Saturday, 31 October 2015

Putting learning into learning technology

I don't usually share my study work, but as this is going to be the biggest piece of work I will ever do I feel it deserves to be shared and known.

Here is my 2000 word dissertation research proposal for the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc I am doing.  This was my original intention, but as you can see it has developed.  This proposal leads into my main dissertation which is to be 13,000 words.  I have omitted the Project Plan section and Appendix 3 and 4 which are ethics forms.  I hope you enjoy this introduction to my study.


This study explores how Information Learning Technologies (ILT) are being applied in a Further Education College and the challenges teachers face in embedding it into their practice.


Putting learning into learning technology: developing a pedagogical rationale to deliver eLearning.


The following are aims that have been designed to draw out facts and understandings of the study:

1. Scope and identify the ILT needs of the Further Education College to gauge suitability of implementing technology in lessons
2. Assess the application of ILT across individuals and departments within the College
3. Benchmark the use of ILT across the College to determine Continuous Professional Development  opportunities
4. Determine individual and department culture, attitude and barriers to using ILT

However, this study will provide answers to the following questions:

1. What is the current use and practice of ILT across the College?
2. What pedagogy should underpin the College’s strategy?
3. Are there diverse ways to engage the technology reluctant and to enable them to develop their confidence?
4. What ideas are there to futureproof, manage and develop ILT practice across the College?

Background and purpose

This study is set in a Further Education College where teachers are now expected by central government to deliver 10% of their learning online (Hancock & Lambert 2014).  In each teacher’s programme of delivery they should identify components that can be made online.  However, the Skills Funding Agency (2014, p 1) clarify the online component as;

“When learners learn online, interact with other learners online or use online content, systems, tools and services with little, if any, direct tutor support”.

To make a step towards this conversion, we must first know what learning technology is.  The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) define learning technology as;

“Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment” (undated, p 1).

Learning technologies are the tools and systems that enable a vehicle for teachers to deliver and manage learning through whilst eLearning is the pedagogy in which should be applied to the chosen technology (Scott, 2015a).

New digital technologies are emerging everyday which offer new and exciting ways for learning.  As a result learners expect instant and flexible access to their learning content and materials and to personalise them where necessary to support their development on the go (Jisc, 2009).  To keep up with this growing demand, teachers face challenges such as ensuring they have the skills and positive attitudes to implement technology effectively in their practice (House of Lords, 2015).  When implementing learning technologies in a face-to-face lesson it is possible that they lack underpinning pedagogical purpose, which reduces the effectiveness of ILT on the learner, teacher and the lesson.  A possible explanation for this is that the technology might not be necessary as there may be no underpinning framework, plan or boundaries.  Furthermore, the transition between the technology and non-technology may be clumsy as it should function as a means not just an end; to be used purposefully and with precision (TeachThought 2014, 2015, Creative Education undated, Scott 2015b).  Also, it is possible that teachers could mistake ILT with Information Communication Technologies (ICT) by using video clips and PowerPoint presentations as a means of embedding ILT into their lessons (Scott, 2014).  Additionally, perhaps teachers feel unconfident in their own ICT skills, network reliability, ‘one size doesn’t fit all’, fear of repetition, lack of variety in methods and/or the notion that technology is replacing their role.

The next section explains what digital literacy is and how useful it is to help understand teacher’s skills and attitudes towards implementing technology.  Following this, a discussion on the importance of Continuous Professional Development is introduced which leads onto how teaching practice with ILT can be redefined for 21st century practice through a potential model.

Literature review

The purpose of this section is to explain how the work of digital literacy can be used to determine the skills and attitudes of teachers at the College to assess their practice.  Furthermore, common issues with ILT are discussed with an introduction to a model that could help improve the way ILT is approached and used.

Digital literacy
Digital literacy can be defined as “those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society” (Jisc, undated p 1).  It is also coined with the term digital inclusion that is defined as “making sure that people have the capability to use the internet [and wider technology] to do things that benefit them day to day” (House of Lords, 2015 p 30).  This challenges education and teaching practice which results in teachers having to adapt and develop their digital literacy skills (House of Lords, 2015).  Within teaching practice the term has evolved into the ‘Digital Practioner’ which is described as “cultural acceptance of technologies in the professional life of a teacher” (Rebbeck et al 2012, p 12).  This requires the teacher to not only keep up to date with latest technologies but having the skills to set up and facilitate learning with technology.  The House of Lords (2015) report findings of an estimation of 30 million people employed in the UK that assessed their digital skills levels and put into the following categories; ‘Digital muggle’: 2.2 million people (7%); no digital skills required, ‘Digital citizen’: 10.8 million people (37%); use digital technology purposefully and confidently to communicate, ‘Digital worker’: 13.6 million people (46%); evaluate, configure and use complex digital systems, ‘Digital maker’: 2.9 million people (10%); build digital technology (typically software development).  The figures show that a large proportion of individuals are confident in using ICT and for communication.  However, when relating it to teachers this emphasises ICT not ILT which requires adaptive teaching skills to deliver learning successfully (Jisc, 2009).

