Having never blogged before it took me a while to get my head around the process of how blogging could inform my practical design work. My initial blogs were quite short and disjointed – then I got into the hang of things and I believe that the complexity and relevancy of my blogs improved. I am aware of the fact that my blogs do not necessarily follow a logical continuance, but I feel that there are so many varied tangents within and around my research subject that it would actually stunt my research to limit myself to a singular mindset of the path of my research journey. I have allowed new findings to lead my next piece of research.
My approach to this research task as a whole was to start by further investigating some of the key themes that arose from compiling my annotated bibliography. My initial method was to aim to collate all of the relevant data that I could find and then assess the whole for the purpose of practical implementation once this was done – rather than researching, then undertaking practical work, researching again and then practical work again etc. My logic for this working method was that, having been a full-time Graphic Designer for eight years now, I am used to working from a brief and asking outlying questions so that I have the whole picture before embarking upon a design. I saw this task in the same way – with the blog effectively becoming my (somewhat abstract) brief. I also want to create something new in my practical design work, so I need to understand everything that is currently out there in order to be original (as much is physically possible anyway). I generally like to feel fully informed before undertaking design tasks or projects.
In reference to source material for my blog, my research method was always going to be internet-centric from the outset, as my research theme is very academic and conceptual, and not necessarily something that is easily inspired within the public domain. Having said this, as my blog developed I could see this as being a limitation in my research methodology and I made efforts to change my approach and step away from my computer and seek real-world examples by viewing hardware for e-reading or e-learning in retail electrical shops and also reviewing the education section of book shops. In addition my current employment within an academic course-and-publishing company has supported my research. I have a unique role that affords me access to classrooms where I can observe real-world educational contexts and apply learning from them to my own practice.
Another observation that I would make of my research methodology is that I would reguarly find myself going off on a research tangent by following up interesting sub-articles and links within the original research piece that I found. The authors would discuss in brief a supporting or relevant additional concept that then sparked enthusiasm in me and led me to read the discussed content further. The benefit found in this method was that I found some of the most useful and interesting research of this task within the bibliographies and related links to content within the original research that I undertook. The downside to this method was that it would take me some time to come back to the original article that I was reading. Perhaps going forward I would be better off noting the interesting sub-articles or themes and returning to them after I have finished reviewing the original reference source.
The theme of my research has also changed in the course of creating this blog. Initially I focused on a medium on which to impose my research learning (e-textbooks). Having now created the blog I see the opposite approach being necessary; I see the theme as now being the central focus of my research and I will apply the findings to an appropriate medium once I have evolved my research to the point where I feel I am informed enough to effectively design in order to problem-solve, or at least to design for what I see as a problem within currently available electronic learning resources.
Some of the concepts discussed in my blog were already known to me, and the research I found simply solidified and justified my thoughts. There were though, a number of new concepts that I came across that surprised and interested me. These also turned out to be the key themes within this subject area at present. ‘Gamification’, ‘Deep Learning Design’ and ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ emerged as key themes that to some extent surprised me and also excited me as they all held significant relevance to my field of research and were, in part, abstract concepts that evolved upon previous thinking in the field. Gamification in particular came to me later into the research path and is something that I definitely need to research deeper than I have done in order to better inform my design work. Ubiquitous Computing is also fascinating and, whilst somewhat scary in its capabilities, offers up a whole new world of supporting technological advancements that could benefit e-learning, in particular mobile learning. I will be spending a large part of my remaining research time as part of my practical work investigating the pragmatic implications of these areas.
To conclude, in creating my blog I have been inspired and motivated to apply research to practical application. To blend different e-learning technologies and concepts from related fields (such as psychology). I am now keen to embark upon some highly conceptual designs and I am also much clearer as to how I would like my practical work to evolve. I have seen a gap in the market for an eLearning course that really embodies all of the research findings surrounding deep learning. It has been an incredibly enjoyable experience discovering how I can convert theory into practice. Going forward I see my blog site as a means by which to store and refer to research and additional relevant links to content that I can refer back to when undertaking my practical work.
Here are some final thoughts that I have had regarding my practical work after assessing the content of my blog so far:
- I would like to look into how support content that is available through hyperlinks in e-textbooks or amongst e-learning courses could open within the book or program itself. I feel that this would better facilitate learning through users being able to better navigate between key and supporting content. In addition it would enable learners to compare points made in support content with that seen in the key text directly, side by side. Note-making as a third simultaneous activity would be a step further again to facilitating deep-learning.
- Gamification is a huge subject in the field at the moment and one that I would like to investigate further. I am keen to develop a short e-learning program that functions as a game.
- Younger audiences learn quicker and adapt to new technologies quicker than older audiences. I need to be mindful of always evolving my designs so that the avant garde doesn’t become the status quo.
- Templates for deep-learning are open to abuse – as could be seen in the Cengage Music example. This is something to really consider going forward. Designer as actor or pre-constructor?
- Human emotions are key – could a piece of software be developed within ubiquitous computing fields whereby an in-device camera could record a user’s clothing colour and then customise the colour scheme of the learning program to match?
- My practical design work needs to incorporate a blend of working memory aides, emotional stimulants and schema assessment along with strong layouts.