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Is technology a Trojan Horse out to destroy academia?

Just listened to an interview by The Chronicle of Higher Education with Audrey Watters,, in which she discusses technology as a Trojan Horse designed to destroy academia, and that we are subject to the Silicon Valley narrative. In the interview, Audrey suggests that ‘personalisation’ through technology looses dialogue and debate and that the classroom positive collective experience. She goes onto to say that often technology is imposed on individual academics and teachers, leaving them feeling that technology is done to the classroom and not through teacher development and choice.

Though the interview states that they believe Audrey Watters is not against technology, rather that teachers to need to embrace it more effectively. For example,creating their own websites. It is well worth a listen to keep the discussion and critical debate active.

Do we need Teachers in Education?

It is not about making learning happen, but allowing learning to happen. (Sugata Mitra, Ted Talks)

BBC Radio 4 – Start of the Week on 8th May 2016 discussed the need for schools, teachers, and the role technology plays in education. If learners were left to their own devices, would they just get on and learn? What part does social and peer development play within education?

What about those who are not ready to learn?



I do like the conversation in the Start of the Week broadcast about the issues around MOOCs, and the importance of school as a place to develop the person. Creating an identity and a  place within the social structure. Sugata argues that Primary Schooling contains people who are all ready to learn, teenager and undergraduate education is a whole different experience. For me, this shows how secondary education is not fit for purpose and is training pupils for society and employment that is ceasing to exist. Conformity, and the learner as a product, is outdated for the information age. Teachers need to be able to utilise a flexible, theme based problem-solving curriculum. Technology can support pupils to demonstrate their learning to any appropriate stakeholder. Educators should not be constrained by discrete subjects and assessment to meet generalised assessment and league tables.

If, as a teacher you are worried about losing your job to a computer, perhaps you should. The role is changing and even Sugata Mitra offers this advice, “Teachers often ask me, am I going to lose my job? I say no because your job will get harder. It will become a different job. It will go from being a master standing at the front of class to a helpful friend at the back.” He adds: “There will have to be a dramatic change to teacher programmes but we are no where near that yet.” (The Guardian 24th Feb 2015)


Ideas of online learning

Online learning Models


Following the Content Model of curriculum development, set out your course over the number of weeks that have been allocated for the course. Flexibility is in course development is provided through your use of linear, spiral or thematic curriculum design models.

Then for each week, use one of the models outlined below. Choose one model and stick to this, as this needs to be a template for the each week of the course. This will support learners to understand how the course is set up.

Good practice is to have Week one as the introduction to the course and exploration of the online material, assessment and submissions. The first task should be to get the learners to introduce themselves as visual as possible (Video/animation)


Key elements of online learning to consider:

  • How will information be presented (video, audio, PowerPoint)? Stick to the same type(s) as much as possible to support learner’s navigation and expectation
  • What will make the activities used to develop learners’ skills or knowledge interactive online?
  • Where will the social interaction element of the course be? Are there options for peer-assessment?
  • When will the tutorials take place and which media will these use (Google Hangout, Skype)?
  • What do you need to assess and how will the learners be able to gather digital evidence and upload it to the platform? 

Nelson’s Online Relative Model Learning Environment




(1 – 2 minute video or podcast)




(Interactive activity)




(Interactive Activity – different context)





(activity outside of the system that is uploaded for peer review)






FutureLearn Model



The Week Ahead

(1-2 minute intro video)




(10 minute video max)




(2 activities)




(1-2 minute summary video)



Next Week

(30 sec trailer)




Digital Learning News EP02

Welcome to episode TWO of Digital Learning News, a multimedia newsletter highlighting what is hot, what is not and what you can try today in Digital Learning


What is Hot?… Gamification
What is not?… YAHOO is cutting 15% if it’s workforce
What can you try today? …Google docs


My name is Richard Nelson and in this episode what is hot is Gamification, a term used to describe game mechanics applied to everyday tasks. ( describes three unusual ways gamification has been applied to life. ONE, Purchasing decisions – loyalty cards encourage you to collect points to win prizes. is on unusual example in that they encourage you to stay loyal by offering to level you up the more you spend. The higher your levels, the better the offers. TWO, Credit scores are also gamified. Several factors, including regularly paying your bills improves your scores. The Sesame Credit system in China does it a little differently in that it ranks individuals on social responsibility. If you buy comics and computer games the system thinks you are lazy, therefore, a lower score. A parent that pays bills on time is more responsible and gains a higher score.


Three, gamification of education. This concept comes from the issue of trying to keep people engaged in learning, especially if it is online. There are a number of ways to offer learners a level up on success or deduct credit for incorrect responses. reports on particle example of the language learning site, As learners work through the task they can earn lingo money and work up leaderboards. Experience leads to levelling up and demonstrating success. If a learner fails a task they loose a life and if they loose too many they have to start the task again.

What is not?…  Wall Street Journal reports that Yahoo’s revenue has fallen and it is struggling to grow in a market dominated by rivals Google and Facebook. They are cutting around 1,500 people and streamlining its business portfolio.

What can you try today?… Google Docs. Google docs allow you to create and shared an online document. You can share this document with an individual or a whole class and they can all add information to it. The best features of Google docs is that the editing is real-time. As one person edits the document, all users can see the typing as it happens. This make is truly interactive. I have eaten it used in class where groups of learners add their research to one shared document.


Let me know how you get on with Google docs and let me know if you have found any other great digital learning resources that we can all try today.


You follow updates on for Digital Learning news on twitter using the #digitallearningnews


This newsletter is also available as text at, downloadable as audio and watchable as  a video on youtube.


Please contact me with your experiences of Digital Learning Technology or ideas for future episodes to