Category Archives: Research and Perspective on Technology in Education

A Different Significance: Actualizing Pedagogical Potential through Technology and New Media


Since our Australopithecine ancestors learned to shape stones into tools ~3.3 million years ago, hominid relationships and knowledge creation have been mediated by, negotiated through, and expressed in technological innovations, a meandering but cumulative line — from rock to rocket, from Lucy to Musk — that may help us create a new Levant in the orange dust of Mars, in an evolutionary leap that takes us away from home, to where our reliance on technology will be absolute. “Without technology, we are not human” (McGreal, 2017). Without humans, and our imperative for social interaction, technology would not exist.

While Russell’s (1999) meta-analysis revealed “no significant difference” in learning outcomes when comparing face-to-face and distance education (DE) contexts (absent pedagogical change), critical differences emerge when technology-enabled pedagogical changes are considered. Interactive online technologies afford pedagogical potential that correlates to improved learning outcomes in DE and blended learning contexts.

In this paper, I explore the pedagogical potential afforded by one interactive technology tool – online discussion forums – for enhanced social presence and learner-centredness, towards improved learning outcomes. Two pedagogical strategies – scaffolding, and forum management – are considered within DE and blended learning. Scope is limited to higher education and professional training contexts.

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My 2017 AU Graduate Research Conference presentation

Listen to the recording of my presentation.

My slides are below:

Boldly Go: An Essay on Technology and Reflection

When I close my eyes, and picture what reflection looks like, I imagine time and quiet solitude, much as Ellen Rose (2013) describes in her book on reflection. I picture myself sitting by a window on a summer afternoon, gazing outside.

I would not last long beside my window. I would move into my garden, to listen to the wind and birds, smell the lavender, feel the cool grass, and the warmth of my cat against my shin. Under the shade of the ‘Hobbiton’ tree in our backyard – like the tree under which Bilbo Baggins’ long-expected party takes place[1] – I might recall how it was this tree that sold us on this house seven years ago, after seeing the bald lots of so many new-build homes. Listening to the nearby seed-cleaning mill, I might think about how much farmland surrounding my town has been lost to residential development, whether the seed-cleaning mill will soon be displaced, and what all of this means for food production and timber consumption. I might recall the clear-cutting I’ve observed driving through Swan Hills, Alberta. Is that timber used in Canada, or is it exported? Is it the same in New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies were filmed? In these adaptations of Tolkien’s work, director Peter Jackson infused a critique of New Zealand’s deforestation (Jackson, Osborne, & Walsh, 2003). What do we lose in exchange for (perceived) progress? I might wonder if the Hobbiton tree had to be CGI’d[2] into the LOTR movies. I have my tree, in my backyard, and it’s the real thing. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos preserve my tree, along with the context of each moment. Would a virtual reality (VR) rendering better preserve, or change, these for me? What if I created/programmed the VR myself?

In contrast to Rose’s (2013) description of sight separating observer from what’s observed and thereby creating a space wherein reflection may occur, my reflective experiences are typically immersive. All four of my senses are catalysts for reflection, opening pathways to meander and explore. For me, reflection would be diminished without the sense of hearing, in particular, complementing the sense of sight.

In an EDDE 801 forum post, I shared my idea of “hyper-symbolism”, imagining how 3D/4D[3] VR could change the role of symbols in human-object-knowledge relationships. Rose (2013) describes how advances in spoken and written language translated knowledge into abstract symbols, enabling people to imagine, reflect and communicate, disconnected from concrete experience (p. 47). With advances in VR technology, I speculate knowledge is being repositioned to reside within high-fidelity proxies of objects, still abstracted, but providing richer data to inform experience and reflection. Would a VR garden provide more paths for me to explore, versus the garden imagined in my mind? Would the enriched data experienced in a VR garden foster an extended and semantically deeper reflection?

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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:

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


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)


Week 11 – Research and Perspective on Technology in Education

Activity (Part A) – Hands-On Practice

Here is a link to the YouTube link to my video of myself trying out an interactive whiteboard.

This video is also included as part of my IWB activity (see below).

Activity (Part B) – What Can You Do With An IWB?

Here is a link to my IWB activity on Edcanvas.


Professional Development

First and foremost, I believe teachers should be “explorers and risk takers” when it comes to new technologies. Before being able to integrate technology into a lesson plan, a teacher must become familiar with that technology, understand what it can do and how it can be used to support student learning. In addition to formal professional development (such as workshops and courses), this means continually exploring what tools are and become available on the Internet. Teachers must be bold and creative!  Teachers must apply their pedagogical knowledge to re-create meaningful lessons that incorporate technology, and risk “trying something new”.

Transformative Learning

I believe teachers should follow the SAMR model for integrating technology into their classrooms, with the immediate objective of moving past using enhancement (the “substitution” and “augmentation” phases) towards using technology as a transformative learning tool (the “modification” and “redefinition” phases). (Puentedura, 2012; Hamada, 2011) I believe technology should be used when it facilitates new and better ways of sharing knowledge and operationalizing learning.

Modeling Digital Citizenship

Children and adolescents learn about appropriate behaviours by observing those around them. Integrating technology into the classroom creates a critical locus for transmitting knowledge about appropriate behaviour for a connected world. In addition to some direct teaching about digital citizenship, I believe more impactful learning will be achieved by teachers modeling digital citizenship for their students via every class activity that incorporates the use of technology. For instance, a peripheral lesson on avoiding copyright infringement can be incorporated into a social studies lesson that utilizes a YouTube video.

Community and Inclusiveness

Assistive technologies can be utilized to mediate functional barriers to participation for certain students. Additionally, a certain technology may be appropriate for use with students of all functional abilities in completing a specific class activity, enabling all students in a classroom the opportunity for equal participation and contribution. When choosing which type of technology to integrate into class activities, I believe teachers should choose technologies that facilitate inclusiveness and that allow all students an equal chance to contribute and build their class community.

Engagement and Enthusiasm

Children and adolescents gravitate towards technology, and the use of technology can support student engagement. When developing lesson plans, I believe teachers should consider integrating technology that will make the lesson more relevant to students, such as utilizing online tools for creating comic books or animated videos as a means of storytelling.

PLN Development and Self-directed Learning

Technology and social connectivity have become essential for contemporary life, in the work world and elsewhere. Students today must learn how to learn to incorporate technology and social networking into their lives, to support whatever their goals may be. I believe teachers should help students “learn how to learn”; that is, how to find, access and incorporate the tools and information they need. The Internet provides virtually unlimited resources, but students must learn how to find and filter what is available to find what is relevant and meaningful to them and their goals. An objective for teachers should be helping students learn how to create and maintain their own networks for learning via technology use, towards the goal of skill development that will support lifelong learning. Essential to this is supporting students in developing skills in self-directed learning, to allow them to set their own goals and decide how best to achieve these goals.


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

Hamada, C. (2011, February 15). Re: The SAMR Model [Web log message]. Retrieved from: