Reference: Tella, S. & Mononen-Aaltonen, M. 1997. Computer-Mediated Communication in
Enhancing Communicative Dialogues on the Web. AACE WebNet 97. Toronto 30.10.--5.11.97.

Computer-Mediated Communication in Enhancing Communicative Dialogues on the Web

Seppo Tella & Marja Mononen-Aaltonen (1997)
Media Education Centre,
Department of Teacher Education,
University of Helsinki, Finland

A Three-Dimensional Model of Communication Channels

Our presentation aims at describing a conceptual framework focusing on the three-dimensional model of communication channels (monologic; dialogic; telelogic). The model will be analysed through HHC (human-to-human communication) vs. CMC (computer-mediated communication). A special emphasis will be put on computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW). Our primary goals include the cultivation of the students' expertise when enhanced through a carefully reflective scaffolding of the teacher's own command of computer-mediated human communication.

The Impact of ICT on Human Communication

The modern information and communication technologies (ICT) have a two-fold impact on human communication: (i) they open up new potential to increase mutual understanding worldwide and (ii) they provide teachers and students with new tools and techniques for human-to-human communication (HHC). Human-to-human communication is intrinsically culture-based and as such always conveys the threat of misunderstanding and intercultural clashes.

Different Contexts of Dialogues

In our research project, the term 'dialogue' is used in three different contexts. First, our analysis of human-to-human communication (HHC) and computer-mediated communication (CMC) will be based on the notion of dialogue as the basis of all human communication and interaction, and we will extend it to understanding different cultures. Second, dialogue is the key concept in the teaching/learning process. Third, we use dialogue as a general definition of indivisible origins of thinking. Our main argument is that dialogue is becoming a crucial element in the creation of any learning organisation and especially in establishing an open multimedia-based collaborative and networked learning environment. In our research project, we will lay special emphasis on enhancing the students' capacity to communicate in a network-based learning environment provided by the WWW and other telematic tools.

Communicative dialogues make us understand that most of what is significant to human beings is in one way or another created through shared talk and negotiated meanings, and that there is enormous transformative power in this activity as its nature and impact are gradually understood. Deeply connected to this is the recognition of the fact that new dialogic levels can produce new levels of coordinated action, especially when working on the Web and equally between human beings.

The Dominance of Voices

One of the dimensions in the implementation of ICT is the dominance of voices. Tella [1997] has illustrated how the three stages of this dimension--monophony; stereophony, and polyphony--are related to the development of ICT and crucial in understanding the pedagogical benefits of the WWW. Polyphony seems to be much more extensively used in technology-rich learning environments as characterised by network-based learning tools.

Towards an Ethnographic Approach to Learning and to Teaching

The research project this presentation is based on aims at upgrading the students' metacognitive level of awareness of their computer literacy. At the same time, we encourage students to adopt a kind of scientific approach to their learning processes and, on the other hand, to teaching by underlining the importance of scientific thinking even at the school level. Cognitive development is culturally-rooted and inseparable from the tools of mediation. We argue that a new kind of learning culture is about to be born. We cherish the idea of having an ethnographic approach as a learning method when using the WWW, for instance. Ethnographic approach is typical of exploring foreign cultures and it offers a model of inquiry that can be applied to classroom situations, especially when supported by computer-mediated communication and specifically designed dialogic knowledge management environments.

The research project initiated at the Media Education Centre of the University of Helsinki started with a pilot study made by Marja Mononen-Aaltonen in 1996 with an aim to know more about the learning environment as described by the students themselves. Second, we wanted to make the junior high school students more cognisant of their own learning environment. We emphasise the students' role as intelligent agents in the learning process. Therefore, they will be actively involved in our research project, which will now focus on building a dialogic learning environment on the Web by using different types of network-based learning groupware. We will look for ways of encouraging the students' intentional learning in classroom situations by making them aware of (i) their potential as researchers in the learning process, (ii) the potential of the tools the learning environment provides them for intentional learning, (iii) the potential of the mediational tools in shaping thought and communication, and (iv) the role of dialogue in learning, and in the modern networked world. Generally speaking, the emphasis has been so far mostly on the technology and on how to acquire skills in using ICT, rather than on communication. Our research aims to balance the situation by seeing the technology as a means of communication, as a modern type of mediation between human beings capable of using modern technology.


[Tella 1997] Tella, S. (1997). Multidimensionality in Media Education Tools. In Tella, S. (Ed.) Media in Today's Education. Proceedings of a Subject-Didactic Symposium in Helsinki on Feb. 14, 1997. Department of Teacher Education. University of Helsinki. Research Report 178, 23-31.