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  • Centre for Digital Education, Culture and Society

    UCLan Lecture

The Centre for Digital Education, Culture & Society (DECS) is engaged in research projects and publications related to the use of digital technologies and new media in pedagogical contexts as well as more broadly in relation to online cultures and their impact on society through such areas as health and wellbeing as well as politics, youth and community work, literacy studies, special educational needs, the law and social work, to name a few areas of concern. The Centre has existed in various in various forms over the last twenty years since 1998, in German (1998-2002) and Japanese higher education institutions (2002-2009), and was established at the University of Central Lancashire in 2010. Throughout this time it has engaged in funded research projects, publication activity, report writing, and consultancy work in the field.

Digital technologies have been impacting on all aspects of communication for the last two decades. In turn they have started to influence teaching, learning and research across all educational sectors, particularly the way learners, teachers and researchers access, manage and disseminate knowledge. In the wider context digital communication has become an interdisciplinary area of research focusing on many disciplines from psychology to social work, politics and law. Through digital technologies, Web 2.0 applications, immersive environments and the rise of online communities and mobile applications, students who entered education in the first decade of the twenty-first century have grown up with new practices and skills associated with reading, writing and communication with a firm emphasis on creativity and collaboration. This emphasis on creativity is often at odds with the managerialist culture of contemporary education in which learning outcomes and assessment-driven quality assurance processes leave little space for difficult to measure forms of understanding.

The Centre is especially focused on developing critical perspectives on digital pedagogies (critical digital pedagogy) in order to question current practice, deconstructing assumptions that favour testing and assessment over student engagement and creativity, using technology to manage and administer systems rather than promote acts of discovery, quantifying outcomes rather than focusing on learning as a creative process within supportive communities of practice. This work is reflected throughout our funded projects and publications and our seminal book series with Palgrave Macmillan New York on Digital Education and Learning which is nearing its tenth anniversary as a flagship series internationally, as well as our series with Bloomsbury Academic Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching.  We are particularly interested in research on immersive environments, digital games and online communities, to stimulate learner identity and community building across a wide range of groups, particularly those at risk of failure, students who are marginalised by traditional learning approaches, first generation university students, students from disadvantaged groups or areas with low social mobility, students with learning disabilities, health and well-being challenges. We are also interested in the implications of digital technologies and digital communication with respect to social networking, digital families, and digital civics more broadly.

We are currently accepting applications from potential research students for Masters by Research (MRes) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programmes; further information on how to apply. We currently supervise research on a range of topics, including social networking, mobile learning, curriculum and innovation change management, and project- and task-based learning in technology-mediated environments; we have a particularly strong background in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and e-learning research.

We have a growing list of international members engaged in transdisciplinary work and the group acts as a forum for collaboration and the dissemination of expertise, knowledge and research. Please contact us if you wish to join our network.

Part of the Research Theme: Modern Languages, Linguistics and Society

Expertise and subject areas

Group members undertake international collaborative research in the areas of:

  • Computer-assisted language learning
  • Critical digital pedagogy
  • Game-based learning
  • Digital parenting and families
  • Immersive environments
  • Technology in developing contexts
  • Digital technologies and learning
  • Virtual and personal learning environments
  • Digital literacies
  • Digital-games based learning
  • Web 2.0 applications
  • E-learning in development contexts
  • Learning analytics
  • Massive open online courses (MOOCs)
  • ICT in schools, colleges and universities
  • Digital media and young people

Impact

  • Research funding from JISC, HEA, ESRC, DSR, the European Union
  • Work with schools, colleges, charities and SMEs in the digital education field
  • Creation of teaching materials
  • Participate in national and international debates and forums about the role of digital education and learning
  • Coordinate leading book series on digital education and learning with Palgrave Macmillan and Bloomsbury
  • Contribute to national and international research and teacher training projects
  • Convenors of the “Distance Learning & Digital Technologies” LinkedIn Group (ca. 4,000 members)
  • Founded International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments
  • Convenor of over thirty international conferences, symposia and workshops in the field
  • Frequent keynote speakers at international conferences
  • Undertaken invited consultancies and training events with national and international educational institutions
  • Interviewed on digital education by international publications (e.g., Microsoft France, The Guardian).
  • Contribute to the academic press (e.g,. articles in the Times Higher Education Supplement and Guardian Education)

Publications and Outputs

Thomas, Michael, Reinders, Halo and Gelan, Anouk (2017) Social learning analytics in online language learning: Challenges and future directions. In: Faces of English language education: Teachers, learners and pedagogy. Routledge, London and New York. ISBN 9781138201590.

