A brief history of Catalysed Ltd, accelerating learning through digital technologies

Many years ago now, when I first joined education after working in commerce, I struggled to understand all the fuss about technology and education. Many people seemed to believe that technology could somehow transform education, but for all my expertise in digital technologies I just couldn't see it. I figured it was because I didn't really understand education, even though I was a psychologist who understood the way humans learned. So I decided to study for a PhD in order to find out.

Wind forward a decade or two, and many people still think that technology will transform education. I disagree, and I now have the research evidence to back that thinking up. In practice many schools still struggle to effectively align their needs with the potential benefits that digital technologies might provide, but my doctoral research suggested there is a way around that problem; something I call the APT methodology. APT is shorthand for the Alignment of Pedagogy and Technology, it'…

ICT in education: why it works, why it doesn’t

Picked this up from a new Erasmus funded project recently, good summary of how best to embed ICT in teaching and learning:
They particularly focus on three elements, the first of which I suggest is very overlooked:
POLICIES AND SUPPORT TEACHERS’ CONFIDENCE AND OPINIONS STUDENTS’ USE OF ICT  In my experience the lack of effective and clear policies from the top severely hampers uptake. Without a clear picture of what is allowed, who is allowed it, how it is supported, etc., it’s almost impossible to embed ICT in teaching and learning. Similarly, this has a knock on for staff; how can they be confident when there’s no clear message about what they should be doing? And for students? I’ve come across numerous examples where their needs are either ignored in policy, or so down played that they end up with a lip service approach, access to ICT that seems OK, but on closer inspection is simply not up to scra…

Facebook and Google: the new digital places we live in, and why they're so different

Recently read a lovely little article on the Guardian about Facebook and Google, that tries to explore just what type of thing they are becoming:
It inspired me to share my own thoughts on digital space and place, products of my doctoral thesis. Whilst  I like the tone and thinking behind the article, what I think it misses is this sense of space and place. My thesis explored technology use in education, but as part of that process it also explored technology itself. Turns out that we really don't know a lot about digital technology, at least theoretically speaking; we have an awful lot of metaphors and analogies to help us compare tech to things we do get, but tech itself can be defined in all sorts of different ways, many of which don't really make sense against each other.

What I argued in my research built upon the work of others, and basically suggested that digital te…

Affordance & direct-perception: What we learn are affordances

This short piece summarises some recent research on perception, links through to arguments against direct-perception as proposed by James Gibson, and proposes that affordances are the basic building blocks of learning.

Watching my young son play, and reflecting on the work done by Piaget and others on how people become who they are, I think it's clear that play and learning is a process of combining what is known about the world in terms of existing affordances with actions that cause new events (either internally or externally initiated), from which new affordances can be derived. Gibson (and others) have argued that affordances are nested, quite a few people have even argued for meta-affordances (not sure I like that term though, one person's meta is another person's normal :-), but either way it seems to me it's possible to outline a conceptual model of learning that uses affordances as the core. Affordances can't perhaps explain how we learn, but they may perha…

Affordance as the 'what' of learning

A critique that has been levelled against affordance by some is that it is too simplistic. Oliver, for example, recognises that there exists “a tension between recognising the complexity of the concept and having a language simple enough [for it] to be useful.” (Oliver, 2005, p. 410). However whilst it is true that an affordance can be simplistic, it is not true that affordance is simplistic. It is perhaps easy to forget that the theory of affordances formed the culmination of a lifetimes work by one of the most prominent psychologists of the 20th Century. It’s adoption by multiple disciplines, and the Human Computer Interaction discipline in particular, has certainly led some to interpret it simply. Norman, for example, made the term immensely popular through his book “The Design of Everyday Things”, but as he himself has publicly acknowledged “the concept has caught on, but not always with true understanding” (Norman, 1999, p. 39). As my own research progressed, and I've become …

Studying for a PhD: My reflections on what works

Well I made it, I'm now Dr Richard Osborne. It feels a bit weird to write that to be honest, but I've been examined by my peers and apparently have not been found wanting. Which is nice. Time to offer something back.

I thought I'd write a brief reflective piece about the changes I made in my life which I feel were a necessary part of getting my PhD (An Ecological Approach to Educational Technology: Affordance as a Design Tool for Aligning Pedagogy and Technology). My doctorate was always based on an ecological approach, and that approach to life - one that considers the environment within which you find yourself a crucial part of the overall experience jigsaw - is something that I find echoes through both my personal and professional life.

So here we go, three changes I made and why I think they mattered.
Make your physical study space the best it can be Whatever your topic, you're going to be spending a lot of time sitting in one place reading and writing, so it'…

What's wrong with traditional IT thinking in education?

New job, new challenges, and I'm finding myself drawn into more and more educational tech procurement. Not a task I exactly relish, but needs must. It has, however, sparked some thoughts over this process which have probably been bubbling away for many years now. My research has allowed me to colour these with some underlying theoretical concepts, which hopefully help to put some meat on my perspectives.

This post contrasts the outlook of a traditional IT department with my take on what's needed from an educational technology perspective. It suggest three reasons why traditional IT thinking is failing academics and students in terms of supporting their teaching and learning, which I've listed under:

One size does not fit allThere are no 'types' of technologyDigital tech provides a place, not just a tool One size does not fit all The 'solution' mentality. It seems deeply embedded within IT services that for any educational need there will be a 'solution&#…