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The tensions between expected and actual engagement in digitally–mediated communication and collaborative learning


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  • Not just one tool but configurations of tools – these need to be accounted for along with their associated practices.
  • Sheer time they spend in digital environments has affected their learning patterns. Even suggests that our brains now function differently. They are accomplished at anything that involves digital tools.
  • How do students use digital tools to communicate and work across personal and study boundaries? What kinds of collaborative and communicative practices using digital tools took place in the online special interest groups
  • Showed grounding in setting up the blog an d this shows evidence of collaboration BUT However only 5 comments in al land most of the blog posts were information oriented – this one was unusual
  • Transcript

    • 1. Sue Timmis University of Bristol, UK The tensions between expected and actual engagement in digitally–mediated communication and collaborative learning
    • 2.
      • Assumptions about learners and learning
      • Digital habitats and digital natives
      • Digitally-mediated communications and collaborative work
      • Findings from a recent study of undergraduates working across informal and formal settings
      • Input from you!
    • 3. Engagement Where, when, how and why?
    • 4. TEL and learners
      • What are we assuming about the learner?
      • What we are assuming about the context in which learners will engage with a system, tool or environment?
    • 5. Who are the learners?
      • Common assumptions
        • Learners are system ‘users’
        • Learners are all the same and value free
        • Learners work with the system in isolation
        • Learners are intrinsically motivated and willing to engage/adopt/adapt
        • Young learners are all digital natives
    • 6. Designing for learning
      • Common assumptions
        • Learners will engage with the system as the designer intends
        • People will engage with the system as autonomous agents
        • All computer system configurations are optimal
        • External influences are not the concern of the designer
    • 7. From human factors to human actors (Bannon, 1991)
      • The term ‘user’ positions the learner in relation to the system
      • Actors act with intentionality
      • Learners are not all naïve or inexperienced, complex set of identities, backgrounds and experience
      • Operating within a fabric of interactions with others, part of their everyday lives
      • They have specific goals to fulfil, these are not all the same
    • 8. Digital habitats (Wenger et al, 2009)
      • Technology is now a mediator of life and understanding who we are. 
      • We are operating within a complex landscape of practices within several communities (habitats)
      • “ Learning is the engine of practice and practice is the history of that learning” (Wenger, 1998, p96)
        • Implementation involves…
        • Needs – symbiotic with opportunities
        • Tools – what gets used
        • Practices – how it gets used, what patterns of use become established.
    • 9. Digital natives?
      • Mark Prenksy introduced the term ‘digital native’
        • “ Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach .”
        • “ It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. “
        • “ Native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.” ( Prenksy, 2001, p1)
    • 10. Digital natives?
        • Many such terms – new millennium learners (NMLs), Net Generation, Generation M, Google generation
        • Implications:
          • Technology has changed our cognitive skills and behaviours
          • Education should be designed to fit the natives’ mindset and gaming strategies
          • Educators need to communicate in the language and style of their students
    • 11. Challenging the discourse of the ‘digital native’
      • Students are not a homogenous group (Jones et al, 2010)
      • Presents an autonomous and operational rather than a social and cultural view of literacy (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007)
      • Neuromyths (Howard-Jones, 2007)
      • Digitally-supported accomplishments do not always transfer from informal to formal settings.(Timmis et al, forthcoming)
    • 12. Digital literacy
      • Basic computer skills and competences
        • “ The goal of Digital Literacy is to teach and assess basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.” (Microsoft, 2010)
      • ‘ Reading‘ the digital
        • “ Multimodal ways of making meaning where the written word is increasingly part and parcel of visual, audio, and spatial patterns ” (New London Group, 1996)
    • 13. Digital literacy
      • Critical digital literacy
        • “ This ‘critical technological literacy’ […] makes explicit all the values underlying discursive and communicative acts that are carried out in digital environments and sought to bring the literacies approach out of the writing [..] and place it at the heart of all teaching and learning with technology” (Goodfellow & Lea, 2007 ,p5)
      • Constantly changing practices
        • “ The constantly changing practices through which people make traceable meanings using digital technologies.” (Gillen & Barton, 2010, p9)
    • 14. Communication and collaborative learning
    • 15. Approaches to CSCL research
      • Review of the major themes of work within the CSCL field, studies categorised as either systemic or dialogic . (Arnseth & Ludvigsen, 2006)
      • A systemic research approach is characterised as:-
        • “ [an] attempt to generate models of how specific features of technological systems affect collaboration, reasoning, functions, contents, and structures of discourse” (Arnseth & Ludvigsen, 2006, p. 170)
      • System refers to the technological system - approach takes little account of the institutional and social context.
