Digital Learning Research Symposium

By Peter Gillis

I spent a valuable day yesterday at the Digital Learning Research Symposium, a joint collaboration between, NIDL/DCU, ESAI and ILTA. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces and make acquaintance with some new ones. Based on the attendance there is a healthy research community thriving in Ireland. My top three takeaways were:

1.It was stated many times throughout the day that research in the area of technology and education is very much an applied research and as such can struggle from time to time to attract interest from academics. To qualify that statement, it is a struggle to attract the transdiscipline or multidiscipline interest the area requires. The evidence from yesterday was that there is plenty of research activity in Ireland but a lot of it is by teaching academics themselves.
This aligns with the need for larger multi-discipline research initiatives similar to the Learnovate approach.

2. Professor of Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, Sian Bayne gave the first keynote of the day “Manifesto: Making a Teaching Philosophy From Research in Digital Education”. It was certainly thought provoking and challenging to some current thinking in the area of ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ and indeed the appropriateness of the term itself was one of the focuses of Sian’s keynote.
In relation to the use of the term technology in TEL she spoke of two issues. The Instrumentalist approach where technology is seen as a tool to support pre-existing practices and Essentialist where technology is believed to possess the necessary attributes for improvement. All of this is to separate the technology from society.
What I liked about Sian’s approach was not just playing ‘hurler on the ditch’ she and her colleagues have drafted, and continue to redraft, their manifesto for teaching online and I would encourage you to take a look at it at
Agree or disagree, it is provocative! As a philosophical debate it is also fairly far removed from the applied approach referred to in point 1, but I believe deeper philosophical and psychological approaches are needed to better inform applied research.

3. In Sian’s Manifesto and in a presentation by Denise McEvoy, LIT it was heartening to see the value of aesthetic and emotional design coming in to focus, and in both cases it was also heartening to hear the support for the concept from the audience.

I look forward to Learnovate being able to contribute more to the event in coming years.