Category Archives: Frameworks for Guiding Technology Use

Social Media Use in Higher Education (Outline)

Here is an updated outline of my Master’s final project reviewing research on social media use in higher education (click to enlarge):


I’ve also been working on a cognitive map:

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Best Practices for Visual-based Instruction in Distance Education

Course development and design in distance education (DE) should respond to specific learning outcomes and assessment objectives determined in advance, and should incorporate two fundamental principles that Simonson et al. (2012: p. 153) identify as critical to a student-centred approach: 1) Visual-based instruction (appropriate for and capitalizing on digital media), 2) Engaging students (through collaborative work and social connectedness).

Here is an example of a lesson on a course site within a CMS. This lesson incorporates best practices for visual design (Simonson et al., 2012) with z-layout for web design (Jones, 2010), and applies a linear-designed instruction approach and Unit-Module-Topic organization (Simonson et al., 2012).


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Jones, B. (19 October 2010). Understanding the z-layout in web design [weblog].–webdesign-28


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Connectivism: Informing Distance Education Theory, Pedagogy and Research

(Critical Review)

George Siemens’ (2005) article “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” has sparked both innovation and controversy. In stark contrast to Clark’s (1983) analogy that the truck delivering our groceries does not impact our nutrition, “only the content of the vehicle can influence achievement” (Clark, 1983, p. 445), Siemens suggests in the current knowledge economy “the pipe is more important than the content in the pipe” (Siemens, 2005, p.6). As the article unfolds, however, a more apt rendering may be that connectivism repositions media as a type of content, in that media, as tools of cognitive engagement, have the potential to transform the content of learning.

The editor’s note accompanying Siemens’ publication describes it as a “milestone article”. From a theoretical standpoint, connectivism is important because it integrates existing learning theories (Ally 2004) – namely, behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism – and provides a framework for pedagogy that is responsive to evolving technology and its incorporation in distance education. The impetus for developing new pedagogy, according to Siemens, is that these existing learning theories were formulated before technology “reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn” (Siemens, 2005, p. 1), and do not encompass types of learning relevant for the digital age.

Connectivism deals with learning – actionable knowledge – that involves developing meta skills for delineating patterns and connections within a mass of technology-mediated knowledge that is rapidly changing/increasing and only tenuously under the learner’s control; evaluating the value of content (i.e. whether information/knowledge is worth being learned); and determining when and what knowledge should be retired and replaced with updated knowledge (the meta skill of unlearning obsolete knowledge) (Siemens, 2005). [Siemens provides Gonzales’ (2004) definition of knowledge half-life – the interval between the time knowledge is acquired and the time it becomes obsolete – to describe the changing nature/character of knowledge in the digital age.] Additionally, connectivism describes and accounts for new types of knowledge, such as the Semantic Web as well as collective/collaborative learning and knowledge production (Siemens, 2005; Anderson, 2004). Ally (2004) suggests a connectivist framework has the potential to inform instructional design for both machines and humans and for how these agents interact.

Siemens is careful to establish theoretical links between connectivism and these earlier learning theories. Referencing Driscoll (2000), Siemens describes that in behaviourism and cognitivism knowledge is external to the learner, and in constructivism knowledge is created as the individual creates meaning from external, complex experiences and that learning is often personalized. In describing connectivism, Siemens draws on the systems concepts of nodes and networks, invoking similar concepts and the terminology used in cognitivism to describe information processing; constructivism’s concepts of learner-centred learning and instructor-as-facilitator (Ally, 2004; Duffy & Cunningham, 1996); and behaviourism’s community-centred social cognition.(Anderson, 2004; Vygotsky, 1978).

However, Siemens effectively grounds connectivism in chaos theory, complexity and self-organization theory, and network theory (networks, small worlds, weak ties), referencing Rocha (1998), Wiley & Edwards (2002) and Barabàsi (2002), respectively. He identifies eight principles of connectivism[1], describing the individual (node) <-> network <-> organization relationship and the embedded learning processes, opportunities for networked scaffolding (Anderson, 2004), and vital meta skills (described above).

