Improvable objects and attached dialogue: New literacy practices employed by learners to build knowledge together in asynchronous settings

Rebecca Ferguson, Karen Littleton & Denise Whitlock
Published Online: May 31, 2010
Abstract | References | Full Text: HTML, PDF (860 KB)

Abstract

Asynchronous online dialogue offers advantages to learners, but has appeared to involve only limited use of new literacy practices. To investigate this, a multimodal approach was applied to asynchronous dialogue. The study analysed the online discussions of small groups of university students as they developed collaboratively authored documents. Sociocultural discourse analysis of the dialogue was combined with visual analysis of its structural elements. The groups were found to employ new literacies that supported the joint construction of knowledge. The documents on which they worked together functioned as ‘improvable objects’ and the development of these was associated with engagement in ‘attached dialogue’. By investigating a wider range of conference dialogue than has previously been explored, it was found that engaging in attached dialogue associated with collaborative authorship of improvable objects prompts groups of online learners to share knowledge, challenge ideas, justify opinions, evaluate evidence and consider options.

Keywords: Asynchronous dialogue, Collaboration, Exploratory talk, Improvable objects, Online learning, Pedagogy, Sociocultural discourse analysis, Visual analysis

Biographical Statement

Rebecca Ferguson is currently a research fellow studying and developing the use of social learning at The Open University in the UK. Her overarching research interest is in how people learn together online, making use of different tools and literacies. This has included investigation of learning in online conferences, in virtual worlds, through blogs and through the use of other social media.

Email: r.m.ferguson@open.ac.uk


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