This paper elaborates a methodology for sharing expertise using a design patterns approach. We - learners, teachers, researchers - work in settings where the accelerated progress of technology means that not just learning is changing, but the nature of change itself is changing. The question we explore is how can we effectively respond to developments that occur at such rapid pace.
The first consequence we need to acknowledge is that the division of roles is being blurred. Teachers need to invest in continuous learning, learners can often take the role of teaching, and all are de-facto researchers: exploring and experimenting with new opportunities daily. The second, more complex and perhaps more vital recognition is that we are all learning designers. We design learning environment for ourselves and for others by choosing the tools and their configuration, we design our curriculum, choosing which new skills and practices to acquire and which to defer. We design learning experiences by carefully assembling tasks, tools, activities and social interactions.
These observations call for a renewed attention to learning as a design science. Herbert Simon defined: "everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones" (Simon, 1969, p 129). Hence, design science is, in a nutshell, the science of making a better world. Design science needs a language of its own. A set of "scientific instruments" that include modes of capturing and sharing knowledge, and methods of establishing validity. Mor & Winters have argued that design patterns and pattern languages hold a promise in this respect, and propose a workshop model for participatory development of pattern languages in education (Mor & Winters, 2007; 2008).
The Pattern Language Network project (http://www.patternlanguagenetwork.org) has further developed this methodology, and a set of on-line tools to support it, for pattern-based design research in education. This methodology is being used by communities of practitioners, developers and researchers to capture and share their expertise and examples of good practice as reusable design knowledge. Here, we show the value of this methodology as a way forward in tackling key design issues in teaching and learning supported by Web 2.0 technologies and virtual world spaces.
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