Luckin R, Puntambekar S, Goodyear P, Granowski B, Underwood J, Winters N (2013) Handbook of Design in Education London: Routledge

516 pages

Hardback: £140.00  Paperback: £70.00

ISBN: 978-0-415-80734-0, 978-0-415-80735-7

In its own introduction the book appears to cover a very wide range. Primarily it offers itself as a synthesis of current research in the field of the design of educational technology environments to support learning.  It then offers the extension of this potentially prescriptive account into a discussion of the theoretical foundations behind the design process, a means of evaluating the impact of the design and potential ways to move forward from that.

So, it is a handbook, a guide to a very practical process, but one that allows the interested reader to consider the deep background that should lie behind the eventual result.  The 43 chapters are divided into sections that match the description above: foundations, design methods, implementation and evaluation.

As suggested by the page count, the list of editors and the number of chapters: it is a large volume, as might be expected from the task set by the editors.  It is international in its range of authors, although sadly there is no biographical section, beyond those of the editorial team.

Any book that recognises the complexity of the field and yet sets out to be a practical guide that explains key approaches and tools, while at the same time presenting the theoretical grounding in a young and rapidly changing field (to paraphrase the introduction)  – is setting itself an extremely high hurdle.

It also present something of a challenge for the reviewer, as the variety of approaches and variation of subject matter contained in this single volume preclude the presentation of anything other than a skim across the surface.

The “Foundations” section, for example, gives the reader an opportunity to consider ideas ranging from the basic idea of the design process, its theoretical foundation, practical application and actual examples. The ”Design Methods”  section extends this, by introducing some details of a variety of approaches, some of which pursue the idea of design-as-research which was introduced in the previous section.  Several chapters explore the idea of involving learners in the design process at a variety of levels, while later chapters introduce the reader to activity theory, seamless learning and auto-ethnography among a longer list of theoretical groundings for the use design within the pedagogical context.

The second half of the book presents a lengthy series of papers describing actual implementations of the design ideas, in a variety of teaching contexts, including a fascinating chapter on the design of an integration of technology into museum learning. It concludes with a series of reflections and accounts that consider the issues surrounding the evaluation of such new technologies and processes. These range from the initially familiar concern about “measuring what matters” to the new (to me) ideas of visualisations, process mining and self-regulated learning engines.

I have to admit to approaching this book with some hesitation. It is a heavy and imposing volume. However, by the end of it I was, to some extent, converted.  I am convinced of this field as one that is worthy of study am persuaded by the editors as to its youth, speed of development and the need for a work that addresses it.  So, for this reader, it has done its job. It is a book that will remain on my study shelf and which will be returned to in the future.

By its nature this is a volume that is beyond all but the very keenest student in the field. However, it is also, by its nature, a book that should be regarded as an essential addition to any library’s education section.  The range of disciplines within education (and the wider world of design I would suggest) who would find this useful as a reference and a source of ideas and thinking at a particular stage in the development of this area of knowledge, is potentially enormous.

Bob Burstow

Senior lecturer in School Effectiveness and Educational Leadership