Central findings

Through developing designs and pedagogical models that are relevant for education we see how learners orient themselves towards the learning object. This cannot be measured through effect studies alone. Our response to the call for developing future models for education has brought about the following findings:

  • Working in web 2.0 environments where collective production is vital brings about an epistemological shift; from individual ownership to a collectively produced and mutually developed and sustained product. This shift seems quite dramatic for the partcipants involved and also for the educational institutions that have traditionally cultivated individual production.
  • New cultural tools or artifacts (such as wikis) afford a potential for transforming the social organization of knowledge production as well as the knowledge production processes themselves. This situation represents new challenges for learners and (in particular) for teachers.
  • Based on the two previous findings we found that we needed a model for unfolding, diverse collaborative learning activities with a focus on knowledge advancement. Included are relationships between task design and wiki design, articulated in terms of interaction and communication design principles (cf. book chapter "Joint designs for working in wikis").
  • Working in wikis cannot be described as working in a community of practices; we see new constellations of constantly reconfigured and netweorked collective entities.
  • Wiki practices are not intsitutionalized until there is an institutional demand for them. there is a risk of emeriging practices being restricted to early adopters.
  • Teachers see the benefits of working in wikis, but opportunities are not aligned with their current institutional accountability.
  • We found extensive learner production in the wiki but revisions need to be triggered, comments are easier to add than actually changing texts.
  • Aligning local production (individual, pair) with global production (the aggregated and emerging wiki product) is an extremely taxing effort. Learners need social as well as technological support in order to bridge local and global awareness.
  • We find that new activity types demand new types of tasks and assessment criteria.

In the following we elaborate on some of the above issues with regard to future models for education.

Teachers' everyday work

Teachers struggle with giving shape to the wiki activity and at the same time having to commit to persistent monitoring and assessment of the individual learners in their class. Teachers describe this as "losing" learners online. When working on computers learners "disappear into separate worlds" where they cannot be traced individually and where their products are difficult to assess. In other words, traversing the boundary between the physically co-located classroom and online, distributed activities represents new major challenge for teachers today.

Traditionally teachers model how to conduct school subjects when they lecture and ask questions in whole class settings. However, when the amount of time that students spend in computer environments increases and the teacher is not present in these environments this becomes a problem. In the TWEAK project teachers have experienced positive results from direct participation in the wiki. Their participation has sustained the time that students work and have modelled ways of "talking and doing a subject" in an online environment. At the same time, teachers stress how difficult it is to change work habits in the everyday flow of activities. Hence, establishing and sustaining new work formats is a major challenge. 

Tasks and pupils' repertoire

By following pupils activities over time we find that in general pupils first look into Wikipedia in order to access and assess already existing material. These forays seem to provide an overview of the task topic. More or less in parallel, learners also use Google. These searches differ from the Wikipedia approach in the sense that they are more exploratory and relied more on serendipity and randomly constructed searches. Whether from Wikipedia or Google hits learners gradually starts copying material found either relevant or with potential for later use and pasted it into separate Word pages which they use as some sort of temporary storage for information in flux. Learners sometimes refer to this as word document as a 'scrapbook'. The scrapbook is an indication of how learners responded to a task by taking a cultural tool mainly intended for writing and turning it into a repository for ideas.

Our analysis shows that tasks are approached, negotiated and solved locally on an individual or small group level. At the same time we have seen instances where learners through appropriation of tasks that demands collective contributions as well as a series of tools become more response towards the relationship between their own contribution and that of the larger collective as represented in the wiki. As a result we see a need to align task design with the development of technological features that boost agents' awareness of the different levels of collectivity that are involved in joint knowledge construction so that such practices can be integrated in the repertoire of schooling.

Project collaboration

It is central to note that in terms of design and research work we, as researchers, could not have re-designed the wiki without constant immersion in classroom practices. This movement between activity systems have prevented fragmentation of interest as well as self-serving "groupthink". Teachers and researchers have brought specific concerns, interest, and skills into the TWEAK project. For teachers, it is vital that the everyday of teaching works. Instrumental mastery of the technological features and enactment of wiki-inspired tasks and activities that proved conducive to learning the school subjects in question remains therefore essential. For researchers, developing a conceptual understanding of co-design for knowledge advancement and operationalizing it in programming (and web design) have proved to be a strong driving force.

Published May 30, 2013 1:58 PM - Last modified June 28, 2013 2:40 PM