You are on page 1of 63

The Development

Project Report

The Implementation and


Analysis of e-learning provision
to enhance the effectiveness of
an ICT Level 2 course

DMZ3120
Nick Jackson

U0870621
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Abstract

This research project analyses findings resulting from the implementation of e-


learning provision on an ICT Level 2 course in a secondary school. It is primarily a
piece of living theory following the methodology of action research. E-learning
provision was developed for students in the form of two versions of a Virtual
Learning Environment housing content and links to a variety of resources with an
emphasis on multimedia and Web 2.0 with findings from research carried out after
the first version of the VLE was used to influence the second version. The focus of
the research is on the effects that the use of these resources had on student
engagement, motivation and performance. The findings showed that using the
resources had some positive effects on engagement and motivation but the results
were less conclusive for performance. Further, there showed a need to broaden the
research to a wider body of students to enable a more accurate analysis of such a
study.

2
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Contents
The Development Project Report.................................................................................1
The Implementation and Analysis of e-learning provision to enhance the
effectiveness of an ICT Level 2 course........................................................................1
DMZ3120......................................................................................................................1
Nick Jackson ................................................................................................................1
U0870621.....................................................................................................................1
Abstract.........................................................................................................................2
Contents........................................................................................................................3
Overview.......................................................................................................................5
Introduction................................................................................................................5
Background & Rationale...........................................................................................5
Aims........................................................................................................................10
Literature Review........................................................................................................12
Introduction..............................................................................................................12
Living theory............................................................................................................12
Use of a web 2.0, a VLE and multimedia technology.............................................15
Engaging and motivating students through design.................................................17
Methodology...............................................................................................................22
Introduction..............................................................................................................22
Purpose and rationale of the study.........................................................................22
Action research.......................................................................................................22
Collection of Evidence.............................................................................................26
Publicizing the research..........................................................................................28
Discussion of findings.................................................................................................29
Introduction..............................................................................................................29
Action research cycle 1 – Resources for Unit 1......................................................29
Action research cycle 2 – Resources for Unit 22....................................................35
Conclusion and recommendations.............................................................................43
Introduction..............................................................................................................43
Outcomes................................................................................................................44
Conclusion...............................................................................................................47
Future recommendations........................................................................................48
References..................................................................................................................49
Appendix.....................................................................................................................55

3
Nick Jackson
U0870621

4
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Overview
Introduction

I intend to present this report as a piece of living theory. As such it will require a
considerable insight into my teaching career and experience in teaching and
learning. This is outlined in the Background and Rationale section below and given
that this report stems from a living theory I am claiming to have, i.e. my living theory,
this section of the report is largely written in the first person. It highlights the
reasoning behind the product that has been developed and lays foundations for the
action research methodology used that will be detailed in the Methodology section.
The Literature Review section provides the theories supporting the concept of living
theory and of the values that I outline below which cultivate the aims of the product I
have developed. Much of the Literature Review focuses on web 2.0 VLEs and
multimedia technology then relates design considerations with these technologies to
the issues of student engagement and motivation. The aforementioned Methodology
section describes two cycles of action research where resources are developed for
two separate units of the same course, the second cycle having amendments
instigated by findings in the first. Finally, the research is analysed holistically to
provide findings and from those, future recommendations are given

Background & Rationale

In trying to understand the values I hold as an ICT teacher I feel it is best that I
provide the background as to the situation I am currently in and related history that
has led me to feeling the desire to question these values. I have been involved in
ICT education at largely secondary level in some form or another for ten years (e.g.
by being a teacher, Head of ICT Department in 11-16; in 11-18; in sixth form college,
co-author of ICT revision guides, examiner marking ICT papers, moderator marking
ICT coursework, etc) and more recently to some degree at primary level. Lately,
however, I have started to question my values both in relation to the teaching of the
subject and in the education that students should be receiving in ICT. In order to

5
Nick Jackson
U0870621

explain why I have started questioning those values, the following are the most
relevant influential factors in my career to date:

As a trainee teacher and in my first year of teaching, I was involved in teaching ICT
as theory and practical elements. Elements that had clear distinct teaching styles for
the most part and were in fact assessed differently at Key Stage 4 and 5 for most
specifications in the form of (practical) coursework and written (theory) examinations.
Having moved to a position of teaching only Key Stage 5, this partitioning of the
syllabus was and still a key feature of examination syllabuses. However, during this
period of my career, vocational courses in ICT began to gain popularity in Key Stage
4 and 5. These courses were intended to provide the skills for ICT related careers
and, by their nature be more ‘hands on’ i.e. they required students to apply software
and hardware skills to solve problems or to design and create under given scenarios.
There was very little encouragement to focus on teaching a large amount of ICT
theory on these courses as the achievement of students largely came down to the
quality of the evidence and the result of the endeavours in applying said software
and hardware skills. Some theory was needed but only in support of the functionality
of scenarios set or problems to be solved.

I taught both the vocational and more traditional courses during my employment in a
sixth form college largely at KS 5. Yet, during that time, I began to observe that
students seem to enjoy the practical and modular nature of these courses. Although
there were practical elements in the traditional courses, they were often one or two
substantial pieces of coursework focussing on piece of software (e.g. spreadsheets)
whereas the vocational courses offered the opportunity for smaller portions of
coursework to be attempted, each focussing on different software and/or allowing
students somewhat of a choice of different areas of ICT such as multimedia or even
on hardware such as a unit that assessed installation and reparation on computer
networks and stand alone computers.

After taking a break from teaching for a couple of years and returning to secondary
schools on my return, the vocational courses taught during my previous employment
were no longer available. Given my responsibilities were spread to include KS4 and

6
Nick Jackson
U0870621

5 as they are now, I had to focus on both Key Stages. What was surprising to me
was that the more traditional courses were in largely the same format at GCSE with
the separation of practical and theoretical elements being assessed differently. This
approach that GCSEs take is, in essence, the same now. Likewise at KS5, A Levels
have seen the concept of Applied courses introduced but in ICT the model of theory
and practical components of the syllabus being largely discrete, remains a feature to
some extent of those courses.

In the last couple of years however, ICT at KS4 has seen something of a revolution
with the unprecedented growth in popularity of one syllabus – OCR Nationals Level 2
ICT, with “a 669 per cent rise in entries in the last two years” (Stewart 2010) and the
course being “used in more than half of secondaries” (Stewart 2010). The revolution
not only lies with its popularity though. In fact it could be said that its reformation in
the issue of how to assess ICT in secondary school students is a major factor in its
popularity. To give a brief summary of that, in the context of the issue of theory and
practical elements of ICT as discussed here, with OCR Nationals there is very
minimal assessment of theory and it has been argued that such a course allows for
delivery with no reference to theory at all (OFSTED 2009). In other words, students
could be taught ICT without any consideration of the following questions: What is the
reason behind what I am doing? How does it relate to other subjects I am studying,
to occupations and to the world outside of the classroom? What issues should I be
thinking about and discussing in relation to the skills I am applying?

In my view, and through observations I have made as a teacher and moderator of


the course, OCR Nationals are being delivered in some cases with little or no
reference to the questions detailed above. The specifications state the theory that
teachers should be delivering to give students knowledge behind the skills being
assessed but as nearly all assessment is done on proof of practical ICT skills, the
theory can be quite easily ignored. Given this scenario, student grades would be
arguably unaffected should a teacher choose not to teach the theory. Yet, knowledge
and the understanding of the factors that underpin the subject would be a significant,
absent education any student should have.

7
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Further, this inclination to a skills-based curriculum with little regard for the theory
behind ICT can be seen occurring in KS3. Some would argue that such a trend is
predictable (OFSTED 2009). This could be down to ICT departments getting staff
and/or students used to a way of working and/or because there is a perceived need
to teach students the foundation skills in KS3 from which they can develop skills
needed on the OCR Nationals (e.g. teaching students how to create a formulae in
Microsoft Excel in KS3 that can then be developed into creating a business
spreadsheet for Unit 1 Assessment Objective 5 of OCR Nationals).

At KS5, despite the introduction of Level 3 OCR Nationals (less popular than Level
2), such a drift towards to teaching skills without theory has arguably, not really
developed. This, I would maintain, is down to traditional A Level ICT being the
preferred choice of course for most schools at KS5 and the level of understanding
students need on any KS5 course as regards how businesses operate at this level to
be able to apply their skills to practical tasks. Yet, A Level ICT remains largely the
same model for assessment as it was when I was a student teacher i.e. separate
theory and practical elements and in all schools I have witnessed is taught as such.
In fact, I have seen that in some schools the division remains so clear with traditional
non-computerised classrooms for the theory classes and computer rooms used for
practical. This mirrors the approach taken in my teaching in sixth form college in the
early 2000s where I delivered presentations of the syllabus on theory in a classroom
projected at the front of the class. Students compiled notes from which, they
answered questions and wrote essays both as homework and then ultimately in their
attempts at the final written exam. Additionally, periods of ICT were then timetabled
in dedicated ICT suites where students developed their coursework so that they
could provide reports, to be handed in at the end of the course, to fulfil the practical
element of the course.

Further to all these issues of ICT delivery in the 11-18 curriculum, I have witnessed a
tendency in a lot of practical lessons to have little structure. Essentially as workshop-
type environments, there is little shaping of lessons and this could lead to “weak
teaching” (OFSTED 2009, p19). Having lessons where “learning objectives were
explicit, transitions between activities…managed well” (OFSTED 2009, p20) was

8
Nick Jackson
U0870621

recognised as having the most effective practice in ICT. While it could be argued that
some academically stronger students are less likely to be adversely affected by such
an unstructured environment, the majority of students will likely under-achieve
(OFSTED 2009). Hence, the quality of teaching and of the lessons delivered is an
area that needs addressing in my opinion.

As a concept for assessing ICT at KS4, I confess to being predominantly a supporter


of the way that OCR Nationals focuses on students’ practical skills and removes the
need to learn theory in the manner of GCSE, theory for the most part, I would argue
that is not really that important for ICT knowledge at secondary school (e.g. knowing
the conditions of the Data Protection Act). Yet, having studied areas of educational
theory during the MSc, I attempted to apply these theories to my practice and
reflected on my practice. This led me to believe that the way ICT is taught in my
school, and in many others, has fundamental flaws. Essentially, the subject is a
practical subject, a subject where skills need to be developed and therefore lends
itself to a constructivist approach (Webb 2002). At the same time, however, I believe
that these factors are essential to educate and stimulate students in the subject:
• marrying theory and practice

• structuring lessons with starters and plenaries wherever possible rather than a
workshop approach

• relating the subject to real life events

• empowering students to have an independent approach to study

• exposing students to current technologies in multimedia and Web 2.0

In essence, it could be said that my views are that OCR Nationals and other areas of
ICT teaching in secondary schools tends to be either diluted to largely skills based
with little theoretical foundation or separated practical and theory into two distinct
areas of assessment; the later model of assessment having remained largely
unchanged for over ten years. Having taught using both models and reflecting on my
practice, I have found myself for the majority of time teaching ICT in one of the ways
that I have criticised here with very little involvement of the essential factors I believe

9
Nick Jackson
U0870621

should be included. In other words, through self-reflection I have found myself to be


a, “living contradiction” (Whitehead 1989, p41). Those essential factors have become
values that I have in relation to the teaching of ICT in secondary education and
hence, a lack of adherence to those values in practice leads me to see myself as not
upholding my values in the work that I do. So, the leading question if I am to reflect
further is ‘How do I improve my practice?’, fundamentally, ‘how do I move away from
the teaching models I see as flawed to the models that adhere to my values?’ It is in
designing this product that I am attempting to do that?

