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Technology for learning: Screencasting apps analysis

by Ian Stewart at Dulwich College Seoul

 

Ian Stewart is the Learning Technologies leader for the Junior School at Dulwich College Seoul. He is currently working on an MA in Education at the University of Bath. Prior to working in Seoul, Ian worked in Malaysia and the UK in both primary class teacher and technology integration roles.

A critical analysis of the use of a screencasting whiteboard app on tablet computers to promote a social-constructivist approach to learning the mathematical concept of division with upper-primary school students.

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From the Guest Editor:

In this article from his Masters assignment, Ian Stewart (DCSL) engages in a critical analysis of screencasting whiteboard apps on tablet computers from a social-constructivist approach to learning in mathematics with upper-primary school students.

Introduction

Focus of the assignment

Whiteboard screencasting apps (applications) designed for tablet computers, such the Apple iPad, can be used in many ways for many purposes. I will analyse the use of the Educreations app by Year 5 students to support their learning about the division method known as “division by chunking”. The aim of the method is to help students construct concepts surrounding division (Thompson, 2005); however, students often find this, and other division methods, challenging (Anghileri, 2001). In my experience, teachers often use a behaviourist approach to teach division, with the outcome focussed on simply obtaining the right answer; consequently, the opportunity for a more comprehensive level of understanding is missed.

My intention is to describe how screencasting apps can be used to facilitate an approach to learning that is aligned with the theory of social-constructivism. I will take a specific example where my students work in pairs to create a screencast presentation to explain division by chunking, combining the use of physical manipulatives with written mathematics and a recorded voice-over. Here, the construction of concepts will be the focus and students will be encouraged to learn from and with their peers.

I will use Laurillard’s Conversational Framework (Laurillard, 2002, 2012b) to guide my analysis. The framework provides a way of analysing what a teaching method or technological tool brings to the learning process (Laurillard, 2007). My primary aims are to use the Conversational Framework to:

  • identify how, or indeed if, technology is enhancing learning in this context; and
  • critically assess the effectiveness of the app in supporting the different elements of the Conversational Framework so that improvements can be suggested to software developers.

Laurillard’s framework was researched and designed in the context of higher education, not schools. Consequently, the secondary aim of this assignment is to:

  • critically assess the extent to which Laurillard’s conversational framework applies to primary-aged learners in face-to-face environments.         

Context, scope and limitations

I will analyse one example of using the Educreations app with a group of 14 students in Year 5 (aged 9 and 10), to whom I had been teaching Mathematics for almost a year, at a British international school in Asia. I have not collected any data measuring student performance on the task; given the small sample size, such data would have little empirical value. Instead, I will base my conclusions on the students’ responses to the task, as well as drawing on my 12 years’ experience as a primary teacher. Although I will attempt to be impartial, this is a personal, and inevitably subjective, account. Due to the size limitations of the assignment, I will draw upon a restricted range of ideas, focusing on the work of Laurillard (2012b).

Tablet computers

Tablet computers, most specifically the Apple iPad, have seen rapid adoption in education. Schools are accused of being seduced by a flurry of “hype and rhetoric surrounding their so-called transformative potential” (Falloon, 2015, p. 62) built on a “mass acceptance that youth will automatically benefit in their learning by simply making the devices available” (Peluso, 2012, p. 126). Then, there is a fear that “technology isolates children from each other and may be hampering their communication and collaboration skills” (Walmsley, 2014, p. 80). Considering that this assignment is concerned with promoting social-constructivism, the efficacy of tablet computers in supporting student collaboration is of particular interest. Surprisingly, there is little research in this area (Falloon, 2013). Falloon (2013) found that young children do collaborate effectively when using iPads, but raised concerns regarding a lack of learning theory underpinning app design. His recent 3-year study of almost 100 primary school children suggests that “fundamental differences exist between iPads and other digital devices” in supporting collaboration (Falloon, 2015, p. 62). This echoes the findings of a study into collaboration by university students, comparing iPads with laptops (Fisher et al., 2013). Factors supporting collaboration highlighted by the studies include the iPad’s portability, the absence of a barrier-forming screen, tactile interface, and intuitive apps.

