment, qualioty assurance. A MOOC can adrress one of these – funding, and to a degree curriculum, but qas and assessment are a lot more difficult, without funding. The best pitch, and focus, for an edtech cMOOC in this situation is as a low resource demand networking opportubity for motivated practitioners ho wanbt opportunities to expand their practice, and are willing to spend their own time and effort to achiecve it.


We know that teachers, far more than researchers or policymakers, are the de facto

architects of the quality of education. They operate at the interface between learners and

what they are trying to learn.”


It’s an enthusiastic, and engaging idea. I do think the reserarchers need to be let in. In a cMMOC, for example, explicit seminars on the theory/ies and frameworks seem beneficial.


must be able to act like

design-researchers, building on the research evidence from

education and psychology, and constantly adopting, adapting, and sharing new

approaches to teaching and learning (Knight et al. 2006; Laurillard 2008b).”


An aspect of this is expoerimentation, and reflkection – a sepcific and explicit aim in a cMOOC. Netwrok, engage, experience, experiment, reflect and share.

There is a view that only

students can design their own learning and teachers can only design teaching. But

teachers are responsible for constructing the learning environment that supports and

fosters learning. The instructional design approach, led by US researchers, was based on

this assumption, and generated many design principles for teachers to follow, based on



successive theories of learning and teaching (Reigeluth 1999). But there is no holistic theory

of learning and teaching that binds these successive theories together, and that also

embraces both conventional and digital methods, so teachers necessarily develop their

own heuristics to discover what works in practice, as the context, and student populations,

and technologies change. It is this aspect of their learning design that teachers need to

expose to each other,”

Laurillard’s idea is that the teacher is the most imnpactful variable in the education delivery/design process. The teacher creates the environment in which things happen. Here, she seems to be saying that in the absence of an overarching theory, experience, experimentation and reflection are going to be key drivers (a change in stance, to a degree perhaps, from previous positions she has held). I would…add to this. Not only do we need to facilitate, support and encourage this experimentation, with resources, time, training and encouragement, we also need to inform it, not necessarily in a defining and precriptive way (thjough it’s difficult to see how we will engourage institutions and policy makers to let go of precription, especially as a function of qa perhaps, and should we?) but in a way that ensures that good, evidence driven theory is available, and informs practice. There’s a lot of baseless guff and drivel paraded as theory (because quantum! because chaos! paradigm shifts! everything that’s gone before is wrong!) that needs to be avoided, neutralised and dealt with. And, novice’s often need guidance.

Nonaka developed a model of the relationship between individual learning and

organisational learning (Nonaka 1994). Organizational knowledge creation, such as

innovation in the methods of teaching and learning, is seen as a continual dynamic process

of conversion between the tacit, practical knowledge developed by participants, and the

explicit, articulated knowledge, recorded in documents and resources, iterating between

the different levels of the individual, the group and the organisation. The process of the

development of organizational knowledge successively iterates through ‘enlarging

individual knowledge’, ‘sharing tacit knowledge’, ‘conceptualization’, ‘crystallization’,

‘justification’, and ‘networking knowledge’. The evaluation and validation of innovations

combine in the ‘justification’ process, which evaluates the knowledge produced in relation

to the management requirements. In practice it is valuable to separate the two into (i) the

iterative formative

evaluation of projects to the point where they appear to meet the

objectives, and (ii) the summative

validation of an implementation to test whether the

product as a whole works in the marketplace. The complete process for organisational

learning can then be characterised as a succession of activities:

Expanding knowledge – ideas from elsewhere, and literature searches are used to keep

abreast of new developments and ideas

Innovating –explicit knowledge in the form of ideas and plans is used to begin the design




Sharing – innovation becomes explicitly embodied in prototypes of learning materials

and services.

Evaluating – formative evaluation allows the team to develop and refine the ideas in

relation to the intended objectives

Implementing – this process produces the explicit specification for how the actual


should work

Validating – collecting performance data of the user responses enables the team to

articulate the lessons learned.”


This seems a good response to Siemens claim thatn learning theories haven’t accounted for the transmission of learning through organisations. It also looks like an interesting structure to implement in a mooc context, as it is dependent on networks. The evaluation, artefact production and assessment is probably going to be less formalised, and the network itself will act as an information resource, but the general thrust is replicable and sound.


Some of the best ideas have even been referred to as

the ‘signature pedagogies’ of a discipline (Shulman 2005). If good pedagogic ideas are to

migrate from one teacher to another, and one discipline to another, what transfers is not

just the content knowledge, but the ‘pedagogic content knowledge’ (Shulman 2005) and in

the context of good ideas about the use of technology in open learning, this becomes

‘technological pedagogic content knowledge’ (Mishra and Koehler 2006).”

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