Topics to Consider

        What is eLearning ?
      • Gordon's Law
      • Why eLearning ?
      • Characteristics of the Knowledge Age
      • Who are the Learners ?
      • Benefits of eLearning
      • Learning Theory
      • Historical Trends and Developments
      • Mindtools
      • Risk Factors



What is eLearning ?








eLearning soundbites

"Companies can save 40% to 60% annually using Web-based training instead of making employees travel elsewhere for training. Plus, there's an overall 50% reduction in seat time required for a student to learn the same content using online training as compared to in a classroom."
--Brandon Hall, Editor and publisher of the Multimedia & Internet Training Newsletter


"The biggest hidden cost of training is the indirect cost of wages a company pays an employee while they are training. This lost productivity is equivalent to the cost that companies spend on the actual training courses annually, currently estimated at $62.5 billion. Web-based training significantly reduces the time involved with training, and as a result, the cost of training."
--Mark Van Buren, Research Director of the Association of Trainers and Developers

"We need to live in both worlds--the classroom and the Web. The brave new world of net delivered and assisted training is exciting and real. [However], we strongly believe that it is not a replacement for classroom instruction but a critical extension of learning services."
-- Elliott Masie, President of The MASIE Center, an international think tank focusing on learning and technology


Simple Examples

The Black Box

If you click on the black box, you will go to a page with quotes about darkness on it, there are, at least, seven ways to read the text on the page, can you think of four ?

the apocalypse box

The Black Box


Now, take a slice of PIE !!



An Exercise

What is learning ? - what who when where why how

What is teaching ? - what who when where why how

Is training different from teaching ? How ?



Gordon's Law: eLearning = (Learning)^2


  • A book or notes represent learning in a two-dimensional format, all diagrams and text are in 2D
  • The web can show animated images (e.g. rotating), thus giving it 3D, it can also show things changing over time, going into 4D
  • Hyperlinks makes text 3D, clickstreaming makes it 4D
  • thus, by going from 2D to 4D, we are squaring the dimensionality of learning



Why eLearning ?

Many businesses need to keep up with new information for mission critical activities, training and education gives the skills and information to compete effectively.

The 'e' in eLearing should be considered to mean 'effective'.

As we move from an Information Age into a Knowledge Age, the min currency required by organiations is information about three things;

  • Customer information
  • Competitor information
  • Employee information

Converting this information into knowledge is infinitely more valuable to many organisations.

The Amount of information stored doubles every 2.8 years, so usually it is NOT the case that mission critical information does not exist, but rather the information is difficult if not impossible to find, because the seekers do not possess the information age skills to locate it.





Characteristics of the Knowledge Age


  • Global Economy
  • Multinational organisations are spreading to the four corners of the world, and require a corporate knowledge database and learning tools that are as accessiable in Nukualofa as they are in New York. Barriers such as time, distance and language need to be overcome.
  • Need for Skilled Workers
  • Job growth today is occuring at the top end of the 'food chain', requiring a better educated workforce. Occupations that require a degree are growing at twice the rate as others.
  • Shortage of Skilled Workers
  • The supply of skilled workers has failed to keep pace with demand, this is a major problem with this knowledge age, and on the flip-side there is never a good time to send employees on training courses, we need just-in-time teaching.
  • "Free Agent" Mentality
  • Employees show relatively little loyality to their employers. They walk out the door a lot, and with them goes a large amount of intellectual capital, employers have an obligation to make working conditions as desirable as possible, including all the employee to cultivate marketable skills.
  • Training viewed as a benefit
  • Studies show that workers are more likely to leave organisations that do not provide traning than those who do, because they know it doesn't take long to become unmarketable in an economy where the skillsets required changes frequently.
  • Stretched Workforce
  • Putting in hours outside of the regular 9-to-5 has become very common, this means corporate knowledge must reside in some accessible location, and not in someone's head.
  • Results
  • Worldwide annual spending on education by organisations is approximated by be 2 trillion.



Who are the Learners ?

1. The Acedemic Market
  • With 76 million people in the U.S. involved in the providing or reeiving of education, this market is huge. It represents 7.3% of GDP, and holding steady. Possible reasons for it's growth in the coming years include;
  • Primary/Secondary Schools
    • > Increased sponsorship of technology
      > Technology-inclined and ambitious children
      > Increased involvement of parents
      > Growing shortage of teachers
      > Governments determination to tackle the digital divide
  • Third-Level Education Knowledge
    • > Economy offers better rewards for more educated workers
    • > Growth in Adult Education
    • >Instituions reaching capacity
  • 2. The Corporate Market
  • In the year 2000 multinational organisations budgeted approximately €62 million on formal training, which was 24% higher than it was in 1993.
  • Of that,
  • 44% is spent on trainer salaries,
  • 24% on outside providers of products and services, and
  • 32% on facilities, materials, hardware seminars and conferences.


