E-Learning and Digital Media
ISSN 2042-7530


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Volume 2 Number 3 2005

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

Editorial, pages 208‑210
James Paul Gee. Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: the projective stance, pages 211‑223
Nicos Souleles. Staff Use of E-learning and Graduate Competencies for the Knowledge Economy: a study of the misalignment between rhetoric and practice, pages 224‑237
Richard Kahn & Douglas Kellner. Reconstructing Technoliteracy: a multiple literacies approach, pages 238‑251
Colin Baskin & Michael Henderson. Ariadne’s Thread: using social presence indices to distinguish learning events in face-to-face and ICT-rich settings, pages 252‑261
Guy Ramsay. Computer-mediated Communication and Culture: a comparison of ‘Confucian-heritage’ and ‘Western’ learner attitudes to asynchronous e-discussions undertaken in an Australian higher educational setting, pages 262‑275
Julie Watson & Neil Anderson. Pinnacles and Pitfalls: researcher experiences from a web-based survey of secondary teachers, pages 276‑284
Henrik Hansson, Paul Mihailidis & Carl Holmberg. Distance Education and the Role of the State: a Sweden/USA perspective, pages 285‑298
Mostafa S. Saleh. Building Interoperable Learning Objects Using Reduced Learning Object Metadata, pages 299‑313


EDITORIAL

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There comes a point in the life of a new journal where it seems safe to say that it has a future to look forward to. In the case of E-Learning this point was probably reached some time ago, although caution prevailed (until now) with respect to pronouncing upon it.

For authors with an interest in the Australian research quantum count by the government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), we are happy to report that E-Learning has formally been added to DEST’s list of recognized journals so far as the category of refereed journal articles is concerned. Any article published in E-Learning will be eligible for the DEST quantum count.

The current situation of the journal is one of sound foreseeable health, for which we have our authors, reviewers and readers to thank. The decision has already been taken to move the journal from three ordinary issues per year to four, with the additional option of publishing extraordinary issues as occasions warrant. Three themed issues are in the pipeline, and potential guest editors are invited to submit to the editor suggestions for themed issues.

Themed issues currently slated for publication will be guest edited by Ray Land and Sian Byrne, Angela Thomas and Tere Vadén. Ray Land and Sian Byrne’s guest-edited double issue will be the next issue of E-Learning. It addresses the theme of learning in the digital age, and comprises nineteen selected papers from the second ‘Ideas in Cyberspace’ symposium.

Angela Thomas’s issue (Vol. 3, No. 1) will address the theme of digital interfaces. It will examine the issue of identity in and around digital contexts, and contain papers by Jonathan Paul Marshal, Sally Humphrey, Kevin Leander, Theresa Senft, Julia Davies, Lalitha Vasudevan and Barbara Guzzetti.

Tere Vadén’s issue (Vol. 3, No. 2) will address the theme of models for bridging digital divides and will take the form of selected papers from the International Seminar on Policy Options and Models for Bridging Digital Divides held in Tampere, Finland (March 2005).

As stated in the journal description, E-Learning also cordially invites other kinds of contributions besides refereed articles. We seek national and international policy reports, policy research notes (up to 2000 words), reviews of books and other relevant publications (e.g. computing and video games, learning software, conference proceedings) and interchanges (such as interviews, rights of reply, etc.)

The present issue of E-Learning covers a diverse range of themes presented by contributors from Australia, Britain, Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Three of the eight articles build on survey research, providing something of a thematic core at the heart of this issue. Coincidentally, perhaps, all three emanate from Queensland, Australia. The first article in this set is entitled ‘Ariadne’s Thread: using social presence indices to distinguish learning events in face-to-face and ICT-rich settings’, by Colin Baskin & Michael Henderson. They use a survey completed by 164 pre-service education students to investigate the social presence weightings they assign to nine key learning events in face-to-face and online learning environments. The students were currently making the transition from conventional face-to-face learning environments dominated by lectures and tutorials to more ICT-rich learning environments. The authors outline central tenets of social presence theory before presenting and discussing survey results. A key finding is that ‘attributions of social presence point to clear and very discernible differences in the ‘learning choices’ and ‘patterns’ of male and female respondents’.

