Innovation

The novelty of our approach is reflected in the model-building practices that ‘making construals’ supports, for which we make the following claims:

  1. The principles and concepts for making construals are accessible, represent an alternative way to approach exploiting the computer, have very wide application and are universally relevant to perceptions of state, are implicit in key areas of contemporary computing practice.
  2. There are principles for construal comprehension by which the meaning of a construal can be inferred through intelligent interaction from knowing a context to which it relates, construals are amenable to interactive evaluation and authentication, construals make it possible to record understanding that may be context-dependent, incomplete and have elements of confusion, the practice of construal comprehension is accessible in semantic contexts where traditional program comprehension would be difficult even for the specialist.
  3. Collaborative construal construction: construals can be developed in a collaborative way with a high degree of concurrency, they can accommodate diverse perspectives and roles, enable experts and novices to work effectively together, can be used to communicate private understanding and to establish shared understanding.
  4. The practice of making construals affords scope for the interactive and live instrumentation and evaluation of construals: the development of a construal is documented though its history in such a way it can be recorded and revisited as if live, the development of construals can be monitored and mined for evidence of learning, the development of construals can be guided in a live fashion through concurrent interventions.
  5. Construals can serve as a shared resource that can be readily extended, adapted and customised and from which a wide variety of OERs can be derived, e.g.:
    • presentations framed in association with a construal with a degree of openness that ranges from unrestricted scope for exploratory interaction to standard commentary-style slide presentation
    • conventional programs with closely prescribed user interaction and formal interpretation.
  6. Construals are well-oriented towards addressing topical features of contemporary computing applications:
    • observables can be drawn directly from sensory input and physical observables
    • construals can be readily adapted to different kinds of human agency and are thus suited to personal and special needs
    • construals have instrumental qualities such as are represented in musical, engineering and scientific instruments.

Some of these characteristics can be seen in current computing practices, most notably in the way in which domain experts with limited programming expertise apply spreadsheets in problem-solving contexts, and in the applications of spreadsheets in education (see e.g. Baker and Sugden’s journal of that name). The principles for making construals deployed in this project bring unprecedented conceptual clarity to the use of computing technology in exploratory sense-making activities of this nature. This dramatically enhances their scope and power.