Living Dictionaries: Supporting Social Meanings and Constructs Within Social Communities of Learning
Education environments focus upon subject-specific terminology that may be unfamiliar to innumerable learners who may have a misconception concerning the terminology or be ill-prepared to deal with the subject matter. As social meanings and constructive understanding are imperatives, it is important to develop non-threatening support tools through which to sustain the learner’s comprehension of the subject matter and ability to successfully develop an appropriate conceptual framework of understanding. To mediate knowledge and understanding within an encouraging and accommodating, non-threatening environment, the learning environment must offer tools through which to frame the unfamiliar terminology. An innovative tool through which to develop and support the learner’s base-level knowledge is through the design and continuous development of a subject-specific living dictionary. Constructing a living dictionary focuses upon subject-specific, course-specific terminology that may be either unfamiliar to the learner or previously addressed but not fully delineated. To successfully support the learner, the living dictionary should possess several integral components. Initially, the living dictionary should be recognizes as a “living” structure, wherein the information is consistently developed and redefined more fully. Next is the ability for the learners to confidentially request the addition of terms to the living dictionary, for purposes of anonymity. A third component of the living dictionary is the focus upon a textual explanation of the term or topic, but also external Internet-based hyperlinks, audio explanations, video representations, and a graphic overview. Finally, the social component of a living dictionary is of utmost import towards the success of the learner’s developing conceptual framework of understanding. A social posting area for each topic or term, such as a discussion board or web log (blog), further enables and supports the social meaning and construction of understanding within social communities of learning.
Keywords: Living Dictionary, Distance Learning, Web-Based Learning, Web-Enhanced Learning, Communities of Learning, Social Communities of Learning, Learning Communities, Social Communities, Social Meanings, Social Constructs, Cognitive Load, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Communication, Interactive Activities, Information Chunking, Dynamic Communities, Information Age, Conceptual Age, Knowledge Economy, Tacit Knowledge, Explicit Knowledge
Dr. Caroline M. Crawford
Associate Professor, Instructional Technology, University of Houston-Clear Lake
Dr. Denise N. J. Chapman
Assistant Profesor of Special Education, Early Childhood, School of Education, University of Houston - Clear Lake