Posted by: MandyS | April 15, 2013

Technology a double-edged sword?

Block 2, Weeks 8 & 9, Activity 3: Beetham & Dimitriadis

Considering I am such a hands on, practical person, reading something about the theory behind the experience made a refreshing change.

How does the focus of the chapter and the interview compare with your thoughts and discussions in Activities 1 and 2?

Beetham says that ‘design principles are developed from theories of how people learn’ and the article goes on to look at how this can be ‘applied to learning with digital technologies’.

Beetham argues that the key to learning is activity and defines a learning activity as a ‘specific interaction of learner(s) with other(s) using specific tools and resources orientated towards specific outcomes’. Both Beetham and Dimitriadis assert that the focus must be the activity as opposed to the tools used to support it. Although in essence the focus of the first activity was creating a design narrative (with Cloudworks simply the medium for sharing it), the whole activity became overshadowed by the reluctance of the ‘tool’ to play fair. As such, the focus of the activity for me became being able to use Cloudworks to deposit my narrative. I doubt this is what the module team envisaged but a valuable lesson in learning activity creation; theory is just that, it is putting it into practice which is key.

Another interesting point Beetham makes is that although activities may be generic, every learner will have their ‘own way of proceeding.’ For me, Beetham’s key point here is that ‘learners are assumed to respond to instruction in similar ways’ but ultimately, one has ‘different priorities, preferences and approaches’. In undertaking an activity, learners are seeking to achieve an outcome e.g. ‘a new skill, new understanding or ability to participate in new situations’. For me, the outcome for Activity 2 was using the Wiki to compare different learning designs, which accords with Beetham’s argument that the tool should support the activity. I have used a Wiki before, but for those who have little experience, an ‘unanticipated outcome’ might be increased confidence in its use. So a straightforward learning activity that caters for all learner ‘capabilities’ and ‘expertise’.

Although admittedly hijacked by misunderstanding, the second activity certainly highlighted for me that learners will put into an activity what they want to get out of it but I do wonder whether the focus of the activity shifted somewhat from comparing learning designs to the means of achieving the comparison. Is the use of technology in learning activities a double-edged sword? I would argue that Beetham hints at the potential danger when she says ‘learners may experience tasks quite differently if digital technologies are involved’. Using Elluminate/Skype to generate discussion, albeit a good medium, might just be a step too far for learners intimidated by technology or by the confidence/competence of others. For some, the activity is now more complex, time consuming and focused on the ‘tools’ rather than the activity.

How persuasive do you personally find the arguments in the interview? For example, how useful do you think Learning Design is for enabling people to create new learning activities? One of the questions asked in the interview is: ‘What’s the role for creativity for the teacher?’

I think the one thing I have taken from the activities is that learning design is indeed a ‘complex process’. Certainly, being able to look at another approach is useful but I think it depends on the context in which one uses the design, and as Dimitriadis says, ‘they need to be used in an appropriate way to be effective’. The law module is predetermined and the only creative input I have is in the delivery of face-to-face tutorials, for which technology has no real part to play. Reapplying is certainly a temptation but the subject matter might determine ones ability to do this.



  1. Hi Amanda, i read your blog.
    I agree learning design is a complex process at least this is what I have experienced with the use of H800 tools for learning design.

    I agree with Beetham (p. 30) ‘Learners must be interested in achieving the outcome, either because it reflects their own developmental goals, or because they see its place in a wider curriculum to which they have committed themselves’. I think Beethams article is positive because it focusses on what the person will be able to do at the end of the activity using verbs to describe activity outcomes and Beetham hints that learners need to be allowed to develop their skills and demonstrate this ‘aspect’..(p. 30).
    Another positive aspect of Beetham’s article (p.30-31) is that Beetham thinks/argues that technologies nowadays are beneficial because they are better suited to ‘open-ended’ learning outcomes more so than say technologies of the past such as intructional design ones. I assume what beetham means is that open-ended technologies allow two way communication and feedback? What I understand from Beetham’s article is design with the learner in mind and then match the tools to the learner requirements.(p. 26). I like Beethams ideas,
    ‘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 P. 26
    repertoire of approaches to task requirements’ Beetham P. 26

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