Learning technology by design

Posted on: May 22, 2009

Being passionate about my belief is one thing, finding a reliable source for validation about such belief is quite another.  The wisdom of Punya Mishra goes a long way when convincing others about the value of contextual learning:

Teachers learning to use technology for pedagogy is best achieved by situating them in contexts that honor the rich connections between technology, the subject matter (content) and the means of teaching it (the pedagogy). This led to a pedagogical approach we have called Learning Technology by Design.

I have been a follower of the TPACK approach for sometime but can only manage to apply it in a one-to-one project-based situation, e.g. when involved in major course redesign projects. The TPACK framework has become intrinsic in my practice, so much so that I no longer think about it, it just happens. Time and again I’ve observed the holistic development of those with whom I collaborated, becoming advocates and mentors themselves. Reconnecting with Punya’s writing tonight reinforced once again why we need such a framework.

In the coming weeks, my goal is to continue the journey that I’ve started, collaborating with academic staff to learn technology by design. This time though there are opportunities to foster community of practice.

I felt it important to record my thoughts here about approaches to academic development as I take part in an institutional-wide project , a big component of which is shifting existing mindsets about the use of learning management systems and associated tools and features.

6 Responses to "Learning technology by design"

Dear Nona, it was great to stumble across your blog this afternoon (as I recover from a bout of flu) and a pleasure to read your response to the TPACK framework. What you said, “The TPACK framework has become intrinsic in my practice, so much so that I no longer think about it, it just happens” is something that I think many true educators have always understood – just that the phrase TPACK didn’t exist till recently… so in some way that Matt and I have done is just placed a label on something that educators (the good one at least) have always known. I am also humbled by your use of the word “wisdom” with respect to something I had written – I have to let my wife and kids know this – wisdom is not always a word they associate with me 🙂

thanks for writing and keep up the good work.

G’day Nona,

Please take the following as a critical perspective intended to help reflection. Also understand that I have a very limited amount of knowledge about what you’re about to embark upon.

As I understand it, one of the defining characteristics of what you’re about to undertake is that the technology choice is significantly limited and pre-ordained.

Quoting from Mishra and Kohler (2006)

_start quote_

there is recognition that innovative and quality teaching can only be achieved through the use of a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content and pedagogy to develop appropriate context specific strategies

_end quote_

From my somewhat (perhaps extremely) biased perspective the limitation I see will, of necessity, limit the ability to enable truly complex and appropriate context specific strategies. As there will always be one constraint.

The nature of a complex system is such because each of the components of the system can mutually adapt to changes. The notion of an LMS is not all that adaptable or flexible.

Of course, the limitation to the single LMS will be the official institutional line. In reality, I imagine you and the folk you work with will be investigating and experimenting with a whole range of additional, external tools as well as mechanisms to encourage/force the LMS component of the complex system to adapt.

However, sadly, most of that will have to be in the form of “shadow systems”.


A somewhat related perspective to the one I expressed above

Dron, J. (2006). Any color you like, as long as it’s Blackboard. World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare and Higher Education, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, AACE.

Moodle being an open source LMS doesn’t change the less than adaptable, and consequently problematic, nature of the LMS model.

Hello Punya

Your work with Matt has been very useful in understanding why I approach my work in the manner that I do. I knew what worked but I didn’t have the label to describe them until I came across the TPCK idea I think sometime in 2005.

Unfortunately this framework does not currently fit the common practices and institutional mindset at my “new” university. My colleague David Jones knows only too well, because of his long association with the university, the uphill battle ahead to turn this around.

Personally, I am taking baby steps with those who are willing to engage in a more holistic development. I know that our “community” will grow over time. Perhaps then the impact of learning technology by design will be greater in terms of changing individual mindsets that could eventually influence institutional practices.

Needless to say without your and Matt’s work it would be a lot more difficult. Having a point of reference other than your own really goes a long way. So thank you Punya, from me sincerely and on behalf of those who are in the same boat as me.

Keep thinking and keep sharing 🙂


Hi David

Your comments as usual always strike a chord. In particular:

… limit the ability to enable truly complex and appropriate context specific strategies.

As noted above in my response to Punya, I take baby steps. Thinking big would be counter productive at this point, “localising” the context is critical right now. I will be targeting specific contexts of individuals and from there strategies would be developed that could have wider institutional implications.

The problems inherent in LMS-based practices is analogous to problems of mass lecture. Whether we like it or not our university system tells us that is what we must have. But if comments in Punya’s blog on lecture are any indication, “a lecture is not always a lecture“.

Likewise I think an LMS is not always an LMS… I see many potential in improving practices using Moodle.


[…] there is the following one, which really resonates with the local context and some recent discussions Research such as that reported by Gross, Giacquinta, and Berstein (1971) indicated that there was […]

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