  • 3. The Consumer Market
  • This is a tough market to pin down, but it may turn out to be one of the most important markets for the eLearning Vendors;
    • > The use of the internet for researching avocational interests that could transition into more formal education
    • > The flexibility will draw in those requiring continued professional education



Benefits of eLearning ?

Another Exercise

What do you think the benefits of eLearning are ? - what who when where why how



These are my suggestions;

Immediacy of information

This one is very obvious, _if_ you have an internet connection, it is much easier to search the web than it is to look up information in the local library and hope that the book you want hasn't been taken out already.


Entire programs of study can be customized based on learner objectives and existing skill level. This can be achieved throught the use of learning objects to assemble a course from the ground up using pre-existing templates. The fact that these objects are reusable makes this feasible in terms of both time and money. I believe learning object will be the cornerstone of a successful eLearning market.


The problem with much of today's so-called eLearning materials is that it is simply electronic version of manuals, this sucks !!! Currently the most common interaction seems to be giving the learner the ability to clip on words to get a definition of it. This can be improved upon by Computer Scientists.


Traditional training and education is teaching for the 'Just-in-Case' model, eLearning allows learners to learn what they need, when it is needed.


Networked technology gives us the ability to locate and present up-to-the-minute information Also online courses can be easily updated to reflect changing requirements (e.g. industry regulations). Plus, the latest version of the material is quickly available to students-without the turn-around times for printing new books or burning CD-ROMs and distributing them.


The role of the instructor changes from 'sage on the stage' to 'guide on the side'.

No Travel Cost

According to training researcher Brandon Hall, editor and publisher of the Multimedia & Internet Training Newsletter, companies save 40% to 60% annually using Web-based training instead of making employees travel elsewhere for classroom training.

Interaction with a Course Expert and Other Students

Unlike CD-ROM-based programs, online training has the capability to incorporate threaded discussion groups for students to discuss coursework with their peers and a messaging system for asking course-related questions of an instructor or industry expert.

Simplify Course Administration and Record Management

Automated tracking of student progress and completion of classes can be more cost-effective as well as more efficient to manage. Information is readily available in the event of a government agency inspection, and customized reports can be created for printout.


Learning Management Systems (LMS) make the implementation, hosting, tracking, testing, auditing and administration of online courses a seamless process. New means of assessing and certifying learning results replace traditional, clock-hour measures, providing secure and reliable systems for recording and capturing what an individual knows and is able to do.

Getting Taught by the World's Best Teachers

Videos of the best teachers can be collected and used by learners, e.g.

Richard Feynman lectures on light here



Learning Theory

  • An Overview of Research methods in ICTs

    It can be argued that all it takes to make a successful learning environment with or without ICTs is a good teacher or a good learner. Theory is the attempt to discover what it takes to produce such teachers and learners, to identify successful practice and then reproduce it in the widest variety of circumstances.

    Educational theory has suffered from being in the shadow of scientific theory. Interestingly the scientific method has been deeply questioned within the sciences while often being taken as given outside the discipline. For a short history of the evolution of the scientific method visit PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE Science vs. Religion, from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment In order to add weight to works on education, early experiments were traditionally carried out in much the same way that chemical reactions were tested. .

    A new paradigm in studies of IT in education began to evolve and Maddux (1993) has identified 'three waves' of educational research in information technology in education. A condensed form of his description of the evolution of research in IT is presented here.

    1. Exposure to computers in general will produce global educational benefits.

    Maddux (op. cit.) states that this first stage occurs when research is concentrated on comparing the effectiveness of the microcomputer to other instructional media. Methods for studying the introduction of the microcomputer include 'distinct evaluation exercises' which involve looking for improvements in financial cost, student time, staff time or student learning (Kulik, Kulik, & Cohen, 1980). Pre- and post-test experiments were carried out in order to test the effectiveness of the computer compared to that of other instructional media. Such short, controlled experiments were designed to measure behavioural objectives and were based on Skinner's ideas of teaching machines. Improvements in learning outcomes, it was believed, could be identified by comparing the results. Reliance on such methods meant, however, that more subtle points were lost and, thus, there was a call for research to focus on more specific applications of computer practice.