Aims

My current employment is Subject Leader for ICT and this project will be carried out
within my place of employment, an 11-18, high-achieving, non-selective
comprehensive school with specialist status in Maths and Computing. The focus
here is an ICT Level 2 course, OCR Nationals, an immensely popular ICT course at
Key Stage 4 nationally. The target group is students in Year 9 as they complete the
first compulsory unit (Unit 1) plus one optional unit in 1 hour per week within the
year. The vast majority of these students opt to continue the course in Year 10 and
11 gaining further qualification from studying various optional units.

The product created for this research is intended to be a set of stimulating and
engaging multimedia resources using a variety of Web 2.0 technologies housed on a
VLE. The set of teaching and learning resources that have been created for this
course are intended to incorporate a wide variety of multimedia resources, web 2.0
technologies, focusing on student engagement while covering all Assessment
Objectives of the OCR Nationals course. The OCR Nationals course is skills-based
and general student opinion, based on feedback from students in my school and
nationally from forums I have read, is that most of the requirements in Unit 1-Skills
for Business are not particularly engaging for students. In 2009 OFSTED praised
“effective schools” for “having an ICT curriculum carefully planned and regularly
reviewed to include interesting activities”. The materials for this report have been
structured so that they can be used lesson by lesson to teach the syllabus including
starters, plenaries, extension tasks and homework. Fundamentally, however, there

10
Nick Jackson
U0870621

are intentions to have variable and entertaining resources sit alongside the ‘drier’
tasks with the focus being on stimulating students.

However, the resources are also intended to enable students to work independently
to catch up in cases of absence or late arrival on to the course. The OCR Nationals
course has been run for the last few years in the school very much promoting
independent learning. I would like to maintain this ethos as part of the course as it
supports some of my living theory detailed above. However, in previous experiences
where students have started with independent learning straight away in Year 9, there
have been issues with management of time and work to ensure deadlines and
targets are met. Hence, a more structured approach that gradually increases student
independence as the year progresses is expected to both assist teachers and
students in terms of organising hand-ins of work, managing classes and work.

To summarize, this report analyses student use of a product in the form of resources
housed on a VLE with the aim of ascertaining their effectiveness in stimulating and
engaging students, enhancing the learning experience and ultimately positively
affecting student performance on an ICT course. This report will review relevant
literature, the methodology behind research techniques deployed in obtaining
evidence and the findings of the research. The specific aims of this report are:

1. To create a set of teaching resources housed on a VLE that use a variety of


web 2.0 and multimedia technologies for ICT courses

2. To investigate the degree to which the design and use of these resources
engages and motivates students on a level 2 ICT course

3. To investigate the use of the resources and their effect on performance on the
course

These aims will endeavour to support my living theory.

11
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Literature Review
Introduction

I intend to review literature that explores the concepts involved in this report and my
aims. This will cover discussions on the educational use of web 2.0 and multimedia
technologies, student engagement and motivation with a focus on how the use of
technology can affect these, then move on to factors that should be considered in e-
learning design and how these affect engagement and motivation. Yet, before all
these areas are examined, the literature surrounding the subject of living theory is to
be examined as during the lifespan of this project, that theory has become the
driving force behind the research.

Living theory

Living theory, to my mind, is best summed up by a teacher asking him or herself the
question, “‘How do I improve my practice?’” (Whitehead 1989, p2). Although hardly a
revolutionary starting point in academic writing on living theory, this seems to provide
the foundations, the core question of any claim to be carrying out research using
living theory principles (Whitehead 2008). It is a question that arises from a teacher
deciphering what values they hold as an educator i.e. their underlying reasons for
being part of such a profession and then admitting that in the classroom those values
are being contradicted by one’s own practice (Whitehead 1989). Having recognised
these contradictions, a teacher then seeks to go about implementing changes that
can lead to the improvements. Subsequent to these changes, research is carried out
and actions reflected upon to determine their effectiveness. This process then
becomes a cycle of action and reflection. The full detail of how this process is
applied in this research will be outlined in the Methodology section.

12
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Having stumbled upon living theory through a presentation by Jean McNiff I attended
during the early stages of this project and subsequently accessing her website:
http://www.jeanmcniff.com/, I followed her advice on other useful websites. I then
read a lot of Jack Whitehead’s and other researchers’ work on:
http://www.actionresearch.net/ and after having contacted him by email began to
piece together my own living theory. I read extensively around living theory and
action research, finding that the concept of having values and coming to terms with
contradicting those values (Whitehead 1989), struck a chord with my research.
Hence, living theory is the basis of the research in this project.

Criticisms of action research and living theory have largely come from the angle that
although there are worthwhile developments to be made from the process these are
largely contained within an individual’s practice and do not go far enough to effect
significant changes in education (Noffke 1997). However, these criticisms have been
challenged by leading practitioners in action research notably Whitehead (2002) with
answers given in direct response to points Noffke raised via demonstrations of the
disseminating of practice on a wider scale and some insight into further effects as a
result of this dissemination. Whitehead provided further examples of how Noffke’s
views could be challenged when citing Coulter & Wiens, (2002) in Whitehead (2006).
Further, McNiff’s example with the model of teacher training used by universities to
train teachers (McNiff 2001) is a demonstration of the support for an action research
approach. My stance is that I recognise the need to improve my practice and through
sharing my research and findings, this work will support the views of many involved
in action research and living theory including McNiff and Whitehead.

Establishing one’s values as a teacher comes from their epistemology and ontology.
Epsitemology is a branch of philosophical studies that focuses on knowledge with
theories extended to include ‘belief’ in more recent commentary (Step 2005), yet it is
through the epistemological position of rationalism that studies of knowledge are
being considered in this research. Rationalism perceives that knowledge stems from
reflection. The application of this position on epistemology is enhanced and
extended on by the idea of reflective practice. Knowledge is applied in teaching but
through teaching itself, a practitioner can also gain knowledge about effective

13
Nick Jackson
U0870621

practice (Schon 1995). As such this concurs with the notion of embodied reflection
(Kinsella 2008) and could be argued as being the foundations of action research
where a practitioner tries to understand what the issues are concerning my current
practice methods i.e. what are the areas that need improvement (Whitehead 1989),
then attempting to solve those with and further analyses how those attempts have
gone in a cyclical approach.

Ontology, another branch of philosophy, is in broad terms, the study of being or


existence. Yet, this has been considered too general terminology by some who apply
the term to allow for specifying of concepts, definitions that can be stated and relied
upon in research (Gruber 1992). Further, it has been said that ontology provides the
vocabulary to represent knowledge in a given domain (Chandrasekaran et al 1999).
Thus, with reference to understanding a teacher’s values, ontology in this research
refers to a teacher being able to state their beliefs, their values and have a valid
claim to their existence.

Of further significance though is the concept that a living theory ‘claim’ in the context
described in the literature references cited so far and in this research study, is a
relatively bold statement and opens one’s stated ontology and values to the critique
of other researchers (McNiff 2001). This view was supported recently:

“the researcher must make public the story of their research in a way that is
open to others to evaluate its validity.”
(Whitehead 2008, p107)

Publicizing of the research process in this manner entrenches the researcher in a


sense of accountability. Changes are implemented by the teacher holding
him/herself accountable for their actions and then carrying out action reflection
cycles of research to attempt the improvements recognised. This process and a
researcher’s values during living theory action research were analysed in depth by
Whitehead (2006), research that arguably gives a great insight into the exercise of
knowing-in-action (Schon 1995). Again, this is an area I will return to in the

14
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Methodology section as I outline the methods I have used to make public my claims
in respect of this study.

Use of a web 2.0, a VLE and multimedia technology

Use of web 2.0 technology is predicted in some academic fields to become a


strategic part of education development (Gualtieri citing Chapman B 2009). These
predictions are given support in recent research by Elluminate (Hargadon 2010).
However, these forecasts are tempered to some degree, in consideration of the
secondary education sector with BECTA finding a “relatively slow and cautious
approach is inevitable” (Crook and Harrison 2008, p45). The latter study’s research
highlights considerable positive elements to incorporating web 2.0 technology but
also recognises the challenges that their successful integration brings.

In the product developed for this report, web 2.0 technology has been used in the
form of online ‘free’ applications. The reasoning behind the growth of these
applications also known as a development of the free software movement credited to
work by Richard Stallman or an expansion of the concept of user-generated content,
was analysed by O’Reilly (2007) from a business perspective. He foresaw a rapid
growth in the availability of these tools in the form of “both truly novel applications,
and rich web reimplementations of PC applications.” (O’Reilly 2007 p35). This trend
was accredited to a number of factors but there was a clear description of a
changing business model for companies involved. Further support for this predicted
growth in web 2.0 technology is given by Cerf (2007) alluding to the user-generated
concepts and overall vision of Tim-Berners Lee in respect of the open source nature
of the technology. In respect of education, a JISC research report cited O’Reilly
claiming the technology has “moved on to the idea of the network as a platform”
(Anderson 2007, p27). This JISC research delved into the technology underpinning
developments of online software but did not really make predictions on such a rapid
growth in the availability of a variety of applications that seem to exist currently and
are being deployed in the product created for this research.

15
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Use of web 2.0 technology is only a feature of the product created for this report,
though. Referred to above, the JISC research, recommended that:

“integration of VLE and Web 2.0 technologies might make use of their
combined strengths and further exploration of how this might be achieved and
the implications of doing so, should take place, if it isn’t already.”
(Anderson 2007, p54)

The above statement is very much the driving force for the first aim of this report. In
other words, the focus is on the web 2.0 applications being used to assist in the
teaching and learning that the VLE is intended to enable. The intention is “to avoid
‘using technology for the sake of technology’” (Grace 2010, p27), shown by the
SSAT/NESTA research project to be very important to students involved in that
research and tempering slightly the enthusiasm towards new technology outlined by
Williams (2002) to deploy technology to enhance the VLE as a set of teaching
resources. In this respect, integration is a key factor in the effectiveness of intended
enhancements.

Integration is intended to come in the product created through having of a range of


resources available to the learner by the VLE. Anderson et al (2004) regarded “the
ability to support content encapsulated in many formats” as one of the most
compelling features of online learning. Hence, there is a need for diversity and
dynamics in terms of content as well as the structure of the lessons. The importance
of having diverse materials was largely supported by Pavey and Garland (2004),
drawing attention to the need for “variety and consistency” in online content. The use
of Web 2.0 offers a range of multimedia formats and content that can be used for
teaching and learning. The need to be able to integrate dynamic content is a typical
feature of VLEs (Weller 2007) and in it there is clear academic support for the first
aim of the project but also a need for research to into the second and third aim
whereby the diversity of content will be analysed as to the degree with which
teaching and learning are affected.

