DESIGNING LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS WITH SOCIAL SOFTWARE FOR THE                              NE(X)T GENERATION –           NE...
added value emerges through the participation of users. In other words, software is not social per se, but rather thisfeat...
definitions, as well as on situated cognition (cf. LAVE / WENGER 1991) and co-operation between learners. Theeducational p...
or use in practice. “Pasteurs Quadrant” where use-inspired basic research or strategic research is conducted, meanswork in...
based on the need to examine learning phenomena, not in laboratories, but in real-life situations and not to stick tosingl...
The following graphical illustration shows the classical research process of the DBR approach applied to the specificcondi...
through different methods (questionnaires, interviews, documentation, open questionnaire items, etc.), formulation ofprobl...
FAHRNER, U. / UNWIN, A. (2007): Adaptive Verfahren zur Analyse und Verbesserung realer Lehr-Lern-Systeme. In     REINMANN,...
WANG, F. / HANNAFIN, M. J. (2003). Importance of design-based research for technology-enhanced learning   environments, Pr...
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Intercultural

  1. 1. DESIGNING LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS WITH SOCIAL SOFTWARE FOR THE NE(X)T GENERATION – NEW PERSPECTIVES AND IMPLICATIONS FOR EFFECTIVE RESEARCH DESIGN FREDERIK G. PFERDT, Research Assistant, Department of Business and Human Resource Education, University of Paderborn, Germany, fpferdt@notes.uni-paderborn.de Abstract In the current discussion about learning with technology, one focus is on new technologies such as Web 2.0 and social software. It is said that these technologies have the potential to offer new solutions for learning and teaching. Research in this field often produces impressive empirical data, but at the same time fails to offer solutions for practical problems and transferable designs for learning. So the question of how research can be conducted to generate practical solutions, as well as to develop new theories, remains. The aim of the paper is to introduce empirical studies about the influence of social software on individuals, and the potential for learning social software based on the current discussion in the research literature. Furthermore, the paper will highlight the main ideas of the educational design of learning with social software, based on the experience of a three-year research project. In addition, two different traditional research paradigms will be analyzed in order to address the following question: how can research on these learning environments be conducted? Finally, the new and unique research approach used by the researchers in this project to study and to design new learning environments with social software will be characterized and applied to the research project, offering a new way to generate theoretical and practical solutions. 1 IntroductionThe information and knowledge society is ubiquitous and requires new ways of dealing with information,communication, and co-operation. A fundamentally different use of new technology is characterized by the keywords“Web 2.0” and “Social Software”.The transfer of content is no longer the main objective. Co-operative development and the exchange and presentation ofknowledge play an increasingly important role. This social software has influenced nearly every area of business orprivate life. Social software applications such as XING (formerly OpenBC), Ning, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook orthe German StudiVZ are famous technologies that offer the possibility to create and present content and to connectpeople from around the world with each other. These new technologies offer areas for intensive discourse, as well as thepotential for feedback and support mechanisms. New technology is identified as an important factor in the socializationprocess of individuals and cannot be considered as something separate. SCHETSCHE (2006), co-editor of the book “Thegoogle society” (jointly with LEHMANN 2005), characterized today’s situation as a digital knowledge revolution (cf.PFERDT 2007a). And the new generation of learners is not only growing up in such a society, they more or less shape it.Generally speaking, the expert commission “education with new technologies” in Germany describes the challenge ofWeb 2.0 or social software for education in the following way. The current development is driven by the universalavailability of the Internet, which is based on broadband network access, and low-cost and powerful mobile devices. Inaddition, easy to use applications allow the production and delivery of content by nearly every single individual. Thisleads to significant changes in usage habits, which are already observable by the younger generation of Internet users.The amount of available content and potential business, co-operation and communication partners are is increasingrapidly. In this sense, Web 2.0 simultaneously drives developments forward and challenges the situation and is asolution to new forms of learning (cf. EXPERTENKOMMISSION 2007, 4 f.). Two main questions will be answered in thispaper by offering innovative solutions. The first question is: How