The design and use of Internet-mediated communication applications in education: an ethnographic study
Laughton, Stuart Charles
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This dissertation presents a study of the design and use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in education. It concentrates on a specific type of Internet-based CMC called asynchronous structured discourse (ASD). Using ethnographic methods and data from real-word case studies. this research focuses on three related problems. First, the effective application of any technology (like ASD) within any domain of complex practice (like education) requires collaboration between technology specialists and domain practitioners. This research studies both the techniques of collaborative design and the relationship between collaborators within the process. Second. while the use of computer networks in education offers obvious benefits (e.g., allowing the separation of students in time and space) much remains to be learned about the more subtle possibilities and effects of ASD (and CMC, in general) in education. This study focusses on the social. motivational. and organizational possibilities and effects of ASD applications. Finally. a meta-level focus of this research is assessing the utility of ethnography for computer application design and research. Design process results include the following argument for effective collaborative design: 1) The object of collaborative design should include the pedagogical activity, as well as the technological system; 2) Scenarios are particularly useful as activity design representations (but. must be augmented with other representations of system design); 3) Collaborative design includes an inherent power asymmetry insofar as technologists define and orchestrate the methodology; 4) But, educators and technologists can and should design together in direct collaboration. Results regarding ASO applications include the following argument for effective use: 1) ASO applications provide an effective means to transcend the traditional classroom social structure; 2) But, they should be used as a complementary medium within educational activities (not as a replacement for face-to-face interaction): 3) They can inject writing into instruction in an unobtrusive and authentic form; 4) And, they help shift the paradigm of learning from individual apprehension of knowledge to social construction of knowledge. Finally, this dissertation demonstrates that ethnographic methods can be effective for application design and research. In particular. it defines and demonstrates a specific methodology for ethnography-based collaborative design.
- Doctoral Dissertations