OLI: Social cognition and learning session

March 11, 2008

Nancy Nersessian

Nancy from Georgia Institute of Technology described a study of university Research Labs to look at ways to encourage “Agentive Learning”. The labs in biological sciences have a need to develop some custom simulations. Nancy had a breakdown into cognitive practice, investigational practice, and interactional practice. Classroom of the future was presented as small rooms with all walls as whiteboards – expect people to bring the technology rather than provide it. Small groups (about 8) are then given complex problems to work on. She gave various examples and came to an end points that to bring out the Agentive Learning Environment:

       learning driven by solving complex problems

       learning is relational

       largely non-hierarchical           

       building (construction of devices, simulations) gives entry

       multiple support gives resilience

Question at the end was how to turn “tinkering” into learning. The answer was as a community of learning – an important point that had not come across in the talk itself.


Gerry Stahl

Started by contrasting the work of cognitive scientists with a focus on the individual with group or community based. His label for this work is group cognition. “We come to knowledge by taking part in collective activities…” Valsiner & van der Veer. His focus was that digitising resources is solved (sort of) but the community aspect of universities has still to be tackled and social networking offers a chance to do something about this. The example he gave was Virtual Math(s) Teams for small group work on problems. The technology level did not look to be highly sophisticated – chat rooms, wiki, document storage. Hiver he suggested a couple of features were important: pointing to things (from chat to whiteboard and from message to message), persistence, and showing current activity (e.g. typing).  The result also displays referencing from the chat to the witeboard. Small group support is then mainly chat and larger sharing and community through the wiki. Suggested challenges are:

How to increase student discourse

How to introduce inquiry learning

How to encourage social networking for deeper kinds of learning

How to integrate – pedagogy, technology, etc.

Why develop a new platform? Needed extra features such as referencing – tried AOL chat as the starting point.


Marlen Scardamalia

Marlene’s position was talking about moving to knowledge creating organisations and took a view of “Belief Mode” to “Design Mode”. With belief mode drives formal education while design mode rarely happens though it drives activity outside formal education. A key difference is the form of questions that people need to ask themselves: a change from is something true, to does it do something useful and advance ideas. Marelen linked to Cathy’s talk about the “New Basics” of education and the move from “Guided Discovery” to deeper understanding. She showed an environment for placing ideas and then linking them together – the environment has a three d model – trying to extract on “Rise above note”. This was linked to Popper’s ideas about ideas but in a way that children can understand. Discourse is brought out as the way to discuss things – with threaded discussion cited as not the way to bring out key points. Instead there ought to be more use of the affordances of technology. Argumentation also may not be the most suitable way to break out of a belief mode. She included some interesting analysis of group dynamics. On the assessment side she also suggested that semantic analysis could spot whether students were using terminology and approaches from experts.

Simon asked at the end about how this work could link with his in looking at coherence. It sounded like that the current work could help do something like this at the person or group level – work needed on the concepts.


One Response to “OLI: Social cognition and learning session”

  1. william duff Says:

    want to hear more from Marlen Scardamalia, do you have twitter account?

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