Inspired learning

Anyone who has been involved in academic life for a while will tell you that research interests change over time. Mine certainly have. When I first became involved in learning technology research in the early 1980s (it was called 'educational technology' in those days) personal computers were in their infancy, and multi-media was breaking as the next 'big thing' in education. I spent my time developing software packages for 'computer assisted learning' which were text heavy but interactive, and then assessing how effective they were as tools to engage learners. I wanted to know why students were interested, excited, inspired, and why they got bored or demotivated.
Moving on into the 1990s, I began to get interested in distance education and open learning. I changed jobs and became less technically oriented, more learning focused. Over this time, I met several leading lights in the field and through a number of conversations and extensive reading, I began to develop an interest in human behaviour, cognitive processes and then human perception in learning environments. My subsequent degree in psychology then led me on into doing a research degree specifically studying these effects in distance education.

With the advent of the Internet, I began to develop an interest in how people learn in environments where they draw on a number of different sources, such as the Web, television, video, and audio. I could see early on that everything was pointing to convergence. My time spent between 1996-1998 on the RATIO project firmed up my ideas on distance learning, and how students could be engaged remotely using a choice of tools.

Press the fast forward button to the early days of Web 2.0, at the turn of this century, and my thoughts turned to how learners could be engaged in social and collaborative environments, where the rules of ownership were being fractured and where notions of authority and knowledge expertise were being challenged. The emergence of concepts such as personal learning environments, many-to-many broadcasting and user generated content all piqued my interest, and that is the point I have now reached. Most of my current talks and presentations centre on the new technologies and how they engage learners. And that to me, seems to be the theme that has threaded its way through my entire research career - engaging learners. Whatever the technology, whichever the environment, if learners are engaged (motivated, captivated, excited and inspired) I want to know how and why. That's why I'm a researcher in learning technology.

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I have followed a similar path and I am more excited than ever. Given my personal interest in how audio can be used to create a more meaningful environment I feel as though we have the tools at last to soften the edges between technology and being engaged. Do you feel as though education is getting close to appreciating technology as something that can mediate learner engagement in a meaningful, transparent way?
Martin said…
Speaking as a Professor of Educational Technology in an Institute of Educational Technology - what do you mean it was 'called educational technology in those days'??? When did it change? Did I miss the memo? ;)
I think in ed tech (there, I'm sticking with it) we see a higher proportion of people who have wandered in from other areas because it's not really something you study. This is probably not true in, History, say.
I started out as an artificial intelligence researcher/lecturer, got interested in the web, ran an online course and hey presto, I'm an educational technologist.
One thing this highlights is that there seems to be an increasing pressure on young people to determine their careers early on, but there is a lot to be said for evolving, wandering and meandering.
farmer64 said…
I enjoy your article. I was wondering what your take is on collaboration learning vs. institutional learning especially in the area of meta-narative. As we become our learning becomes more and more a collaborative non-institutional effort does the risk of greater fragmentation of our society worry you?

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