“Dialogic Spaces” – Dialogic Education and Research Group

On Monday June 22nd I had the pleasure of participating in the first meeting in a study group “Dialogic Spaces” aimed at exploring dialogue from various perspectives within educational research and practice. The group was initiated by Assistant Professor, PhD Thorkild Hanghøj and several of his colleagues all from Dept. of Curriculum research at the Danish School of Education. Thorkild specializes in educational gaming and will incidentially join me at the Master in ICT and Learning (MIL) in the fall in our ICT and Educational Design module. Coming from Aalborg University’s Dept. of Communication I’m very happy to get the opportunity to collaborate with this group of researchers who all have such very strong foci on educational research. Besides Thorkild the following people are part of the group:

  • Lars Birch AndreasenE-learning; netbased education; virtual learning environments, Netmediated communication and collaboration.
  • Lisbeth FrølundeMultimodality theory and visual culture, Design and development of digital learning and play materials.
  • Jeppe BundsgaardEducational Theory and Curriculum in relation to the Danish Subject and Information Technology, Critical Discourse Analysis.
  • Mads HaugstedMother tongue and didactics; verbal communication, colloquial language, speech skill.
  • Christian Brund – just started as a PhD Candidate with a project on the role of the teacher in relation to educational gaming … no link yet

Together we cover a wide range of research interests but with the concept Dialogic we have found a common denominator.  Dialogic is most commonly attributed to the work of the Russian philosopher, literary critic and scholar, Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin and though his work will play an important role in our endeavors it isn’t an exclusive Bakhtinian group.  We spent our first meeting stating our interests in using Dialogic perspectives, defined the organization and goals of the group and finally discussed a couple of papers (Dysthe. 2006 & Wegerif. 2006) both focusing on the use of Bakhtin in educational research. So far we’ve decided to meet f2f once a month in the fall primarily to discuss literature hoping that these dialogues! will inspire all of us in our future work. Further down the line we hope to be able to hold public seminars and finally write an anthology covering especially, but not exclusively  Scandinavian Dialogic perspectives within educational research and practice which also means that we will invite international colleagues to come join us.

I was first introduced to Bakhtin in the early 90’ies when I studied literature for three years, but it has been years since I actually used his ideas and concepts more explicitly. In spite of this, I do find the Dialogic perspective interesting on multiple levels in relation to my current PhD research:

  • Ontological level – according to Bakhtin living is participating in an ongoing dialogue and I couldn’t agree more. Accepting dialogue as ontological premise naturally influences the main purpose and the main processes of education; empowerment as preparation for and – as it is the case in HE/FE –  continuation of democratic, participatory citizenship. This way of thinking and practicing education very much aligns with a Scandinavian approach to both education and research in general and with exploration of new social media in particular (e.g. Rheingold. 2008 on Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies).
  • Epistemological level – as a consequence of the ontology it is through dialogue with both ourselves and the surrounding world that we’re able to create meaning. Thus, as educators we need to focus on teaching students how to engage in the dialogues through which knowledge is constantly being constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed (Wegerif. 2006:60). It’s also worth noticing that if we accept the dialogic premise, the main mechanism for learning is taking the perspective of another in a dialogue (ibid:64)!
  • Methodological level– up until now I’ve been reluctant to coin my methodological approach, usually just stating that I’m applying some sort of Action Research. However, I recently decided to try to apply and further develop a methodology called Dialogue Design which was developed by three of my colleagues from the MIL steering committee, Janni Nielsen, Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Oluf Danielsen (2003) back in the late 90’ies in relation to a large European research and development project on Multimedia and Network in Co-operative Research and Learning (MANICORAL). This particular methodology, based on different types of Action Research, puts forward dialogue and mutual learning as guiding principles.  Dirckinck-Holmfeld and Nielsen are also my PhD supervisors, and I will be spending most of the fall with Nielsen at Copenhagen Business School focusing on this part of my PhD work.
  • Didactic/pedagogical level – as teaching and learning space SL offers many possibilities of engaging in dialogic activities. Communicating simultaneously via both text and voice, incl. via avatar (as embodiment) and context are probably the affordances I currently find most interesting and I anticipate Bakhtin’s polyphony concept and his ideas on intertextuality (both in multimodal variations) will be useful in my attempt to theorize/analyze and design for such phenomena.

In applying a Dialogic perspective on my PhD I’ve got a sense of coming full circle and I’m really looking forward to an inspiring fall with extended readings and lots of dialogue … yeah :-) It also means that I’m in the process of editing my PhD page here on the blog … it’ll be back sometime during the summer.



Dysthe, O. (2006): Bakhtin og pedagogikken – Kva ein tidlegare ukjend artikkel fortel om Bakhtins pedagogiske praksis. IN: Norsk Pedagogisk Tidsskrift. 06/2006

Nielsen, J.; Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L. & Danielsen, O. (2003): Dialogue Design – with Mutual Learning as Guiding Principle. IN: International Journal of Human-Computer-Interaction. 15(1)

Wegerif, R. (2006): Dialogic education: what it is and why do we need it? IN: Education Review, vol. 19, no 2.


