Framework example: activity pattern for joining into community

January 26, 2007

Example of the framework application for describing one activity pattern


I. Good examples of socio-constructive learning practices (activity patterns) that meet the challenges like collaborating, networking and self-directed learning are extracted and characterised so that these can be used as the basis for instructional design by facilitators and learners in different e-learning setting in new learning landscapes that emerge when the institutional learning management systems are merged with learner-centered social software (iCamp Space).
These descriptions meet the needs of users who plan the instructional design and can be used as the building-blocks in different learning landscapes.

II. Good examples of activity patterns describe the workflows at different learning landscapes, supporting the software designers with the the knowledge for developing the learning software towards the formation of the flexible selectable interoperable sets of tools for different learning challenges (iCamp Space).

Each activity pattern is described in the continuum that enables the users to select the patterns as rich descriptions in Pattern language (Alexander et al., 1977; McLaughlin et al., 1998) or as diagrammed workflows described with the ontological elements of the Activity theory (Engeström, 1987; Kuuti, 1995).

The activity patterns are be organised for the users so that they can be selected and combined dynamically into the learning sequences according to their learning challenges. The selection and activation of activity patterns gives the users suggestions about the alternative sets of tools that might be used for the selected learning challenge.

The ontological elements of the activity pattern are:

Activities are the sequences of activation of subjects, artifacts, tools and events in different actions and operations. Activities are distinguished by motive (why to do?) (Leontjev, 1975/76). Activities may be described as activity patterns (using Alexandrian pattern language) or as workflows (using diagrammic language).
Activity theory considers the tools as the mediators of the activity and distinguishes physical and mental tools. The former are part of activity-space, the latter form the ontological dimension or meaningspace and are not described as part of the activity patterns.

Events that start or end actions and may work like milestones. Events can be described through tools, artifacts and subjects. Events may be related with the outcome of the activity that is usually an artifact or the activity pattern or with the milestone outcomes.

Actions that consist of operations.
Actions and operations involve subjects, tools and artifacts that all add constraints to the applicability of actions.

Actions are defined by using pedagogical ontology. Actions are characterised by clear goals (how to do?) (Leontjev, 1975/76). Actions are: present/demonstrate, follow/attend, find, share, construct/design, ask, receive, respond/reflect, predict, plan, monitor, inquire, regulate, analyze, assess, report, model, illustrate/vizualise etc.
Operations are defined by using technical ontology for making the workflow descriptions technically operationable. The operations can be classified into manipulable and communicative operations. Manipulable operations are: transfer, search, tag, aggregate, reorganise, publish, add, delete, connect, disconnect, run, record etc.
Communicative operations in virtual reality are performed by manipulable operations. Therefore, the communicative operations in workflows are described as the ontological properties of the manipulable operations. Ontological properties of manipulable operations are: define, describe, explain, compare, realte, justify, argument, direct order, indirect order, guidline, request for repair, prompt, hint, request for confirmation, accept, partial accept, pumping, adopt, reject, negative/positive feedback, displace, splice, hypothesis/guess, classify, categorize, infer, explain, generalize, summarize. Ontological properties to the manipulative operations (e.g. scaffolding, reasoning, inquiry or other models) can be taken from the analytical frameworks from the research literature (e.g. Clark, Chi, Hmelo-Silver, etc.) Ontological properties are necessary when to explain, why some actions are effective and some not, they enable to interprete the sequences of operations.

The workflows are described in timeline by using formalised language. Each workflow is an activity pattern that connects subjects, tools, artifacts, actions/operations and events.
The diagrammic visualisation of the workflow distributes operations that the subjects perform with or without artifacts between the distributed tools of the learning landscape in timeline.

Subjects who have different alignment within the community activity patterns (roles or distribution of actions and operations) and who follow different rules that constrain the possible actions and operations with tools and artifacts during the activities. Subjects in icamp patterns can be distinguished into learners and facilitators if necessary only by the actions and operations. This supports the socio-constructive pedagogical framework (Yaeckel and Cobb, 1996) that does not give the tutor a central and qualitatively different role compared with other learners.

Artifacts that are used by subjects in actions and operations. Artifacts are virtual (e.g. webpage) or real objects (e.g. book) with objective properties conveying subjective meaning. The meaning of artifacts is defined by the subjects in the context of activity patterns. Subjects and the activities that they perform with artifact constrain the meaning of the artifacts. Knowledge artifacts combine verbal (written or auditive) or visual (static or moving images) representations of meaning. Artifacts are the outcome of the activity patterns and may become related with intermediate events or participate in the activity workflows and become related with actions/operations.

Tools that are used by subjects when performing actions. Tools have objective properties (what they technically allow to do) and subjective affordances that depend on the users and actions they want to perform in the activities (Albrechtsen et al., 2001). Subjects and artifacts constrain the possible affordances of the tools in activities.

Name: Finding the community

Area of usage: Community-building

Idea how it helps to reach the solution:
The goal of this pattern is finding the community that suits to the interests of the learner, and getting connected with this community. This is achieved by analysing one’s interests, adopting it with the soft ontology of online communities, connecting with the community activity- and meaning-space and contributing there with actions or meanings until acknowledged.