    2. Exposure to some particular computer application will produce general educational benefits.

    The second wave or method of testing the effectiveness of particular computer applications is described by Maddux (op. cit.) as being: IF LEARNERS (AT ANY LEVEL, ANY AGE, ANY GENDER, ANY GRADE ANY IQ, ETC.) ARE TAUGHT [some computer application] (FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME, USING ANY METHOD, BY ANY TEACHER, ETC.), THEY WILL IMPROVE MORE IN [some cognitive or performance variable] THAN AN EXPERIMENTAL GROUP WHO ARE TAUGHT TRADITIONALLY [whatever that is] (Typography exactly as in source - p. 16).

    The reason that most of the comparisons between traditional instruction and computer-based instruction are flawed, Willis (1993) argues, is that they fail to control potentially powerful confounding variables. In the research-to-support-theory (RTST) model this is a fatal flaw because the goal is to support a general theory (such as 'that CBI is superior to other methods'), "and all alternative explanations to the results (for example, that students might come from different cultural backgrounds) must be eliminated" (Willis, 1993; 37). However, when all potential confounding variables are held constant, Clark (1985) believes that there will be no differences (e.g., when students read some information on a screen and other information from a text). He states that this type of task reduces understanding and support of the very thing that makes IT so special - its great flexibility and adaptability to learner variables. There is a need for an alternative paradigm as researchers begin to question the inherent assumptions of: 'for any length of time, using any method, by any teacher'.

    3. Which and how learner and learning variables interact with variables of instruction and instructional technology?

    This is Maddux's third and latest wave. It focuses mainly on computers used in natural settings, within school classrooms or computer labs. Although Maddux (op. cit.) states that research on IT has evolved, he also argues that methodologies have not been quick to change and old methods are being used to explore these new directions.

    Collaboration and interaction

    Lewis (1990) stated that, although pupils could work in groups for prolonged periods, the role of the teacher is still very important and cautioned that teachers must not interpret all interaction as relating to the task at hand. Cox (1989) believes that researchers need to observe just how children actually do interact when working in small groups. She further recommends that researchers examine the quality of pupil interaction and thinking in order to test the claim that some microcomputer programs have the power to generate purposeful discussions among groups of children.

    Howe, Tolmie and Anderson (1991) contend that computer work has come to be seen as group work, which they argue can benefit students, but like Lewis (op. cit.) they add certain cautions. Teacher intervention and specially designed software were needed to overcome the gender-related patterns of behaviour that interfered with student successes in problem-solving. They found that joint decision making by male pairs drew out preconceptions about the explanations of object paths. Female pairs did not discuss the physics problems in the same ways but this did not impede their progress and the girls matched male pairs in overall performance. The mixed pairs, however, had significantly lower levels of interaction that reflected the tendency for one person to have sole control.

    The Spoken Language and New Technology (SLANT) project was set up by a joint Open University/ University of East Anglia research team to research the ways in which children construct knowledge together through discourse, and how (if at all) this process depends on the negotiation of that knowledge through its formulation in the course of computer-based activity (Mercer, Phillips & Somekh, 1991; Mercer, 1994). When observing primary school children in 10 different classrooms, the base segment that they sought to analyse was not single words or sentences but rather the full discourse of negotiated meaning. The researchers concluded that computer-based activities stimulated talk but that the talk varied in terms of its educational content and overall quality.

    As part of an ESRC project on group work with computers, Hoyles, Healy and Pozzi (1994) attempted to identify factors, such as background or process, which influenced successful collaboration. They identified as main points: • the structuring of the task environment; • conflict and negotiation; • role of computers in stimulating formal mathematical expressions; • the influence of personal variables such as gender and attainment. They concluded that, for successful group work to take place, pupils must have: computer access, software that supports group work; and a task that allows them to discuss and evaluate away from the computer. These findings have been echoed by a number of researchers (Crook, 1987; Hall & Rhodes, 1988; Hughes, MacLeod & Potts, 1985).

    Although some studies have found that children work well in pairs, taking turns with the keyboard, others recorded a tendency, in large groups or with a more advanced students, where one child would dominate the activity (Crook, 1987; Hall & Rhodes, 1988). Shooter, Lovering and Bellamy, (1993) found that, although the group had initially one dominant member, other group members gained confidence over time and more equal roles evolved. In terms of research design, some studies were based on anecdotal evidence and teacher recall whereas others used microphones to record classroom discourse. Often descriptions and interpretations recorded by the researchers fleshed out the classroom picture.

