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Symposium: Design Perspectives for Learning with Social Media: Reconciling Informal and Formal Learning through Web 2.0?

Symposium at Edmedia conference, 1st July 2010

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
30 June 2010

Andrew Ravenscroft,  Steven Warburton,  Stylianos Hatzipanagos,and Gráinne Conole 



Although the widespread use of social media reflects how Web 2.0 technologies have become embedded in our lives, there are still significant challenges in harnessing these and their related practices for learning. One expectation is that they will provide the means to reconcile informal and formal learning to allow for a more seamless transition between meaningful activity inside and outside of educational institutions or the workplace. But how do we support such processes or progressions? The approach adopted in this symposium is to see design, or learning design, as the key paradigm to address this challenge. But designing for this constantly evolving technological landscape creates new problems and complexities. This symposium will present different approaches to design from experts who specialise in the field of social software for learning, and who are concerned with both bridging informal and formal learning and questioning what we consider to be legitimate learning. 


  • Will design really make a difference to practice?
    • Role of theory?
      • Tensions with practice?
  • What are your own experiences of using social media for learning-teaching?
  • What social media tools do you use in your practice?


Extra content

Liveblog of Andrew Ravenscroft

Andrew introduces the symposium in terms of the focus of designing for this new landscape of social media.

Individuals have their own mix of media and devices, enabling them to work, learning, interact and communicate in different ways and different places.

We need to rethink design, across digital and real spaces, combine new approaches with the best of existing practices and approaches - the role of the library for example in the learning process.

How can we design to bridge between the digital learner and the stable learning-teaching environment.

Gráinne Conole
17:41 on 1 July 2010 (Edited 17:43 on 1 July 2010)

Andrew Ravenscroft

Large EU project development complex systems. 


  • New challenges for designing TEL which is suitable for the work place
  • Informal learning and knowledge maturing
  • Design methodology - design-based research - Deep Learning Design
  • The design methodology in Mature
  • Resulting TEL designs
  • Discussions and implications
Challenges for learning at work
  • We are increasing working in cyberspace, but also there is intense human communication and collaboration
  • How can we exploit learning rich workplace?
  • Social and semantic technologies
  • Participation, collaboration
Informal learning and knowledge maturing
  • In social web, someone puts out an informal idea and others reflect on and built on. Knowledge maturing is about informal learning and management. A means of capturing the informal, collecte knowledge. From individual ideas to collaborative fora and formalised knowledge. 
Design based research (DBR) and Deep Learning Design (DLP)
  • How do we design for complex and embedded systems, its a hard problem
  • We need to develop complex socio-technical systems and agile approaches
  • DLP is a hybrid between DBR and LD
The DLD methodology
  • Design studies - critical experiments in design
  • Use cases - as inclusive language of design
  • Demonstrators + evaluation = 'requirements in action'
  • Integrate the demonstrators into large-scale instantiations
Resulting designs
  • Assuring quality for social learning in content networks - using a media wiki. Allows the community to refine and sharing various documents. Has a visual interface. 
  • Collaborative development of understanding - mash up collaborative ontology. Collaborative ontology tool, you can bookmark in action resources you think might be useful for your community and these are organised into an ontology. Link critical dialogue about the resources to the resources themselves. 
  • People tagging through organisational development - Facebook for the workplace. Social bookmarking. Has controls about what is made public. Profiles can be assessed by others in their community. Can then search and find people to help with a specific problem. 
  • Learning by case tracking and mining *student recruitment' intelligent advisor linked to work flow patterns. 
Discussion and implications
  • Its hard - the innovation paradox
  • Designs never end
  • Ecosystems catalysing and supporting particular genres of digital literacy across technologies.


Gráinne Conole
17:55 on 1 July 2010 (Edited 18:02 on 1 July 2010)

Live blog of Steven Warburton's talk, given by Stylianos


  • A design pattern methodology for sharing expert knowledge in the use of web 2.0 technologies
  • Many practitioners who are successfully using new technologies, but a problem is how can we capture this knowledge to inform future designs.
  • The problem with good practices - unclear what we mean by good or bad, directive, decoupled from evidence base, decontextualised, contradictory, and closed. 


