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H809: Activity 7.1 Timelines, theory and technologies

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The Study of Learning

British Social / political events

Impact on E-learning practice


Behaviourism: All behaviour caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behaviour can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.


Edward Thorndike





1953 Queen Elizabeth II crowned





1960 Birth control pill on sale

1960s Decolonisation




Phase one - 1965-1979: Mainframe systems

Predominant pedagogical emphasis is instructional, behaviourist. Research is concerned with navigational issues.


Cognitivism: New cognitive frameworks of learning emerging in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Cognitive theories look beyond behaviour to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning.

1973 Britain joins EEC



1975 N. Sea Oil

1978 first in vitro fertilisation



1980s Concern over ozone layer

1981 Thatcher gov. starts privatisation

1982 Falklands war

Phase two - 1980-1989: Stand-alone systems:

Increased activity in terms of multimedia functionality but still content driven and focused on the interactive tutorial paradigm




Knowledge is constructed based on personal experiences and hypotheses of the environment. The learner is not a blank slate (tabula rasa) but brings past experiences and cultural factors to a situation.







1991 Liberation of Kuwait










1993 Peace proposal for N. Ireland



1994 Chunnel built

Phase three - 1990-2000: Networking technologies:

Beginning to see more emphasis on the wider contextual issues (skills, strategy, importance of embedding and integration). Also a shift away from the emphasis on the individual to the concept of situated learning


Social Constructivism: Suggests that knowledge is first constructed in a social context and is then appropriated by individuals.


Bruning et al., 1999

M. Cole, 1991

Eggan & Kauchak, 2004

Brown et al.1989 Ackerman 1996

Kukla (2000)



1997 Referendum for more autonomy for Wales/Scotland

A move to more holistic and joined-up thinking. Evidence of more linking of development to strategy and policy



2003 Iraq war

2004 only 18% of economy is manufacturing

2004 Low unemployment at 4.7%

2008 Financial Crisis

Phase four - 2000-present: Politicisation and systematisation:

Pedagogy shifted away from individual learner to collaboration, communication and the notion of communities of practice



After: Conole, G., Smith, J. and White, S. (2007) 'A critique of the impact of policy and funding' in Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Added facts from:






I designed a table comparing the social and political history of the UK with learning theories and e-learning practice (based on the Conole et al. (2007) timeline).

Looking at this table I can see a growing awareness of the importance of self-determination from 1950-1990 with a lessening of control as de-colonisation is mirrored by a move from behaviourism to cognitive theories where learning is located in the individual rather than imposed by the teacher. At this point e-learning practice is lagging behind with its concentration on behaviourist principles although functionality is improving.

Between 1990 and 1995 this concentration in individuals continues but is based more in context as Kuwait is liberated and the peace process in N. Ireland is started. Co-operation is beginning to show its effects as Britain becomes more involved in the European Union and the Chunnel is constructed. In educational research there is a rise of constructivism with its awareness of cultural history and this is also becoming a part of educational practice.

Moving towards the present, we see a concentration on autonomy with the referenda for Wales and Scotland and the stated aims of the Iraq war being to encourage self-determination and democracy. The current situation in Libya is another example of minimal interference to protect people in context and allow them to determine their own future. This social context is again mirrored by the research concepts of social constructivism and the educational practice of communities of practice.


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H809: Activity 3.4: Comparison of First Two Readings with the Timeline

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The Hiltz & Meinke paper was written in 1989 which correlates with the end of phase two, the stand alone systems, described by Conole et al. (2007). They suggest that stage two shows 'increased activity in terms of multimedia functionality but that it is still content driven and focused on the interactive tutorial paradigm'. Hiltz & Meinke describe methods of teaching that are mainly behaviourist and mainly transmissive with e-lectures although there are some indications of self-determination and presentations are assessed. Other parts of the paper suggest a more social and participatory approach. This mixture of methods would link in with the end of stage two and the start of stage three which is characterised by the shift away from the individual and a move to more situated learning as described by Conole et al.

The Wegerif & Mercer paper was written in 1997 and describes research published in 1996. According to Conole et al. this time period fits towards the middle of phase three, networking technologies, where we are 'beginning to see more emphasis on the wider contextual issues (skills, strategy, importance of embedding and integration). Also a shift away from the emphasis on the individual to the concept of situated learning'. There is also evidence of 'linking of development to strategy' as the intervention described by Wegerif & Mercer was planned to coach young children in exploratory talk with the aim of improving group problem solving. According to Conole et al., this is more indicative of the growing awareness of collaborative activities which comes into evidence in phase four (after 2000) and so may suggest that the timeline needs adjusting or that this was school utilising innovative techniques.


In our tutor group timeline we have the introduction of social technologies such as the forum, podcasting and the wiki, in 1994 with blogging coming later in 1998. This seems to suggest that, although the technologies may not have been in widespread use in education, they were available in the market place and there would have been a growing awareness of collaborative work. I believe that this would have been likely to effect the attitudes of more innovative teachers at the time and encourage the form of forward thinking that suggested this intervention.


In the Wegerif & Mercer research, qualitative analysis suggested key words which were analysed by a concordance program which illustrates another aspect of phase three where higher education lecturers are using ICT as a 'tool of the trade'.


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