can learning environments be designed using socialsoftware? And the second question is: How can research on the design of social software-based learning environmentsbe conducted to offer practical and theoretical solutions? Both are interesting questions for practitioners and researchersin the field of learning and educational science, especially with the focus on technology-based education. To investigatethese questions, a definition of social software will be offered and, in addition, two perspectives on learning with socialsoftware will be introduced. Based on this, two different research paradigms will be analyzed concerning the search forpractical usage or applied goals, as well as the general understanding of the phenomena. This leads to a new researchmethodology, which will be presented afterwards, and which goes beyond the goals of both approaches bysimultaneously developing a practical solution (learning environment) and generating a new theory. The practicalapplication of this research paradigm in a three-year research project will be discussed finally.1.1 Social SoftwareSocial software can be interpreted as a generic term for simple and flexible Internet applications, which support co-operative sharing and editing of content. Essentially, social software is “social” only in the specific context, and the
  2. 2. added value emerges through the participation of users. In other words, software is not social per se, but rather thisfeature emerges only through co-operative usage of the specific application (cf. SCHMIDT 2006). There are three maincharacteristics of Web 2.0 and social software applications according to SCHMIDT 2006:(1) Content/information management:These are tools for organizing and producing content and information. This is about strategies, routines andexpectations for the selection and reception of information. Digital content can be reviewed differently. Not everythingcan be counted as reliable, expert-generated content.(2) Relationship management:These are tools for sharing knowledge and for networking. This is about strategies, routines and expectations for theconstruction and maintenance of networks. Network-building is a high-profile feature of social software applications.User profiles are no longer merely a spin-off, but they become attractive and searchable content.(3) Identity managementThese are tools for the presentation of profiles on the Web. This is about strategies, routines and expectations forpresenting oneself on the Web. Web 2.0 tries to display the digital identity of each individual. An individual’sprofession, opinions, hobbies, certificates, purchases, and so on become public and serve to generate an identity.Therefore, social software applications are web-based applications, which support information, identity and relationshipmanagement in hypertextual and social networks (cf. SCHMIDT 2006, p. 37, cf. PFERDT 2007b, p. 149).In the context of education, social software offers various opportunities for learning as it allows for interaction betweenindividuals, independent of time and place, as well as providing learners with additional capabilities concerningknowledge creation, interaction, feedback and support mechanisms. ERPENBECK and SAUTER 2007 describe this in theirnew book as a “learning revolution”, which just only has begun! Two perspectives can therefore be identified. Firstly,the usage of social software by learners is omnipresent and secondly, social software offers potential for designinglearning environments. Both perspectives will be characterized shortly.1.2 Social Software and LearnersThe first perspective focuses on the usage of new technologies such as Web 2.0 and social software to argue the extentof the influence of new technologies on learners, and therefore to justify the usage in learning environments.An empirical analysis of various German surveys shows that the usage of new technologies such as social software andWeb 2.0 are aligned with tremendous changes for the socio-cultural world and the individual and collective livingenvironment (life-world) of individuals (cf. KREMER 2008 and JIM-STUDIE 2007) The JIM study for example, offersrepresentative data on the usage of new technologies by young people in Germany (cf. MEDIENPÄDAGOGISCHERFORSCHUNGSVERBUND SÜDWEST / JIM-STUDIE 2007) In summary, the following findings can be stated.In contrast with the nineties, today almost every young person owns a mobile phone. Flat rates and low-cost wirelessbroadband Internet access are available in nearly every household today, allowing completely new forms of contentdistribution. The Internet today cannot be compared to the Internet ten years ago. The JIM study further states that whilethe young people of 1998 were confronted with new information and communication technologies comparatively late intheir childhood, today “Generation @”, “net-generation” or “ne(x)t generation”1 has already grown up in the Internet sage and have been socialized with ICT. Furthermore, media literacy and the meaningful use of the diversity of media ismore than ever a subject of intense discussion in society, school and politics. Concerning the introduced and definedsocial software, a quarter of young Internet users is actively involved in Web 2.0 and they produce their own contentthrough the uploading of pictures, videos, music files or the writing of articles in blogs or newsgroups at least severaltimes a week. Almost every third boy and every fifth girl with Internet experience contributes regularly to Web 2.0, and14 to 17-year-olds are particularly active (cf. MEDIENPÄDAGOGISCHER FORSCHUNGSVERBUND SÜDWEST / JIM-STUDIE2007). A more detailed examination of the study shows that the social software applications are mainly used passively.For example, 78 percent of Internet users searched for an article in the Web 2.0 encyclopedia Wikipedia, but only 4percent have actively posted one, similarly to the video platform “YouTube”, where one in ten young Internet users hasuploaded a video at least once, but three-fifths only use this website passively to watch videos. In “MySpace”, sevenpercent of Internet users between 4 and 19 years have already posted content and social software applications such as“YouTube”, “SchülerVZ” or “Wikipedia” are mentioned by 19 percent of young people (cf. MEDIENPÄDAGOGISCHERFORSCHUNGSVERBUND SÜDWEST / JIM-STUDIE 2007)1.3 Social Software and LearningThe second perspective displays the potential of social software for learning and therefore for designing and creatingeffective learning environments.Educational design parameters based on the constructivist learning paradigm offer a solution to the problem of inertknowledge2 as they focus particularly on the problem-based situation and the orientation towards genuine problem This term refers to a paper by Sabine Seufert and Taiga Brahm, St. Gallen 2007. Inert or tacit knowledge exists when knowledge can be retrievedy a request but learners cannot use it in the specific situation (cf.GRUBER / RENKL / MANDL 1997, p.171)
  3. 3. definitions, as well as on situated cognition (cf. LAVE / WENGER 1991) and co-operation between learners. Theeducational perspective of technology-based learning is particularly characterized by keywords such as situatedcognition, complex problem definitions as objects of study, development of competences, etc. (cf. DILGER / PFERDT2006).The position of constructivist learning theories emphasizes the need to create meaningful learning environments, whichare designed as authentic problem contexts. Learning subjects have to be context-bound, in order to be understood as anactive knowledge structure. The situative anchor of the knowledge is considered to show the learner the meaning andthe active use of knowledge to solve problems or act competently in situations. Social software offers possibilities toachieve learning as it is claimed. For example, YouTube-Videos can act as an anchor in the situated cognition approachor weblogs or wikis can support the co-operative development of texts.“People will begin to ask why learning resources must be organized by hand by a designer before they can be used bystudents. Systems will emerge that allow students to be their own designers. Instead of viewing learning design as somesort of script in which students are actors, following directions, we will begin to see a model where students are players,following no script at all” (DOWNES 2004). Social Software in this understanding supports the learning process as toolsand fosters active knowledge construction through guiding the process. It is no longer learning from technology butlearning with technology (cf. DILGER / PFERDT 2006). The following table, Table 1, summarizes the mentioned changesand possibilities as key trends of social software and Web 2.0 on a technical and educational level and refers to the keyauthors. Table 1: Key trends and issues in Web 2.0, Learning and Teaching 2 Facing Research – Different Approaches at a glanceDiscourses in literature repeatedly show the contrast between two different main research approaches. On one hand,there is a research position which is characterized by the objective of gaining more knowledge, data or understanding ofa subject or field of study, without having a specific application of theory in mind. This research can be identified asbasic research and is often interpreted as testing theoretical hypotheses3 to produce universal theory in an experimentaldesign, and participants are subjects, who are assigned to treatments. Critics argue that the basic research positionproduces theoretical knowledge, but does not apply these findings.On the other hand, applied research is aimed at using knowledge to solve a specific practical purpose or problem.Critics argue that applied research is purely for the development of practical solutions and cannot be characterized asscience or research.These different research paradigms can also be found in the so-called “Pasteurs Quadrant” where STOKES 1997, in hisfamous book defined four categories of research, which are based on the motives that inspired it. He analyzed theresearch positions and named the categories for well-known scientists who fit the paradigm, based on the motivationsthat influenced their research activities. The major three of the four quadrants are: “Bohrs Quadrant” where pure basicresearch is done, which means that the work is inspired by the quest for understanding, but not by potential application See also POPPER 1994, who introduced the principle of falsification for hypothesis testing.