Screencasting whiteboard apps

The purpose of these apps is to allow students and teachers to create explanatory ‘screencast’ videos. Users are able to insert text, drawings, photos and video onto slides; they can use the tablet’s touch display to write and draw, and the camera to capture images. Crucially, users can record an audio voice-over, while simultaneously animating objects and adding annotations. There are several apps of this type. In this assignment, I will refer to two: Educreations and Explain Everything. Educreations offers a simple interface with a limited selection of editing tools, requiring minimal instruction to use. Explain Everything features more advanced editing tools; for example, using a timeline, users can easily modify their audio or animation.

These apps regularly feature on educational websites as ‘essential’ apps for tablet users (e.g., Greene, 2013; TeachHUB, n.d.). Explain Everything is used in exemplar material by Apple (2014) and Google (2015). It purports to be installed on 10% of tablets in US schools and have over 2 million users worldwide (EE, 2015). Despite their popularity, I am unable to find any thorough analysis of such apps in formal literature. Therefore, assessing the apps’ connection to learning theory may prove interesting. Most of the references in literature are descriptive accounts; the uses described include:

  • students publishing screencasts to explain their understanding to their tutors and/or peers (Castek & Beach, 2013; Luongo, 2015; Pelton & Pelton, 2013), highlighting the benefits of student collaboration in this process (Castek & Beach, 2013);
  • tutors publishing instructional material to students (C. Ellis, 2008; Luongo, 2015; Pelton & Pelton, 2013; Siegle, 2014); and
  • tutors providing audio-visual feedback to students (Luongo, 2015; Marriott & Teoh, 2012; Séror, 2012).

The idea of student-created screencasts is not novel. Indeed, the concept predates screencasting software. Murphy (2003) describes students using tools, such as PowerPoint,  to create explanatory presentations. The process allows students to “assume responsibility for, and ownership of, their learning [and] engage in high-level critical thinking”. She considers such tasks as “enabling constructivist learning in its most advanced form (p.28).”

Social constructivism

The theory of constructivism suggests that knowledge is constructed by learners based upon their experience and interactions with the world. It is often placed in contrast to behaviourism, which views education as a product, not a process. Behaviourism concerns itself only with observable changes in behaviour, and rejects any notion of internal processing by the learner. Deriving from the work of Vygotsky, social-constructivism is an important branch of constructivism; it emphasises the role of social interactions with others in the process of constructing knowledge and understanding (Laurillard, 2002; Pritchard & Woolard, 2010).

Manipulatives

Manipulatives are physical objects designed to represent mathematical concepts; for example, counters to represent whole numbers. The use of manipulatives in mathematics education stems from Piaget’s theory of cognitive constructivism, another significant branch of constructivism. Piaget described how children need experience with concrete materials and drawings when their mental maturity does not allow them to access mathematical concepts using abstract symbols alone (Back, 2013; Moyer, 2001). A meta-analysis of 55 studies supports Piaget’s theory, finding small- to medium-effects when instruction includes manipulatives (Carbonneau et al., 2013).

 

Literature review

The Conversational Framework

Relevance

Laurillard’s Conversational Framework (Laurillard, 2002) is a widely cited pedagogical model in higher education e-learning literature (Brewster, 2008) and has been described as “very influential” in the field  (de Freitas & Mayes, 2014). The framework seeks to:

represent, as simply as possible, the different kinds of roles played by teachers and learners in terms of the requirements derived from conceptual learning, experiential learning, social constructivism, constructionism, and collaborative learning, and the corresponding principles for designing teaching and learning activities in the instructional design literature.

