Community support for constructionist learning
Bruckman's article provides both an explicit discussion of community-support for constructionist learning and an in-depth, enthnographically rich, description of her attempt to explore these ideas in the context of a community called MOOSE crossing which she created as part of her doctoral work at the MIT Media Lab.
Bruckman's frames her work based on a description of a samba school is Seymour Papert's Mindstorms. The samba school example in Mindstorms described a setting in which learning happened through examples and interaction and in which both skilled adults -- even professionals -- interact in the same setting with young children and a variety learnings of all ages. Bruckman attempts to explicitly model this type of interaction and explore the potential, hinted at by Papert, of using community support to create a strong learning environment.
Most of the paper is a very detailed description of interactions on MOOSE Crossing. MOOSE crossing was a MOO or a "MUD object oriented" which was a user-programmable, text-based, Internet accessible multiuser game and interactive environment. Bruckman opens her piece by describing a frustrating experience of a user connecting to her community, attempting to do things, not finding any other users online, and then disconnecting and leaving forever. She contrasts this, in extreme depth, with a series of positive situations in which users of MOOSE Crossing help each other, teach other, and learn through social and community-based interactions. She includes many of these interactions fully in the text of her paper.
Bruckman describes that the community provides:
- Role models
- Situated, ubiquitous project models
- Emotional support to overcome technophobia
- Technical support
- An appreciative audience for work
These are each teased out and explored in depth. Bruckman seems to pay particular attention to the way that younger users can act as instructors and role models to older, often less experienced, users and she beings to explore some of the implications of this. She also explores the role that local versus online support by contrasting dynamics from in-person "user group" style meetings help each week with online interactions (and interactions with the same users).
Additionally, as an ethnography, the paper is powerful with full recordings of all interactions and with clear descriptive validity.
Theoretical and practical relevance:
The paper has been cited over 180 time in the twelve years since it's publications. The work is perhaps the seminal article on the topic of community support for constructionist learning. With its very rich MUD/MOO style interactions, MOOSE Crossing remains what is probably the richest example of this interaction.