The approach


  • A design based approach for responding to a world of rapid technological change. But why design? Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. 1993 Simon
  • `Derived from Alexander's work in Architecture on patterns. 1995: Design Patterns in terms of reusable elements, 2009: Other areas - many authors and titles.
  • Why design patterns? Capture and reuse expert design knowledge, establish a common terminology and language, provide the necessary level of abstraction for solving novel problems, Transfer representations of practice that are appropriate to the individual users, present all the essential elements and encourage creative use.
  • Connects a problem with a context. A problem that occurs over and over in an environment.


Participatory pattern workshops


  • Case study workshop. Through this there is an initiative to have collaborative collective reflection to the sharing of good practice. By sharing of narratives and stories. Uses three hats idea - three people, one tells a story, the next captures it and the third tells the story. Table top concept mapping. 
  • Pattern mining workshop. People bring the cases and start to identify commonalities across the case studies and create some abstraction. Force mapping a concept map with all the tensions associated with a particular pattern.
  • Future scenarios workshop. They use the patterns in order to validate them. Try to apply them to new situations. There is some pattern mapping at this stage and a poster session where people present their patterns. 
Pattern Language Network
Digital identity project funded by Eduserve
Virtual worlds for education - MUUVEducation
Web 2.0 tools Planet project - JISC funded
Feedback and assessment - FEAST project, JISC funded
Sharing practice in TEL
Outputs to date: 195 case stories, 56 patterns, 56 scenarios
Aiming towards connections into a patterns language
Stylianos - live blog
Communities of Practice, Lave and Wenger 1991 People organising themselves into groups to carry out activities in professional setting and in education in formal and informal fashion. Highly popular across different disciplines including education. Success can be attributed to the innovative aspects of the theory and its aspirational nature in how professional communities learn.
But... criticisms
  • Question its almost universal applicability and claiming that it might be a useful heuristic rather than a proper educational theory
  • Two discourses and their associated supporters, Lave & Wenger and Wenger
CoP debates
  • formal/informal differentiation important as informal learning is not common in HE and formal groups cant become CoPs if informal learning aspects is not embedded in learning activities
  • Co-location is central to Lave and Wenger discourse but not in current HE practice
  • Students as newcomers to a CoP but necessarily engage in legitimate peripheral participation. Memberships expire in these student CoP. There are not many professional communities that can foster and adopt students as members
  • CoPs cant be created just because ICT in education can provide those opportunities that map against the framework of CoP. Open and Distance learners are disadvantage and co-presence can be erratic. 
Social media and user generated content. Collective and collaborative information is gather, shared, modified adn redistributed in creative acts. Personal sites ad content increasing. User controls the choice of appropriate tools. Collective intelligence of use is harnessed through aggregation and large scale cooperative activities.
Meta-analysis of social software book he co-edited. An important aspect of the book was that CoP was mentioned in 22 of the 30 odd chapters. Why was it claimed that a group became a CoP? How were media used for CoP? Was it just about tools or about learning design? 
Two categories of narratives i) conceptualisation ii) educational set-up
Case 1: context - what is the network about? An animation social media site. Tools and products interesting mixed, online galley, off campus access, process of documenting personal and group processes, peer benchmarking and critique. Methods how does the network function? animation enthusiasts.
  • Formal/informal relationship. Moving away from the design constraints imposed by VLE/LMS
  • Spaces - lots of discusion on this. Two important considerations: i) spaces for iteration and discussion of the common purpose ii) user configured spaces that represent the collective contributions of group members
  • Processes information and formal lines of communication, creating tools, ways for users to customise, links and reference ideas, create self help sub-groups as in ODL that can move between boundaries following a CoP trajectory
  • Assessment and feedback - opportunities to construct artefact for personal use or for assessment purposes. Formal/informal assessment places
Overall - not convince the notion of CoP is important as a full blown educational theory but still a using heuristic to support a community of learners in education.


Gráinne Conole
18:21 on 1 July 2010 (Edited 19:37 on 1 July 2010)

Citations for Peter Goodyear's recent work:

Goodyear, P. (2009). Teaching, technology and educational design: the architecture of productive learning environments. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council., P ALTC Fellowship report 2010.pdf


Goodyear, P., & Ellis, R. A. (2010). Expanding conceptions of study, context and educational design. In R. Sharpe, H. Beetham & S. de Freitas (Eds.), Rethinking learning for the digital age: how learners shape their own experiences. New York: Routledge.

