Are Onsite Paralinguistic Responses Comparable to Online Responses?

In lesson 3, learner 2a (L2a) clearly much more affectively engaged — palpably more so, than in lessons 1 and 2. Could this level of engagement be replicated and sustained when lessons go offsite on Adobe Connect in week 5 and beyond?

I ask this because I observed subtle but significant non-verbal and paralinguistic properties dealing with verbal modes of communication that do not involve words (eg. inflection, intonation, pitch, tone, speed, volume), that are amplified onsite, given our proximity to one another.

My descriptive and reflective ethnographic field notes point to aspects of onsite learning that may be attenuated online, due the representational or two dimensional nature of the screen-based medium (Adobe Connect). I was surprised by how intense and amplified the affective dimensions were in L2a and L1e. L1e even shielded his eyes from the screen. The non verbal responses from L5k (“I do [have a problem with that]”) and were unexpected and one that many would assume only come from students of theology.

My own visceral response was surprising, and I discovered something new about myself, that changed my life in the most profound way possible.

I look forward to study how these experiences compare to offsite sessions starting week 5.

Observations Week 3: Why CSCL Implementation Often Fails in the Enacted Curriculum

Lack of time (both curricular and extra-curricular) for learners to sufficient analyze and post feedback to peers

Research advocates ensuring that curricular time onsite be allocated to the CSCL activity, should faculty find that learners are unable or unwilling to collaborate online, especially when extraneous factors, such as subject contestation, compete for learners’ and faculty members’ limited resources.

Personally,  I been finding it increasingly challenging to respond to learners in the FYP and Internet Art & Culture in Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) OSS environment, when I am swamped

I shall have to ascertain from the learners themselves (privately, if necessary), why they are unable (or perhaps unwilling?) to provide more online feedback on the work of their peers.

Onsite OSS training + FYP + Internet Art & Culture Observations Weeks 1-2

It is abundantly clear that there are aspects of the learners and their artwork, that learners (and tutor) themselves feel safe revealing only to course-mates or to a limited audience.

There were aspects of the students and their online posts that were apparent only during the onsite discussions, away from the scrutiny of the public domain of the Open Source Studio. Theses were personal, private nuggets of information that the learners would likely never state in black an white, or on record.

There were a range of revelations privy to those onsite [to note preliminary implications on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK (Koehler and Mishra, 2005) if any]:

  1. Learner 1(L1) shared how useful Adobe Kuler was for L2’s work [TK].
  2. L3 professed to being a “torrent pirate” [TK, facilitates trust, socio-emotional dimensions].
  3. L4’s the pin-hole effect was accidental, and her Russian experience probably compelled her to stick the “no brand computer” label on her notebook [TK, socio-emotional dimension].
  4. L5 had a preoccupation with “meeting himself” perhaps in an alternate universe or multiverse [intrapersonal intelligence?].
  5. L6 was unafraid to utter “shitty” not once, but multiple times during discourse on separate occasions, and used her smartphone that caught the attention of the tutor, who used the moment to exemplify a learning point [PK].
  6. L7 authored a profane post on Friday, puzzling the tutor and assistant. (The post was online, but I can only imagine what it must have been like onsite at the lab)
  7. Like me, the first year 4D foundation learners on Monday, 9am, had never heard of Magellan [CK]
  8. The tutor introduced his wife, with whom he asked on Skype “Are you really my wife?”, before sharing has views on Donald Trump (PK)

The preliminary data gathered from my onsite observations suggest that while open source platforms may encourage sharing, there are still personal and profane matters that users and tutors might want to keep “closed” or private, thus giving greater significance to onsite sessions, that provide the safe space for play and experimentation, that the openness of OSS may (dis)inhibit.

There are moments where this openness backfires, as evinced on Friday, but admittedly, artists are known to challenge the status quo, so perhaps, it should not surprise me that — in Gibson’s (in Packer and Jordan, 2002) words — an “artboy” should decide to publicly, fearlessly post the most commonly uttered invective in Singapore. The modus operandi of acting before thinking fits well with the Technology of Foolishness where one acts spontaneously before thinking.

The messy, chaotic, and unfiltered creative process that I once noted conspicuously missing from the urbane online discourse, now becomes fascinatingly visible onsite. While the link between these observations with teaching and learning may appear tenuous, I believe that contribute towards socializing the learners, who create a shared space from the trust that is built from the irreverent discourse. James March’s Technologies of Foolishness and Stuart Brown’s theories of Play and Cognition inform us of the importance of such seemingly purposeless banter in constructing the social space that supports experimentation, collaboration and exchange of ideas amongst learners, who may not be as urbane and perfect as their online personas and activities suggest.