In the second survey-based study, ‘Computer-mediated Communication and Culture’, Guy Ramsay compares responses from ‘Western’ (n = 34) and ‘Confucian-heritage’ (n = 16) learners respectively, with respect to experiences of asynchronous e-discussions as a significant component of a university course. A short questionnaire involving a combination of Likert-style items and open-ended questions (to elaborate Likert responses) was administered to participants in class as a form of course evaluation. Findings from the cultural-learning-style literature are discussed early in the article and responses from the two learner cohorts are compared and evaluated in light of this discussion. The two groups did not differ greatly in their perceptions of computer-mediated communication (CMC) applications in learning as ‘flexible, interesting, of value and providing pedagogical benefit’. Both groups received the e-discussions well. However, ‘Confucian-heritage learners, more than their Western counterparts, [tended] to positively evaluate the fact that computer-mediated discussions engender in them more of a sense of class membership’. These learners also generally felt ‘that they are less likely to lose ‘face’ when they express their opinions in the computer-mediated realm, as compared to in class’.

Julie Watson & Neil Anderson’s article, ‘Pinnacles and Pitfalls: researcher experiences from a web-based survey of secondary teachers’, discusses the experience of using a web-based survey to collect data about secondary teachers’ attitudes and understandings about students with learning difficulty. The article focuses on the use of sponsors to promote the survey, the use of a prize incentive to encourage teachers to complete the survey online, and a range of factors potentially associated with the rate of response. Particular attention is given to gate keeping and technical issues as factors contributing to a relatively low response rate.

The issue opens with a follow-up by James Gee to his article in Vol. 2, No. 1, ‘Learning by Design: good video games as learning machines’. Gee’s article in this issue is called ‘Pleasure, Learning, Video Games and Life: the projective stance’. It explores three central questions. The first inquires into the deep pleasure people take from playing video games; the second asks about the relationship between games and real life; and the third asks what the answers to the previous questions tell us about learning. A key argument developed in the second half of the paper is that video games create what Gee calls a ‘projective’ stance toward the world. This is a stance in which ‘we see the world simultaneously as a project imposed on us and as a site onto which we can actively project our desires, values and goals’. Within the corpus of video games we find a category that lets players enact the projective stance of an ‘authentic professional’, such as a soldier. Gee argues that such games permit players to experience ‘deep expertise of the kind that so widely eludes learners in school’.

Nicos Souleles addresses what he sees as a ‘misalignment between rhetoric and practice’ in the context of e-learning being promoted within higher education as a means for assisting the acquisition of meta-skills and competencies believed to be required by the knowledge economy on the part of graduates. Souleles focuses on staff development as a precondition for achieving policy objectives at the interface of e-learning and the ‘production’ of suitably prepared graduates. He argues that ‘there is almost a universal claim that staff need to undertake training that provides for technical knowledge and includes pedagogies associated with e-learning’. By contrast, vignettes presented in his article affirm a ‘lack of appropriate professional development and comprehensive awareness of the benefits of e-learning’. In most of the cases that occurred in his study, ‘e-learning is a passive medium occasionally supplementing existing practices and rarely used for meta-skills’.

In ‘Reconstructing Technoliteracies: a multiple literacies approach’, Richard Kahn & Douglas Kellner argue for the development of an idea of ‘multiple technoliteracies’ to counter hegemonic programs of contemporary technoliteracy. Against the line of development of the currently dominant policy conception of technoliteracy they see running from A Nation at Risk in 1983 through the 2004 United States National Educational Technology Plan, they identify a tacit challenge existing at the global level through the United Nations’ Project 2000+ and consider how such a project might connect with ‘a democratic project of re-envisioning education through multiple literacies’.

Henrik Hansson & Paul Mihailidis report on a comparative study of federal policy in distance education initiatives within higher education in Sweden and the United States in their article, ‘Distance Education and the Role of the State: a Sweden/US perspective’. They begin by overviewing federal policy with respect to the allocation of funding and determination of distance education aims in the two countries, and find a marked contrast. In Sweden the government dictates funding and policy for distance education, and universities are left to implement it. In the United States, by contrast, ‘universities are left to their own devices and capabilities’ for implementing distance education. There is no single federal institution charged with providing direct funding or guidelines for distance education. The authors argue for a middle position between these alternatives as providing the most balanced scenario for distance education, advocating some federal supervision with a degree of institutional autonomy with respect to development, implementation, funding and longevity.

