Technology Enhanced Unit Design

Connectivist theory explains that www resources provide new prospects of learning and creating knowledge. For instance, back in 2008, there were major power outage issues in country side Pakistan so I bought solar system from China for my parents to deal with this issue. When it reached the country side, we couldn’t find anybody to install it. There was lack of knowhow of Solar system installation. Later we found somebody in Lahore (Pakistan) and requested him to go to country side to install the system.  He agreed but his services were way too expensive. Then me and my brother went to YouTube and watched a 3-min video and installed the system all by ourselves. This real life scenario explains the success of connectivist approach. People are eager to learn. Moreover, there are problems out there to solve and there is no need to waste efforts and energy to reinvent the wheel. So people can utilize www resources to connect to others and find information. Knowledge resides in learners and learning is social activity. Interaction and communication provides means of transfer of knowledge and skills. Consequently, everybody receives information, verifies it with his prior knowledge and applies in his own context to solve his problems. This analysis and application of knowledge creates more knowledge. So participation creates knowledge and help make connection. It is very encouraging and is a democratic environment. Moreover participants are nodes of equal share on the network so they feel stake holder of this whole network and thus put more efforts. As Siemens (2006b) has suggested, “the learning is the network.”

Community of inquiry model proposes that meaningful learning results sufficient degree of cognitive presence, social presence and teaching presence. Effective learning design must encourage growth of critical thinking skills. Cognitive presence is grounded in and defined by the study of a particular content; thus, it works within the epistemological, cultural, and social expression of the content in an approach that supports the development of critical thinking skills” (McPeck,1990; Garrison, 1991). The social presence ensures a supportive learning environment to make sure that students feel safe to express themselves. Teaching presence provides structure and process of learning, which on one side set climate for social presence and on the other hand provides contents for critical thinking. Instructional relationship with students early in the Web-based course is very important to ensure safe climate and streamlined contents for learners. Garrison and Cleveland-Innes concluded that teaching presence is vitally important for the creation and sustainability of a community of inquiry focused on the exploration, integration, and testing of concepts and solutions.

Here are some basic principles of my learning theory.

  1. Lesson design should be similar to everyday life. There is no need to have pseudo environment for learning because learning is supposed prepare students for real life skill and to teach them how to solve problems of real life. After being in pseudo environment of schools and universities for many years, students find it hard to relate their knowledge and learning with outside environment.
  2. Lesson design should encourage the active participation of the learner because it is participants who are going to create knowledge and if they are passive or not interested then learning is not going to happen.
  3. Lesson design should accept that student learn in a variety of ways and at different rates
  4. Lesson design should consider that learning is Social and academic. So both an individual and a group processes should be encouraged
  5. Learning is most effective when students reflect on the process of learning — set goals for improvement
  6. Lesson Design should consider differentiation of students’ potentials and should develop personalized instructions for leaners.
  7. Lesson design should provide variety in Learning
  8. Lesson design should push different levels of thinking
  9. Lesson design should push different types of thinking (critical thinking)
  • Lesson design should drive more complex instructional methods

Rationales of Instructional Strategies:

Group Work:

People, in general, feel lot more comfortable working in their groups, in which they have non-academic common interests as well. So usually students, who do same kind of extracurricular activities, tend to group together in academic activities. So friendship groups are best because students feel safe in their comfort zone. As a teacher, I can assign random assignments to different groups and they can work and present their work to class. Sometime it is essential to make teacher-structured groups for some activities in class. Teacher selected is the most powerful in terms of learning. However, random assignment is closer to what we experience in life and we all need friends. So groups provide ways to communicate one’s knowledge with others and allow students to reconstruct their thoughts. Students“reflect, select, connect, and project, each of these steps requires intense and laborious thought”(Anderson 2008)

Following are key benefits of group work.

