Learning & Human Development with Educational Technology

A second course that I have been involved in over the last few weeks is 'Learning & Human Development with Educational Technology' with Prof. Bill Cope at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. This is normally a 16-week Masters-level unit, condensed into an 8-week structure, delivered in 6-weeks, so it was quite intense! (in fact, I am still finishing bits and pieces).

Activation of the student participants as learning resources for each other, creating original works and embedding recursive feedback mechanisms were key features of this course.  How this was facilitated through the CG Scholar system in a learning community was truly innovative (and impressive) in my view, in contrast to other systems and courses I have experienced.

Here is a link to the CG Scholar (a web application that is probably best described as a Learning Management System plus publishing platform):  http://cgscholar.com

Below is the course outline from the U of I webpage:
EPSY408 sets out to provide an understanding of theories of learning and development and how these theories relate to educational technology. It has two components. The first is theoretical, in which we attempt to develop an overall frame of reference, locating approaches to the psychology of learning in terms of large paradigm shifts, from 'behaviorism' to 'brain developmentalism' to 'social cognitivism'. The second component is practical, in which we will use these theoretical concepts to 'parse' a technology-mediated learning environment for its underlying presuppositions.

The entire course is contained here in a Scholar Learning Module: CLICK HERE

The key ideas from the Learning Module are also found in the book 'New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education' by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope: CLICK HERE and also through their website, 'New Learning': CLICK HERE

The following were the requirements of the course as per the syllabus document:

In a nutshell, participants were required to make 7 comments on the discussion topics, create and publish 5 'updates' and create a Work 1 (Outline a Theory of Human Development and Learning) and Work 2 (either A - Case Study of an Educational Theory or B - Design a Learning Module).

The breakdown of Assessment & Grading below illustrates the emphasis on creating original works and updates, along with contributing to peer reviews and discussions.

The Analytics section for a student contains a graphical representation of overall achievement with regards to course outcomes.  Theta (𝛉) is a representation of learning, combining knowledge, understanding and participation, graphically depicted as an Asta-like plot.  The flower is an apt metaphor for the learning.

As mentioned before, the architecture and mechanisms of this system are all geared for the latest research in learning science, unique in many aspects and outstanding in the overall execution.  The quality of works that have been produced is a testament to the success of this learning design.

Below are links to some Work 2A Case Study examples, which have gone through the peer-review process before being published on the community site.

Putting the Growth Mindset into Practice

Inquiry-Based Learning

Below are links to some Work 2B Learning Module examples.

U.S. History


Hispanic Civil Rights


The Scholar system features the ability to embed different types of media, mathematical notation/formula and perform basic formatting.

The rubric upon which the Work would be assessed was available beforehand, so I knew what to aim for and what to include.  When I had completed a draft revision I would submit the Work for peer-review.  The pairings of peers can be controlled by administrators.  My Work was reviewed and rated by my peers, who provided textual feedback on areas to improve.  There is an annotation tool to highlight particular sections and to suggest specific changes.  After reviewing feedback and making necessary revisions, I submitted the final draft for publication consideration.

The only feedback I would make to improve user-experiences would be to look at mobile-friendly, adaptive scripting for their pages if possible to improve accessibility.  Another would be to make 'how-to' videos to introduce and orient participants to the environment and basic functions - and to have these clearly visible from an initial landing page, within one click.

Each week there was a live session from 7:00pm-8:30pm local time.  The sessions were led by Prof. Cope, supported by an assistant, sharing a single computer screen.  Blackboard Collaborate Ultra was the software that was used.  For all 6 session there were well over 100 participants logged in.  The live sessions were not used for lectures - Prof. Cope had already created several videos that contained his thoughts on the subject, as well as curating the content together in the Learning Module, and these were all available to students.  The live sessions covered basic house-keeping, but by and large were devoted to showcasing the work of the students.  The relevant update or work would be shown and that student would un-mute their microphone and provide commentary for the group.  A shared google sheet was created and people put in their names, along with links to their updates or works.  Several updates or works would be selected each week and the students would talk to them in a 'talk back radio' type fashion as Prof. Cope referred to it.  Prof. Cope would add his expert commentary and insights as appropriate.  Barring the occasional microphone feedback or fail, these sessions were well facilitated with minimal technical glitches (which are beyond the organiser's control).

What impressed me the most from these sessions was two things.  Firstly, the number of participants in the live session and in the course itself - proof of concept that such a course could be facilitated at scale.  Secondly, the production of high-caliber works - proof of concept that the course facilitates high-caliber learning.

The educational technology that was employed was, to use Prof. Cope's phrase, 'pedagogically neutral'.  The technology simply enabled the good pedagogy to happen easier - the creative work construction, recursive feedback, rubrics, asynchronous access to multi-modal learning resources - everything.

Finally to the course content itself and the new learning.  This is all available in the course module (CLICK HERE), but to summarise in my own words:  It was about learning psychology and started by exploring early developments with the work in Behaviourism by Watson, Pavlov and Skinner.  This then progressed to Constructivist ideas such as those postulated by Piaget, then Neuroscience, Social Knowledge Construction, Distributed Cognition and, ultimately, Communities of Practice.

We were learning from each other through the dialogical feedback and idea exchange facilitated through the architecture of the Scholar system.  By the end of the course it was clear that participants had collectively become the very embodiment of the community of practice that we had been studying.  Brilliant!

Thanks Prof. Cope and the University of Illinois for this learning experience!

Josh Dean


Popular posts from this blog

Blended Learning and Formative Assessment: What are they and why are we looking at them together?

Questioning in Online and Face-to-Face Environments

Active Learning and Natural Language in Netmath