Graffiti – abundant content for lifelong learning. Lessons from Anderson, Banksy, and Weller.

Leigh and Sue’s reflection, Activity 5.
(Photos used with permission.)

The history of graffiti stretches all the way back to the days when humans lived in caves. People are constantly making meaning in our everyday lives. Graffiti is often perceived simply as a form of vandalism rather than art or a form of communication about social issues. In choosing this topic, we wanted to provide information that sheds light on the purpose of graffiti, its artists, and possibly, address the stigma associated with it. There is an enormous amount of information available about graffiti, however, the overall interpretation tends to be biased, presenting graffiti in a negative connotation, even as a criminal act, while ignoring the underlying process of communication (Alonso, 1998). Graffiti’s strong association with hip-hop culture in the later part of the 20th century influenced part of this lack of mainstream acceptance  or negative connotations (Thompson, 2009, p. 9).

So. What can graffiti teach us? Basquiat, Haring, and Banksy began their careers ‘writing’ or ‘tagging’ New York City subway cars in the 70s and 80s. The social commentary that graffiti artists, such as Banksy and other engage in, illustrates the power that graffiti as a source of communication that provides a platform for those whose voices could remain unheard is powerful. Questions and debates about graffiti as art or vandalism continue to colour public spaces (Baird & Taylor, 2010; Thompson, 2009). In any event, graffiti and ‘street art’ are free, open, and accessible. Weller and Anderson try to help us as educators make sense of the learning theories and pedagogy to manage and negotiate the open spaces that create at pedagogy of abundance. Banksy is all about accessible art that is open and belongs to the people. Banksy’s picture of “Girl with Balloon”, auctioned by Sothebys for 1.4 million dollars, was  promptly shredded before the horrified eyes of all present at the exclusive art auction. Banksy had a built-in shredder to destroy his work as a statement of taking back control of his street art, where the artist is a medium for the voices of marginalized communities. As Banksy states, “This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count”(Ellsworth-Jones, 2013, para. 3).

In exploring graffiti, the abundance of information on the Internet made learning about the topic very accessible. Even overwhelming. As a team of two, we decided before we started our  research that we would stay focused on three subtopics: history, culture, and graffiti as a form of communication and education. Weller states that educators “firstly [need to decide] how they can best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do we best equip learners to make use of it?”(Weller, 2011). Anderson (2016) agree that the second challenge, is the most pressing and central to theories for learning and for teaching in the digital era. Anderson posits that “as important as scaling content is the power of effective search and retrieval methods” (2016, p.41).

Lessons from Weller (2011) and Anderson (2016) armed us with strategies to negotiate the wealth of information on graffiti and to contemplate how we would best equip learners to make use of the information on the topic. Graffiti, like technology, is everywhere and a powerful communication and learning tool. According to Banksy, “As soon as I cut my first stencil I could feel the power there. I also like the political edge. All graffiti is low-level dissent, but stencils have an extra history. They’ve been used to start revolutions and to stop wars” (Ellsworth-Jones, 2013, para. 5). With such power, comes responsibility, which leads to discussion on the objectivity and reliability of sources. This is something that is pertinent to educators and learners alike: how do we discern what we are reading on the Internet, as we research any given topic, is reliable? “Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet this challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance”(Weller, 2011).


Alonso, A. (1998). Urban scribblings on the city landscape. Retrieved from

Anderson, T. (2016). Chapter 3: Theories for Learning with Emerging Technologies. In Veletsianos, G. (Ed). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. Retrieved from

Baird, J., & Taylor, C. (Eds.). (2010). Ancient graffiti in context. Retrieved from

Banksy (nd). Girl with balloon [digital image]. Retrieved from

Banky (nd). Extinction and rebellion [digital image]. Retrieved from

Ellsworth-Jones, W. (2013). The Story Behind Banksy. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249, pp. 223-236. Retrieved from


Learner-Centric Design

In a lot of my work as an instructional designer I have naturally been drawn to using a layered approach. By layered, I mean that I layer the different levels of a particular topic by starting with something that is simple and building up to more complex exploration until the topic, or task has been explored. Through reading Merrill’s article, I discovered that the layered approach I use is similar to the “problem progression” he describes (2002, p. 46). He provides several examples, including Reigeluth’s “elaboration theory”, which prompted me to do some research. I found David’s (2014) description as, “…an instructional design theory that argues that content to be learned should be organized from simple to complex order, while providing a meaningful context in which subsequent ideas can be integrated” (para. 1). aligned with my ‘layered’ approach

I also use another approach that I describe as a theoretical/application methodology. For instance, at the organization I work at currently, the curriculum would include educating the learner on what a pension is (theoretical) and then explore the various pension options a member could select (application).

