The need for change within the Further Education sector in line with technological developments in our current society was apparent within my teaching practice. This led to a number of thoughts about virtual learning environments and its application within the teaching role. The role of the computer as a real socio-cultural learning environment was explored to examine if this environment could be nearer to the concrete experiential and situated learning environment that students came from at an early age. It was hoped that this would be a different learning environment that would start slowly and grow in an organic way. It involved the growth of a very different culture of learning, a learning environment that may include a different literature and with different ways of thinking about what is to be learned and how to learn it. It was also hoped that the virtual learning environment would provide a very powerful strategy to allow the operation of the principle of variation and selection which it needed within the college Learnwise Educational system. Education should shift from individual, technology-free cognition to a resourceful collaborative learning, and distributed intelligence. Learners should be empowered through thoughtful and innovative use of technologies, and benefit from social distributions of cognitions. Salomon et al.'s (1998) commented that education should pay more attention to the "effects of" technology rather than the "effects with" technology, so that autonomous performance may be achieved. The attempt of the first part of the research has been to investigate a student-centred strategy in a computer supported collaborative learning environment to see whether this kind of higher-order knowledge can be distributed among peers and environment. The starting point of the second part of my research focussed on the links between constructivist theory and knowledge management in relation to college teaching practice. Since this research formed part of a whole college restructuring of teaching and learning, a baseline for current practice was necessary. Literature concerning the use of technology was explored in order to benchmark where the college was at the start of the research. As a result of this initial investigation, a survey of current college practice resulted in a paper being accepted by the HE Academy at their 8th Annual Conference in 2007. Page 6 Results from this research indicated that, although the college displayed similar results to other FE establishments, it was imperative that a move to a new building with a digital environment philosophy required more than merely a physical move. As a result, research into emerging technologies was deemed to be important if the college was to take advantage of a new digital teaching concept. Investigation into collaborative tools and Web 2.0 techniques was seen as appropriate at this stage. The study of computer-supported collaboration included the study of this software and social phenomena associated with it. Through this element of research it was hoped to investigate these collaborative techniques in the light of constructivist theories in order to develop an appropriate and effective digital teaching model. Expanding the research to explore portal technologies, with a particular focus on the integration of teaching practice, would hopefully highlight a possible path connecting current practices to an educational portal and illuminate the benefits and challenges of such an endeavour. Acquiring and deploying Web-based collaborative functionality within an organisation has become a strategic move to improve relationships between employees, partners and customers. The ultimate aim of the research and hence the thesis being addressed, will be to show that it is possible to create a “Learning or College Gateway” as a solutions framework that helps improve education by integrating the tools staff and students already use and puts them to work connecting people with the information and processes they need to teach, learn and manage more effectively. This will create a powerful educational portal that enables the people throughout the college to share information and work together on activities from a single point of access. The gateway will therefore use innovative collaboration and communications technologies to help staff get more out of existing applications using familiar tools and extending the value of investment made in existing learning environment technologies. The aim of the research was partly answered by using project based scenarios which gave some staff a new insight into the use of ICT. However, those involved in projects were generally the more pro-active teachers. A slightly different approach is needed and College Management has been advised to explore the use of an interactive college intranet and a dedicated eLearning team as a possible way forward.
|Date of Award||19 Apr 2013|
|Supervisor||Steve Green (Supervisor)|