Stephen Downes recently directed my attention to a post on Streams vs. Blogs written by Jay Cross. In this post Cross reflects on blogs stating that:

Blogs are author-centric in a world that’s increasingly about relationships. Blogs are slanted toward me, me, me, me, me; the net is inexorably moving to us, us, us, us, us. Dialog trumps monolog.

While I do agree that some blogs tend to be very author-centric the few blogs/bloggers I chose to follow on a regular basis are highly Dialogic in my point of view. Adapting a Bakhtinian view engaging in dialogue with oneself can be very fruitful and furthermore the very nature of blogs (the intertextuality and the multiple voices coming forward through extensive linking) exemplifies a connected perspective on relationships and dialogue in a networked world.  The mere fact that I learned about Cross’ post via Downes shows my point. Granted that the premises for dialogue have changed dramatically, it still is dialogue to me … Nonetheless, I do agree with Cross that new services gradually will change the way we communicate, but like Downes I will not stop blogging any time soon – it’s just one way of communicating among others ;-)

April Blog-o-the-Month nominee :-)

During the night I received the following message from fellow SL resident, Scottmerrick Oh:

Hey Mariis, congrats on your nomination for the April Blog-o-the-Month at the ISTE Island Blogger’s Hut! There’s voting all the merry month of March there so encourage all your virtual pals to go vote! Also feel free to grab the “Nominated” graphic at Oh!VirtualLearning! (http://scottsecondlife.blogspot.com) and post it if you will, or just sit back and see how the masses vote! Cheers, and thanks for the wonderful blog!

I’ve absolutely no idea who nominated my blog, but I think it’s a honor to be nominated by peers, and whoever it is; TY – at this point in time this kind of appreciation was really welcome :-)

You can check out April month’s other nominees at Scott’s blog – and if you wish to participate in the vote follow this link to The Blogger’s Hut on ISTE Island.



SLoodle hands-on workshop

Yesterday I attended a hands-on workshop on SLoodle led by Josmas Flores as part of the weekly meetings of the Virtual Worlds Research Group Discussions. SLoodle (Simulation Linked Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is an Open Source project which integrates SL with Moodle.

SLoodle figure from the SLoodle wiki

According to the SLoodle website, some of the key features of SLoodle are:

  • Web-intercom. A chat-room that brings Moodle chatroom and Second Life chats together. Students can participate in chats in Second Life using the accessible Moodle chatroom. Discussions can be archived securely in a Moodle database.
  • Registration booth. Identity management for Second Life and Moodle. Link students’ avatars to their Moodle user accounts.
  • Quiz tool and 3D Drop Box. Assess in Second Life – grade in Moodle. Set quizzes or 3D modelling tasks in an engaging 3D environment. Review grades quickly and easily in the standard Moodle gradebook.
  • Choice tool. Allow students to vote (and see results) in Second Life as well as in Moodle.
  • Multi-function SLOODLE Toolbar. Enhances the Second Life user interface. Use a range of classroom gestures, quickly get a list of the Moodle user names of the avatars around or write notes directly into to your Moodle blog from Second Life.
  • Presenter (in development). Quickly author Second Life presentations of slides and/or web-pages on Moodle. Present in Second Life without having go through lengthy processes to convert or upload images.
  • … and more. More tools are being prototyped on a regular basis.

In the workshop we tried – quite successfully I might add (Thx, Josmas!) – most of the features, and it is for sure something I will look further into. In the COMBLE course my colleagues and I will run in April/May we will be using both SL and Moodle, so I’m hoping we can find the resources to experiment with SLoodle.

Watching Josmas demonstrating some of the features …

Checking chat feature in both sites …

I don’t think all of the above mentioned features would be relevant in my courses – we never vote and I find it hard to see how I could use such a tool in assessing the students (I wouldn’t use this feature in Moodle either), but I do see potential in both the chat and the blog features. As one of the participants, Grog Waydelich, said an interesting question could also be what kind of gestures are needed for classroom attendance?

One of the MIL students from my 1. MIL research cycle in 2007 experimented with SLoodle and attended some of the in-world SLoodle meetings, and he was very positive about the possibilities and especially the helpful community surrounding the project.

Kryger meeting with other SLoodlers in 2007

The SLoodle project was founded by Daniel Livingstone & Jeremy Kemp with fundation from EduServ. In this paper Livingstone & Kemp (2008) describe the project and the importance of the SLoodle community.

UPDATE March 6th – from Willow Shenlin:

This coming week’s meeting is hosted by Jeremy Kemp at 1400SLT. He will discuss the research and issues behind the SLoodle Project.

We will meet him directly at SJSU SLIS 128/128/0, in the new student orientation site.

Also, as usual, I am asking for educators and/or developers who have an in-world tool that they wish to demonstrate and promote to the research, teaching and learning community. Let me know and I’ll schedule you on http://socialpresence3d.wikispaces.com/SpeakerSchedule


UPDATE March 10th
In yesterdays session Kemp told us how Linden Lab had forced them to change the project’s name from Second Life Object Oriented Learning Environment to Simulation Linked Object Oriented Learning Environment.


