MRT: Remixing iRemix: Data Visualizations to Understand Learning and Development in Online Social Learning Networks

As the use of online social networks continues to proliferate as contexts for 21st century learning, we are faced with great new opportunities to learn from data about how users behave and interact.  The business world has exploded with tools and metrics for analyzing the use of social networks, with the goals of building product loyalty, making sales, and learning about consumer interests.  For educational contexts where the aim is explicitly on learning and development, the tools, metrics, and analytical frameworks for understanding online learning networks are much less developed.  For example, how are youth participating and interacting with others, and how do we know that such interactions are productive?  How do adult or more expert users help develop expertise?  We argue that educators must have ready access to this kind of information in order to realize the potential of online social learning networks for youth learning and development.

The iRemix platform provides a unique context for exploring these questions.  It combines traditional social networking with features designed to support both structured and self-directed learning.  It has affordances for supporting critique and production of digital media, exploring interests, and for leveraging relationships between mentors and peers.  It is currently in use in diverse in-school, afterschool, and informal settings around the country.  iRemix customization features allow program designers to establish expectations and share content to shape participants’ behavior around its own community goals and values.

Data generated from the use of social learning networks like iRemix present enormous opportunities for researchers to explore questions related to how expertise, interest, and social capital can develop.  What patterns of passive and active participation do we see, and how do interactions with peers and mentors play a role in learning?  How do actions such as viewing media and user profiles relate to production-oriented actions such as posting comments, critiques, rating media, and posting original work? Educators who use social networks need a window on learning patterns, and require information beyond login counts, page views, and time on site.

In this workshop, we present a design challenge focused on making sense of iRemix user logs and exploring questions related to the conference theme of “Making, Tinkering and Remixing.”  In advance of the workshop, we will provide a (de-identified) data set that describes user behaviors that were logged in three different instances of iRemix.  This data will allow us to investigate questions about learning pathways and connections between media consumption and media production.

To begin the discussion, we will present some frameworks and data visualizations we have developed.  We invite others to explore these data and come to the workshop with metrics, frameworks, sketches, visualizations, or other displays.  Approaches to the analysis may include individual user profiles, whole network perspectives, relationships, or changes over time.  We expect that this workshop will engage participants with issues and questions about online social learning network data and analysis that will inform continued, collaborative work.

Denise Nacu
Nichole Pinkard
Kiley Larson
Ruth Schmidt