"For students and lifelong adult learners, we can think of such a permanent home domain as a personal learning environment (PLE). It is not one particular cloud app, rather it is the 'pure web' with a toolset enabling the person/owner of that domain to constantly adapt it to new developments. It grows with the person over time and constantly reflects new 'interior designs' and 'remodeling' as needed. A PLE allows the owner of it to be a true author, contributor, and social interactor with the wider web ecology while still maintaining the stability of a personal home base on the web which is not dependent on the evolving marketing strategies of free portal services...
Unlike the 'exhibition model' digital portfolios, a PLE is much more naturally attuned to the authentic personal and professional needs of the owner. Of course, as in a digital portfolio, we all like to naturally exhibit/display new features. However the passive role of an 'exhibit' is only one of many features of a fluid PLE site. Along with exhibiting this or that project, a PLE might just as likely be hosting a discussion on a particular topic, asking visitors to complete a quick survey, providing a quick 'breaking news' report about storm damage in one neighborhood, contributing a 'how to' screencast video on a recently learned technique…the possibilities are endless!"
"Design research - also known as developmental research or development research - is a research methodology that aims at developing theories, instructional materials and an empirically grounded understanding of 'how the learning works' (Research Advisory Committee, 1996). The main objective of design research is understanding and not explaining (Bruner, 1996). This objective implies different norms of justification than would be the case in comparative empirical research. One important feature of design research is the adaptation of the learning trajectory throughout the research; based on previous experience, the instructional sequences and teaching experiment conditions are adjusted. Therefore, design research is particularly suitable in situations where a full theoretical framework is not yet available and where hypotheses are still to be developed. The methodology of design research is addressed in many recent publications (e.g. van den Akker, 1999; Brown, 1992; Edelson, 2002; Freudenthal, 1991; Gravemeijer, 1993, 1994, 1998; Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2001; Leijnse, 1995; Treffers, 1993). In spite of varying interpretations of the notion of design research, there is agreement on the identification of two key aspects: the cyclic character of design research and the central position of the design of instructional activities. We now address these two issues.
The cyclic character of design research
Design research has a cyclic character: a design research study consists of research cycles in which thought experiments and teaching experiments alternate. We distinguish macro-cycles that concern the global level of the teaching experiments, and micro-cycles that concern the level of subsequent lessons. Gravemeijer argued that the cycles lead to a cumulative effect of small steps, in which teaching experiments provide 'feed-forward' for the next thought experiments and teaching experiments (Gravemeijer, 1993, 1994).
A macro-cycle of design research consists of three phases: the preliminary design phase, the teaching experiment phase, and the phase of retrospective analysis. In the last-mentioned phase, the reflection captures the development of the insights of the researcher. Following Goffree (1986) and Schön (1983), Gravemeijer called this ‘reflection-in-action' (Gravemeijer, 1993, 1994). As a result, new theories, new hypotheses and new instructional activities emerge, that form the feed-forward for the next research cycle that may have a different character, according to new insights and hypotheses. The process of the researcher's thinking should be reported, to ensure the trackability of this development for others (Freudenthal, 1991; Gravemeijer, 1994).
As far as the role of theory in design research is concerned, the term 'theory-guided bricolage' is used (Gravemeijer, 1994). The researcher is like a tinkerer, who tries to combine and integrate global and local theories, which may be issued from other domains, to develop a learning trajectory and a local instruction theory for a specific topic. This local instruction theory contributes to the development of the domain-specific instruction theory.
In our study, three full macro-cycles - indicated as G9-I, G9-II and G10-II - and one intermediate cycle were carried out. The first phase of preliminary design includes two related parts, the development of a hypothetical learning trajectory (HLT) and the design of instructional activities. This phase is followed by the teaching experiment and the retrospective analysis. Fig. 2.1 shows the three full research cycles. Cycle 1 started with a conceptual analysis that is described in Chapter 4. Each of the phases is elaborated on in Sections 2.3 - 2.6, whereas specific information on each of the cycles is presented in 2.7.
The role of design
A second characteristic of design research is the importance of the development of a learning trajectory that is made tangible in instructional activities (Gravemeijer, 1994). The design of instructional activities is more than a necessity for carrying out teaching experiments. The design process forces the researcher to make explicit choices, hypotheses and expectations that otherwise might have remained implicit. The development of the design also indicates how the emphasis within the theoretical development may shift and how the researcher's insights and hypotheses develop. We agree with Edelson, who argued that design of student texts is a meaningful part of the research methodology:
(...) design research explicitly exploits the design process as an opportunity to advance the researchers' understanding of teaching, learning, and educational systems. Design research may still incorporate the same types of outcome-based evaluation that characterize traditional theory testing, however, it recognizes design as an important approach to research in its own right. (Edelson, 2002, p.107)
This is particularly the case when the theoretical framework involved is under construction:
(...) it [the research] started with only a partial theory and has proceeded with the explicit goal of elaborating that theory before attempting any summary evaluation. The lessons that are emerging from this effort are being shaped by the concrete, practical work of design. (Edelson, 2002, p. 112)"
(Paulus Drijvers, Maria Hendrikus, 2003)
Fig.1 David Coghlan & Teresa Brannick (2001).
"Designing through the computer interface leaves little evidence of discovery. The evidence of the evolution of the design solution: the modifications, reconsideration and redesigns that constitute the tacit dimension of the students' learning trajectories are hidden from the tutors. It is as if the students' design is a palimpsest with each design decision being erased to make room for the next."
Percy, C. (2003). "Critical absence versus critical engagement. problematics of the crit in design learning and teaching." Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education 2 (3): 143 - 154.
Fig.1 "Springloaded I", Posted on September 3, 2008 [http://brandnewmedia.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/springloaded-i/]