Monday, July 06, 2015

Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age – designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed.) – overview

Edited by H. Beetham and R. Sharpe (2013)

Completely reworked edition. The first edition which was a seminal and ‘must-read’ for any educational developer, has been completely updated with brand new chapters. A few chapters are ‘updates’ but they contain new ideas, more pertinent to the present educational context. As with the previous edition, the authors are mainly based in Australia or the UK.

After forewords (to the second and first editions) by Diana Laurillard and the introduction, the chapters in the book are organised into two parts with part three offering resources in the appendices.

The editors lay out the overall premises of the book with regards to defining pedagogy, the influences of the ‘digital age’ on teaching and learning and a rationale for the importance of undertaking effective design for learning. The chapters in the book are very briefly overviewed.

Part 1 – principles and practices of designing
1)      Technology-enhanced learning (TEL): the role of theory (T. Mayes & S. de Freitas)
The rationale for requiring ‘theory’ is put forward. Then the three main contemporary perspectives on learning are summarised. These are the associationist, cognitivist and situative (Community of practice / group levels) perspectives and how they may be applied into TEL are discussed. Appendix 1 summarises the perspectives.

2)      Designing for active learning in technology-rich contexts (H. Beetham)
The different theories applying to learning are reviewed in the context of TEL. These different approaches to understanding how people learn include: authenticity of activity, structure of learning, the application of learning towards retention/reproduction or reflection/internalization, roles and significance of others and the locus of control. Learning activities are defined as the nexus between learning environment, learning objectives, the learner and others. The need to design learning to meet learning outcomes and learners’ contexts and needs are summarised. The role of TEL in helping to provide learning activities that may assist learning with others, discovery learning, developing and sharing ideas, collecting, gathering, recording or editing (content, learning) and solving problems and developing techniques.

3)      The analysis of complex learning environments (P. Goodyear & L. Carvalho)
Important not to put focus on devices but the ‘ecologies and networks’ where learning will take place. Suggest Actor Network Theory as one approach to understand complex learning environments. Recommends importance of designing learning which is based around the design of good learning tasks which are cognisant of the social and physical settings the learning task is to be undertaken in and that the learning needs to work fluently across macro, meso and micro levels of learnin

4)      The challenge of teachers’ design practice (L. Masterman)
This chapter recommends the importance of ensuring teachers, and especially the study of teachers’ design practice, are part of the design process. One reason is to ensure learning design is applicable. The other is to inform the development of digital tools, heuristics or computer assisted process, for the purposes of learning design.

5)      Tools and resources to guide practice (G. Conole)
I have attended a few presentations on the some of the tools proposed in this chapter. The ‘tools’ are however, quite complex and do require a ‘learning by doing’ approach before the potentialities can become useful. The main attribute of these tools, is that they allow the visualisation of courses / programmes which may be complex, opening up options for better understanding the underlying structures of the learning design and their corresponding influences on students’ learning. As with all tools, it is important to understand conceptualisations. Otherwise, it is just a tool that produces lots of pretty flowcharts! This chapter provides overviews on each the most used tools along with discussion on pros and cons.

6)      Describing ICT-based learning designs that promote quality learning outcomes (R. Oliver, B. Harper, S. Wills, S. Agostino & J.G. Hedberg)
Provides a series of examples of to allow learning designs to be visualised and shared. Especially useful when learning designers work with subject-matter experts collaboratively on laying out the framework for the learning design of a programme. 4 types of design are discussed, rule based, incident based, strategy based and role based learning design with examples provided.

7)      Learning designs as a stimulus and support for teachers’ design practices (S. Agostino, S. Bennett, L. Lockyer, J. Jones and B. Harper)
Follows on from the previous chapter of ‘what could happen next’ with the various learning designs developed. Proposes learning designs evolution can be supported by shared understandings from initial work and collaborative work to clarify and innovative beyond the initial design foundations.

8)      Representing practitioner experiences through learning designs and patterns (P. McAndrew & P. Goodyear)
Offers alternative to the learning designs and ideas presented in previous two chapters. A short chapter discussing challenges – how to better describe learning tools, how to circumvent difficulties in creating designs etc. Proposes the use of ‘learning patterns’ as a means.

9)      The influence of open resources on design practice (C. Pegler)
Defines OER – open educational resources – and their contribution to learning design. Provides details on the 6 Creative Commons open licences for OER and examples of courses developed with OER resources.

Part 2 – designing for learning in context – provides 8 chapters to provides examples of how to apply the principles in Part 1.

Part 3 – there are 9 appendices.

Overall, the book is pitched at learning designers, rather than teachers. Core understanding of learning design principles before reading the book will produce dividends. The book is also an example of how quickly the TEL field moves. Although underpinned by current understandings of learning, the discussions on TEL in the book show how there are many different ways to approach TEL. Contextualisation is one key to ensuring TEL meets learning needs of students and discipline specific needs of teachers. Using learning design templates provides for a means to not have to continually 'reinvent the wheel'. 

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