Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview

Design, Collaboration, and Computation: the design studio as a model for computer-supported collaboration in mathematics

David Williamson Shaffer MIT Media laboratory


Abstract

The introduction of computational media to education has made the idea of learning in an open-ended, design-based environment appealing to educators. One important feature of such environments is the extent to which students are able to collaborate with teachers, experts and with their peers without losing control away their control of their own learning process. This paper looks at the architectural design studio as a model for dealing with this balance between control and collaboration in open-ended learning. In particular, this paper looks at using computers to create a "mathematics studio" where students learn mathematics using the pedagogy of the design studio. The paper presents two studies: one of how the design studio provides a model for collaborative work, the other exploring the use of computers to adapt the studio model to mathematics learning.

These two studies show that the design studio can provide an effective model for thinking about collaboration through design activities, and that the design studio model can be used successfully in mathematics learning with the help of computer technology. This research also suggests that whatever model we take for supporting collaborative activities, students' experiences of collaboration are strongly influenced by their sense of control over their learning process. Keywords: architecture education, collaborative learning, computers and learning, design education, design studio, ethnographic case studies, interview studies, mathematics education, qualitative research, student autonomy, technology and education


Introduction

Since the writings of Francis Parker and John Dewey ( Parker 1894/ 1969, Dewey 1915), educators have been excited by the possibilities of learning through design activities. The introduction of computational media to education has made this idea only more appealing, as educators saw how computers could make it possible to explore more areas of human understanding in an open-ended, design-based environment ( Papert 1980, Kafai & Harel 1991, Resnick & Ocko 1991, Papert 1993, Wilensky 1995, Noss & Hoyles 1996). One important issue in the open-ended approach of learning-by- design is the need to provide students with skills to regulate their learning activities effectively (see Dewey 1938).

Two of the essential skills in learning are clearly the ability to direct one's own work and the ability to work with others. Dewey wrote in great detail about the role of freedom and social control in students' development, suggesting, in particular, that "freedom" is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for the development of self-control. By "freedom" Dewey meant not only the physical freedom to move in space, but also the more important freedom to make decisions, to "frame purposes" and to exercise judgment ( Dewey 1938). Other theorists similarly emphasize the extent to which learners must control their learning experiences ( Sizer 1984, Papert 1991, Gardner 1993). In the same way, many learning theorists have argued that collaboration is a critical part of cognitive development. Vygotsky, for example, argued that the immediate potential for cognitive development (the "zone of proximal development") could only be fully realized in a collaborative context ( Vygotsky 1978). But there is an even broader (and growing) consensus that an essential part of learning to think is learning to think with others (see, e.g., Pea 1993, Bruner 1996).

Finding a balance between self-directed activity and activity coordinated with others is thus an essential skill. For students to be successful in a relatively autonomous learning (or working) environment, they need to learn how to work independently, how to collaborate with their

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