Category: Education Studies

Education needs to move beyond tablet devices – a perspective on mixed reality #NDLW17

The education technology landscape has changed considerably over the last few years. Emerging devices and new approaches to learning are at the fore of new teaching pedagogy, with an increased focus on the use of digital technology in the classroom. The blended approach to teaching through virtual learning environments is accentuated by the increase in hardware availability and the exponential growth of holographic computing and software development. The social shaping of technology presents a paradox in many forms. It can be difficult to establish the purpose and use of technology beyond recreation and this is a challenge that we need to accept. A similar model exists within social media. We know that it can change the way that people live, work and play, but it is unclear if society is shaping this technology through demand and use or if the technology is actually transforming our human interaction. Humanity is very good at innovation and our only limit is our imagination. Yet, many people are unable to visualise education beyond the use of tablet devices, laptops and personal computers.

It may seem like substance of a science fiction movie, but holographic and immersive technologies are becoming more mainstream within society. In the past, education has been slow to react to technological innovation. It’s time to change that paradigm. The initial exploration and application of virtual reality may be within the computer gaming industry, but the potential to mix our physical and virtual world in the classroom is a game changer in the making. Major research development and investment from corporations such as Microsoft, Intel, HP and Pearson, all illustrate the seriousness of this new business. There are many challenges facing this technology and in its infancy, we still have some way to go before we fully immerse ourselves into a Star Trek holodeck. There has been some advancement though, and we are now beginning to recognise the real opportunities that these technologies can afford.

Sadly, the terminology is often misused. Many confuse the terms virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Think on it as a continuum. It’s a straight line that exists from one point to the next. At one end, we have our physical world; the natural environment in which we normally interact. The other end is fully immersive and only exists virtually. Everything that you see and hear is an illusion, presented to you via augmented technology, such as a headset or worn device. It is actually the midpoint of our continuum, the part in the middle between the physical and virtual world, where we really want to play. The ability to mix our realities and to interact with virtual objects in our physical environment is an attractive prospect. Imagine a scenario where a single immersive classroom could be used to teach in a medical lab, an engineering workshop or even on a space station. A safe, secure and interchangeable environment that is pre-programmed to deliver learning within a given context. This has the potential to re-focus many theories of learning, whilst providing a platform to integrate artificial intelligence and constituents that can provide us with interactive commentary, participation and holographic tools for collaboration. Through shared experiences, anyone, anywhere in the world, would be able to learn together. The lines between synchronous and asynchronous learning would become blurred.

There are many examples around the world to illustrate such an application. Industry is already working in partnership with academia to develop this technology. Together, they are seeking to enhance and support mixed reality experiences for learners. In Australia and New Zealand, Hololens has already been deployed in three high schools. Pearson and Microsoft are currently working with the University of Canberra, exploring practical pedagogies and content within their Faculties of History, Mathematics, Chemistry and Health. In the UK, Trimble is working closely with the Construction Information Technology Lab at the University of Cambridge to explore ways of advancing the use of technology, empowering companies to be more innovative and efficient and this collaboration has resulted in new ways to bring mixed reality to the architecture, construction and engineering industry. Other applications exist in developmental projects with the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal School of Military Engineering. It’s only a matter of time before others begin to explore the technology for themselves.

Hololens 1

Hololens offers an immersive experience via holographic computing. Image courtesy of Microsoft.

For now, the costs and lack of viable learning content means that widespread adoption is not realistic. Yet, the trends tell us that once these technologies are out there, society will drive innovation and determine their success. Hololens is not the only player in town, with new versions of Samsung’s Gear and the HTC Vive in the pipeline. School children are already using products aimed at the entry end of the market, with Google Cardboard providing augmentation for smartphones. Within the next eight years, in our classrooms, we will begin to see holographic and mixed reality devices become as common as tablet computers. It’s time to embrace them now, so that we can truly begin to explore the educational purpose and effective use of these emerging technologies.

Social Media in Education #NDLW17 #DigitalDifference

Originally published via Efficiency Exchange. Re-written for National Digital Learning Week 2017.

As a lecturer, I have the opportunity to explore many new technologies and new pedagogies. Through my work, I’m able to visit primary and secondary schools throughout the country. There is one obvious and inescapable truth; our children and young people do not use these online networks in the same way that the older generation does. I know that’s a bit of a stereotype, but it’s generally true. Let me give you an example.

Before the world wide web, we would seek information by visiting a library or by speaking with a knowledgeable other. Today, many of us would turn to a search engine, seeking knowledge through Google or Bing. In contrast, many young people prefer to seek information from streaming media and recorded broadcasts such as YouTube. My kids, aged 8 and 10 are no exception. They learned how to navigate and use Minecraft, Roblox and other games by watching streaming media and by communicating with people via these rich networks.

Taking a longer view, where the ancients would have stored their learning in great libraries around the world, they might be envious of the ease with which students share knowledge today.

And learners are not just consuming, they are also creating their own content, producing streaming media and sharing their thoughts, experiences and knowledge with like-minded individuals.

