Computer Supported Collaborative Learning July 4-8, 2011 in Hong Kong

So this post is overdue, and in the interest of just giving an update, I’ll write quickly.

I went to Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) in early July. Saw a lot of people. Robin joined me for part of it, and we shopped for toys and nail polish together, sometimes with Cynthia D’Angelo. We went to the horse races (which was totally rad). I had some very, very awesome breakfasts (dim sum type buns) from a hole-in-the-wall across the street from my hotel with Ben DeVane and Ben Shapiro.

From CSCL 2011

This was the first time I’ve been to CSCL. It’s the sister conference to the International Conference for the Learning Sciences (ICLS) (which I have been to a couple of times and feel pretty well at home in). They switch off which one happens every year, so next year it’ll be ICLS (in Sydney!), followed by CSCL (in Madison right before GLS) in 2013. I most went because, let’s face it, it’s freaking HONG KONG! But also, I went because I figured it makes sense for me to broaden my network a bit now that I’ve graduated and am semi-looking for a job.

The community around CSCL is very, very compelling. Everyone is so friendly and supportive and open. The organization feels sort of like a start-up of engineers where we all just show up and *do stuff* each day as we talk about the work and think about how it could be better. I sort of volunteered to help out with the website (and maybe luckily they haven’t needed the help yet).

There was a little bit of hypocrisy in the stated desires of the organizers and the actual line up of presentations. I kept hearing that researchers should focus more on informal contexts, acknowledging the everyday learning that occurs in all settings and how it is often disconnected from school life. Yet most of the presentations I saw were squarely rooted in classroom improvement or support with (digital) technology. Maybe in a couple of years a lot more focus will be on informal learning. /shrug

I presented the actor-network theory chapter from my dissertation, detailing how a user-created mod to World of Warcraft was assigned a role/responsibility/task by the group I studied for a specific fight (Ragnaros in Molten Core) in a way that was not intentional by the creator of the mod. (paper) One of the questions I got was, “yes, but, how does this help classrooms?” d’oh!

If you’re interested, the general answer is that I am part of a group that values learning in all settings that matter and have consequential meaning-making to their participants. Yes, of course, classrooms matter, and, yes, of course, learning in certain settings affects learning in others. But my research doesn’t focus on bridging that gap. Instead it’s important because hardly anyone in the learning sciences even understands what goes on in gaming (sub)cultures/settings, so I explain and detail what happens in those settings and show that, yes, people learn in those settings. AND in this description, it is quite easy to start thinking about other settings and see that, wow, the group of gamers I chronicled self-organize and learn and take up certain material resources in a way that sounds awfully familiar in other settings. The real question becomes, “how can we foster people to be critical and agentive in their own learning, like the group I studied, no matter what setting they’re in?”

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