Wiki Task 3 - What literature exists ... Int'l Handbook for Teaching ICT ...

Wiki Task 3:
What theories and literature exist that explain, predict, and/or guide the development and use of TELEs?

A specific question about existing literature and by intuition I was reminded of The International Handbook of Teaching ICT in Primary and Secondary Education. I knew this was in our library at school, but I had forgotten about it for some time (silly me).

OMG, what a revelation! Quite expensive, that must be said. 539.54 euro for over a thousand pages of literature around ICT in education. Yummie. Very useful for my final writing assignment, to say the least.

Some extracts:

CASCADE-SEA (Computer ASsisted Curriculum Analysis, Design and Evaluation for Science Education in Africa).

The forces at work in our telic group

During our last session we discussed and read the paper about ‘Distributed Cognition’. Distributed cognition is a psychological theory that says that knowledge lies not only within the individual but also in the individual’s social 1 and physical environment. In this post I reflect on the paper.

Apart from the reflective blogpost, I will use the paper more  in my final writing assignment on Google Apps for Edu and how it affects the learning process in my school. It is really an interesting paper, and (in my opinion) since it was published  in 2000 a lot of the main ideas reoccur in other theories or pedagogical views  (collective intelligencesituated cognition -  artificial intelligenceconnectivism).

At the end of the Collaborate session we were also asked to reflect and brainstorm about how we worked together, how it was for us to work in little groups. I remember that we all mentioned rather ‘technical’ elements of working together or feelings: the software we used (GoogleDocs, sharing Prezi), the language barrier, ‘very enjoyable’, ‘great adding on each others thoughts’, shared engagement, etc. Richard pointed out to us that we should think more about the underlying processes rather than on surface activities and results (cf. Vygotsky 2). What were the forces at work in our groups? Taking into account Vygotksy’s framework 3  and the crucial dialogue model of Johan Roels 4, I end up with following processes underlying our group work:

Interaction: we exchanged ideas in this Google Doc. This had a two way effect on our group members.

Dialogue: through an extra Collaborate session we shared thoughts, found value in each others points of view (appreciative understanding of opinions).

Communication: regularly e-mails were sent to make appointments and announcements.

Imagination: the sharing of the Prezi and the way Dave, Koen and Kieran used this tool fueled my own imagination.

Transformation: my final blogpost was a sum of the shared thoughts and experiences.

Remark about the  mediative role of the tools: it is very interesting to see how we used Google Docs, Blackboard Collaborate and Prezi to mediate these processes. We should indeed be more aware of how we mediate (delegate) these processes to the technologies. We focus too often on the tech tools and artefacts while the underlying processes are easily taken for granted.

1. The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms as applied to populations of humans and other animals. It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.


3. ‘Vygotsky (1962/1986) held that learning is embedded within social events, and learning occurs as a learner interacts with people, objects and events in the environment. Through interaction with surroundings and communication with others, internalization and learning occurs.’

Voogt, J & Knezek G.  (eds 2008) International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, Springer, p.253

4. Roels J. (2012) Cruciale Dialogen. Antwerpen, Garant. p. 29

Critically examine some TELEs with enabling and hindering factors

In my two schools PCVO Het Perspectief and College OLV Ten Doorn I encountered a number of Technology Enabled/Enhanced Learning Environments – (TELEs).

I experienced all of them as a teacher and some of the TELEs I helped implementing (Google Apps).

Here is an overview of the TELEs used:

In previous post for Wiki Task 2 I ended up with the following scheme.

Let’s look at  these TELEs on these criteria. Whatever TELE we use: the role and professional identity of the teacher is essential, so I’m not going to focus too much on the ‘Teachers side’ of this scheme. Unless it is worth mentioning. Secondly, I take Dokeos and Chamilo together since they are similar.  Smartschool is also similar but has many extensions, add-ons which makes it more powerful at ‘school-level’ . The contrast of the three with Google Apps for Edu is very present.

Green are enabling factors.
Red are hindering factors.

About humans and computers, some thoughts on distributed cognition

Critical reading number 4 is this paper ‘Distributed cognition: Toward a New Foundation for Human-Computer Interaction Research1

The main idea in the paper is the following: cognition happens inside and outside humans, the theory says that ‘cognitive activity is constructed both from internal and external resources, and that the meaning of our actions is grounded in the context of the activity.’ 2   This in contrast to more traditional cognitive theories that focus more on the mental activity with the individual. Distributed cognition encompasses interactions between people ánd with resources and materials in the environment. When technology is well designed, the technology becomes integrated into the way people think, see and control activities.

