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In 2000, Ultralab undertook the Talking Heads project with over one thousand head teachers joining an online community of practice, thus marking a move towards large-scale action research. Later in this decade I took on the leadership of Ultralab, participating and overseeing the development of Ultraversity - an innovative online work-focussed degree programme - and later moved to the University of Bolton to help create a university framework based on Ultraversity's success.

Table 10: Selected items from the 2000s

Portfolio referenceAimContribution

Originality, Impact and Importance


[P7] Input CBBC To design the support web site to explore the potential for students' creativity with video to be broadcast. I took the role of co-leader at Ultralab developing the key values, participant action research approach and philosophy, working with the CBBC Future TV section at the BBC.  I took on the visual and information design challenge of presenting templates and guidance in a child friendly web-site whilst maintaining a connection to the CBBC's visual style. My part: 25% (with Matthew Eaves and others) The project was quite new for a national broadcaster to take a serious view of children's digital creativity. Its impact was on the BBC itself in informing its future policies and confirming the research outcomes from earlier Ultralab projects. The final report (Derrick 2003) was edited  by Cathy Derrick, a senior director within the BBC and was circulated to her colleagues to inform them in making sense of user-generated content by young children.
[P8] QCA - An Investigation Into Pupils' Creativity Across The Curriculum To clarify criteria that explain how technology enhances creativity in learning. I joined meetings to discuss and then write a contribution to the committee's report, the 'Features of ICT' section outlining how technology can enhance creativity. This contribution later became the basis for my analysis How technology can enhance learning [A2]. My part: 20% This was a synthesis of my original thinking and other sources including my experience as a designer in discussion with many others. This was newly articulated in print by me for this consultation and adopted by this national advisory body as part of a taxonomy for advice on future curriculum thinking nationally. The brief, my report and the taxonomy are included in the portfolio.
[P9] Ultraversity Project To design and develop a new work focussed online university experience to suit 'those for whom traditional university did not fit'. Initially, as part of a small team, I developed the documents for validation and designed strategy and materials for recruitment in 2003. I then had oversight of the direction of the Ultraversity Project in my role as Head of Ultralab from 2005 to 2007. I frequently took a practical developmental role, creating and designing resources, infrastructure, marketing, research and team collaboration as well as a refining a theoretical stance to champion the values and philosophy of the project. 20% (with Stephen Heppell, Stephen Powell and many others) This project combined unique elements into a completely new fully online undergraduate opportunity. Its impact was felt deeply on the student's lives and on the researchers who made it possible. It influenced a wider academic community that drew inspiration from its success, and continues to be the subject of much interest today as well as a current course at Anglia Ruskin University. Its importance was recognised by newspapers and government ministers at the time. The project helped me enhance the analysis of The Learner at the Centre [A3] in this profoundly learner-centred design. The video and transcripts of the student's own words included in the portfolio evidence the impact on their lives. An account of the project was published in the journal Interactive Learning Environments (Powell , Tindal and Millwood 2008) The Centre for Recording Achievement recognised the contribution and invited me to keynote at their seminar to celebrate 10 years of the patchwork text in which I presented an early version of my analysis of How can technology enhance learning [A2]. A letter from Chris Smith MP outlines the recognition from government. (Smith, 2002).
[P10] Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning (IDIBL) To design and develop a whole university framework for work focussed learning. My role was of co-developer, working closely to establish aims & values, design the curriculum, seek validation, organise, teach & mark work, operate quality mechanisms. I also designed the web site and fliers for marketing, sought meetings with stakeholders to market the course directly, worked with staff to disseminate ideas within the university, undertook research to establish evidence and co-wrote academic papers and made presentations at conferences. My part: 25% (with Stephen Powell and others) The project was based on the experience of Ultraversity, but broke new ground by taking a whole university framework approach. It led to wholehearted adoption by some colleagues, whilst others appropriated parts of it for other courses. Its importance was in recognising the conditions under which work-focussed learning could prosper. The impact of cybernetic theory (Beer 1985) on finding explanations for design success and failure  in systems of education was published in the journal Campus-Wide Information Systems (Millwood and Powell 2011).
[P11] Report on good practice of innovative applications of learning theories in TEL To clarify the accepted learning theories and explain their connection to theorists, disciplines and paradigms. I exercised analytical and visual design skills in the construction of the conceptual diagram and contributed the statements about the complex, contested and dynamic nature of learning theory. I also tidied up and commented on the stakeholder analysis for innovation designers. My part: 80% This work includes a new synthesis of key theorists and their ideas, highlighting disciplinary background. It has been widely reported as part of the Hotel EU project and achieved widespread dissemination and impact. It is intended to address an EU identified problem of educational technology innovators who are actively developing without a full understanding of the scope of learning theory and its problems in relation to technology. The report is a deliverable of the EU funded HoTEL project (Millwood, 2013a). Widespread dissemination and impact is evidenced by the commentary on my blog (Millwood 2013c) and a number of adaptations and translations into other languages.

The new millenium saw a change in Ultralab, and my practice, from medium to large scale, national and international projects beginning with the headteachers’ online community Talking Heads / Virtual Heads, the development of learner’s creativity through multimedia technology for Ultralab's Summer School project and the Children's BBC Input BBC pilot [P7], and many more.

In this period I was invited as consultant to many organisations, but most significantly, to the Qualification and Curriculum Authority's panel to identify the role of technology in creativity and learning [P81]. This work was founded on a more mature form of my learning model of Expressive Constructivism [A1] and helped me to clarify the role of technology in learning [A2]. I was also invited to take part in two Teachers' TV programmes the first relating to innovation in assessment and the second, School Matters - Happiest Days?, to 'delight' in learning related to well-being in school education.

In the middle of this decade I took over as head of Ultralab for two years before joining the University of Bolton in 2007 to further develop Ultralab’s ground-breaking Ultraversity project [P9] as the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project [P10].

At the same time, I founded my own consultancy company, Core Education UK, and continued to find national and international organisations, including the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Improvement and Development Agency and UNESCO, willing to employ me for my analytical perspectives [A1, A2, A3], which of course helped them to be tested and refined.

This most recent period permitted substantial reflection, analysis and articulation of ideas through the European Project HoTEL (Millwood 2013a),  peer-reviewed publications (Millwood 2014) and enabled the development of this PhD by Practice.

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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