Lessons learned from one year in the sphere

On January 10th, I was able to celebrate one year in the blog sphere, so it seems natural to reflect a bit on the lessons learned …

Why do I blog?

  • Well, first of all my much, much younger colleague, Thomas Ryberg provoked me by jokingly saying that the older (meaning over 40!) ELL researchers often just don’t understand new media, and as we all know understanding strengthens through practice. TY, Thomas – IOU ;-)
  • I’m inquisitive by nature and had been enjoying lurking in the sphere for a couple of years, and I do think that there are some very high quality, professional blogs out there, so I wanted to join this great knowledge network more actively.
  • As a PhD Candidate I need a place to collect my thoughts and experiences. Old style notes and Post-it’s still work great for me, but the major advantage of blogging is that preliminary thoughts become just a bit more processed or reflected through the writing, so when I return they may still seem unfinished, but yet more coherent than just a few words or lines on a yellow piece of paper.
  • As a PhD Candidate I’m also obliged to disseminate on a regular basis in various types of media. Writing research papers has been the most common way of getting your thoughts out into the research communities, and even though this is a very important activity I find the more immediate nature of blogging very profitable too.
  • Blogging is a great way of documenting activities and storing contextual ideas, links and files.
  • I have to write my thesis in English and needed a place to practice on a regular basis. Blogging in a second language can be really frustrating. I often lack words and phrases, so sometimes I leave out reflections and arguments simply because I don’t know how to articulate them. I’m also aware that especially my grammar often is incorrect. Even though it has become easier over the last year I’m really looking forward to staying at an English speaking university at sometime during my PhD period!
  • My research object, Second Life, brings me so many great and challenging experiences both on a professional and personal level, so this is also a way of showing my appreciation by telling “the world”. As in many other countries Second Life often gets belittled by the Press, most often due to poor research, so this is also a way to counterpart that.
  • When I meet people and talk about my research, I’m often asked for more information, and since I’ve never had a website, this seemed like a perfect way to have a public reference.
  • As a teacher at a Masterprogramme on ICT and Learning it seems not only natural, but also necessary to “practice what I preach”, and I also know that some of my students find it interesting/inspirational to follow my activities.

How do I blog?

I’ve written 72 post during this first year, which I actually find quite ok, since I didn’t blog at all from February till July due to illness both personal and in my family. I’ve written 2-3 personal posts, the rest are professional. The 46 categories reveal that SL, education, MIL, my PhD and research are my favorite 5 topics. I never lack topics to blog about, but due to time restraints I try to focus on topics directly related to my PhD project. I’ve expanded my blogroll quite a lot, and now it works as my favorite list related to my PhD work (my Firefox is more off-topic and often contains temporary links).

I’ve recieved 68 comments. As you may have noticed above I didn’t mention the asynchronous dialogue as an advantage of blogging. I have a dozen of blogs I follow on a regular basis, but I’ve only posted a few comments on other blogs. So far my own posts have mainly been descriptive and have served as a way of preserving preliminary thoughts and ideas. Due to both language restraints and, I guess, professional insecurity I haven’t felt comfortable engaging more and I haven’t done anything to ensure that my blog would show via search engines etc. I started blogging as a very personal experience, as a way of finding my own voice as a researcher – and this may take some time. Being a PhD candidate is very much about learning and I intend to take advantage of this unique opportunity of having three whole years to strengthen my thoughts and expand my knowledge.

In a recent Australian study on the advantages of blogging as part of a PhD candidature by Ward & West (2008:63), it is stated that:

The process of PhD development should, presumably, be one of growth in intellectual confidence, independence and originality of thinking. It would be fair to expect it to result in empowerment and ultimate entry to an elite community. These attributes – that we presume are valued by all the participants in the process – by definition are not, and should not, be easy to achieve.

Although there apparently are major differences between the learning conditions for PhD candidates in Denmark and Australia, I do think that Ward & West’s paper summarizes the advantages of blogging quite accurately, and I would much certainly recommend blogging as part of the PhD learning process.


BTW, thanks to Greg Wadley – another blogging PhD Candidate – for the Ward & West reference :-)

Why blog? e-flections …

Both at The MIL Programme and in the CCK08 blogging is a theme. Paul Lowe, author of the “E-flections” blog, whom I just discovered has created a slideshow presenting arguments for blogging based on Donald A. Schön and Harry Potter among others – it’s really worth checking out!

In general Lowe’s blog seems to be very interesting and relevant covering many topics within the field of e-learning – also Lowe is an award-winning freelance photographer, so the blog is filled with visual goodies :-)  I’m really looking forward to exploring this some more ..

It’s also available on Slideshare

Thanks to Joan Vinall-Cox for pointing me in that direction … BTW, I’m amazed by Joan’s ability to keep up with the lastest trends and tools .. suspect it has something to do with her PLE/network ;-)