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I took up my first professional research post in 1980 to design and develop educational software. This period saw a progression in my practice from a focus on technology to a concern for design & pedagogy and my first attempt to engage with doctoral study.

Table 8: Selected items from the 1980s

Portfolio referenceAimContribution

Originality, Impact and Importance


[P1] Researcher in the Computers in the Curriculum Project at Chelsea College London

To establish design leadership for teams of programmers developing computer assisted learning for secondary age students. I designed and developed many educational programs, guidance documents, course materials and developed analytical models for evaluation of user-interfaces. I exercised nationwide team leadership and national leadership in educational software interoperability. My part: 100% The Computers in the Curriculum project, first established in 1973, was one of only a very few world-leading curriculum development projects in its time to create brand new computer assisted learning materials based on a 'revelatory' approach using simulations (Millwood 1987, 8). There were very few predecessors in the schools sector. It was funded for the first half of the eighties by the UK government funded Micro-electronics Education Programme, absorbing a large proportion of its budget. The materials were widely published internationally through Longman, BBC and others. The work covered a wide range of subjects in the secondary curriculum. (Watson 1987) The project impact on the UK and internationally is evidenced in the Computers in the Curriculum Newsletter No. 6 (Donoghue 1984) Which shows the breadth of engagement, size of the enterprise and the impact being made at conferences worldwide.
[P2] London Mental Models Group To discover new perspectives on the mental models of learners with regard to their use of technology as a tool for developing such models. I participated and contributed ideas to seminars considering models of learning with technology. My part: 5% (project led by the late Joan Bliss) The work to integrate an educational approach to technology, learning, artificial intelligence and mental models was unique, recognised by an Economics and Social Research Council grant for the 'Tools for exploratory learning' project (Bliss and Ogborn 1989) and peer-reviewed publications. It had impact on the design of new modelling software and importance in raising the level of debate at an early stage in the maturation of technology in education amongst the educational research community in London. Joan Bliss' obituary (Ogborn 2011) contains testimony to the significance of this group.
[P3] Procedure Library To improve standards of interoperability in the design of educational computer programmes. I designed the set of procedures and functions, wrote the BBC BASIC and Pascal code and technical guide and co-authored the design guide which included the creation of the diagram and analytical explanations. My part: 50% (with David Riley) The design, code and analysis were new, based on lessons learnt over seven years of using a BASIC subroutine library and the best of graphics routine library literature (Newman and Sproull 1989). The impact and importance was on the development and design of educational software by the Computers in the Curriculum team. My leadership is documented in the Computers in the Curriculum project publications, including Newsletter 6 Computers in the Curriculum Newsletter No. 6 (Donoghue 1984).

In 1980 I sought a position as a university researcher to develop educational resources. I was appointed as the first developer for the Computers in the Curriculum Project [P1] at Chelsea College, University of London. Over the decade I became a project leader in software development, an author of design guidelines [P3] for the team and a teacher educator involved in teacher training. I was responsible for the design and development of many educational packages based on computer simulations, working with teams including practising teachers to offer advice on the pedagogical and practical design issues. In researching human computer interface issues, I was strongly influenced by Donald Norman’s models of user-centred design (1983b). These proved practical as applied theories in my everyday work and formed the basis for my first ideas for a simplified model of the learning process, later developed as Expressive Constructivism [A1]. In this decade I joined the ESRC funded London Mental Models Group [P2], led by the late Professor Joan Bliss and Professor Jon Ogborn, and planned to conduct a PhD supervised by Professor Paul Black to focus on modelling using computers. I took part as a lecturer in the development of a diploma course to retrain teachers for Computer Studies and finally as a half-time lecturer in Mathematics Education [P1]. I co-directed the Modus project to develop computer modelling software for learners to create their own simulations, resulting in the development of Expert Builder and Model Builder software. I acted as Research Fellow on interoperability in educational software for the national Microelectronics Education Support Unit, creating several reports and peer-reviewed publications and was a member of the Software Advisory Group for the BBC Domesday Project. As pointing devices, audio, picture, video and the CD-ROM, became available, I led the technical production and contributed to the educational design of interactive multimedia for higher education in mathematics, environmental science, theatre studies and business studies for higher education. In this decade I began to be invited to academic conferences as a speaker and to take part in international seminar and workshop activity as co-tutor.

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"It wasn’t so much a question of whether she had written the truth about herself, or told the truth, or believed that what she wrote and said was true, or even whether they were true things in themselves; the important thing seemed to me that the person who wrote and spoke was admirable, living and complete."  ― The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry, 2008