  1. Teach Collaborative Skills
  2. Process Academic and Social Learning
  3. Employ Positive Interdependence
  4. Applies individual accountability
  5. Encourages student to accept and extend ideas of others
  6. Foster disagreeing in an agreeable way
  7. Promotes active listening
  8. Teach collaborative skills
    1. Social Skills
    2. Communication Skills
    3. Critical Thinking Skills

I believe learning is both social and academic. Knowledge is like a hidden potential energy in objects. The potential energy is only useful if it is converted by interaction with other substances. So participants’ interaction allows the hidden potential to be exposed. Once the potential is exposed then it becomes available knowledge on the information network. Receivers of the information may integrate the pieces of information with their pre-existing experiences, reflect and reconstruct their thoughts. All this leads to evolution of our collective wisdom, which can be recorded in different ways and can benefit humanity till eternity. So this information exchange leads to social evolution of higher order.

Individual Accountability:  Participation in group also raises expectations of each participant and it forces them to express themselves. Thus it promotes face to face interaction. It ensures that students actively participate in learning. Students don’t have to be passive receivers of information. They also have to contribute by expressing themselves. Moreover, it promotes autonomy of students and provides chances that other get to hear their ideas and appreciate them. Diversity and variety of ideas can be expressed because everybody has unique experiences and unique set of information.

Group work encourages participants and boosts their self-efficacy. As participants discuss, they appreciate the fact that if their counterpart can achieve this then they can also achieve this. This encourages participants. In addition, it also provides variety in instructional design because different participants learn differently and variety can help bring them on board. It also befits differentiations instructions. Moreover, it pushes different levels of thinking and push different types of thinking.

We work in groups in our daily life and learning design should teach collaborative skills. Social Skills: are very important for well-rounded personality. Group work teaches politeness, appreciation of others’ statements, mutual respect, waiting for one’s turn. Moreover, students learn communication skills when they collaborate.  They learn attentive listening, paraphrasing, seeking clarification, accepting and extending the ideas of others. In addition, collaborative work teaches critical thinking skills. Students learn to suspend judgment, examine both sides of an issue, consider all factors, disagree agreeably, and identify the unknowable statistic. All this encourages students to involve themselves in complex mental operations.

Venn diagram and grouping of information

Analyzing of bulk information is very important and this is very important skills in modern times as we are all exposed to lot of raw data every day. “Humans may be predisposed to identifying certain patterns on the basis of their neurological makeup; these patterns, in fact, may be intrinsic qualities of mind.”  Kerr (2007a) We analyze the data, categorize the data and then make predictions based on analyzed patterns. Now days, concept of big data is haunting us as there are super computer, which collect all kind of data, find patterns, analyze the data and categorize it according to patterns. Students conduct experiments in lab, collect data, analyze and categorize it.

  1. Venn diagram increase student abilities to organize represent and connect their thoughts and learning.
  2. it drives more complex instructional methods
  3. It helps student look for patterns and develop inductive reasoning skills.
  4. It provides students experience of identifying critical relationships for grouping data.
  5. It helps students to make sense of information.
  6. It helps students meaningfully grasps constructs the concept.
  7. It provides a visual display of learning 。
  8. It encourages students to involve themselves in complex mental operations.
  9. It encourages thinking at the analysis and evolution level of bloom taxonomy.


Debates are great means to raise interest in any topic. It sets a competition mode and invokes survival skills of participants who want to prove themselves survivors for being fittest. It is not surprising that people want to watch debates online because they are quick way to show highlight of any idea. They are very efficient because they provide pro and cons in short time.  Here are some key features of debates.

