Learning Log

Lesley Wrennall 


 For the first section of this assignment (the description) I have chosen to use an extract for my learning log which is written in diary form, to highlight a particular learning experience which took place at the beginning of this module.  It concerns my experiences in learning to use a CD as a source of reference material for the course.  I then go on to consider the relationship between the course material and my learning experience in section two (the commentary) and then proceed to give a general overview and my reflections on how the theoretical knowledge contained in the module relates to my own learning experience.


 I am feeling disappointed that I have to miss the first lecture and seminar for this module, but a friend has very kindly offered to take notes for me.  I feel a little on the back foot but I am optimistic that I will be able to catch up without too much difficulty.

NIGHTMARE, I feel very disorientated as I have just been informed that part of the module will involve using information from a Compact Disc.  I was once accused of being a Technophobe, but I didn’t believe it until now.  I feel as if I am backed into a corner as I have no choice but to use the computer to gain access to the information I need to pass this module.  I am not completely incompetent in the use of information technology but I have very limited experience with it.  I understand that it is necessary for me to become more proficient in the use of computers, but I just find them so obstructive at times.

Well here goes, how hard can it be?  I have switched on my computer and have fed the compact disc into the CD reader.  I am having problems already because for some reason the computer will not allow me to read the CD.  I feel so frustrated, as I have used information CDs before and they have started up automatically; is the problem with the CD or me?  I have managed to gain access to the menu page and then nothing happens except a message about an illegal operation. This sort of message always worries me as I feel that someone, somewhere is monitoring every move that I make on the computer and is waiting in anticipation to fall on me like a ton of bricks. I can now feel my heart sinking to my toes.  Why is everything so difficult when it comes to this machine?  I was hoping it would all be straightforward.

I try again.  I HATE THIS MACHINE.  The same thing happens.  I am obviously doing something wrong.  I am stuck in a loop.  It is difficult for me to apply my past experience to the problem, as I don’t really have any.  I am finding myself doing the same thing over and over again.  It makes as much sense to me as anything else I do with the computer, i.e. none!   Maybe I am missing out a sequence of some sort.  I am distracted by one of the children so this seems as good as time as any to take a break.  I express my feelings of frustration with the computer at the monitor and go to make lunch.

I realise my feelings of frustration are getting the better of me.  I am unable to solve the problem myself so the obvious solution is to ask someone who is more computer literate than myself to show me were I am going wrong.  I enlist the help of a neighbour, but I feel a little bit stupid asking for help. I know this shouldn’t be difficult but it is hard to admit it when you are incapable of dealing with such a simple task.

Three hours later, I am not impressed.  My neighbour is unable to help.  He suggests that there is a problem with the disc itself.  Strangely enough this makes me feel so much better.  Perhaps I am not stupid after all, what’s wrong with libraries anyway?  

I decide to give it one more go and ask my recently arrived husband for help, he seems to be more logically minded about this type of thing than me.  I don’t believe it!  My husband got the CD to launch first time. He explains to me that the PC needs to learn a new language before it is able to read this particular disc.  It begs the question, how many languages are there out there.    I don’t know who I feel more angry with, me or the computer. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the reliability of the system, (and thought perhaps it had been a fluke), so I challenge him to close the CD and start it up again.  It works.  All I have to do is learn the following sequence:

Press on my computer

Press on H drive for CD 

When output folder appears click on it to open 

Press auto run exe 

Menu page appears, click on main menu and select the relevant information.

I practised this sequence while I was still being supported by my husband, until I felt confident that I would be able to do it on my own.

Since this episode I have used the CD to get the information I have needed for the module without any further problems.  Although initially I found the process was very time consuming I now realise what a time saver it has become.  I have not only felt the benefit of having a lot of relevant information at my fingertips but also the benefit of being able to cut and paste information from the disc into documents on my computer.  This has made the information easier to read and understand.  Compared with the inconvenience of waiting for reference books to be returned to the library there are some clear advantages  

This learning experience has left me with mixed feelings.  On the one hand I feel a sense of achievement in having learnt how to use the CD, having overcome the obstacles to release the much-needed information contained on the disk.  But on the other hand, I also realise how much I don’t understand when using the computer. I feel my computer knowledge is very superficial, a thin membrane that could be broken again the next time a problem arises that is outside my limited experience.