(Laurillard, 2012b, l. 2090)

The framework is supported by Laurillard’s research, carried out in universities over 35 years ago and the relevance of this research to today’s “radically different” student body has been questioned (Brewster, 2008, p. 12). Certainly, the research subjects are radically different from the learners in this assignment: primary school children in Asia. I can find only one example of the framework’s use with younger learners. In 2000, Laurillard and her colleagues analysed the use of CD-ROMS by 14 year-old children (Laurillard et al., 2000); they employ an earlier version of the framework and there is little reflection on the applicability of the framework to the context of a school.

It may appear that there is little empirical evidence to support the use of the framework in this context. However, Laurillard derived the framework from fundamental theories of learning, integrating the salient ideas from principal theorists such as Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky. Since these theories were established, “what it takes to learn has not changed”, argues Laurillard, “despite the profound cultural and technological developments” (2012b, l. 2086). In theory, “what it takes to learn” is universal, so Laurillard deduces that the framework is applicable to all forms of learning: conventional, distance, digital and blended (Laurillard, 2007). If this is true, and given that the theories underpinning the framework are largely based on research into the way children learn, it should be safe to assert that using it to analyse learning in schools is valid.

Description of the Conversational Framework

The Conversational Framework describes learning as a series of iterative loops. At the centre of the framework is the learner. Figure 1a shows the learner’s ideas or concepts (1), from which the learner is motivated to generate (2) some kind of action (3). Their success or failure in this practice enables the learner to modify, or modulate (4), their concept (1). This intrinsic feedback loop between the learner’s concepts and practice is at the core of learning. 

Figure 1a. The cycle between learner’s concepts and practice. Adapted from Laurillard (2007, 2012a, 2012b).

Teacher communication cycle

Of course, in formal education there is usually a teacher. Figure 1b shows how the teacher (1) will attempt to modulate (2) the learner’s concepts (3) by explaining something to them. The learner is motivated to articulate their understanding of the concept (4) to the teacher (1), who will provide extrinsic feedback (2). There will be multiple iterations of this cycle, including the student and teacher asking and answering questions (2, 4), or the student presenting their product (e.g. idea, report, design) to the teacher (4). This is where we see learning as a conversation. It is important to note the adaptability of the framework: the teacher could be a book, a video or a webpage, and this will affect the frequency and direction of the iterations.

Although I have used numbers, the processes are not necessarily sequential; for example, the cycle could start with a presentation of a learner’s concepts (4) to the teacher (1), who will then present some knowledge to the leaner (2) or initiate one of the other cycles below.

 

Figure 1b. The teacher communication cycle. Adapted from Laurillard (2007, 2012a, 2012b).

Teacher practice/modelling cycle

Figure 1c. The teacher practice/modelling cycle. Adapted from Laurillard (2007, 2012a, 2012b).

In a typical lesson, a teacher will set up practice environment. This could be working through a series of exercises, carrying out an experiment or playing a game.

Figure 1c, shows how the teacher, from their concept (1), creates (2) a practice environment (3) and presents a goal (4) to the learner. The learner will generate (6) an action (7) from their current concept (5). The practice environment (3) should provide some form of feedback (4). This feedback should encourage the learner to modify (8) their concept (5), which will hopefully enable them to generate (6) a new action. (Laurillard, 2007, 2012a, 2012b).

Figure 1d. The complete Conversational Framework, highlighting the Peer Communication Cycle and Peer Modelling Cycle. Adapted from Laurillard (2007, 2012a, 2012b).

Peer communication cycle and peer modelling cycle

A key part of the framework, especially for this assignment, is the function of other learners. “As Vygotsky suggests, they play an important role of eliciting the learner’s concept as one aspect of social constructivism, and … of encouraging learners to produce and exchange outputs of their practice” (Laurillard, 2012b, l. 2056). The peer communication cycle explains the role of the peer in motivating the learner to ask questions or share ideas (2), on which they receive extrinsic feedback (3). Likewise, in the peer modelling cycle, learners are motivated to create actions in the practice environment (4) because they are sharing those outputs with peers (5). The peer reciprocates by sharing outputs with the learner (6), influencing the learner’s practice (Figure 1d).

