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Social Presence and Context-Awareness for Knowledge Transformation in an m-Learning Environment Raymond M. Kekwaletswe Centre for Educational Technology U n i v e r s i t y of C a p e T o w n email@example.com Overview One of the most fundamental facets of learning is the social interaction in which knowledge is an outcome of individuals sharing experiences. In a contact university, learners generally perform learning tasks in three locations: formal contexts semi-formal contexts informal contexts or non- academic settings. As learners move across different learning contexts, they do not have access to the same social networks for knowledge sharing and consultation. The lack of social presence awareness makes it difficult to provide them with context sensitive and anywhere anytime support as learning environments change. Background One of the prevailing educational challenges in a South African university is that of providing tailored social support to under prepared learners. For these learners, the potential of personalized support on learning experiences through social awareness could be huge. Learners at the University of Cape Town come from very diverse backgrounds, with different languages and cultures. Social awareness of knowledgeable peers with shared background regardless of a learning location could enrich learning experience and knowledge transfer. This presentation is on how social presence awareness, afforded by mobile instant messaging (IM), is used to support knowledge transformation as a learner traverses varied contexts. Knowledge Transformation Knowledge is an ambiguous, unspecific and dynamic phenomenon, intrinsically related to meaning, understanding and process. It is fundamentally intertwined with social settings in which it is encountered. Knowledge transfer is ultimately a human-to-human process. Since this process is inherently interactive and dynamic, the knowledge, in essence, transforms while or during the very process of its transfer. Knowledge transformation is, therefore, a social process which occurs when there is a shift in knowledge due to the social interaction. Knowledge Social Space Social setting or context in which knowledge is encountered contributes to its meaning. Mindful of this, our view of ideal social presence awareness for knowledge transformation is one that is sensitive to the background of a learner, culture and language. The shared background, therefore, affords shared interpretations or meanings. Shared meanings are very important to social interaction transpiring via mobile instant messaging. The meaning of the text in IM interaction derives from its context. In other words, knowledge is socially constructed when IM text message is socially and contextually interpreted. Knowledge, Social Presence & Context Awareness The emphasis of this presentation is on how social presence and context awareness is used in the exchange of knowledge among learners. Knowledge transformation is the outcome of learners sharing experiences while building helpful and socially rewarding networks of people. For social interaction to begin taking place, learners ought to be aware of the social presence of available social resources. In the next slides, we discuss theories of social presence and context awareness, conceptual model and conclusion. Concept of Presence Presence, although broadly defined as the sense of ‘being there’ in a mediated environment, can be conceptualized in a number of ways. These multidimensional conceptualizations, however, can be grouped into two broad categories—social and physical presence The physical category refers to the sense of being physically located somewhere Social category refers to being and communicating with someone Social Presence Theory “Social presence,” initially proposed by Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) as “technical social presence,” was defined as the capacity of the medium itself to present the “salience of the other person in interpersonal interaction” Short, et. al. contended that different communication media convey varying degrees of social presence based on their ability to transmit nonverbal and vocal information. Challenged by researchers in the field who showed that perceived social presence in mediated interactions varies among participants. They thus argued that social presence was as much a matter of individual perceptions as an objective quality of the medium. Consequently, redefining social presence as “the degree to which a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated communication” Social Presence Rourke, et al (2001) regarded social presence as one of the three fundamental “presences” that support learning, the other two being cognitive presence and teaching presence Defining it as “the ability of learners to project themselves socially and affectively into a community of inquiry” They identified three categories of social presence indicators -- affective responses, cohesive responses, and interactive responses: Affective responses contain personal expressions of emotion, feelings, beliefs, and values. Cohesive responses are communication behaviors that build and sustain a sense of group commitment, e.g. greetings and salutations and group or personal reference. Interactive responses are behaviors that provide evidence that others are attending, e.g. agreement/disagreement, approval and referencing previous messages. Context Context can be understood as the situation in which the individual or a group of learners find themselves. Accordingly, context is defined as any information that can be used to characterize the situation of an entity. An entity is a person, place, or object that is considered relevant to the interaction between a user and an application Problem Formulation Our view is that awareness of social presence is a useful characteristic of a learning environment in which a mobile learner is engaged in a knowledge and learning activity. Accepting this premise, there are three challenges: Firstly, the learner’s engagement with a knowledge transforming activity is not fixed to particular locations. Secondly, learning environments exist to support learning and when a learner moves the environment ought to move with a learner. Thirdly, the learner ought to be aware of a social presence while engaged with a location independent learning task and