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Cooney et al workshop

Bringing in More Voices, Participatory Design Conference 2000

Proposal for panel or workshop

User Friendly: Dialectic development of technology-enhanced learning environments.

Danny Choriki (Graduate Center of the City University of New York), From Chalkwriter to Webwriter: Barrier and Voice in the Management of Change in Education Technology.

Ellen M. Cooney (Nassau Community College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York), Technology-enhanced Teaching Initiatives: Embracers and Resistors

Heather Larson (Graduate Center of the City University of New York), Older People's Environmental Extension into Cyberspace.

Mari Millary (Graduate Center of the City University of New York), A Study of Critical Thinking and Adaptation to Technology.

This session is intended to bring an actor network analysis to the process of web design and software design. To enhance the activity of participatory design of technology, we will assist design participants in the consideration of all the "actors" involved in the dialectic process of design and application. In addition to a theoretical analysis, each member of the "user friendly" team will bring project experience and data for discussion. "User Friendly" would be appropriate for a panel as well as a workshop.

Activity theory is a model of artifact-mediated and-object oriented action. Actor network theory--a tool for social studies of technology-- helps us to identify all of the people and things that influence what people do. For instance, an artifact (computers and software are artifacts) determines its use to some degree. But then again, those artifacts are constantly interpreted and revised. In addition, the dynamics of politics, economy, industry, people’s motivations and skill sets determine usability.

Some useful concepts for describing the context in which Internet participation develops were offered by Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave. Wenger popularized the concept of "Communities of Practice" (1996) referring to people who are gathering around shared interests and activities. According to Suchman, learning normally occurs as a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs: hence it is "situated" (1991). Furthermore, as newcomers gain experience and expertise, they are able to participate more fully in the community. Thus, "as the beginner or newcomer moves from the periphery of this community to its center (by gaining know-how), they become more active and engaged within the culture"(Lave, 1991). According to Gibson (1979) "the ability to select and abstract information grows as (experience does)." In Cyberspace, experience and practice lead to greater freedom for movement, to expression, to engagement with others and to the development of an understanding of self--and personal potentialities--within a situation.

Danny Choriki discusses the processes involved in the Management of Change in Education Technology. Cuban (1986) points out in his discussion of the implementation of educational technology in schools that teachers are usually blamed for the failure of innovation in educational technology.  He goes on to argue that these projects are typically designed with the technology as the focus and teachers are expected to adapt. In Project Tell: PC's in the Classrooms Initiative, (Birenbaum, et al, 1994) we examined the context of teachers work environment as technology was being introduced. A number of barriers to technology adaptation were identified. Most important is the need for clearly stated educational goals and for different technologies designed to integrate into the daily work lives of teachers and their different styles and needs.


Cooney examines the adaptation process of teachers at a community college, which has supported ventures to bring computer-enhanced learning into individual course curriculum. Hardware, software and training are provided for teachers in their efforts to integrate computers and telecommunications in their curricular and classroom activities with a focus on active learning and enhancing students' critical thinking skills. The current initiative examines academia as a dialectical environment through survey, self report and town hall meetings as well as student impact studies that provide data to assess why some faculty embrace technology enhanced learning and why others resist the same.


Heather Larson’s contribution provides a proposal for investigating how people of different ages create what (Madonado-Lugo ; 1996) called environmental extensions. Extending is the act of attempting to put oneself out in the world and become more engaged in society. Activities in which people extend themselves in Cyberspace include the creation of personal Web pages and correspondence via e-mail. Currently, older adults are the most rapidly- growing constituency of Internet users (Third Age Media, 1998), and it might be hypothesized that is that as people age, (given adequate resources and training) they will gradually increase their active participation in Cyberspace. Data from interviews and geographical logs will provide important information for researchers, designers, and policy officials concerning user access as they "age-in-Cyberspace".

Mari Millary brings an analysis of co-constructed technology processes in the workplace. A dialectic process of adaptation to a new computer technology is described among workers in two public transportation facilities located in a working class suburban borough of a large metropolitan city in the U.S. The process of adaptation is conceptualized in terms of critical thinking within activity systems. The critically thinking workers are dialectically engaged with embedded and intersecting spheres of socio-cultural and technological context. This study shows an association between indicators of critical thinking and adaptive computer use patterns.

The panel or workshop will include a discussion of various qualitative and quantitative methodologies used to assess effectiveness of the four projects, and possible research methods for capturing content, structure, and communication flow in cyberspace or technology-enhanced settings. Examples of how actor network analysis influenced design and policy will be discussed in all projects. Participants will be invited to bring their own project concerns for group discussion and analysis


Submitted by Ellen M Cooney,


phone: 516 808 8860

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