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6 Types of Learning

Six different types of learning

‘Categories of Activity’

1) Behaviourist-type

2) Constructivist

3) Situated

4) Collaborative

5) Informal and lifelong

6) Support or coordination

Spontaneous communication and collaboration, e.g. one-to-one or one-to-may by texting or mobile phones, by sending a message to a forum or blog while travelling.

e.g. Childhood journeys. Taking octogenarians home through mobile devices.


Naismith, L., Lonsdale, P., Vavoula, G. and Sharples, M. (2004) Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning, Report 11 for Futurelab. Online. Available.


Reflections on Elearning : From Helen Beetham

Chapter 2 Beetham

With the central importance of activity on the part of the learner.

‘Several decades of research support the view that it is the activity that the learner engages in, and the outcomes of that activity, that are significant for learning (e.g. Tergan 1997) REFERENCE Sharpe (2007:26)

Learners need opportunities to make a newly acquired concept or skill their own: to draw on their own strengths and preferences, and to extend their repertoire of approaches to task requirements. Beetham & Sharpe (2007:26)

A learning activity is an entity that is meaningful to the learner, given his or her current level of expertise. Beetham & Sharpe (2007:27)

(You don’t hand someone, who has never played an instrument, a flute and put them in an orchestra; nor do you take a Grade 8 qualified flautist, hand them a Kazoo and put them in a marching band, yet when students today are given the opportunity to bring the technologies they use into learning these disparities occur, with some having considerable levels of experience and expertise, while others may have only a passing knowledge if any at all).

· Authenticity of the activity

· Formality and structure

· Retention/reproduction versus reflection/internalization

· The role and importance of other people

· Locus of control


Fig. 2.1 An outline for a learning activity

Beetham & Sharpe (2007:29)

Loosely derived from Engestrom 1999

Learning outcome: some identifiable change that is anticipated in the learner.

Individual learning logs and e-portfolios allow learners to collate evidence towards broadly defined learning goals, and to reflect on their progress. Beetham & Sharpe (2007:30)

Problems with technology:

· Frustration and alienation

· Time management

· Gender

· Culture

· First language

Tasks experienced quite differently based on the technology used and the social and cultural meanings these carry.

The main intrinsic benefits of digital resources are their greater flexibility of access, reproduction and manipulation. Simply being able to study at a time, place and pace to suit them can profoundly change learners’ relationships with conceptual material.

Beetham & Sharpe (2007:34)

· Research tasks

· Searching databases

· Evaluating online resources

· Comprehension tasks

· Answering questions

· Note-taking

· Mind-mapping

N.B. No technologies should be introduced to the learning situation without consideration of learners’ confidence and competence in their use.

Beetham & Sharpe (2007:36)

N.B. Vygotsky (1986) argued that learning is a socially mediated activity in the first instance, with concepts and skills being internalized only after they have been mastered in a collaborative context.

At more advanced levels learners may prefer to learn alone. Beetham & Sharpe (2007:36)


Tergan, S. (1997) ‘Misleading theoretical assumptions in hypertext/hypermedia research’, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 6 (3-4): 257-83.

What’s best face to face or online? Ans: they are both equally excellent

We’re asked to consider this as part of the MAODE; it may even be a component of the EMA in H800, yet after three modules I had not experienced a face to face anything – the MAODE (Masters in Open and Distance Education) is entirely (stubbornly?) online.

It has been with trepidation and fascination that I find myself attending group tutorials or seminars, booking in for a Residential School and having to face an exam.

These are part of an elective, a 30 point module that forms part of the OU Business School MBA (Master of Business Administration).

I can say with complete conviction that there is no competition, though evidentially different, both the online and face-to-face tutorial meet the same objectives, albeit with significant differences. Both should be experienced before you pass judgement.

There are pros and cons to each.

Two face-to-face tutorials of two and a half hours each had me in a group of first 16, then 11. We listened a bit but interacted a good deal. I took notes but am still writing them up. Online you talk with you fingertips; I have met up with fewer at a time, six or less on Elluminate, more asynchronously in a forum. There have been threaded discussions of 100+ posts running to 16,000 words or more.

On the other hand, travelling to a tutorial 63 miles from home last week I lost a good piece of the day, caught in a traffic accident going in and a worse one on the M25 coming back. Then again I’ve had tutor group forums that have been badly attended by both the tutor and fellow students.

