LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 3

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This week, I have learnt how to start “Action research”. The most interesting activity is to start a cognitive trial, which uses Plan, Do, Observe and Review as a quick test of my research questions I designed last week. I need to test a purposively chosen sample (at least one) of my likely participant/respondents. As I have mentioned in the first week that I am not in the position of undertaking a research study, in this activity, I took a face-to-face meeting with a user as an opportunity to try cognitive trial.

“In Action research you are explicitly placed as a participant observer, whose views are as much in consideration as those of your trial subject(s). A cognitive trial should always be conducted as an action research cycle: plan, do, observe, review.” (From Unite 2, week 3).

I have planned the observation and explained it to the user whom I had a meeting with. Unfortunately, in the meeting it’s mainly to respond the user’s feedback of their experience of using a learning technology so far, it’s not recorded. As I need to provide further information for the user in terms of their comments and our recommendations, the observation commentary will be included in the meeting minutes and guide for the next meeting. An analysis of my findings of the user’s experience so far will be added into our user case stage report.

The second activity is to read an article about the ethical challenges of researching in Facebook and to consider the problems of authenticity and validity relating to my planned research study. It’s useful to learn the AERA (2011) Guidelines and BERA Ethical Guidelines (2011). One particular point about “Confidentiality” in researching an open context is stated by AERA (2011, 12.02.c, p.150) as below. I would argue too that the participants have the right to be informed about the research observation, and their open personal information shouldn’t be identified in the research report.

Confidentiality is not required with respect to observations in public places, activities conducted in public, or other settings where no rules of privacy are provided by law or custom. Similarly, confidentiality is not required in the case of information from publicly available records.

Useful reading resources:

Digital accessibility course – week 5

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The last week is about accessibility for everyone in everyday life. I think we all have a lot linking to it.

On 1st October 1999 San Francisco unveiled the first accessible (talking) ATM in the United States. I haven’t noticed if any of the ATM I used in the UK has Talking accessibility. Therefore I searched and found that the first Talking ATM might be installed in 2012 in UK. The first ATM in China was installed in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Shanghai branch in 1988. The first talking accessible ATM was installed in the Industrial Bank Co.,Ltd in 2015 in China.

The National Federation of the Blind in the United States has mounted a campaign The Home Appliance Accessibility Act: seeking sponsorship in 2012 for legislation on domestic appliances. I searched and found the UK law on the design and supply of products. In China, it covers by three laws:

It’s good to see learn the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). I didn’t realise there are many accessibility guidelines existed.

We can easily find an example of home appliances and self-service terminals (SSTs) outside the home which has accessible issues. Therefore everyone should try to avoid creating accessibility barriers using the universal design principles:

In addition, to reduce accessibility barriers, we should involve users in innovative technology research, design and development. The Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica) is a good example. However, bearing in mind that a product shouldn’t make people feel stigmatising (see the first Principle of 7 Principles Universal Design which is ‘Equitable Use’).

So far I have learnt to be aware of accessibility issues and the Accessibility legislation in different countries, remember to refer to the universal design principles to design/choose products, read the WCAG2.0 guidelines to create accessible web content and use document accessibility guidelines to check document accessibility. More I will take into my practices.

At the end, I have to say thank you University of Southampton and the partner universities to help us understand how important the accessible digital technologies are and how we can overcome barriers encountered by people with sensory, physical or cognitive impairments.

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 1

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The Digital Accessibility course I took on FutureLearn is very useful. It took my spare time but I enjoyed to learn new things that I can bring into practice immediately. I noticed a course “What and how to teach with video” on EMMA, another MOOC platform. I think it will be interesting and useful too as using video is so popular nowadays. Thus I decided to register. Although I was far too late, it’s still good to have the opportunity to learn it.

Firstly, I list some of the comparisons between EMMA and FutureLearn in terms of my experience.