16
Nick Jackson
U0870621

By using a VLE as the mode of access to the learning materials in this product there
are arguably other benefits to the learner though. These come in the form of catching
up on work, in the event of student absence for example, and to strengthen “deeper
knowledge and understanding of [a] subject” (OFSTED 2009 page 13). The greater
knowledge that VLEs can facilitate could be seen to derive from the constructivist
epistemology that they are said to support (Weller 2007, Cheng et al 1998).
Supporting some of my living theory detailed earlier, constructivist activities have the
concept of students taking ownership of their learning and project-based learning
(Cheng et al 1998). Yet, caution is given regarding VLEs supporting constructivist
approaches and VLEs as regards the design aspects that should be considered.
These will be covered in the E-learning resource design section below.

Multimedia also lends itself well to a constructivist approach, according to many


commentators (Becker 2000, Phillips 1997). However, there is the view that use of
multimedia in education relies on the teacher understanding the techniques that
should be deployed as regards the technology, the role that he/she should play in
the learning and the context of the learning (Fontana et al 1993). Yet, it is the vision
of Robert (1998) that designing this product will try to replicate where the role of
multimedia is recognised in the sense that the afore mentioned concept of
integration with the internet, VLEs and multimedia brought together to enhance
learning.

Engaging and motivating students through design

Evidence from very recent BECTA supported research highlighted the pivotal role of
engagement in learning with one of the key findings being:

it was very difficult to disassociate well covered debates on the contribution of


ICT to learning from its contribution specifically to engagement.
Hammond M et al (2009)

This piece of action research aimed at developing trainee teachers’ awareness of the
role of ICT in learning also indicated the need for teachers to be aware of the
meaning of engagement and to recognise cognitive signs from students as to the

17
Nick Jackson
U0870621

degree to which they are engaged. Comber et al (2002) re-affirmed the difficulties for
teachers as regards the question of engagement and learning, outlining the
complications in being able to ascertain the degree to which students were engaged.
In the same study, however, it was suggested that “different modes of teacher/pupil
interaction” is a key factor in the engagement of students when using ICT. This
sense of a need for dynamic lessons given “diverse audience expectations” (Comber
et al 2002) was a crucial factor in how engaging learning resources can be. This
lends support to the second aim in this research of trying to engage students with a
variety of resources and to my living theory in respect of how lessons should
stimulate students’ interest.

Other academic research has suggested that motivation is achieved in learning


through a far more detailed and systematic process than those already cited. Keller’s
ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) Model of Motivational Design
(Keller 1987) outlines the four steps and strategies that can be used to influence
student motivation in the learning process. Although these were prior to the use of
technology and online learning, they are still considered “sound models” (Hodges
2004, p6) and the model has been re-applied in the context of e-learning (Keller and
Suzuki 2004) and blended online learning (Keller 2008). Yet, it is worth noting that
there were conclusions drawn in Keller and Suzuki (2004) regarding only being able
to influence learner motivation rather than control it.

Examining the ARCS model in more detail with regard to e-learning design, the first
three conditions are intended to be characteristics in promoting learner motivation
(Keller and Suzuki 2004). The category of ‘Attention’ has been said to rely on variety
amongst other things (Keller and Suzuki 2004). This supports the concept that a
“provision of rich learning activity” (Brown and Voltz, 2005) is a necessity element of
e-learning design. In this sense, such resources need to facilitate active learning
(Muirhead and Haughey, 2003, cited by Brown and Voltz, 2005). Hence, there is a
need to fulfill the ARCS category of ‘Relevance’ and to follow Brown and Voltz
arguments where they are applicable to this project, the resources are intended to
engage students through diverse, interesting, relevant scenarios and allow them to
reflect on their progress throughout the year. As regards the category of

18
Nick Jackson
U0870621

‘Confidence’, it is recognised that there are numerous factors outside the design of
the resources that will influence learners. As these resources intend to be taught in a
blended environment i.e. with a certain degree of teacher delivery, a sizeable portion
of instilling confidence in learners will come from the teachers. There has been
considerable research into learner confidence that this report will not cover yet by
having amongst other things, clear objectives, hand-in dates and a structured design
to the resource design, these are intended to aid learner confidence as cited by
Hodges (2004).

Understanding the learner is a key element of the ARCS model and in trying to
understand the learner, it has been said that in education, young people have, “a
distinctly multi-tasking relationship with new technologies” (BECTA 2008, p8). This
supports the earlier claims of Prensky M (2001) and Oblinger D (2005) regarding
digital natives and how they are to a large extent, immersed in technology, hence
they have different learning needs. However, Prensky’s dichotomy has been
challenged in several fields even having its relevancy questioned by the author
himself (Prensky 2009). Most notable of the challenges in the context of this
research is the statement “young peoples’ skills and use are not uniform” (Bennett et
al 2008, p783) In this respect, the resources created are intended to lead users to
run multiple graphical applications at the same time, in ways students should find
familiar to the way they use computers in their own time to support the findings of
BECTA (2008) but there are considerations given to differing skills in respect of use
of ICT tools and software.

It could be easily argued that in understanding the learner, there is a need to


consider their expected physical learning environment especially given that the
resources created are expected to be accessed in school and at home. Student
access to computer facilities and the internet for students studied in this report is
almost 100% according to questionnaire results, therefore the issue of access is not
really a consideration for this research. Yet, although students’ use of computers at
home is endemic, bridging the gap between differences in how computers are used
in the home compared to in school is a factor in creating effective learning content.
This was viewed as good practice by the DFES in their research (Comber et al

19
Nick Jackson
U0870621

2002). Yet, in the same research there was also the argument that differences in
software available at home and in school can cause issues for students. Hence, for
this project, there are a substantial inclusion of the resources that are web based
and often free to use thereby reducing the risk of software not being available at
home as in school. These are then combined largely with what is considered
standard office software installed on most computers.

The commentary cited so far on designing effective e-learning resources has


considered significances in having content that is for the students: diverse; engaging;
facilitating a multi-tasking, active learning style; and giving students access in home
and school. Yet, for the teachers to enhance their lessons there are additional
considerations as regards the organisation of content and flexibility in teaching style.
Organising the content comes under the banner of information architecture and is
considered the foundation for all online resource design not specifically in education.
The flexibility in teaching style considerations refer to the teaching approach
intended to be used with the resources that is under-pinned by my learning theory of
empowering students to have an independent approach to study.

Information architecture is difficult to define according to the Information Architecture


Institute. I feel that this best encapsulates the intentions of product created for this
research, the “structural design of shared information environments” (The
Information Architecture Institute 2007). The significance of the way online
environments are structured and how users access these is said to be vital:

Organisations must recognise the importance of information architecture or


else they run the risk of creating great content and functionality that no one
can ever find.
Barker I (2005)
This is advice to any type of organisation as the research was not specifically based
within education. Yet my view is that the same factors apply in designing e-learning
content in education especially if one is to support earlier arguments regarding
creating a feeling of familiarity in resource design and trying to connect the way
these resources are used with the way students use computers in their own time.

20
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Also, there is a definite intention in the design of the resources to create order as
allied with description of strong architecture given by Azma (2002).

In summation, the product developed for this research will sit on the schools VLE, an
environment that students in this research have been exposed to over the last two
years in the subject in this school. This exposure and the build up of their use of the
VLE has close links to elements of Salmon’s five stage model most notably in the
way students were, in the first instance, acclimatised to teaching of ICT in the school
and the scaffolding of changes from an instructivist to a constructivist approach
(Salmon, 2003) that was planned into the course development when students
entered school. Yet, Moule’s e-learning ladder seems to more closely define the
learning model being shaped in respect of the research subjects of this report as
there was less reliance on an e-learning community being present or socialisation
between learners and above all else Salmon’s model “assumes and exclusive online
environment” (Moule 2005, p39) rather than the blended course being taught here.
The essential foundations of how information is presented on the VLE are through
small amounts of description given for explanation to support links to variable
content. The links will be familiar hyperlinks to the learning resources which will
largely open in a web browser.

Further, some commentators have cited teacher’s opinion regarding good practice
as having “a more flexible approach” (Comber et al 2002, p5), to make ICT more
effective. The study goes on to talk about areas of flexibility that make up that
approach. Many of these areas and the overall intentions are in tune with my living
theory as the intention is to gradually lead students during the year to an
independent way of study and the flexibility of the way the resources are designed
are intended to allow this to develop. This is intended to support the “less formal
classroom atmosphere, greater pupil autonomy” Comber et al (2001, p5) considered
good practice by the DFES. There is intention to have a greater degree of structure
to lessons i.e. a more traditional teaching style in the earlier stages of the lesson.
Yet, as the year progresses the structure will become more fluid in terms of students
working at their own pace and becoming less reliant on direct teaching methods.

21
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Methodology

Introduction

In the methodology I will outline in detail the overall strategy chosen, offering
justification for specific approaches used in gathering evidence and outlining the
activities undertaken during these approaches. This will provide the context of the
research in terms of numbers involved and other logistical elements implicated in
carrying out the research. The techniques used will be detailed and also critiqued
with particular reference to issues of reliability and validity.

Purpose and rationale of the study

The aims of this report as stated previously are:

1. To create a set of teaching resources housed on a VLE that use a variety of


web 2.0 and multimedia technologies for ICT courses

2. To investigate the degree to which the design and use of these resources
engages and motivates students on a level 2 ICT course

3. To investigate the use of the resources and their effect on performance on the
course

Yet, these aims stem from a practical desire to support my living theory in respect of
teaching and learning in ICT. Being entrenched in living theory, this report essentially
used an “action/reflection cycle” (Whitehead J 1989, p46) methodology.

Action research

22
Nick Jackson
U0870621

In choosing to use action research methodologies to analyse the use of e-learning


resources to enhance the effectiveness of an ICT Level 2 course, there seems to be
clear support for the vision of using:

research as a vehicle for improving the quality of…life in their own social
contexts.
McNiff et al (2003, p8)

In other words, the resources produced for the study have been used in classes of
students by teachers. There has been a certain amount of reliance on the resources
to deliver direction and instruction as well as learning to lessons during the 2009 to
2010 academic year. Other methodologies could have been chosen for the analysis
such as experimental research where conditions would have had to have been
controlled to enable an analysis of reactions to the materials produced. This could
have even been carried out with a comparative angle. In other words, one group of
students could have been using the resources created and another group not using
the resources. Yet, both these methods would involve laboratory-like conditions,
elimination of outside influencing factors and to a large extent two homogenous
groups to analyse with accuracy. Further, experimental research is very much
embedded in quantitative research and although quantitative techniques were used
in this project, there is a clear qualitative approach to the analysis of the data
produced. Thus, action research seems to be clearly applicable as a methodology
for the research carried out in this project especially as it is an inherent feature of
living theory.

In this action research project the department using the resources had four staff. The
first cycle of the study involved materials created during the summer of 2009 and in
use from September 2009 to April 2010. The second cycle of the study involved
materials created in January/February 2010 and in use from February 2010 to July
2010. Further revisions of all the resources as they were used, occurred throughout
the academic year further to staff meetings, student feedback, and any ‘by the way’
comments for example where errors were spotted. Reviews of the resources also
came during and towards the end of their use. A pilot group was set up that involved

23
Nick Jackson
U0870621

all four members of staff and eight students gathered from a cross-section of
teachers in the department. This pilot group was involved in providing feedback
during the design of the resources. Most of the students taught using the resources
(approximately one hundred and forty students) provided feedback after using the
resources for several weeks in both cycles.

Yet, as previously mentioned, my position is Subject Leader for ICT in the school
where the research has taken place and I have been one of the teachers in the
department using the materials created. As such I was part of the pilot group of
teachers who provided feedback during the design process alongside a select group
of eight students gathered from a cross-section of teachers in the department. Also, I
was involved in actually teaching two classes (approximately 50-60 students) using
these resources. It is clearly very difficult then to remove any bias within this
research given the fact that my involvement in both the design of the materials,
distribution to staff in the department and implementation of the resources in
classrooms where analysis has taken place. Far from trying to conceal this, I would
like to declare myself as an educational practitioner that is open, wherever possible,
to technological innovations that can ultimately be conducive to improved learning
(Jenkins, 1999). Hence, it is my aspiration that technology, or in this case resources
created by and using technology extensively, be used to solve issues of teaching
and learning, a view that corroborates my living theory, the basis of this report.

Given my entrenched position in the project, the concept of living theory detailed in
the Introduction and Literature Review plus my stance as regards wanting to use
technology in education, it seems clear that this assignment lends itself to a positivist
approach. The analysis carried out in the project was intended to generate largely
quantitative data yet generalisations made from this were supported through
deployment of qualitative approaches to support the data quantifiable methods
produced. These methods are discussed in detail in the Collection of Evidence
section below.

As action research is based on the paradigm of reflection for those practitioners


researching in their own workplace, it is an ideal methodology for use in this

24
Nick Jackson
U0870621

scenario. This project and the materials produced were not intended to be static in
so much as they were intended to be modified during their production (prior to the
start of the academic year), within the academic year, at the end of the teaching of
the unit and feed into the production of further resources for a further cycle of
research. This very much follows the view of McNiff (1998) regarding the principles
of and practice of action. Diagrammatically, this model reflects the work undertaken
in this research:

Kemmis et al (1983)

As such it is relatively easy to see the cyclical nature of the project and the intention
to involve empirical research techniques. As outlined in the Background and
Rationale, I have created and used many resources, indeed there have been
resources previously used on this course and this project is in itself a revision of
those albeit a major revision. In other words, evaluation has already occurred and
the materials created here formed part of a revised plan, another cycle where the
research shows this plan acted upon, monitored and reflected upon.

25
Nick Jackson
U0870621

The cyclical nature of action research reflects a living theory approach to attempting
to improve my practice through “systematic and productive actions” (Bognor and
Zovko 2008, p5) but the action research detailed in that journal involved the students
becoming equal participants. This, for me, is an aspiration and beyond the study
carried out here especially if the setting for Bognor and Zovko’s research is
considered, where the education was very student driven and learner empowerment
seems to have been beyond the level provided to students in my school. More
relevant to this project, in my opinion, are elements of practical action research in
respect of the investigation techniques used. This project very much intends to
embrace the feedback of those involved. Practical action research ensures anyone
who is involved has a voice in the proceedings (Kemmis 2009). In essence, in this
study I have followed this concept and throughout, have subjected my work to views
and criticism of students and teachers involved in using the resources.

Collection of Evidence

Questionnaires, interviews and observations were used to collect evidence in this


project after implementation. Yet, as this is fundamentally a piece of empirical
research, it is vital that the issue of reliability is addressed. My bias has already been
declared above and as such I am aware of the need to corroborate views and
evidence found in the study to ensure conclusions are trustworthy. To tackle
reliability- the concept of being able to replicate or repeat any observations found
(Joppe 2000), in this project, for both research cyclers the exact same questionnaire
was given to all students involved the research, a set of questions were created for
each of these research cycles and these were put to all students interviewed and a
list of points devised for all observations carried out. The validity of the research
methods planned was largely based around triangulation. Evidence was analysed
from varying perspectives by using different techniques to produce findings that the
researcher can be fairly confident were accurate (Denscombe 1998). As already
stated, research evidence was collected using questionnaires, interviews and
observations.

26
Nick Jackson
U0870621

During both action research cycles, questionnaires were issued to all students using
the resources, approximately 150 students. This number was considerably more
than the minimum set for statistical sampling by The Economist (1997) as cited in
Saunders et al (2000) The questionnaires were available to complete online and
students were required to fill them in during lesson time ensuring a substantial
amount of feedback. The structure of the questionnaires was aimed at providing
quantitative evidence on the whole in the form of “background statistics” Wellington
(2000). In other words, the questionnaires were used to provide triggers for points to
be raised in the interviews and lead to the observation criteria. There was however,
also techniques used in the questionnaires design intended to give students
opportunities to also add explanations/comments to support answers. In essence,
some measure of balance between open and closed questions was included as
recommended by Oppenheim (2001).

The questionnaires were designed with clear sections regarding data they were
aimed at gathering from students. This partitioning of a questionnaire into modules
was outlined by Oppenheim (2001) as a vital aspect of questionnaire planning and
an important consideration to facilitate the appropriate data being gathered from this
form of measurement tool. For the initial action research cycle, the first section asked
more general questions that allowed students to provide details of their ability in the
subject, academic expectations on the course and whether overall they like the
subject. The second section delved into issues regarding the purposes students use
ICT for out of school and in school during non-lesson time. Also, data regarding
student access to a computer and the internet at home was gathered. The third
section focused on the design of the resources initially in terms of structure and
choice of online delivery medium and then more specifically asking whether specific
elements of the product had been accessed. This third section also allowed students
to offer opinions as to the assistance and perceived assistance in
learning/achievement design of the resources had for them. The final section allowed
for any other comments to be made as well as the chance for suggestions as to
improvements i.e. to continue the cycle of research and hence improvement. For the
second cycle of research, the sections remained the same but questions where

27
Nick Jackson
U0870621

answers would not have changed from the first cycle of data collection were
removed.

All interviews carried out were intended to further the depth of validity in the
research. As already stated there were set questions and the interviews were
intended to be very useful as a way of trying to interpret the quantitative data
produced by structured questionnaires (Kember 2000). Yet, the interviews were
somewhere in between structured and unstructured as described by Bell (1999).
They were not rigidly structured i.e. all set questions, as this could, in my opinion,
limit the freedom of interviewee expression but more importantly it could be a
hindrance to the researcher who may want to pursue relevant lines of enquiry
subject to answers provided and comments made.

The final method- observation was used in the second cycle of research to
triangulate evidence collected from questionnaires and interviews. The criteria was
determined by the responses previously given in the first two research methods and I
was looking to substantiate findings and conclusions in observing students and
teachers use of the resources created. The objective of this and all methods was to
ascertain whether using a variety of web 2.0 and multimedia technologies engages
and motivates students on a level 2 ICT course and enhances their performance.

Publicizing the research

As covered previously in the Literature Review, declaring a claim to a living theory is


a statement that should be publicized to test its validity and give the research a
sense of accountability (McNiff 2001), (Whitehead 2008). While I did not fully open
my research during the cycles to academic researchers, I outlined the work I was
doing with both students and staff from the beginning and during the cycles. Staff
and students were privy to the research process they were part of and provided
feedback that affected the process. Further, I declared my opinions, my views on ICT
with regard to the OCR Nationals tending to be diluted to largely skills based with
little theoretical foundation in some cases and how I could see myself and the
department participating in such practice at times. Lastly, I shared some of these

28
Nick Jackson
U0870621

views on a blog that was linked to the social network, Twitter and received
comments on those views through that.

Discussion of findings
Introduction

All feedback received during the design of the resources from both pilot groups of
students and teachers involved was considered part of the design process and
outside of the action research cycles of this project. The findings of this project are
based on the analysis of questionnaires completed, interviews with and observations
of students using the resources. They are reported in respect of the aims set out
early on in this report:

1. To create a set of teaching resources housed on a VLE that use a variety of


web 2.0 and multimedia technologies for ICT courses

2. To investigate the degree to which the design and use of these resources
engages and motivates students on a level 2 ICT course

3. To investigate the use of the resources and their effect on performance on the
course

And, in reporting using these categories, my attempts to address the issue of


improving my practice within the concept of living theory are also analyzed. The
findings are set out to reflect the two cycles of action research carried out for each
version of the product created.

Action research cycle 1 – Resources for Unit 1

In September 2009, the start of the academic year, the product was launched to all
students covering Unit 1 of the OCR Nationals course. They were directed on how to
access it and given a ‘tour’ of the resources in class although they had been used to
29
Nick Jackson
U0870621

working with the VLE for accessing resources in ICT in previous years in the school.
Certain criteria were highlighted to students such as the scenario links, course
structure links and online timeline showing deadlines for the year. In other words,
general information was provided and then lessons were accessed week to week by
teachers and students.

Approximately ten to eleven weeks into the course that spans in excess of twenty
five weeks, questionnaires were issued. The timing of questionnaires should be
carefully planned outlined by Oppenheim (2001) as being particularly difficult when
the research subjects are school children given issues such as holidays, absence,
examinations amongst other things. The timings were carefully considered for this
research to take account of these issues and to allow for a certain degree of student
familiarity with the resources. Completed questionnaires were received from one
hundred and thirty five students, giving a very healthy response rate of
approximately 90%.

As outlined previously in the Collection of Evidence section, the questionnaire was


designed with sections and the first of these was to gather general information on the
students using the resources (see Appendix 1). To summarize, this general
information showed an almost even gender split; the majority of students were
working at National Curriculum levels1 5b or 5a and nearly as many working at 6c or
higher (see Appendix 2); almost two thirds of students were expecting to achieve at
Merit standard in the OCR Nationals2 and only six students were expecting to
achieve at Distinction standard (see Appendix 3); over 60% of respondents said that
they enjoy studying ICT with over 30% saying that they did not enjoy the subject.
Initial impressions from this data were that the students involved in the research had
been assessed previously as working at a relatively high level, i.e. they were largely
competent ICT students. Yet, there were hardly any who had high expectations of
achieving at the highest level on this course. Conversely, very few students saw
themselves achieving the minimum standard required. This could be interpreted as
students seeing the course as being difficult in respect of achieving the highest

1
National Curriculum level descriptors for ICT can be seen at http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-
stages-3-and-4/subjects/key-stage-3/ict/Level-descriptions/index.aspx
2
OCR Nationals Level 2 ICT are graded from lowest to highest at Pass, Merit or Distinction

30
Nick Jackson
U0870621

grades or perhaps modesty in respect of students’ opinions of themselves. To my


mind, it brings into question early on in the use of the resources, some issues of
motivation and engagement. Well-motivated and engaged students generally have
high expectations of their success (Anderman and Midgeley 2008) and supported by
the studies of Deci et al (1991). From the questionnaire responses in this report,
some students appeared to be assessing their performance on the course to be at a
level slightly below what they should be. Hence, this could be related to the
resources not fully engaging or motivating the students.

Access to computers both in and out of school was clearly not an issue to the vast
majority of learners in this study. The questionnaire also indicated students wanted
to, and were choosing to, use computers in school with over two thirds saying they
used computer facilities in school out of lesson time (see Appendix 4) even though
97% stated they had access to a computer with a broadband internet connection at
home. This data seemed relevant in respect of eliminating factors of student access,
general use and exposure to computers from further discussions about the findings
of this report. Indeed, it could be said that the questionnaire showed students were
used to using computers for homework, being in online environments and
communicating online given the significant numbers highlighting these as the way
they use computers both in and out of school. This would suggest they were very
familiar with using technology in ways that the resources would and it could be
argued that such familiarity lays the foundations for having a course taught using
multimedia and online technology. This would very much support the research of
Pavey and Garland (2004) where a skills audit of students was performed prior to the
launch of a VLE and results of that study showing students considering themselves
to be “confident or very confident computer users” (Pavey and Garland 2004, p312)
was reckoned to be a factor in the success of using the technology. However, such
‘confidence’ and familiarity with technology could be misleading if the research of
BECTA is to be believed where factors of use being “not generally sophisticated”
(Crook and Harrison 2008, p3) were found in KS3 and KS4 students.

As a final point regarding student use of computers, what was a little surprising
personally, was that use of computers out of school for gaming purposes was the

31
Nick Jackson
U0870621

least of all the categories that students used computers for at home. Yet, this would
seem to corroborate the findings of the National Statistics surveys on lifestyles
(Office of National Statistics 2006/2007). When brought up in interview with two of
the students selected as they had answered negative for this type of use of ICT out
of school, both were asked the same question in the form of “do you play computer
games in your spare time?” The same positive response was received however both
students said they played them on gaming consoles. This seems to support
BECTA’s findings in respect of just over 80% of KS3 and KS4 students having
access to a handheld console and even more having access to a desktop games
console (Crook and Harrison 2008). When questioned further on their responses to
this question, both students explained that to their mind, the questionnaire was
referring to computers in the form of laptops and PCs but not games consoles.

In investigating the degree to which the design and use of these resources engaged
and motivated students on the course, responses to some of the questions referring
to the design of the resources provided valuable insight (see Appendix 5). While
having one VLE for the course with hyperlinks to separate resources and a week-by-
week layout were seen as helpful by a resounding majority of students, less than half
of students did not think that resources were easy to find or instructions clear (see
Appendix 5). These points where raised in interviews with three students and two of
those raised issues with struggling to find important documents when they were
required for example tick sheets for assessing work while the third was of the opinion
that there was ‘too much to read’ referring to the amount of written instructions given.
Documentation such as the tick sheets was accessed via hyperlinks and where
these are positioned in designing online content is considered by some
commentators to be very important (Bernard 2003) as is the amount of text and
sentence structures used with “shorter line length” being beneficial (Bernard 2003,
p18)

As previously mentioned, these resources were intended to gradually allow students


to learn at their own pace i.e. support my living theory in respect of empowering
students to have an independent approach to study. Students being exposed
gradually to more independent study could be said to explain why at a relatively early

32
Nick Jackson
U0870621

stage in their use, students did not see that the resources assisted them in learning
at their own pace. On the other hand though, just over 70% of replies felt that having
a VLE of resources for the course assisted them in being able to choose the level
they wanted to work at (see Appendix 5), arguably also an element of having an
independent approach to study. However, despite a large proportion of students
feeling they could choose the level at which they wanted to work, the issue referred
to earlier in the findings regarding some students appearing to assess their
performance on the course to be at a level slightly below what they should be,
comes into question again. Is there a suggestion that students know they could
achieve at a higher level than they were currently but were opting not to? If that is
the case then motivation could have been a factor as already discussed with
reference to Anderman and Midgeley (2008) and Deci et al (1991).

To further investigate the use a variety of web 2.0 and multimedia technologies along
with issues of motivation and engagement, several questions were included on the
questionnaire relating to specific hyperlinked elements namely the scenario website,
interactive timeline, mindmap, quizzes/crosswords, sample work and videos (see
Appendix 6). Responses showed that a considerable majority of students only
accessed these when they were told to in class (Appendix 7). The reasons for this
could be interpreted in a number ways. However, when interviewed all students were
asked to explain why they had not accessed these resources except when told to in
class and their responses were, on the whole, along the lines of not needing to. This
could be related to students realising that the course was skills-based and, hence,
learning as such was secondary to completing tasks. Some went on to explain that
they felt the teacher used these elements, especially the timeline and scenario
website, to explain deadlines and context but the work was done in lesson or for
homework without having to look at these particular resources. Two students in the
interviews said that they did not look at these resources of their own free will
because they ‘forgot they were there’ or ‘couldn’t find where they were on the VLE’
The first of these comments could be said to support the concept of a lack of
necessity leading to resources not being used however both that and the second
comment also seem to indicate that there were issues in the design and/or layout of
hyperlinks as already discussed with reference to Bernard (2003).

33
Nick Jackson
U0870621

The game hyperlinked on the VLE was accessed by students slightly more out of
lesson time than the other elements according to the questionnaire responses, with
just less than 40% of students saying they had played it in school of their own accord
and another 5% out of school in their own time (see Appendix 8). Of those
interviewed, there was an even split between students who had never played the
game and those who had accessed it in school of their own accord. When asked for
explanations on this point there was a mix of responses which ranged from not being
interested in playing games, which seemed to support statistics referenced earlier
(Office of National Statistics 2006/2007), to playing the games ‘because I was
bored’. Both these poles of explanation can be related to research by Virvou et al
(2005) on using computer games in education. That study found considerable
support for games as a motivating factor in education, a view shared by Prensky
(2003) amongst others, yet Virvou et al reported that games can become a
distraction for some learners who may not be engaged in the learning process. Again
this could be seen as a question mark against the extent to which the resources
engaged the students.

The final section of the questionnaire asked students their opinions related to use of
the VLE resources and what they considered to be the effect if any on their
performance. An overwhelming majority of nearly 90% agreed that by using the
resources they were achieving a higher grade than if they were not using them (see
Appendix 9). This suggested that students see the benefits to their performance by
the resources being on the VLE. However these views could be seen as limited
given that the students have only had the course delivered through the medium of
the VLE. With a lack of exposure to different ways of studying the course, students’
opinions could be seen as limited to judging only the VLE without comparison. Yet,
such a positive indicator, in my opinion, should not be ignored and supported the
constructivist activities with students taking ownership of their learning in project-
based learning (Cheng et al 1998). Further, in support of my living theory, there was
an opportunity for students to make comments to back up their views on this
question and some of these, showed that my aims in addressing issues of learning in
ICT were being addressed to an extent by the resources: ‘it adds variety and keeps

34
Nick Jackson
U0870621

us interested, alert and thinking’; ‘They give you a wider knowledge of what the topic
is about’; ‘It shows and explains everything to us. Like a library based on just what
we are working on’; ‘It makes it clearer about which things you have to do and when
you have to complete them by’. Although there were similarly comments allowed for
improvements and these will be addressed in cycle 2 below.

Action research cycle 2 – Resources for Unit 22

Given the cyclical nature of this research, the findings in the first cycle were a strong
influence in actions taken in the next cycle, represented by a new course on the
VLE. Fundamentally, I considered that the findings pointed to students wanting
changes to the ease with which they could locate different elements on the VLE and
that certain elements needed to be more prominently displayed. This led to some
significant changes to the design and layout of the resources and some minor
elements were either included or removed.

This version of the resources was launched in February 2010 covering Unit 22 of the
OCR Nationals course. There was not a comprehensive introduction to the
resources due to similarities with Unit 1 resources. Only significant modifications
were highlighted to students. Feedback was analysed by similar methods to the first
cycle- questionnaires and interviews. However on this occasion observations of
students using the resources were also carried out. The questionnaires were issued
after approximately eight weeks into using these resources and with a response rate
of over 85%, there was again an indicator of the effectiveness of the method used in
distributing and collecting responses to this method of data analysis. The
questionnaire was laid out with similarities to the first version and a number of the
same questions were asked where they were considered still relevant. This lighter
version of the original questionnaire, omitted questions whose answers were unlikely
to have changed from the first research cycle.

From the first section of questions, a significant change could be seen in what the
students were expecting to achieve with a almost two thirds of students still
expecting to achieve at Merit standard in the OCR Nationals but a rise to nearly a
quarter of students expecting to achieve at Distinction standard (see Appendix 10).

35
Nick Jackson
U0870621

This change could be interpreted as a change in how difficult students perceived the
course to be and/or a reflection of their achievements at that point from work they
had completed in the first unit. However, the arguments regarding well-motivated
and engaged students having high expectations of their success (Anderman and
Midgeley 2008) discussed in Research Cycle 1, could equally be attributed to this
change in student anticipation.

Further clarification on the issue of student expectations was sought in interviews


where two students of those interviewed had previously predicted they would
achieve a Merit but now anticipated a Distinction. Both students indicated that the
feedback already received from the first unit led them to believe they were heading
towards Distinctions and it was clear from their responses that they were motivated
to achieving the highest grade. As to the degree to which the resources were a factor
in this motivation, an analysis of these two students’ answers to certain questions on
the questionnaire could be worth scrutiny:

Question Student 1 answers Student 2 answers


Do you enjoy Yes - because I am able yes and no, sometimes
studying ICT in to set challenges for its ok, but other times I
school? - myself but sometimes it dont really like it. also a
Comment can be quite boring lot of the things we do
arent that exciting
Do you think that they help me get though well Im not really sure
by using these things quicker but
resources you are correctly
achieving a higher
grade than if you
were not using
them? –
Comment’
Figure 1

From Figure 1, the answers provided seem to suggest that the use of the resources
engaged, motivated student 1 and use of the VLE had a positive effect on her

36
Nick Jackson
U0870621

performance on the course. In interview, when asked about this, the student said ‘I
enjoy knowing how to achieve a certain grade and then working to that grade. That’s
what the VLE lets me do and I can get it done quickly.’ However, she did say that the
actual work that is covered by the course is ‘mostly quite boring’. This view of the
course was supported by student 2 and the answers given by that student both on
the questionnaire and in interview make these theories re engagement, motivation
and performance less conclusive. Student 2 said that although she was expecting to
achieve a Distinction, she just downloaded the resources she considered important
such as the mark sheets, listened to instructions in class and then ‘did the work
without really taking much notice of the VLE’. This seemed very similar to the notion
of self-regulated learning (Pintrich and De Groot 1990) where models for learning
were said to need to consider such students who can direct their own learning and
effectively shut out anything they consider superfluous to them reaching their targets.
In other words, there may be learners who will, if given the opportunity to bypass the
VLE for a large amount of the learning, do so.

The overall views of ICT being enjoyable or not did not significantly change from the
first action research cycle with approximately two thirds saying they enjoyed the
subject. Thus, despite two attempts at providing dynamic, engaging and motivating
resources, there was little impact on the amount of students who enjoyed the
subject. Some researchers have linked teaching methods and approaches to how
much students enjoy the work they are doing (Edwards and Thatcher 2004). Yet,
how much a student enjoys a subject can be attributed to the resources used is
questionable in my opinion. As mentioned in the Aims section, students find the work
covered in Unit 1 relatively unexciting but the VLE resources are intended to be
variable and entertaining resources that sit alongside the ‘drier’ tasks with the focus
being on stimulating students. It could be argued that the resources have some
success in being effective in stimulating and engaging students, enhancing the
learning experience. This could be linked to greater expectations of achievement but
the work that the students have to complete, ultimately remains the same. In other
words, the ability of the resources to affect enjoyment of the course is limited but
whether a lack of enjoyment is linked to motivation and engagement is debatable.

37
Nick Jackson
U0870621

The questionnaire used in the second research cycle did not include the section on
how students used ICT in and out of school as it was considered that responses to
these questions would not have significantly altered in the time span between the
two questionnaires being issued. The same access to ICT facilities were available to
students in both research cycles and a matter of a few months was judged not likely
to have seen major changes to what and how students used ICT in and out of
school. Thus, the same assumptions are being made in this second cycle of
research regarding students being familiar with using technology in ways that the
VLE resources provide and this familiarity laying the foundations for having a course
taught using multimedia and online technology (Pavey and Garland 2004).

Questions on the design of the resources (as seen in Appendix 5), were repeated in
the second research cycle and as the findings in the first cycle were a strong
influence in actions taken in the next cycle, design and layout was considered the
most significant area of modification for analysis. The most obvious of these design
changes were the use of icons and significant layout modifications. Icons were used
to denote each Assessment Objective in the unit (see Appendix 11) and this theme
carried through the VLE where, although the week by week layout was kept, the
icons denoted what Assessment Objective was being referred to in that week.
Layout changes came primarily in greater use of the right section of the screen for
bringing together groups of links to resources (see Appendix 12) and in the use of
embedding certain elements rather than hyperlinks (see Appendix 13). Both of these
were attempts to improve feedback from the first cycle of research saying less than
half of students did not think that resources were easy to find or instructions clear
(Appendix 5), supported in interviews where some students raised issues with
struggling to find important documents.

Responses to the question on whether resources were easy to find or not, seemed
to show quite a dramatic improvement in how easy students could locate the
information they needed with 65% of responses giving positive responses (see
Appendix 14). This was in contrast to the first cycle of research where only 43%
gave positive responses. Whether such a contrast could be attributed to either the
icons or the layout or a combination of both is debatable.

38
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Icons were used as focal, visual elements on the VLE and aids to navigating the
content. To look at these with reference to semiotics, whole units were each given a
sign, a symbolic indicator of the content that was to be covered (see Appendix 11).
Although quite cartoon-like in their style, the icons could be interpreted in a number
of ways but alluding to interpretation factors of culture, context and time outlined by
Elsom-Cook (2001), they were intended to have had socially agreed cultural and
contextual connotations. They were intended to relate to the Assessment Objectives
they referred to or Unit 22 as a whole with a loud hailer being used to signify the fact
that the unit covered the topic of sound. Yet, in terms of the intended audience here
i.e. secondary school students, it could be questioned as to whether such symbols
produce those associations quite as obviously as one would expect with an older
audience.

Having a set of icons on the learning resource with similar colouring and cartoon-like
design, there was a deliberate attempt to create a recognisable theme that users can
easily attribute to the unit of work. An icon, a sign was given to each Assessment
Objective. This was intended to reinforce the significance of these objectives and
provide easily recognisable symbols that could be used throughout the VLE for the
user to more easily be able to understand how a particular instruction, task or
explanation fitted in with the various parts of the unit as a whole. Each of these icons
was intended to show a largely symbolic relationship to the content they signified
and in the interviews, students were asked to comment on what they thought about
the icons, their colour, design and if they helped to identify the various sections or
not. Responses showed that students unanimously found the icons helpful with one
student saying, ‘they help to split it up’ referring to the VLE as a whole. The icon
colours were similarly liked by all those interviewed but there were mixed comments
as regarding to recognising what each icon symbolised with the AO2 Design icon
(see Appendix 11) being criticized by all with comments such as, ‘I don’t what that
means’. Therefore, it could be argued that icons were an improvement to the design
of the resources and assisted navigating to particular resources although some of
the choices as regards individual icons used may require some further analysis.

39
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Changes to the layout in this research cycle with use of the right section of the
screen of the resources to house groups of links to resources (see Appendix 12) was
also the subject of interview questions in reference to locating resources more easily
on the VLE. Responses from students interviewed were all complimentary of having
the layout like this with comments such as, ‘it is clear where it is’ and ‘you do not
have to go looking for things’ being made in reference to using sets of audio
resources for completing the tasks. Similarly, changes to include more embedded
elements (see Appendix 13), and thereby reducing the amount of hyperlinked
elements was commented on positively by students. This made the timeline in
particular very noticeable to students as in this research cycle they commented on
using it of their own free will (see Appendix 15) as opposed to the first cycle where,
when it was accessed by a hyperlink, responses and comments (see Appendix 7)
could be said to indicate that there were issues in the design and/or layout of
hyperlinks. Further, in observations of students using the resources, students were
easily able to navigate to where particular resources were in respect of those laid out
on the right of the screen and when asked to go to the timeline, observations of two
different students showed that they found this element relatively quickly. Thus, all in
all, it could be argued that these layout and design choices were significant factors of
the ease with which students could locate the resources they needed and in respect
of one of the aims of this research, had some influence on the degree to which the
design and use of these resources engaged and motivated students on the course.

Issues with clarity of instructions remained in the second cycle of research however,
with the proportions of responses remaining similar to when the question was posed
in the first action research cycle (see Appendix 5 – Question: Instructions are clear).
This point was addressed in interviews with reference to the amount of text and
instructions used on the VLE. Having had a third of students from the first research
cycle with the opinion that there was ‘too much to read’ referring to the amount of
written instructions given, it was encouraging to see only half saying that there was
still too much. However, one student countered her belief that there was too much
written instruction saying, “I think there is quite a lot but then there would have to be
quite a lot’. In other words, there is recognition that these instructions are necessary
which could explain the amount of instructions given. Having a substantial amount of

40
Nick Jackson
U0870621

text on the VLE could also be considered in terms of semiotics and the quality of the
user interface designed. De Souza advocated the use of both text and graphics in
creating interfaces claiming that one was exclusively, no more important than the
other (De Souza 1993). The need to include description and instructions was quite
clearly a necessity in this assessed unit as in the vast majority of academic work. An
alternative mode of delivery could be through audio, to replace some or all of the
written content. Some research has found that using audio in this way does not
improve retention of the information or the subsequent performance of the learner
(Beccue et al 2001). This view should be counterbalanced with a need to “vary one’s
approaches” in e-learning design (Keller and Suzuki 2004, p231). On reflection,
‘variety’ in this context could have perhaps been achieved by having some of the text
in audio format.

Two other noteworthy points that the design section of the questionnaire raised
regarding how students viewed the resources saw some changes from the first
action research cycle (see Appendix 16). The percentage of students who felt that
having a VLE of resources for the course assisted them in being able to choose the
level they wanted to work at, rose from just over 70% to nearer 75% and unlike in the
first research, a significant number of students, again 75%, viewed the resources as
assisting them in learning at their own pace. At this stage in the course though,
students were far more used to the way of working and the message regarding
independent study was arguably being more recognised. If this was the case then
there are arguably issues of the resources engaging and motivating students on a
the course and it could also be said that my attempts to uphold a living theory in
respect of empowering students to have an independent approach to study, were
having some success.

In respect of the inclusion of games, two tailor made games were created containing
theory questions as aspects of the games very much attributed to flashcard-type
learning (Squire and Jenkins 2003). These were located in a separate section on the
right of the screen (see Appendix 12). Both of these amendments to the element of
games from the first version of the VLE resources in research cycle one, were an
attempt to address doubt as to the extent to which including games engaged

41
Nick Jackson
U0870621

students. Questionnaire responses showed that there was an increase from the
nearly 40% of students who had played the game in school of their own accord and
another 5% out of school in their own time, from the first research cycle, (see
Appendix 8) to 48% and 3% in the second research cycle (see Appendix 17). Yet,
these same responses also show that there were still a significant number of
students who never accessed the games in both cycles and that the increase in
numbers playing the games was not vast despite there being two to play as opposed
to one in the first version of the VLE, changes in their location on the VLE and
amendments to the games themselves. In observations, I did not observe any use of
the games available. Furthermore, explanations on the issue of games requested in
interviews confirmed that although all students knew they were there, giving further
support for the layout changes in this second version of the VLE, two thirds of the
students said that they made choices not to play them as they knew they were ‘not
assessed work’, with one student adding, ‘what’s the point? I would rather spend my
time on getting a good grade by creating a good sound clip’. This lends support to
previous interpretations of investigations into the lack of use of specific hyperlinked
elements from the first research cycle where students gave explanations viewing
they did not need to use these resources and how this could be related to students
realising that the course was skills-based. Likewise though, it also furthers the
argument that as a skills-based course, learning can be seen as secondary to
completing tasks.

The final section of the questionnaire was left exactly the same in the second
research cycle in that it covered student opinion on the use of the VLE and what they
considered to be the overall effect on their performance. The amount of students
who said that by using the resources they were achieving a higher grade than if they
were not using them was slightly less at 83% and in interviews, one student, part of
the remaining 17%, was asked to clarify his answer. He commented that he could
just have been given a list of the links to resources and tools, i.e. the right section of
the VLE and the marksheet. With those he would not have needed the VLE at all.
This could be argued as giving some backing to the view expressed in the first
research cycle regarding students’ opinion being limited as they only had exposure
to course delivery in the one way, the VLE. Yet, as it was only one student’s views

42
Nick Jackson
U0870621

such an argument is limited. A larger sample of answers would improve the validity
of this view. Again though, the amount of students showing overall support for the
use of the VLE in both this and the first research cycle should be considered strong,
encouraging feedback for the aims related to student motivation and performance.

I would argue that there may be another factor that was relevant to the debate
stemming from findings related to whether use of the VLE affected student
performance on the course. As outlined already in this research, independent study
is a major aspect of my living theory and as such was gradually developed through
the period of use of both versions of these resources. There has been some
evidence in the second research cycle that suggested students were grasping the
concept of independent study and if that has been recognised as a factor then this
could lead to less reliance on the VLE, arguably again connected to research by
Pintrich and De Groot (1990). If this was the case with the VLE resources then there
may be a claim for changing the structure and content, for example- not having week
by week layout, lessening instructions, etc, as students independent study skills
develop. This could be a consideration for the next action research cycle in further
pursuit of the fundamental questions I continually ask myself, ‘how do I improve my
practice?’ and, ‘how do I move away from the teaching models I see as flawed to the
models that adhere to my values?’. However, the factors of practical lessons with
little structure leading to inadequate lessons (OFSTED 2009) and inadequate
learning for the majority of students (OFSTED 2009) detailed as part of my living
theory earlier, should also be considered for such attempts to alter structure.

Conclusion and recommendations


Introduction

This research project developed from many experiences in teaching ICT and
reflections on my teaching practice leading to a conclusion that I am a “living
contradiction” (Whitehead 1989, p41). This process of reflection, the recognition of
the values I hold as teacher and a desire to want to adhere to these values has led
to the creation of resources and action research cycles to determine their impact on
trying to adhere to my values. The intentions at the beginning of the project were to
43
Nick Jackson
U0870621

marry theory and practice, structure lessons with starters and plenaries wherever
possible rather than a workshop approach, relate the subject to real life events,
empower students to have an independent approach to study, educate and stimulate
students in the subject by using multimedia and Web 2.0.

The two versions of the product created for this research were both housed on a
VLE and while incorporating a wide variety of multimedia resources and web 2.0
technologies, they were intended to educate and stimulate students while covering
all Assessment Objectives of the OCR Nationals Level 2 course. Another added
issue in the project was that the assessed tasks on this course have historically, had
some difficulties engaging students. The content and resources produced were an
attempt to address this as well as all the aforementioned points. The course was
intended to be structured to allow a gradual increase in student independence as the
year progressed.

From my living theory and the intentions, these were the specific aims:
1. To create a set of teaching resources housed on a VLE that use a variety of
web 2.0 and multimedia technologies for ICT courses

2. To investigate the degree to which the design and use of these resources
engages and motivates students on a level 2 ICT course

3. To investigate the use of the resources and their effect on performance on the
course

An overview of the outcomes linked to my living theory and the aims above plus any
recommendations for future development based on these will be provided below.

Outcomes

Two different sets of teaching resources were created for this project and they were
used to teach a whole year group two units of the OCR Nationals ICT Level 2

44
Nick Jackson
U0870621

course. In this respect, the first of my aims was fulfilled. However, from findings in
both cycles of research, issues remain in respect of motivation and engagement and
how students perceive the likelihood of success on the course. Perhaps, in hindsight
it was too much to expect student views of unit 1 of the course as relatively dull, to
be altered by resources and an improved structure. An alternative viewpoint could be
that these resources were a work in practice and further development along with
further research may provide better results in terms of motivation and engagement.
This supports the living theory ethos in terms of continual cycles of improvement and
research to try and trying to uphold values (Whitehead 1989).

Some essential, underlying factors for success on the course were access to
computers and having the basic ICT skills to build on. The research showed quite
clearly that access for the students involved in this research was not an issue. The
vast majority had access to the resources and computers for carrying out tasks both
in and out of school and there were pointers to the fact that they used these facilities
in this manner. The factor of knowing basic skills in using that technology was not
really determined from research results. The responses from methods used in this
research seem inconclusive in this respect.

The second aim of the project in respect of the degree to which the design and use
of the resources engaged and motivated students on the course seemed to have
become the largest aspect of the research. Design in respect of content i.e. what
elements to include, in what form to include these and considerations of how
students navigate the content offered considerable findings. The inclusion of games,
attempted in different formats and layouts in both research cycles seems to have
been largely ineffective for most students in respect of engaging and motivating
students on the course. It could even be suggested from the findings that they were
largely superfluous to the learning process but I would propose that conclusions on
their involvement in this research should not really be reached and that a more
detailed study of the evidence and literature in this area would be required to
properly analyse the area.

45
Nick Jackson
U0870621

I had clear intentions in the design of both versions of the VLE to offer a variety of
content, to try to engage and motivate students through including multimedia and
Web 2.0 resources. Further to this, the first cycle of research led to amendments for
the second version of the VLE: attempts to limit the amount of text instructions given,
reducing the use of hyperlinks and replacing these with embedded elements in some
cases. As well as demonstrating the ideals of working to a living theory through the
process by which student feedback prompted action, the second research cycle
provided insight combined with the initial cycle provided insight into the degree with
which the resources worked as intended to this aim. From the findings it would seem
that there remain issues in respect of having too many text instructions and
alternative methods of delivery such as audio files could be explored to address this
issue. The mixture of embedding elements and hyperlinks provided in the second
version of the VLE was considered a strong design element particularly where those
elements were important to the delivery for example, providing deadlines with a
timeline. The fact that the timeline was a multimedia element that could be updated
at source and any changes would be reflected live on the VLE shows the value of
using such resources. As cited earlier, Brown and Voltz’s views on the significance in
having the quality and depth in resources, appear to have been largely followed. The
second cycle of research points to the resources having moved some way to
engaging students through an interesting, relevant scenario, varied examples related
to use of audio in real world context and links to tools/resources provided to give
multifarious in-roads into completing the tasks.

Decisions to use icons alongside use of hyperlinks and symbolic elements- the
presentation and the timeline, on the VLE would be supported by the view, “The
Internet is a giant semiotic system” (Sowa 2000, page 55) and given that this VLE
sat on the internet, viewed by web browsers in much the same way as the majority of
web content is normally seen, showed the relevance of design choices with
reference to semiotic research. The use of icons in the second version of the
resources found favour with a lot of students in respect of their ability to be able to
quickly see which Assessment Objective was being covered by which section of the
VLE. Yet, there were indicators that the choice of symbols used for icons needed
more careful consideration.

46
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Analysis of findings in respect of content design was difficult to separate from


considerations of structure and layout of the resources. Again, research findings in
the first cycle of research led to significant changes to the resources for the next
cycle of research, another example of the action research cycles being used to move
progress my living theory. Students viewed the sectioning of certain elements of the
VLE and use of the right side of the screen rather than having all links amongst the
main content in the main, middle section as a definite improvement to their ability to
navigate the resources easily. Layout of the resources was clearly an important
factor in the use of the resources but any conclusions as regards how this affected
engagement, motivation and performance were limited by the research carried out.

Findings showed that using a VLE on this course was largely liked by students. Both
cycles of research showed that students viewed that on the whole, having a VLE that
houses the content and links to associated information and activities was considered
a positive way to study the course. As mentioned in the findings though, any claims
that the resources are the best way can not really be fully vindicated without students
having access to alternatives methods of delivery. Further, if I am to work towards
my living theory of students gradually becoming more independent during the year,
there maybe consideration for changes in the week to week layout as the course
develops later in the year.

Conclusion

Overall, the research undertaken in this research project has, I feel, vindicated my
decisions to use a VLE, involve multimedia content and incorporate Web 2.0
technology although there were question marks over the effects of these on
engagement, motivation and performance. During the project I have been able to
closely scrutinise my teaching and beliefs as regards how ICT as a subject should be
delivered. Reading living theory research practitioners’ work has given me the
confidence to develop action research techniques in the way I have in this project
and allowed me develop greater skills of research and see the value of accessing
student feedback to ascertain the effects of approaches and techniques used. The

47
Nick Jackson
U0870621

technique of using questionnaires especially electronic versions to gather student


feedback was a method I will apply in further research.

Future recommendations

There was clearly a lot of information produced by this research project and some of
this requires further clarification and deeper analysis. I recommend that continual
cycles of action research be carried out and I intend to carry those out in forthcoming
years of teaching ICT. However, there is a danger that this research could be
somewhat isolated unless a wider audience is sought for products developed. Thus,
I am determined to use my involvement in various communities of practice such as
forums and social networking where there is access to teachers delivering the same
course. By sharing the resources then gathering feedback on their use on this
grander scale, I feel a more worthwhile set of conclusions can be drawn.

48
Nick Jackson
U0870621

References

Anderman L and Midgley C (1998), Motivation and middle school students, ERIC
Digest, ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Anderson P (2004), What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for
education, JISC Technology and Standards Watch [Online] Available at:
http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/techwatch/tsw0701b.pdf [Accessed 30th
October 2009]

Azma A (2002), e-Learning: Is it the “e” or the learning that matters? Elsevier
Science Inc The Internet and Higher Education Volume 4, Issues 3-4, 2001,
[Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.librouter.hud.ac.uk/science?
_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4X-45679XY-
F&_user=495973&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&
_acct=C000024198&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=495973&md5=38e8bb93
330caea596d2d8f5d8546012 [Accessed 14th August 2009]

Becker HJ (2000), Findings from the Teaching and Learning Survey: Is Larry Cuban
Right? [Online] Available at: http://www.crito.uci.edu/tlc/findings/ccsso.pdf
[Accessed 30th April 2010]

BECTA (2008), Analysis of emerging trends affecting the use of technology in


education [Online] Available at:
http://emergingtechnologies.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=etr&rid=14522
[Accessed 11th August 2009]

Beccue B, Whitley LK, Vila J (2001), The Effects of Adding Audio Instructions to a
Multimedia Computer Based Training Environment, Journal of Educational
Multimedia and Hypermedia, Vol. 10

Bell J (1999), Doing Your Research Project: A guide for First-time Researchers in
Education and Social Science, Open University Press

Bennett S, Maton K, Kervin L (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of
the evidence, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol, 39 Issue 5, pp 775-
786

Bernard M (2003), Criteria for optimal web design (designing for usability), SURL –
Software Usability Research Laboratory [Online] Available at:
http://uwf.edu/ddawson/d3net/documents/web_usability/optimal%20web
%20design.pdf [Accessed 6th June 2010]

Bognor B and Zovko M (2008), Pupils as action researchers: improving something


important in our lives, Educational Journal of Living Theories, Vol. 1 Issue 1, pp 1-
49

49
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Brown A and Voltz B (2005), Elements of Effective e-Learning Design, The


International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 6, No 1
(2005) [Online] Available at:
http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/217/300 [Accessed 11th
August 2009]

Cerf V (2007) An Information Avalanche, IEEE Computer, Vol. 40 Issue 1

Chandrasekaran B, Josephson JR, Benjamins VR (1999), What Are Ontologies, and


Why Do We Need Them? IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol. 14 Issue 1, pp. 20-26

Cheng CYY, Yen J (1998), Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): A Web-based


Collaborative Learning System, [Online] Available at:
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?
doi=10.1.1.135.9062&rep=rep1&type=pdf [Accessed 13th May 2010]

Comber C, Watling R, Lawson T, Cavendish S, McEune R and Paterson F (2002),


Impact2 Learning at Home and School: Case Studies, DFES [Online] Available at:
http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/default.aspx?
PageFunction=productdetails&PageMode=publications&ProductId=DfES+0696+20
02& [Accessed 5th August 2009]

Crook C and Harrison C, BECTA (2008), Web 2.0: Technologies for learning Key
Stages 3 and 4 [Online] http://events.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=38826
[Accessed 26th March 2009]

De Souza CS (1993), The semiotic engineering of user interface languages,


International Journal of Man Machine, Vol. 39 pages 753-773

Deci E, Vallerand RJ, Pelletier LG, Ryan RM (1991), Motivation and Education: The
Self-Determination Perspective, Educational Psychologist Vol. 6 Issue 3 and 4, pp.
325-346, Routledge

Denscombe M (1998), The Good Research Guide for small-scale social research
projects, Open University Press

Edwards DF and Thatcher J (2004), A student-centred tutor-led approach to


teaching research methods, Journal of Further and Higher Education Vol. 28 Issue
2, pp195-206 Routledge

Elsom-Cook M (2001) Principles of Interactive Multimedia, Berkshire: Mcrgaw-hill

Farren M, Whitehead J, Whitehead Joan (2006), Experiencing and evidencing


educational influences in learning through self-study using ICT in schools and
universities, A presentation at the American Educational Research Association
Conference on 8th April 2006 in San Francisco [Online] Available at:
http://webpages.dcu.ie/~farrenm/publications.html [Accessed 9th April 2010]

Fontana L A. Dede C, White, C S, & Cates, W M (1993). Multimedia: A gateway to


higher-order thinking skills, Paper presented at the Convention of the Association
for Educational Communications and Technology, New Orleans

50
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Grace A (2010) Technology on trial: a student research project, SSAT and NESTA
student research project 2009-10 [Online] Available at:
www.nesta.org.uk/library/documents/Meeting-the-challenge-v6.pdf [Accessed 11th
May 2010]

Gruber T (1992), What is Ontology? Stanford University [Online] Available at:


http://www-ksl.stanford.edu/kst/what-is-an-ontology.html [Accessed 9th May 2010]

Gualtieri LN (2009), Predictions for 2009, eLearn Vol. 2009 Issue 1 Article 1, ACM

Hammond M, Pope M, Reynolds L, Ingram J (2009), Engagement and ICT – a


study supported by a small grant from BECTA, Warwick University [Online]
Available at: http://partners.becta.org.uk/index.php?
section=rh&catcode=_re_rp_02_a&rid=16511 [Accessed 5th August 2009]

Hargadon S (2010), Educational Networking: The important role Web 2.0 will play in
education, Elluminate [Online] Available at: http://audio.edtechlive.com/Educational-
Networking-The-Important-Role-Web-2-0-Will-Play-in-Education.pdf [Accessed 12th
May 2010]

Hodges CB (2004), Designing to Motivate: Motivational Techniques to Incorporate in


- Learning Experiences, The Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Vol. 2 Issue 3

Jenkins J (1999), Teaching for Tomorrow. The Changing Role of Teachers in the
Connected Classroom, Eden Open Classroom conference [Online]
http://www.eden-online.org/papers/jenkins.pdf [Accessed 16th August 2009]

Joppe M (2000), The Research Process [Online] Available at:


http://www.ryerson.ca/~mjoppe/ResearchProcess/ExploratoryResearch.htm
Accessed 22nd August 2009]

Keller JM (1987), Development and the use of the ARCS Model of motivation design,
Journal of Instructional Development, Vol. 10 Issue 3, pp. 2-10

Keller JM and Suzuki K (2004), Learner Motivation and E-learning design: a


multinationally validated process, Journal of Educational Media, Vol. 29 Issue 3

Kember D, (2000) Action Learning and Action Research. Improving the quality of
teaching and learning, Routledge

Kemmis S and McTaggart R (1983), The Action Research Planner, Deakin


University Press

Kemmis S (2009), Action research as a practice-based practice, Educational Action


Research, Routledge [Online] Available at:
http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?
content=10.1080/09650790903093284 [Accessed 22nd August 2009]

Kinsella EA (2008), Embodied Reflection and the Epistemology of Reflective


Practice, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 41 Issue 3, pp. 395-409

51
Nick Jackson
U0870621

McNiff J, (1988), Action Research, Principles and Practice, Routledge

McNiff J (2001), Action Research and the Professional Learning of Teachers, A


Paper presented at the Qattan Foundation, Palestine [Online] Available at:
http://www.jeanmcniff.com/palestine.html [Accessed 9th May 2010]

Moule P (2007), Challenging the five-stage model for e-learning: a new approach,
ALT-J Vol. 15 Issue 1, pp37-50

Noffke S (1997), Professional, Personal, and Political Dimensions of Action


Research, Review of Research in Education, Vol. 22, Washington: AERA

Oblinger D (2004), The Next Generation of Educational Engagement, Journal of


Interactive Media in Education, 2004 [Online] Available at:
http://jime.open.ac.uk/2004/8/oblinger-2004-8-disc-paper.html [Accessed 11th
August 2009]

Office of National Statistics (2006/2007) Lifestyles: Watching TV is top activity for


men and women, [Online] Available at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?
id=1659 [Accessed 6th June2010]

OFSTED (2009), The importance of ICT: information and communication technology


in primary and secondary schools, 2005/2008, [Online] Available at:
http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Publications-and-research/Browse-all-
by/Documents-by-type/Thematic-reports/The-importance-of-ICT-information-and-
communication-technology-in-primary-and-secondary-schools-2005-2008
[Accessed 18th May 2010]

OFTSED (2009),Virtual learning environments: an evaluation of their development in


a sample of educational settings, [Online] Available at:
http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Publications-and-research/Browse-all-
by/Documents-by-type/Thematic-reports/Virtual-learning-environments-an-
evaluation-of-their-development-in-a-sample-of-educational-settings [Accessed
12th May 2010]

Oppenheim AN (2001), Questionnaire design, interviewing and attitude


measurement, Continuum International

O’Reilly T (2007), What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the
Next Generation of Software. Communications & Strategies, Issue 1, pp 17-37, First
Quarter 2007

Pavey J and Garland S (2004) The integration and implementation of a range of 'e-
tivities' to enhance students' interaction and learning', Innovations in Education and
Teaching International,41:3, pages 305 — 315

Phillips R (1997), The Developers’ Handbook to Interactive Multimedia, London:


Kogan Page

52
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Pintrich PR and De Groot EV (1990), Motivational and Self-Regulated Learning


Components of Classroom Academic Performance, Journal of Educational
Psychology Vol. 82 Issue 1 pp 33-40
Prensky M (2001), Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, NCB
University Press Vol 9 No.5 October 2001 [Online] Available at:
http://pre2005.flexiblelearning.net.au/projects/resources/Digital_Natives_Digital_Im
migrants.pdf [Accessed 11th August 2009]

Prensky M (2003), Digital game based learning, CIE, Vol. 1, Issue 1, p21

Prensky M (2009), H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to
Digital Wisdom, Innovate: Journal of Online Education, Vol. 5 Issue 3, Feb-Mar

Salmon G (2003), all things in moderation - The 5 stage model [Online] Available at:
http://www.atimod.com/e-moderating/5stage.shtml [Accessed 19th November 2009]

Saunders M, Lewis P, Thornhill A (2000), Research Methods for Business Students,


Pearson

Schön D (1995) Knowing in action: The New Scholarship Requires a New


Epistemology, Change, Vol. 27 Issue 6, November-December pp. 27-34.

Squire K and Jenkins H (2003), Harnessing the Power of Games in Edcuation,


Insight Vol. 3 [Online] Available at: http://www.edvantia.org/products/pdf/InSight_3-
1_Vision.pdf [Accessed 15th April 2010]

Sowa JF (2000), Ontology, Metadata, and Semiotics, Conceptual Structures:


Logical, Linguistic, and Computational issues, Springer, pages 55-81

Step M (2005), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Epsitemology, Meyaphysics


Research Lab, CLSI, Stanford University [Online] Available at:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/ [Accessed 13th April 2010]

Stewart W (2010), Course of ‘doubtful value’ has become a favourite, TES Connect
[Online] Available at: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6033400
[Accessed 18th May 2010]

The Information Architecture Institute (2007), About US: Defining Information


Architecture, [Online] Available at:
http://www.iainstitute.org/en/about/our_mission.php [Accessed 17th May 2010]

Virvou M, Katsionis G and Konstantinos M (2005), Combining Software Games with


Education: Evaluation of its Educational Effectiveness, Journal of Educational
Technology and Society, April 2005, Vol. 8 Issue 2, pp54-65
Webb M (2002) Pedagogical Reasoning: Issues and Solutions for the Teaching and
Learning of ICT in Secondary Schools, Journal of Education and Information
Technologies, Vol. 7 Issue 3

Weller M (2007), Virtual Learning Environments: Using, Choosing and Developing


Your VLE, Routledge

53
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Wellington J (2000) Educational research: contemporary issues and practical


approaches, Continuum

Whitehead J (1989), Creating a Living Educational Theory from Questions of the


Kind, "How Do I Improve My Practice?", Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 19
Issue 1, pp. 41-52

Whitehead J (2002), How Valid Are Multi-Media Communications Of My Embodied


Values In Living Theories And Standards Of Educational Judgement And Practice?
Bath University [Online] Available at:
http://www.actionresearch.net/multimedia/jimenomov/JIMEW98.html [Accessed 9th
April 2010]

Whitehead J (2008), Using a living theory methodology in improving practice and


generating educational knowledge in living theories, Educational Journal of Living
Theories Vol. 1 Issue 1, pp. 103-126

Williams C (2002) Learning On-line: a review of recent literature in a rapidly


expanding field, Journal of Further and Higher Education, Vol. 26 Issue 3

54
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Appendix

1. Questions from the General section of the questionnaire:

What Do you
What overall enjoy
National grade do studyin
Curriculum you g ICT Do you enjoy
What level are realistically as a studying ICT as
What is gender you expect to subject a subject in
your are predicted achieve in in school? -
name? you? in ICT? ICT? school? Comment

2. Graph to show answers to question: What National Curriculum level are you
predicted in ICT?

3. Graph to show answers to question: What overall grade do you realistically


expect to achieve in ICT?

55
Nick Jackson
U0870621

4. Graph to show use of ICT in school out of lesson time

5. A table to show some of the questions and answers from the Design section of
the questionnaire (answers are from research cycle 1):

VLE Resources are easy to find:


Strongly agree 10
Des Agree 45
Disagree 66
ign Unsure 8
Instructions are clear:
Strongly agree 12
Agree 47
Disagree 56
Unsure 12

56
Nick Jackson
U0870621

Laid out week by week is helpful:


Strongly agree 38
Agree 77
Disagree 9
Unsure 7
One VLE with hyperlinks to separate resources is helpful:
Strongly agree 19
Agree 81
Disagree 11
Unsure 19
Access to resources on the VLE assists in being able to
choose the level I want to achieve at (i.e. P,M,D
Distinction)
Strongly agree 14
Agree 82
Disagree 20
Unsure 15

6. Questions from the Design section of the questionnaire relating to hyperlinked


elements:
What
have
you What
looked have
at/used you What
on the looked have you
What have Year 9 at/used looked
you looked What have ICT on the at/used
at/used on you looked VLE? Year 9 on the
the Year 9 What have you at/used on [Reach ICT Year 9
ICT VLE? looked at/used on the Year 9 for the VLE? ICT VLE?
[Xcapades the Year 9 ICT ICT VLE? sky [Task [Tick/mar
website] VLE? [Timeline] [Mindmap] game] sheets] k sheets]

What
have What
What have What have you have
you looked you looked looked you
at/used on at/used on at/used looked
the Year 9 What have you the Year 9 on the at/used
ICT VLE? looked at/used on ICT VLE? Year 9 on the
[Electronic the Year 9 ICT [Read ICT Year 9
quizzes VLE? instructions VLE? ICT
including [Samples/Example of what to [Watch VLE?
crosswords] s of work] do] videos] [Other]

7. Graph to show answer of “When told to in class” to the question: What have you
looked at/used on the VLE? (out of 135 responses)

57
Nick Jackson
U0870621

58
Nick Jackson
U0870621

8. Graph to show answers to question: What have you looked at/used on the Year 9
ICT VLE? [Reach for the sky game]

9. Graph to show answers to question: Do you think that by using these resources
you are achieving a higher grade than if you were not using them?

59
Nick Jackson
U0870621

10. Graph to show answers to question in second cycle of research: What overall
grade do you realistically expect to achieve in ICT?

11. Icons used on the VLE for Unit 22

AO1 AO2 AO3 AO4 Unit 22 Homework


Review Design Create Testing

60
Nick Jackson
U0870621

12. Use of right section of the VLE for Unit 22

13. Embedded elements in the VLE for Unit 22

Embedded, interactive timeline Embedded, presentation

61
Nick Jackson
U0870621

14. Graph to show answers to question in second cycle of research: Regarding


the design of resources: (Click on which best applies for each resource)
[Resources are easy to find]

15. Graph to show answers to the question in the second cycle of research: What
have you looked at/used on the VLE? [timeline]

62
Nick Jackson
U0870621

16. A table to show two questions with answers from the Design section of the
questionnaire (answers are from research cycle 2):

Access to resources on the VLE helps me learn at my own


pace:
Strongly agree 16
Agree 76
Disagree 20
Unsure 11

Access to resources on the VLE assists in being able to


choose the level I want to achieve at (i.e. P,M,D
Distinction)
Strongly agree 14
Agree 82
Disagree 20
Unsure 15

17. Graph to show answers to question: What have you looked at/used on the Year 9
ICT VLE? [Reach for the sky game] (answers are from research cycle 2):

63