Sunday, July 22, 2012

"An international research community" Editorial introduction to ijCSCL 7(3)

An international research community

Gerry Stahl * Nancy Law * Friedrich Hesse

The Editors are pleased to announce that the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning was again highly ranked by ISI's annual "Impact Factor" report released several days ago. IjCSCL ranks #11 of the 203 journals ranked by ISI in the field of Education and Educational Research and it ranks #6 of the 83 journals ranked by ISI in the field of Information Science & Library Science. IjCSCL is the #1 journal published by Springer and ranked by ISI in each of these categories.

IjCSCL has an impact factor of 2.243 for last year and a 5-year impact factor of 3.000. The impact factor for 2011 is the number of citations of the journal's 2009 and 2010 articles cited during 2011 in ISI-ranked journals, divided by the number of the journal's 2009 and 2010 articles. That is, articles printed in ijCSCL during 2009 or 2010 were cited in ISI-ranked journals on average 2¼ times during 2011. The ISI impact factor (published annually by the Institute for Scientific Information at Thomson Reuters) is widely considered the most important ranking of academic journals. In many universities, it is considered in evaluating authors for tenure and promotion.

IjCSCL supports an international research community. It receives submissions from 53 countries. About 7,000 universities and research institutions around the world subscribe to it, making its content available to millions of people through the Springer website. We also maintain the website with the full text of all articles freely available to the whole world; there have been two million hits to this site so far. Several thousand articles are downloaded every month from the and websites. This indicates that ijCSCL continues to be read and cited by many researchers in the active computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) and learning sciences research community, in addition to being an archival venue for significant research findings.

The most cited (in ISI Web of Science and Google Scholar) and most downloaded (from and articles have been:

  • “Technology affordances for intersubjective meaning making: A research agenda for CSCL” (Suthers, 2006)
  • “Specifying computer-supported collaboration scripts” (Kobbe et al., 2007)
  • “Analyzing collaborative learning processes automatically: Exploiting the advances of computational linguistics in computer-supported collaborative learning” (Rosé et al., 2008)
  • “A systemic and cognitive view on collaborative knowledge building with wikis” (Cress & Kimmerle, 2008)
  • “Productive failure in CSCL groups” (Kapur & Kinzer, 2009)
  • “Time is precious: Variable- and event-centred approaches to process analysis in CSCL research” (Reimann, 2009)
  • “The joint organization of interaction within a multimodal CSCL medium” (Çakir, Zemel & Stahl, 2009)
  • “The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies” (Laurillard, 2009)
  • “Learning to collaborate while being scripted or by observing a model” (Rummel, Spada & Hauser, 2009)
  • “Web 2.0: Inherent tensions and evident challenges for education” (Bonderup Dohn, 2009)
  • “Approaching institutional contexts: Systemic versus dialogic research in CSCL” (Arnseth & Ludvigsen, 2006)

This list reflects the journal’s broad diversity of contributions to CSCL theory, technology, methodology, pedagogy, and analysis. These articles are written in a range of creative presentation styles, by authors trained in various fields and traditions. Such interdisciplinarity and multivocality are essential for the growth of knowledge in CSCL.

The CSCL and learning sciences research community continues to expand its international reach, as interest in the field spreads around the world. The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012) was just held in Australia, for the first time this conference series was located in the Asia-Pacific hemisphere. The previous year, the CSCL conference (CSCL 2011) was held in Hong Kong, with post-conference events at three Mainland China universities. As a result, ijCSCL is receiving more submissions from Hong Kong, Singapore, Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand. In fact, about a third of ijCSCL submissions now come from Asia-Pacific, a third from Europe and a third from the Americas. We hope that people from around the world will continue to attend the ICLS and CSCL conferences. CSCL 2013 will be in Madison, Wisconsin, USA (near Chicago); paper submissions are due November 2, 2012 (see

IjCSCL recently published reports on systematic educational reform programs in Singapore (Looi et al., 2011) and Hong Kong (Chan, 2011). We welcome brief descriptions of efforts to introduce CSCL approaches in other areas of the world—such as the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America.

Although competition is increasing for publication in ijCSCL (21% acceptance rate in 2011), we are now able to publish about 40% more articles than in the past, providing expanded opportunities for new ideas and significant contributions to the CSCL literature. Generally, authors should develop their papers through a series of preliminary presentations—such as local research talks, posters, workshop contributions, conference papers, book chapters—in order to receive peer feedback and successively expand and refine their arguments. Submissions to ijCSCL should report on mature research that explores processes of collaborative learning and mechanisms of its computer support in considerable depth. For instance, surveys of student self-perceptions and beliefs are considered preliminary explorations, not ready for journal publication. Submissions should be grounded in solid understanding of current CSCL research, methods, pedagogy, and theory.

The on-going success of ijCSCL is attributable to the authors, reviewers, and readers of the journal. Many of the authors are established leaders of the CSCL and learning sciences research community; others are newcomers or researchers in allied fields, contributing stimulating perspectives and novel findings. The Board of Editors—about 80 researchers from around the world—and other reviewers provide the incisive feedback to authors, generally pointing the way for improvements to the papers, which greatly increase their import. Finally, the readers take up the published ideas and build our knowledge further, realizing the impact in reality, which ISI’s numbers only roughly model.

