This special issue of seminar.net is the result of a collaboration between teachers at the two master programmes, “Communication, Design and Learning” at the University of Oslo and “ICT Supported Learning” at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. For 2013-2015, we received a grant from Norgesuniversitetet to develop partnership, flexible teaching and study methods, and to increase learning outcomes among students. The four papers represent the first research results from our project. We are grateful to Norgesuniversitetet for its support.
The first paper, by Per Hetland and Anders I. Mørch, both from the University of Oslo has a title called “Ethnography for Investigating the Internet”. They describe the field by giving an overview of the competing concepts, and argue for their chosen path. They point at important crossing roads and selections that needs to be taken for future research.
Jan Erik Dahl, also of The University of Oslo, presents the paper “Supporting learning through epistemic scaffolds embedded in a highlighter tool”. It explores how the use of the tool was used to support students’ readings and discussions of research articles. He argues that the use of annotation technologies in education is increasing, and that annotations can play a wide variety of epistemic roles; e.g., they can facilitate a deeper level of engagement, support critical thinking, develop cognitive and metacognitive skills and introduce practices that can support knowledge building and independent learning. Dahl criticises some of the underlying assumption of present research in the field and suggest that one needs to look for the active co-construction that students do in collaboration with others.
Monica Johannesen and Leikny Øgrim, of the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, has collaborated with Ole Smørdal of the University of Oslo on the paper “Facebook as an actor - a case of students negotiating their social presence in an online course”. Their paperreports on a study of a higher education online course based on asynchronous communication. In the selection of technology for online discussions they aimed at creating a sense of togetherness among the teachers and the students. Their choice proved to be a insightful experience of how the differences of agency of a virtual learning environment (VLE) are compared to social media when it comes to social presence.
Anders I. Mørch of the University of Oslo has collaborated with Louise Mifsud and Bård Kjetil Engen, of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences on the fourth paper, called “Problem-Based Learning in Synchronous Networked Environments: Comparing Adobe Connect and Second Life”. Their approach was to compare experiences from using two networked learning environments: Adobe Connect (AC) and Second Life (SL) for supporting teaching and learning in distance education courses. Data were collected from two separate case studies: one in Norway (AC) and the other in the United States (SL), using different but comparable methods of data analysis. They focus on problem-based learning (PBL), using four application characteristics of PBL (learner activity, collaborative learning, feedback, and valuation of previous knowledge).
In addition to the four papers in the special issue of Seminar.net, we also contribute with two more papers.
David Hallberg, representing both The Swedish Red Cross University College and the Stockholm University, has written a paper with Henrik Hansson and Anders G.Nilsson, also from Stockholm University called: “Immigrant Women's Reasoning and Use of Information and Communications Technology in Lifelong Learning”. The paper explores the reasoning and use of information and communications technology (ICT) in lifelong learning by immigrant women. The researchers collected data from semi-structured and unstructured interviews. The study was carried out primarily in a school environment, which also made it possible to draw conclusions about the connection between learning in and outside school environments.
Trine Fossland, of University of Tromsø UiT The Arctic University of Norway, presents the last paper in this issue. Her paper, “Stories of technology-enhancement in higher education – a critical approach”, continues a critical stance of educational technology, suggesting that even if there is a large body of research on technology-enhanced learning, questions related to the educational effectiveness of technology use still needs to be questioned. She argues that “digital innovators’” stories about technology enhancement may constitute a rich source for understanding this complex educational phenomenon both in relation to teachers’ daily practices and the implementation of ICT in higher education at large. Her paper relies on biographical interviews with “digital innovators”. Her findings suggest that technology-enhancement is linked to nine key characteristics: different educational models, authenticity, pedagogical added values, meaningful student activities, changing approaches to feedback, assessment and connection with the outside world, as well as holistic planning, supportive leaders and strong micro-cultures. This paper proposes a more nuanced understanding of the term technology enhanced learning and suggests strategies for educational development and further investigations related to this phenomenon in higher education.
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