Welcome to my Research Area

Sharing distance learning skills taught to teacher-producers in BBC School Radio and their relevance to online teaching today.

A personal BBC 100 centenary celebration


Recently published IGI book chapter

Production of the 70-20-10 Webinar
Springer final proof stage

RIKE Research
Research Project

Learning at City Conference 29th June 
Immersive Web Video for Learning Engagement – Post Covid


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Two videos visualise themes of research 

Online Wittgenstein  Self-Editing

Methods of encouraging  student engagement. Scaffolding through self-correcting professional text editing techniques.

Online Bruner Active Learning 

Student engagement using the 45˚ Learning multicam  method and Active Learning area in front of the laptop.

Video: Online Wittgenstein  Self-Editing text correcting  Dur: 2 mins

Video: Online Bruner Active Learning Area Dur: 3 min

These videos (made on an iPad) draw together the experiments and demonstrations in the last two years of the pandemic.
Research into the nature and range of School Radio practical techniques suggests direct relevance to digital blended learning online today. These represent the current state of the evolution and exploration and thinking during Lockdown.

Online Wittgenstein is in daily use with my School of Education dissertation students at Middlesex and will continue at University of Hertfordshire in the Business School. The method is being formally tested in the RIKE Research Project.
Online Bruner Active Learning is used to fast-track the creation of video teaching materials and give live online teaching sessions.
The ironing board is the ‘launchpad’ for demonstrations of experiments in the Research Area. 

An early  paper sets out the core ideas:
45˚ Learning: a guide to organising teaching online in the Covid pandemic.
Written in December 2020 is a summary of the thinking behind the resource materials in this website section, finally published in June 2021. Now available in Work Based Learning e-Journal International

Work Based Learning e-Journal, Vol. 10 No. 1, (2021) Look for ‘Current Issue’. These have been updated taking into account research by Stephen Barclay and interviews with producer colleagues.

The videos in these pages demonstrate BBC education principles of distance learning  – teaching ideas developed with teachers and producers in the 1970s – and earlier, to 2008 when BBC School Radio was officially disbanded.  
The period of education broadcast history was distinctive in that the responsibility of all aspects of audio, visual and print resources were conceived for children by the producer responsible for the series; of course, with the extensive advice, feedback and experience from senior producers, advisors, writers actors studio staff, classroom teachers and children in the classroom. 
A process so thorough, so public to be noted and remembered, because the result was excellence. The system was not a subcontracted commissioning process as today. Personal training for each individual to achieve this level of excellence was in-house, in a collegiate setting. 
These pages are an attempt at capture and share with you the quality we, as teacher/producers, all experienced.

It is only since Covid started in March 2020 that I have thought to look back to 1974 -1996 and take a wider, reflective research into  the madness of 20 years  24/7 commitment to learning by radio for children. 
My task now is to trace the development of Active Learning ideas in the Constructivist period of education development stimulated by Bruner in the late 1960s and 1970s to give wider context to my geography, environment and nature broadcasts as producer of over 600 programmes with publications, photography, books and software. I never realised that my first job as a researcher in1970 at the Bruner inspired Regional Resource Centre Project had such national importance.

The British Library School Radio Project

The Active Learning theme evolved from the British Library School Radio Project.
(See the new Active Learning page that charts the links between Wittgenstein, Bruner, Learning Resource Centres, and BBC Education).

The Project began with the aim to collect and preserve School Radio examples of output.  The brainchild of the late Peter Ward with assistance and the particular enthusiasm of Paul Wilson (Radio curator) and  interest from Steven Barclay*  My contribution to the archive is the video interviews with retired colleagues. These videos are stored here in the Producer Interviews section.  Access is granted to researchers on sending an email to me.
*Barclay, S. (2021). BBC School Broadcasting, Progressivism in Education and Literacy 1957-1979 [PhD, University of Westminster]. London.

By the time I finished all the work in this section in January 2021, I believed I had evidence that everything I learnt in BBC Education Radio is relevant in HE and in online teacher training today today, but not the theoretical background. It is my early personal experience not just about what works in creating distance learning teaching resources but making the resources themselves – all bit confusing. But work in my digital online teaching from home as a tutor at Middlesex University.
It is time to move on to spread the knowledge with any HE lecturer,  online teacher, student teacher, indeed any student wishing to move beyond writing spoken English to write effectively. Because at the heart of Active Learning online is to supercharge the natural teaching skills of spoken English in the classroom, to seriously upgrade writing skills, to talk to one person not many, to use pace, tone and emphasis to bring Bruner methods alive in creative online teaching.
We were just a few dozen or so specialists, but we were specifically using Bruner’s ideas.  Online technology now gives everyone the framework.

But there is one slight problem – Active Learning is a more than ‘engagement using Zoom or Teams’.

  1. The methods of spoken English needed in a radio studio are the key element to be mastered.
  2. They enhance the essential skills  a trainee teacher at college needs to be effective in the classroom.
  3. They are the skills that make Active Learning less effort for lecturers to maintain exciting educational attention with students online.

Lecturers finally learn what ‘engagement’ is about and can become teachers with a full range of  personal attributes, ‘Beyond the Information Given’.
These pages demonstrate why and how to upgrade yourself when everyone thinks online broadcasting is easy.

It is all a matter of “chaîne opératoire” – a methodological tool for analysing the technical processes and the social acts involved in the step-by-step production.

I hope understanding the process and the thinking that leads to excellent online presentation will be a pleasure for teaching staff and a benefit to students.


Dr Mike Howarth    May 2022