The development of knowledge through trial and error is obviously a well-known method of learning.  The problem I have in using this technique (the only one available to me at the moment) is that the trials are too far apart for me to consolidate any real knowledge, and the errors are so damn difficult for me to overcome without any outside assistance.


It is clear when looking back at my learning log that my limited experience of Information Technology had a profound influence on the speed at which I was able to learn how to use the module CD.  My initial feelings of disorientation, caused by missing the first lecture, and the shock of being informed about the almost compulsory use of computer technology, to complete the module, had the effect of undermining my confidence.  These initial feelings of disorientation were compounded by my ignorance of computer terminology.  I had a great deal of difficulty understanding the messages brought up by the computer.  On reflection I would say that at times I had difficulty with motivation, and to some extent I had to fight a growing resistance towards the learning experience.  These feelings added to my frustration and wasted my time and energy.  It was only by taking a break from the task and rethinking my learning approach that enabled me to overcome these difficulties. The problems I encountered whilst learning to use the module CD can be used to highlight some of the issues surrounding Distance Education.

The development of distance education has opened up opportunities for people who would otherwise be unable to further their education, allowing them to study at their own pace and at a time and place convenient to themselves.  This flexibility is beneficial to many sectors of society, however, there are disadvantages associated with distance education.   Many of the running costs (such as heating, lighting, power and cost of workspace to name a few) are passed on to the student, the student needs to be highly self motivated if deadlines are to be met and there are less opportunities for students to give and receive direct feed back.  The cost implications for the student must be weighed against the cost benefits for the teaching establishment, e.g. the real estate required is reduced, power bills are lower and generally overheads are reduced so there can be an increase in other resources. 

The advancement of educational technology and especially the development of hypertext is having a great influence on the way distance education is evolving.  The Open University, for example, has a long tradition of using text as its main method of teaching, but with the arrival of hypertext, distance tutors are able to use this technology to present their subject materials in different ways. Sections of text, diagrams, illustrations and ‘sound bites’ can all be contained and linked together on a hard drive and be accessed by the student via the internet or from a CD.  The great advantage of this is that an enormous amount of information is available to the student at the touch of a button, from a single location, at a relative low cost.

One of the biggest concerns regarding distance education is that regarding effective communication between tutors and their students. Evans and Nation suggest that distance education ‘embeds instruction by objectives and strives to create texts which avoid any trace of confusion or uncertainty.’ (Evans and Nation 1993).  This would indicate that the development of subject material in distance education could be influenced by the concern that direct student feed back is limited.  If the subject material is too structured it could have the effect of giving less opportunity for the student to reflect, and thus the student is less able to develop independent thinking. One of the key drawbacks of distance education is that the external (and in many ways of unquantifiable value) input of conversation or debate are not available.  The concept of ‘personless’ tutoring is undermined when advice must be sought from a ‘person’ (as the textual help messages are of no value) so that the learning material can be accessed.

It can also be argued that the use of electronic text encourages the student to become more independent in their learning.  The use of hyper links can give the student room to develop their interests, allowing them to decide their own learning sequences.  The flexibility of hypertext allows the student to investigate the answers to questions as they arise and to study at different levels. It is clear that educational technology can encourage the student to develop more independence in their learning.  The danger in this independence is that the student my stray too far from the body of the course, which could be a problem when it comes to assessment.  This highlights the importance of guidelines in the form of learning outcomes and objectives. However, it must be remembered that hypertext is not interactive.  Although it gives the student access to vast amounts of information presented in a very visual way, it is basically an electronic book.  The learning processes the student goes through are no different than when they are using traditional books, except the hyper link buttons may influence the direction of their reading.  It is a possibility that by introducing certain questions and leaning activities into the hypertext it could influence the way students approach learning.

Marton and Saljo suggest that there are two main approaches to learning, ‘surface learning’ and ‘deep learning’.  The surface approach is identified by the learner concentrating on the text itself, this type of learner often tries to memorise the facts and figures within the text, whereas in the deep approach the learner focuses on the message within the text and tries to relate it to experience.  The incorporation of questions and activities in electronic text could stimulate surface level learning rather than deeper learning as my own experience with the module CD would confirm.  My limited experience of computer technology and terminology made it difficult for me to learn how to operate the CD using the normal technique of adapting current knowledge.  When faced with error messages on the screen, I would want to know why I had failed but I was unable to communicate this to the computer. It was only by enlisting the help of someone with a solid understanding of the principles of computer technology that I was able to have my questions answered, but in the end I was reduced to learning a sequence of clicks without really understanding what I was doing.  When trying to apply learning theories to my experience I struggle to identify myself as being either a surface learner or a deep learner.  I feel that I am probably a mixture of both depending on the situation.  This corresponds with Entwistle's findings;