Moreover, blended learning course mates often test the waters during onsite interaction, before deciding how much information they should reveal online — both about themeselves and their work. A friendly onsite encounter is more likely to lead to online collaboration and sharing. Learners often quickly grasp that a toxic and abrasive course mate in real life, is likely exemplify and amplify that personality online. Netzley (2012), found from feedback from his Singaporean SMU coorporate communication undergraduates, that their desire to save face, engendered a reluctance to change or critique their peers’ wiki entries, fearing that they would shame them, or appear to be critical of their efforts.

Personally, I encountered the wrath of a Chinese course mate in the postgraduate programme who became so incensed when I corrected her grammatical and factual errors on Google Docs, that she cc-ed the rest of the group members, to openly lambast me: “To simply delete what had been discussed was extremely uncalled for and rude, and also demonstrates the amount of respect one has for one’s group members and also for this work” (Jessamyn Tay, 2014, personal communication).

These observations indicate that the blended approach to teaching and learning the media arts is one that requires rigorous analysis of not only the online discourse, but also the onsite discussions that are at times deliberately muted, self-censored or wholly avoided online. It would be interesting to study the dynamic interplay between onsite and offsite interactions that emerge and shape the learning experience in the coming weeks.


Koehler M.J.&Mishra P. (2005) What happens when teachers
design educational technology? The development of technological
pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational
Computing Research 32, 131–152.

Netzley, M. A., & Rath, A. (2012). Social Networks and the Desire to Save Face: A Case From Singapore. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(1), 96-107. doi: 10.1177/1080569911433434

Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (2002). Multimedia : from Wagner to virtual reality (Expanded ed.). New York: Norton.

Does OSS Facilitate Teaching & Learning in the Media Arts Better than Blackboard?

“I wanted it recognized that I was in fact an artboy. Which meant that, at least in my understanding of what it took to qualify, that I did not, must not, know what I was doing.”

(Gibson, in Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. xii)

Gibson appears to suggest that artboys allegedly “just [blindly] do it” with seemingly little premeditation — akin to the oft misconceived notion of the proverbial intoxicated abstract expressionist or improvisational performance as an unthinking, spontaneous, capricious even.

However if deep, meaningful learning involves “learning by doing” or “learning through performance” or “learning as becoming” as advocated by Chee (2002, 2011, 2015), then I argue that often the very act or process of doing (no matter how “unintelligent”, “irrational”, or “foolish”), engenders the construction of meaning through embodied cognition (where physical action informs cognition or mental processes).

Nobel laureate, James G. March (1994), terms such play “a technology of foolishness” that could be combined with logics of consequence and appropriateness, asserting that decision makers “need to think about action now as being taken in terms of a set of unknown future preferences or identities”, for “they need ways to do things for which they currently have no good reason” (p. 262) — in sum, to act before thinking, by suspending or escaping reasoned consistency through playfulness or doing or performance.

Interestingly, March (1994) adds:

“Organizations can be playful even when the participants are not. Organizational play is encouraged by temporary relief from control, coordination, and communication.”

(p. 264)

In the army, I was at times exhorted to “just do, don’t think or ask” (and to leave my brain at home, for the army only needed unquestioning and unthinking automatons to execute commands),  where over-thinking in dynamic and chaotic situations, breeds timorousness or apprehension and doubt . Often, the wisdom or consequence of the action only becomes clear much later, when at first it seemed nebulous or unthinkable.

I saw the wisdom behind doing before thinking in this morning’s OSS training session, where it was the execution of the tasks that led to a greater understanding of how OSS worked.

Is acting before thinking or not knowing what one is doing, particularly in the teaching and learning of the media arts?

I ask this because the media arts involve artistic imagination and decision making, drawing on a spirit different from that of information theory, in that “it uses evocative ambiguity to expand awareness” (March, 1994, p. 260).

March (1994) contends:

“Evocative ambiguity is far from noise or arbitrary symbols. The poet creates meaning without fully comprehending the meaning that has been created, but the words are chosen carefully to elicit the imagination of language. Poetry and art encourage the simultaneous adoption of a vision and the recognition of its unreality. They affirm life in the face of absurdity. They are comfortable with multiple, contradictory meanings and with the simultaneous truths and falsity of beliefs. In a similar, decision makers create ambiguity not to confuse, but to stimulate, not to obscure meaning but to discover it. Communications are constructed to gain access to the imagination and to knowledge carried in words and visual stimuli.” (p. 260)

Similarly, Gibson views multimedia as “not an invention, but an ongoing discovery of how the mind and the universe it imagines (or vice-versa, depending) fit together and interact” (Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. xiv).

