Photograph of the GPO after the Easter Rising 1916

Partition Portal PhD Project

My thesis investigated the use of technology and digital archives in the A-level history classroom through the design and production of a digital learning resource, the Partition Portal. This online learning resource consists of a collection of digitised archive material curated around curricular topics and contexualised in A-level teaching practice. I adopted an Educational Design Research approach, designing, developing and user-testing the portal in the realistic conditions of the classroom, in collaboration with teachers and pupils. The Partition Portal research process demonstrated the potential of digitised archive material in the classroom, and the importance of UX design and user-testing in collaboration with schools, in the development of education technology. 

Thesis Abstract

Technology has the potential to enhance learning, however successful implementation in the classroom remains elusive. This can be partly attributed to the technocentric strategies employed in the development and implementation of education technology. For meaningful technology integration to occur, the educational circumstance i.e. the pedagogical approach, curriculum and learning context need to be considered in tandem with technology affordances.

This thesis investigates technology integration in the educational circumstance of the A-level history classroom in Northern Ireland through the development and evaluation of a digital learning resource, the Partition Portal. Northern Ireland’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) A-level history syllabus assesses disciplinary knowledge through the analysis, evaluation and contextualisation of primary and secondary sources however, pupils can experience difficulty in the acquirement and demonstration of these skills. The Partition Portal aims to facilitate the development of source analysis skills by providing access to a collection of digitised archive material curated around curricular topics. An Educational Design Research approach was adopted to facilitate inquiry through the iterative development and evaluation of a practical educational resource in the realistic conditions of the classroom, in collaboration with teachers and pupils.

Exploratory field research into the educational circumstance of A-level history indicates that the assessment of the A-level syllabus determines teachers’ classroom practice and use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT). This was reflected in the design and development of the Partition portal, through alignment with the language, structure and content of the A-level specification. A try-out of the Partition portal in sample schools demonstrates that the portal was considered educationally relevant by teachers and pupils and subsequently incorporated into classroom practice.

This study provides insight into neglected areas of research into technology use in Northern Ireland schools and in the history classroom and into the post-primary educational use of digitised archive material.

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