Teachers struggling with technology rejoice

Innovative software to help teachers stay at the forefront of the digital revolution in education has been developed by researchers funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The Learning Designer is an interactive program for teachers that will help them to design and develop lessons plan using digital technologies. “It is vital that the teaching community stay at the forefront of teaching and learning through the use of technology – often referred to as technology enhanced learning (TEL)” says Professor Diana Laurillard, the lead researcher at the Institute of Education.

Despite teachers playing a key role in the introduction and use of TEL in education, until now there has been no large scale development of software to assist teachers in the critical task of lesson design. The innovative nature of TEL presents a new kind of design challenge for teachers used to course and lesson planning for a conventional environment.

“Teachers need support in working out how to introduce technology gradually within resource constraints, how to best use existing materials and how to take full advantage of technology for the benefit of their learners,” says Professor Laurillard. “The Learning Designer supports them in all these tasks. It offers teachers an array of ideas and advice, from educational concepts relevant to their chosen activity, to alternative designs relevant to the teaching and learning of that activity” she continues.

The Learning Designer supports the teaching community by enabling teachers to work together on how to plan and design their teaching resources. It shows how the technologies that are changing the way students learn through collaboration can also support teachers’ learning in new ways.

“Computer-supported collaborative learning has long been established as an important form of TEL for students,” says Professor Laurillard. “We believe it is equally applicable to teachers’ professional development.”

Once a teacher has planned a lesson or a module, the software will analyse how the student’s time is spent on different types of learning and how much teacher-time it will require. It also allows the teacher to export his or her design to share with colleagues.

Professor Laurillard points out that one of the particular gains of using TEL is that it allows the learning experience to be tailored to individual students. It also makes it possible to save significant teacher preparation time since TEL resources are reusable.

“The programme has been developed in the spirit of reflective and collaborative design,” says Professor Laurillard. “Evaluation with teachers and lecturers has now shown that it is not only meeting their requirements, but also helping them develop new ways of thinking about how they design teaching and learning.”

The Learning Designer has been built to sustain collaboration and to develop a wider teacher design community. Furthermore, it could be an important research tool to investigate teachers’ approaches to innovation in both conventional and technology-based learning environment.

For further information contact

Professor Diana Laurillard

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 020-7763-2154, 07789-111965

ESRC Press Office:

Danielle Moore

Email: [email protected]

Telephone 01793-413122

Jeanine Woolley

Email: [email protected]

Telephone 01793-413119

Notes for editors:

1. This release is based on the findings from ‘Learning Design Support Environment’, research project. The research team is led by Professor Diana Laurillard at Institute of Education, with collaborators across six universities: Prof Tom Boyle at London Metropolitan University, Dr Patricia Charlton at Birkbeck University, Dr Brock Craft at Institute of Education, Dionisis Dimakopoulos at Birkbeck University, Dr Dejan Ljubojevic at Institute of Education, Prof George Magoulas at Birkbeck University2, Dr Elizabeth Masterman at Oxford University, Roser Pujadas at London School of Economics and Political Science, Carrie Roder at Royal Veterinary College, Steve Ryan at London School of Economics and Political Science, Dr Edgar A. Whitley at London School of Economics and Political Science, Kim Whittlestone at Royal Veterinary College and Dr Joanna Wild at Oxford University

2. ‘Power tools for teachers’, video to demonstrate the software in more detail

3. The project has adopted an iterative research-design process to build the means by which the teaching community can collaborate further on how best to deploy TEL. It aims to lower the TEL threshold so that the majority of teachers can engage with it in a way that draws on good practice by others and is informed by the findings of pedagogical research, thereby optimising the benefits to their learners.

4. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at http://www.esrc.ac.uk

5. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information and communications technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

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