In July 2014, Laurillard and Deepwell published a survey that was targeted at academic staff on their use of learning technology in their practice.  The results outlined some barriers to using and developing learning technologies and highlighted reoccurring themes in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and leadership.  Deepwell suggests that CPD is of upmost importance for effective use of technology, by expressing that:

“Professional development for and recognition of the skills that enable us to make use of technology for the benefit of learners are key to our success” (p 1, 2015).

The report concluded by recommending that there should be focus on teachers as being innovators.  However, to achieve this strategies must enable leadership, support, time and recognition which will allow individuals to build a community of knowledge and skills in the use of learning technology.  Conroy’s research concurs stating that through their research that;

“‘People' issues are the major barrier to developing and implementing a coherent digital learning strategy.  The research highlighted that leaders and managers lacked the skills to develop and implement a coherent digital strategy coupled with a large proportion of teachers/trainers who did not have sufficient digital literacy skills" (2015, p 1).

Furthermore, Conroy (Coralesce, 2015) led the development of a self-assessment tool to benchmark and ascertain the use of learning technologies in an organisation and individuals, which ran from July 2014 to February 2015.  As part of the process a pilot was conducted and the overall findings of this research discovered that teachers lacked an understanding of learning technologies, in which encouraged the need for professional development opportunities and strategies.

Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition
To overcome issues with implementing ILT, the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model could be applied to enhance practice.  The SAMR model is an ICT based pedagogy that enables practioners to redefine their ILT practice.  As illustrated in appendix 1, The SAMR model guides the practioner through the four stages to ensure that ILT is being applied appropriately for purpose and precision (Lubega et al 2014, Puentedura 2014).  According to the SAMR model this can be particularly useful for helping teachers make an effective transition to transforming their teaching practice with the right technology/ies.  The SAMR model could potentially alleviate or eradicate the issues highlighted earlier.  I reckon that effective application of technology in teaching practice can be founded upon this model.


According to Laurillard (2012) other job roles have transformed, but not teachers due to lack of resources being devoted to the profession.  This is potentially alarming as the typical teacher needs transform at the pace of the technology that is available.  However, this could be a case of change management and how that is approached by teaching staff.  Furthermore, Moriarty emphasises that people are at the centre of coordinating learning with technology and strongly suggests that change begins with the teacher;

“If we exploit it correctly, it breaks down the barriers. We shouldn’t blame the technology for deficiencies that are wholly human” (2015, p 1).

Considering ‘The seven elements of digital literacies’ (Jisc, undated) and taking the segments of ICT literacy, individuals are encouraged to “adopt, adapt and use digital devices, applications and services” (Jisc, p 1 undated).  However, in my opinion staff need to assess their own skills against some sort of benchmark where they can aspire to develop.  As found in the ALT survey leadership seems to be lacking prominence.  This highlights that little direction is being provided from management of how much teachers should be using technology and what ways it can be used.  In this case, who is leading who and how far and little do teachers go in using technology.

Bennett’s (2014) research into developing the Digital Practioner examines how a particular digital literacy framework of students’ can be applied to lecturers.  Appendix 2 illustrates the model in which could it be applied to the typical teacher role.  The model was inspired by Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ and outlines the elements of access, skills, practices and attributes and demonstrates how they are placed within its own hierarchy.

To become a Digital Practitioner, an individual’s understanding and awareness of ICT is at the centre of application and needs to be at a sufficient level in order for technology to be implemented effectively in their practice (Rebbeck et al, 2012).  However, the practice needs to be underpinned with pedagogy such as considering the SAMR model to make a transition successful and purposeful.  The skills of teachers remain an essential component to effective learning and are essential to exploit the potential of online tools and media that suit the purpose of the task to achieve an appropriate blend of face-to-face methods with technology, which emphasises 21st century practice (Jisc, 2009).


