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Janet Kolodner on “Cyberlearning: Transforming Education” (Media Systems)

What can transform a field? Janet Kolodner argues, in her talk for the Media Systems gathering, that individual projects are not enough. But programs do potentially offer a route to transformation — by being larger, integrative efforts.

Her talk begins by providing an insider’s discussion of a program with the potential for transforming the field: the Cyberlearning program at the National Science Foundation, for which she is a Program Officer. Then, in the second half, it moves to a discussion of advice for work in cyberlearning. This is not simply a set of things it would be smart to do if applying to Kolodner’s program, but a set of insights into what matters for interdisciplinary work that seeks to transform education. It includes advice on clarifying transformative goals, making sure that the solutions proposed for addressing those goals are socio-technical in nature (not failing to address wider context), and structuring inquiry as design research aimed at addressing questions key to eventually achieving the initially-articulated goal.

Kolodner’s talk also clarifies the way computational media is positioned in the cyberlearning frame. Interactive media and experience design are discussed as part of learning technologies, with the focus on socio-technical systems and ecologies of use. Seen this way, some of the most important potentials for computational media are: enabling learners to experience things that simply aren’t possible without technology (e.g., getting inside a cell, seeing the development of the cosmos); connecting with communities it would otherwise be impossible to be in dialogue and shared learning with; providing learning scaffolding that helps people do things they couldn’t otherwise and grow in their capabilities through it; and rich, timely, personalized feedback during the learning process. The cyberlearning research direction attempts to make progress in areas such as these by integrating advances in computational media with advances in what is understood about how people learn.

If you wish to discuss the ideas in Kolodner’s talk further, please leave comments here or take to Twitter with the #MediaSystems hashtag. Also, as with Chad Greene’s recently-posted talk, PDF slides are available on the main Media Systems page for this talk.

With this we’re taking a short break from posting talks, but will return in the new year.


This material is based upon a project supported by the National Science Foundation (under Grant Number 1152217), the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, or Microsoft Research.


About the author:  Noah Wardrip-Fruin is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies.

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