Monday, 16 March 2009

H809: End of block 1

This is just a quick post to wrap up the last of block 1 so we can all start afresh for the next part of the course.

I can imagine that everyone has been very busy getting the first assignment in (due today) so things have been a little quieter. In week four, there was some discussion about referencing tools and bibliographic software. It's something I have to keep reminding myself to do - keep track of what I'm reading and where to find it - but I have to admit I don't always stay on top of. But, once you get to grips with the tool you are using, it's one of those things that will actually save you time in the long run and well worth it. The main tools that have come up in the discussions include Refworks, Endnote and Zotero (which is the one I actually use). I did have a go at Endnote but Zotero just seems easier - I love the fact I can add references just straight from my browser, though you do need to be using Firefox to do so). Plus, if you use it in combination with something like Dropbox (suggested in one of the forums) you don't have to worry about only having access to it on one PC. Oh, and Zotero is also free, unlike the other two. In general, while using any of this kind of software does have a bit of a learning curve, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages since they allow you to keep a record of what you've been reading, attach notes about this, create bibliographies in specific styles and avoid having to repeatedly search for the same document. Another link posted on the forum is to a review paper on blended learning, which shows how powerful things like using the keyword function can be (see appendix 1).

The last paper to be read in Block one was "Learning by Collaborating: Convergent Conceptual Change" by Jeremy Roschelle (1992). Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of discussion going on about this one, but it is rather heavy going and in combination with the upcoming TMA1, I suspect people had less time to get into it. Mike Protts did post his own reflections on the paper though, and relates them to "extreme programming". One of my supervisors gave me the paper to read last year, and I remember thinking at the time that it was an incredibly detailed account of a single case. While this obviously imposes limit on the generalisabilty of the claims made, the claims are often supported by referencing other studies, and the paper does provide a really interesting account of the processes that occur when trying to come to a shared understanding about scientific concepts - which are notoriously difficult to get right (see this link from the forums about how it can all go very wrong). I liked how the author discussed the findings in terms of theories of learning including constructivism and situated action. If pairs are learning through convergent conceptual change then it illustrates that collaborative learning can occur without the need for asymmetrical pairs (Vygotsky) and/or without cognitive conflict (Piaget) in order for the participants to achieve mutual understanding. By referring to situated action as well, there is a further emphasis on the context within which the interactions take place, because the environment is seen as an integral part of our cognitive processes. The reference also reminded of when I did my Human Communication and Computing MSc at the University of Bath, where we did an awful lot of talking about how technology can be used to support the process of achieving common ground during collaborative activities.

How does this relate to my current research? I'm not really sure it does to be honest, as even though I may be using a case-study approach I'm not sure I want one this detailed! While learning through collaborating is something I definitely want to keep in mind, I'm not focusing on formal learning of scientific concepts and I'm not sure I'd be comfortable enough to use a discourse analytic approach (in the form of conversational analysis) to analyse co-located game play interactions. But I guess it's an option! At the very least, it's given me something to think about in terms of methods and theories that concern collaborative learning.

So that's it for block one. I hope everyone got their TMAs in ok and that you're all looking forward to block two. It starts this week with a focus on audiences (something Sonja Tack has already been thinking about) and ethics.

No comments: