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Pedagogical rationale

 
 

The constructivist approach to learning sees the individual and the interactions he constructs with others as a crucial factor for learning. Constructivist learning would occur only when the learners are fully engaged in what they are doing. Such engagement reaches its peak when learners are given the opportunity to discuss topics together.

In order to achieve the goal of engagement, this approach suggests the introduction of assignments to learners, introducing tasks and tools that guide and scaffold their learning. This way the learner is the one that takes the decisions, chooses between different alternatives and creates his/her own ??new knowledge?? on the issue under discussion.

Cognitive and pedagogical research highlights the benefit of external and visual representation of knowledge for better understanding and learning. In this regard, the graphical representation of an argument (a fundamental building block for rational thinking and informal reasoning) has proved to be a powerful catalyst for learning. The benefit lies not only in being able to represent the ??pure logic?? of an argument but also in running a coherent discussion while using argumentative ontologies.

The DUNES learning environment addresses the challenge of promoting constructivist learning by building on the graphical representation of the argumentative discussion as the learning engine. The DUNES system ?? comprising the ??Oasis??, ??Digalo?? and ??Paseo?? software components - stands for an organic group of tools that helps teachers and instructors create and conduct courses that enable collaborative learning building on the constructivist approach.

Why is this a winning group of tools? The dynamic visual representation of a discussion helps students and teachers to reflect on their argumentative actions and to use these reflections to further elaborate on the issue being debated. Starting from the ??case?? ?? an organized description of the issues to discuss, background information, instructions to the students and other relevant material - teachers can encourage their students to enlarge and deepen their knowledge on a given subject by giving them the opportunity to challenge their own ideas through interaction with others. In this way they may form different perspectives in an argumentation process.

The content of a DUNES-based course is developed in such a way that students may become - to a large extent, and imperceptibly - self-learners, while the teacher ??facilitates?? the discussion apparently standing aside (but actively, silently moderating the discussion) and letting the students learn as they develop their argumentative skills.

The maps, created and mediated through the Digalo pad, add order to the discussion, clarifying its direction and smoothing its flow, while enabling a simpler representation of large amounts of information. Trends may then be detected, common views expressed and changed perceptions observed. A heightened awareness of contributions made by others is promoted.




 
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Dialogic and argUmentative Negotiation Educational Software