Termites in the Schoolhouse

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Published on November 24, 2007

Author: JJMiller

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Termites in the Schoolhouse: Stigmergy and Transactional Distance in an E-learning Environment:  Termites in the Schoolhouse: Stigmergy and Transactional Distance in an E-learning Environment Jon Dron jon.dron@brighton.ac.uk CMIS, University of Brighton ED-MEDIA, Lugano, 2004 An interesting feature of e-learning:  An interesting feature of e-learning persistence Definitions: Moore on structure & dialogue:  Definitions: Moore on structure & dialogue Structure a measure of an educational programme’s responsiveness to a learner’s needs – the greater the structure, the less the responsiveness. (actually, Moore seems to mean sequence) Dialogue the extent to which a learner and educator are able to respond to each other. May be mediated Definitions: Transactional distance:  Definitions: Transactional distance It is not physical distance that matters Transactional distance is measured on a continuum between structure and dialogue Moore’s (actually, Saba’s) law of transactional distance:  Moore’s (actually, Saba’s) law of transactional distance Dialogue vs. Structure In an educational transaction, as structure increases, dialogue decreases and vice versa The greater the structure, the greater the transactional distance structure dialogue Learning environments:  Learning environments “We shape our dwellings and afterwards our dwellings shape our lives” (Churchill) BUT…who shapes our dwellings? stigmergy:  stigmergy Signs that do work Stigmergy and transactional distance:  Stigmergy and transactional distance In stigmergy communication is through signs left in the environment Signs left in the environment provide structure Ergo: structure arises from dialogue The big point:  The big point To some extent, structure of a sort can arise through dialogue of a sort The big issue So what? Is this really dialogue? Can this structure be educationally useful? Collective e-learning:  Collective e-learning CoFIND Dwellings (née Epimethea) EDUCO Jasper SEO Google ChatCircles CoFIND:  CoFIND Topics organised into topic groups Topics and topic groups in competition with each other Anyone can create a topic or topic group CoFIND resources:  CoFIND resources Resources compete for list position Categorised using qualities (what is valuable about a resource) A better name might be “virtues” CoFIND ratings:  CoFIND ratings Resources rated using qualities (users may add new ones) The dance of the street…:  The dance of the street… “ Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvellous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance – not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole ” (Jane Jacobs) Why Dwellings?:  Why Dwellings? To test Jane Jacobs’s theories of cities applied to large e-learning websites The desire to valorise diversity A feeling of loneliness visiting e-learning sites The key mechanism: stigmergy Dwellings:  Dwellings Move to other streets Chat to other people on the street Leave footprints Add graffiti, modify or attempt to demolish building Preview sites Create new streets or join existing streets together Other systems:  Other systems SEO – Kempelen box – stigmergy explicitly used to identify useful questions and answers EDUCO – social navigation Jasper – flowers and gardens Google – backlinks and latent human annotation ChatCircles – social navigation So what?:  So what? Structure arises through dialogue But… Is that structure even close to that provided by a teacher? Self-organising requirements – lessons from the front line:  Self-organising requirements – lessons from the front line Intention is crucial – learners seeking to learn generate structures to learn from Maximise flexibility but also maximise resulting structure Encourage multiple channels of communication Everything must be connected – changes in one place must affect the whole to some (usually small) extent Change must occur at a variety of scales More research needed:  More research needed To generate meaningful emergent sequences To make stigmergic “dialogue” more meaningful/ educationally useful To deal with issues of pacing Slide21:  fin jon.dron@brighton.ac.uk http://www.cofind.net

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