[CSG Fall 2008] Social Learning – Geri Gay


Geri Gay is a Cornell faculty member in Communication and Information Science.

“Scaffolding” seems to be a new term I’m hearing a lot today in the context of e-learning.

Social learning project – tracking activities using computers and wireless devices, and having people keep journals. Out of diary studies you find words like access, convenience, freedom, no constraints, social connections, at the beginning of the courses. Freedom from constraints of space and time. At time 2, words like temptation, distraction, addiction, social connections, start showing up. 3-7 hours per day online, 60% of time on email or instant messaging. Diverting attention from classroom activities and relations.

Done some studies on divided attention – recall and retention tests with open and closed laptops. People can read NY Times if they look at headlines while they’re listening, but if they start reading the articles in depth, then they can no longer multitask. People seem happier in classes if they feel that they have access to the world outside during class.

Divergent communities – instead of building learning communities, the wireless technologies may have diverted the class from its original goals.

Women spend more time in social activities, men spend more time in sports and finance.

Dynamic feedback study – what does a computer do well, what do people do well? In computer communication fewer opportunities for interaction, trust may be reduced, bridging differences can be harder. How do we train online collaborative skills?

Working on feedback for guided reflection. Track agreement words that people are using, and reflect them back. Developed something called Groupmeter.

Working on how to improve informal interactions – working on awareness technologies, faces looking full face are available, profile means don’t interrupt.

They’ve been mapping social interactions – teams that reach out to other teams do better – more creative, more ideas, better grades.

Context-aware computing – devices that can gather information about the physical environment, and also annotate them. Example is cultural implication of new technology in museums. Built sensors, looking at density of people, density of info activity, tempo of movement (physical and virtual), etc.

Who is here? Where should I go next? What are my peers excited about? Who might be interested in this?

Looking on expertise vs. informal commentary in tagging museum objects on mobile devices.

Did recall and retention tests on school kids comparing whether they had interactive devices in museum vs. curator narration – significantly better with the interactive device.

Enabling this vision requires re-inventing learning substantively, not only the how and when of learning – communicate, deal with information I/O, work, design and build things, conduct research, deal with the environment, do commerce.

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