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28 SEPTEMBER 2005

ICT-Based Learning Environments: Transmission or Active Exploration?

"The underlying logic of contemporary on–line learning and teaching environments has been informed by a systems approach to design. Despite the considerable effort devoted to their evolution and the focus of this effort on flexible learning, on–line learning and teaching systems appear to be limited to the task of transmitting information. In her essay on the evolution of ICT–based learning environments, Rosa Maria Bottino describes this orientation as, firstly one that sits in opposition to constructivist theories, and secondly one that fails to sufficiently accommodate social interaction and practice contexts within the learning and teaching environments. Bottino goes on to critique the information transmission model of ICT–based learning and teaching systems, and suggests that approaches that privilege learners as active participants should be pursued:

'One of the major forces which has driven change has been the assumption that meanings are lost if learning is simply seen as the transmission of information. Learning is progressively considered as being based on an active exploration and personal construction, rather than on a transmissive model' (Bottino 2004).

In the current milieu of on–line learning and teaching environments, ICT architects appear to be caught in a bind between a requirement to provide generalised system features and a will to embrace contemporary educational strategies. In the light of a systems approach to design, a compromise appears to have been made that privileges administrative robustness and security over (student) agency and engagement. Baltasar Fernandez–Manjon and Pilar Sancho have further described aspects of this problem as one where 'the requirements of a commercial learning environment are too diverse to be provided by a single monolithic system' (Fernandez–Manjon and Sancho 2002). The result is that the ability for students to collaborate and maintain autonomy within such centralised systems has been limited to superficial sharing of data over networks within closed publishing contexts. Without a serious interrogation of the underlying imperatives governing a systems approach to ICT design, learning and teaching within these environments is destined to remain locked in the administrative mode."

(Simon Perkins, 2005)

2). Perkins, Simon C. (2005) "Towards a socio–constructivist approach to learning and teaching within OLT environments". In OLT 2005 Conference, September 2005.

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21 SEPTEMBER 2005

Supporting Flexible Learning Through The Use Of Coalescing Agents

"One way of supporting [flexible learning] could be through the use of coalescing agents, such as RSS Syndication and information folksonomies. RSS Syndication is a publishing method that allows information to be easily distributed on–line. Its main advantage is that unlike traditional publishing methods, RSS Syndication offers the ability for subscribers to integrate content according to their own needs. It also offers an alternative to the traditional producer/consumer relationship of publishing. RSS Syndication allows both producers and consumers to subscribe and syndicate information. In a learning and teaching situation, this ability has the potential to foster informal research networks. Unlike formal group arrangements, networks formed through syndication are able to be formed and dissolved at will. Once a network has lost its relevance, its members are free to form new networks through the simple process of un–subscription and re–subscription. James Farmer at Deakin University has recently discussed the potential of RSS syndication for promoting a semi–latticed interaction model (Farmer 08–06–2005) for Weblog association. Farmer believes that 'the number of potential interrelationships between writer and reader is almost unlimited and drawn from control being centred on the user' (Farmer 08–06–2005). In this way, inter–connected on–line student journals could help to provide shared and autonomous contexts of enquiry within fluid networks of association. Folksonomies also provide a useful technique for promoting the formation of research networks. Folksonomies are complex indexing structures that are able to evolve and change dynamically. Unlike taxonomies, folksonomies are created collectively through the intersection and overlaying of multiple indexes. Folksonomies form through the process of keyword Tagging. Tagging allows users to both organise information and create information aggregates through category assignment. Students organising information in this way are able to make connections between their enquiry and the enquiry of their peers'. They are able to identify varying degrees of relevance to their own enquiry through category groupings and keyword association. In this way a situation called Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) is able to emerge. Students that observe associations between their taxonomies and their peers' are able to contribute to their peers' folksonomies. In so doing they may be able to evolve common research endeavours and research networks. The adaptive ability of these coalescing agents offers significant advantage for learning and teaching situations. Their ability to facilitate dynamic connections can support students forming their own research networks. Their ability to foster LPP can help students evolve informal and loose associations. Through supporting students in their formation and negotiation of research networks, coalescing agents have the potential promote a socio–constructivist approach to learning and teaching".

(Simon Perkins, 2005)

1). Perkins, Simon C. (2005) "Towards a socio–constructivist approach to learning and teaching within OLT environments". In OLT 2005 Conference, September 2005.

20 JANUARY 2004

The Constellations publishing application: associative and dialogic

The Constellations publishing application is an instance of the Constellations Project. It is a structured repository whose organisational approach has been informed by an understanding of Mikhail Bakhtin''s Heteroglossia. In this way the application was an effort to facilitate the publication of user contributions through employing an associative and dialogic method. The Constellations application first went live in December 2003 and now represents the prototype for the post Web 2.0 Folksonomy version 1.0 and Folksonomy version 2.0 web applications.

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