The issue concludes with Mostafa S. Saleh’s account of ‘Building Interoperable Learning Objects Using Reduced Learning Object Metadata’. The key role of semantic web technology in the production of learning objects for e-learning provides the background to this paper. The author argues that since producing learning-object components is costly, it is desirable to pursue a strategy of producing and registering components once and re-using and adapting them as often as possible. To this end it is recommended that developers use learning standards (e.g. IEEE LOM, which comprises the dominant standard) to describe learning objects in ways that support interoperability. Even so, production will be time consuming. To alleviate this, the current article introduces a model for building ‘global interoperable learning objects’ by using ‘a reduced set of the LOM elements, and giving a unique global ID to the learning object’. By this means, software agents will be able ‘to query learning-object repositories and automatically deliver the required material to the e-learning consumer’.

Colin Lankshear
James Cook University, Australia, and McGill University, Canada
Michele Knobel
Montclair State University, USA

 

Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: the projective stance

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This article addresses three questions. First, what is the deep pleasure that humans take from video games? Second, what is the relationship between video games and real life? Third, what do the answers to these questions have to do with learning? Good commercial video games are deep technologies for recruiting learning as a form of profound pleasure, and have much to tell us about what learning could look like in the future should we relinquish the old grammars of traditional schooling. They are extensions of life insofar as they recruit and externalize some fundamental features of how humans orientate themselves in and to the real world when operating at their best. Video games create a projective stance in the sense of a stance toward the world in which we see the world simultaneously as a project imposed on us and as a site onto which we can actively project our desires, values and goals. A special category of games allows players to enact the projective stance of an ‘authentic professional’, thereby experiencing deep expertise of the kind that so widely eludes learners in school.

 

Staff Use of E-learning and Graduate Competencies for the Knowledge Economy: a study of the misalignment between rhetoric and practice

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E-learning is part of the wider debate on the changing role of higher education (HE). It is associated with the agenda on graduate employability and competencies for the knowledge economy (KE). Policy documents make explicit that participation in the KE is congruent with the acquisition of meta-skills. The role of HE is to provide for these competencies and e-learning is presented as assisting this objective. A primary prerequisite, however, is appropriate staff development. This qualitative study examines the relationship between the rhetoric and the practice of e-learning, and argues that issues associated with professional development exist at both institute and staff levels.

 

Reconstructing Technoliteracy: a multiple literacies approach

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Much has been written that describes the history of the concept of ‘technological literacy’ and, more recently, a literature attempting to chart emancipatory technoliteracies has emerged over the last decade. Our article begins with a brief examination of the meanings that ‘technology’ and ‘literacy’ have received towards achieving insight into what sort of knowledge and skills ‘technoliteracy’ hails. We then summarize the broad trajectories of development in hegemonic programs of contemporary technoliteracy from their arguable origins as ‘computer literacy’ in the A Nation at Risk report of 1983 up to the present call for integration of technology across the curriculum and the standards-based approach of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and 2004’s US National Educational Technology Plan. In contradistinction, we reveal how this approach has been tacitly challenged at the global institutional level through the United Nations’ Project 2000+, and theorize how this might link up with a democratic project of re-visioning education though multiple literacies. Finally, in closing, we think about what it will mean to reconstruct ‘technoliteracy’ broadly in this manner and conclude with a call for new critical pedagogies that can inform and be informed by the counterhegemonic idea of ‘multiple technoliteracies’.

 

Ariadne’s Thread: using social presence indices to distinguish learning events in face-to-face and ICT-rich settings

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Drawing on ancient Greek mythology, this article traces the learning experiences of 164 pre-service education students as they make the transition from a conventional face-to-face (f-2-f) learning environment to an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) rich setting. Influenced by Social Presence Theory (Short, Williams & Christie, 1976) the aim of this article is to critically examine the social presence weightings of nine key learning events in f-2-f and online learning environments to unravel threads of connection to the knowledge construction processes of our learners. Dimensions of social presence are defined and examined, and indices are assigned to nine f-2-f and ICT learning events for purposes of comparison. The argument concludes that attributions of social presence point to clear and very discernible differences in the ‘learning choices’ and ‘patterns’ of male and female respondents. By proxy, different learning patterns also point to substantial differences in the when, where, how and why of knowledge construction for different groups of learners. This preference for differentiation and the capacity of the ICT-supported environment to meet and extend this preference at the learning interface offers a productive model for the preparation of pre-service teachers.

