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CSCL2009 Conference

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Keynote Speakers
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Keynote speakers

CSCL2009 Conference will be honored by the following Keynote Speakers:

Prof. Charles Goodwin, University of California at Los Angeles, USA
Prof. Pierre Dillenbourg, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne,    Switzerland
Prof. Rose Luckin, London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education in London, UK


Prof. Pierre Dillenbourg, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland

Pierre Dillenbourg

Pierre Dillenbourg is Professor of Computer Science at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Former teacher in elementary school, Pierre graduated in educational science (University of Mons, Belgium). He started to conduct research in learning technologies in 1984. He obtained a PhD in computer science from the University of Lancaster (UK), in the field of educational applications of artificial intelligence. He has been involved in the CSCL community since the first meeting in 1989 and is past president of ICLS. His recent work covers various domain of CSCL, ranging from the design and experimentation of collaboration scripts and interactive furniture to more cognitive projects on dual eye tracking and mutual modelling.


Keynote talk: "Exploring neglected planes: social signals and class orchestration"

Abstract. CSCL analyzed verbal interactions within small groups (plane 2) and cultural processes within larger communities (plane 4). We neglected the intermediate (3) level, the "class". If CSCL strives for impact on educational systems, it should become teacher-centric, i.e. it should empower teachers in the orchestration of integrated learning activities. I will present examples of  "design for orchestration". I will also illustrate plane 1 which concerns the semanticless analyses of social signals such as voice and gaze records.


CSCL research has crystallized around the understanding that the effects of collaborative learning depend upon the emergence of productive interactions (explanation, conflict, …) in a group. Hence, empirical studies focused on interactions within small groups (2 to 8), both verbal interactions and task-level actions. During the same period, understanding that culture shapes individual cognition led to studies within larger communities. In summary, the two main planes of CSCL have been verbal interactions in groups and cultural tools in communities. I will respectively refer to them as planes 2 and 4 in order to make explicit that two other planes should now receive more attention

Plane 1 concerns the non-verbal signals between teams members. Studies on eye contact and studies on gestures treated these events almost semantically. Conversely, we now search for dialogue patterns at the signal level. For instance, we aim to detect conflicts with acoustic features, without semantics. Using two eye trackers, we found that misunderstandings and team performance can be predicted by a low level measures such as the distance between the gaze location of each learner. Applying powerful machine learning models to social signals paves the road for new CSCL functionalities.

Plane 3 is the school class. It is located between the group level and the community level. A class is not simply a group larger than the groups we usually study. It is a complex ecosystem comprising several “species”: students, teachers, parents,.. This ecosystem also includes a physical environment, a content structure (the curriculum) and a rigid time structure.  CSCL has neglected the existence of classes and their teachers. We focused on informal learning and on distance education. After two decades of great work on "designing for conversations"(understanding how design choices may trigger productive interactions), it's time to devote more energy to "design for orchestration," (understanding how design choices may facilitate productive teamwork in a class ecosystem).

I will analyse seven constraints that shape orchestration, i.e. that help to understand why "things work in my class". This understanding is a condition for generalizing results in design-based research.

  1. Teacher-centrism. CSCL literature often refers to the teachers' role with a politically correct slogan: "from a sage on the stage to a guide on the side." How can CSCL have any major impact on schools by putting teachers "on the side?" The impact of CSCL will be higher if we develop in environments that empower teachers of primary, secondary and higher education. Of course, what matters is what students learn and not what teachers do or say. Acknowledging that the teacher is the most salient person in a class does not mean increasing lecturing. Constructivist approaches to learning benefit from the subtle leadership of smart teachers, from their contradictions, their enthusiasm for their subject and their expectations of students.
  2. Curricular relevance. The CSCL community developed tools for acquiring interesting skills that were not part of the actual curricula of schools or universities, while teachers struggle to get the time necessary to reach their educational objectives. If curricular relevance is not integrated in our models (e.g. explicitly linking activities to objectives), CSCL will not impact schools. Satisfying curriculum constraints is also the best way to tackle the assessment of collaborative learning, an issue to which CSCL did not bring clear answers but which remains a main concern for all education actors.
  3. Multiplanism. CSCL obviously focused on collaborative learning, which is legitimate as long as we don't forget it is only one among the many ways to foster learning. Collaborative learning is our personal agenda as researchers, but it is not the only pedagogical method.  Students have more to gain from the complementarity of individual, collaborative and collective (class-wide) activities. These activities should not simply be juxtaposed but integrated into a workflow-based scenario (a macro-scripts).
  4. Legacy. We don't introduce a new CSCL environment in an empty world. All classes have a legacy: the set of tools, books and resources that have been used over time. We should not put teachers is a situation where they have to explain that a particular book will not be used because it is not compatible with the CSCL environment. This is a pledge for design minimalism. A "minimal" environment focuses on a few features with an added value and lets a teacher continue to use the books, tools and methods she has been using so far. The integration of digital worlds with paper documents and physical objects augment the possibilities of integrating digital tools within an existing ecosystem.
  5. Time. Time management is a primary concern for all teachers. First, there is a global lack of time to reach all learning objectives. Being reasonable with respect to time necessary to reach objectives is a condition for the acceptability of our methods and for their generalisation beyond pilot studies. Second, as school time is sliced into periods, teachers have to anticipate duration in order to decide, for instance, if it is worth starting an activity for a few minutes and if they will be able to split it over several periods. Designing for orchestration means enabling teachers to shorten, to interrupt, to resume and to reschedule computer-based activities with the same ease as non-computerized activities.
  6. Flexibility.  Flexibility does not only concern time management, but also the ability to respond to the unpredictable events that may arise in a classroom. What happens if one student drops out the activity and leaves his two teammates with a higher workload? In a controlled study we can discard the team, but not in an actual class. Do we design CSCL environments that enable teachers to cope with these kinds of occurrences?
  7. Sustainability. We design tools for teachers with high motivation and for use over a short period of time. An average teacher should be able to use a new method for at least five years. Teaching energy is not infinite; it must be rationed. The level of pedagogical skills expected from teachers using a CSCL tool should be sustainable. I made the mistake of designing scripts that required a high level of improvisational skills from teachers; they will never scale up. 

I will illustrate these constraints with examples taken from various CSCL  experiences. One of them is "der Erfahrraum," an orchestration method that exploits apprentices' workplace experiences to elaborate school activities.