As a theory, connectivism has the potential to generate testable hypotheses and provide a mandate for research, to inform emerging pedagogy, and to provide a framework for instructional strategies and learning environments that are “simultaneously learner-centred, content-centred, community-centred, and assessment-centred” (Anderson 2004, p. 67). This is true for education in general, and for distance education in particular. Because of its general distance-based delivery model and widespread incorporation of technology applications, distance education is uniquely positioned to incorporate the enriched, connected, networked learning that connectivism envisions.

The individual, and his/her abilities to create a personal learning network, is the “starting point of connectivism” (Siemens, 2005, p. 6). Anderson (2004) and Cobb (1997) describe that instructional design that places media in the hands of the learner makes learning more constructive. In distance education, technology-mediated learning may provide for richer learning experiences than those facilitated in traditional classroom instruction. For instance, constructivist learning is facilitated by learners creating their own learning paths through content via hyperlinks (Anderson, 2004). Consistent with Perraton (1988), connectivism renders the role of teacher to that of facilitator, though Perraton specifies this occurs when rich media (such as videoconferencing that facilitates face-to-face communication) transforms the relationship (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). In connectivism, the teacher/facilitator aids the learner in developing meta skills for creating connections and evaluating knowledge/information.

Connectivism’s focus on a learner-centred approach mirrors trends in distance education research, especially research examining the impact of interaction patterns, not just achievement, on the learning environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). In terms of research rigour, learning assessment that evaluates the acquisition of meta skills, instead of or in addition to achievement in terms of content knowledge, is applicable across learning environments (distance education and classroom instruction), with the potential to yield more valid inter-group comparisons because effect sizes would likely be less variable.

The networked learning environment envisioned by connectivism similarly resonates with post-Fordist theory in distance education and with open learning theory, both of which describe the personalization of learning, distributed networks, decentralization of delivery and curriculum development with the flexibility to respond to local and individual needs and priorities rather than focusing on mass production and mass consumption (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012; Edwards, 1995).

However, while interaction and collaboration are essential in connectivism and developing the meta skills connectivism espouses, they may not be (as) critical in distance education (though research demonstrating this focused on learners’ perceptions rather than achievements) (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). Anderson (2004) describes how these restrict learner independence traditionally associated with distance learning. For example, synchronous videoconferencing at minimum imposes specific time commitments. The implication for instructional design is to ensure a complementary balance (Anderson, 2004), in line with connectivism’s two-way, networked learning environment.

Siemens lays out a clear blueprint for connectivism, grounding it theoretically and providing relevant evidence, with one obvious exception. In the article’s introduction, Siemens lists contemporary learning trends to which connectivism responds, but provides no references. In particular, Siemens states the use of technology tools is altering our brains and reshaping the way we learn. It is reasonable to assume he is referring to technologies such as the Semantic Web, since he later in the article discusses technologies undertaking cognitive processes previously carried out by learners (Siemens, 2005; Anderson, 2004). However, a clearer link between these two points may have strengthened the article.


Ally, M. (2004). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and practice of online learning (pp. 15-44). Athabasca, Canada:  Athabasca University.

Anderson, T. (2004). Towards a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.),  Theory and practice of online learning (pp. 45-74). Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University.

Anderson, T. (2009). A rose by any other name: Still distance education-A response to D.R. Garrison: Implications of online and blended learning for the conceptual development and practice of distance education. Journal of Distance Education (Online), 23(3), 111-116. Retrieved from

Barabàsi, A. L. (2002). Linked: The new science of networks. Cambrige, MA: Perseus Publishing.

Bell, F. (2011). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 12(3), 98-118. Retrieved from

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., …Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 379-439. doi: 10.3102/00346543074003379

Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459. Retrieved from   

Cobb, T. (1997). Cognitive efficiency: Toward a revised theory of media. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(4), 21-35. Retrieved from

Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of learning for instruction. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Duffy, T. M., & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 170-198). New York: Simon & Schuster             Macmillan.