Research (Richardson, 2005-2011) shows that satisfaction rates for online or face-to-face tutorials are now matched: electing for or receiving one or the other, from the OU at least, students are just as satisfied.

MY OU Personal Learning Environment (PLE) in a mind-map

E-learning in a mind-map

Does mobile learning change everything?

Mobile Learning

Discussing this with Ian Singleton of icanplayit.com two weeks ago, I was Linked In to the author from JISC Doug Belshaw a few days later.

This conversation could soon link to a myriad of people cited and listed in the JISC report on Mobile and Wireless Technologies. This smorgasbord of a review will take a few weeks to consume; I’ll want the recipe and I’ll be back for more, repeatedly. It is a module in its own right.

It requires the early morning to take a three hour stab at this. Kukulska-Hulme (2010) says “Mobile learning is here to stay, even if in a few years’ time it may no longer be distinguishable from ‘just learning’.”

As a student of e-learning the value of Doug Belshaw’s JISC review is broad. Whilst mobile learning is the main theme, there is a suitable warming up to the topic via the development of e-learning and a broad acknowledgement of the key thinkers of pedagogy which touches on innovations in learning and the debunking of Prensky and his idea of digital natives.

It makes a good read for anyone studying Open and Distance Education with the Open University.

The theme that the author may not have seen that is pervasive throughout, is the idea of the e-learning entrepreneur; this seems inevitable with a device and technology that puts learning into the pocket of the learner.

Laptops and smartphones become a learn as I please, when and where I want, device. I wonder too, when cameras will become phones?

Reflecting on the devices that got unwrapped this Christmas some of us might prefer the Canon or Sony camera that uploads directly to Facebook, Kodak or Picasa without the interface of phone and laptop, or even a memory card.

If ou can think of it, it has been done.

This is one of those documents that will takes weeks of consideration as I wish to read all the references too, not that I doubt the author, but because often I find thinking such as this is like a digital conversation caught in the wind and there are a dozen other voices speaking at the same time. I’ve not come across Traxler before, for example. He’s cited 12 times in this review.

Though, just because someone else has already done it, does not mean that I might not do it better?

JISC Spotlight The presentation. “Students no longer need to engage with information and discussion at the expense of real life but can do so as part of real life as they move about the world, using their own devices to connect them to people and ideas, ideas and information of their own choosing, perhaps using their own devices to generate and produce content and conversation as well as store and consume them.” (Traxler, 2009, p.70)

Why therefore bother with a traditional university education at all?

Better to go straight to work and learn on the job, not simply as a trainee or apprentice, but by tapping into institutional and corporate learning. This is important The wider mobility of society has led to ‘approx-meetings’ and ‘socially negotiated time’ (2009:73) which, although mobile devices have not been designed specifically for educational purposes, has a knock-on effect upon formal education.

This disruptive effect has both a strong and a weak element, argues Traxler.

The ‘weak’ element of the disruption due to mobile devices in formal education is at the level of nuisance – such as ‘cheating’ during examinations, inappropriate photographs, devices beeping during class time. The ‘strong’ element of disruption, on the other hand, “challenge[s] the authority of the curriculum and the institutions of formal learning” (2009, p.77); students can effectively become gatekeepers and organisers of learning for other students in a way institutions have only been able to do previously.

Given the fragmented nature of the current mobile learning environment, there are multiple definitions of mobile learning; however, most of these definitions recognise the importance of

• context,

• access

• and conversation.

“[Mobile learning involves the] exploitation of ubiquitous handheld hardware, wireless networking and mobile telephony to facilitate, support enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning”


Due to funding arrangements, which sector is involved, and country-specific contexts, mobile learning means different things to different communities.

• On the go

• Every day

• Between classes and home (and work)

• Conflicts of complements formal learning

• More interactive

Woodill (2010:53) identifies seven main affordances of mobile learning:

1. Mobility

2. Ubiquity

3. Accessibility

4. Connectivity

5. Context sensitivity

6. Individuality

7. Creativity


Belshaw (201) Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review 2010 Doug Belshaw, JISC infoNet

Traxler, J. (2009) ‘Learning in a Mobile Age’ (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 1(1), 1-12, January-March 2009)

Traxler, J. (2009) ‘Students and mobile devices: choosing which dream’ (in ALT-C 2009 “In dreams begins responsibility” – choice, evidence and change, Traxler, John (Professor of Mobile Learning, University of Wolverhampton)

A university in your pocket – the Open University VLE goes Smart and iPad

Where do we strand with the use of mobile devices in learning?

