20 SES 07, Culture and Diversity for Pre-Service Teachers, Researching Learning Transitions in Challenging Settings and Retaining New Teachers
This paper presents findings from a recent research project to illustrate how the Internet can be used to create and sustain a virtual research community of young people, and how this can support their creative endeavours in challenging settings.
This paper is based upon research undertaken for the Inter-Life project between 2008 and 2012. The ESRC/EPSRC-funded Inter-Life Project (TLRP/TEL Phase; 2008-2011; see http://www.tlrp.org/tel/; Sclater & Lally, 2009) focused on the development of an integrated inter-cultural ‘context’ in a 3D platform (Second Life™), in order to investigate how young people can use it creatively - individually, and collectively - to assist in understanding and navigating their key life transitions, sometimes in challenging settings. The central aim of Inter-Life was to create a community space or ‘youth centre’ in a modern and engaging online environment, where young people could (within the ethical frame of the project and by negotiation with the team) pursue their own research agendas. The team chose to work in a ‘virtual world’. Virtual worlds are avatar-based, and networked, social spaces. Avatars in this context are animated graphic representations of participants that they can move around in the virtual world under their own control. They are often in human form, but can be animals, birds, or other entities. They can be modified and customised by participants at will.
Young people’s use and understanding of the Internet is still under-researched. In a very extensive review of media literacy, Buckingham et. al. (Buckingham, Banaji, Carr, Cranmer, & Willett, 2005) concluded that there is still a significant paucity of research about how young people evaluate, interpret, and respond to the Internet. Social class and economic status are well identified as limiters to their access to the Internet, more than to other media such as radio or television. However, less is known about other potential barriers to use, including the role of individual subjectivities and motivations.
The Inter-Life Project needed to develop a theoretical framework that would be powerful enough to help us understand and analyse the activities of the young people with whom we worked. Activity Theory was identified as a promising candidate, using an approach to theory selection developed by Halverson (2002). Activity Theory (AT) focuses on the constituent influences on activity, and places the participants and their goals centrally in ‘systems of activity’. These systems include the tools used by young people, their motivations and goals, ideas and values, the community context, and the artifacts that they create. Within this general framework, we focused on creative practices as tools to support reflection on social justice issues, the use of virtual worlds as a community context and the development of young people’s voices through creative practices as goals. The young people with whom we worked co-opted the tools and community setting for their own use, and began to articulate their own goals during the workshops. The research question was: how do young people work creatively to develop their own agency and subjectivities in a virtual research community and apply this agency in challenging real world settings?
Buckingham, D., Banaji, S., Carr, D., Cranmer, S. and Willett, R. (2005). The Media Literacy of Children and Young People: A Review of the Research Literature. Institute of Education: London. De Laat, M. F., Lally, V., Lipponen, L., & Simons, P. R. J. (2007). Online teaching in networked learning communities: A multi-method approach to studying the role of the teacher. Instructional Science, 35(3), 257-286. Halverson, C. A. (2002). Activity theory and distributed cognition: Or what does CSCW need to DO with theories? Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 11, 243–267. Sclater, M. & Lally, V. (2009) Bringing Theory to Life: towards three-dimensional learning communities with ‘inter-life’, in G. Rijlaarsdam (Ed.) Fostering Communities of Learners: 13th biennial conference for research on learning and instruction (EARLI), p. 190. Amsterdam: Graduate School of Teaching and Learning, University of Amsterdam. Others used Biesta, G. (2006). What's the point of lifelong learning if lifelong learning has no point? On the democratic deficit of policies for lifelong learning. European Educational Research Journal, 5(3/4), 169-180. Darts, D. (2006). Art education for a change: Contemporary issues and the visual arts. Art Education, 59(5), 6-12. Engeström, Y. (2009). The Future of Activity Theory: A rough draft. In Sannino, A., Daniels, H. & Gutierrez, K.D. (Eds.) Learning and expanding with activity theory (pp. 303-328). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Jonassen, D., & Rohrer-Murphy, L. (1999). Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(1), 61-79. Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Revisiting activity theory as a framework for designing student-centered learning environments. Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments, 89-121. Lally, V, & Sclater, M. (2012). The Inter-life project: Inter-cultural spaces for young people to use creative practices and research to assist with life changes and transition. Research in Comparative and International Education, 7(4), 480-502. doi:10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.480 Lally, V, & Sclater, M. (2013). The inter-life project: Researching the potential of art, design and virtual worlds as a vehicle for assisting young people with key life changes and transitions. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 41(3), 1-21. Sclater, M. F. (2007). Freedom to create? Computer supported collaborative learning in art and design education (unpublished PhD). Glasgow, UK: University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art. Sclater, M. (2011) Theorising from Bricolage: researching collaboration in art and design education, in J. Adams, M. Cochrane & L. Dunne (Eds) Applying Theory to Educational Research: an introductory approach with case studies, pp. 158-176. London: Wiley.
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