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Journal Article

Towards a Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning Environments: the Impact of the ReadWrite Web  pp29-40

Richard Hall

© May 2009 Volume 7 Issue 1, Editor: Shirley Williams, pp1 - 85

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Abstract

The readwrite web, or Web 2.0, offers ways for users to personalise their online existence, and to develop their own critical identities though their control of a range of tools. Exerting control enables those users to forge new contexts, profiles and content through which to represent themselves, based upon the user‑centred, participative, social networking affordances of specific technologies. In turn these technologies enable learners to integrate their own contexts, profiles and content, in order to develop informal associations or communities of inquiry. Within educational contexts these tools enable spaces for learners to extend their own formal learning into more informal places though the fusion of web‑based tools into a task‑oriented personal learning environment. Where students are empowered to make decisions about the tools that support their personal approaches to learning, they are able develop further control over their learning experiences and move towards their own subject‑based mastery. Critically, they are able to define with whom to share their personal approaches, and how they can best connect the informal learning that occurs across their life to their formal, academic work. The personal definition or fusion of tools and tasks is afforded through individual control over the learning environment. The flowering of personal learning aims, mediated by technologies and rules of engagement, occurs within task‑specific loops where learners can interpret and process epistemological signals. In turn, where those loops are located within broader, personalised environments students can make contextual sense of their learning and extend their own educational opportunities. Moreover, they can extend their own academic decision‑making through application in other contexts, and as a result manage their own academic uncertainties. This is evidenced through a thematic study of the voices of both learners and tutors, which highlights how the readwrite web can be used proactively by educators, using specific tasks to enable learners to fuse their informal and formal learning spaces, and thereby enhance their decision‑making confidence. The structuring of learning spaces that enable users and social networks to manage their educational processes is enhanced by readwrite web approaches and tools, and in this paper is defined through a Fused Learner Integration model.

 

Keywords: learner personal learning environment formal learning informal learning readwrite web Web 2.0 thematic analysis

 

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Journal Article

Mobile City and Language Guides — New Links Between Formal and Informal Learning Environments  pp85-92

Mads Bo-Kristensen, Niels Ole Ankerstjerne, Chresteria Neutzsky-Wulff, Herluf Schelde

© Jun 2009 Volume 7 Issue 2, Editor: Shirley Williams, pp85 - 190

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Abstract

One of the major challenges in second and foreign language education, is to create links between formal and informal learning environments. Mobile City and Language Guides present examples of theoretical and practical reflections on such links. This paper presents and discusses the first considerations of Mobile City and Language Guides in language centres, upper secondary schools and universities. The core concept of Mobile City and Language Guides is geotagging. Geographical locations can be geotagged either through GPS or by marking positions directly in, e.g., Google Earth or Google Maps. Students or teachers can add various kinds of information to geotags: Photos, audio, text, movies, links, vocabulary and various language tasks. This allows the student, in self‑defined learning contexts, to down‑ and upload location‑based materials with his or her mobile phone, for immediate or later processing. More and more students are able to afford mobile phones with multimedia and broadband Internet. The potentials of user‑generated mobile‑ and web‑based content are increasing. In these years, the internet is moving from the so‑called Web 1.0 to the more user‑centered Web 2.0, i.e. Weblogs, YouTube, Google Maps, MySpace, FlickR, etc. In an educational context, Web 2.0 represents an interesting development of the relatively monologue Web 1.0, where traditional homepages often only allow minimal interaction with the site content. This paper investigates the opportunities that Mobile City and Language Guides seem to give second and foreign language students to learn from informal, location‑based, experience‑based and authentic materials; and discusses how language centres, upper secondary education and universities can involve informal learning contexts through student use of mobiles with broadband and Internet technology supporting second and foreign learning. Mobile City and Language Guides is only of several possible mobile and Internet‑based language educational scenarios. The challenge for the future, therefore, is to develop and implement new, meaningful and exciting scenarios that strengthen the linkages between formal and informal learning environments.

 

Keywords: second and foreign language education, formal and informal learning, broadband mobile technology, web 2.0, geotagging

 

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Journal Article

Weblogs in Higher Education — why do Students (not) Blog?  pp203-214

Monika Andergassen, Reinhold Behringer, Janet Finlay, Andrea Gorra, David Moore

© Dec 2009 Volume 7 Issue 3, Special ICEL 2009 Issue, Editor: Florin Salajan and Avi Hyman, pp191 - 316

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Abstract

Positive impacts on learning through blogging, such as active knowledge construction and reflective writing, have been reported. However, not many students use weblogs in informal contexts, even when appropriate facilities are offered by their universities. While motivations for blogging have been subject to empirical studies, little research has addressed the issue of why students choose not to blog. This paper presents an empirical study undertaken to gain insights into the decision making process of students when deciding whether to keep a blog or not. A better understanding of students' motivations for (not) blogging may help decision makers at universities in the process of selecting, introducing, and maintaining similar services. As informal learning gains increased recognition, results of this study can help to advance appropriate designs of informal learning contexts in Higher Education. The method of ethnographic decision tree modelling was applied in an empirical study conducted at the Vienna University of Technology, Austria. Since 2004, the university has been offering free weblog accounts for all students and staff members upon entering school, not bound to any course or exam. Qualitative, open interviews were held with 3 active bloggers, 3 former bloggers, and 3 non‑ bloggers to elicit their decision criteria. Decision tree models were developed out of the interviews. It turned out that the modelling worked best when splitting the decision process into two parts: one model representing decisions on whether to start a weblog at all, and a second model representing criteria on whether to continue with a weblog once it was set up. The models were tested for their validity through questionnaires developed out of the decision tree models. 30 questionnaires have been distributed to bloggers, former bloggers and non‑ bloggers. Results show that the main reasons for students not to keep a weblog include a preference for direct (online) communication, and concerns about the loss of privacy through blogging. Furthermore, the results indicate that intrinsic motivation factors keep students blogging, whereas stopping a weblog is mostly attributable to external factors.

 

Keywords: weblog, blog, higher education, informal learning, ethnographic decision tree modelling, motivation research

 

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Journal Article

Exploring a ‘middle ground’: engagement with students in a social learning environment.  pp342-350

Anne MJ Smith, Sonya Campbell

© Aug 2012 Volume 10 Issue 3, Special ECEL issue, Editor: Sue Greener and Asher Rospigliosi, pp257 - 379

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Abstract

Abstract: The twenty first century student demands more from universities in terms of engagement that is flexible, accessible and immediate. This means universities revisiting their engagement agenda at a time when financial constraints can least afford expensive technologies and resource dependent engagement solutions. Solutions are likely to be varied however they must fundamentally deliver what students expect in terms of engagement. Engagement requires a partnership between academe and student body, but often this relationship is a tension between what universities want to deliver, and what students expect to receive. This complex environment of constraint, tension and expectation means that solutions will be tested by both parties on those variables. In pursuit of solutions it is presumed that there could be a ‘middle ground’ that would be acceptable to both parties. The aim of this paper is to present the concept of ‘middle ground’ engagement, where parties engage in learning using a simple, cost effective and easily accessible communication tool. ‘Middle ground’ is an emerging concept informed by results from a study of student communication, interaction and social learning. It enables freedom of movement for the user to communicate, engage and participate with others. The tool tested in the study is not a formal learning space such as a VLE, or a branded social space such as facebook, but rather a flexible, social learning environment allowing simultaneous access to social networking sites and formal academic space. The subsequent challenge is to shape and roll out a communication tool that is ‘middle ground’.

 

Keywords: engagement, participation, formal/informal learning, social learning, collaborative learning, social interaction

 

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