2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Situated Cognition Genres: A Situated Learning Approach for Examining Informal Learning in an Online Community of Makers

Presented at Makers, Making, and the Maker Movement

This theory paper revisits the situated cognition paradigm through the lens of Makers and Making and argues that to better understand engineering learning in emerging digital sociomaterial contexts such as Maker communities it is critical to incorporate a genre perspective within situated cognition. The genre perspective provides a better analytical device to understand cognition, in particular, its discursive aspects. Unlike traditional situated learning settings where learners were embedded in the same site for extensive periods of time, current learning environments supports a lighter vein of cognitive apprenticeship as learners switch participation frequently and rely extensively on external sources. A situated cognition genre perspective also provides a mechanism to trace learners’ trajectory across sites – both online and offline – and participate in different cognitive episodes. As an empirical case study, I examine an online forum related to 3D printing/Making called Soliforum. Consistent with research on situated learning, findings illustrate that digital materiality provides ample support for informal learning through affordances for displaying social characteristics, allowing use of different forms of informational resources, and providing support for problem solving activities among participants. The genre perspective facilitates additional examination of cognitive affordances of the online community by examining what constitutes the different cognitive episodes – asynchronous interaction; use of text, visuals, and videos; feedback from multiple experts; and the ability to learn from worked out examples. I argue that “situated cognition genres” is an important perspective for analysis of different engineering learning environments as well as for their design.

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