The latest issue of JCAL (the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 26) opens with an article reviewing the history of CAL (Hartley, "The evolution and redefining of 'CAL': a reflection on the interplay of theory and practice", pp.4-17). It is interesting to see the initial links CAL had with instructional design; the early experiences of success through a behaviourist approach, and its subsequent critique (based on a lack of student control and dialogue, even though effective feedback was a built-in element, leading to the early success); discussion of Pask's and Papert's work. It is remarkable how similar the issues faced today are with those faced 30 years ago - even in the days well before the internet.
Consider this from p.7:
Consider this from p.7:
By the 1980s, the educational potential of computer technology had been recognized through wellpublicized research projects that, as noted, drew on a range of theories and suggested innovative shifts in pedagogy.However, these developments also addressed the educational system itself, and it was recognized that their exploitation and further progress required substantial funding and an engagement with government and the research councils at the highest policy levels. The resulting decisions would affect the scale and direction of the CAL enterprise.And so, largely, the situation remains! The article describes the shift from behaviourist to constructivist and collaborative development in CAL application, and highlights the importance of 'teachback' (student dialogue with a teacher on conceptual issues), conceptual maps as an aid to dialogue, and sound instructional design. These are timeless principles for e-pedagogy. The article also touches on the use of simulation and online communications. With regard to the latter, Hartley (2010, p.12) notes the importance of asynchronous, written dialogue over synchronous:
But there are well-known problems in maintaining coherence between interweaving threads of discourse, keeping the dialogue pacey and on-track, and maintaining the active interest and participation of group members. In conventional argument, spoken contributions typically add illustration or justification for statements, but in computerbased systems, managing synchronous discourse where participants are at a distance, contributions have to be short and succinct to maintain pace and point, and to invite a ready response. These considerations require an engaging and relevant topic, a view of the nature of argument and functional types of statements that carry the intentions of participants. Ideally, records should show the ongoing structure of the argument, and be available for reflection and for students’ further work.Following a brief discussion of the potential of learning objects and the use of VLEs in education, Hartley (2010, p.13) ends with a cautious note on the contribution of Web 2.0, Web 3.0 and virtual worlds:
Further developments, e.g.Web 2.0 and 3.0, and the Semantic Web will open up the use of virtual worldsenvironments, with avatars and a mix of spoken and written language interactions. Underpinned by research, these facilities should stimulate the creation of innovative learning contexts enabling students and teachers to be more participative in the design, application and evaluation of these innovations.Hartley (2010) also notes Laurillard's Conversational Framework (E-Primer 5.2) as an attempted framework for conceptualizing the learning process - though he criticizes it on the grounds that "technology has also enabled learners to be more influential participants in CAL and frameworks should take into account and support student autonomy and informal communication in learning" (2010, pp.13-14). An upcoming article by Luckin et al [cited as Luckin R., Clark W.,Garnett F.,Whitworth A.,Akass J., Cook J., Day P., Ecclesfield N., Hamilton T.M. & Robertson J. (forthcoming 2009) Learner generated contexts: a framework to support the effective use of technology to support learning. In Web 2.0-Based e-Learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching (eds M.J.W. Lee & C. McLoughlin). IGI Global, Hershey, PA. (in press)] contains an alternative model, which may prove very useful (see http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/getfile.cfm?documentfileid=12188). However Hartley (2010, p.14) notes that the model "contrasts with current educational models that are more instrumental and organizationally based", and so it may be a model that does not suit the formal education context at all. Hartley's work is an excellent overview of CALs history and some of its curent challenges; a reminder that not all of the issues we face are new, and that there is substantial value in looking back as we consider what may lie ahead - particularly for those of us whose exposure to e-learning does not predate the Internet.