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See ijCSCL 7(3) for references.

ijCSCL issue for September 2012

ijCSCL Table of Contents

Volume 7, Number 3, September 2012

An international research community

Gerry Stahl * Nancy Law * Friedrich Hesse

Learning physics through play in an augmented reality environment

Noel Enyedy * Joshua A. Danish * Girlie Delacruz * Melissa Kumar

Context matters: The value of analyzing human factors within educational contexts as a way of informing technology-related decisions within design research

Kim MacKinnon

Patterns of kindergarten childrens social interaction with peers in the computer area

Eun Mee Lim

Online class size, note reading, note writing and collaborative discourse

Mingzhu Qiu * Jim Hewitt * Clare Brett

4SPPIces: A case study of factors in a scripted collaborative-learning blended course across spatial locations

Mar Pérez-Sanagustín * Patricia Santos * Davinia Hernández-Leo * Josep Blat

"Cognizing mediating" introductory editorial to ijCSCL 7(2)

Cognizing mediating: Unpacking the entanglement of artifacts with collective minds

Gerry Stahl

The age of simple objects like well-designed artifacts, minds confined inside of skulls, and cultures cloistered in the tacit background has been left in the fading past according to current socio-cultural theory. We are now enmeshed in dialectical processes of social enactment, whereby designed objects continue to evolve well after they enter into the structuring of our thought patterns.

Biological human evolution has long since transformed itself into cultural evolution, proceeding at an exponential pace. Along the way, thought overcame the limits of individual minds to expand with the power of discourses, inscriptions, digital memories, computational devices, technological infrastructures, computer-supported group cognition, and virtual communities. Both human cognition and its mediation by technological artifacts morph from fixed nouns into process verbs, like “cognizing mediating”—where human cognition and technological media shape each other in ways we are just beginning to conceptualize.

The owl of Minerva flies only at night, according to Hegel’s (1807/1967) metaphor: theory—which is one’s time grasped in concepts—lags behind the continuous unfolding of practice. As today’s viral software successes rapidly outstrip our design theories, we must try to understand the ways in which new generations of users adopt and adapt their digital tools, thereby defining and redefining their conceptual, social, and pragmatic ties to their worlds. Hegel theorized the dialectic between subject and object, proposing that the identity of the human subject is formed when a subject subjects an object to goal-oriented design (Stahl, 2006, p. 333f), creating an artifact within the effort to forge intersubjectivity and its spin-off, the individual’s self.

Vygotsky (1930/1978) recognized the role of double stimulation in mediated cognizing: that the subject’s access to an object is mediated by tools such as hammers, names, and physical-symbolic inscriptions, so that in higher-order human cognizing we are stimulated by both an intentional object and a cognizing-mediating tool. It is this mediation of cognition by artifacts and via other people that opens the zone of proximal development, allowing the individual mind to first exceed and then later extend its limits. Engeström’s (1987) concept of expansive learning added the cultural dimensions from Marx’ social theory to Vygotsky’s simple triangle of subject-artifact-object. Henceforth, socio-technical understandings of artifacts have to situate them culturally, historically, politically.

We have considered the labyrinthine nature of the artifact’s affordances previously within theories of human-computer interaction (Hutchins, 1999; Norman, 1991), cognitive science (Gibson, 1979; Hutchins, 1996) and CSCL (Bonderup Dohn, 2009; Dwyer & Suthers, 2006; Jones, Dirckinck-Holmfeld & Lindstrom, 2006; Suthers, 2006; van der Pol, Admiraal & Simons, 2006). In particular, based on Merleau-Ponty’s (1945/2002) philosophy, Bonderup Dohn argued that the affordances of an artifact were potentials realized in response to human behaviors.

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In this issue’s opening essay, Maarten Overdijk, Wouter van Diggelen, Paul A. Kirschner & Michael Baker explore the nature of artifacts by comparing the theory of affordances with the theories of structuration and of instrumental genesis. Structuration (Giddens, 1984; Orlikowski, 2008) is a well known theory developed to account for the dialectic between social structures and the local interactions which are both constrained by these structures and reproduce them. Instrumental genesis is a recent theory developed in France by Pierre Rabardel and his colleagues. This issue of ijCSCL introduces the theory of instrumental genesis to the CSCL community and explores how the theory might impact work in CSCL, at methodological, technological, and theoretical levels.

Our first article compares the three major recent theories about the interaction between artifacts and people, using a concrete case study of a typical CSCL setting. It argues in favor of the general approach of instrumental genesis as an analysis of the micro-genesis of artifacts and as the best available description of the nature of tools, particularly for CSCL. The theory of affordances tends to focus on the individual, for instance with Gibson’s biological perspective or Norman’s use of mental models, or Piaget’s schemas in individual minds. In contrast, the sociological theory of structuration focuses on the societal or cultural level. The theory of instrumental genesis can more naturally be applied to the small-group collective level central to CSCL, as the first article does in discussing how triads of students enacted a feature of an argumentation-support software system.

