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A Pedagogical Consideration of Technology Enhanced Laboratory Work in Technology Education

Tom Page
Loughborough University, UK

Gisli Thorsteinsson
Iceland University of Education, Iceland

Miika Lehtonen
University of Lapland, Finland

Andrei Niculescu
National Institute for R&D in Informatics, ICI, Romania


This paper discusses the development of a pedagogical model entitled “Network oriented study with simulations”. This model supports teaching and learning in technology education particularly in the laboratory setting using a computer-based tool, termed the web-orientation agent (WOA). The aim of this research is to examine the pedagogy of technology education in order to establish a model for such pedagogy so that appropriate tools can be developed and implemented to support it. In essence, the WOA is a software-based tool, providing a supportive and interactive learning environment that makes use of local applications, in this work, an electronic circuit design and simulation application.

We introduce some preliminary research findings with our university level student group (N=9), all males, using qualitative design based action research (e.g. Hannafin 2004; c.p. Carr & Kemmis 1989). The methods are based on simultaneous video, stimulated recall and group interviews data. It has yielded valuable information to develop the described pedagogical model further on how study using simulation tools and network applications that support these and how more traditional media can be appropriately organized to be closely linked with modern media to support learning.

This study describes also the “Network-Based Mental Tools in Technology Education” case research, which made it possible to test the theoretical bases described in this paper. Evaluation of the preliminary conclusions, the future development of the WOA will be targeted at least to developing a more interactive and adaptive user interface and using a variety of media types (gif/flash animation, streaming movie clips, sound e.g. as a parallel information channel and as a part of a supplementary edutainment-oriented solution.


Technology education, simulation.

Tom Page graduated in 1988 from Napier College, and then worked for Ferranti Defence Systems as a design engineer. In 1990, he returned to Napier as a Research Assistant and obtained an M.Phil. In 1992, he took up a teaching post in Computer-Aided Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire where was awarded a PhD in 2002. He has worked with the Open University. Tom is a Chartered Engineer with full membership of the Institution of Electrical Engineering (IEE) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Since May 2003, he has been teaching at Loughborough University. His research interests include learning technologies, electronics design and manufacture and logistics management. To date he has over 260 publications in these areas.

Gisli Thorsteinsson, is an Assistant Professor at Iceland University of Education, in the Department of Design and Craft. At present he is also a PhD student at Loughborough University, where he is exploring the values of using Virtual Learning Environment for ideation in general school education. Gisli has been the Chairman of the Association of Icelandic Industrial Arts Teachers since 1995 and is associated with the NST Coalition of Industrial Arts Teachers in Scandinavia. From 2000 he has been on the Board of ‘Nordfo’, the Pan Scandinavian co-operative researching art and design projects in Scandinavia. In 1999 he was involved in the National Curriculum development for technology education in Iceland and wrote the curriculum part for design and craft. Gisli has written numerous articles concerning design and craft education and has published several textbooks about innovation education.

Miika Lehtonen is researcher at MOMENTS (Models and Methods for Future Knowledge Construction: Interdisciplinary Implementations with Mobile Technologies) – project. His research and development has recently focused on developing pedagogical models and tools for network-based learning utilizing the Vygotskian and neoGalperian ideas of ‘mental tools’ or ‘mindtools’ and Web based pedagogical agent orientation (cp. Jonassen 2000). His main interests lie in the area of using interactive & constructive simulations effectively as mental tools for learning.

Andrei Niculescu holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Arabic Philology from Bucharest University (1980). He obtained his MA in Applied Linguistics from the same university in 2003 and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Education. His background also includes extensive working experience in foreign trade as well as research in IT both in business operations and personnel training. Presently, Mr. Niculescu teaches Business English to undergraduate business students and his interests include: teaching strategies, e-learning, application of IT in teaching methodology, English for Specific Purposes and Second Language Acquisition.

>>Full text
Tom PAGE, Gisli THORSTEINSSON, Miika LEHTONEN, Andrei NICULESCU, A Pedagogical Consideration of Technology Enhanced Laboratory Work in Technology Education, Studies in Informatics and Control, ISSN 1220-1766, vol. 17 (3), pp. 85-94, 2008.

1. Introduction

In a somewhat light-hearted vein, it could be said that, the meta-cognitive work on the part of a teacher in teaching – and the work of a magician in the creation of an illusion – are closely related. The magician’s task is to create an emotionally engaging situation and atmosphere which guides the viewer to focus on the inessential by a certain tool or means. The aim of a teacher in the technology education lab – or for the purpose in this work, the computer or network teaching method for supporting teachers work – is to guide a student or group of students to observe, do and discover what is essential in its content and to create a comfortable context for studying and learning. It might be said that both the teacher and magician try to guide observations and emotions and use different materials and distractions to that end. Adapting P.J. Galperin’s terminology, we refer to this guiding of observations in appropriate or inappropriate directions as (cognitive and emotional) orientation (Lehtonen to appear; Lehtonen 2003; Galperin 1989; 1992; Podolskij 1997; Talyzina 1981).

In using computer and network-based learning tools in technology education, such as in electronic circuit design and simulation applications as used in this research project (Lehtonen 2002 a, b; Lehtonen 2003). The notion presented above on steering and helping the student or group of students, the pedagogical model and activity based on it, is just as significant as it is in conventional teaching. The activity in which teachers direct students’ or pupils studying and learning (Uljens 1997) – will frequently not work in an optimal fashion solely by using the most modern educational technology applications or resources (e.g. video media). A sound pedagogical model is needed to enable the integration and use of such resources in pedagogical context. Therefore provision must be made in order to orient or guide students and pupils in the effective use of such tools and resources for their own studies and ultimately empower the student (Lefrere 2004). Only through the adoption of appropriate pedagogical models and associated tools in technology education we may help students to use computers as a tool for developing their skills, knowledge and understanding (c.p. ITEA 2000; Dugger & Naik 2000).

6. Conclusions and Future Research

The pedagogical model “Network oriented study with simulations” and the WOA seem to work in many ways as envisioned from the theoretical viewpoints. Further study and analysis is producing a great deal of knowledge in this area, where teaching, studying and learning resources in use are analyzed through different means. Evaluation of the preliminary conclusions, the future development of the WOA will be targeted at least to developing a more interactive and adaptive user interface and using a variety of media types (gif/flash animation, streaming movie clips, sound e.g. as a parallel information channel and as a part of a supplementary edutainment-oriented solution. One interesting phenomenon is that the pedagogical model “Learning through simulations” (Joyce et al. 1997) used in another MOMENTS case study, Educational Use of ICT in Higher Education, has yielded parallel evidence substantiating the results of Network-Based Mental Tools in Technology Education.


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