Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Redesigning a Web-Conferencing Environment to Scaffold Computing Students' Creative Design Processes

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Redesigning a Web-Conferencing Environment to Scaffold Computing Students' Creative Design Processes

Article excerpt


Modern technologies provide teachers with new opportunities to create engaging and effective learning (Oliver, Harper, Wills, Agostinho, & Hedberg, 2007). Contemporary web-conferencing systems such as Adobe Connect (Adobe Systems Inc., 2010), Wimba Classroom (Wimba Inc., 2010) and Elluminate Live (Elluminate Inc., 2010) allow rich-media tools to be integrated, offering novel possibilities for instantiating synchronous online learning. Voice-over IP, text chat, whiteboards, screen-sharing, communal note areas, and so on provide a powerful suite of tools with which to present information, model processes, and share concepts.

Computer programming is a design-based field that depends upon the capacity of programmers to work creatively. It is a unique domain in that it is highly structured in terms of the underlying syntax and semantics, yet highly creative in terms of the solutions that can be produced. Based on a three-semester design-based research study of teaching computer programming in a web-conferencing environment, this paper reports on how the pedagogies, tasks, and interfaces utilized in online environments can be redesigned to effectively support students' creative design thinking and sharing.

Literature review

Creative design

Design can be defined as devising "courses of actions aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones" (Simon, 1996, p. 111). Lowgren (1995) distinguishes between creative design and engineering design, with creative design being a more personal and unpredictable process resulting in the creation of many parallel ideas and concepts, whereas engineering design involves finding solutions to precisely defined problems. Importantly, in an attempt to dispel negative connotations associated with creative design processes and promote its intellectual rigor, Wolf, Rode, Sussman, & Kellogg (2006) point out that rather than being diametrically opposed, engineering design often involves elements of divergent and artistic production while creative design often contains structured practice and scientific reflection. That is to say, all design involves elements of creativity and science.

The way in which people represent and exchange design information has been proposed to critically affect the success of collaborative design processes. Carroll, Thomas & Malhotra (1980) found a significantly improved performance in a temporal design task when a visual representation was used. The arrangement of physical spaces has been observed to affect the success of design teams (either positively by providing natural ways to share created knowledge, or negatively by physically distancing designers), causing researchers to conclude that online collaborative systems needs to facilitate effective switching between communicating and acting (Leiva-Lobos, De Michelis, & Covarrubias, 1997).

Based on an analysis of car design software and practices, Tano (2003) observed that different types of representations are more or less appropriate for different types of creative design thinking. Abstract sketches were found to be more appropriate for reflective cognition, and high reality renderings were more suitable for experimental cognition (Tano, 2003). In another study, the conception phase and the deliverable preparation phases of a creative design process were performed in entirely different ways (Leiva-Lobos et al., 1997). When considered in the light of designing online learning environments to support design processes, different interface designs may be more or less appropriate based on the phase of development and the type of thinking being engaged.

This design-based research study explains how the pedagogical approach, type of task, and interface of an online collaborative learning environment was redesigned in order to better support creative design processes.

Pedagogies for supporting creative design

There is a variety of pedagogies for supporting creative design ranging from transmissive to more student-centred approaches. …

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