  1. encourage all students to participate
  2. create high interest motivation
  3. encourage students to involve themselves in complex mental operations
  4. lays the ground work for respectful and purposeful discussion
  5. creates an environment in which student feel that their contributions are valued
  6. clearly lays out expectations for appropriate behaviour
  7. promotes shared ownership learning environment
  8. enable student to take responsibility for developing and sharing ideas
  9. allows students to reflect on their developing discussion skills
  • Teach collaborative skills
    • Social Skills
    • Communication Skills
    • Critical Thinking Skills

Virtual Tour and Simulation

Seeing is believing and picture worth one thousand words. This is even more important for science related contents because atoms or molecules that we often talk about are too small to visualize.  Consequently students have very blurry picture of atoms and molecules in their mind. Simulations have made learning easy by showing 3d view. For example, a history teacher can take students to virtual tour of ancient Egypt. Virtual tour to ancient Egypt can greatly enhance student understanding. Sometime people have some physiological problem that prohibits them have hand-on experience of something. For instance, some people are afraid of water so they dare not to experience under water marine environment. Virtual tour to undersea environment can teach them and may help to overcome their fear.  Similarly, flux of people in some place may have negative impact on the structure of building so virtual tours can help know more about that structure. Moreover, it is dangerous to visit some place like insect infested or high intensity radiation areas. Here are some key benefits of virtual tour and simulation. In 21st century, students are much more clued up with gadgets. So they tend to learn lot more from interaction with technology. Moreover, virtual reality systems can be combined with traditional face-to-face teaching to provide blended learning experience.

  1. Student experience the virtual immersive effect and enjoy the experience
  2. It encourages participation as students engage more readily with virtual reality.
  3. It provides variety in instructional design.
  4. It engages efficiently and thus overcomes issue of limited attention spans.
  5. It helps with understanding complex theories/concepts

Weili and Tom identified following key benefits of virtual field trips.

  1. Integrate diverse types of data in instantly available Ways.
  2. Present images from a variety of viewpoints and at many different scales.
  3. Display non-visual data (geochemistry, etc.)
  4. Helpful for presenting trips to inaccessible areas
  • Provide an alternative of fieldwork, when time, expenses, and/or logistics are real issues
  • Enable presentation of extensive field trips and great variety of landform diversity
  • Enhance and expand students’ experience
  • Enable flexibility of access (time and place)
  • Provides a repeatable experience which can be used to reinforce concepts in class
  • Provides an easily experienced preview or review of real field trips
  • Offer rich resources of learning and teaching
  • Interesting and attractive to students and an alternative experience for users

Use of Technology

Explanation of how the technology is being appropriately used and how it enhances the learning of the students.

Here are some key uses of technology in education that enhances students learning experience.