  • Both websites are easy to use.
  • EMMA is beta version, so loading the course pages is slow.
  • EMMA provides blog functionality. However, this blog area is not course-based. It is a public blog opening to all EMMA users.
  • EMMA blog does not have spelling check feature.
  • EMMA blog – Add New Post – New Post Content – does not support Font and Colours settings.
  • EMMA comments do not support paragraph spacing, so make comments hard to read.
  • EMMA does not have ‘like’ feature option for comments, and can’t reply to a reply.
  • Both websites provide Progress for me to check. EMMA provides more details in one picture so I can see which one I have done, which one I haven’t easily.

The course has a clear structure and it uses videos in an excellent way because it’s topic is Teaching with Video.

The first week is about what to teach with video, leading to robust learning outcomes. It’s presented as four domains: Cognitive, Experiential, Affective, Skills and 33 Potent pedagogic roles. I watch videos every day and make videos occasionally, but never really summarised what I use video for. Taking this chance I will learn it systematically from Jack Koumi.

I really like that it has been separated between techniques (you facilitate learning by using video and you use video to provide realistic experiences) and teaching functions (what you try to teach by using video). At the beginning I was a bit confused between some of roles and a video example could play multiple roles. However, after using the guideline to check some of the videos I watched on Youtube, the 33 potent pedagogic roles do make sense.

Also I quite like the handout for each lesson, and the video in each unit was broken down by explanation and examples. As I registered late, reading other people’s comments are interesting. However, there are other languages in it, which is difficult for me to understand. I don’t know if EMMA can provide automatic translation for these non-English languages.

The Learning Technologist role (2)

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The year of 2016 ends soon. I didn’t write a post here until now. Giving a brief summary, it’s a year of half of the time spending on family responsibilities and half of the time being busy for making progress in an inefficient process (I don’t like this part, but sometimes I have to accept the fact).

At the end of the two years working on the “enablement officer” secondment role, I see the role of “learning technologist” clearer. Linking back to my previous post, I think it’s necessary to write down my experience and lessons as a learning technologist (if I dare to call myself so).

What it is and what it is not

Basically to me, there are many of us who work in this area have similar background. I use a diagram to indicate it. However, this doesn’t say people who are originally from different backgrounds do not have the capability to do an excellent job in the area. This diagram is a simple example which shows how our own biases can be in the area.


In the diagram A and B stand for people who work in the IT and the Education. C stands for people who work in Learning Technology area.

A: knowledge originally was from IT background (I mean people understand how/why a system was designed, implemented and developed in certain way). This is gained either from education or from long work experience in the area of IT. Considering a context such as higher education, people in the area need to gain the knowledge of education and pedagogy to be able to understand if a technology helps teaching and learning. Gradually the C area appears.

B: knowledge originally was gained from studying the Education subject or from adequate experience of teaching/researching. It is not easy for people working in education to avoid technology or say “digital”. Some of them start to learn IT or understand how technology works. They see the benefits and the limits that technology brings into education. They are the ones who put spurs to the C area.

C: People who work in this area have the adequate knowledge/experience in both A and B, and I think more and more people are going to work in C area. Trying to separate the IT capabilities and pedagogy support from the learning technologist’s work will make their work even harder.

I like what Matt Cornock said in his blog post “Learning Technologist – Oldest job around?“.

… learning technologists are seen as problem solvers working to understand and improve pedagogy, rather than problem makers who would otherwise try to force technology where it doesn’t fit.”

In higher education, there is a need that staff become more technologically adaptive and confident, but it doesn’t mean technology is the key. I agree that the core of the learning technologist role is not about the technology itself, rather is more about helping to resolve the pedagogic problems that the teaching/learning is facing. Understanding the user experience and help users to adapt and explore the benefits and constrains of using technology is the key.

My understanding of the required skills of a learning technologist role does not change much. According to the particular task we work on, some skills are required more than others. I list the knowledge/skill that I found is essential:

  • pedagogies in higher education (I need to improve myself a lot. This is related to my knowledge of the UK Education and policies.)
  • website, webpage, and HTML(5)
  • the ability to identify if a problem is a technical bug/defect
  • effective communication (I need to improve myself a lot. This is related to my knowledge of the UK culture to a good extent.)
  • both online and face-to-face presentation (I need to improve myself on podcasting. This is because I am not very confident as a ESL person. However strangely I feel fine with face-to-face presentation.)
  • coordinating webinars/virtual classrooms (I need to improve myself a lot.)
  • learn/share good practice and/or lessons from/to peers (Being visible and connected is the way!)

