Examples: the application of a technology enhanced learning environment in your own teaching/work context

1/ Aspects of my professional practice

I’m related to TELIC in two roles: as a teacher at CVO and as founder of zelfstudie.be

As a teacher

As a teacher I use different TELEs. We are obliged to use Moodle as LMS (giving access to courseware, tutorials, screencasts, enabling collaboration by forums and blogs, settung up assessment and communicating to students)  and Webex in one specific group for distance learning.

I choose to use some WEB 2.0 tools in the classroom to increase collaboration or improve presentation: Facebook group, dropbox, etc. As a teacher I didn’t have the opportunity to choose the implemented TELEs Moodle and Webex. So doing research to the implementation is irrelevant. Doing research to the implementation of Dropbox and the Facebook group can be relevant to evaluate the user friendliness, satisfaction and pedagogical value.

As founder of zelfstudie.be

I developed Zelfstudie.be in 2000 and published all courseware on the site. Since 2006 people need to subscribe to courses (they aren’t open anymore) and for the moment the site has more than 17000 members. While subscribing, people can choose to get access to a course, when chosen with support of the author of the course. Zelfstudie.be is an own developed TELE in have the following responsibilities: developing the content, the functionality of the site, the marketing and giving support. Since june I chose to team-up with external authors and decided to outsource the development to my colleague, which changes my position to giving support and coordinating the authors and web developer. As founder of zelfstudie.be doing research is important to evaluate user friendliness, satisfaction and pedagogical value.

2/ Information and techniques and methods of research in my area of work

I always have been wondering which is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, so I did some research.

Qualitative versus Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is by definition exploratory. It happens in an early phase.

The objective is to gain understanding of underlaying reasons and motivations. Usually small number of non-respresentative cases are used. The data collection happens by unstructured or semi-structured techniques (in-depth interviews, group discussions, etc) – mainly verbal data than measurements. Data analysis is non-statistical (analyzed in an interpretative manner, subjective, impressionistic or even diagnostic). The findings are not conclusive and cannot be used to make generalizations. It can be used to develop an initial understanding and therefor qualitative research happens in the beginning stage of the implementation of innovation or change.

According to Acaemia.edu, there are 3 common methods of data collection:

  • unstructured interviews
  • focus groups
  • participant observation

Laerd.com states that”Classic routes that you can follow include autoethnographies, case study research, ethnographies, grounded theory, narrative research and phenomenological research”.

Pros and cons:  orau.gov

Quantitative Research

Qualitative research is conclusive. It happens in a late phase.

The objective is to generalize results of a sample to the population of interest and to measure the occurrence of different views and opinions. The data collection happens by structured techniques (questionnaires, telephone interviews, etc) to a randomly selected public. The data analysis is in form of tabs (numbers and statistics). The findings are conclusive. It can be used to recommend a final course of action.

According to laerd.com, there are 3 types of quantitative research:

Replication-based, data-driven and theory-driven dissertations.

Pros and cons:  orau.gov


Figure 1 – Jarrett Library

Ethnographic research

The examples of ethnographic research in the Hollan et al paper drew my attention. Ethnographic research is also known as participant observation, in which the researcher lives within the setting and among the people he studies. provides richly detailed, descriptive portraits of other cultures, groups and institutions. Researchers gather data through participant observation, interviews and documents. A misconception is that ethnography needs to be associated with studies of exotic cultures. It can also applied in other settings, including for example studies of education. More specifically to study the use of TELEs in my class of unemployed web designers or seniors (+60 year olds).

Some important subjects for research

On school level:

  • which courseware do already exist? Digital versions or not?
  • which TELEs do exist? Free or not?
  • what functionality is needed, on different stages (school board, administration, teacher, student, etc)?
  • will TELEs attract new students (people on large distance, people who aren’t able to engage on one specific moment due to work, etc)?

On student level:

  • is the TELE easy in use
  • how well is the TELE implemented in the course (amount of usage)
  • do TELEs improve the student’s results (grades)?

Tools versus methods

Build in tracking tool in Moodle, Eye tracking tool, Google doc to gather information, interview of some students

Tools used in Quantitative research:  

Quantitative research starts with a testable hypothese (a theory can give a goal to be evaluated). Surveys (mail, street, telephone, internet surveys) and questionnaires are central tools in quantitative research. Focused and directed questions are asked at people. Demographics (data about age, sex, etc) provide more data to be used in an analysis. It creates a context. The data from suveys and questionnaires and demographic research is compiled and analyzed in a deductive, objective manner.

