Modelling social algorithms as design templates for educational software
Pratt, Deirdre Denise
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Education involves a process of initiating learners into complex socio-cultural processes which may vary from culture to culture and even between institutions within the same culture, making it difficult to design versatile courseware which has some relevance for the social process to be mastered by learners. Moreover, social elements often operate intra- as well as extra-systemically in social processes, which makes it difficult for the courseware designer to differentiate between the commonalities and variables in learning processes. Yet in spite of the complexity of human social behaviour, psychologists have identified social algorithms which apply to various key domains, and which prepare young people for effective social functioning in a variety of life situations. It is the contention of this paper, based on doctoral research on modelling composition, that it is possible to identify social algorithms which underpin human learning, and which might form the basis for effective courseware, given that such programs would require customisable options so as to cater for the extra-systemic elements applying in various socio-cultural contexts. One of the means whereby social algorithms can be identified is provided by Franck’s modelling process, which uses the principle of reverse engineering. The modelling process is described in some detail, as is the central concept of the social mechanism (i.e. algorithm) with specific reference to the development of educational software in the form of a process-based writing tutor program.