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report ‘Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning’ may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically, in relation to the potential for e-learning, has move on a great deal. In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

As Kukulskha-Hulme and her colleagues point out by 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated – they’re bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

‘In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.’ (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)

A growing body of students expect a component of their course to be managed using mobile devices.

I like this point from JISC. It supports the constructive view of learning

“Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”. (JISC, 2009, p.51)

It is interesting that the report notes that ‘mobile will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning’ (a 2008/2009 perspective) with reasons given as: ‘Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost’. (Stockwell, 2008)

Much more is possible today, and expected.

They do suggest that, ‘more widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow’. (ibid 2011:19)

The report notes ‘notable minorities’

A notable major minority who ‘use the internet to download or upload materials.’ (major minority)

And a lesser minority, minority who ‘contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds.’ (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

‘Their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks’. (2011:19)

Which debunks Prensky and favour diffusion of innovations as a mode of study.

‘We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.‘ (2011:20)

Which has indeed happened with smarter phones and the proliferation of the tablet (or slate) or iPad … whatever the term might be that we settle on.

‘Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between ‘handheld learning’, laptop learning’ and ‘desktop learning’. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.


– Contact with others

– Access to information and answers

– Reading e-Books

– Listening to Podcasts

– Scheduling

Producers and consumers become ‘produsers

One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings’. (2011.31)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products.

Bruns (2005) coined the term ‘produsers’ to denote both of these approaches.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

‘Since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

More research is always needed … in deed, with a longitidunal study this research would and should undertake to look at a cohort or students EVERY year.


Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. “Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning.” IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

A rare moment to stop and take stock (Greek – fish – soup) and the rest of it …

Does learning something new enter a phase of such frenzy that the formal aspect of the process is irrelevant.

To say I live, breathe and eat e-learning would be an exaggeration, but the mix of social media (my professional responsibility) and e-learning (my passion as an educator) on top of a foundation of 32 years of ‘educational inclinations’ means that I find myself in a self-constructed maelstrom of activity.

32 years ago, a 17 year old, we lived ‘above the shop,’ as it were, a training centre for a PLC in Cumbria. I listened eagerly to the Training Director and I was allowed to use first 1 inch reel to reel black and white Sony kit used for interview training … and then a hefty VHS camera. I created my first ‘training film’ – ironically titled ‘How to give a slide presentation.

A desire to taken in, and then share, what I think and understand, with others has informed my career.

Meanwhile, whilst reliving and reinventing and/or returning to my video production roots, my current interest is mobile learning – not that it is should be called ‘m-learning,’ just that it is ‘stuff’ with a learning twist, that you can have with you, connect with and use, wherever, whenever and whatever you are.

With a bit of skiing, sailing and swimming

Each in various ways as an educator, and participant: guided skiing, but never the BASI qualification, Offshore Sailing RYA qualification while instructing at RYA Level II and swimming a few weeks of effort of the most senior ASA Certification that is current (Senior Club Coach).

Everything can be taught

My turn around moment on this was a presentation I was linked to when Max Clifford, self-taught PR guru, spoke lucidly and with enthusiasm for students studying PR.


If nothing else, it showed they were passionate about the subject to study it for three years.

(Note to Max, the passionate ones might be 20% of the cohort).

And cooking?

Greek Fish Soup.

I’m yet to reach the position that I can call myself a professional academic, but is it the case the some academics (or is it just mathematicians and philosophers) are also very good cooks?.

My theory is, that they use the period of cooking, to be engaged with one activity … while thinking of something else entirely???

A question about e-learning and social media

I put this question through the OU Yammer feed.

‘I’ve seen through the Masters in Open and Distance Education a Presentation by Grainne Conole.

I thought this was part of the JISC project.

This was 2007. The suggestion was that a study would be carried out in relation to practice-based learning. I’m none the wiser. I’m not sure if that study went ahead, or the research was very enlightening’.