According to NSU, there are three rules for quantitative Research Questions:

  1. They Begin with “How”, “What”, or “Why” and can NEVER be answered by a simple Yes or No
  2. Specify the independent and dependent variables
  3. IF your questions deal with connections among multiple variables, you will again – use relate or compare – just as you did in the purpose statement

Methods for Qualitative methods:

Qualitative research uses three methods of data collection:

  • interviewing: in-depth, one-on-one, focus-group
  • artifact analysis: written text, objects
  • observation

In the interviewing and observation part, the researcher is the “tool”. Gathering all data is subjective and value-laden.

Some guidelines of  NSU:

  1. Ask only a few general questions [no Yes/No questions] to permit participants to share information with you
  2. Ask questions that are neutral exploratory language that does not convey conclusions you expect
  3. Design and write 2 question types: Central Questions and Sub-Questions
  4. Questions often change between the Concept Paper and Proposal Stage… This is a “living” document.
Central Question Guidelines
  1. Begin with “How” or “What”. Avoid “Why” [this is a quantitative term that implies cause and effect]
  2. List the central phenomenon you plan to explore
  3. Identify the participants and research site

Schermafbeelding 2013-12-22 om 14.46.51

 Figure 2: Examples of qualitative research - excerpted from Creswell (2005)

3/ The wider educational context for the TELE

I focused on the effects of TELEs on learning here.

4/ Reflection on the design and impact of a TELE in your workplace, including techniques of evaluation and testing


  • Search tool: google scholar and SHU Library
  • Data gathering: google forms, surveymonkey
  • Overall: endnote
  • Bookmarking: diigo, scoop.it


  • How can the use of a Facebook Group improve collaboration?
  • How can we implement Moodle for enabling 100% distance learning (project Vschool)?
  • What are the benefits for the students by implementing Dropbox into lessons?
  • How can mobile learning be promoted at zelfstudie.be and which features need to be added?

My research would start with Qualitative research by one-on-one interview with 5 students.

Questions: -> how/what (avoid why!) – no yes/no questions - There should be 3-5 questions. 

  • abc
  • def
  • ghi

End with Quantitative research by questionnaire in a Google Doc or SurveyMonkey (I wrote a tutorial in Dutch).

Questions:   -> what/how/why - no yes/no questions

  • abc
  • def
  • ghi

Design and impact of dropbox in course Drupal Project?

Intro: 3 classes with students who already took the course (same course!, but without Dropbox). Assessment by practical thesis: developing a website.

testen via google doc van tevredenheid

resultaten die verbeteren, ruimere kennis (meten?)


Wiki task 3: What theories and literature exist that explain, predict, and/or guide the development and use of TELEs?

I need structure. I also mentioned it to Meri during a skype call. It approaches autism. Whether I teach a class, present stuff or learn: I need to structure things. My performances are also strongly determined by the amount of arousal (Yerkes and Dodson, 1908). The fact I’m INTJ (Introvert – iNtuition – Thinking – Judging) in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1962) reveals I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline. Before studying TELEs, I need to bring some structure in the concept op “learning”, so I’ll take off from the starting point of “what is learning” and pedagogy, the different learning theories and the question “Does technology enhance learning?” before studying TELEs. Continue Reading


Distributed Cognition Theory – Hollan, Hutchins, Kirsh

Schermafbeelding 2013-12-09 om 12.23.36

I liked reading this paper. I seemed to be the most relevant to my own workplace, from all papers until now.


This papers offers an integrated research framework for human-computer interaction.

Let’s start with the definition of cognition. Cognition isn’t the same as “kennis” in Dutch, as Bram warned us. “Cognition is those process by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used.

Human information processing psychology was the dominant theory for over 20 years. Hollan et al propose the distributed cognition theory  as a theoretical foundation for human-computer interaction research and a fertile framework for designing and evaluating digital artifacts. It is tailored to understand interactions among people and technology.

An integrated framework for research combines ethnographic observation and controlled experimentation as a basis for theoretically informed design of digital work materials and collaborative workplaces. Continue Reading


Digital scratchbook

Some fragments, thoughts and ideas. My digital scratchbook.

Times change, learning theories too?

There was a time people learned to write with a fountain pen. By using blotting paper they have to prevent the paper becoming smeared with spots of ink. At that time it was useful to learn to write with a fountain pen, because ball pens didn’t exist. I practically don’t write anymore. By the presence of an iPhone, laptop and iPad I always have the opportunity to make digital notes, mails and  course materials. Were all these years of learning to write useless? I don’t think so. I learned many many things at school. I learned all the capitals of the countries of the world, math terminology and the list of chemical elements. Okay, I learned many tricks how to remember stuff. But I have some questions. First of all, the list of capitals has changed. Second, I don’t remember the chemical elements anymore (I’m mostly confronted by this during quizzes). Third, I don’t even need to now math terminology anymore. And fourth, couldn’t we have spend all that time in secondary school more useful? When I teach my class, I can repeat how to design a template for Drupal for 10 times, without results. My students repeat but don’t remember the steps to be taken, a week later. So when I ask them to try it themselves, they remember the steps better. Continue Reading


Wiki task 2 – What are the criteria by which TELEs can be evaluated

My own interpretation affected by own experiences

When there will be introduced a (new) TELE into a school or organisation, by which characteristics will it be evaluated? When Moodle was introduced in  CVO Heusden-Zolder, different factors where important. The schoolboard needed a TELE without high costs. Different coordinators will have to add new functionalities so the TELE needs to be open source. Teachers, also those with relative low computing skills, will have to do the right settings for their classes, so usability is key. Last but not least, the student is central. After all teaching is neither necessary nor sufficient to produce learning (Lave, 1996).