Criticism of the Conversational Framework

According to Brewster’s thesis (2008), despite widespread acceptance of Laurillard’s framework, it has not received extensive critique. She acknowledges Laurillard’s work as providing “a coherent central framework for the use of educational technology” (2008, p. iv) but complains that it is an “idealized abstract representation” (p. 8); she proposes that it be amended to take account of “disruption”.

Knewstubb (2014) points out that conversational models do not differentiate types of communication, for example an interactive conversation between two people, or a written conversation. Moreover, the lines and arrows in the framework treat communicating meaning as if it were a simple “conduit”; this implies that the “communicator’s speech or writing is a pure translation of internal thought to external expression, and that addressees understand the communicator’s meaning by ‘unpacking’ the language to find meaning” (Knewstubb, 2014, p. 5). Research has shown, however, that accurately communicating meaning is far more problematic (Knewstubb & Bond, 2009) so Laurillard’s framework, like all models, over-simplifies the learning process.

Description and Analysis of ScreenCasting Learning Activity

Using the Conversational Framework as a guide, I will now describe the lesson taught, illustrating how the technology was used in context.

Prior learning

Before the lesson, students explored the software and used it to make a screencast of a different mathematical concept. They had also been taught ‘division by chunking’, using a traditional approach on several occasions, but many still struggled with the concepts and procedure.

Task

 

 

Figure 2. Images taken from a screencast to explain the division by chunking method. Written text is drawn in real-time, accompanied by a voice-over.


The students’ task was to work with a peer to create a screencast to demonstrate and explain the division by chunking method. The students would choose a sample calculation to illustrate the procedure. My intention was that they would take photographs of concrete manipulatives to represent each step. To this they would add a voiceover explaining in simple language what they 

were doing and why, for example: “I have 110 cubes and I need to divide them into 5 groups. I know that 5 multiplied by 10 is 50, so I can start by moving 10 cubes into each group.” I intended that the students would write the calculations they were performing, setting out the calculation in the way that they had been taught previously. A model product is shown in figure 2. To give the students an authentic purpose for the task, I planned to share students’ work on a blog so they could use them to help with their homework.

Whole-class teacher led input

In the introduction to the lesson, I explained the task to the students by modelling how to make a screencast using the Educreations app.  Students interacted by answering questions and taking turns moving cubes or using the iPad. Questions encouraged children to consider the language they would need to use to explain the concept. Figure 3 illustrates this on the Conversational Framework, showing that this section of the lesson was focused at the conceptual level in the teacher communication cycle, although it could be argued that the modelling was a form of practice environment. 

 

Figure 3. The whole class input, modelled using the Conversational Framework.  Adapted from Laurillard (2007, 2012a, 2012b).

 

Group work

During the group work section of the lesson, students set about creating their explanatory screencast, with one iPad per pair. Figure 4 shows how such collaborative work touches on almost all parts of the Conversational Framework.

Peer communication cycle

Students discussed what they were going to say based upon their concept and reflected on the critique provided by their partner. Some groups spent a lot of time in this cycle, creating a full plan for their work, making sure their example calculation was correct and even writing a script for their voice-over.

Figure 4. Group work, modelled using the Conversational Framework. Adapted from Laurillard (2012b, fig. 11.1)

 

Practice cycle

Students performed actions by photographing a visual representation, writing a calculation or making an audio recording. The tablet and app make it easy for users to combine visual representations of the practice environment (e.g., photos of cubes) with articulations of their concept (audio recordings). This facilitates the “conversation” between the conceptual and practice cycles.

The practice cycle would appear to be missing a feedback mechanism – like working from a textbook. However, studies of collaborative learning show that feedback is provided, but via the peer modelling cycle: “Learners themselves will provide sufficient challenge to keep improving their output until it is ready for submission to the teacher” (Laurillard, 2012b, l. 4035).