As our virtual interaction grows exponentially, education has been slow to respond. We need to find a renewed purpose for social media, where it can be used effectively through all stages of learning. Let me give you an example of how I’ve used social media in higher education.

My journey begins in 2012, when an enthusiastic student approached me. He sought out more online social interaction with his peers and with academic staff. Together, we started a student network for sharing ideas related to our studies. The idea grew and we soon found ourselves commended by the Higher Education Academy for staff and student partnership. I did not look back and I have been using various social networks for the last three or four years. I do not do this just because I think it’s a good idea, but because there is a growing evidence base to suggest that it can actually improve the student learning experience. In an academic world driven by KPIs, metrics and student satisfaction, every ounce of innovation is worth pursuing. More recently, I have been exploring social media channels Snapchat and Instagram.


“Learning can reside in online nodes where social media are now the norm for knowledge exchange.”

It’s essential that we provide our students with the experience and tools to fully understand the digital footprint that they create

I’m a firm believer that knowledge can reside in online nodes and I take my thinking here from theories of connectivity. Downes’ An Introduction to Connective Knowledge (2005) suggests that emerging web-based technologies bring with them new access routes to information. Although connectivism (Siemens, 2005) as a learning theory has been debated in recent years (Forster, 2007 and Kerr, 2007) the concept of information residing in specific virtual domains is sound, and that the premise would suggest that these pockets can be described as nodes.

As such, I have now integrated the use of social media into many of my courses. This allows my students to engage in meaningful conversation outwith the classroom, and to make connections to other education professionals and organisations around the world. I’ll provide an example. I use Twitter throughout all my year one honours level courses. It’s integrated into the weekly assignments and the students are expected to engage in conversation related to the themes of the week. Likewise, they provide examples of online collaboration via social media within their summative assessments. Some opt out and that’s fine, as long as they can demonstrate other forms of online discussion. This, of course brings about many challenges, but feedback in general is supportive and positive.

“I really enjoyed the way the course ran. I liked having weekly tasks on Moodle [VLE] which could be completed then discussed with peers on social media. I also enjoyed being assessed in groups where we had our own choice on how to present our work. I learned so much from this course, met so many new people and now have different perspectives on education – my favourite course so far!”

Student X (Dunn, 2016)

There is an aside to encouraging the use of social media amongst students. I lecture on the professional use of electronic communications. We see all too often in the press, examples of where things go wrong for people in positions of public interest. It’s essential that we provide our students with the experience and tools to fully understand the digital footprint that they create, whilst protecting their professional identity.

It is not only necessary that we do this, but it in some instances it is expected by accrediting bodies. In the past, social media has been taboo and has been generally avoided. In reality, it’s better to approach their use in a structured and meaningful way, regardless of whether it’s to simply push out information or to build a community for learning.

I will be speaking about the use of social media in learning at the Holyrood Learning Through Technology event on 6th June, 2017.

References and citations from:

  • Dunn, L. (2016) Social media as a professional medium: an equilibrium of enthusiasm and protection for student teachers. Social Media for Learning in Higher Education 2015 Conference Proceedings, (doi:10.7190/SocMedHE/2015/2)
  • Dunn, L., Dickson, B., Trinder, J., Kerr, J., and Andrews, M. (2015) Analysis of Digital Media: Supporting University-Wide Online Learning via Moodle. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow.
  • Dunn, L. (2013) Using social media to enhance learning and teaching. In: Social Media 2013: 18th International Conference on Education and Technology, Hong Kong, China, 1-3 Aug 2013.

The Digital Everyday: Exploration or Alienation?

I’m writing to you on behalf of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London to invite you to attend an international event on Saturday, May 6 called “The Digital Everyday: Exploration or Alienation?” I’ve reached out to you because your research area and academic focus resonates with the theme of our event, the abstract of which I’ve copied below:

The conference will explore digitally enabled transformations of Big Data, surveillance, wearable technology and more by looking at a number of domains affected by these shifts, for instance: of work and leisure, of friendship and love, of habits and routines. We will also explore a number of overarching dynamics and trends in the digital world that contribute to these transformations, including: processes of digital individualisation and aggregation; the elisions of spatial and temporal barriers; trends towards quantification and datafication; and the dialectic between control and alienation.

I’d be most grateful if you could also share this announcement among your colleagues, students, research units or departments who may find this event of interest. The Centre for Digital Culture has prepared a challenging, engaging, and interdisciplinary day of proceedings from scholars around the world, with generous reception to follow. Registration closed EOD May 4 but is open to the public, with concessions for students and senior citizens offered. Event details, ticket registration, and a full programme may be found here.

Shared on behalf of

Carleigh Morgan, U.S. Fulbright Scholar 2013-2014

PhD Candidate, King’s College London

Research Administrator, Centre for Digital Culture

BBC Radio Scotland

On Tuesday 21st March, 2017, I was invited to participate on The Kaye Adams Programme (BBC Radio Scotland) for an open discussion on online learning within our classrooms. The discussion was based around an innovative approach to distance learning from the Western Isles. You can access the Scotsman article here:

Plans for video link lessons to deal with teacher shortage

The radio recording is available visa BBC iPlayer (for 29 days) and my segment begins around 2 hours and 40 minutes into the show. You can access the original recording here.

