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In 1990 I stepped back from an academic research focus and returned to creative practice, developing interactive multimedia materials to distribute on CD-ROM, albeit as a senior lecturer in the education faculty of Anglia Higher Education College. The decade saw the rise of Ultralab, of which I was an informal deputy head, growing from half a dozen to over fifty staff. My practice saw a move from software development to medium-scale action research in pilot projects relating to online communities. I also helped develop an online Masters degree and begin supervising doctoral students.

Table 9: Selected items from the 1990s

Portfolio referenceAimContribution

Originality, Impact and Importance


[P4] Senior Lecturer in Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University To develop a collaborative team approach to the design & development of new technology in learning. I was a designer, developer and technical producer of many projects, a lecturer in ICT in Education and a designer and  developer of a Masters level course. My part: 25% (with Stephen Heppell and others) The Ultralab team was distinctive in its structure, ethos and practice, developed on values and principles of inclusion and participation. Its ethos was to directly change the world of education with its action-research innovations and thought leadership. Its work influenced national policy in the UK through Ultralab director Stephen Heppell's leadership in the Stevenson inquiry and beyond through membership of governmental advisory bodies and a regular diet of high-level keynote presentations at conferences.

The Stevenson Report (1997) and my membership of the UK government's Learning Software Task Force.

Further evidence from the full portfolio online:

[P5] Translating software: what it means and what it costs for small cultures and large cultures To clarify the importance of designing in  opportunity for users to localise educational software to suit their own cultural and linguistic environment and thus enhance regional and international uptake I helped design the software methodology for translation and the implementation of it in the 'Work Rooms' software as well as co-authoring the paper. My part: 20% (with Dai Griffiths, Stephen Heppell, Sam Deane and Greta Mladenova) The practice and paper was novel in education at that time and the conceptual thinking was only just making impact in the software operating systems world. Its importance is seen in the way modern software is now developed and content management systems such as Plone have been developed to manage translation as a matter of course. The paper was published in Computers in Education and cited regularly, most recently in 2014.
[P6] Étui To research & develop a toy for use by early learners to encourage learning about learning. I acted as co-developer of the project's ideas about meta-level learning, mentor to the project leader and other personnel, researcher in classrooms and disseminator of the progress and outcomes. My part: 20% (with Andy Simpson, Dai Griffiths, Stephen Heppell and Kris Popat)

The project was unique for its design of a mysterious toy which did not represent existing creatures in order stimulate wonder, inquiry and imagination. As part of the i3 research network, it was shared widely to the European research community and generated much debate about early years learning with technology.

Étui was disseminated at the conferences in 2000 and 2001 of the EU-funded Future and Emerging Technologies i3 network and at an invited workshop titled Children as Participant Designers at FutureLab's inaugural conference Contagious Creativity in June 2002.

In 1990 I joined Professor Stephen Heppell to form a new research centre, ultimately called Ultralab [ P4]. Over seventeen years I offered practical, analytical and evaluative guidance to this large and geographically distributed team, offering research leadership and developing collective knowledge, procedures, values and attitudes for the development of delightful learning approaches.

Early in this decade Stephen Heppell and I began collecting materials to form a National Archive of Educational Computing and we were funded by the National Council for Educational Technology to employ Greta Mladenova to organise the materials

I continued development of new interactive multimedia CD-ROM materials, taking responsibility for production of published learning resources for Teacher Education in the Apple funded Renaissance Project . The possibility to distribute globally  and the development of new materials using Apple's HyperCard led to a realisation that we could allow for adaptation to local culture and languages by the teacher and this became the subject of a published paper, Translating Software: what it means and what it costs for small cultures and large cultures [ P5 ].

The predominant research approach of Ultralab became applied and action research, creating small and large-scale actions involving education in formal and informal contexts. I helped formulate the conceptual framework, manage development and analyse findings in many projects including a longitudinal study of online community as a learning tool Learning in the New Millenium, the University for Industry pilot Online Learning Network, the teachers’ informal continuing professional development online community TeacherNet UK and the creation of a new toy for pre-school meta-level learning, Étui [ P6  ].

This decade saw a heavy load of masters teaching, conference and workshop presentation, which gave me the opportunity to refine analyses of learning and education A1A2A3] and develop them further based on the feedback from audiences and colleagues. 

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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