This study will be carried out as action research to improve ILT practice across the College in which is facilitated through the author’s role as a lead Learning Technologist (Cohen et al, 2011).  Data will be collected from a web-based survey for efficiency of the participant’s time and work locations.  The survey will reveal what and how academic staff are using technology in their lessons plus the approach to their knowledge and skills of operating it.  Also, a face-to-face group workshop will be planned to capture live discussions and opinions (Denscombe, 2014, Bell 2010).  Both methods are used in line with BERA’s (2011) Ethical Guidelines and demonstrated through the ethical forms in Appendix 3 and 4.  The survey will be distributed to all academic staff who will attempt to use technology in their practice.  The group workshop will comprise of Advanced Practitioner teachers in ILT with different subject backgrounds and departments to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of using technology in lessons which should generate ideas to use and overcome issues.  The outcomes of the group workshop will be used to conduct a compare and contrast to identify the differences and similarities of the participant’s responses.  Both findings will be analysed to identify themes and patterns and determine how individuals respond to their approach of utilising ILT.  A set of recommendations will emerge and be disseminated across the Senior Management Team and Heads of Department as well as the wider College for review and consideration and perhaps implementation into department areas.


Bell, J (2010 fifth edition) ‘Doing Your Research Project: A guide for first-time researchers in education, health and social science’ Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education

Bennett, L (24 July 2014) ‘Learning from the early adopters: developing the Digital Practitioner’ School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom (accessed 15 September 2015)

BERA (2011) ‘Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research’ British Educational Research Association,9-11 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H 0ED

Cohen, L, Manion, L, Morrison, K & Bell, R (2011 7th edition) ‘Action Research methods in education’ (chapter 18 ‘Action Research’ p344-361) London, Taylor & Francis

Conroy, C (8 September 2015) ‘Learning technology ideas for the new government’ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Coralesce (2015) ‘Learning technology self-assessment project Final Report 2015’

Creative Education (undated) ‘Five mistakes to avoid when using technology as a teaching tool‘ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Deepwell, M (15 May 2015) ‘Learning technology ideas for the new government’ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Denscombe, M (2014 fifth edition) ‘The Good Research Guide: For small-scale social research projects’ Open University Press, McGraw-Hill Education

Hancock & Lambert (2014) FELTAG Recommendations ‘Paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills‘, Further Education Learning Technology Action Group

House of Lords (17 February 2015) ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’ Authority of the House of Lords, London, The Stationery Office Limited

Jisc (2009) ‘Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A guide to technology-enhanced learning and teaching’ HEFCE

Jisc (undated) ‘Developing digital literacies’ (accessed 15 September 2015)

Laurillard, D, Deepwell, M (July 2014) ‘ALT survey on the effective use of learning technology in education’ Association for Learning Technology

Laurillard,D (2012) ‘Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology’ Routledge

Lubega T, Jude, Mugisha A, K & Muyinda Paul B (April 2014) ‘Adoption of the SAMR Model to Asses ICT Pedagogical Adoption: A Case of Makerere University’ International Journal of e-Education, e-Business, e-Management and e-Learning, Vol. 4, No. 2, April 2014

Moriarty, P (July 16 2015) ‘In praise of PowerPoint’ Times Higher Education (accessed 15 September 2015)

Puentedura, R (28 November 2014) ‘SAMR In the Classroom: Developing Sustainable Practice’ (accessed 15 September 2015)

Rebbeck, G, Ecclesfield, N, Garnett, F (2012) ‘Exploring practioner attitudes to the use of technology in the Further Education and Skills sector - the case of the curious and the confident’ (accessed 11 September 2015)

Scott, D (2015a) ‘Digital move-meant’ (accessed 30 August 2015)

Scott, D (2015b) ‘Confessions of a Learning Technologist’ (accessed 15 September 2015)

Scott, D (6 May 2014) ‘Observing ILT’ (accessed 30 August 2015)

Skills Funding Agency (22 October 2014) ‘Delivering online learning: SFA response to FELTAG report’ (Accessed 15 September 2015)

TeachThought (24 April 2014) ‘5 Bad Technology Habits Teachers Can Fall Into’ (accessed 11 September 2015)

TeachThought (29 August 2015) ‘15 Common Mistakes Teachers Make Teaching With Technology’ (accessed 11 September 2015)


Appendix 1.  Taken from Lubega et al (2014).

Appendix 2.  Taken from Bennett’s (2014) model of students’ digital literacies.