Before I start the proposed reading on interactivity, I will give a brief overview of my current thoughts on interactivity and the value this adds to teaching and learning.

Over the years the term “interactive” learning has been promoted by a variety of educationalists, however, they all seem to have differing views on exactly what the term means. To me, although I recognise interactivity occurs in every lesson – when a tutor asks a question and gets a response from a learner for example, the term interactive refers to a physical act of interaction. This doesn’t, however, need to be via the use of technology – this can occur with all manner of physical teaching resources, where some sort of assessment takes place and feedback is provided to the learner.

To clarify my current position, when a learner writes on an interactive whiteboard, this isn’t interactive learning, unless by doing so they receive instant feedback. For example, if they complete a gap fill exercise and they receive instant feedback related to their answer, this is “interactive”, if they don’t receive feedback it isn’t.

One of the major misconceptions teachers make, in my opinion, is that they believe the introduction of technology is enough to add value to the learning experience. This simply isn’t true, replacing an old whiteboard with an interactive whiteboard does not add value, unless it changes the teachers practice and it starts to be used it interactively by learners.

I see interactivity as a key pedagogical tool, as it provides the opportunity for teachers to offer personalised learning, at a level that wasn’t possible before. The level of interactivity can also support the engagement of learners, lower level learners may perhaps require more interactivity, via games for example, to keep them interested in their learning, while higher level learners may require simple interactivity which provides them with instant detailed feedback.

Is interactivity a useful notion for elearning?

Yacci, (2000), describes interactivity as a “message loop” and goes on to state that instructional interactivity occurs “from the learner’s point of view”, which supports my own interpretation, that it is the feedback which a learner receives in relation to their action which makes the interaction, interactive. It follows, therefore, that an action by a learner which doesn’t trigger a response/feedback isn’t interactive. Therefore, a tutor who introduces an Interactive WhiteBoard into the classroom and simply asks the learners to write on it, isn’t engaging the learners in interactive learning. In order to do so, there would need to be a feedback loop introduced, this could be achieved either via the addition of ‘on click’ feedback or by the tutor making a response once an action is taken by the learner.

Diana Laurillard’s ideas on ‘conversational frameworks’ (explained here) expand on Yacci’s “message loop” as she explores interactivity via feedback loops which relate to learners conceptions and actions, while she also introduces media to the process. Laurillard’s framework, however, only take account of three types of “interactive” media, hypermedia – which consists of fixed links to text, graphics and multimedia, enhanced hypermedia – which Laurillard suggests is adaptive personalised learning which learners are able to explore with the support of guidance and web resources which are hypermedia available via the world wide web, which I interpret as Web 1.0. This model, in my opinion, is now outdated as there is, I believe, now a requirement to include at least 2 additional interactive medium. These are Web 2.0 resources, which would be enhanced hypermedia as explained by Laurillard available via the world wide web and semantic web resources which are “intelligent” hypermedia resources available via the world wide web, i.e. resources which use meta data and semantic web analytics to provide learners with personalised guidance as they follow their own individualised learning path online.

I believe Laurillard’s model should be expanded further to include additional feedback loops as learners “curate” their own independent understanding/learning via their interactivity within their own communities of practice or personal learning networks.