The authors also want to provide an integrated approach/framework for research that combines ethnographic observation and controlled experimentation as a basis for design of digital work. When designing digital materials you should take into account this idea of distributed cognition. If not, you simply re-design the old model.

Let me try and make the main idea and the framework for design clear to you with two examples.

But first, important to understand the meaning of the words … What is ‘cognition’ actually?

Cognition is the mental process of ‘knowing’, including awareness, perception, reasoning or judgment. As Charlie Palmgren says it: ‘Cognition is the mental process used when modifying,  inventing, constructing and transforming our mental models. It uses existing knowledge and new information generated through awareness and appreciation.’3

Mobile technology and feedback

‘Just as a blind’s person’s cane or a cell biologist’s microscope is a central part of the way they perceive the world, so well-designed work materials become integrated into the way people think, see, and control activities, part of the distributed system of cognitive control.' 4

So, likewise (although the comparison with the blind man is a bit off track), my smartphone and tablet are fundamental devices that are integrated in the way I think and work. For example giving feedback to students’ work on GooglePlus is much more easier, effective and instant than when using a PC when I log in in the evening. Or how sharing some thoughts on Twitter, helping some tweeps or picking up some new information on Twitter, is essential for how I perceive my job as an educator. The meaning of my actions is shaped by the mobile techology.

Design digital material

We too often see information and cognitive activity as lineair. From point A, over point B to point C. This is not how we cognition works. For example the way we use the browser: scrolling back and forth between pages to find information. Pad++ is an experimental software system to support exploration of dynamic multiscale interfaces. It provides zooming and panning with structured information to create a dynamic way of browsing. The software allows you to exploit computational mechanisms effectively.  In tasks requiring returns to prior pages, users of PadPrints (based on Pad++) completed tasks in 61.2% of the time required by users of the same browser without PadPrints. 5

What does this mean for the design of learning materials? Consider distributed cognition when you think of learning materials and start designing it. It will (at least) make you wonder about how we use technology to shape our mental models. Instead of using new technologies to develop old-style-learning-materials such as the ‘Bordboek’. A ‘board-book’ is an interactive handbook developed by educational publishers. An example via this link. But let’s be honest: this is still so teacher centred, and does not take into account the dynamic relations between people and their (mobile) technologies, nor the way young people contruct their mental models.

1. J. Hollan, E. Hutchins and D. Kirsch.
2. p.179, last but one paragraph
3. Charlie Palmgren, not published.
4. p. 178, second paragraph from the top

Criteria for TELEs: this and that ...

Do you know the feeling?

You’ve worked on a number of assignments, you have been developing some kind of (digital) product … And after some days, or after having seen twelve interesting tweets on the subject, you start doubting your work of a few days before? Not that is is per se bad or entirely wrong, but there is so many information out there. Consequence of the information overload, I guess.

Anyway, in this post I wrote about some criteria for evaluating a technology learning environment. I found it important to build upon the definition of My line of thought was that a good definition should automatically point towards the criteria.

Then I came across this (pragmatic and elaborate) list of criteria for online courses. It was actually sitting in my Diigo library for some time. Waiting for the right time to pop up. Couldn’t it have popped up a week or two earlier? :-)

It is actually an extension of what I was thinking about in the previous post and diagram. So I added the more pragmatic criteria to the diagram.

What are the criteria by which TELEs can be evaluated?

In Wiki Task 1 - here and here - we looked at what Technology Enabled (Enhanced) Learning Environments (TELEs) are. The next step is to look at criteria for evaluating if and when a technology is a good TELE. Criteria are one of the most fundamental elements of making a high quality decision. Simply put, criteria are the way that you define success for a specific decision.1

Considering my definition in previous post, “Technology Learning environments are digital structures, tools, and communities where students and educators find inspiration and draw upon resources to make sense out of things, where they connect and construct meaningful solutions to problems in the 21st century.”  the criteria by which TELEs can be evaluated, are/should be included in this definition.

  1. TELEs feed inspiration;
  2. TELEs provide resources (easily);
  3. TELEs enhance  ‘meaning making’ on those resources;
  4. TELEs make it easy  to connect to others (humans and nonhumans);
  5. TELEs enable problem-solving for relevant 21st Century problems.

Technology Learning Environments as Nonhumans: about delegating.

Our last telic session was very interesting and clarifying. Not only did we have two great presentations on this Bruno Latour paper, we also had to brainstorm in little groups on different items. One discussion was about this image, and how it relates to the Latour paper.