Peer modelling cycle

Students shared outputs with their partners because they were working together. However, missing functionality in the Educreations app meant that there were fewer iterations of the peer modelling cycle than there could have been. Users can only play back a recording when they have completely finished their project, and at this point it is impossible to make changes. As a result students were unable to immediately evaluate their own work or share their “works in progress” with other groups. The limitation resulted in students’ having to re-record a whole slide or even a whole project to rectify an error. Although potentially frustrating, the students worked around this by returning to the peer communication cycle to discuss and plan their work before committing to a recording.

Teacher communication cycle

My role in this activity was to provide support and respond to questions as well as to facilitate the other cycles. The students were motivated and mostly capable of working without much additional help. When the work was completed, we viewed the students’ final work as a class and the students offered feedback. The app made this easy by automatically uploading the feedback to a central class website. Inevitably, much of the feedback centred on the quality of the presentation. However, the act of watching and critiquing peers’ work would also invoke further iterations of the peer communication cycle. It was unfortunate that the Educreations app denied the students the ability to modify their work once it had been shared. 

Students’ responses

 

 

Figure 5. An example of student work, showing informal jottings.

Students responded positively to the task and were motivated to complete it, although their final products were not quite as I envisioned. Some groups came up with creative ways of presenting their ideas. One pair created a role-play of a student who was struggling with the maths and a teacher who helps them; it even featured the teacher asking questions intended to tackle their ‘student’s’ misconceptions. This opens up a potentially powerful idea. By putting students in a role-play situation where they are a teacher, they must think about the pitfalls and misconceptions that their imagined student may suffer. To do this they must reflect upon their own practice as learners, and to think about their own thinking: essentially, metacognition (Ellis et al., 2014).

Most groups explained the concept fairly successfully, although some needed support to articulate their procedure and how it related to the concept. One group ignored the cubes almost entirely and remained concerned with the written method, saying, for example, “First write 145 divided by 5. Then put a bracket and write 20 times 5…”. This could reflect how the students are often taught maths, or perhaps they simply misunderstood the task.

I was hoping that the groups would set their written work out in the way that they had been previously taught (figure 2), demonstrating the link between the concrete manipulatives, the concept and the more abstract written method. Most of the groups chose to make informal jottings (figure 5). These invented algorithms may, in fact, be more meaningful (Moyer, 2001) and, according to research, more successful than using a standard algorithm (Anghileri, 2001).

From a practical perspective, the limited canvas size and inability to zoom on the Educreations app meant that students ran out of space on the page. Traditionally in primary mathematics, neatly laid-out work is considered important and it is difficult to achieve this with the space limitation and when writing with your finger on the screen. The use of a stylus may resolve this issue.

 

Analysis

The role of technology

Technology is often seen as means of enabling authentic learning (Luckin et al., 2012). Authentic learning incorporates “real-world problems and projects that are relevant and interesting” (Kukulska & Traxler, 2007, p. 185) enabling the learner to “anchor their understanding of an abstract concept in its context of use" (Laurillard, 2012b, l. 3544). The task I gave to my students did not attempt to put an abstract concept into context, although it did provide a purpose that was relevant to the learner.

The use of technology gave purpose to the task as a whole, but also to the components of the task. I could have asked students to use cubes to help them work out answers to questions. This would have presented two issues. Firstly, rather than formulate a model for the algorithm, the students might have depended on the cubes for the calculation (Carbonneau et al., 2013). It is more likely, however, that students of that age would have rejected the cubes, viewing them as inefficient and ‘babyish’. Likewise, I could have asked students to verbally explain the method to a partner. This would have invoked single iterations of the peer communication cycle; however, without the purpose of presenting something to others, students would be unlikely to invest the energy in continually improving their work to get it right.

Although similar outcomes may have been achieved using presentation software or a video camera, we can see that this task would have been almost impossible to accomplish without using technology at all.

Issues and improvements

Editing

The Educreations app is simple to use and quick to learn. However, the cost of this simplicity is the inability to preview or fully edit work while it is being created, limiting iterations of the peer modelling cycle. Additional functionality in the Explain Everything app resolves many of these issues. With Explain Everything it is easy to preview work and then re-record a section of audio or the movements of any object. This would encourage further iterations in the peer modelling cycle and the practice cycle. In addition, Explain Everything offers an “infinitely zoom-able” canvas, so students will not run out of space.

