Let’s talk about what the research says: Industry, Academia, Learning: 7 days to go

Vanessa Pittard DfE, Richard Noss TEL Research Programme Director, BESA, Intellect, ALT, and Demos about research inspired technology enhanced learning to tackle challenges from teenagers’ energy consumption to social communication in a multimodal virtual environment for youngsters with Autism Spectrum Disorders. What the research says event at LKL now has a waiting list for places! Clearly people do want to talk.

Speak to Me

From User Generated Content to Learner Generated Contexts: the power of technology to build connections

I was reminded earlier this week of the interesting discussion we had at the Learning Technologies exhibition in January about User Generated Content (UGC) and how we can do even more than encourage people to generate their own content: we can encourage them to generate their own contexts for learning.  This is the idea of Learner Generated Contexts (about which you can read more in this book chapter) A Learner Generated Context (LGC) is generated through people (learners, teachers, parents, peers etc.) using technology to organize and interact with their learning resources in a manner that best meets the needs of learners. It is an enterprise that is driven by those who would previously have been consumers in a context created for them.

The resources that can be organized to generate the LGC are the People,

Places: the social and physical environments;

Things: such as digital technologies, books, equipment, and

Knowledge: the subject or skill being learnt.

All these resources exist and are part of a learners’ interactions with the world, the point is that a Learner Generated Context connects and inter-relates them a way that supports learning. The Learner Generated Context can be generated by groups working together or by individuals acting alone. Often teachers, mentors or peers have a key role to play in helping to generate the context, but sometimes a learner can act alone to generate a context that pulls together the People, Places, Things and Knowledge they interact with in a way that meets their learning needs.

For example, I was learning French a while ago and I wrote a blog about my experiences. My blog entry for the 28 April discusses how I was completing a particular piece of homework for the language school I was attending. The People and Things are highlighted in blue, the Knowledge and Skills in green and the Places in red:

“As I sat in front of the TV doing my homework ready for class I was amused to note that I find the gentle flow of French conversation in the background useful. This is a very different situation to that in force when I last learnt French many years ago when TV and homework certainly did not mix. I feel I am benefitting from my decision to spend a section of the day in French immersion as far as possible. This was helped with a good start from William, who was on good form this morning and aided by my understanding a little more of the one o-clock news. I was very amused to see the tractors in Paris as farmers protested about falling prices and stricter regulation: they would prefer to return to the EU rules. The farmers had taken their tractors to Paris and had travelled from Place de Nation to Place de la Bastille and from Place de la Bastille to Place du Republique If I understood the bulletin correctly the Parisians who were interviewed seemed, as ever, patient and understanding of the protest despite the fact that it seemed to be blocking much of the traffic. Mind you I don’t think any motorists were amongst those interviewed. Now that I am back in France, after coming from England, I continue to notice the difference in people’s attitudes to industrial action here.”

With a little bit of thought and some fairly ordinary and readily available technology I can connect and link these resources in a way that supports my needs as a learner to generate my own learner generated context.

As I walk from Malmousque to the French language school my mobile phone beeps to indicate a diary entry that reminds me to try to learn some vocabulary as I walk. The words appear on the screen of my mobile phone and these are linked to their pronunciations from forvo.com. Some of the words are picked from the TV report about the farmer’s protest that I saw on TV yesterday and there is an audio recording of the broadcast for me to listen to that has been taken from the TV station’s website.

What’s Research got to do with it? TEL research and emerging technology, part 2

Well I said I would follow-up and continue the discussion about what research can say that can help those developing and using emerging technologies. Coincidentally (or not) I was pointed to a blog post yesterday about the pace of change of technologies  and in particular to the comments. I noticed that one of the comments made the very point that:

“…can we afford to wait for thorough research on some of these issues? If we do wait 3 years for some further research to be done won’t it already be chronically out of date? The technological landscape evolves at a thrilling pace, is it making traditional research models and institutions look a little archaic?”

So clearly there is a need for us researcher folk to better communicate what research has to say that is relevant. I’ll try to pick up on some key things that research can tell us over the next few posts. Sometimes the research that has something to say has been done very recently, sometimes it is specific to a new technology, but actually much of the time there are some basic research findings about how people learn, sometimes from way back that are still very relevant to what technology can do to support learning. These research findings have the advantage of having been tried, tested and developed over many years. Sometime new technologies allow us to benefit from this fundamental research in ways that were not previously possible.

For example, research has demonstrated that learning an additional langauge is assisted by being able to experience the new language and its culture. Technology offers access to authentic linguistic and cultural content, through for example, online newspapers, video, and other digital media in the target language. These may be created for native speakers, but they may also come with enhanced  language input, such as access to simplification, explanations, multimedia, subtitles for video.

Effective feedback is important for learning and technology can help – it can offer swift, timely and constructive feedback for students and teachers across all education sectors through interactive tasks that can be automatically marked. It can also support humans to provide feedback to learners using text, sound, images and  without needing to be in the same physical place as the learner.

Thinking about and understanding more about what we want people to be able to do in order to learn and then thinking about how particular technologies can help us to achieve this can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, than looking at the specific things that a particular technology can do.