The work wasn’t easy and is still challenging. Below are the areas that I feel difficult in my work over the past two years.

An easy-reach contact/sharing structure 

I like to encourage self-directed experiential learning. My assumption was that nowadays it’s not easy to avoid using technology (e.g., pay bills online, online shopping, video chat smart phone, attending webinars, etc.). People use technology and learn how to use technology unconsciously. With the assumption, my “advocate” approach didn’t work as good as I expected. I thought with telling users where the resources are, they will learn themselves. Actually I realised that I need to work alongside with them. I work in a central division rather than in a school/department, one of the barriers is that there are often too many service/management tiers between us and the actual users. The communication process is lengthy and tardy. Another barrier is that learning technologists were not involved in working with academic/professional services staff at the beginning to avoid many problems regarding to making decisions. This is often impossible.

What I learnt is that learning technologists are the people whom the academic/professional services staff need to contact directly at first when they are starting to think about adopting technology in practice. Learning technologists help them to identify their pedagogic problems, choose tools, learn the tools quickly and prepare/deliver activities. Learning technologists share the user cases with other users, evaluate the technology adoption, and feed the experience/lessons back to the technology providers and user community.

Various methods are essential

Following the point above, another barrier is that users are at different levels in terms of essential digital skills/knowledge, so does the learning technologists have different level of expertise in terms of learning technology support. For example, from my experience of delivering support resources, it showed that working on a single approach to encouraging self-directed experience learning is inefficient. I may have created information-rich resources and made them available for users, however without going through the resources with users, some may say they don’t have time to read, some may say they don’t understand, and some may say they can’t find the specific information. Relating to where the resources were, who created them and who updated them, I realised that we need to provide various types of key resources and deliver them to users by different channels. For example, delivering a user guide in a way that users can learn easily may need us to provide a step-by-step one page printable guide, a 3 minutes audio/video clip to explain the guide, a diagram that shows the relationship between this guide and relevant resources, regular webinar training sessions, and follow-up user experience Q&As and feedback. It requires a lot of work from learning technologists as sometimes many of them are different formats, but similar content; sometimes it needs creativity, and sometimes it’s about project management.

Teams and organisational knowledge

By my own experience, I got the impression that individual learning technologist rather than a team is seen as key resource by institutions, and they have been managed like they can do any other learning technologists’ work at a same quality level, or say, hold the same set of knowledge/skills. In many cases, core values of teams are unseen and not identified, and team knowledge is not addressed. Many learning technologists work on their own without supporting/understanding from the institutional level. What kind of knowledge is shared and how knowledge is shared are determined by the individuals. Meanwhile, likely we only bring users a short-term satisfaction because the technologies are delivered before a responsible robust team is ready. Here what I mean a “team” is that people feel they belong to and work for a team goal rather than a team in an operational framework.

Community of practice is a way that tries to bridge the gap, however learning technologists team building and organisational knowledge management are weak.

Leadership skills

I noticed that it requires good leadership skills in the learning technologist role. One of the important aspects of the role is that learning technologists provide recommendations and work with users toward the most workable solution. They need be creative due to the tight budget. In addition, their work impacts on user’s views, user’s experience, and the proliferation of a technology. They even need to shove people’s (particularly the senior managers, senior academic staff, and “conventional” users) perceptions of IT and learning technologies. There are few opportunities for learning technologists to develop leadership skills. I like this simple video that explains what is leadership; it’s different from management!

At the time I wrote this post, my colleague Dewi Parry sent us a blog post “A Learning Technologists Dilemma” written by @KerryPinny. It’s a helpful post that encourages me to think about what I can do next.