A YouTube version of the sound file can be accessed here.




Optimism, Pessimism, Education and the Human Future

The Storify narrative was generated from an interdisciplinary symposium at The University of Glasgow. This event was designed to:

  • develop critical thinking on the human future through pitches from a range of academic voices;
  • make connections between different disciplines and areas of study;
  • experience the potential of interdisciplinary learning;
  • continue to reflect on questions of utopia and dystopia;
  • determine the power of education to improve humanity.


Teach Technology – Applications are invited via UCAS

Scotland has a long established tradition in engineering and technology which is reflected in the history of the curriculum within the national education system.

Technical subjects and the development of a technologies curriculum are recognised as a strong aspect of contemporary learning within Scotland’s secondary schools. Central to maintaining the provision of a successful technologies curriculum are committed and well qualified teachers. The Bachelor of Technological Education Degree Programme (BTechEd) was established in the late 1980s to prepare graduate teachers for this developing area of the curriculum. Technology education, due to its demanding breadth of knowledge, understanding and skills, is best served by undergraduate study purposely designed to equip and prepare technology teachers within the early phase of professional development.

The Programme is designed to reflect this philosophy, preparing teachers of design and technology for the new technologies curriculum and to teach the range of technical subjects required by the secondary curriculum (Graphic Communication, Design and Manufacture, Engineering Science and practical courses in woodworking, metalworking and electronics).

Applications to join the programme in September 2017 are invited via UCAS. Further details can be found at


Speaking at #BETT2017 (and first impressions!)


Well! What can I say? BETT 2017 has turned out to be a wonderful experience, but then I expected nothing less. Rarely do I have the opportunity to see such an amazing assortment of technological wonders and rarely do I have the chance to mix with a diverse group of enthusiastic educators, industry representatives and entrepreneurs. Bett 2017 has a lot to offer and it makes one realise that education is only just scraping the tip of that proverbial iceberg.

My day started early. I had an exhibitors badge as a HP Partner, as well as a HE Leaders badge, so I was able to get into the hall before the doors opened at 10am. This provided the ideal opportunity to look around and to play with some of the technology before the mass of people arrived. Immersive technologies are the obvious theme this year. There was a range of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets on offer. I’ll be blogging about those in due course, so watch this space. I could not escape the abundance of screens, both projected and otherwise, on offer. Some of these were interactive and others were not, yet I could see an educational application for them all. The price (of course) remains the barrier to integration within the classroom and not the enthusiasm of teachers.

From a futurist perspective, there is an obvious instructional trend apparent in every aisle. 3D printing and maker spaces, blended learning, personalised learning, project based learning and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) / vocational \ technical and modular learning are the key areas on which educational technology seems to be focused today, with immersive technologies and mixed reality around the corner. I have accepted an invitation to do some work on VR and Mixed Reality over the coming months, so I’m quite excited about that.

I was delighted to present at the HP and Intel stand, talking about the Digital Schools Awards and primary education. My session was recorded and I’ll share it once it’s available from the media team. Following this, I spent a few hours in the Higher Education Summit, listening to a number of speakers. I was particularly impressed with Matt Zellor, a Product Manager for Microsoft Hololens. He delivered a great presentation and I have a few follow up activities to attend to on the back of his input. The rest of my afternoon was spent in conversation with people around the hall, sampling the exhibits (I have discovered that most of the technology is bolted down) and meeting with a few friends and colleagues. Networking with others is probably the best thing about these events. In reality, we are a small community and one tends to see the same names appear time and again.

I’ll be back tomorrow, so if you missed my session, I’ll be speaking again at stand D200 from 11am, before catching a flight back to Glasgow. Sadly, I won’t be around on Friday or Saturday, but my colleague Dr Victor McNair, a fellow DSAS Programme Validator, will be presenting at 11am for the second half of BETT.

I’ve taken a few photos and I’ll share them on my BETT 2017 page once I get back home.


Connect with me at #BETT2017 (Digital Schools Awards) @HP Stand (D200)



On 25th and 26th January, I will be speaking at BETT in London, about the Digital Schools Awards. BETT is the world’s leading education technology event celebrated in the UK every year and attended by over 45,000 people.

The Award is an industry leading award and public private partnership programme, supported by HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft and Intel. Schools that successfully complete the programme receive a nationally recognised digital schools award. Here in Scotland, this is accredited by Education Scotland.

If you would like to know more about the Award, register your interest in attending my presentation through the DSA website; also speaking on 27th and 28th will be my colleague and fellow Programme Validator, Dr Victor McNair. You will find us around the event, but based from stand D200 (with HP) by appointment.

I hope to see some of you there and I’m looking forward to writing up some thoughts about BETT, over the course of the event.