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Sebastian Fiedler / (Priya Sharma)
Media Pedagogy (Medienpädagogik), University of Augsburg, Germany
Seeding conversational learning environments: Running a course on personal Webpublishing and Weblog authoring
During the winter semester of 2003/2004, we ran for the first time a graduate seminar titled "Personal Webpublishing and Weblogs in the context of learning and knowledge management" in the Media Pedagogy track at the University of Augsburg. In search of an appropriate course model that would not only allow the participants to learn about personal Webpublishing, but to achieve most learning through the intensive use and exploration of its tools and practices, we took inspiration from the "courses as seeds" model, proposed by Fischer, dePaula and Ostwald (2001).
Fischer et al. (2001) proposed that computational tools could be used to build an infrastructure for a more open course model that runs on an evolutionary design rationale. A course would start with a "seed" containing an initial collection of materials, communication and publication tools, and a set of guiding assignments/activities. Participants would be encouraged to feed the course environment with digital artifacts of all kinds (comments, texts, drafts, etc.,) produced in the context of their learning activities. This phase of "evolutionary growth" offers a considerable degree of freedom for individual content creation and publication. The unavoidable incoherence that results after a period of intensive use of such an environment, makes "re-seeding" activities necessary that aim to consolidate, re-organize, amplify, and synthesize what had previously emerged in the context of individual and collective learning activities.
The core design heuristics behind the "courses as seeds" model offer a useful guideline for the design of an effective learning environment on the basis of personal Webpublishing practices and Wegblog authoring. We "seeded" our course with a cluster of simple Weblogs for each participant and the facilitator. To ensure an intensive collective experience of Weblog authoring for the course, we engaged in an "experimental" phase of approximately four weeks, during which the facilitator published small, targeted assignments and required reading items and the participants published their contributions through their personal Weblogs. After a certain baseline activity of writing and publishing had been achieved within the group, the frequency of guided activities was reduced, and we prepared for the second phase of self-organized project work. Participants worked either individually or in small teams on a variety of applied projects. During this "evolutionary growth" phase participants could mostly follow their own pace while they were developing their projects and they produced an increasingly divergent array of materials.
Various re-seeding activities are currently being carried out to consolidate the material that was produced throughout the semester and to feed it back into our evolving course model. The results of the Winter 2003/2004 course are directly linked to the second cycle of the course, starting in April 2004 with a presentation of the completed projects to the new batch of students.
In our paper we will present a detailed description of our evolutionary course model on the basis of personal Webpublishing practices and tools, identify shortcomings and challenges, report on qualitative data obtained through observation, interviews, and analysis, and finally propose areas of further research and development.
last update: Friday, July 23, 2004 at 10:32:58 AM-----------------------