      • By contrast in dialogic approaches:-
        • “… the focus is on how the meanings and functions of discourse, tools, and knowledge are constituted in social practices” (Arnseth & Ludvigsen, 2006, p. 171)
    • 16. Communication
      • A fundamental part of the human experience and “a collective activity of the first order“ (Clark & Brennan, 1991, p. 128).
      • Communication - not just sending and receiving messages but a social activity, within a community (Wenger, 1998)
    • 17. “… peers do not learn because they are two, but because they perform some activities which trigger specific learning mechanisms.” (Dillenbourg, 1999)
      • Symmetry:
        • “ A situation is termed 'collaborative' if peers are more or less at the same level, can perform the same actions, have a common goal and work together.”( Dillenbourg, 1999, p. 7)
      • Common goals (or objects) and an appropriate division of labour:
        • “ Through the negotiation of goals, agents do not only develop shared goals, but they also become mutually aware of their shared goals ” (Dillenbourg,1999, p. 8),
      • Difference between co-operation and collaboration
        • Co-operation - support every member of the team to attain individual goals. Collaboration - establish common meaning, leads the community towards setting a common goal.
        • The division of labour that may change over time, with a changing structure of the group (Lewis, 1997, p. 212).
    • 18. Common Ground
      • Importance of shared history in developing shared understanding (Crook, 2000)
      • Grounding (Clark & Brennan, 1991) – where participants update their shared understanding on a moment by moment basis
      • Acknowledgements, backchannelling, feedback
      • Constraints on grounding – co-temporality, revisability, co-presence – ‘seeing and hearing what the other sees’
    • 19. Digitally-mediated communication and collaborative work
      • Study of formal and informal practices
      • Campus-based undergraduates – 3 rd years
      • Post 1992 UK university
      • Two groups (2006, 2007) studying Information Systems on 10 credit, optional modules
      • Collaborative research project in online special interest groups (eSIGS)
        • Required to work together to establish group topics and then titles
        • Tight and loose structure
        • Assessment – individual assignment/exam
      • Encouraged to use a variety of digital communication tools – personal and institutional
      • Tools in use - Virtual learning environment, email, blogs, sms texts and voice, instant messaging (Msn and Skype), social networking (a little)
    • 20. Methodology
      • Qualitative study - Partnership research design – student researchers
      • Activity theory framework
      • Two 12 week modules
      • Data collected over time
      • Data collection
        • Students collected personal data (emails, IM,blogs, sms)
        • VLE discussion board data
        • Student-led group interviews at key points in modules
        • Tutor interviews
    • 21. Digitally mediated communications
      • Strong contrast between use of institutional tools (VLE, email) and personal tools (IM, blogs, texts, email)
      • Tools in informal settings chosen because of friendship groups, home circumstances
      • Students reported these digital tools were ‘always on’, embedded in everyday life
      • Frequent instant messaging conversations (MSN and Skype) between peers
        • Long conversations – dropping in and out over many hours, picking up again later - constancy
        • Conversations involve quick exchange of turns - reciprocal
        • Intimate and mutually supportive – the communicative space was private but participants acted as if co-present
    • 22. Examples of IM conversations Conversation between Sean and Lewis, 4 th March 2006, 12:02 :D Sean Lewis 12:03:14 04/03/2006 10 yea you did lol Lewis Sean 12:03:08 04/03/2006 9 yeah I have Sean Lewis 12:03:07 04/03/2006 8 have u read all the info posted on the forum? Lewis Sean 12:03:01 04/03/2006 7 think I added you because of it Sean Lewis 12:03:01 04/03/2006 6 I guessed you were Sean Lewis 12:02:54 04/03/2006 5 cool Sean Lewis 12:02:47 04/03/2006 4 Im Sean from the RFID group Lewis Sean 12:02:42 04/03/2006 3 Hi Sean Lewis 12:02:36 04/03/2006 2 hello Lewis Sean 12:02:29 04/03/2006 1 Message To From Time Date
