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Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Fri, 30 Oct 2015 17:18:24 +0100
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Following from the workshop we facilitated at NordiCHI in Helsinki, we 
plan a special journal issue. The Elsevier journal *Learning and 
Instruction* has an open call for special issue proposals 
We plan to submit a proposal with the projected focus of *designing and 
constructing material artefacts as an educational strategy* (for details 
see below). The proposal is to be submitted together with potential 
contributions by the end of November 2015.

We invite your contribution, initially in the format of a 1000 word 
abstract including 5 key references (the final length of an article is 
8000 words). Please send your abstract with references by *November 
21st* to both Emilie ([log in to unmask]) and Daniel ([log in to unmask]).

If our proposal for a special issue is not accepted by Learning and 
Instruction, we intent to try other journals - suggestions are welcome.

Also, please give us feedback on the proposal so we can make it as 
focused, relevant and exciting as possible.

Please feel free to forward this call to interested parties.

Emilie Mψllenbach and Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath

Special Issue Proposal for Learning and Instruction (Elsevier)

The focus of the proposed special journal issue is the investigation and 
exploration of concepts for designing, constructing and building 
material artefacts as an educational strategy demonstrated through 
practical examples (Digital practices such as programming games or 
designing a house in Second Life are welcome and covered by our 
discussion, for two reasons: Digital media is in flux, in the content 
from one medium is rapidly transfered or transformed to another; and 
even practices which focus on intangible realms make them accessible and 
provide an experience, today more than ever.). We aim to discuss the 
potential of material construction and digital design for (organized) 
learning. We see material construction as a process of engagement, 
reflection and learning (Not limited to or primarily targeted at product 
design, but open and applying to many disciplines with different 
practices of building, prototyping, demonstrating and experimenting.). 
We focus on the individual and collective gaining of skills, knowledge 
and understanding, the adoption of a can-do attitude, the development of 
a critical stance towards educational content, the forming of 
communities, and on material making as a vehicle for conceptual 
reasoning. We start from the following observations or propositions:

•	Creating an artefact is a reason to learn. When one builds something, 
he/she needs to know (a lot) about it. The process of design and 
construction changes the perspective of learning as being-taught into an 
active process driven by interest. It gives direction and (often hard) 
success criteria. It calls for responsibility for one's own education 
and search for knowledge. Learners are challenged to manage their own 
learning to empower themselves. Learning is most rewarding when people 
learn what they are interested in, what is relevant for them and what 
benefits them. 'Learning occurs best when there is a desire to attain 
specific knowledge.' (Maeda 2006) It is hardly possible to keep people 
from learning when they want to learn something.

•	The material (work) (implicitely) structures the learning process and 
drives it forward and deeper. 'We are finding out what we are going to 
say, what we are going to do, by saying and doing, and in the process we 
are continually controlling the process itself.' (Mead 1934)

•	The artefact gives (immediate) feedback; a way to (implicitely and 
explicitely) test one's understanding. In the design process, people 
have to deal with problems, break downs, uncertainty and doubts. The 
process resembles and can actually take the form of a competitive struggle.

•	If the design and making process is fun – then nothing else matters; 
i.e. everything (learning, understanding, skills) else will follow 
without effort. People want to get better at what is fun and apply 
themselves to this end. 'Our own period, which is transforming nature in 
so many and different ways, takes pleasure in understanding things so 
that we can interfere.' (Brecht 1964) Having an artefact built oneself 
can be in itself perceived by learners as a large achievement. It 
challenges and motivates and fuels learners' attitude of can-do. 
Building and designing something is also a progressive journey; it 
leaves traces.

•	Artefacts act as development catalysts for iteration and revision – 
the design process is not over, and the job is not done. Artefacts can 
be questioned, presented and demo'ed. The bodily, physical, material and 
immediate presence of the artefact opens venues for engagement, 
collaboration, integration and association.

•	From a phenomenological perspective we propose an overlap between 
mechanic and other physical structures, properties and practices, with 
conceptual reasoning. We see a parallelism and continuum between 
practical and conceptual activity.

The special issue provides a venue for contributors to discuss and 
demonstrate (potentially opposing) teaching approaches, frameworks and 
concepts. We invite designers, researchers, engineers, artists, and 
educators to share their views, opinions, experiences and practices. We 
identify four specific areas for contributions to the special issue:

Transformative investigations
• 	Constructing artefacts as an intermediate and often contradicting 
position (between DIY and consumerism, virtual and real, product and 
process, usefulness and uselessness, authentic and fantastic, success 
and failure/breakdowns, etc.) in flux, in transformation
• 	Using, creating and questioning through, with and for technology

Theoretical positioning
• 	Relationships between theories: Where does construction and design 
sit conceptually? How is it embedded in and related to the existing 
discourse? Overlaps and/or conflicts with constructivism, instructionism 
and other approaches; design-based learning. Different ways of learning. 
What type of learning is occurring in particular situations?
• 	Relate and compare material construction with online learning and 
instruction practices and theories. Explore the tension within the 
didactic proliferation of digital literacy between dichotomy of 
experiential learning and distributed instruction (e.g. MOOCs).

Practical considerations
• 	Different educational strategies for different target groups (e.g. 
scaffolding), conceptions of the user, different cultures
• 	Content/subject matter construction can be effectively used for
• 	Various practices (building, constructing, assembling, 
de-engineering, re- or mis-using, programming, hacking). Scope, level 
and practical considerations, e.g. freedom, constraints, templates, 
kits, making from scratch

Conceptual reflections
• 	Learning, designand construction as a way to take control over one's life
• 	Philosophical underpinnings

Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath ([log in to unmask])
Associate Professor
Center for Computer Games Research
ITU, Copenhagen
Office 5D02
Tel. 7218 5302

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