Educational Software and Learning: Subversive Use and Volatile Design

Discussions about the use of information and communications technology (ICT) based learning environments often assume that use is defined, or at least severely constrained, by the inherent intentions of the designer. However, typical uses of educational software involve a subversion of the designer’s intentions to match contextual needs.

Via a post in James Farmer’s weblog comes reference to this interesting paper, originally presented by David Squires in 1999 to the International Conference on System Sciences. Anyone who has ever actively supported a CMS in an educational setting (or any software for that matter) will agree – one can simply never predict all of the uses that both instructors and students will find for software.

(As an aside – a recent favourite hack I heard of with WebCT was an instructor who was using the file upload/download capabilities to send audio messages to his students that he recorded on his desktop with a simple mic setup – instant voicemail system! Maybe obvious to you, but I hadn’t thought of it and the software’s not specifically designed with this in mind.)

This paper goes deeper than that, though, arguing for a design process that accomodates such ‘subversive use’ of the technologies. One thing I think is missing here, and often missed in the debates on the effects of media types on instruction is the fact that a distinct characteristic of web-based applications/content is the ability to record (and aggregate and ‘playback’) *how* the software/content is being used. Putting aside for a second the big-brotherish aspect, this seems to me to point at a new source of design data – a way for designers to see, after the fact, how their design intentions are interpreted/mis-interpreted, used/mis-used and to make changes accordingly. – SWL

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Educational Software and Learning: Subversive Use and Volatile Design

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  1. […] Educational Software and Learning: Subversive Use and Volatile … – Discussions about the use of information and communications technology (ICT) based learning environments often assume that use is defined, or at least severely constrained, by the inherent intentions of the designer. However, typical uses of educational software involve a subversion of the designer’s intentions to match contextual needs. Via a post in James Farmer’s weblog comes reference to this interesting paper, originally presented by David Squires in 1999 to the International Conference on System Sciences. […]

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