When I was an undergraduate, I became excited about the connection between computers and learning. My uni didn’t have a relevant degree back then, but I could design my own if I could get a faculty member to be my mentor. I found Hugh Mehan and Jim Levin (very lucky on my part), and got to work on their experiment using email as an alternative to classroom discussion. This was in 1978, and there was no internet, but we had the ARPAnet and off we went.
We found some interesting things, suchas that asynchronous responses were more thoughtful, compared to the IRE (inquire-response-evaluation) format of face to face. And, messages could handle more than one topic at the same time. However, the overall dialog cycle took longer. Our results and some recommendations were published in 1983.
Imagine my surprise to hear an academic in an interview remark how he discovered that some folks who didn’t interact in the classroom, did find a voice in an online environment. That was another of our findings, but only 20 years before this online learning expert got going. I guess sometimes you can be too far ahead of the times…
That’s actually not to the academic’s discredit; it’s a reliable problem for interdisciplinary studies. In HCI (interface design), you’d get someone from computer science opining about something new to them that was old hat in psychology, and vice versa. Learning technology is the same way; bringing together techies, learning psychologists, and more, and it’s
I actually got quite a lot of mileage straddling the HCI and EdTech fields, as EdTech had lots to learn from some of the HCI work going on, such as iterative prototyping methods. There was similarly valuable work going the other way, too, as I’d suggest that some of the more cutting edge psychological stuff (e.g. activity theory) was first explored by the ed community.
The problem is somewhat exacerbated by the different journals: there’s no one clearing house. Back then we published in Instructional Science. Now it might be BJET, or Education Technology, or ETRD. The point being, it’s not easy to track what’s been done before.
So, what’s the point? I reckon it’s to be eclectic and read broadly, look for inspiration everywhere you go, keep an open mind, go to lots of conferences (e.g. hope to see you at DevLearn) talk to lots of people, and actively looking for the application potential of new ideas. At least it’s an exciting place to play!
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