The paper presents a “theoretically grounded” conception of the artifact-agent connection. A next step would be to explore an empirically grounded analysis of the connection. While the article referred to data from a CSCL experiment, it simply used high-level descriptions of the data to illustrate aspects of the theories being described. It will be important in the future to analyze such data in detail to see if the connections of groups of students to computer-support systems follow the contours of one or more of the three theories, or whether they display different lines of development. Furthermore, it will be useful to consider more complex technologies, whole meso-level infrastructures (Jones, Dirckinck-Holmfeld & Lindstrom, 2006) rather than isolated functions. For instance, in an online course, small groups may have to negotiate the coordinated use of hundreds of functions in Blackboard, Google search, Wikipedia, Facebook, Google Docs, iChat, Gmail, Word, and PowerPoint in order to produce a one-week assignment. Such an undertaking invokes the use of individual experience or expertise, established social practices in the school culture, consideration of course requirements and project goals, as well as collaborative discourse and trials by the small groups. The resultant computer-supported effort assembles and interprets a complex technical infrastructure, increases the expertise of the group participants, and provides a medium for group knowledge building. The connection of the collaborative group with the technical infrastructure continuously evolves through use during a term.

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Having glimpsed the potential relevance of the theory of instrumental genesis to CSCL, we turn next to a discussion of that theory within the context of CSCL system design. Jacques Lonchamp returns to these pages after having presented his analyses of CSCL design options (Lonchamp, 2006; 2009). He now argues for applying Rabardel’s theory by expanding Engeström’s (1987) Activity Theory triangle of mediations, to explicitly represent both the processes of mutual shaping of agent and artifact and the specific role of the teacher in CSCL classrooms: He pictures the various mediated interconnections among tool, designer, teacher, student, peer, and tutor. Furthermore, he discusses how the agent-artifact connection—embodied in Rabardel’s conception of the instrument—evolves over time through usage and re-design.

The paper concludes with a review of CSCL system design approaches to supporting “instrumentalization” by teachers and students. Although it comes close to describing design-based research (Brown, 1992; Design-Based Research Collective, 2003), this review does not name it. Design-based research is a dominant approach within CSCL research to integrating system design, usage analysis, educational research, and practical classroom interventions. It was developed in response to the need to conduct user-centered design of innovative educational software for collaborative groups—a realm lacking in detailed theories, specific analysis methods, adequate software, or design guidelines. Perhaps an explicit combination of Rabardel’s theory with data from design-based research projects could provide empirically grounded insights into the mutual shaping of CSCL software and group cognition in on-going design and usage processes.

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The third paper, by Giuseppe Ritella & Kai Hakkarainen, situates Rabardel’s theory within the context of knowledge-building practices, as these are conceptualized in recent work at the Scandinavian-led Knowledge Practices Laboratory (KP-Lab). This context is populated with social practices grounded in knowledge-building artifacts (Hakkarainen, 2009) and structured in space and time by chronotypes (Ligorio & Ritella, 2010). The knowledge-building artifacts are instruments in Rabardel’s sense; they provide for advanced forms of Vygotskian double stimulation (Lund & Rasmussen, 2008). The whole context is the result of the cultural evolution (Donald, 1991; 2001) that led up to our involvement with digital information and communication technologies in an increasingly powerful, distributed, and mediated cognitive universe.

From prehistoric times to the present, the proliferation of forms of inscription (Latour, 1990) transformed the human cognitive architecture as profoundly as earlier leaps in biological evolution, allowing radical externalization and collectivization of cognition. In a sense, CSCL aims to push this further, designing collaboration media to foster group cognition that can lead to new forms of individual learning, team knowledge building, and community social practices. To the extent that this is true, we need to design new tasks for computer-supported teams, aiming for cognitive achievements beyond the reach of individual team members without computer supports. The goal of CSCL research should not be to simply demonstrate repeatedly that individuals learn better in online groups, but to design and investigate tasks that go beyond traditional instruction. Recent findings concerning “productive failure” (Kapur & Kinzer, 2009; Pathak et al., 2011) illustrate how groups with challenging tasks may be learning in ways that defy standard testing indicators, but that contribute to increased problem-solving skills of the groups and ultimately of their members.

The analysis of instrumental genesis within the framework of knowledge building points to both the potentials of CSCL and the barriers to widespread dissemination. The historical evolution of tools as “epistemic artifacts” can itself be seen as a knowledge-building accomplishment of the greatest cognitive consequence, related to Vygotsky’s—perhaps misleadingly named—notion of “internalization” by individuals of skills germinated in intersubjective circumstances. On the other hand, the complexity involved in successful instrumental genesis translates into severe barriers when, for instance, one tries to promote adoption of CSCL technologies, pedagogies, chronotypes, and educational philosophies in established school communities and institutions. Parallel to the difficulties of the students struggling to enact the technological affordances are the difficulties of the researchers, trying to document, analyze, and conceptualize the tortuous paths of instrumental genesis in CSCL.

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See the June 2012 issue of ijCSCL for references to this introductory editorial.