  1. Use of technology provides variety in instructional design and accommodates interests of tech-savvy leaners. So those students find it easy to learn through technology. Their love for their gadgets can be exploited for learning. I have tried it with my face-to-face classes. Some students don’t perform well in typical structured classroom environment.
  2. Use of technology frees them from limitations of time and space. They can learn at their convenience. I think it is very important for learners to be ready to learn.  In typical classroom environment, sometime students don’t pay attention because they are not ready to learn due to their social issues or health issues. Moreover, some students just like to learn in classroom setting. They want to be independent and want to learn at their own pace and using their own method. It supports students’ ability to learn in a variety of ways and at different rates.  Use of technology provides personalized learning environment. People can learn in variety of ways and at different rates.
  3. Prior learning is also major issue for some students and this limits their ability in any topic but use of technology can help them catch up with their class fellows easily without losing self-efficacy.
  4. Technology connects students to knowledge bodies. As Siemens (2006b) has suggested, “the learning is the network.” Thus it reduces cost in terms of time to learn new skills and information.
  5. Technology in the form of virtual tours and simulation provides hand on experience to participants. Students interact with simulation, learn, collect data, group data, find patterns and make predictions. This hand on experience is simply not possible in many cases without technology. They collect information and then group them based on their similarities and difference. This helps them visualize the abstract knowledge form. Moreover, it encourages analysis and evaluation level of thinking.
  6. It is possible to provide variety of information (text, video, and picture) to students with the help of technology all at low cost.
  7. Technology supports international mindedness because anytime students look for information on internet then political borders become irrelevant. They are going to collect right information, no matter which country are they from. In this way, they tend to appreciate contribution of knowledge from other communities. It encourages students to look at the world from another perspective.
  8. Technology in education takes students directly to knowledge creators. Students don’t have to go through an intermediary person (teacher) to learn second hand knowledge because it is simply not possible for teacher to know everything.
  9. Technology provides latest information whereas most of printed text books lag behind for decades. So use of technology provides latest contents to students.
  • Technology provides massive amount of data, which otherwise is not possible. It promotes students questioning of validity of information. This data becomes extremely important when teaching categorizing and grouping of information. It is not possible to present lot of information on paper. So technology is helping here to provide bulk information that student can categorize. For example, trends of monthly sale of different phone brands can be searched online and an activity in accounting class can be created around that which can generate lot of interest of students as it is about fresh data and students will be interested to learn outcome. Similarly, data about climate changes can be accessed from online resources and can be used to analyze and predict changes. It promotes critical thinking.
  • Technology serves more than function. Books did serve function but failed to provide variety in design. It is possible with the help of technology to provide variety in design to raise interest of learners. This is exactly what we do in our daily life. Most of us just don’t buy a phone for making and receive call but pay attention to design. In most cases, it is design that is decisive in choosing phone. Similarly, we don’t buy shirts just to cover our bodies. We decide based on their design.
  • Technology raises interest in learning by making learning easy and interesting. Moreover, hotlinks on webpage keep us tuned into information network for hours. Each hotlink take us to new page that is full of information. Each page offer us some surprises and we keep learning more in curiosity.
  • Use of www resources creates a dialogue and students learn from different perspective. For example, I have received education from oriental university which provides one perspective of education. It is first time I am learning some education course from Canada. This has enhanced many understanding of education. I can use this knowledge and can integrate it with my previous knowledge. This will lead to reconstruction of my ideas. Similarly online interaction between people presents them very different perspective which they can learn from and apply in their own context.
  • It is very easy to develop dynamic concept maps using technology. Students can make concept map in the start of unit and keep adding more contents to that as they proceed to progressively difficult contents. Concept map provides visual display of learning.
  • Availability of synchronous and asynchronous technologies provides full spectrum of possibilities. Live discussion in conference calls can be conducted on skype to promote social skills.


Description of the barriers in distance or time that the technology would help overcome

Quick google search distributed learning shows that “Distributed learning does not give opportunity to work on oral communication skills “ on Wikipedia.  So it is very important for any distributed lesson design to ensure.

  1. Student-student interaction
  2. Student-instructor interaction
  3. Student-contents interaction

Any successfully DL lesson design should ensure that all three types of interaction are facilitated for learning to happen. “sufficient levels of deep and meaningful learning can be developed as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) is at very high level” (Anderson 2008)

