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What my research is aboutJon

My main interests are in learning, technology, and  learning technologies.  I treat learning technologies as a very broad category that includes pedagogical methods as well as other tools, structures, and systems, and I see them as deeply, inextricably distributed, and human: we are part-technology and our technologies are part-us. I'm interested in how we shape our virtual and physical spaces and how those spaces shape us. I'm also interested in how to teach crowds and, more interestingly, how crowds themselves can teach. I'm particularly interested in ways to make use of the collective intelligence of the crowd - design methods and algorithms that can make crowd wisdom a more likely outcome than mob stupidity, in ways that help people to learn. I theorize about the nature of learning and teaching. My work over the past decade has converged on a co-participative model of learning and technology that draws on ideas from complex systems, the extended mind (distributed cognition, embodied cognition, situated cognition), self-determination theory, and much more to provide a coherent way of understanding a wide range of phenomena from learning itself to the design of online learning environments.

This is ridiculously multidisciplinary work, drawing inspiration and ideas from fields as far apart as computing, education, philosophy, architecture, ecology, complex systems, network theory, music and literature. Amongst other things, I'm interested in social navigation, social adaptivity, learning communities, city planning, ecosystems, narrative, passion, pedagogy, motivation theory, systems analysis, interaction design, the nature of technology, crowd interaction models, stigmergy, network theory, collaborative filtering, the nature of education, alternative models of reality, evolutionary theory, control theory, socio-technical and techno-social views of the world.

What I've been researching and thinking about lately

Who I work with

Anyone who can put up with me and that I find interesting. Most of the time my research is in TEKRI, Athabasca University, where my main conspirator and collaborator is Terry Anderson. I have worked with collaborators in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, and several countries in Europe, as well as in Canada.


Selected representative works

2021: Educational technology: what it is and how it works – paper from AI & Society that summarizes my coparticipation model of educational technology. I’m pleased with this one.

2020:  Joyful online assessment: beyond high-stakes testing – paper from Innovate Learning, 2020, setting out principles for assessment design and describing how I tend to do it.

2019: X-literacies: beyond digital literacy – paper from E-Learn 2019, reframing the concept of ‘literacy’ as the hard skills needed to participate in a culture.

2018: Smart learning environments and not-so-smart learning environments: a systems view – paper from Smart Learning Environments on how smartness cannot be found in tools, only in how they are orchestrated.

2016: P-learning’s unwelcome legacy – paper from TD Tecnologie Didattiche on how boundaries determined by physics provide the context for in-person teaching, but make no sense for online learning

2014: Dron & Anderson Teaching Crowds: Learning & Social Media - AU Press (free PDF download, cheap epub and paper versions!)Teaching Crowds

2014: Dron & Anderson The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance and New Social Media Literacies - paper from IJLM

2014: Dron & Anderson Agoraphobia and the Modern Learner - paper from JIME

2014: Dron & Anderson Diseñando medios sociales para el aprendizaje - paper from Revista Mexicana de Bachillerato a Distancia

2014: Hartnett, St. George, & Dron. Exploring Motivation in an Online Context: A Case Study - paper from CITE

2013: Dron Soft is Hard, Hard is Easy: Learning Technologies and Social Media - Paper from Form@re

2011: Dron Analogue Literacies - paper from CODE Symposium, 2011

2011: Anderson & Dron Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy - paper from IRRODL (also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese)

2011: Hartnett, St. George & Dron Being together: factors the unintentionally undermine motivation - paper from JOFDL

2011: Dron Learning Analytics: soft and hard - presentation from LAK online course

2010: Dron Orchestrating soft and hard technologies - presentation for ITEL Winterschool

2009: Dron & Anderson Lost in Information Space: Information retrieval issues in Web 1.5 - paper from JODI

2008: Dron The trouble with tags: an approach to richer tagging for online learning - paper from E-Learn 2008

2007: Dron & Anderson Collectives, Networks and Groups in Social Software for E-Learning - paper from E-Learn 2007

2007: Dron Control and Constraint in E-LEarning: Choosing When to Choose - book

2007: Dron Designing the Undesignable: Social Software and Control - paper from IJETS

2006: Dron On the stupidity of mobs - paper from WBC 2006

2003: Dron The Blog and the Borg: a collective approach to e-learning - paper from E-Learn 2003

2002: Dron Achieving self-organisation in network-based learning environments -PhD thesis

2001: Dron, Boyne, Mitchell Footpaths in the Stuff Swamp - paper from WebNet 2001

2000: Dron, Mitchell, Siviter & Boyne CoFIND - an experiment in n-dimensional collaborative filtering - paper from JNCA