 

Computer-mediated Communication and Culture: a comparison of ‘Confucian-heritage’ and ‘Western’ learner attitudes to asynchronous e-discussions undertaken in an Australian higher educational setting

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While the internationalisation of higher education has made learner diversity a key consideration in tertiary pedagogical practice, research into the application of computer-mediated technologies in this domain has rarely taken into account culture. This article responds to this gap in the research by comparing ‘Confucian-heritage’ and ‘Western’ learners’ experience of computer-mediated discussions undertaken as part of an Australian university curriculum. Likert and open-ended question formats reveal that cultural learning styles and behaviours are salient to the computer-mediated learning experience and can inform how learners view its pedagogical applications. While appreciation of the utilitarian benefits is common to both cultural cohorts, Confucian-heritage learners place greater emphasis on the interpersonal benefits. By placing distinctions in learner cultural background at the centre of the study, a more nuanced understanding of computer-mediated communication and its attendant pedagogical applications in higher education emerges.

 

Pinnacles and Pitfalls: researcher experiences from a web-based survey of secondary teachers

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This article examines the experience of conducting a web-based survey with secondary teachers in Queensland schools. The survey was designed to collect data concerning teachers’ attitudes and understanding about students with learning difficulties in their classes. Rather than discuss survey findings, however, the present article focuses on sponsors as a vehicle for online survey promotion, as well as on aspects of survey coverage, rates of response and teacher motivations to participate. Gatekeeping and technical issues emerged as significant issues affecting teacher response. Two hundred and eighty teachers employed in state and non-government schools completed surveys for this exploratory research and constituted a convenience sample for the study.

 

Distance Education and the Role of the State: a Sweden/USA perspective

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This study aims to comparatively explore the role of the state (federal policy) in distance-education initiatives in the higher education communities of Sweden and the United States. In a globalized context, education institutes now have the capabilities to provide education and educational resources more efficiently and to a wide-ranging and diverse audience. Within the education sector and distance education, the role of the state and federal policy becomes increasingly important, in terms of how distance-education platforms are developed and implemented in institutions of higher education. The first section of this article provides an overview of the United States and Sweden’s current higher education and distance-education landscapes, focusing on the role of the state and federal policy with respect to the funding and overall aims of distance education. The development of distance education in Sweden is highly related to political goals and policies, the top down/domestic/’inside’ approach. The governing body dictates the funding and policy for distance education, and implementation is left to the university body. In the United States, the landscape differs in that no one federal institution provides direct funding or unified guidelines for developing distance education, but universities are left to their own devices and capabilities for implementation. In Sweden, high ambitions and goals are set at the national level, but the educational organizations are changing only slowly. The pressures on the education organizations are high because of steadily decreasing funding and fewer and fewer staff in relation to students. In the United States, education functions primarily as a state and local responsibility. In conclusion, the article aims to exploit the differences between the two countries’ role of the state (federal policy) in distance-education policy, and present a middle ground which would be most balanced for distance education, entailing some federal supervision with the allowance for a certain level of autonomy in regards to development, implementation, funding and longevity.

 

Building Interoperable Learning Objects Using Reduced Learning Object Metadata

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The new e-learning generation depends on Semantic Web technology to produce learning objects. As the production of these components is very costly, they should be produced and registered once, and reused and adapted in the same context or in other contexts as often as possible. To produce those components, developers should use learning standards to describe these objects in order to support interoperability. IEEE Learning Object Metadata (LOM) is the most dominant standard for describing learning objects, in which 76 different elements are used to describe the different aspects of e-learning. Nonetheless, it will still be time consuming to build these learning objects. This paper introduces a model for building Global Interoperable Learning Objects (GILO) for the e-learning community. This is achieved by using a reduced set of the LOM elements, and giving a unique global ID to the learning object. This will enable software agents to query these learning object repositories, to automatically deliver the required material to the e-learning consumer.

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