Monday, June 16, 2014

Technology-enhanced professional learning - book overview

An brief overview of ' Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools edited by Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan and published 2014 by Routledge.

16 chapters including introduction and commentary on each of the 3 sections – work practices, learning processes and digital technologies.

Relevant chapters to current project surface tablet work now summarised.
1)      The introduction by the two editors lays out the concept of technology-enhanced professional learning (TEPL). The rational for the book (i.e. there is very little research in the area of TEPL) is presented. TEPL has influences from ‘new’ work practices (organisational learning, distributed work), learning processes (expansive learning, networked learning, development of expertise, mimetic learning) and technologies that can be leveraged to enhance TEPL (semantic web, learning analytics, collaborative technologies, simulations and games). Brief overview of each of the chapters is also provided.

Section 1 – work practices has 4 chapters.
2)      Julie Clow writes on ‘work practices to support continuous organisational learning’. The historical and social movement of work from craft to manufacturing to ‘knowledge’ work is summarised. Current work requires the creation of rapid learning cycles for workers to learn and move on to next project. Workers are now required to ask questions, think big, work cooperative on complex problems in ever evolving teams. Learning and development within organisations now need to keep up with the pace of change. Crowd sourcing now used within and outside organisation to bring in training / development expertise as and when required. In-house programmes to share organisational learning also now a requirement, an example is the use by Google engineers of Snippets, to publish weekly updates of progress and learning on various projects.

3)      ‘Distributed work: working and learning at a distance’ by Matthew J. Bietz covers the move by organisations towards employing people, working on collaborative projects, who are separated geographically or temporally. Challenges include not only distance effects exampled by lack of ‘water cooler type serendipitous discussions’ but also the need to help employees work in diverse social and cultural contexts. Learning and development for distributed work is challenged to assist workers in accessing the organisations’ ‘tacit’ knowledge and meeting diversity of learning needs.

4)      The relatively new form of work organisation ‘crowd work and collective learning’ is discussed by Jeffrey V. Nickerson. Here, large numbers of usually unconnected people are brought together to complete objective/s. Relationships between worker and organisation may be fleeting and workers find it difficult to learn new skills when they are focused on specialised tasks. Crowd work sourcing sites (Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) and crowd work practices are introduced and discussed. Future direction includes possibility of moving crowd work from individuals on to groups, increasing the complexity of managing organisational TEPL expectations and goals for crowd sourced workers.

5)      A commentary on the three chapters on work practice is provided by Sebastian Fiedler. The emergence of ‘new forms’ of organisational work structures require review of existing ways workplace learning and development are enacted. This chapter evaluates each of the chapters in the section. The caution is not to apply generic approaches to TEPL but to study each context and develop appropriate TEPL responses.

Section 2 has 5 chapters on learning processes

6)      ‘new forms of transformative agency’ by Ritva Engestrom covers the contribution of cultural-historical activity theory (CHATs) on understanding work and learning at work. The chapter provides a good summary of CHATs. A Finnish case study is provided as an example and the model derived is explained.

7)      Chapter on ‘expertise development through schooling and work’ by Henry Boshuizen and Margje van de Wiel summarises studies on expertise development. An overview of the development of expertise is provided with emphasis on deliberate practice and self-regulated learning and performance.

8)      Stephen Billett’s chapter covers ‘mimetic learning in the circumstances of professional learning’. I have summarised this chapter in an earlier blog.

9)      ‘Networked professional learning’ is presented by Peter Sloep. Two fictitious companies are used to describe various aspects of networked learning. Then, there is discussion of social networking tools (Linkedin, mendeley, research gate) plus usual suspects Twitter,, Storify, delicious, google docs etc. and customised tools developed by the author – ASA (automous tutor locator) and COCOON (a group assembly instrument).

10)   The final chapter in section 2, by Terje Valjataga and Sebastian Fiedler is a commentary on ‘learning processes’ chapters. The diversity of the 4 chapters is acknowledged and each chapter is critiqued in relation to the others. Again, the recommendation is that TEPL needs further study to bring sense into how to best deploy TEPL across diverse sectors with complex learning processes.

The last section digital technologies has 5 chapters and is perhaps the weakest in the book as some are case studies and others based on preliminary studies. This could be due to the emergent nature of TPEL and the volume of empirical work still required to identify workable processes and approaches.

11)   ‘Orchestrating collaboration and community technologies for individuals and organisational learning’ by Tobias Ley, Kairit Tammets and Stephenie Lindstaedt. Communities of practice model used to develop organisation learning systems to encourage collaboration within and across and beyond organisations. Introduces the internal organisation APOSLDE system which generates a top down strategy. The system generates ‘individualised’ or customised learning programmes, based on individual’s expertise level to learn processes required to complete their work tasks. An ‘external’ bottom up cross-organisational system intelLEO also described. Both compared and reviewed.

12)   A chapter on the ‘social sematic web and workplace learning’ by Melody Siadaty, Jelena Jovanovic and Dragon Gasevic provides introduction to this form of learning technology.the pedagogical framing strategy is discussed along with affordances and limitations within workplace learning contexts for leveraging the social sematic web.

13)   ‘Learning analytics and their application in TPEL’ is by Bettina Berendt, Riina Vuorikari, Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan. Defines different ways learning analytics assist the TPEL process and provides a case study to illustrate concepts. A good introductory chapter to learning analytics.

14)   Heide Lukosh, Allison Littlejohn and Anoush Margaryan write on ‘simulation games for workplace learning’. Provides overview of state of play in using simulation games to assist workplace learning and 2 case studies used to example utilisation.

15)   A commentary on the 4 chapters in the digital technologies section written by Colin Milligan. Identifies commonalities within the 4 chapters in this section. These are: training is now more difficult and it does not suit needs of modern worker; learning is learner-led (perhaps organisational-led as well); tools used are personal and social; and technology increasingly links peoples’ work and learning.

The concluding chapter by the editors discusses the challenges and future directions of TEPL.

The book provides a good overview of new organisational practices and efforts to develop TEPL appropriate for the diverse contexts. Many questions are raised and some suggestions to assist are discussed and critiqued. As always, food for thought.

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