Edwards, R. (1995). Different discourses, discourses of difference: Globalisation, distance education, and open learning. Distance Education, 16(2), 217-255. doi: 10.1080/0158791950160206

Garrison, R. (2009). Implications of online learning for the conceptual development and practice of distance education. Journal of Distance Education (Online), 23(2), 93-103. Retrieved from

Gonzales, C. (2004). The role of blended learning in the world of technology. Retrieved from   

Perraton, H. (1988). A theory for distance education. In D. Stewart, D. Keegan, & B. Holmberg (Eds.), Distance education: International perspectives (pp. 34-45). New York: Routledge.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 9(3), 1-13. Retrieved from

Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected self-organization and the semiotics of evolutionary systems. Retrieved from

Vygotsky, L. (2002). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wiley, D. A., and Edwards, E. K. (2002). Online self-organizing social systems: The decentralized future of online learning. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from


[1]“Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions; Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources; Learning may reside in non-human appliances; Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known; Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning; Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill; Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities; Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision”. (Siemens, 2005, p. 5)



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Assistive Technology & TPACK: Where Am I Now?

I am finishing the graduate course PSYC 576: Assistive Technology for Students With Special Needs through Athabasca University. This course has involved collaborating with a student with special needs, the student’s family and support team, across environments, to assess the student’s need for assistive technology (AT), to select and implement the tool, and to track the student’s progress with the tool. In addition to this, I completed a detailed review of Kurzweil 3000, a text-to-speech software package that supports reading comprehension, composition and study skills. I also undertook readings and watched videos relating to diverse student needs and an array of low-, mid- and high-tech AT tool classes.

Now that I have reached the end of this course, I feel I have made many gains in my technological knowledge (TK) and pedagogical knowledge (PK). I completed the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) Competency Self-Rating matrix to describe my current competencies. Here is my prose reflection on my personal competencies. Below, I include a diagram showing how my technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) intersect:


(This is an update of a diagram I originally posted in February 2013, prior to beginning the course PSYC 576.)

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Week 4

Activity 4 – Where Am I Now? Reflection

Here is an updated version of my MindMeister which now includes the addition of the TPACK and Philosophy of Teachnology frameworks.

References for my Mind Map update:

Koehler, M.J.  (n.d.). What is TPACK? Retreived from

Peacock, K. (2013). TPACK and Philosophy of Teachnology. [PowerPoint slides]. Retreived from

Puentedura, R. R. (2012) The SAMR Model: Background and Exemplars. [Slides]. Retreived from

Philosophy of Teachnology

1. I took NAIT courses in HTML/CSS programming. The instructor used a smartboard to display coding for building a web page, and students were to build the same web page in Dreamweaver by directly copying the instructor’s code. I found this did not facilitate learning by doing nor scaffolding, as students were not able to apply and build on existing knowledge. For instance, we didn’t learn how code could serve in different situations or how to determine what code to chose for specific purposes. Given available technology in the classroom, more dynamic activities and assignments that better facilitated/enhanced learning should have been possible.

2. I took courses via distance learning (AthabascaUniversity). These included facilitating and contributing to group discussions with other students via an online discussion board. I found this provided an effective alternative to, for instance, a graduate seminar. Students were able to respond to each other and share ideas without being in the same room together. This use of technology effectively enabled the distance learning format.

TPACK  Picture4

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Week 4 – In-class Twitter Activity

Beliefs About Technology and Education

My tweet:

My retweets:

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Week 3 – Applications of Learning and Teaching Theories

Activity 3 – Learning and Technologies Theory Reflection

I feel cognitive load (cognitivist) theory is most consistent with my own experience of learning. This may reflect the style of education (i.e. process of teaching/learning) I experienced in my given the sociohistorical context (Canada in the 1970’s through the 1990’s).