    • 23. Examples of IM conversations Conversation between Brian & Phil on 16 th March 2007, at 05:42 Activity diagrams are perfect BRIAN PHIL 06:01:38 16/03/2007 14 thats great BRIAN PHIL 06:01:26 16/03/2007 13 yeah, maybe should keep that statement in there PHIL BRIAN 05:59:24 16/03/2007 12 haha, can see someone definatly wasnt BRIAN PHIL 05:58:16 16/03/2007 11 • we are happy BRIAN PHIL 05:58:05 16/03/2007 10 latest version BRIAN PHIL 05:57:10 16/03/2007 8 Phil sends D:ComputingComponent basedIntroduction.doc 05:57:04 16/03/2007 7 You have successfully received C:Documents and SettingspMy DocumentsMy Received FilesTest Cases(1).doc from Brian. 05:56:16 16/03/2007 6 ok check how this is PHIL BRIAN 05:56:11 16/03/2007 5 Brian sends Test Cases.doc 05:55:52 16/03/2007 4 ok BRIAN PHIL 05:43:48 16/03/2007 3 just taking time to update the cases for [unknown student]’s much self-loved basket bean PHIL BRIAN 05:43:24 16/03/2007 2 Need help with anything or are you just about there? BRIAN PHIL 05:42:10 16/03/2007 1 Message To From Time Date
    • 24. Engagement in collaborative work
      • Other communications: emails, blog BUT particularly, the VLE discussion board:
        • Digital tools were asynchronous, lacked co-presence
        • Less dialogic - many questions unanswered
        • Email seen as formal mechanism for tutors
      • Lack of engagement – due to many factors:
        • Confusion between co-operative and collaborative nature of task and division of labour
        • Lack of shared goals – individual assignment
        • No induction – assumed they knew how to use
        • Getting to know who was in your group - constraints of time, institutional rules and modular framework
        • Lack of intimacy, common ground and shared understanding
    • 25. Forum: ITA Piracy Week 6 Discussion Date: Fri Mar 03 2006 11:31 Author: Mark  <> Subject: Suggestions Hi All, How is everyone getting on with ideas for the SIG topic? I propose something along the lines of  “A discussion of the technologies available that digital industries can use to help prevent piracy” From this we can pick out individual topics which will be ideal to put together at the end in preparation for the exam. Any ideas? Do you think mine is a bit off? Forum: ITA Piracy Week 6 Discussion Date: Fri Mar 03 2006 13:12 Author: Lewis < [email_address] > Subject: Re: Suggestions Yes that sounds like a broad area of work. How are we supposed to submit this to Graham [tutor] through the discussion board or via email? Forum: ITA Piracy Week 6 Discussion Date: Fri Mar 03 2006 14:31 Author: Mark  < [email_address] > Subject: Re: Suggestions Hey, I have been asking the same question. I have no idea. waiting for Graham [tutor] to reply. I really dont have a clue. If you would use e-mail would you mind communicating through that for a short while?? I been thinking about doing DRM (Digital Rights Management). Think I will probably go with that. What other ideas does everyone have? Mark VLE conversation between Mark and Lewis, 3 rd March 2006
    • 26. Blog posting: Web 2.0 Sig, 23 February 2007 - Kai at 15:44 Possible Sig topic choice Hi everyone, Will, Ewan and I have recently had a discussion regarding the Sig title that we have to submit to Graham by Tuesday. After considering all the posts and ideas suggested so far we believe the following should allow each individual to focus on something they have suggested: &quot;What opportunities do web 2.0 technologies present to organisations or businesses?&quot; Although the above may seem quite broad we believe Graham will like it as can be &quot;spun&quot; to fit each persons preference, e.g. marketing/advertising/social impacts within organisations/ways to make money/possible business propositions etc What do you guys think? Kai, Will & Ewan 2 comments: a) Seth said... Sounds good to me. 26 February 2007 23:10 b) Dan said... Looks alright to me. 23 February 2007 16:15
    • 27. Variations in transactions, reciprocity and addressivity 58 220 96 87 150 336 Totals 0 16 3 5 15 23 eBusiness Blog posts 5 29 54 0 0 54 Total 4 27 52 0 0 52 eBusiness 1 2 2 0 0 2 IT Audit MSN/ Skype 0 4 4 0 1 5 IT Audit Texts 2 12 10 2 1 13 Total 1 7 8 0 0 8 eBusiness 1 5 2 2 1 5 IT Audit Email 51 159 25 80 133 238 Total 32 122 18 46 101 165 eBusiness 19 37 7 34 32 73 IT Audit VLE Hanging questions Sign off Name ALL No-one Transactions Module Tool Addressed to:
    • 28. Ali: Ah ha ha I haven’t even had that (pause) I don’t even know who’s in my group, they’ve just pure ignored me. It’s been harsh (laughter) Ali: Ignore… I sent emails, put the stuff on (…) Eddie: Yeah, from BigCityonline - all I’ve used that for, the discussion board, is just basically posting stuff I find – not really communicating back and forth. (…) Mark: At the beginning of the sig, err I think there was an attempt made to discuss on our (pause) discuss y’know with our group members. But umm I don’t know if maybe I just speak for myself but I think most people find it really boring, y’know the uni stuff, the BigCityonline etc. Um so easier communication methods like, text messaging? (laughter) or messenger or whatever. Beth: Yeah but would you really want to text - like a load of random people in your sig you don’t know? (Ali, Bill ,Eddie, Mark and Beth, IT Audit, 23/3/06