Interesting to me was how Danny en co. looked at this picture from the ‘delegating’ point of view. What do humans delegate to the nonhumans in this picture.We delegate force to the cranes. Without the cranes, putting together the iron framework would be very hard or even impossible. This delegating to nonhumans was an important idea in the Latour paper. An idea that I didn’t take up in my previous reflection on the Latour paper.

What is this ‘delegating’ all about?

How a door-closer relates to Technology Learning Environments.

Strange reading assignment for #telic1 this time. The paper is called ‘Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer’. The author is Jim Johnson but that actually is a pseudonym for Bruno Latour. Latour is a French sociologist of science and anthropologist, and is best known for withdrawing from the subjective/objective division1. The reason for this pseudonym was his opinion that no American sociologist is willing to read things that are not American.

To illustrate the sometimes rather strange language constructions (to me), I cite a paragraph from the paper:

For the umpteenth time I have screamed to Robin, “don’t sit on the middle of the rear seat: if I brake too hard, you’re dead.” In an auto shop further along the freeway I come across a device made for tired-and-angry-parents-driving-cars-with-kids-between-two-and-five (that is too old for a baby seat and not old enough for a seat belt) and-from-small-families (that is without other persons to hold them safely) and-having-cars-with-two-separated-front-seats-and-headrests.’

This sentence illustrates the metaphoric style of the author. He uses the example of a new type of child car seat to illustrate how we constantly invent technologies to cope with growing complexities in our society. Complexities, by the way, that we create ourselves and are not necessarily of major importance. Do we use/invent technologies because of the lack of discipline of humans? If we would all have the discipline of driving carefully, we would not need car seats, we would not need to brake too hard? This idea of being undisciplined and therefore in need of new technologies is very present in the paper. People need to be disciplined to close the door behind them. But since people are unreliable, we might find a better solution in disciplining one person or a technology to close the door after all the others.2

The example of the car seat also illustrates the main purpose of the author: drawing our attention to the work of Nonhumans (technologies) in social situations and that there is actually no division between the technology and us operating the technology (Bruno Latour is best known for withdrawing from the subjective/objective division).

Some other blogposts were very useful in unpuzzling this metaphor of the door-closer, and the purpose of it in our road to master technology enhanced learning environments. I share them here:

Read this article as a summary of the paper:

So, what are my conclusions after having mixed this paper with my instincts, with other readings, and with the content of our current Technology Enhanced Learning module?

Three ideas:

When using technologies in teaching environments, the teacher is very much related to the technology. There is no division between the technology and the teacher. We must be aware of how we ‘delegate’3 fundamental elements of good teaching to technologies. When we are undisciplined in certain areas, we cannot rely on the technology to solve our own lack of discipline. Take ‘effective communication’ for instance. Effective communication starts or ends with competences of the teacher. In our school we use GooglePlus as ad-valvas for our students. It is not due to the technology that we communicate ineffectively, but sometimes the technology is seen an easy scapegoat?

Teachers facilitate as hinges for effective learning. A hinge is a very small but effective technology that allows a door to be easily opened and closed. It seems a very minor invention, but it has a great impact on the use of the door. The hinges are important to bridge ‘in’ and ‘outside’ the house. The teacher and how he uses technology seems to be very small in the complex environment of educational systems and structures, but this has major impact on the effect of learning.

The technology is invented, designed by people who assign different scenarios and roles to the technology. We must be aware of these scenarios in-scribed to the technology by those who create them. Most likely other people (teachers) will come up with different scenarios and roles of their own.4 Which can be great. People like manipulating powerful technologies5. An example in my school: we have a culture of professional development of teachers in small design teams. This happens quite organically, which is a problem when an external ‘inspector’ is asking us how we encourage professional development. The balance of actually doing (professional development) and putting it in paper (words, words, words) is a constant tension in education. We now use to visualise our initiatives in teams that lead to professional development. We assigned a different role to pearltrees from our own needs. We needed a very user-friendly, quick way of curating professional development activities that emphasize the relations between people and roles. We use six roles (Lunenberg, Dengerink, Korthagen, 2013) as a basis for the professional development in the pearltrees. I’m quite sure that the people who invented this great tool pearltrees did not have teacher professional development tool in mind.

The pearltree (in Dutch):


Knowledge, morality … are not properties of humans but of humans accompanied by their retinue (effect) of delegated characters. Since each of those delegates ties together part of our social world, it means that studying social relations without nonhumans is impossible (Latour, 1988a). There is no division between the teacher and the technology he uses.

1. Bruno Latour on Wikipedia


3. to delegate: from de- "from, away" (see de-) + legare "send with a commission"

4. Madeleine Akrich

5. Empowered learners – Manipulation Gee paper