"conversational" information systems: Extending educational informatics support for the web-based learner

  • Ford N
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Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to review recent developments in
educational informatics relating to the provision by information systems
of pedagogical support to web-based learners, and to propose further
investigation of the feasibility and potential value of web-based
``conversational{''} information systems to complement adaptive
hypermedia and information retrieval systems.
Design/methodology/approach - The potential of Pask's conversation
theory is considered as a potentially useful framework for the
development of information systems capable of providing pedagogical
support for web-based learners, complementary to that provided by
existing computer-assisted learning and adaptive hypermedia systems. The
potential role and application of entailment meshes are reviewed in
relation to other forms of knowledge representation including
classifications, semantic networks, ontologies and representations based
on knowledge space theory.
Findings - Concludes that conversation theory could be a useful
framework to support the development of web-based ``conversational{''}
information that would complement aspects of computer-assisted learning,
adaptive hypermedia and information retrieval systems. The entailment
mesh knowledge representation associated with conversation theory
provides the potential for providing particularly rich pedagogical
support by virtue of its properties of cyclicity, consistency and
connectivity, designed to support deep and enduring levels of
understanding.
Research limitations/implications - Although based on a considerable
body of theoretical and empirical work relating to conversation theory,
the paper remains speculative in that the gap is still great between, on
the one hand, what has so far been achieved and, on the other, the
practical realisation of its potential to enhance web-based learning.
Much work remains to be done in terms of exploring the extent to which
procedures developed and benefits found in relatively small-scale
experimental contexts can effectively be scaled to yield enhanced
support for ``real world{''} learning-related information behaviour.
Originality/value - The ideas of Pask, discussed in this paper, are
capable of guiding the structuring of information according to
parameters designed to facilitate deep and enduring understanding via
interactive ``conversational{''} engagement between the conceptual
structures of information source authors and learners. If one can scale
Pask's work to ``real world{''} learning-related information behaviour,
one can increase the range of web-based information systems and services
capable of providing pedagogical support to web-based learners.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Computer applications
  • Computer based learning
  • Information systems

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Authors

  • Nigel Ford

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