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

Understanding you, Understanding me: is this the best we can do?

The wide-spread ownership of sophisticated computing devices such as smart phones and ipads allows mass access to social media, augmented reality and 3D virtual world applications. BUT are we making the most of these technologies to help learners communicate using all their senses? These technologies make it technically possible for people to share information about themselves and their contexts using multiple media and multi-sensory communication. This ought to mean that learners who may struggle with traditional text and image can explore new ways to express themselves. New ways to communicate what they do and don’t understand and new ways to allow others to understand more about their particular context and perspective.

One of the essential ingredients for effective learning  where a more knowledgeable person, such as a teacher, is helping a less knowledgeable person (or people) to learn something is that both of them share some common understanding of what the less knowledgable person currently understands. The technical possibilities for multi modal communication offered by emerging technologies should provide new ways for people to share their understanding and misunderstanding and to communicate important aspects of their personal context that may help teachers, parents, and friends to  provide more effective support. But are we making enough of this potential?

I suspect we are not. To tackle challenges such as, developing a clearer understanding of how we make the most of such communication possibilities requires research rigour and energy. To develop technologies and applications that make these new formats for communication and interaction easier and effective we need industrial enterprise and innovation. To understand the needs of learners and teachers, we need to bring them into the research and design process. Most importantly of all, to improve learners’ experiences we will need research, industry, practitioners and learners to work in harmony, and that is hard to orchestrate.

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.