For my study, it is imperative that I ask:

  • how does OSS as a Learning Management System (LMS) and blended learning approach, better facilitate ongoing discovery, technologies of foolishness, learning by doing, and evocative ambiguity, than Blackboard?
  • are the key problems, barriers, or challenges faced by faculty and students of the media arts largely technological, or pedagogical?
  • why are Blackboard and existing approaches ill-suited to the teaching and learning of the media arts?


Chee, Y. S. (2002). Refocusing learning on pedagogy in a connected world. On the Horizon, 10(4), 7-13.

Chee, Y. S. (2011). Learning as becoming through performance, play and dialogue: A model of game-based learning with the game Legends of Alkhimia. Digital Culture & Education, 3(2), 98-122.

Chee, Y. S. (2015). Games-to-teach or games-to-learn: Addressing the learning needs of 21st century education through performance. In T. B. Lin, D. T. V. Chen, & C. S. Chai (Eds.), New media and learning in the 21st century: A socio-cultural perspective. Dordrecht: Springer.

March, J. G. (1994). A premier on decision making: How decisions happen. NY: The Free Press.

Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (2002). Multimedia : from Wagner to virtual reality (Expanded ed.). New York: Norton.


Theoretical Framework for Roles of ICT/Online Facilitator

I just discovered Berges’ (1995) theoretical framework that adumbrates the roles of the online educator:

Pedagogical Role

The most important role of online discussion moderator/tutor being an educational facilitator using questions and probes for student responses focussing discussions on critical concepts, principles and skills.

Social Role

Creating a friendly, social environment in which learning is promoted by developing group cohesiveness, maintaining the group as a unit that learns collaboratively.

Managerial Role 

This organizational, procedural, or administrative role involves setting the agenda and objectives for the group, including procedural rules and decision-making norms.”

Technical Role

The facilitator makes learners comfortable with the technology. The technical goal is to make the technology transparent, so that learners can focus on the learning task.


Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology. 35(1) 22-30.

Tentative Title: A Critical Study of Online Collaborative Teaching and Learning in the Media Arts in Higher Education



Major universities worldwide, have embraced Learning Management Systems (LMS), social media and blended learning with revolutionary zeal, threatening to disrupt the status quo of higher education (Leaver & Kent, 2014). As with any new and unprecedented technologically mediated affordance claiming to provide a more engaged learning experience — which is the core purpose of blended learning (Garrison & Vaughan, 2011) — the appropriation of these educational technologies, particularly in the teaching and learning of the media arts in higher education, is beset with a range of issues that is currently under-researched and thus warrants deeper study.


Problems, Issues and Concerns

Current structures of online learning at major universities are framed by the use of the LMS to deliver content that engenders learning about rather than learning, prioritizing “knowledge-in-the-head” over “knowledge-in-application”, which is the hallmark of deep meaningful learning (Chee, 2002). Nanyang Technological University (NTU) currently uses Blackboard as a delivery platform, and is spending $70 million over the next four years to convert half of its courses to an interactive online format, to give learners “the option of learning more flexibly” (Lee, 2015, p. B4).


Unfortunately, LMS behemoths such as Blackboard are maligned by learners and faculty members as being authoritative, difficult to use, impenetrable, and more likely to disengage learners from learning (McRae, 2014).


Furthermore, National University of Singapore (NUS) deputy president and provost, Professor Tan Eng Chye, noted the resistance from faculty members and students.


NTU’s deputy president and provost, Professor Freddy Boey, ascribed faculty resistance to chore of converting existing courses to online courses admidst their existing teaching and research duties, and offered help to “ease their workload” by assembling a technical team “to help professors do the conversion” (Lee, 2015, p. B4).


It is pertinent to note that the mere migration of course content to an online platform often merely engenders learning about through content transmission, rather than deep meaningful learning arising from knowledge-in-application.


It is thus imperative that universities design online courses that are specifically designed for a blended learning environment, to engender deep meaningful authentic learning beyond the established practice of reusing and transferring materials used in face-to-face lessons into the LMS platform, which often contributes to intellectual and personal disengagement from online activities (O’Shea, Stone, & Delahunty, 2015).


The Case Study

In 2013, Professor Randall Packer of the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) at NTU, developed the Open Source Studio (OSS), which is as an innovative Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) online software environment as an alternative to Blackboard, to complement onsite or face-to-face lessons, and to support undergraduate artistic research and production through web-conferencing and collaboration.


Research Problem

Since 2014, OSS enabled users to work across a “suite” of virtual studios or a “multi-site” within a unified database, which dynamically aggregated, organized, and shared student work, to facilitate collaborative learning. While research in computer-supported creativity indicates that new tools and digital media can enhance creative processes and outcomes (Burkhardt & Lubart, 2010; Lubart, 2005), there is a lacuna in our knowledge of how emerging online aggregation schemes and the new potentialities for collaborative research and peer-to-peer artistic production afforded by open source networked technologies like OSS, support teaching and learning in the media arts.