I am an introvert, and have received, for instance, significantly less value in terms of knowledge acquisition from collaborative group work vs. working on my own. I have experienced cognitive overload from dealing with the social interactions with members of my group when doing collaborative work, which undermined the learning process for me.  I prefer working on my own. However, working on my own has always involved making connections between sources of knowledge, be it books, journal articles, etc.… (In the present digital age, journal articles are probably my primary source of information, with news articles and documentary film also being important sources for me. Wikipedia is an important source for me when I am beginning research on a topic. I’ve not yet started to rely much on other sources, such as blogs. )

Considering the above, I feel connectivism has (had) a role in cognitive load theory, in my own learning experience.

In EDIT 202, at times I feel my learning of the concepts and theories is impeded by the concurrent learning of technological tools. My habitual means of acquiring conceptual knowledge has been via lectures, reading books, writing papers, etc., vs. my habitual means of acquiring technical skills via following demonstrations by an expert or via discovery learning. I’ve been struggling in combining these into a “new” learning “style”, and thus have been experiencing cognitive overload. I am optimistic, however, that this struggle reflects that my existing schema about learning process is expanding to accommodate!

(I feel it may be pertinent to note that, for this week’s activity, I found using MindMeister extremely frustrating. I can see the potential of the application as a tool, but I am used to working with graphic design programs, and I could have created my mind map more effectively using a more flexible application such as Adobe Illustrator. I think this compounded my feeling of “struggle” this week, in particular!)

Regardless, I think having students create mind maps or concept maps represent one way a teacher/facilitator could use technology to support the learning, per a cognitivitst / cognitive load framework. Such tools could help prevent cognitive overload by enabling students to organize complex ideas in a way that make them easier to comprehend and easier to understand their relatedness. For instance, a mind map outlining the factors influencing the outbreak of WWII might allow a student to identify and understand the relationships between certain events which may not otherwise be apparent. Evaluation could assess whether students are adequately identifying key concepts/ideas, appropriately grouping/organizing these, and appropriately identifying the relatedness of concepts. The teacher/facilitator could then provide support where weaknesses are identified, such as misinterpreting key concepts.

A second way teachers/facilitators could use technology to support learning per a cognitivist / cognitive load framework is providing learning modules in which information is “chunked” together to avoid cognitive overload. More and more knowledge could be scaffolded as the students acquire the knowledge in each module and move on to the next module.

A third way is for teachers/facilitators to use technology which incorporates design and organization that supports the student’s ability to recall information from long-term memory upon which to build new knowledge via the technology application, and helps the student organize and store the new information acquired (ex. application design that helps facilitate coding into long-term memory). For instance, a program that uses the Multiple Representation Tool, such as word and picture presented together, which leads to dual-coding. (Chipperfield, 2004; Mayer & Moreno, 2002)


Chipperfield, B. (2004, April). Cognitive load theory and instructional design. [Online paper]. Retrieved from

Mayer, R., and Moreno, R. (2002). Aids to computer-based multimedia learning. Learning and Instruction, 12, 107–119.


Mind Map

Here is a link to my Mind Map:


References (for my Mind Map):

Appel, G. The Professional Development Blog. Re: Cognitivism. [Blog post]. Retrieved 27-Jan-2013

Applied Behaviour Analysis (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived January 27, 2013 from

Cognitivism (learning theory) (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived January 27, 2013 from

Connectivism (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived January 27, 2013 from

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004) Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning. Retreived from

Burk A. (2013, January 22). Educational technology learning theory. [PowerPoint slides]. Retreived from

Learning Theories/Behaviouralist Theories (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived January 27, 2013 from

Levinson, P. (2000) McLuhan and Media Ecology. [Online article]. Retreived from

Media Ecology Association. What is Media Ecology? Retreived January 27, 2013 from

Seimens, G. (2004 December 12.) Re: Connectivism – A learning theory for the digital age. [Blog post]. Retreived from

Social Construction of Technology (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retreived January 27, 2013 from

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