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13. Role of change in current practice

Technology has always changed us, and in fact, the earliest technologies caused us to evolve to be who we are today (see my blog post https://markchilds.org/2016/03/24/knapping-reification-and-messy-talk/). My research attempts to explore how we are changing due to the development of digital identity, embodiment and telepresence, through the lens of education. By looking at education specifically, there is an opportunity to create an immediate change, by looking at how these technologies alter our interaction with the world and each other, and applying what is learnt from that observation to improving teaching practice.

The testimonies from colleagues on the introductory page indicate that this attempt to change practice has been successful, and that others have incorporated findings from my research into their work.

In my current role at Oxford Brookes, I aim to continue this process of effecting change. This has been conducted through several activities:

Consultations (A3)

I have continued the activity of consultations with teaching staff in order to identify ways to enhance their teaching through technology. Most recently this involved the use of ideation platforms to facilitate online social learning in an MBA course. I think these activities are so successful because they draw on my knowledge of a wide range of different technologies (and their relevance pedagogically), my MA in consultancy and also the ability to synthesise and organise disparate concepts.

Tutoring on courses. (A1, A2, A3)

I have been teaching on two staff development courses, First Steps into Learning and Teaching and Teaching Online Open Course. Although the curriculum of both were already in place, I created materials in the form of MOODLE pages and many videos which are online at my youtube channel. I also held a webinar and facilitated discussions in discussion boards. As part of these courses I also provided students with feedback, both formative and summative.

Analysing how institutions adapt to transformation (V3, V4)

New research and writing conducted during this period has focused on the role of innovation in learning and teaching, both the influence institutional culture has on innovation, and the impact innovating has on the individuals conducting it. The first of these builds on the work I conducted as a critical friend on Jisc’s Transformations programme, and aims to identify the factors which led to the projects in this programme becoming successfully embedded or not. This is the subject of a paper being written now. The latter was a small survey I conducted for my invited talk at 2016’s SOLSTICE conference (Childs, 2016). This looked at the personal impact that working in Second Life had had on 11 colleagues, and drawing generalisations from their experiences regarding institutions’ attitudes to innovation.

Collating research into new learning processes (A4, K1, K2)

Also while a Senior Lecturer at Brookes I have edited a book on Online Learning for STEM subjects, also writing two of the chapters and as lead author on two more. My sections of the book, to be published later this year, examine the learning processes experienced by students when participating in team-based activities at a distance. Effectively supporting these students requires specific support at key stages, and awareness of the particular demands of the online environment. The book lays out procedures for supporting these activities, but also invited other contributors to submit cases of other aspects of online learning.

Establishing new research projects (K4, K5)

Also while at Brookes I have been pursuing research funding. The aim of both of these grants is to develop changes in the learner experience, using social media, online collaboration and the creation of digital artefacts. One of these is a European-wide project to encourage cultural literacy in young people. The experience of a previous project with this consortium (involving children in five schools across Europe) is that using learning activities that require learners to create artefacts, such as comics and videos, encourages those less academic and less engaged to take more interest in the subject matter being studied. These sorts of learning approaches have proven to be hugely transformative for some students, the details of which can be read in my evaluation report of the project at this link.

Synthesising strategies to support development  (V3, V4)

The encouragement of staff to incorporate new technologies into their teaching is driven by several different agendas. Academics usually want to address issues they face in their practice, and address their professional development. There is the need to improve the student digital experience. There are also institutional strategies that aim to create a structure to enable these to happen. Although these all have the same goal, improving teaching, they can be quite different perspectives on how to address that goal. My aim in creating a development programme for TEL has been to draw on all of these elements, staff needs as identified by staff, student needs as identified by the NUS, and institutional strategies addressing student experience and TEL, and synthesise these into one platform. The resources ultimately are the same, but the routes to reach them address the different perspectives in parallel. This tool, will, it is anticipated, enable self-audit, institutional audit and dissemination of best practice.

14. Future directions (A5)

Although my future career is very likely to remain in the field of technology-enhanced learning, I think one change that will occur is that the technologies will be seen as integral to learning as chalk and a blackboard were in a previous generation. Or, rather, that technologies will not be seen at all.

One concept that has highlighted this route is the idea of post-digitalism, i.e. that the learning environment now is so accustomed to digital technologies that they are used invisibly; that they have disappeared into use. This term was one that was originated by a group of six practitioners in TEL, of which I was one. I think the post-digital environment is still some distance away, however, (discussed more in this blog post).

Over the past few years I’ve worked with a range of technologies;

  • remote and virtual laboratories
  • webconferencing and online application sharing
  • virtual worlds and social media
  • podcasting and lecture capture
  • AI tutors and adaptive learning systems
  • Geocaching and games-based learning

All of these have shown promise in changing the learning landscape. What is difficult to tell is which will be the most transformative for learners, and which will be least discouraged by institutions. In the long term, the only way to identify the best means to lead and support change is to keep abreast of as many of the different forms this change can take as time, and funding, will allow.


Childs,M. (2016) “Through Despair and Hope: The Cycle of Second Life”, SOLSTICE Conference, Edge Hill University, 9th and 10th June, 2016


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