While research in computer-supported creativity indicates that new tools and digital media can enhance creative processes and outcomes (Burkhardt & Lubart, 2010; Lubart, 2005), there is a lacuna in our knowledge of how emerging online aggregation schemes and the new potentialities for collaborative research and peer-to-peer artistic production afforded by open source networked technologies like OSS support teaching and learning in the media arts in higher education.


Moreover, the teaching and learning of the visual arts in higher education has traditionally revolved around solitary studio practice within the limited confines of a physical art studio and the occasional en plein air or outdoor painting session. Despite the emergence of the World Wide Web in 1993 evincing Marshall McLuhan’s (1964) interconnected “global village” however, and radically transforming the artist’s studio (Packer, in press), teaching approaches at universities still lag behind the “telematic embrace” (Ascott, 2002) by the contemporary art world. Hence while contemporary media artists have been creating and sharing art online for the last 22 years, little is known in extant literature about whether art can be taught and learnt on online, and why faculty members and undergraduates resist online collaborative teaching and learning in the media arts. Can art be taught and learnt online, and how? And why are art educators and students not doing so?


Research Questions

It is therefore necessary to investigate

  1. how can art, specifically in the media arts, be taught online through the OSS as a case study that uses a blended learning approach supporting onsite or face-to-face lessons at ADM, NTU.
Traditional Research OSS
        I. Restricted private orOne-way closed access Open or publicly available 

Participatory or collaborative

     II. Print/static media 




or pure media

Online documentation / hypermedia / Live cross-platform /multi-modal /



Hybrid: Straddling formats, research and publishing, scholarship and service, as well as institutional and disciplinary boundaries

   III. Slow & linear Uses database and network for storage, retrieval and access; hyperlinks and tags enhance access and retrieval 

Instantaneously available and responsive


  1. Why do a significant number of users resist using OSS in their artistic research and teaching practice?


Literature in technology adoption indicates that there are three main barriers to ICT integration encountered by teachers summarized in the following table:

Types of Barriers to ICT Integration Examples
1. Type 1 Barrier (Ertmer, 1999) Extrinsic to the teacher Lack of Time, Expertise, Access, Resources, and (technical or institutional) Support (T.E.A.R.S.)
2. Type 2 Barrier (Ertmer, 1999) Intrinsic to the teacher Teachers’ personal belief that art and technology are incompatible
3. Type 3 Barrier (Tsai & Chai, 2012) Design thinking Lack of know-how to integrate creativity support tools into art lessons
4. Type 4 Barrier(Hypothesized) Performativity Assessment/Appraisal tool for learners/faculty makes technology adoption “invisible” in audit terms





Ascott, R. (2002). Is there love in the telematic embrace? In R. Packer & K. Jordan (Eds.), Multimedia : from Wagner to virtual reality (Expanded ed., pp. 333-344). New York: Norton.

Burkhardt, J.-M., & Lubart, T. (2010). Creativity in the Age of Emerging Technology: Some Issues and Perspectives in 2010. Creativity & Innovation Management, 19(2), 160-166. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8691.2010.00559.x

Chee, Y. S. (2002). Refocusing learning on pedagogy in a connected world. On the Horizon, 10(4), 7-13.

Ertmer, P. A. (1999). Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(4), 47-61. doi: 10.1007/BF02299597

Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2011). Blended Learning in Higher Education : Framework, Principles, and Guidelines (1 ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.

Leaver, T., & Kent, M. (2014). Introduction – Facebook in Education: Lessons Learnt. Digital Culture & Education, 6(1), 60-65.

Lee, P. (2015, March 24). NTU converting half of courses to online format. The Straits Times, p. B4.

Lubart, T. (2005). How can computers be partners in the creative process: Classification and commentary on the Special Issue. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 63(4–5), 365-369. doi:

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Boston: McGraw Hill.

McRae, L. (2014). Learning or Liking: Educational architecture and the efficacy of attention. Digital Culture & Education, 6(1), 30-46.

O’Shea, S., Stone, C., & Delahunty, J. (2015). “I ‘feel’like I am at university even though I am online.” Exploring how students narrate their engagement with higher education institutions in an online learning environment. Distance Education, 36(1), 41-58.

Packer, R. (in press). Open Source Studio.

Tsai, C. C., & Chai, C. S. (2012). The “third” -order barrier for technology integration instruction: Implications for teacher education. In C.P. Lim & C.S. Chai (Eds), Buidling the capacity of the next generation of teachers in Asia. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(Special issue 6), 1057-1060.