The focus of this research was on the personalisation of learning using digital artefacts with adult learners. The project team comprised researchers from a range of subject and disciplinary areas: social sciences, education, computer science, informatics, and business. Each had a different kind of expertise, experience and interest in the topic. The bringing together of this team highlighted the importance of the usefulness of interdisciplinarity when approaching research in TEL. However the project team also recognised the complexities and contestations when working with a team with various knowledges, theories and investments. Therefore, the project team used the collaborative research process that is the interdisciplinary workings of the team, as a parallel setting for exploration.
In tune with this latter focus while working together we developed a reflexive narrative of the discourse processes, practices, opportunities and management challenges of interdisciplinary research. An ambitious aim was to provide a model for interdisciplinary work for research and pedagogical purposes.
The research on the personalisation of learning using digital artefacts focusessed on adults who work across contexts and organisations for example management and teaching, or research and consultancy. Typically he/she might manage work with digital artefacts, such as a personal digital assistant, a lap top, mobile phone and a memory stick. The same person might also process a music device, digital radio and a navigation system. Sometimes activity is in virtual space, (as in chat rooms and video conferencing), at other times in online gaming environments, or via text messaging and picture sharing. From a learner's point of view, hardware, software, mobile and other technologies are combined in digital artefacts, and these are not limited to the ‘usual' e-learning technologies. At the same time by the process of personalisation, users, individually and collectively, configure, tailor, combine, adapt, network or otherwise find usages for digital artefacts, which go beyond those intended by the original design.
We proposed to undertake ethnographic research in the spirit of ‘look what is happening here' with digital artefacts as learners move between sectors, roles and practices. This suggests that personalisation of digital artefacts is always identity work and this in turn raises a number of questions. What can personalisation activity tell us about the construction of learner identities and the use of technologies to enhance learning? How can we understand e-practices as social practices that are integral to lifelong and life-wide contexts and the personalisation of learning? How can we interpret these practices to develop working knowledge about the design of learning technologies?
Our user groups included people who were educators/trainers/teachers, many of whom worked in other roles and other professional and industry settings.
Better understanding of framing interdisciplinary research and e-practices using everyday digital artefacts for learning purposes will contribute to knowledge about learning as identity work. This will have implications for improving the outcomes for learners in terms of their lifelong learning and professional skills, and will also have relevance to work-based learning and other educational initiatives that involve an engagement with employers.
This project was a University wide collaboration at City University , London ; including:
- Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, School of Arts
- Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design, School of Informatics
- Centre for Information Policy Studies, Department of Information Science
- Cass Business School
- E-Learning Services
- Education Development Centre