Our school developed its first TELE itself. This TELE was called “eschool”. Because of the need for new functionalities, they decided to use Dokeos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dokeos). This TELE was developped by the university of Ghent. When UGent decided to stop all developments, our school switched to Moodle. The decided not to use blackboard or smartschool because of it’s high cost. So that was the first criteria: the cost.

  • Why is the TELE needed? This will affect the criteria.
  • Who will use and evaluate the TELE? When will the evaluation been done?
    Will it be the student, teacher, group of teachers, administrator, coordinator or school board?
    Not every person has the same needs. Usability , Finance, Possibilities,  Adaptibility, Student administration system, … will be important to different groups.
  • Which outcomes are desirable? Learning outcomes, faster administration possibilities, the reach for a larger public? Continue Reading


The sociology of a door-closer – Bruno Latour

ANT – Actor Network Theory

Bruno-Latour-1The Latour paper was linguistic a bit easier than the Lave paper, but it was a lot more abstract, which explained Richard’s quote “it’s a puzzle”.

The papers starts with a sarcastic note “The door-closer is on strike, for God’s sake, keep the door closed.” The door-closer (nonhuman) is assigned human qualities (going on strike) which is Latour’s perfect starting point to search for the role for nonhumans (and their effect to humans) in sociology. Latour (1988) ends with the quote “I used the story of the door-closer to make a nonhuman delegate familiar to the ears and eyes of sociologists”  and the conclusion that both actants (human and nonhumans, not inhuman) are influenced by each other.

Contrary to the previous papers (Gee, Lave) this paper isn’t written by the author-in-flesh, but by a pseudonym Jim Johnson. I believe he uses a pseudonym and lots of sarcasm to be taken serious by an American public of sociologists.

Although ANT – Actor Network Theory – isn’t mentioned in the text, the example of the door gives him the opportunity to explain what actors, scripts, description, transcription, prescription, des-inscription, pre-inscription and chreod is. Continue Reading


About social learning and direct instruct


This critical reading gave me new insights to collaboration. Both groups (Claire and I – Meri and I) used Google Drive (brainstorming) and Prezi (presentation outcomes), but the methodology was totally different. Interesting! And a nice extra result was that my “how to highlight in PDF’s and save this”-question was unintentionally solved while I worked with Meri on Latour. Besides the added value to the substantive aspect, it also increased technological and pedagogical insights.


Is Twitter a learning environment?

Social learning definitely is important, but it seems like direct instruct is being pushed in the corner as a really bad wolf. I think diversity and a combination of different learning methods is key. Continue Reading


Teaching as Learning, in Practice – Jean Lave

About the paper

Schermafbeelding 2013-10-31 om 12.09.53This paper was a lot harder to read than the previous one.

Lave states that we should prefer a social theory of learning rather than an individual, psychological (which includes cognitivist and behaviourist theories) theory of learning. Furthermore she offers a theoretical perspective on the social nature of learning. She advocates that theories that reduce learning to individual mental capacity/activity in which the last instance is “to blame the marginalized people for being marginal”.

She bases her paper on 2 examples:

  • apprenticeship in Liberia – tailorship (ethnographic)
  • 19th-century mosque schools in Egypt – law practitioners (historical)

These examples are substantive, situated and historically specific. She doesn’t propose we should transfer these practices into our form of education (U.S. schools, etc). Continue Reading


James Gee – Learning Italian (and jQuery)

I decided to fill up the gap of my last 5 minutes of spare time by… learning Italian. I found the DuoLingo app by coincidence. In fact there are some things I wan’t to learn “when I’m old”: playing guitar, speaking Italian, etc.

The DuoLingo app is free, attractive and it’s really cool to learn. It offers the opportunity to learn 6 different languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. The use badges and a progress indicator promote my studying. Every level of learning a language is covered: reading, listening, writing and even speaking. The app asks you to say a sentence and corrects you in case of wrong pronunciations. It really reminds me of Asimov’s robotic teacher. My iPad asks me to talk and corrects me. Fascinating! In case of errors, you loose one of your four hearts, so you might to do de lesson again. By sending a daily email reminder, you get triggered to learn each day.

Continue Reading