Public and Private Spaces

Thi is an abstract Wendy Freeman and I sent to ALT-C — the Association for Learning technology in England. It is a location to describe some work in progress, get some feedback and talk with others working in the area. Wenger is a guest speaker at the conference (which is in September).

Designing Public and Private Online Spaces

This paper describes elements of an online learning environment designed for graduate students in education. The goal of this project is to develop a set of social and technical tools engaging students in activities related to educational research across course boundaries and throughout their degree program. Graduate students in Education are diverse in their work experiences, disciplinary focus, and in their ability to engage fully in a full-time campus-based program of study. This diversity creates a challenge to producing a single community, and one that can be sustained solely through online group discussion. Therefore this learning environment investigates what it means to participate in a community by addressing the other social and experiential needs. The journey of graduate students is a complex one interweaving particular instantiations of involvement in communities of various sizes, compositions and therefore with differing degrees of public participation, with an ever-developing ability to find and articulate an independent and personal voice. As such, an effective online environment needs to support public and private processes and those contexts which have elements of both, possibly in multiple ways. We explore aspects of an environment that provides such spaces and consider how the technological elements support these multiple social and individual needs and how they might be augmented. The elements include;
a) Knowledge Forum as a public, multimedia discussion environment.
b) Macromedia Breeze for video-conferencing in distributed group meetings (with students in their homes in different countries and time zones).
c) Social networking tools including weblogs as individual locations for academic journaling with connections to a distributed research community (Friend of a Friend) and Wikis as collaborative writing spaces.
The presentation will discuss the various tensions around issues of public and private spaces in multiple communities; demonstrate the component technologies of this environment while describing some findings on use.

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