Moreover, following barriers are identified

  1. Communication: All three types of interaction are very important and technology should be deployed to overcome barrier in communication. Otherwise it is going to cause frustration and alienate participants. The amount of contact the student has with the instructor determines the interactivity in an online program, with his peers, and with the course material (Sherry, 1996). In other words, communication is vital to make connections and to create effective understanding. Communication is a learnt activity and is provided by the media which forms a bridge between the sender and the receiver (Dimbleby, et al., 1992). So web 2.0 tools are best as their technology has gone through many revisions to develop it to a feature-rich stable form. Open source Moodle and WordPress are great technologies for MOOC. Moreover, there are many themes available to make website layout friendly for users.  They have all built in functions that have been optimized for distance education. A good system deployment can ensure uninterrupted interaction between course contents and learners.  Forums, discussion boards and blog comments can provide mechanism for student-student and student-teacher interaction. Two-way communication between student and teacher is important to keep students engaged in learning process. Moreover, conference call by skype is also possible if sometime synchronous discussion is required.
  2. Motivation: Lack of interaction between teacher and student may lead to low efficacy level of students. But effective, positive and timely response form instructors can boost their motivation level. Moreover, appreciation from fellow students can also enhance students’ motivation. So lesson design should provide safe environment for learners. Built-in comment moderation feature is great to provide that safe environment for expression. “Humanizing is the action of providing immediacy behaviors, and creating a situation or environment that is people-focused and that will help to increase learners’ investment in the process (DuCharme-Hansen, Dupin-Bryant). Instructor immediacy is a theory of affective learning based on the concept of instructor verbal and nonverbal behaviors that are related to student attitudes and instructional outcomes (Rodriguez, Plax, & Kearney, 1996).
  3. Technical: Lack of experience about technology can lead to frustration. Diffusion of Innovation theory describes that new ideas and innovations frighten people and cause frustration. This is due to the fear that new ideas may fail. Lack of technological expertise and dealing with the new medium can cause frustrations. Effective student services can overcome this issue easily by providing timely feedback. Moreover, good layout of website and clear instructions can also make things easy for learners. In addition, first week may be used to familiarize with the system as it was done for this course.

Rationale for my your choice of tools.

I have used following four tools

  1. Simulation
  2. Virtual tour
  3. YouTube as source of data
  4. Blog system

Here are rationales of my choice of tools

Simulations and Virtual Tour

I used simulation as instructional strategy to teach students about atoms and isotopes.  They play with the simulation and complete guided exploration sheet in a group activity. Simulations in the particular setting were applied for following purposes.

  1. Simulations provide game-like environment so they increase student interest. Students don’t feel like having stress of some academic activity. Game like environment in simulation put them on ease. It encourages participation of students and engages them readily.
  2. Atoms and isotopes are too small to view. So working with simulation provides visual display to students and it develops clear picture in their mind.
  3. Students experiment with simulation. They change some variable and learn their outcome. After few tries, they start to see the pattern and predict outcome. It develops critical thinking skills as they ask why and how.
  4. It helps with understanding complex theories/concepts


Virtual Tour

I used virtual tour to show students result of nuclear disaster. Virtual tour was designed for following purposes.

  1. Student experience the virtual immersive effect.
  2. It encourages participation as students engage more readily with virtual reality.
  3. To create awareness of safety for nuclear technology.
  4. TO enhance and expand students’ experience
  5. It was only way to visit the inaccessible areas of Chernobyl disaster.


YouTube and Concept map

I used YouTube for reaction type topic. Students get to watch many types of reaction and they categorize. So YouTube provided variety of random data for students to analyze and categorize. Then the data they collected was used to make concept map of types of reaction. Here are some rationales for using YouTube and concept map.


  1. YouTube provided lot of video data for students. It is simply impossible at school level to have that much variety of experiments conducted. Students watch those video and find patterns.
  2. Concept maps drives more complex instructional methods
  3. Concept maps help student look for patterns and develop inductive reasoning skills.
  4. Concept maps provide students experience of identifying critical relationships for grouping data.
  5. Concept maps help students to make sense of information.
  6. Concept maps help students meaningfully grasp and constructs the concept.
  7. Concept maps provide a visual display of learning 。
  8. Concept maps encourage students to involve themselves in complex mental operations.
  9. Concept maps encourage thinking at the analysis and evolution level of bloom taxonomy.


Blog Posts

Blogging was used to generate discussion and to promote student-student interactions.  Learning is social and academic so students present their ideas. Other students read, rephrase and comment about things that they liked or they have question about.  I had following goals to use blogging system as a tool for teaching.

  1. Teach Collaborative Skills
  2. Process Academic and Social Learning
  3. Employ Positive Interdependence
  4. Applies individual accountability
  5. Encourages student to accept and extend ideas of others
  6. Foster disagreeing in an agreeable way
  7. Promotes active listening
  8. Teach collaborative skills
    1. Social Skills
    2. Communication Skills
    3. Critical Thinking Skills