Combining the layered approach with regards to complexity, in conjunction with the theoretical /application methodology enables the learner to learn what a topic is about or what the task is as the theoretical component, and then applying the theory in the application component. This approach is usually supported in my work because learners are able to practice in a test environment that duplicates the production (real) environment. The gives learners the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without risk.

Building on my observations and the ideas explored in both articles it was clear to me that Merrill (2002) resonated the most with my work. In particular I learned about the idea of showing learners the completed task, first (p. 46). As David (2014) describes, “It values a sequence of instruction that is as holistic as possible, to foster meaning-making and motivation” (para.3). I think this idea has tremendous possibilities if the learner is a ‘big picture’ thinker like myself. The question would then be if I can design curriculum that provides big picture thinkers with what they need, while also providing more detailed thinkers what THEY need. Could I design curriculum that is truly learner-centric, offering learners options so they can choose what appeals to them?

It’s a very intriguing idea because learner-centric learning starts with identifying your audience needs first. And then, designing curriculum that effectively uses instructional theories and models that address the learning objectives. In my experience, there’s been a lot of ‘talk’ about learner-centric curriculum for some time. However, the final result is typically driven by other factors, such as organizational goals/strategy, budget constraints, project deliverables and so on, rather than meeting the needs of learners. Instead, learner-centric curriculum should not only put the needs of learners as the foundation of its design, but also be adaptable to learner’s needs as well as organizational objectives as they evolve over time and various iterations.


David, L. (2014). Learning Theories. Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth). Retrieved from

Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.


An understated powerhouse of a person…in 249 words!

As is typical of my serendipitous encounters, through a combination of following my head, my heart, my intuition, and luck. I was led to: Anne-Marie Scott.

I’ll be honest in that I only just ‘met’ Anne-Marie yesterday so I’m still getting to know her. But what I’ve discovered thus far has me fascinated. A self described edtech lady leader and follower of #femedtech who works as the Deputy Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh (UofE), Anne-Marie is closely involved in all things ed tech, as well as marginalized communities. She’s one of the leadership team for Girl Geek Scotland and also a Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). She offers access to her CMALT portfolio and I can hardly wait!

You’ve likely heard that phrase: “an open book” and that’s what first struck me about Anne-Marie’s online presence. What you see is what you get, and she’s VERY open to freely sharing her ideas, data and her expertise. For example, here’s a blog post about her WordPress site, helpful for those like me, who are new to the software.

Through Twitter, her blog, the UofE blog and Instagram, Anne-Marie’s work is refreshingly honest, informed, diverse, inclusive, and cheeky. There’s clearly a lot I can learn from someone like her and I’m looking forward to it!

For more, here’s a studio visit (3:06-47:15) where she discusses the Internet and, her other, numerous interests with a group of students. Great food for thought!


Scott, A.-M. (n.d). [Twitter moment]. Retrieved from

Scott, A.-M. (April 28, 2019). Setting up my own WordPress site – what was I thinking? [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Networked Narratives. (February, 12, 2019). Studio Visit with Anne-Marie Scott. Retrieved from–rkw

The ed tech ‘race’

Although both Reiser and Weller discuss the history of ed tech in their articles, as Reiser’s was written in 2001 it lacks the relevance of Weller’s written in 2018 because the impact of the intervening seventeen years is of course, substantial. Specifically, when Reiser wrote the article in 2001 eLearning was just being introduced and the subsequent use of learning management systems (LMSs) had not even begun. As a result, a comparison of Reiser’s and Weller’s articles isn’t truly possible in my opinion because the evolution of ed tech between the 2001 and 2018 has been substantial. That said, Weller’s article does explore the history of ed tech comprehensively, however, I believe both articles fail to account for an important factor when considering ed tech in instructional design. And that is the cumulative experience that each learner brings to the learning environment, both personally and professionally.