Goodyear, P., & Retalis, S. (2010). Learning, technology and design. In P. Goodyear & S. Retalis (Eds.), Technology-enhanced learning: design patterns and pattern languages (Vol. 2, pp. 1-28). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Rob Phillips
18:54 on 1 July 2010

Live blog of Grainne's talk

Cloudworks as a community that encompasses multiple backgrounds and roles

Theoretical underpinnings that ave shaped the design of Cloudworks

Design frameworks in sociality.

There was an original vision shaped by the technical interventions, but also informed by social interventions.

Added functionality. The whole concept was an iterative approach in design.

Events that showcased the effectiveness of the system.

Attributes that draw from social media site design and successful features of other tools transposed to the context of Cloudworks.

Dialogic function very important. Rapid Aggregation, An expression space. Aggregating comments and conclusions.

Gofman’s ritual performance an influence.

Community indicators: to look at communities of practice

In terms of evaluating the collective.

Cloudscape (?) to provide help and guidance in the environment.

Name patterns of behaviour

Evolutionary design: going back to the simple notion of clouds


Stylianos Hatzipanagos
19:47 on 1 July 2010

Embedded Content

Conole - presentation on Slideshare

Conole - presentation on Slideshare

added by Gráinne Conole


Rob Phillips
5:43pm 1 July 2010

An important distinction for me is that informal learning can and should take part in formal settings...  It all depends on definitions..

Gráinne Conole
5:46pm 1 July 2010

Interesting take Rob. I think its important to think of learning across the full spectrum of between informal and formal contexts. There was an interest debate on this in a related cloud - have added a link.

Rob Phillips
5:58pm 1 July 2010

I am vaguely uneasy at the unstated assumptions behind what Andrew is saying about Web2.0 'design of learning'. I'm still trying to work this out, but it seems that one assumption is that 'learning' can be delivered; the other is that the design changes according to technology changes.  I would like these to be unpacked....

LeRoy Hill
6:04pm 1 July 2010

This is very interesting. The difference between formal and informal is being blurred by the way individuals learn in the networked setting.  Can we really capture the informal fully?  There is so much taken for granted in creating the divide between the two.  From my observation the discussion of informal / formal seems to be getting less attention in some circles.  I think more interestingly is the notion of meaningful learning experience that is mediated by so many tools.  And I think this is the challenge for a designer be it in a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ setting.  We can’t argue that mediation takes place in both of these settings and I think the focus is on how as designers we facilitate this mediation process.

Rob Phillips
6:05pm 1 July 2010

I'm comfortable with Web2.0 systems changing behaviours, but it is a further, unjustifiable leap that this might change learning processes, by which I mean internal, psychological processes.

Gráinne Conole
6:05pm 1 July 2010

Good point Rob one to come back to in the questions session. As I mentioned this morning I see it as being about a co-evolution of technologies and users, with design as an ongoing iterative but explicit process.

LeRoy Hill
6:13pm 1 July 2010

I agree with you Gráinne.  Its seems that its not as clear cut as some may think.  Much more ongoing and on the go negotiation as to what technologies offer to designers.  I am not too sure I get what you mean by explicit process.  Does it refer to the comprehensive and far-reaching nature or does it refer to the messiness of it all :-)

Gráinne Conole
6:14pm 1 July 2010

I agree not sure you can capture totally the informal, but even in 'formal learning' contexts we can no longer capture and understand how the learners are learning, where they are learning or what they are learning with. Andrew, John Cook and others I know have been doing a lot about looking at informal learning spaces. Also Rose Luckin, Fred Lockwood and others.

Rob Phillips
6:19pm 1 July 2010

I don't agree that learning processes have changed.  It may be that learning activities are different, and information can be accessed in different ways, but I don't agree that the way that people engage with these activities and information has changed.

LeRoy Hill
6:30pm 1 July 2010

Certainly so I agree but can we deduce that the change in activities can influence a different mode of internalization?  I think however, new ways of internalizing and making sense of the process is something worth further discussion.  This has implication for the way we present activities.  I see the process more of being able to decipher and navigate your way through the many ways of processing the information.  Can we therefore imply that there would be new ways of making sense of it all?