Collaboration

Even with the additional functionality of the Explain Everything app, I believe that the technology is still not meeting its potential. The cycles of Laurillard’s framework are operating because the students are in the same location, sharing a tablet; the iterations would be identical to almost any collaborative work. Small group sizes allowed the students to work effectively, sharing one device. And because they were sharing, they had to discuss and agree what they would do in the peer communication cycle. However, in a larger group, it would be difficult for all students to collaborate on the same device and remain engaged. It would also be difficult for other groups to view and provide feedback on work while the work is in progress - where it is most valuable.

The developers of Explain Everything have recently released a tool to allow real-time collaborative editing, i.e., enabling multiple users to edit the same file at the same time, as seen in software like Google Docs. Such functionality has been shown to enhance collaboration and bridge the gap between home and school (Falloon, 2015). A further improvement would be a “comment-only function”, allowing the teacher and other learners to view unfinished projects and write suggestions for improvement. In terms of the Conversational Framework, this would include in the peer modelling cycle are not only those in the learner’s immediate group, but the whole class. It would also result in significant strengthening to the teacher communication cycle, as learners could present their work several times to the teacher and receive feedback.

Virtual manipulatives

Using physical manipulatives can present practical problems: in this example, it was time-consuming for students to count out over 100 cubes. The advantages of using virtual manipulatives have been discussed, although not yet rigorously researched (Sarama & Clements, 2009; Young, 2006), and some authors argue that virtual manipulatives should be used with caution (Back, 2013; Swan & Marshall, 2010). However, building virtual manipulatives into screencasting software would seem a logical step, allowing students to “record sequences of their actions on manipulatives, and later replay, change, and reflect on them” (Sarama & Clements, 2009, p. 148).

Review of the Conversational Framework

The Conversational Framework has accounted for all the factors in teaching design I described. However, the fit was not as natural as I had anticipated: I needed to push and pull the design to justify it within the framework. As I used Laurillard’s model, I have come across issues, and considered potential modifications, which I will briefly describe below. My arguments are embryonic and will require further examination and development before they could be viable. At the very least, they are issues that I will need to be aware of when using the framework in the context of a primary school.

Binary nature of lines

The problem with iterations represented by lines is that they are either present or absent. Recently, Laurillard (2012b) has used single and double lines to differentiate between iterations that occur once, and iterations that occur several times, but this does not account for the type of the iteration. Interactive whole-class teaching, with class and paired discussion and short practice activities, would invoke all parts of the framework. However, most of the conversations are one-to-many, which is very different to one-to-one conversations (Knewstubb, 2014). Even making this distinction is not sufficient, as iterations will vary with quality. Students discussing answers to a series of teacher-directed questions and the discussion described in the example lesson are both one-to-one; however, in the latter lesson, learners are invested in their product and motivated to improve (Laurillard, 2002), which I assume would heighten  the quality of the conversation.

If we are using the framework to examine the role of technology, this issue is important. A conversation on a web forum and a face-to-face conversation are treated equally in the framework but differ vastly in practice. A more elaborate coding system may help to differentiate between the different types of conversation; however, thorough description must accompany the framework to make it useful.

Assumption of comprehension

The framework appears to regard accessing concepts as a simple conversation involving asking and answering questions (Knewstubb & Bond, 2009). However, what people say or write is not a direct translation of their concept. When a teacher asks a question to a student, the answer is not the student’s concept: it is an articulation in response to the student’s interpretation of the teacher’s question. The answer may be based on a version of the student’s concept, but there are too many factors in play to assume that this is the case. Perhaps the student has a similar concept to the teacher’s but is unable to explain it using the language the teacher expects; or perhaps the student has a completely different concept but is adept at parroting other people’s language and anticipating what the teacher expects to hear.