It is possible to accept that there can be both consistency and variability in students’ approaches to learning.  The tendency to adopt a certain approach, or to prefer a certain style of learning, may be a useful way of describing differences between students.  But a more complete explanation would also involve a recognition of the way an individual student’s strategy may vary from task to task.  (Entwistle 1981(taken from Laurillard, Rethinking University Teaching 1993))

My learning experience with the computer can clearly be related to surface learning i.e memorising a sequence rather than understanding the principles.  However, my general approach to learning something new often revolves around feeling I will be able to work it out by relating it to past experience. I would only consider looking in a manual if all else failed.


Looking back on the module I can see that the learning experience referred to in my learning log has left me with mixed feelings. On the one-hand I feel a sense of achievement at having learnt how to gain access to the information on the CD, but on the other hand I realise that this learning experience is just the tip of the iceberg and that my computer knowledge is very superficial. For me the real value of this experience is that the learning log has given me the opportunity to study some of the processes involved in teaching and learning.  It brought home to me many of the negative emotions that are often associated with learning e.g. the fear of failure, the anxiety and the frustration that develops when things aren’t going well.  All these things in themselves become a barrier to learning and they waste a lot of time and effort.  This assignment has also help me to identify the different learning and teaching styles.

It has been worthwhile learning about ‘Teaching and Learning’ from the CD, but I feel that this approach alone is not suitable for me.  I realise that I need face to face interaction with a tutor to give extrinsic feedback.  This became apparent when I realised I needed to enlist the help of someone else to help me overcome my initial difficulties.  The intrinsic feedback associated with electronic text and hyper links some times leaves me feeling disorientated.

My experience of using the module CD led me to reflect on the implications of distance learning and its role in the future.  There is no doubt in my mind that information technology is here to stay and will continue to influence the way we teach and learn.  I remain doubtful that distance learning will ever completely replace face to face teaching but I do feel it will become more influential in higher education as telecommunication systems develop.  Distance learning is already expanding and even some traditional Universities are offering modular based degrees via the internet.  It is easy to see why distance teaching is so appealing, it is very convenient for both teachers and students alike, and it is much easier to administrate as there are no timetable restrictions.  Distance education certainly helps to eradicate inequalities, it is much harder to discriminate against a persons sex, age, race or socio-economic background.  However, there is a risk that by making education more accessible it also becomes devalued.  Will a degree become a prerequisite for school leavers in the future? It is conceivable that two generations from now the majority of higher education could be obtained through the internet or via other distance learning methods. It remains to be seen what kind of effect this will have on society as a whole.  I wonder if society will become more individualistic and insular.

Deschoolers such as Illich and Freire believe that schooling itself is anti educational.  The idea of independent learning through distance education where individuals can choose and control the speed of their education might on the surface fit into their philosophies but on closer inspection this type of education becomes a commodity in itself supporting mass technology.  It should also be borne in mind that the increase in distance learning is not being solely driven by the positive educational benefits.  Other factors such as lack of teacher numbers, particularly in inner city areas, the cost of land upon which to build new teaching establishments and the requirement to standardise syllabi to ensure all students receive the same level of teaching so that examination standards can be maintained and courses in different colleges can be directly compared.

Whatever your point of view, it is worth giving some consideration to the how technology of today is influencing the adults of tomorrow.  Children are developing skills that in the past have been neglected.  The speed of visual, manual and cognitive co-ordination required to play computer games is perhaps developing areas of the brain that have previously remained under developed


John Dewey: Experience and Education. Collier Macmillan Publishers.  London. (1963)

Terry Evans and Daryl Nation, Eds: Critical Reflections On Distance Education.  The Falmer Press. London. (1989)

Terry Evans and Daryl Nation, Eds: Reforming Open and Distance Education.  Kogan Page Limited. London. (1993)

David Harris:  Openness &Closure In Distance Education.  The Falmer Press.  London.  (1987)

Diana Laurillard:  Rethinking University Teaching.  Routledge.  London.  (1993)

T.W. Moore:  Educational Theory: An Introduction.  Routledge & Kegan Paul.  London.  (1974)