Understanding the situation more

I read a book “Scarcity: Why too little means so much” recently. Although the empirical research was from economists’ focus on the problem of scarcity, that is, on how people allocate their resources in the face of many competing demands, I recommend this book to everyone. I found that I was in the situations too many times like the cases discussed in the book. I was thinking it’s about self-control, people’s ability to learn or a part of the individual’s natural characters. However, this book sheds light on human cognitive tunnel, which explains the limits what we are able to see, and therefore what we do. It may help us to understand the situation we are in.

The Learning Technologist role


The other day a new friend asked me what do I do. To be simple, I said “I am a learning technologist…” She answered “oh, that’s good. My nephew works in IT, like you, he fixes computer problems…”. I knew she has seen me as a “Technician”, which many people are thinking it in the same way too. However, I know I am not a technician in my area as I don’t look after computers, don’t install software for users, don’t register people’ mobile devices on the university network, don’t work at helpdesk and answer students’ requests, etc.

The vocabulary “technologist” wasn’t in the 1990s Oxford dictionary. It appeared in some of the 2000s dictionaries.

Technician (definitions in the Oxford Dictionary): 

  1. A person employed to look after technical equipment or do practical work in a laboratory.
  2. An expert in the practical application of a science.
  3. A person skilled in the technique of an art or craft.

Technologist (definition in Longman Dictionary):

  • Someone who has special knowledge of technology. (i.e. A specialist  in technology.)

There are many articles talking about the difference between the two terms, such as “Technician vs Technologist and “Usage of -ist and -ian, when to use which?“. I don’t want to argue about the use of the terms, but to make it clear, as an occupation, the duty and responsibilities of a “learning technologist” isn’t the same as the “IT technician” has. It is an emerged professional area regarding that IT acts as an agent for change to facilitate education transformation since the late 1990s. People have put effort on defining it, see some examples below:

The definitions do not help people who are not in the area to understand it easily. Sometimes I even wonder if it’s precise to call myself as a Learning Technologist, or am I just on the path towards being a Learning Technologist? With the background as a ‘software engineer’, ‘researcher’, ‘teaching assistant’, ‘developer’, ‘information specialist’, and a ‘learning technology support officer’, my current work requires broader experience and knowledge in e-learning, stated in the job descriptions of these key areas:

  • Be the point of expertise, reference, and recognised knowledgeable contact for enablement of IT services within your area of expertise, providing guidance and support to the University.
  • Work with the academic and administrative staff to provide both pedagogical and technical support (advice and guidance), for face-to-face learning and online / distance / eLearning goals, particularly with regard to enhancement of learning through the use of technology. Encourage and facilitate the dissemination of best practices in the use of learning technologies.
  • Regularly engage with service managers, customers, and end users in order to understand the current usage of IT services, including the user experience, limitations, end user capability, and understanding of the capability of service offerings.
  • Contribute to an enablement strategy for your area of expertise, liaising with end user communities to identify customer and business needs.
  • Proactively manage customer expectations pertaining to service capability, creating communication channels to advertise information on service capability and usage.
  • Identify competencies, skills, and development required to maximise the benefit from IT services, assessing the effectiveness of activities completed.
  • Plan, design and deliver demonstrations and development activities for staff across academic and professional service departments on the use of the VLE and various technologies within teaching, learning and assessment. Develop staff development plans and appropriate learning materials. Develop and facilitate technical and pedagogical demonstrations of the use of the latest content developments and teaching tools.
  • Understand new requirements and implement them to the e-Learning platform.

To be specific, I tried to draw a draft of the key activities, connections, and Input/Outcomes in my role together. Hope this first step helps me to make the role clearer.



Common Tech Terms

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I came across a list of “Top 50 Tech Terms that are Now Common Expressions“. Not sure when this list was created. There are a handful of terms I don’t hear often in work and I think terms like “https”, “3G/4G”, “HTML”, and “URL” should be included.

I prefer the following resources:

Resources of exhibitions

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If you are interested in exhibitions and shows, you may be interested in the following resources.

Euromuse.net is a portal that helps you to find information on museums and exhibitions in Europe.

List of world expositions on Wikipedia

Top 100 USA Shows from Absolute Exhibits

The m+a ExpoDataBase is a portal for the exhibition industry (exhibitors, visitors, organisers and service providers).

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