This activity provided some examples of how technology has enhanced learning. I chose Eric Mazur because I am interested in the concept of the Flipped Classroom – not least because I have been asked to speak to a group of staff about the concept. I liked the video clip and I am planning to show this clip as part of the session – although I should really get the staff to view it before they attend to demonstrate the flipped classroom in practice! This clip builds on what I have written about in a previous Blog post – active learning and it seems to me that this approach is based on the theory of constructivism which could be argued to have its foundations in the socratic method. Is good to know I am not the only one who chose to look at Eric Mazur and Mitra – see http://octel.alt.ac.uk/2014/forums/topic/mazur-and-mitra/ Moira highlights the impotance of pedagogy in Mazurs approach so when I talk to staff about this I will emphasize that it is not about the technology but about the pedagogy.

The Mitra video was fascinating – I thought the point about group work was interesting – that groups of 4-5 work well. He highlighted the question approach he took – that students used computers to find the anwers to questions again.


Having watched the video by B.F. Skinner  I was stuck by the argument that Skinner believed that teaching by machine was ‘motivational’ as students could learn at their own pace. I had a little previous knowledge of behaviourism so I was not surprised when Skinner stated that students learn ‘the correct behaviour. It was interesting that he stated that the author was still the teacher not the machine but for that to work the teacher would need to undertand how the machine works and how to structure the learning to make if effective with the machine. I decided to look at the socratic method to evaluate how this approach differed from Skinner. I read Donald Clarks blog and I particulary liked the phrase that Socrates thought “Education is not a cramming in, but a drawing out” (Clarks quote ). This stands in contrast to Skinner who believed that education was about teaching students the right way of doing a task. The Socratic idea is that the teacher poses questions so learners become aware of their lack of knowledge and motivated to learn and find out the answer to the questions. Clark paints a picture of Socrates as a ruthless opponent. The Socratic idea that for certain types of learning questioning and dialogue allows the learner to generate their own ideas (it reminds of probably overused phrase of seeing the teacher as the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage).  But as Clark argues this method needs to be combined with genuine dialogue and feedback.

I then decided to search for more information about the socratic method and came across an article by Paraskevas, A and Wickens, E  (1993) called “Andragogy and the Socratic Method: The Adult Learner Perspective”.  In this article the authors refer to Ramsden (1992) who states that a large part of student learning is not about learning theory and concepts  it is about learning about what the instructor requires”. In the Socratic method students can be given a scenario and the teacher poses pre-set questions. Learners are required to use experience and knowledge to solve problems. Inductive techniques can be used to then help move students on from specific case studies to generic concepts. By involving students actively relating learning to their own experience supporters of this method (Tredway 1995, Strong 1996) believe that this engages students on an emotional level in their learning. Paraskevas and Wickens (1993) developed a ‘socatic typology of learners’ based on their research on adult learners in Greece. There are 4 types (percentages in brackets refer to the % of students in this study classified as this type of learner).

  • ‘Meno’ learner- this learner depends on lecture style, learning from an authority figure (18.3%),
  • ‘Protagoras’ learner needs instructor to be directive but also supportive to reinforce their willingness to take part (45.4%)
  • ‘Gorgias’ learner have skills and possibly some knowledge to be owners of their own fate, the instructor is needed to guide and develop their self confidence but once this is accomplished they will explore topics on their own (35.3%),
  • ‘Plato’ learner is educationally more mature and in charge of their learning, their relationship with the instructor is more collegial (interestingly in this study only 1% of students were classified as this type of learner).

This reseach concluded that a majority of these adult learners accepted the socratic style of learning but it cannot be used in all situations with all learners. Perhaps that is unsurprising – all learners are different.

Being a Librarian by training I decided that I needed to find out about the author of the Blog we were referred to on the MOOC  (D Clark) and on further exploration of the Blog I came across a link to his TED video . I found this really interesting so although I was supposed to be considering the Socratic method I decided to watch this talk. Clark argued that there has been more pedagogic changes in 10 years than the last 1000 years. He states that the world has changed dramatically and the psychology of learning suggests we should be more active in learning rather than the traditional model of passive learning in lectures. Technology has freed us from location and time for learning. Clark believes that ‘repeated access to content matters’, videoing lectures so students can replay them is an important part of learning. I had recently come across the Khan Academy (another TED talk) and I was surprised that this service had 110 million views on you tube. He ended by stating that pedagogic change is coming from the technological developments and although you can ignore technology ‘resistance is futile’.

One of my reasons for participating in this MOOC was to provide me with an opportunity to ‘catch up’ with some of the Literature and resources available around TEL so I thought I would look at some of the resources for week 0. I started with the short video by Dave Cormier on What is a MOOC? This was a useful introduction to what a MOOC is and I can see that it would be useful to use to refer staff to who have read about MOOCs but are not sure what they are. I particularly liked the fact that this definition talks about the MOOC as ‘a networked’ environment. The fact that you can choose what ‘success’ is for a participant is a different way of thinking for academics. That said I struggle with this approach to learning – maybe this is a reflection of my age (or is it my learning style ) that I prefer the route to ‘what I need to do’ to be set out for me and I experience a sense of achievement being able to ‘tick off’ what I have done. One of the most surprising things to me is that I find the concept of obtaining badges a motivator. I did not expect this to be the case, I have no background in ‘gaming’ and collecting rewards.

I then went on to look at Dave Cormier’s 20 questions and answers. I thought there were some interesting posts on this especially the point where he states ‘I wouldn’t suggest MOOCs are for everyone’ – maybe this means MOOCs are not for me? He then goes on to say that motivation is the key. I like to think I am motivated to learn (I have already completed 2 MOOCs). The end comment of this Blog is what I found most thought provoking when he states ‘why do we teach’ and responds that he teaches “to support peoples ability to deal with uncertainty – MOOCs work for that”.

On reflection one of the reasons I chose to undertake this particular MOOC was because I struggle with this concept of learning. I find it difficult to participate in face to face groups and the idea that this Blog is ‘public’ fills me with fear. However, I am going to continue with this MOOC and reflecting on my learning – who knows by the end of this MOOC I may have changed my mind. I have joined 2 groups and although I have not posted anything yet I am enjoying reading about other peoples experiences – maybe I am already starting to change my views…



As the header of my Blog indicates I am relatively new to my post as a Learning Technologist in a higher education insitution but I would not have taken this career change (after 12 years as a professional Librarian) if I did not believe that technology can be used to support learning. However, I am not an advocate of technology for its own sake – the learning must come first. I read a recent post on Steve Wheelers blog around this topic which I found very interesting . I do not feel comfortable when staff indicate that they want to use technology because paper is old fashioned or they feel pressured to use technology but have not really thought about why they are using it. For me it is more about ‘Blended Learning’ with the ‘blend’ being described by Garrison and Vaughan (2008) as the ‘thoughtful integration’ of online and face to face teaching.

I was unable to attend the week 0 webinar ‘live’ but I listened to the recording of the webinar which reassured me that it was natural to feel overwhelmed but to set out with some key questions/objectives.  One of these for me is to write regular blog posts about the course as I set up this Blog some years ago but never felt brave enough to use it. I also wanted to have experience of learning online. Supporting TEL is my job so I am keen to learn more from other peoples experiences. If this helps me to move forward with my goal of CMALT that would be good as well.


I am a bit apprehensive having signed up to the OcTEL MOOC as there seems so much going on in different forums. Having read some of the advice what I need to do next is plan what I want to get from this course. Having set up a wordpress Blog sometime ago I thought my first step for this MOOC would be to use it!