    • 29. Harry: (quiet laughter throughout) As I said earlier – my group never discussed anything. Even the title was never discussed. A couple people posted links to stuff they were interested in, some people said that they were slightly interested in that and then the discussion died. Phil: Yeah that’s what happened with ours apart from me, you (looking at Lawrence) and Chris eventually deciding on one. Lawrence: oh yeah. Simon: yeah with our title, there wasn’t too much collaboration it was literally a couple of us putting a couple of points in and one person said “right we’ll do this” and emailed Graham. There was no... Most of the group didn’t put their points forward so there was no real collaboration. (Harry, Phil Lawrence and Simon, e-Business, 16/3/07, p15 -16)
    • 30. Conclusions
      • Wenger (2009)‘Fabric of connectivity’ – together and apart – expectations, habitats are different
      • ‘ Digital natives’ who lacked digital literacy
      • Engagement contingent on:
        • Design of the task - co-operative or collaborative? Individual or shared goals?
        • Assumptions made about the learners
        • How the digital tool fits within the ‘fabric of connectivity’
        • Levels of mutuality and common ground amongst group
        • Institutional rules, teaching allocations, timetabling
      • In TEL research - we need to reconnect with the learner, their experiences and practices
    • 31. References
      • Arnseth, H.C & Ludvigsen, S. (2006) Approaching institutional contexts: systemic versus dialogic research in CSCL . International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Volume 1, Number 2 / June, 2006 DOI10.1007/s11412-006-8874-3
      • Bannon, L.J (1991)From Human Factors to Human Actors: The Role of Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction Studies in Systems Design. in Greenbaum, J. & Kyng,M. (Eds.) (1991) Design at work.: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 25-44
      • Clark, H. H., & Brennan, S. E. (1991). Grounding in Communication. In L. B. L. Resnick, J. M.; Teasley, J. S. D., (Ed.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition (pp. 127-149). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
      • Crook, C.K. (2000) Motivation and the ecology of collaborative learning. In R. Joiner, K. Littleton, D. Faulkner, and D. Miell (Eds.) Rethinking collaborative learning. London: Free Association Press. 161-178
    • 32. References
      • Dillenbourg, P. (1999). What do you mean by 'collaborative learning'? In P. Dillenbourg (Ed.), Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches (pp. 1-19). Oxford: Elsevier.
      • Frand, J. (2000). The Information Age Mindset: Changes in students and implications for higher education. Educause Review, September/October 2000, 15 - 24.
      • Gillen, J ( Barton D. (2010) Digital literacies. A Research Briefing. TLRP.
      • Goodfellow R & Lea , M (2007) Challenging e-Learning in the University: A literacies perspective. SRHE/OUP, Maidenhead
      • Howard-Jones, PJ. (2007)Neurosce: London ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Progamme. Neuroscience and education: Issues and opportunities.
      • Jones, C; Ramanau, R; Cross, S and Healing, G (2010). Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers and Education , 54(3), pp. 722–732.
    • 33. References
      • London Group (1996) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review. Volume 66 Number 1 at:
      • Microsoft (2010) Digital literacy.
      • Prenksy, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants On the Horizon , 9(5), 1 - 6
      • Selwyn, N. (2007). The use of computer technology in university teaching and learning: a critical perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23 (2), 83 - 94.
      • Timmis, S., Joubert, M., Manuel, A. & Barnes, S. (Sept 2010 forthcoming) Transmission, transformation and ritual: an investigation of students’ and researchers’ digitally mediated communications and collaborative work. Learning Media & Technology .
      • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
      • Wenger, E., Smith, N & Smith, J.D. (2009) Digital Habitats:Technology stewarding for communities.Portland Cpsquare.