An Updated and Theoretical Rationale for Interaction

Terry Anderson, ITForum, Oct 04, 2002
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting paper on interaction that advances the following thesis: "Sufficient levels of deep and meaningful learning can be developed as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) are at very high levels. The other two may be offered at minimal levels or even eliminated without degrading the educational experience." Of course, to make this work, it is necessary to include among the standard (Moore) list of interactions a "student-content" interaction. Controversial. Something is an interaction only if the (internal) state of both parties is changed - and content, typically viewed as inert, cannot change its internal state. Or can it? "The semantic web provides an environment in which content can be formalized and manipulated, stored, searched and computed automatically through autonomous agent technologies." But... no. Yes, there is a third dimension of interaction. This dimension is sufficient to support learning. But this interaction is not with content itself, but with non-human devices that hold content. Working with online content should be viewed as analagous to working with a human. Changing, manipulating, querying and selecting online content should be viewed as analagous to changing a person's mind, influencing their thought, asking them questions, or picking their brains. Not because I think that there is any real separation between content and the entity that embodies it (that's another issue) but because we want to maintain a consistency of semantic-laden and non-semantic-laden references to entities. Phew!
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