Educational Technology & Interaction Design

I lead the educational technology subgroup at Open Lab, Newcastle University. My aim is to design next generation digital technologies that can help students become better learners, critical thinkers, and citizens. To achieve this, students must be actively engaged in their education; and the strategy that I believe can make this happen is providing them with a curriculum that is relevant to their interests, needs and their future career opportunities. 

My current research focus is exploring the concept of commissioning (as used in community services) in the context of education to help achieve the goals of a community driven curriculum and strong school-community partnership.

Commissioning can only be effective if, in addition to a commissioning platform, there are enough tools to support the creation of more innovative educational resources, tools to feedback into how these resources are being used (to provide grounds for improvement), and more innovative approaches to teaching/engaging students with such content. I am a researcher and an EdTech Entrepreneur and I am working now on putting all these pieces together. 

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Commissioning in education

posted Jun 12, 2016, 4:44 PM by Ahmed Kharrufa

Using the notion of commissioning in education is one of the the main research agendas in our educational technology subgroup. However, commissioning is a very general term that is used in a variety of ways. Below, I will try to explain what I mean when I say commissioning in education and especially as it applies to the general commissioning platform that we are working on.


In the North East as well as in most other regions, there is a wealth of intellectual, social, and physical resources that are under-utilized, and in some cases not utilized at all, despite their great potential to contribute to improving the learning experience and social capital of students. A number of initiatives have been made by individuals or organizations to link schools and businesses, public sector, and nonprofit organizations, for example, but these are done at a small scale requiring a significant amount of coordination. And such initiatives have usually proven to be very successful with benefits to all the partners involved, but due to the amount of coordination effort required, they remain as small initiatives lasting only for a limited period of time. Our goal is to build a platform that can play a major role in building school community partnerships with minimum manual coordination to ensure scalability and sustainability. It is an ambitious goal with many challenged, but that’s what makes it interesting and worthy of being a major research project.


Accordingly, the platform needs to support the following main features:

  • Allow any individual (including students) or organization who has identified a need for a project; human, social, or physical resource; learning resource; or even data/data collection to express their need in the form of a campaign.

  • The platform needs to provide tools and channels to help in promoting such campaigns with the aim of collecting enough endorsements to validate the need and support for any proposal.

  • With enough supporters gathered, the platform must provide the mechanisms to formalize any requirements and, when applicable, to contribute to the preparation/provision of the required resources.This stage will vary largely depending on the proposed idea.

  • Because of the possibility of contributing more resources/options than needed, the platform needs to provide the means to automatically, or manually build usable deliverables (such as project proposals, a curriculum, a learning resource, etc) for the beneficiaries to choose from.


The main roles identified here are those of the idea proposer, supporters, contributors, and users/beneficiaries. Any person/organization can play any of these roles. That is, while a local organization can commission a school to carry out a certain project based learning activity that has an educational benefit, the students/school can commission the community members to contribute resources or collect data needed for some school projects for example. The platform must therefore allow for a reciprocal relationship between the schools and their communities.

The figure below show an example scenario of how the commissioning platform can be used.


We are still in the early stages of this research, but if this is something that you are interested in, please get in touch and I will be happy to explain this further and discuss any potentials for future collaboration on this project.


Recognizing and Evidencing learning and learning behaviours

posted Jun 3, 2016, 12:47 AM by Ahmed Kharrufa   [ updated Jun 5, 2016, 1:21 AM ]

In November 2015 I published a post on LinkedIn on Appreciating the value of skills: Evaluation beyond subject specific knowledge. Now I am leading a team to develop a tool that can help teachers reflect on, recognize and evidence students learning and learning behaviors. This led to the development Group Spinner. Group Spinner helps teachers, and students, identify positive observable behaviors and tag them to inform the creation of a 'radar chart' that can help visualize students development over time. We are still at the early stages of testing it, but initial feedback has been very positive. I will try and post updates the development of this tool and hopefully we can share the tool publicly at some point in the near future. 

Assignments: From passive presentations to engaging digital activities

posted Jun 3, 2016, 12:25 AM by Ahmed Kharrufa   [ updated Jun 5, 2016, 1:22 AM ]

I recently published a post at UKEdChat on the value of providing tools for students to return their assignments as interactive/engaging digital activities (Read the post).

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