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Learning as conversation

Finally, productive media such as a webpage or blog post or digital object or model of some kind – these enable an output from the learning in which the learner articulates and shares what they have learned, considers the learning experience, adjusts their original conception in the light of the interaction, and reflects upon the significance of the experience. Productive media support the final, reflective phase of the learning encounter, and will often overlap with communicative media.
What emerges is that while each media form supports a different dimension or dimensions of the learning encounter, none of them can support every dimension. Narrative media support the apprehensive dimension and may be all you need for a purely instructional approach; interactive and adaptive media support immersive, exploratory learning and on their own result in a game-like experience; communicative media support the discursive and productive dimensions, and for pure peer-to-peer learning may be all you need. But to support the kind of deep or complex learning which engages all the phases of the learning encounter, you need a combination of media forms.


Land's End pigs

Diana Laurillard’s conversational framework feels like a very powerful model for understanding how formal learning works and how best to design effective learning objects. It is the best kind of theory: one that informs practice. It starts by identifying the main characteristics of a learning encounter, develops from these a typology of learning experiences, and finally maps this to a taxonomy of media forms appropriate to each type of experience.

Building on the Socratic tradition of dialectic, the social constructivist learning theories of Vygotsky and Piaget and the conversation theory of Pask, Laurillard maintains that all complex learning involves

a continuing iterative dialogue between teacher and student, which reveals the participants’ conceptions and the variations between them… There is no escape from the need for dialogue, no room for mere telling, nor for practice without description, nor for experimentation without reflection, nor for student action without feedback. (Laurillard…

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