  4. 4. or use in practice. “Pasteurs Quadrant” where use-inspired basic research or strategic research is conducted, meanswork inspired by both the quest for understanding and its potential application or use in practice. “Edisons Quadrant“where pure applied research is done, means the work is inspired by potential application or use in practice but not bythe quest for understanding (cf. STOKES 1997). Consequently, the pure basic research and the pure applied researchpositions can be treated as opposite poles of a research continuum. A major controversy has been taking place for someyears now in the scientific community of vocational education in Germany regarding the value of research. SLOANE2005 as a major representative of research in vocational education, is defending a position which can be viewed as closeto “Pasteur´s Quadrant”, and BECK 2003 represents a position close to “Bohr´s Quadrant”. SLOANE describes thisdiscourse as follows: In vocational education research, there is a contrast between knowledge-oriented basic research onthe one hand and applied educational research on the other (cf. SLOANE 2005, p. 321). Educational research is in anarea of conflict of different expectations (cf. KAHLERT / REINMANN 2007). This area of conflict is displayed by bothextremes of the research continuum: First, new knowledge and theories should be generated based on main researchrules and secondly the knowledge produced should be applied to fields such as schools and colleges and producereasonable, visible and tangible benefits and so contribute to the change of educational practice (cf. KAHLERT /REINMANN 2007).Reviewing the research literature, GIBBONS ET AL. 1994, also introduce a differentiation between research paradigms intheir book “The New Production of Knowledge” by postulating a new kind of knowledge production and labeling it“Mode-2”. In contrast, “Mode-1” is, according to Gibbons and his colleagues, associated with Newton model of sknowledge production and can be described by the following terms: academic, disciplinary, homogeneous, hierarchical,institutional and specialized. This is generally interpreted as science. However, “Mode-2” can be characterized usingthe following terms: application, transdisciplinary, heterogeneous and collaboration. The collaboration betweenresearchers and practitioners in teams is seen as a central issue and is associated with reflexive knowledge production.With regard to vocational education research, SLOANE 2005, 2006 and 2007 also differentiates three types ofeducational research: Distant Research: Principally, this research type considers practice as an object of research. Thisapproach is based on empirical-analytical methods in which practitioners are observed or take part in a survey as well ashumanities research methods, in which practitioners are subject to distanced reflection. The testing of theory is a coregoal in this type of research. Intervening research: This type of research is based on the action research approach, inwhich practice is subject to change and improvement by the researchers, whereas practitioners continue to be an objectof research. Here, the application of theory plays the central role. Responsive research: The research types describedfocuses on different objectives. Distant research aims to improve theory while intervening research aims to changepractice. However, responsive research combines these two objectives. This happens by developing, implementing andevaluating innovative projects. The researcher reflects the evaluation data back to practice and this is the starting pointfor joint reflection.Summarizing the different research paradigms by reviewing the major research literature of learning and educationalscience and vocational education, a dichotomy can be identified. The two poles on the continuum can be brieflysummarized as follows:The one pole can be labeled as basic or pure research according to STOKES, Mode-1 according to GIBBONS and distantresearch according to SLOANE. Comparing the empirical-analytic research, pure research, Mode-1 and distant research,hardly any interventions in practical actions are determined and therefore the objective is not a sustainable change ofpractice. WEBER 1968 argues that in the paradigm of critical rationalism (cf. POPPER 1994), according to theintervention of research on practice, it never can be the purpose of science to determine specified standards and idealsfor developing prescriptions for practice (cf. WEBER 1968, S149). The other pole can be characterized as appliedresearch according to STOKES, Mode-2 according to GIBBONS and intervening research according to SLOANE. Actionresearch aims to change social reality.The major question remains, to seek for a research approach, which offers, on the one hand solutions to problems ofeducational practice and, consequently, provides communicable developed theories, which are context-sensitive, usefulfor educational practice and ultimately increase scientific knowledge on learning and teaching (cf. REINMANN 2005, p.62). Consequently, the question regarding an adequate research paradigm, which combines the two diametricallyopposed poles, will be addressed in the remaining sections of this paper. 3 Design - Based Research (DBR) – a new learning science methodologyIn the 1990s, the concept of design experiments or design-based research was introduced because more and moreresearchers believed that many of the questions could not be adequately addressed by laboratory-based experiments orbasic research (cf. BARAB / SQUIRE 2004). “Design-based research is not so much an approach as it is a series of ap-proaches, with the intent of producing new theories, artifacts, and practices that account for and potentially impactlearning and teaching in naturalistic settings.” (BARAB / SQUIRE 2004, p. 2) The DBR approach (cf. COLLINS 1992,BROWN 1992, DESIGN-BASED-RESEARCH COLLECTIVE 2003, COBB / CONFREY / DISESSA / LEHRER / SCHAUBLE 2003,REINMANN 2005, SLOANE 2006) has a strong analogy to the “responsive evaluation approach” (cf. Sloane 1992) and the“science and practice communication approach” (cf. EULER 1994) which were developed in the 1990s and are based onthe concept of understanding the messiness of real-world practice and co-operatively developing solutions to these real-world problems and generating a theory that characterizes the design in practice (cf. BARAB / SQUIRE 2004). DBR is
  5. 5. based on the need to examine learning phenomena, not in laboratories, but in real-life situations and not to stick tosingle variables as close measurement criteria and to include the design into the scientific process. Ascertained resultsof DBR are (1) contextualized theories of learning and teaching and knowledge about the process of designing theinstructional design (theoretical output) and (2) tangible improvements for educational practice and the deployment ofinnovative potentials in educational practice (practical output) (cf. REINMANN 2005, p. 61). According to DBR, a biasrelated to the two different positions or poles of the research continuum is overcome.Generally speaking, the innovative DBR approach can be characterized as follows: In a natural learning environment,teachers and students are observed, new learning environments, based on theoretical assumptions (theory-driven), aredeveloped and applied, in order to gain theoretical and practical knowledge about these learning environments (cf.BROWN 1992 or REINMANN 2005) An iteratively applied knowledge and development process consisting of learningdesign, implementation, evaluation and re-design, constitutes a circular process. That means, on the basis of theoreticalconsiderations, a learning environment is developed and implemented. This scenario is tested with an empiricalinvestigation consisting of qualitative and quantitative methods. Based on these empirical data, the learningenvironment is gradually optimized and is improved as a whole (cf. FAHRNER / UNWIN 2007 and JOSEPH 2004). Thesuccessive optimizing of the learning environment and the empirical (responsive) review with several iteration steps,leads to profound knowledge for learning science (cf. BELL 2004 and FAHRNER / UNWIN 2007, p. 153). The two phasesof the DBR approach – the research and the development phase – are combined with two different developmenttheories. In the design phase, a deliberate design of the learning environment in terms of a