    A fairly typical example of the type of research method designed to review group work is a study by Cox (1989) who observed and tape-recorded the discussions of small groups of seven-year-old children working on the software program Granny's Garden. Children were wired with microphones and each child's voice was recorded on a separate machine. Cox did not systematically analyse the content of the materials: instead, like many researchers, he scanned the transcripts for sequences, such as those involving reasoning or predicting, and collaborative behaviour, such as expressing agreement or challenging other children's ideas. In addition, discussions were judged on balance of contributions, willingness to listen, and regard for collaborative rules such as taking turns. The desire to involve teachers in the rapid changes associated with IT in Education has led to a number of action research projects (Candy, 1988; Somekh, 1986; Somekh, 1989). Candy (op. cit.).

    Such reseaerchers point out that curriculum research which does not involve teachers directly is unlikely to influence principles and practice. She defines action research as a method that aims to identify existing assumptions in practice and then develop new methods in the light of the findings. It seeks to improve teaching by means of a more reflective professional practice in IT. Recently, more studies have begun to use video, partly as a result of an increased interest in the physical aspects of classroom interaction. Hoyles, Healy and Sutherland (1991), for example, summarise the work of a two-year project that sought to discover how pupils generalise and formulate their thoughts in mathematics when working in pairs. Research on IT in Education in the UK has covered a range of topics including, history of the use of computers in schools, their present use in classrooms, and the evaluation of pupil access to computers. There are also many different research designs and methodologies, ranging from large-scale questionnaires to in-depth case studies. The literature has been more focused on theory building and theory testing than has research in Japan. Also, there is much more concern with social and gender aspects. As the UK has had computers in its classroom much longer than Japan has there has been a development of a body of literature that points to specific findings. Overall, studies found that programs can produce thinking and collaboration under the right conditions. These include teacher intervention and monitoring which is aimed at reducing inequality in access based on ability, gender or race.

    Computer-hardware and software and the effects on the learner

    The computer programmer ... is a creator of universes for which he alone is the law giver. ... No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful, has exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or field of battle and to command such unswerving dutiful actors or troops (Weizenbaum, 1984; 102 ).

    The underlying 'intelligence' of any computer is its program and underlying any program are the minds of intelligent programmers. Computer-taught children might, therefore, have intellectual partnerships with the best and brightest of computer experts. The new relationship may be no longer one of the tutor and the tutored but instead that of a 'cognitive partnership'; the quality of which depends upon the mindful engagement of the learner and the open-endedness of the tool (Salomon, Perkins & Globerson, 1991). As technology becomes more powerful, learning environments are created (such as virtual reality) which may re-structure the learner’s view of the world. Although viewed positively on the whole, such intellectual partnerships might have negative consequences if they were unequal. Learners who do not share the same cultural backgrounds as the computer programmers (who have been predominantly male, white and from the West) might be 'culturally dominated' by such machines. 

    There are several ways in which the computer can have inherent cultural biases and one of the most obvious examples is bias found in software. Chandler (1992) argues that the computer projects an ideology and that this ideology is found in a number of areas of the school including simulations, word-processors and data-handling software. Inflexible software may lead the child to be programmed by a microcomputer rather than exploring and developing other routes through the curriculum (Robinson, 1989). Robinson (1993a) argues that software presentation 'manifest(s) the compiler's particular way of structuring the world' (p. 123). 

    Databases, which were previously considered a content-free type of software (Moss, 1992) may, in fact, be contributing to a re-structuring of the learner's world view. Johnson (1991) believes that databases are not empty as they accept only certain types of factual data. Robinson, (1993) argues that word processors and databases may reveal "a particular cultural dependent way of categorising experience, presenting it and making use of it" (Robinson, 1993; 123). These capacities take the form of distinct linguistic, cognitive and organisational orientations which serve particular ways of linear and analytical thinking (Beynon, 1993b). Beynon (1993b) labels this a 'technicist mindset' and states that it devaluates metaphorical and analogical ways of thinking in favour of linear, 'digital' ways of manipulating data. Other ways of categorising experience might not be so easily to program into software databases. Consider the following example of categorising data before the advent of Microsoft Excel: an ancient Chinese encyclopaedia animals were categorised as (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous and (g) stray dogs. Other diverse categories included: (k) drawn with a very fine camel hair brush, and (n) that from a long way off look like flies (Cornuéjols & Murphy-Judy, 1992; 1248).