Based on Laurillard’s (2012b) guidance, in figure 3 I indicated that a student’s screencast presentation is an iteration from the learner’s to the teacher’s concept. The student’s response will partly reflect their concept, but will also reflect the design of the practice environment. Countless factors can influence this, e.g., the students’ understanding of what was expected of them, and whether the technology helped or hindered.

Brewster (2008) described multiple sources of disruption. It is important that teachers and designers be reminded of the influence of such “noise”. One solution could be to add a third horizontal layer to the framework, providing concepts, articulations and practice. Teachers’ and learners’ concepts cannot communicate directly; instead they are communicated via articulations or the outcomes of their practice.

Role of the teacher

The final area for discussion addresses the position of the teacher in the framework. The teacher has two roles in the framework: one as a source of information and the other as a facilitator of learning. Laurillard (2012b) describes the importance of the teacher as a facilitator in all the cycles; I find it surprising, therefore, that there is no direct representation of this in the framework. Although making this distinction has been debated (Case et al., 1994), in my opinion it would be worthwhile separating these roles. This could be represented on the Conversational Framework by one “expert” in the place of Teacher’s conception, and a facilitator in each the four cycles. The expert could be a lecture or a website (Laurillard, 2012b); the facilitator role would then account for what the teacher or technology does to mobilise the cycles.

Viewing the teacher in this way would make the framework more amenable to Bernstein’s (1975) weaker framing model, where the teacher is a guide rather than an authority, and could account for students as creators rather than simple receivers of knowledge (Bernstein, 1975; Ross, 2000). From a technological perspective, once we understand exactly what the facilitator is doing, we can identify how technology can enhance this.

 

Conclusion

The Conversational Framework

Laurillard’s model appears to be applicable to the primary school environment, but it is not perfect. It is simultaneously complex and simplistic, covering everything in a typical learning design, but ignoring the presence of “noise”. It is progressive but also traditional, promoting active, collaborative learning but viewing knowledge as fixed and teacher-owned. It unites conflicting theories of learning, but does not fully account for any of them.

As Box noted, “All models are wrong, but some of them are useful.” (Box, 1979, p. 2).

Laurillard’s model, too, is “wrong” but it is also very useful. It is a valuable tool for evaluating a technology or learning design and for quickly identifying missing aspects. The caveat is that full coverage of the framework does not necessarily equate to a good learning design, as the framework could produce false positives. However, it has provided a systematic guide to my analysis of the learning design and the app. By looking at the quality of iterations in the framework, I have changed from using the Educations app to Explain Everything and I have been able to identify further improvements to the app design. In both cases, I am confident that the extra features will enhance learning because they are linked directly to established learning theory.

Screencasting whiteboard apps.

“John Dewey (1916), famously wrote more than a century ago that schools will improve when teachers become learners and learners become teachers. That was good advice then, and it is good advice now.” (A. K. Ellis et al., 2014, p. 4022).

Screencasting whiteboard apps have enormous potential for promoting a social-constructivist view of learning. The apps appear to assist learners in constructing their own meaning and enabling them to see themselves as teachers; however, empirical evidence is required to ascertain if they do, indeed, fulfil this potential. In the example described, the app has helped to create an authentic purpose for a task and, in a simple way, has facilitated a link between abstract and concrete representations of mathematics – an idea that also warrants further investigation. The students in the trial collaborated effectively using the device, echoing findings from empirical research (Falloon, 2015; Fisher et al., 2013). Simply using the tablet or the app, however, does not guarantee that all cycles in the Conversational Framework will be initiated; it could be used to promote entirely didactic teaching, or for students to work independently and regurgitate knowledge presented to them by their teacher.

Maddux & Cummings (2004) claim that many promising educational innovations fail, not because they are no good, but because they lack adequate research and a logical connection to theory. Even when an innovation is firmly grounded in a theoretical framework, teachers often misunderstand it. Using a framework such a Laurillard’s is useful in evaluating that connection to theory. But it must also be used to drive technological design (Laurillard, 2012a) and to educate teachers in what they are doing, and why. Failure to do so will condemn potentially transformative innovations to the long list of educational fads.

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