And had this reply:

Yes, it did go ahead:

Learners’ experiences of blended learning environments in a practice-based context (PB-LXP)

see http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/workspace.cfm?wpid=7174 ,


Student attitudes towards and use of ICT in course study, work and social activity: a technology acceptance model approach


If in doubt ask … and know where to ask

Fielding questions to a community of online educators is like casting seed onto fertile grown rather than blasting the question into the blogosphere.

For anyone this you can ask subject specific quesstion to your OU community on ‘OU Platform’

For MAODERs sign up through the ‘Your Subject‘ link and then Education – OU Community Online

Picking up on the 2007 presentation by Grainne Conole of research carried out by the Institute of Educational Technology (OU) I was keen to learn of outcomes from the follow up research they promised on practice-based learning.

Like anyone with an insatiable curiosity the desire to chase several references or to pursue a topic to the Nth degree doing so online can be overwhelming; it is too easy to find references, even more so when they have a URL.

Time was as an undergraduate such searches meant a walk or bike road across town, the nature of Geography (in the first year at least) touching on both human and physical topics, ranging from zoology, politics and history on the one hand to geology and climatology on the other keep me on my feet and toes.

Studying online the only part of your body that is exercised are your fingers and you’re always a click away from a maelstrom of information.

Increasingly I find I want to stick to a brand I know and a name I know.

The brand might be an institution or publisher (often the same thing): Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Open University presses … and the authors whose writing I can trust, both for the quality of the content and how it is expressed:

Gráinne Conole – uber e-learning

Martin Weller – e-learning professor

Gilly Salmon – all things ‘e’

Denise Kirkpatrick – here on Flickr

Chris Pegler – In open resources

For example …

Do add MAODE names I ought to add here (this is just a starting list from the top of my head).

Can I destroy the idea of the ‘digital native’ without using the term? Apparently not.

The moral panic engendered by authors who talk of ‘digital natives’ disguises evolutionary progress

The likes of Prensky (Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’) are pandering to our innate base desires, the belief or wish that there is a narrative to our existence that says it is rubbish now and can be fixed by reading their book, with its oh too neat title.

Moral panic (Cohen, 1976) … Mary Whitehouse caused many in relation to smut on TV.

There is a pressing need for theoretically informed research – the concept of ‘Digital Natives; is popularist and designed to sell a book(s) and the lecture/consultancy services of the person who coined the phrase, ‘Marc Prensky.’

So what is a ‘moral panic’, anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) to have a rant … ideally to rant about how this prophet Prensky is right about everything and the educational world will be saved if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

There has been:

– Little critical scrutiny

– Undertheorised

– Lack of sound empirical basis

Dangerously ‘to address this proclaimed challenge, some high-profile commentators are arguing for radical changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional in education.’

Frankly, Prensky and his lot deserve to be lampooned and satirised

Worse, they are given genuine educators working with technology a bad name. Actually, ‘we’ if I can use that term now, are on the side of teachers and lectures creating tools that are convenient, easy, transportable, and hopefully engaging, best of all permitting a large class, or cohort to have some sense of ‘student-centred’ learning through tools that enable a taste of the one-to-one tutorial.

Prensky has no answers, and befuddles it all for us, worse academics have initially picked up his thread and have been terribly slow to get the research done that quite frankly demonstrates the nonsense that has been used to sell Prensky’s books and lecture series.

Claims are put forward with limited empirical evidence ( e.g. Tapscott, 1998) or supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs (e.g. Prensky, 2001), who also cites Captain James T Kirk form Star Trek (sic) … as if a fictional character, or the show (rather than its author) should be the one to cite at all.

The reality is complex and diverse, not just across a nation, but probably in many classes themselves.

It’s as if Prensky and his crew are suggesting that this generation were born with a third eye or six fingers. (Actually, they are ‘The Simpson’ Generation and we need to worry that they’ll all turn yellow and chop of a finger from each hand).

Can we take seriously an academic writer who cites Star Trek? Whose references can be as basic as ‘Tim Rylance in the UK?’

He could be, and is, making it up.

And by getting into this debate we are no doubt helping him sell even more books. I bought one and am delighted that it served its purpose – unreadable, unacademic twaddle from beginning to end.