creation act is fulfilled (cf.SCHRAGE 1999). In the re-design phase, an adoption in the sense of the evolutionary principle is made to the conditionsof the real operation. Both development theories can be described as two complementary innovation processes (cf.GASSMANN / ENKEL 2006, FAHRNER/ UNWIN 2007, p. 154).The DESIGN-BASED RESEARCH COLLECTIVE proposes the following five characteristics: “First, the central goals of designing learning environments and developing theories or “prototheories” of learning are intertwined. Second, development and research take place through continuous cycles of design, enactment, analysis, and redesign (cf. COBB, 2001; COLLINS, 1992). Third, research on designs must lead to sharable theories that help communicate relevant implications to practitioners and other educational designers (cf. BROPHY 2002). Fourth, research must account for how designs function in authentic settings. It must not only document success or failure but also focus on interactions that refine our understanding of the learning issues involved. Fifth, the development of such accounts relies on methods that can document and connect processes of enactment to outcomes of interest.” (2003, p. 5).In summary, although showing local gains is an important element of DBR, it can be said, that the focus is onsimultaneously developing a design and generating new educational theory (cf. Barab 2006, p.155). So, importantly,DBR goes beyond just designing and testing particular learning environments (cf. THE DESIGN BASED RESEARCHCOLLECTIVE 2007). The last few years have seen a renewed effort to close the “credibility gap” (LEVIN / O’DONNELL1999) in educational research. Some see this gap as arising from unscientific research approaches, while others point tothe detachment of research from practice (cf. THE DESIGN BASED RESEARCH COLLECTIVE 2007). “Since Brown and sCollin influential works, the paradigm has evolved primarily as a means for studying innovative learning senvironments, often including new educational technologies or other complex approaches, in classroom settings”(SANDOVAL / BELL 2004, p. 200). 4 Design based research in practice – The “KooL” projectTo give an example of a DBR project using the previously mentioned social software to design innovative and effectivelearning environments, I will now briefly introduce and discuss the 3-year design project “KooL” (co-operative (“k” inGerman) learning in web-based learning environments), which is now, in 2008, in its final year. (cf. Kremer 2007)The DBR project “KooL” is part of the BLK (Bund-Länder-Kommission) research program SKOLA (self directed andco-operative learning in vocational education) in Germany. The design, implementation and evaluation and re-designare conducted, not only by the researchers at the Department of Business and Economics Education at the University ofPaderborn, but jointly with teachers at a vocational education school in Rheinbach, Germany. A literature review andexperiences in the development of web-based learning environments in the research project led to the followingresearch question, which is processed theoretically and examined empirically. How can complex learning environmentsbe designed with social software? In this research project, social software like weblogs, wikis and podcasts are used todesign the learning environments in vocational education.Two prototypes of learning environments are developed co-operatively between teachers and researchers. Taking thecomplex research field and the problem context into account, with the help of a differentiated approach and researchmethods, expected outcomes are generated. As expected outcomes, prototypes of learning environments with socialsoftware will be identified in the research project. Aspects concerning the design, implementation, evaluation and re-design of educational concepts for vocational education with innovative social software will be derived. A detaileddescription and analysis of the conditions of the respective learning environment is required and will provide insightsconcerning the usage and the design of learning with social software and thus help others to use social softwareefficiently in vocational education.