    Researchers have also studied the effects of using content-oriented software in the class (Kurtz dos Santos & Ogborn, 1994; Spavgold, 1989; Strack, 1995). Strack (op. cit.) argues that software used in schools needs to be considered in terms of issues of race, and gender as well as previous experience so as to support tasks that create equal opportunities for students. A survey reporting on the use of software in Wales found that more teachers are aware of the potential of content-free software than are
    using it in their lessons (Moss, 1992). 

    This interest in culture is not limited to software packages but instead researchers consider it to be reflective of all aspects of the machine. Robinson (1993) argues that the design of both hardware and software reflects a range of considerations, including the economic, political, social, ideological, epistemological and pedagogic: 

     In looking at any machine it is easy to forget that it was designed under certain circumstances for certain purposes under certain constraints and that it was probably the product of a series of compromises. Its very material being in front of us hides the series of choices and decisions the authors and designers of these or mechanical 'texts' chose or were forced to make (Beynon, 1993b; 14).

    For Bowers (1988) microcomputers are best regarded as an extension of print technology and this amplifies the sense of individualism and analytical thought and shapes communication into an asymmetrical power relationship. Although Chandler (1985) argues that there is the danger that certain types of language or ways of thinking may be accorded more importance than others in computer literate societies, he supports the use of computers to extend the potential of all learners. 

    Many writings in this area of research are theoretical. They are thought-provoking and offer material for reflection but at the same time may prove difficult to test. They are important since schools are searching for software and hardware to purchase for use in the classroom: 

    … too often we have seen the purchase and deployment of both hardware and software run ahead of any clearly researched and articulated justification for its educational use (Beynon, 1993b; 209).
    The commercial nature of computer design may, in fact, not be in line with educational needs. Educators are often restricted either by financial or technological considerations and quite simply a lack of any appropriate software. 

    Research focus 

    1. Exposure to computers in general will produce global educational benefits. 
    Maddux (op. cit.) states that this first stage occurs when research is concentrated on comparing the effectiveness of the microcomputer to other instructional media. Methods for studying the introduction of the microcomputer include 'distinct evaluation exercises' which involve looking for improvements in financial cost, student time, staff time or student learning (Kulik, Kulik, & Cohen, 1980). Pre- and post-test experiments were carried out in order to test the effectiveness of the computer compared to that of other instructional media. Such short, controlled experiments were designed to measure behavioural objectives and were based on Skinner's ideas of teaching machines. Improvements in learning outcomes, it was believed, could be identified by comparing the results. Reliance on such methods meant, however, that more subtle points were lost and, thus, there was a call for research to focus on more specific applications of computer practice. 


Historical Trends and Developments

Historical trends and developments
  • Developments in computer technologies have offered theorists, some from education others from computer science. Here we will explore the different directions and then the overlap between the feilds of education, computer science and psychology.

    Education: Behavourism & ICTs in Education

    Developments in computer technology

    Early computers were able to give instantanious feedback to learners. 
    The price of computers fell enough to allow them to be used in education.

    Best known through  B. F. Skinner's learning machine (late 1950s)

    The best known advocate of behaviourism was the psychologist B. F. Skinner who studied and then  taught at  Harvard (1931-6, 1947-74). Research on "teaching machines," began as early as the  1920's but it was not until the combinatioin of advances in computer technology and the writings of  Skinner came together in the 1950s  to make it a popular educational topic. 
  • He proposed learning by 'operant conditioning' and invented 'the Skinner box' for facilitating experimental observations. His main scientific works include The Behavior of Organisms (1938), and Verbal Behavior (1957), and he also wrote on social issues publishing Walden Two (1948) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971).  Check out the Skinner Foundation -
    Teaching machines. Scientific American, 1961, 205(11), 90-102. 


2. Computer Science: Theories of Artificial intelligence

Turing test - 1950

"I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?.... The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the 'imitation game." Turing (1950).

Turing, A.M. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 59, 433-560.