Reiser and Weller observe ed tech’s primary success, or lack thereof, based on the technology itself, and how it functions etc., rather than whether or not the learning was achieved. Additionally, how technology outside of the learning environment is experienced by the learner is not considered. And this is the primary lesson I believe we can learn from the past because learners in today’s world are using, and being influenced by technology in their everyday lives. Regardless of whether or not a particular technology is used in the design of a course or program, it cannot be denied that learners bring their expectations into the classroom, so their experience using technology should not be overlooked.

In my work as an instructional designer I must consider the body of knowledge that learners have, particularly as I design for adult learners in a corporate setting. Therefore, in the analysis stage of design, I need to determine what level of technology is required to best suit the learning objectives as well as the needs of my audience. As Weller (2018) states “Integrating into the mainstream the participatory culture that web 2.0 brought to the fore remains both a challenge and an opportunity…” (p. 40). Weller specifies “higher education” however, this is an approach that I believe is suitable for any setting with adult learners and it is a crucial component in my work.

Although I agree with Weller, I would argue that Weiser’s prediction of the impact of media on the changes in instructional practices “…are likely to come about more slowly and be less extensive than most media enthusiasts currently predict” (2001, p. 62) is incorrect. Based on my observations, the opposite is true. Instead the impact of ed tech has resulted in an increasing reliance on external eLearning courses populating our LMS at the expense of in-house expertise from subject matter experts and instructional designers. The danger I see is an increasing reliance on external providers who are viewed as the experts and whose course offerings often do not always meet the needs of the organization.  Although there are a number of factors, one of the main ones is the speed at which organizations feel compelled to implement ed tech. As a result, there’s a need to slow down and truly analyze the needs of the organization and its learners, to successfully identify technologies that meet those needs rather than adopting the newest technologies in the race to keep up.


Reiser, R. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part 1: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(1), pp. 53-64. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2018). Twenty years of ed tech. Educause Review Online, 53(4), pp. 34-48. Retrieved from

The history of ed tech is…the future!

As noted in the assignment, we were asked to research the topic before reading the unit readings, which I thought was an interesting way to explore a subject that I thought I knew quite a lot about. I was surprised to learn that there was an invention called an epidiascope, which I had never heard of! According to Parkin’s article it was used in classrooms as the first projector (2019, para. 16). The article doesn’t give dates, but I was interested enough to find out more. I learned that it was used in the early years of the 20th century. (“What is an epidiascope?”, n.d., para. 1)  The epidiascope was used to display a transparent, or opaque image through the illumination of a large lamp, which used mirrors to reflect the image onto a wall, or a screen. It sounds a bit ethereal, but if you look at the picture below, it looked more like a cross between a camera and a rather ugly, wood burning stove.

After getting over my unexpected fascination with the epidiascope, I then discovered this short video which manages to capture some of the technological highlights while also illustrating how much education has evolved. The video is a concise snapshot of the remarkable leaps that have been made in educational technology and ends with the statement, “This is just the beginning” (Scott-Bellow, 2009, 1:20). I think most of us would agree that the upcoming possibilities of ed tech are numerous and exciting.

As exciting as the future may look, it became apparent to me during my research that the beginning of ed tech did not ‘start’ on a specific date because there were a lot of differing opinions on that subject. That said, the general direction that emerged is that there will be many new technologies that will be available. Additionally, there seemed to be general agreement that ed tech should not be about the newest, fanciest tool, rather it should focus on the effectiveness of the learning. And if that is the future ‘take’ on education, I AM IN!


Parkin, T. (2019). A personal history of educational technology – one teacher’s view on the 20 items that changed life in the classroom over the last 50 years [Blog post]. Retrieved from

What is an epidiascope? (n.d.) Retrieved from

Scott-Bellow, A. (2009). A brief history of technology in education [Video file]. Retrieved from