  6. 6. The following graphical illustration shows the classical research process of the DBR approach applied to the specificconditions to the research project “KooL” (cf. PFERDT (forthcoming)). Figure 1: Design-Based ResearchThe Design begins with analysis during which researchers review important literature to identify gaps relevant to thedesign as well as to analyze learners and the learning environment. During the design phase, the theoretical andpractical objectives are set, the design framework is determined, and the initial plan used to achieve these goals isformalized (cf. WANG / HANNAFIN 2003). An online questionnaire examining learning behavior in co-operative web-based learning environments with the main emphases on co-operation and social software was used to examine allstudents taking part in this project and a qualitative evaluation by interviewing groups of learners is also applied togenerate data about the learning environments. Furthermore a projective method using open questionnaire items is usedas a qualitative evaluation method to get access to the successful usage of social software as a tool for learningprocesses. Workshops are used to reflect on the empirical results of the research methods applied in the evaluationprocess. In addition, they are also used to present the latest research findings to the teachers in the school. Jointly, thesefindings are applied to the specific school context and the prototypes of the learning environments are improved.Within the framework of the DBR circle as outlined, the phases of problem definition, design, implementationevaluation and re-design are run through. The educational problem definition arises from real-world problems invocational education and is not pre-determined by the researchers, which is a good and necessary starting point so thatthe teachers can identify with this problem and be motivated to implement educational change. Starting from atheoretical point of view, with the potential of social software for the design of learning environments, the teachers andresearchers work co-operatively on designing prototypes for learning environments. So, these learning environmentconcepts are not imposed externally, but are developed by the actors (mostly teachers), according to the need for actionin the vocational education courses. The actors develop, based on these problems, concepts (design phase) and refinethe concepts, and the researchers examine the learning environments designed with the help of empirical qualitative andquantitative research methods, asking not only teachers but also students, as mentioned above. So, during the design andimplementation phases, both the learning environments and research instruments are created and field-tested. Multipleresearch methods are used systematically and purposefully to collect and analyze data both immediately andretrospectively. Throughout analysis, design, development, and implementation, refinements are continually madebased on further literature review and the obtained results using the collected data. Additional iterations through thecycle are conducted and finally, contextual and usable design principles are reported in a variety of formats, such asjournal articles and research reports (cf. WANG / HANNAFIN 2003 and Kool-Zwischenbericht 2006, 2007, Kremer 2007)The use of the social software demanded that firstly, the potential of social software had to be revealed and anadaptation of the social software to the specific conditions of vocational training had to be carried out. It can be statedthat in a first phase a technological hurdle had to be cleared, because social software was hardly known by the teachersand the potential had to be identified by the teachers. The next challenge was to adapt the social software for specificvocational education purposes. Another challenge was to consider social software not as an add-on but as an integralelement of the learning environment (cf. KREMER 2008, p.11).The role of the researchers in this project is not limited to supporting the concept development and testing. They alsohave a particular interest and use the prototype for further exploration of educational research issues (cf. SLOANE 2007,p.14). As part of the DBR process, the following activities are parts of the DBR cycle: collection of baseline conditions
  7. 7. through different methods (questionnaires, interviews, documentation, open questionnaire items, etc.), formulation ofproblems, consulting services, for example workshops about learning theories, design of complex learningenvironments, educational use of social software and so on. Workshops, as mentioned previously, are also used toreflect on survey results, which then serve as an active intervention. 5 Conclusion – Towards a new design of learning scienceConducting good research or science in the sense outlined is more than applying experimental methods or quantitativemethods such as questionnaires. It also involves using theory to inform real-world practice through design and at thesame time this practice comes to inform theory (cf. BARAB 2006).As I have indicated in this paper, social software is becoming an important factor not only for learners, but also fordesigning learning. The task here is not to lose the students’ attention by giving them old-fashioned tasks and out-datedbooks while they are using new technologies at home. We have to consider what students are dealing with in theireveryday lives, and use the potential of these technologies to prepare them for future tasks, on the one hand, andintegrate these technologies into learning environments on the other. The challenge researchers and practitioners arefacing is how to design effective learning environments with social software. The two described research paradigms failto help to find an answer this question because pure research tests and produces empirical data while not intervening inpractice and applied research changes practice while not producing useful theory which can be transferable to differentlearning conditions and contexts. DBR, by grounding itself in the needs, constraints, and interactions of local practice,can provide a lens for understanding how theoretical claims about teaching and learning can be transformed intoeffective learning environments and is an important methodology for understanding how, when, and why educationalinnovations can work in practice (cf. THE DESIGN-BASED RESEARCH COLLECTIVE 2003).I have pointed out that DBR can provide a coherent research paradigm that bridges empirical theoretical research andeducational practice. Two innovative concepts were introduced in this paper. On the one hand, educational designs oflearning environments with social software were conceptualized and, on the other, a research methodology to study thedesign of these concepts to generate theoretical and practical solutions was presented. But one last task remains:disseminating the results!LiteratureBARAB, S. A. (2006): A methodological toolkit for the learning sciences. In SAWYER, K. 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