The Turing test is a behavioural approach to determining whether or not a system is intelligent. It was originally proposed by mathematician Alan Turing, one of the founding figures in computing. Turing argued in a 1950 paper that conversation was the key to judging intelligence. In the Turing test, a judge has conversations (via teletype) with two systems, one human, the other a machine. The conversations can be about anything, and proceed for a set period of time (e.g., an hour). If, at the end of this time, the judge cannot distinguish the machine from the human on the basis of the conversation, then Turing argued that we would have to say that the machine was intelligent.



Famous examples of this include Weizenbaum's ELIZA program. A prgram that reponded in ways based on ideas of  Rogerian psychology. The general acceptance of ELIZA as being "intelligent" upset Weizenbaum to the extent that he withdrew from mainstream AI research and instead attacked the dicipline in 1976 in his book. Computer power and human reason. San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman. ISBN: 0716704633



Another work in this class Marvin Minsky has an early paper in the classic book Computers and Thought is entitled Steps Toward Artificial Intelligence and was written by Marvin Minsky. Minsky worked with Papert on Logo and if you are interested in the area then visit Professor Minsky's homepage at the MIT lab which has many links to his publications.


Psychology: The exploration of how we think and specifically how we solve problems

How we solve problems is of great interest to those who study cognitive skills acquisition Experimental work in this area was first done by Gestalt psychologists in the early part of this century who focused on creative thinking and problem solving. They were interested in problems that had a key step or crucial decision making point so were often called 'insight problems'. The typical problem involved making a wall mounted candle if given a candle and a box of matches. The key lay in realizing to use the box as the part of the solution and therefore seeing it as more than just a holder of matches

You may have run across problems of this nature when doing quizzes or puzzles, e.g.

Suzie lies dead on the floor surrounding her is a puddle of water and broken glass. 

How did Suzie die? 


Four key stages were identified in solving such problems:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification 

The Gestalt psychologists stressed insight and creativity, correct (and often visual) representation of the problem and the fact that unconscious work was more important than methodical approaches to the problem. Productive Thinking by Max Wertheimer (1959) is a classic work in the area.




Mindstorms & Seymour Papert

The best-know proponent of the movement to explore how computers could structure thought is Seymour Papert and his work with logo programming has been extensively researched. Mindstorms : Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas by Seymour A. Papert, John Sculley (Designer) ISBN: 0465046746 ; 2nd edition (March 1999)



Mindtools & David Jonnassen

" The key to meaningful learning is ownership"   David Jonnassen

More recent work that explores the relationship between computers and thought has been work in exploring constructivist learning environments. 

Developments in computer technology

Increasing ability of users to author materials using computers was part of the reason for a new theories of constructivist learning.

 Jonassen ompares the way that students learn to the process by which
carpenters use tools to work effectively. Students, he argues, need a set of intellectual tools to assemble and construct knowledge. These he calls Mindtools and proposes that computers can be used as Mindtools for critical thinking. 

In reviewing how computers have been used in education up to the present, he distinguishes between learning from computers, learning about computers and using Mindtools to learn with computers. 

... a Mindtool is a way of using a computer application program to engage learners in constructive, higher-order, critical thinking about the subjects they are studying. (p. iv) 

Many of the software tools developed for computers serve functions beyond
(p. 9) 

Learning with computers can be served by using software that can function beyond its original design. Professor Jonassen recommends the following as Mindtools:


     Semantic Networking Tools 

     Expert Systems 

     Computer Mediated Communication - such as email 

     Multimedia and Hypermedia

Jonnassen argues that computeres can be used to help foster critical thinking skills. There has been a long estabilished interest in teaching thinking skills and one of the best known proponents of a hierarchy of learning behaviors is Bloom (1956). He puts forth six hierarchical categories that are listed below from the most simple/concrete to the most complex/abstract. 





His taxonomy supports the belief that learning follows a set route and that each step supports the next. In order to engage in higher-level thinking, the learner must not simply repeat the information but truly understand and use it. 

Since Bloom proposed his taxonomy there have been revolutionary changes brought about by developments in communication technology. With the large amount of knowledge now available methods of accessing, and storing and retrieving information are increasingly important aspects of the learning process. As data is more and more easily constructed and disseminated, the learner is also called upon to judge its usefulness and indeed whether or not it is factual. These same technical advances are also moving authoring tools into learner’s hands which has resulted a greater ease of communication and interaction. 

At the same time as new ways of looking at knowledge are emerging, the freedom of publishing on the Internet has resulted in an excellent environment for teachers to guide students in creating their own on-line classes for other learners. 

