Thursday, 17 May 2012

Helen Beetham on ePedagogy

This post is a re-publication of an email that Helen Beetham sent to the LDHEN jiscmail, May 2012 On ePedagogy

From: Helen Beetham

"If by pedagogy you mean theory of learning, I can recommend a review of e-learning theories and models, carried out in 2004 by Terry mayes and Sara de Freitas, which though it sounds rather old now is in fact relatively timeless. Their conclusion: that the basic tenets of associative/instructive, constructive and situative learning are stable theoretical positions, but that they are expressed in different educational activities and interventions when different tools are available:

My own take on this is on page 11 of this publication:

I think there are probably two candidates for 'new theories of learning' in response specifically to the availability of digital tools and networks in education. They are networked learning, strongly associated in the UK with Lancaster university e.g. and Connectivism, strongly associated with George Siemens in the UK:

They are essentially both versions of the same idea, that being ubiquitously connected with other people and with information represents a step change in learning potential. Some versions of this theory go so far as to argue that learning takes place 'in the network'.

If by 'pedagogy' you mean 'approach to teaching', well there are hundreds of those which have been influenced by the technologies and literature of e-learning. One recent meta-review from the University of Minnesota - looking solely across the kind of positivist, experimentally-inclined work that takes place in the US - drew some interesting conclusions: instructor led approaches lead to significantly better learning outcomes if they have an online component (blended learning in a 'transmission' type scenario). Collaborative approaches are scarcely any better with an online component, and self directed approaches are not better at all. In other words, the kinds of learning that have traditionally been espoused by e-learning officianados (I have been counted as one) is not actually making the best use of the technology advantage, such as it is. _336064.pdf

My own view, as I have argued since at least 2004, is that we don't need a new theory of learning or a special approach to teaching. We need to understand what it means to learn in an environment where information and communication is ubiquitously available. There is no part of learning that is not touched by the digital: even if a teacher and student choose to isolate themselves from digital opportunity, the meaning of that isolation is changed by virtue of the fact that they have had to make those special arrangements.

Helen Beetham
Consultant in e-Learning
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