Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software

Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software

Andrew Ravenscroft (London Metropolitan University, UK), Musbah Sagar (London Metropolitan University, UK), Enzian Baur (London Metropolitan University, UK) and Peter Oriogun (American University of Nigeria, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch027
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Abstract

This chapter will present a new approach to designing learning interactions and experiences that reconciles relatively stable learning processes with relatively new digital practices in the context of social software and Web 2.0. It will begin with a brief position on current educational articulations of social software before offering some theoretical pointers and methodological perspectives for research and development in this area. The authors will then explain how an ongoing initiative in advanced learning design has developed notions of “ambient learning design” and “experience design” to address these issues and describe a new methodology for developing digital tools that incorporate these concepts. This approach is exemplified through ongoing work within an initiative in Digital Dialogue Games and the InterLoc tool that realises them. Finally, the implications this work has for future trends in designing for inclusive, highly communicative and engaging learning interactions and practices for the digital age are discussed.
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Abstract

This chapter will present a new approach to designing learning interactions and experiences that reconciles relatively stable learning processes with relatively new digital practices in the context of social software and Web 2.0. It will begin with a brief position on current educational articulations of social software before offering some theoretical pointers and methodological perspectives for research and development in this area. The authors will then explain how an ongoing initiative in advanced learning design has developed notions of “ambient learning design” and “experience design” to address these issues and describe a new methodology for developing digital tools that incorporate these concepts. This approach is exemplified through ongoing work within an initiative in Digital Dialogue Games and the InterLoc tool that realises them. Finally, the implications this work has for future trends in designing for inclusive, highly communicative and engaging learning interactions and practices for the digital age are discussed.

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Introduction

One of the problems with recent educational articulations of social software and Web 2.0 is the misalignment of social practices that are ostensibly oriented towards and motivated by ‘interest’ with those that are oriented towards and motivated by ‘learning’. This has been demonstrated in many ongoing projects, such as those supported by the UK JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), although there is little mature research in this area as yet. Whilst these purposes and the practices they entail are not mutually exclusive, they often involve different processes of meaning making. In learning situations there is usually a defined or identifiable context, that may be organised or emergent, which involves some management, structure or scaffolding. This operates as an ‘interaction narrative’, and is usually required to promote suitable sorts of thinking, collaborative meaning making and content assimilation and generation that corresponds to learning. In other words, whilst specific practices such as personal content creation and expression, communication, media sharing, multimodal dialogue and social networking are relevant to communities of interest and learning, these will usually be orchestrated differently in both. And furthermore, understanding these differences is important if we want to harmonise interest driven informal learning with more formal learning activities, given that all these activities are now increasingly performed within the same digital landscape. So a question we are tackling in this Chapter is: What forms of contextualisation and support are needed with more open and social software to stimulate, catalyse and realise meaning making that corresponds with attested notions of learning through social interaction and dialogue?

Based on substantial previous work emphasising the centrality of dialogue in learning (e.g. Vygotsky, 1978; Mercer, 2000; Ravenscroft, 2001, Wegerif, 2007) and particularly in the context of promoting productive conceptual change (e.g. Hartley, 1998; Ravenscroft and Pilkington, 2000) we hold that a key component in social networking and communication for learning will be the quality, educational efficacy and general value of the dialogue and media-rich interaction between digital interlocutors. Indeed, it may be the case that the degree of learning that occurs with open and social software corresponds to the quality of the multimodal dialogues that are being performed. But how can we design for these inclusive and valuable multimodal learning dialogues? Or more generally: how can we embrace and exploit the opportunities offered by open digital technologies to support contemporary approaches to dialogue, thinking and meaning making in ways that support new and relevant learning practices? When we start to unpack these questions we have to address some additional emphases that characterise contemporary digital practices, such as participation and collaboration, and the production of shared and yet more provisional knowledge representations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

and: provides specifications that can be implemented as digital tools

InterLoc: A ‘state of the art’ Web-technology that implements digital dialogue games for reasoned dialogue, collaborative inquiry and learning

Meaningful Learning: An approach to learning which emphasises the human social and cognitive processes that are in play, such as ‘thinking’, ‘meaning making’, ‘understanding’ and ‘collaborative inquiry’, and articulates the value of knowledge representations in these terms. So this term foregrounds the processes that give rise to the, usually collaborative, development of knowledge and understanding, in contrast to approaches that locate meaning and knowledge ostensibly within media and content

Investigation by Design (IBD): A methodology for investigating and modelling educational dialogue in ways that: identify and examine the dialogue features and processes that are in play

Digital Dialogue Games for Learning: A well attested approach to learning through dialogue that is organised and managed according to computer-mediated social games (such as InterLoc above) that are performed synchronously amongst small groups.

Dialectic: An approach to dialogue which holds that knowledge and understanding develops through ‘rational argument’ and ‘reasoned inquiry’, with an emphasis on the clarification of meaning

Advanced Learning Design: This is an approach to learning design which accepts that contemporary learning is becoming more personalised, social and emergent - rather than the outcome of highly structured and pre-planned institutional practices

Dialogic: An approach to dialogue which holds that knowledge and understanding develops in a dynamic and relational way, through a process that involves the continuous development of descriptions, or re-descriptions, that arise from being able to ‘adopt the perspective of another’ in a dialogue

Ambient Pedagogy: An approach to pedagogy and learning design that foregrounds the experiences that are produced through the realisation of the pedagogy, that is present but ‘behind the scenes’, in a learning situation. So this contrasts with approaches that focus on and externalise the structural complexities of the learning design. Instead, here there is a deliberate effort to render the complexities of learning designs into accessible learning practices that are performed ‘naturally’

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