Thomas, Michael (2017) Project-based language learning with technology: Learner collaboration in an EFL classroom in Japan. Routledge Studies in Applied Linguistics . Routledge, London & New York. ISBN 978-0415788281.

Thomas, Michael and Schneider, Christel (2017) Language Learning with Machinima: Video Production in 3D Immersive Environments. In: Teaching English reflectively with technology. IATEFL, Canterbury, UK.

Gasmi, Afef and Thomas, Michael (2016) Academic writing in the flipped EFL classroom: A case study on student engagement in Oman. In: Flipped Instruction Methods and Digital Technologies in the Language Learning Classroom. IGI Global, Hershey, PA, USA, pp. 232-251.

Thomas, Michael (2015) Introduction to Contemporary Task-Based Language Teaching in Asia. Contemporary Linguistics Series . Bloomsbury, London and New York.

Events and News

Symposium on the GUINEVERE Project and Games in 3D Worlds. Virtual Round Table/ Language Web Conference, 27-29 April 2018.

International Conference on Learning Analytics and the VITAL Project, Hasselt University, Belgium, 22 September 2017.

Learning Analytics in Language Learning, University of Central Lancashire, 17 July 2017.

Online Conference on Research into Using Technology for Language Learning, Laureate-Cambridge Online Language Learning Research Network, 6-7 October 2016.

Digital Education and Learning. University of Central Lancashire, 22 June 2016.

The Future of Learning. University of Central Lancashire, 12 May 2015.

Task-Based Language Teaching, University of Central Lancashire 26 June 2014.

HEA Discipline Seminar Series on MOOCs in the Arts and Humanities, 25 April, 2014.

6th International Symposium on Digital Technologies in Foreign Language Learning. Kinki University, Japan & University of Central Lancashire, 31 March, 2014.

2nd International TBLT in Asia. JALT TBLT SIG. Osaka, Japan. 17th-18 May, 2013.

Members

Internal Members

Dr Michael Thomas (Director)

Christel Schneider (Senior Research Assistant)

Silvia Benini (Senior Research Assistant)

Carol Rainbow (Project Officer)

Chris McGuirk

Dr Gavin Sim

Dr Daniel Fitton

External Affiliated Members

Dr Tuncer Can (University of Istanbul)

Dr Irfan Simsek (University of Istanbul)

Dr Letitzia Cinganotto (University of the Line Florence)

Nick Zwart (3DLES)

Heike Philp (LetsTalkOnline)

Prof Hayo Reinders (UNITEC, New Zealand)

Dr Oris Tom-Layer (Igbinedion University, Nigeria)

Dr Ed Dixon, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Dr Mark Peterson, Kyoto University, Japan

Dr Ma Wulin, Sichuan International Studies University, China

Research Students

Mawaheb Khojah

Miguel Angel Saona Vallejos

B. Baetty

Areej Bayousef

Christian Biebl

Naji Alyami

Richard Janosy

Contact Information

Professor Michael Thomas

School of Language and Global Studies
University of Central Lancashire
Preston
PR1 2HE
Lancashire
United Kingdom
Fax: +44 (0)1772-893148
Email: mthomas4@uclan.ac.uk

Related research groupings

  • World Association of Online Learning.
  • Virtual Institute for Research. Cambridge University Press, UK/Laureate, USA.
  • Higher Education Academy.
  • Association of Learning Technology.
  • EuroCALL Virtual Worlds Special Interest Group.

Projects

  • In Tandem (Internet Tandem Exchange) (1998-2000)
  • On Task (Online Computer-Assisted Language Learning) (1998-2002)
  • DIALANG Project (1999-2001)
  • Digital Language Lab (2008-2010)
  • Wireless Ready (2007-2012)
  • Access Permitted: Developing Open Access Journals (2012)
  • Digital Education and Learning (DEAL) (2010-2012)
  • Mobile Learning in Language Education (2012)
  • Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching (2012)
  • Open Educational Resources in Languages (2012-2013)
  • Digital Methodologies in Educational Research (2013)
  • Massive Open Online Courses in the Arts and Humanities (2014)
  • Evaluating the Digital Shift (2012-2014)
  • CAMELOT (2013-2015)
  • VITAL (2015-2017)
  • Developing the Postgraduate Research Student Experience (2017)
  • Developing Postgraduate Research Student Employability (2017)
  • GUINEVERE (2017-2019)