All entries for Thursday 27 November 2008

November 27, 2008

Abstract for a presentation on future development in support of mobile research based learners

An ideal:

Self-directed independent learners. Following divergent paths in creatively responding to a brief. Developing and applying a range of research, technology and communication skills. Finding and using many resources, drawn from an extensive and rich range of sources, and precisely identifying their meaning and context. Scrupulously citing authorship and attributing intellectual property where deserved. Negotiating, evaluating and recording varying roles and contributions within collaborative student-student working arrangements. Convincingly communicating the end result within required formats, styles and conventions. Guided throughout by a firm sense of purpose and value. And furthermore, earnestly reflecting upon their own abilities, progress, weaknesses and plans.


Sometimes, when working with my own students, I do encounter some of the ideal behaviours listed above. They are, after all, very capable students, having already achieved good results at an undergraduate level. Consequently, my expectations are high. I set them difficult objectives. Achieving those objectives will always necessarily require a combination of several high-level abilities, independently executed as far as possible. The result, when all goes well, is excellence, living up to the ideal described above. Often excellence that goes beyond my own abilities – we’re asking a lot more of our students today.

But more often, reality is not that perfect. We work hard to equip our students with the required toolset, to demonstrate the use and relevance of each tool, and providing guidance on applying them with precision. But the results are inconsistent. Often, as each student heads off along their own divergent path, we only notice their errors when it is already too late. And hence there is little opportunity for raising quality. The trade-off between independence and timely intervention is a difficult one to resolve.

Developing A Support Platform:

I am investigating how a convergence of technological developments may enable the construction of a platform that can help students to develop and more consistently apply key ‘research based learning’ skills. In this presentation we will consider the pedagogical workings of such a system, specifically in supporting history, archaeology and classics. I will explain how new technologies may make such a pedagogy possible. And most importantly, we will critically assess a set of goals that I consider to be essential for such a system:

  1. Connects offline events, objects and contexts with their online relations.
  2. Provides a cognitive-behavioural scaffold that can be sustained in the absence of the core technological platform.
  3. Encourages self-awareness and reflection by students and tutors.
  4. Is timely and efficient, but not intrusive or over-bearing.
  5. Supports the investigation and evaluation of student activities by student peers and tutors in the context in which the occur.

About the Presenter:

Robert O’Toole, a HEA National Teaching Fellow, is the Arts Faculty E-learning Advisor at the University of Warwick. He is part of the E-lab team responsible for developing and supporting a successful suite of advanced web based systems supporting research and research based learning. Robert has worked closely with the History and Classics departments at Warwick.