The following are, therefore, a proposed a set of thinking skills for a class in the computer age: 

Understand Information & Applicationos of the information
Search, Select & Judge
Explore, Test & Actively Engage with the Information
Collaborate and Discuss
Analyse & Synthesize

Create & Promote new information



Now, try some Database Normalisation...


Conversion programs for Engineers



Blackboard .com is a Web based Course Management System (W-CMS) that facilitates the administration of a course. It also has a range of features that allow it to operate as a learning environment.

In this lecture we will explore the use of such a system on different levels and how this resource will be used within this course.

In this course it will be used as:

  • A central resource for the MSc IT in Education
  • A tool to promote constructivist learning and higher order thinking skills
  • A participant research arena for all involved

Course Management.

A W-CMS provides a central resource to handle the administrative details of a course. In our course the site has been configured to be a central resource for the students, a one-stop-shop as it were.

By logging into the site, students will be able to view the latest news and updates, access the lectures that have been delivered, preview lectures, download the relevant course documents.

This achieve through the following site tools:

Upon logging on, the first page displayed shows the course Announcements. These are posted by the instructors and give news of last minute events, updated lectures and documents, and so on.

This section in our scenario provides links to the lectures. The lectures could be posted within Blackboard, however for our course they are located within Trinity College. This allows us greater control over their creation and accessibility.

This area acts as a file repository for any documents for the course. These may be readings which accompany lectures for example.

This area is a repository similar to the Course Documents area and is the home of all assignment related material.

The above features are used to improve the productivity of a course, in the same way that office applications (the "killer apps" of word processing, spreadsheets, and databases) vastly improved the productivity of organizations in the commercial sector.

{Paperless office.}

Collaborative and Constructivist Learning

Within Blackboard there are a range of tools that can promote and enable collaborative learning. These include:

The use of asynchronous messaging allows the participants to ponder and frame their responses which may allow for more reflective postings, and more participation than may have been possible in a face-to-face environment.

The ability to configure Blackboard for group work is an area will we be exploring. It allows for a group to have its own page (and hence identity within the class). Further to this, groups can be assigned their own tools as well such as their own drop box, email, discussion board and virtual classroom.

In the manual, this is described as the Virtual Classroom. It represents a java environment for synchronous lectures, or collaboration. The instructor allows control of the various features to all, or none, or the floor which is a selected individual.

It contains a whiteboard that can display web pages, a chat window, a question and answer section (public or private), and a slide feature for the instructor to display prepard materials.


Blackboard allows an instructor to develop their own online quiz. It can be marked automatically if it designed along a true/false or multiple choice system. Should students be allowed to develop their own quizzes, in order to demonstrate their own level of understanding?

Our Blackboard site has been registered under the heading of Educational Technology. Having done this, the Resources button will take you to a set of links and news to do with the area. Please use this resource and alert everyone when you see something of interest.

Participant Research/Learning Experience

On this course we are studying the use of ICT in Education. As such we will also be studying and evaluating ourselves as instructors and as students. We will also be evaluating and studying the tools and techniques we use on this course in order to understand and imoprove the learning experience. This action research is a key theme within the course.

Action Research has certain key themes.

  1. It is cyclical in nature, evaluating the outcomes of an action and using this information to adapt and alter prior to the next action. It allows for deeper understanding and continual refinement.
    Thus it can be described as iterative and emergent.

  2. It is very well suited to participative research in that much of the data is qualitative. Action Research is also very concerned with change and involving the partcipants in the research facilitates any changes arising from that research.


Southern Cross University Action Research Resource

Bath Universtiy Action Research Resource

Inuverstiy of Colorado - Action Research in Education



Introduction to BrainBox

BrainBox is an application which arose from the research of Dr. Peter Smee in Educational Technology. It specifically facilitates the creation of thought or concept maps as well as providing templates for a variety of thinking techniques.


BrainBox is part of the Foresight project and is a module within the larger program. However, it may be downloaded as a stand alone product. It is freeware, so please provide any feedback requested by the designers.

Included in the download is a folder consisting of document including a manual, and templated in a printable form.



Maps are built up and organised before being printed or turned into a image file. To print a file, use the print command from the File Menu. To create an image of your map, access File/Export/Save this map as a bitmap.



Risk Factors

        Young Industry in Flux

        Revenues and Earnings Minimal

        Confusion among Customers

        Technology ahead of Content

        Resistence to Using technology in Learning

        Lack of eLearning Standards

        Legal Issues

        The Marginalisation of Women in ICTs