Archive for category New literacies

Tweeting in 2016

Twitter identifies my top tweet, my top mention and my top media tweet. My followers appear to be most interested in globalised online learning.

Top tweets 2016

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Possibilities and challenges of augmented learning

Teenager's avatar speaking at online conferenceI was invited to write a paper for Distance Education in China, a journal which reaches out to Western academics and is willing to take on the task of translating papers from English. My paper was based on work published in Augmented Education, written by me, Kieron Sheehy and Gill Clough, which was published by Palgrave in 2014.


Digital technologies are becoming cheaper, more powerful and more widely used in daily life. At the same time, opportunities are increasing for making use of them to augment learning by extending learners’ interactions with and perceptions of their environment. Augmented learning can make use of augmented reality and virtual reality, as well as a range of technologies that extend human awareness. This paper introduces some of the possibilities opened up by augmented learning and examines one area in which they are currently being employed: the use of virtual realities and tools to augment formal learning. It considers the elements of social presence that are employed when augmenting learning in this way, and discusses different approaches to augmentation.

数字化技术的价格越来越便宜,功能越来越强大,在日常生活中用途越来越广泛。与此同时,利用数字化技术进一步促进学习者与他们所处环境的互动以及对环境的 感知以增强学习的机会也越来越多。增强学习可以利用增强现实和虚拟现实以及许多能提高人类意识的技术。本文介绍增强学习的一些可能性并讨论目前正在应用增 强学习的一个领域:运用虚拟现实和工具增强正式学习。文章分析了基于虚拟现实和工具的增强学习所需的社交临场成分,并讨论不同的增强方法。

Ferguson, Rebecca (2016). 增强学习的可能性与挑战 [Possibilities and challenges of augmented learning]. Distance Education in China, 6 pp. 5–13.

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Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0

Finally published online in Technology, Pedagogy and Education is our article on informal learning at primary school level. The research study focused on two groups of self-motivated learners, including one set who had set up their own Scratch programming club, and another group who belonged to a lunchtime robot-building club run by a parent.

The creative approaches to informal learning that these pre-teens used when working with new technology at home, contrasted with the approaches that they were able to use within school. Their strategies of using different devices, collaborating with others both face-to-face and electronically, and consulting a range of websites were all constrained in school settings. Other constraints were associated with their age – for example, their lack of access to credit cards made online purchases a complicated procedure, and many of their decisions about use of technology were related to a lack of money to spend. They were also limited by parental constraints and legal constraints to a much greater extent than children only a few years older.

While other studies have focused on differences in use of technology for learning at age 11, when children move from primary to secondary school, this study suggests that a more significant shift in use of technology for learning takes place at age 13.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Faulkner, Dorothy; Whitelock, Denise and Sheehy, Kieron (2014). Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0. Technology, Pedagogy and Education


ICT and Web 2.0 have the potential to impact on learning by supporting enquiry, new literacies, collaboration and publication. Restrictions on the use of these tools within schools, primarily due to concerns about discipline and child safety, make it difficult to make full use of this potential in formal educational settings. Studies of children at different stages of schooling have highlighted a wider range of ICT use outside school, where it can be used to support informal learning. The study reported here looks beyond the broad categories of primary and secondary education and investigates the distinctive elements of pre-teens’ use of ICT to support informal learning. Nineteen children aged 10 and 11 participated in focus groups and produced visual representations of ICT and Web 2.0 resources they used to support their informal learning. Thematic analysis of this data showed that pre-teens respond to a range of age-related constraints on their use of ICT. Inside formal education, these constraints appear similar at primary and secondary levels. Out of school, regulation is more age specific, contributing to the development of tensions around use of ICT as children approach their teenage years. These tensions and constraints shape the ways in which children aged 10 to 11 engage in formal and informal learning, particularly their methods of communication and their pressing need to develop evaluation skills.

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Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island

Book coverI have a new co-authored chapter out, Gillen, J., Ferguson, R., Peachey, A., & Twining, P. (2012). Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island. In G. Merchant, J. Gillen, J. Marsh, & J. Davies (Eds.), Virtual Literacies: Interactive Spaces for Children and Young People: Routledge Research in Education.

The chapter doesn’t have an abstract so, instead, I shall quote a paragraph from the conclusion:

…the debate would be of very limited interest if it merely illustrated the potential affordances of one medium rather than another. Of more significance in the end is the extent to which it clarifies or at least raises significant questions about creating the foundations for the kind of collaborative discussions that are founded in a trusting community, supportive of individuals shaping learning identities in a creative environment (Peachey, 2010). Rethinking educational practice to include more authentic literary engagements, asynchronous debates that are genuinely meaningful to participants, speak to their concerns, and relate to genuine opportunities for purposeful activity and indeed creativity is surely a worthwhile exercise (Barton, 2007; Ferguson, 2011). How then might such ideas promote reshaping the aims of learning environments, even ultimately institutions of education?

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Digital Literacies Conference

Start of the Prezi presentationIn May 2011, I presented at the CREET one-day conference on Digital Literacies at The Open University.

My presentation, Size matters: use of visual elements to support knowledge construction in asynchronous dialogue, was based on a small section of my doctoral thesis, and on a similar presentation I had given at the Open University’s CALRG conference the previous year.

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