My main research interests are in the learning, technology, and learning technologies in particular.
This is very multidisciplinary work, drawing inspiration and ideas from fields as far apart as computing, education, philosophy, architecture, ecology, complex adaptive systems, network theory, psychology, music and literature. Among the many themes that I have explored over the years are motivation, social navigation, learning technology design, distributed cognition, social learning systems, and technology theory.
Much of my current work revolves around what I currently describe as a co-participation model, that explains and predicts the ways that we learn (and much of what we learn itself) in terms of technology. My definition of ‘technology’ is how we organize stuff to do stuff, which means that pedagogies (methods of teaching) are as much technologies as transistors. Importantly, the stuff we organize includes a lot of other stuff we’ve organized – technologies are assemblies of technologies. In (very) brief, we are not so much users as participants in technologies, sometimes as cogs, sometimes as creators, almost always as a mix of the two (parts of the assembly are soft, parts are hard). We learn together as co-participants in an extraordinarily complex, distributed, technological ecosystem of which we are parts, performers, and users. No one person ever controls all of it, we all contribute to the always unique, never-repeating assembly. This is the subject of my most recent book, How Education Works: Teaching, Technology, and Technique, available from Athabasca University Press as a free-to-read download, or for purchase in electronic and paper book versions. I think my best paper on the core theory so far is Educational technology: what it is and how it works but it doesn’t cover absolutely everything. More can be found in (amongst many others) P-learning’s unwelcome legacy, Smart learning environments and not-so-smart learning environments: a systems view, and Soft is Hard, Hard is Easy: Learning Technologies and Social Media as well as most of the other publications listed below from about 2009 onwards.
What I’ve been researching and thinking about lately
- A coparticipation model of learning technologies (here’s the book)
- Social forms in online learning (book published 2014)
- Joyful assessment
- Open learning, open pedagogies
- Assembly as a design paradigm – tinkering and bricolage as a research methodology
- Adjacent possibilities vs path dependencies
- Technological determinism in pedagogical design
- The nature of control in intentional learning (book published 2007)
- The design of crowd-powered educational systems
- Pedagogies as technologies
- Research methodologies to discover both meaning and proof
- Generative research methodologies
- Motivation in online learning
- Decoupling learning and assessment for educational reform
Selected representative works
2023: The Human Nature of Generative AIs and the Technological Nature of Humanity: Implications for Education – preprint of paper applying my coparticipation model to generative AI, revolving around the observation that generative AIs are the first technologies that embody soft technique.
2023: On being written – a chapter about my writing process drawing on my coparticipation model and extended cognition theory
2022: On the misappropriation of spatial metaphors in online learning – applies my coparticipation model to critique attempts by online technologies to replicate in-person approaches that were designed to solve problems of in-person teaching.
2022: Learning, technology, and technique – paper from CJLT that provides a summary of my coparticipation model of educational technology, based quite heavily on Educational technology: what it is and how it works but shorter and a slightly updated to reflect the final version of the book.
2021: Educational technology: what it is and how it works – paper from AI & Society that summarizes my coparticipation model of educational technology. I’m pleased with this one.
2020: Joyful online assessment: beyond high-stakes testing – paper from Innovate Learning, 2020, setting out principles for assessment design and describing how I tend to do it.
2019: X-literacies: beyond digital literacy – paper from E-Learn 2019, reframing the concept of ‘literacy’ as the hard skills needed to participate in a culture.
2018: Smart learning environments and not-so-smart learning environments: a systems view – paper from Smart Learning Environments on how smartness cannot be found in tools, only in how they are orchestrated.
2016: P-learning’s unwelcome legacy – paper from TD Tecnologie Didattiche on how boundaries determined by physics provide the context for in-person teaching, but make no sense for online learning
2014: Dron & Anderson Teaching Crowds: Learning & Social Media – AU Press (free PDF download, cheap epub and paper versions!). How crowds teach, and how to teach crowds.
2014: Dron & Anderson The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance and New Social Media Literacies – paper from IJLM
2014: Dron & Anderson Agoraphobia and the Modern Learner – paper from JIME
2014: Dron & Anderson Diseñando medios sociales para el aprendizaje – paper from Revista Mexicana de Bachillerato a Distancia
2014: Hartnett, St. George, & Dron. Exploring Motivation in an Online Context: A Case Study – paper from CITE
2013: Dron Soft is Hard, Hard is Easy: Learning Technologies and Social Media – Paper from Form@re
2011: Dron Analogue Literacies – paper from CODE Symposium, 2011
2011: Hartnett, St. George & Dron Being together: factors the unintentionally undermine motivation – paper from JOFDL
2011: Dron Learning Analytics: soft and hard – presentation from LAK online course
2010: Dron Orchestrating soft and hard technologies – presentation for ITEL Winterschool
2009: Dron & Anderson Lost in Information Space: Information retrieval issues in Web 1.5 – paper from JODI
2008: Dron The trouble with tags: an approach to richer tagging for online learning – paper from E-Learn 2008
2007: Dron & Anderson Collectives, Networks and Groups in Social Software for E-Learning – paper from E-Learn 2007
2007: Dron Control and Constraint in E-LEarning: Choosing When to Choose – book
2007: Dron Designing the Undesignable: Social Software and Control – paper from IJETS
2006: Dron On the stupidity of mobs – paper from WBC 2006
2003: Dron The Blog and the Borg: a collective approach to e-learning – paper from E-Learn 2003
2002: Dron Achieving self-organisation in network-based learning environments -PhD thesis
2001: Dron, Boyne, Mitchell Footpaths in the Stuff Swamp – paper from WebNet 2001
2000: Dron, Mitchell, Siviter & Boyne CoFIND – an experiment in n-dimensional collaborative filtering – paper from JNCA