So what is a ‘moral panic’, anything that gets JPF (just plain folk, a John Seely Brown expression I love) to have a rant … ideally to rant about how this prophet Prensky is right about everything and the educational world will be saved if we only listen to him (then praise him to the hilt).

Academic writers and current research, writing in calm, objective tones (Kennedy, Conole and others) knock flat every piece of ‘hear say’ from these authors for what it is – journalistic, sensationalist nonsense.

I simply cannot believe an academic with a Harvard MA could possibly write like this, indeed I want to ask Harvard to confirm that this is the case … and if necessary disown him.

‘The researchers found that only a minority of the students (around 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.’ (Bennett 2008:02)

Kennedy’s research in Australia says it all.

Emerging technologies are NOT the lifeblood of a generation, far from it. Research amongst students in three Australian universities showed that:

  • 21% blog
  • 24% used social networking
  • 21.5% used podcasts

i.e. far from universal in this generation as the self-publicists of ‘Net Generation’, ‘Digital Natives’ or ‘Millennials’ would have us think.

Is there a theoretical or empirical basis to the arguments that are presented using the terms, Net Generation, Digital Natives or Millennials?

None whatsoever.

As Bennett said, we had a go a kids watching too much TV in the past. This is their lives and ours; it is the world as it is today. Nothing whatsoever has changed physiologically or psychologically about us humans, how we develop and grow.

  • Differences related to:
  • Socio-economic status
  • Cultural/ethnic background
  • Gender
  • Discipline specialisation
  • Internet use by teenagers is far from uniform
  • Widely varying experiences according to children’s school and home backgrounds (Lee, 2005)
  • Family dynamics
  • Level of domestic affluence

Multiskilling claims … are facts that equate to young people at this stage in their developmental processes and is the same today as it was a thousand or ten thousand years ago – ability to work in fine detail, to work on several tasks at the same time.

‘A significant proportion of young people do not have the levels of access or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea. Such generalisation about a whole generation of young people thereby focuses attention on technically adept students. With this comes the danger that those less ale will be neglected and that the potential impact of socio-economic and cultural factors will be overlooked’. (Bennett, 2008:02)

Although such claims may appeal to our common-sense perceptions of a rapidly changing world, there is no evidence that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon exclusive to digital natives’, (Bennett, 2008:02)

Just because something resonates with our personal observations doesn’t make it so. Frankly, Prensky et al should be stand-up comics – you have to laugh, at their nonsense and how gullible we are to want to believe them.

‘Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation within age groups.’ (Bennett, 2008:02)

People change their approach according to their perceptions of the task.

  • ‘It is apparent that there is scant evidence to support this idea, and that emerging research challenges notions of a homogenous generation with technical expertise and a distinctive learning style’. (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Our analysis of the digital native literature demonstrates a clear mismatch between the confidence with which claims are made and the evidence for such claims.’
  • ‘Arguments are often couched in dramatic language, proclaim a profound change in the world, and pronounce stark generational differences’ (Bennett, 2008:03)
  • ‘Such claims with appeals to sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change.’ (Bennett, 2008:04)

The problem is that Prensky is an easy read

Too many people prefer this than wading through dry, hard-nosed analysis of the truth. The truth? Business as usual. E-learning to education is what a whole raft of tools were to the housewife in the 1950s and 1960s … they make it easier to get the job done. They make life more convenient.

In the case of education it makes realisation, for some, the dream of more student-centred learning, possible. If there is a generational shift it ought to be that more people are gaining access to an education on their terms. We have moved from a teacher-centred model of teaching (Kember, 1997) … which only existed/exists of necessity (not everyone has ever been wealthy to give their children a personal governess then tutor) … to supporting students’ active learning, the student-centred model (Gibbs, 1995).

If there is, what do you think are the key features of this change in generations?

In the case of education it makes realisation, for some, the dream of more student-centred learning, possible. If there is a generational shift it ought to be that more people are gaining access to an education on their terms. We have moved from a teacher-centred model of teaching (Kember, 1997) … which only existed/exists of necessity (not everyone has ever been wealthy to give their children a personal governess then tutor) … to supporting students’ active learning, the student-centred model (Gibbs, 1995).

How might these changes affect education?

Did serendipity bring me to this?

‘An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university’. (2011) Afam Itum

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