Motivation describing why it is effective:
Finding the community helps to find learning partners with whome the learner has similar identity – learning means getting the ownership of the community practices and meanings, learning is trigged by wishing to advance one’s status in the community, the process takes place by moving from the peripheral to the core area with full ownership of community practices and meanings.

Area of application and constraints:
This pattern should be adopted in case of self-directed learning, networking or collaboration with social software where the distributed and nomadic learners get interested in using the community knowledge and practices for enhancing their own learning and contributing to the community. This pattern is not necessarily applicable in institutional constrained landscapes where users are joined to the community by course- and not interest-based. Users without any clear learning-interests might need guidance how to identify the community meanings that are common to his interests.

This pattern involves analyzing the community identity by guessing the suitable keywords or tags that are characteristic to the community where the learner wants to be involved in, guessing the community activity-space (tool-usage), becoming the user of the tools of the community activity-space, active search of people belonging to suitable community by keywords or tags within the activity-space, getting connected with the community members passively (following their contributions by tags or feed readers) or actively (commenting, sending messages etc.).

Pattern elements:
Blog: WordPress.com etc.
Social bookmarks: Del.icio.us, Flickr.com, Stu.dicio.us etc.
Tagclouds http://tagcrowd.com/ any tagclouds on blogs
RSS feed reader: Netvibes.com etc.


How to write down the workflow diagrams is still unsolved.
Thwe following questions need to be thought of:
Do the diagrams make sense in case of single activities?
The diagrams of several activities in sequence may be of more use?

Create a blog, log in to the RSS feed reader and social bookmarks.
Follow the tags and analyse, which tags might be of interest, find the versions of the tags for your blog. The appropriate tags will give you direct contact to people who use these tags for marking their contributions.
Vizualise the tagcloud of your own interests. For this use all the content of your blog entries or other creative writings (articles etc.). Use Tagcrowd or other programs for visualisation.
Share your tags and social bookmarks.
Subscribe tags of interest.
Receive blog entries with the tags of interest, analyse tag results, find and select key people with similar interests. Subscribe the feeds of these people or make direct links between your own blog and their blog. Refer to the people of interest.
Ask questions and respond to their contributions.
Present your own interests in blog by using same tags. In blog entries create new content that is important to you. Demonstrate what is your standpoint. Refer to the interesting contributions that relate with your articles.
Analyze information who are the visitors of your blog. Dashboard information may be used.
Contact with interesting persons directly by email and ask to work together.

Consequences of the pattern
This pattern helps individual learners to become part of the learning community by increasing the interest of people from similar area creating knowledge together.

What must be considered in application
When using this blog the learner should have a good access to internet resources and habit of contributing to the social web. The learner must subscribe blogs, social bookmarks and feed aggregator. The pattern is well transferrable to any general types of social software that enable connections by tagging. The pattern is useful if the learners are open to bring part of their knowledge-building processes open to the public.

Culture dependence
The pattern is applicable in open web-based learning landscapes with social software.

Tools and resources
Social bookmarks
Stu.dicio.us etc.
Tagclouds http://tagcrowd.com/ any tagclouds on blogs
RSS feed reader

Effective examples of pattern application:
This pattern is extensively used in Blogosphere.

Example from Nancy White:
Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?

The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community…readers begin returning to early bloggers’ sites, commenting and getting to know not only the blogger, but the community of commentors. The one blog is owned by one owner or organisation. There may be more than one blogger writing in a blog, but this is not an aggregation of blogs.
There is little opportunity for members to change, add to or adapt the environment.
The central identities of these communities are the blog owners. Their identities are the best known in the community. The commentors’ identities might emerge over time, but more likely, as commentors get to know each other, they share their personal details via private email, instant messaging and other forms of ‘backchannel’.

Topic centric communities have no single technological platform, with each blogger selecting their own tool. What links them is hyperlinks, in the form of blogrolls, links to other blogs within blog posts, tagging, aggregated feeds (using RSS), trackbacks and comments.
Having a shared tag, a key word that bloggers can attach to their individual posts, can mark a post as relevant to a community.
Tools that aggregate posts from blogs or even tagged posts can blur the boundaries of each individual blog, creating what appears to be a unified collection of posts, assembled on the fly as individual bloggers add posts.

Example from T.Mortensen and J.Walker:
Mortensen, T., & Walker, J. (2002, March). Blogging thoughts: Personal publication as an online research tool. In A. Morrison (Ed.), Researching ICTs in context. InterMedia report. University of Oslo, Oslo. Retrieved June 29, 2005, from http://www.intermedia.uio.no/konferanser/skikt-02/docs/

Mortensen and Walker (2002) wrote about their personal experiences of using blogs for research purposes. Both women were undertaking their PhDs and a considerable amount of their research was done online. They began to blog as a way of focusing while online but ‘they soon developed beyond digital ethnographers’ journals and into a hybrid between journal, academic publishing, storage space for links, and a site for academic discourse’ (Mortensen and Walker, 2002, p.250). They found that their blogs became tools which they utilised to think about their research, its values, connections, and links to other aspects of the world.

Related patterns
„Forming the community“
Forming the community pattern describes the deliberate community formation centered around a person or topic and inviting people to contribute as the members of the motherblog.


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