Concepts and methods for investigating the disruptive nature of technological systems used to support learning: A focus on mobile devices and distributed virtual environments.
In: Computer Assisted Learning (CAL '07) Development, Disruption & Debate - D3, 26-28 Mar 2007, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.
Mobile devices and distributed virtual environments are increasingly being used to support learning in various settings mainly due to their capability to enhance learner creativity and interactivity. For example, the combined use of wearable devices and virtual simulations in distributed e-learning environments enable learners to visualise and explore tasks prior to engaging in real-life activities. Furthermore, mobile devices facilitate ad hoc collaborations and group formations by providing remote and flexible access to learning resources. These technological advancements enable learners to spontaneously collaborate and share knowledge, including unsolicited knowledge sharing and collaborations, which in some cases; can be disruptive to the learning process because they transform established settings for learning and change cultural practices. Therefore, a new research challenge has emerged; one that is concerned with understanding the disruptive nature of technological systems used to support learning. Furthermore, the concept of learning with mobile devices and distributed virtual environments is a fairly new phenomenon; therefore, there are no mutually acceptable theories and methods for investigating learning with these technologies.
In order to address these issues, we need to consider two issues: First, we need to establish a shared interpretation of the key notions of ‘learning’ and ‘disruptions’ so as to understand the relationship between learner practices and technology usage behaviour. Secondly, we require suitable methods to help us identify disruptions in learner practices, and to consider the impact of these disruptions on learning. Therefore, appropriate methods should prompt a deeper investigation into the social and cultural embeddedness of learner practices whilst enabling us to understand motives for using technology in learning activities. The paper will discuss issues surrounding the use of activity theory based methods and concepts to investigate the disruptive nature of mobile devices and distributed virtual environments used to support learning. The main method will be the Activity Oriented Design Method (AODM); an activity theory based approach to studying human interactions with computer based technologies.
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