Michael Hannafin, Ph.D.
Director, Learning and Performance Support
Charles H. Wheatley - Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
in Technology-Enhanced Learning
The University of Georgia
Where did you receive your highest
Ph.D., Educational Technology, Arizona State University, 1981.
Could you describe how you got into the field of
I was a school psychologist in suburban Phoenix with a young son,
and was fascinated with how he was drawn to children's television shows
like Sesame Street, Electronic Company, Big
Blue Marble, etc. So I decided to return to school with the idea
of going to work for somebody like Children's Television Workshop producing
How would you describe your research agenda?
I presently study the nature and structures related to learner-centered
open-ended learning environments, including the cognitive processes associated
with their use, the structures of such systems, and the nature of the
tools and resources provided through them.
How did you decide to do research in this area?
I became increasingly interested in this area over time. My own research
roots were very psychologically-rooted and experimental in nature, but
I became increasingly interested in studying learning phenomena that were
more natural. I was always drawn to the individual persistence and strategies
young children use in loosely structured or unstructured activities. I
began to ask questions that focused on better understanding what the children
were attempting to do (and why) and less interested in seeing if I could
cause them to do particular things. So, the movement toward learning in
open systems evolved from a basic interest in trying to better understand
what people do as they attempt to make sense of their world in order that
we might provide systems in which they were the center, and which were
designed based upon the kinds of things individuals do when they seek
What are a few books or papers you have written
that you believe are especially well done or interesting?
Choi, J-I., & Hannafin, M.J. (in press).
Situated cognition and learning environments: Roles, structures, and implications
for design. EducationalTechnology Research and Development.
Hannafin, M.J., Hall, C., Land, S., & Hill,
J. (1994). Learning in open-ended environments: Assumptions, methods,
and implications. Educational Technology, 34(8), 48-55.
Hannafin, M.J. (1992). Emerging technologies, ISD, and learning environments:
Critical perspectives. Educational Technology Research and Development,
Hooper, S., & Hannafin, M.J. (1991). Psychological perspectives on
emerging instructional technologies: A critical analysis. EducationalPsychologist,
What are two or three books or papers by other
people that you found veryprovocative or informative?
Bransford, J.D., Sherwood, R.D., Hasselbring, T.S., Kinzer, C.K.,
& Williams, S.M. (1992). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and
how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition,
education, and multimedia (pp. 115-141). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Brown, J.S., Collins, A.S., & Duguid, P. (1989).
Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher,
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990).
Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition. Educational
Researcher, 19(6),2 -10.
What practical work experience do you have in the
IT field? What has been the relationship between work experience and research?
I have directed R&D labs/centers focusing on the development
of multimedia learning materials. Since my related work experience was
derived since I became a faculty member, the connection between/among
teaching, research, development, and experience has been pretty tight.
Who are two or three people who have had the most
important impact on your career?
Howard Sullivan--as my Ph.D. mentor helped me to prove to myself
that my points of view were not only worth sharing, but that I had a place
in academe as a researcher, teachers, and mentor. John Bransford--for
making perhaps the best connection among research,theory, and development
in the latter-day technology and learning field.
Could you describe one research project that you
found particulary interesting or worthwile? What made it so?
The most significant work I do, I think,
is always the one I'm working on or toward at any point in time. I look
back at some things I've done earlier in my career and can't believe I
was so naive or narrow. Looking ahead, though, it always seems that the
best things are those just beyond my fingertips. Right now, this is in
conceptualizing systems that provide authentic contexts, invite learners
to engage, provide tools and resources that support their efforts, and
generally learn more about how people attempt to make sense of their world.
What do you see as the future of IT?
Bright, but bumpy. We still haven't been too good at making the impact
we need to make in areas such as K-12 schools, and much of what we have
done is still very expensive to everyday families and schools. There's
so much opportunity, but there's also competition. Commercial interests
have defined what is acceptable and expected now in the home market, as
well as in schools, but much of it still lacks any real coherent foundation.
Weneed to better identify where we want to make a difference, and be morestrategic
in pursuing those areas. We've become too happy with simply doing stuff--we've
got to become more focused and driven to define ourplaces and impacts.
What advice do you have for IT researchers who are
just beginning in the field?
Hook up with someone who is active in pursuing the problems/areas
that interest you. Look to learn as an apprentice--not so much to adopt
the point of view of the mentor as to become comfortable and facile with
the many aspects of the process. It's hard to be a good researcher until
you become immersed in something over time, so see if you can connect
with someone who has been immersed in an area and make yourself useful
and helpful to him or her. You'll be far better off for the extra time
and effort it requires to do the work with someone than you'd be attempting
to go it alone initially.
Dr. Hannafin will be joining the faculty of
The University of Georgia, Department of Instructional Technology, in