Beyond Prototypes report provides a UK-based in-depth examination of the processes of innovation in technology-enhanced learning (TEL) with a special emphasis on building online learning solutions that are durable. The focus is also on design-based research.
In order to do this, the report looks back at some long-running programs (one going back to the 80's), and their follow-up projects. The report also looks at challenges and misconceptions of TELearning: e.g. MISCONCEPTION: Most of the TEL innovation process takes place within universities.
It is a nice, 40 page report describing three cases:
The microelectronics education program
The £23 million Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland was established by the Government in November 1980 and ran for six years. The aim was to support schools in preparing children ‘for life in a society in which devices and systems based on microelectronics are commonplace and pervasive’. To complement this work, the Department of Industry made £16 million available to help local education authorities purchase computers for schools.
MEP took into account areas as diverse as curriculum development, teacher training, resource organisation and support. It promoted change at national, regional and local levels, encouraging collaboration and cross-fertilisation of ideas. Plans for evaluation and field studies were incorporated from the start. Although there was relatively little emphasis on pedagogy, the programme did note the potential to ‘add new and rewarding dimensions to the relationship between teacher and class or teacher and pupil’ .(curriculum, teacher training, infrastructure provision to schools. A 6 year program, which afterwards gave rise to EU projects building upon that expertise and changing education as a result)
This project had follow-ups in European projects tackling education innovation.
the Yoza cellphones project (mobile):
The aim of the Shuttleworth Foundation funded Yoza Cellphone Stories project (Yoza), formally entitled m4Lit, was to promote leisure reading by the distribution of m-novels to mobile phones in South Africa – a country where less than 10% of public schools have functional libraries but 70% of urban youth have internetenabled mobile phones. The project began in 2009, taking inspiration from work done in Japan, using an existing mobile chat platform to release content and advertise, and publishing in local languages, including Afrikaans and isiXhosa, as well as English. Yoza considers the key innovation in this process of bricolage
not to be the use of phones, but the provision of really engaging stories (some published in episodes), available easily and affordably, with readers able to comment and see others’ comments in near real time.
In early 2013, Yoza won the Netexplo Award in Paris and had a catalogue of over 50 openly licensed m-novels, poems and plays, some of which deal with difficult subjects such as living with HIV. Use of the service has been strong, with over half a million completed reads and 50,000 user comments recorded in
the 17 months to December 2012. Securing further funding has proved challenging. However, content has been reused elsewhere, including by Young Africa Live, and the model has helped pave the way for other initiatives in South Africa such as the FunDza Literacy Trust.
iZone driver performance (corporate case)
iZone was set up in 2009 to address a change in Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
regulations, which reduced racing teams’ testing time. While test equipment and simulators for the testing
of cars and components were already used, nothing was available that could replace track time for drivers.
Sophisticated simulators with video screens had been developed over the previous 35 years, but much more
complex systems, able to provide physical feedback such as g-forces, were required for the development of
iZone addressed this problem by interlinking physiological systems and electromechanical systems. It uses
eye-tracking technology to enable coaches to analyse drivers’ performance and assess their control during
the simulation. This technology was developed by the company’s simulator designer, John Reid, who was
inspired by an article about the use of eye-tracking systems in helicopter gunships.
iZone has links with Cranfield Aerospace that stretch back to the 1980s, when company chairman Alex
Hawkridge used the wind tunnel at Cranfield to develop the aerodynamics of Toleman F1 cars. The
company now uses the g-force technology from Cranfield’s helicopter trainer and also has PhD students
from Cranfield working with the company on aspects of the project. A similar long-term relationship with
the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield has also helped with the development
of the simulator.
Based on work with racing drivers prior to setting up iZone, the team has created a training regime developed
by sports scientists and sport psychologists to offer a complete driver development programme that includes
the use of the simulators. The sport psychology input came from Dave Collins, who had developed a name
for coaching and mentoring in athletics and football as well as in motorsports.
Most technology businesses are concerned with the protection of intellectual property (IP), but Alex
Hawkridge’s view is that, ‘the things that are patentable, we don’t think it would be wise to patent, because
you then tell people exactly what you’re doing.’ He considers that the most important way to protect the
business’s IP is to keep developing the simulator business. The potential for iZone to run a similar operation
at every major racetrack in the world is a real opportunity; a future way forward might include franchising
the model in order to maintain its speed of development
The report also makes recommendations for researchers, government and policy makers. Just mentioning a few,, the recommendations feel rather intuitive:
- The interim and final results from design-based studies should be systematically shared with other researchers so that the process of innovation can be compared, expanded, and continued over time. They should also be widely disseminated to policy makers and practitioners, through events such as ‘what research says’ meetings.
- Research institutes should set up long-lasting collaborations and consortia, involving schools, museums and other educational settings as test-beds, to support large-scale comparative and crosscultural investigations.
- Policy and funding should support innovations in pedagogy and practice, as well as the technological developments that will support these. This should recognize the need to fund professional development of practitioners and evaluation of the innovation in practice.
- Policy and funding should recognize the importance of extended development and provide support for scaling and sustaining of innovations, beyond prototypes into educational transformations.
- Policy and funding should encourage the development of skilled, multidisciplinary teams that are able to complete the TEL innovation process. Recognition and support should be given to visionary thinking and experimentation, to generate fresh insights and achievable visions of educational developments.