Rob Phillips
6:31pm 1 July 2010

Re Stylianos:

The concept of learning design (in a general sense) is a good one.  Peter Goodyear has done some great work in clarifying this concept in his recent books. My 'jury' is still out on pattern languages - they are one way of attempting to generalise learning designs.  

Tying it back.  The learning design can indicate the types of technology tools which can help to realise the learning design.  In other words, learning-driven use of technology. At odds with Andrew's session?


Gráinne Conole
6:47pm 1 July 2010

Have added the reference to Peter Goodyear and Simos Retalis' book.

Rob Phillips
7:02pm 1 July 2010

Can you refer to any evidence that Cloudworks contributes to professional learning?

Rob Phillips
7:32pm 1 July 2010

CoP and Learning Design. Is it sensible to use the term 'learning design' when referring to the design of an online environment to facilitate the development of informal communities of practice?

In other words, you are designing the environment and setting the context, and expectations of users, but this is designed to facilitate engagement, not learning. Learning may arise from individuals engaging with this environment...

Rob Phillips
7:35pm 1 July 2010

OK.  As Stylianos is talking, he is talking only about 'design' not 'learning design'. So I retract my earlier comment! :-)

LeRoy Hill
7:38pm 1 July 2010

Rob some very interesting things here to thinking about.  I am also pondering on some similar challenges...but I prefer to think of the processes and conditions that would allow the sort of 'learning' to thrive.

wish I was at this conference :-(

@ Gráinne also found this ref in my library...handbook of research on learning design and learning objects...vol 1 will add the reference to the cloud

Gráinne Conole
7:41pm 1 July 2010 (Edited 7:42pm 1 July 2010)

Hi @LeRoy yep that Learning Design and Learning Objects book is the one I mentioned in my keynote this morning edited by Lori Lockyer et al. at Wollongong. Its a great collection of some of the key current research in the field. Have added the reference to it.

LeRoy Hill
7:51pm 1 July 2010

ok...please delete my reference...cannot seem to do that... :-(  wish I was there for that one was the session recorded?

Gráinne Conole
12:56pm 2 July 2010

No worries LeRoy have done :-) Don't think sessions was recorded unfortunately. 

Stylianos Hatzipanagos
2:51pm 2 July 2010


I  see your point about learning design. What I  had in mind and probably it wasn't articulated  clearly was that treating social media as learning design tools enable us to make sure that all the functions are there that traditional previous generations of learning technologies  might not have supported e.g. informal learning. So it's about an inventory of functions and processes that such tools should support.

I  quite like definitions and conceptualisation of learning design in the JISC report. I  will add reference. 

Gráinne Conole
3:59pm 2 July 2010

Yes the JISC have done alot in this area, Helen Beetham in particular has been conceptualising alot of these ideas and she talks of 'Designing for learning'. Also Helen and Rhona have written a nice edited collection of research on learning design. Will add reference. 

Graham Attwell
4:41pm 2 July 2010

Good discussion - but I find the contributions about Communities of Practice a little strange. I am not sure that CoPs were ever claimed ot be a learning theory. Instead they were an explanation of how communities emerge and the common ties which bind them.

And in that respect communities of practice are always emergent. So it is very hard - if not impossible to create a community of practice. Unless the community has a shared practice it simply does not exist. But I see no reasion why such communities have to be co-located. According to Wenger (1998) a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

  •     What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  •     How it functions - mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.

So you cannot design a community of practice, any more than you can use the idea of CoP as a learning design theory. But you can support the emergence of CoPs by faciliating processes of negotiation and mutual engagement and supporting the creation and sharing of communal resources and artefacts.

And I think educators (even inHE :) ) should be doing these things.

Rob Phillips
7:19pm 2 July 2010

Graham Atwell said:

But you can support the emergence of CoPs by faciliating processes of negotiation and mutual engagement and supporting the creation and sharing of communal resources and artefacts.

Yes. That's the point I was trying to get to, but you've put it much better than I could.  This is an odd 'discussion' too, because there was another parallel F2F discussion going on.


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