knowledge transfer. Problem Formulation In this regard, the problem is Formal contexts: Interaction in that of ensuring that the quality these spaces is usually one-way of resources remains consistent from instructor to learner. The for supporting a learning task instructor delivers lectures, and regardless of the location of a a learner either takes notes or is learner. given a handout. Learning is We use the term resources often passive pragmatically to mean peers, Semi-contexts: represent tutors, instructors etc. informal spaces on campus. There are three types of Most instructors schedule contexts within which a learner consultations, often no ad hoc is mobile and for which a consultations. learner needs support: In-formal contexts include Formal contexts working during after-hours, Semi-formal contexts week-ends; in residences, or home. In these spaces, a In-formal contexts learner may use his or her mother tongue language to consult with peers Proposition We sought to provide Our context-aware ubiquitous learning support consultation environment to a learner as he or she supports a learner (who) traverses the three contexts, as he or she engages with Our goal is to create a the learning materials context-aware consultation (what), whether in the system. formal, semi or informal Context-aware applications learning contexts look at the who’s, where’s, (where), anytime (when) when’s and what’s of through the use of entities and use this information to determine why context-aware social the situation is occurring. presence mechanisms. An application doesn’t actually determine why a situation is occurring Proposition Lonsdale et al (2004) proposed a context model hierarchy to provide a hierarchical description of context as a dynamic process with historical dependencies. The model had three features: Context (what’s going on over time); Context state (elements from the learning and setting at one particular time, space, or goal sequence); Context sub-state (elements from the learner and setting that are relevant to the current focus of learning and desired level of context awareness). The goal of the context model was to develop a learner-centered approach to context awareness. Conceptual Model Although we share the learner centered approach, we differ in the implementation of the context-awareness. In our proposition, the mobile learner has access to the same social network and resources regardless of his or her location or learning context. Mobile learner environment P1 P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P2 L P3 Social Presence Awareness T P4 P5 Social Network L Peers T Social Presence Awareness L T Peer P = Learner with a learning task/problem Mobile lecturer, tutor and peer T =Tutor environment L = Lecturer Social Presence & Context-Aware Consultation System In the conceptual model (preceding slide), context-awareness and social presence are achieved via mobile instant messaging (IM). Current pilots involve the use of an IM client installed on pocket PCs. The need for a WiFi enabled PDA is to support synchronous interaction in varied contexts using wireless network hotspots. In our view, social awareness is a mental concept where a learner becomes aware of the social network that follows him or her while moving across the different learning contexts. In the model, a learner is consciously aware of available tutors, lecturers and knowledgeable peers should they encounter a learning problem for which they need to consult. By the same token, a peer is consciously aware of other mobile learners as well as available experts (lecturers or tutors). Learners access a consistent quality of social network and resources. The social network provides a necessary social interaction whose outcome is knowledge transformation in the mind of a learner. Limitations Although the mobile IM environment is serving as a useful source of context information on available sources of consultable peers, some of the current challenges include: Access problems to PDA devices or wireless hotspots. Integrating IM with the location awareness that is built into cellular phone systems. Seamless interface between the mobile IM client and the online consultation system (developed at UCT) called Dynamic Frequently Asked Questions, is under investigation. Conclusion In view of the fact that learning and knowledge transformation are location and time independent, mobile instant messaging allows learners the unusual presence awareness of available social resources they can draw upon for consultation. We have shown how social presence awareness is used to support a learner. Our conceptual model is a learning environment that supports the mobility of a learner, continuously assuring him or her of consistent access to social networks and resources. We have shown how ubiquitous communication and social interaction through the use of a context-aware social presence mechanism is employed to support a learner as he or she traverses the formal, semi- formal, and informal learning contexts. Although social network and resources are static, they move with the learner through social awareness presence, regardless of a learning context. Therefore, social presence afforded by instant messaging could successfully maintain social networks constituted for anywhere, anytime knowledge transformation. We have also highlighted some of the implementation challenges with our model which we are addressing using pragmatic approaches. We approached mobile instant messaging in its local context of supporting social interaction in a South African higher education environment, where personalized academic support is a growing need but delivery is fraught with challenges. Hence, the synchronous mobile IM allows us to determine the local value it brings to learning and knowledge sharing, as well as its place among other media of social and educational communication. Future Work The envisaged future work of the mobile IM environment will allow learners to: pick up knowledgeable peers or tutors who are nearest to their location and available for interaction based on hotspot proximity. This mobile IM environment through its social presence awareness feature will show a learner: who among his or her social network is available for a potential immediate and impromptu face-to-face consultation. Ke lebogile! Thank you! DISCUSSION and QUESTIONS?
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