Supporting social meanings and constructs within social communities of learning: living dictionaries focused upon enhancing learner understandings related to tacit and explicit knowledge within a communicative learning environment

Denise N.J. Chapman, Caroline M. Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Education environments focus upon subject-specific terminology that may be unfamiliar to innumerable learners who may have a misconception concerning the terminology or be ill-prepared to deal with the subject matter. As social meanings and constructive understanding are imperatives, it is important to develop non-threatening support tools through which to sustain the learner's comprehension of the subject matter and ability to successfully develop an appropriate conceptual framework of understanding. To mediate knowledge and understanding within an encouraging and accommodating, non-threatening environment, the learning environment must offer tools through which to frame the unfamiliar terminology. An innovative tool through which to develop and support the learner's base-level knowledge is through the design and continuous development of a subject-specific living dictionary. Constructing a living dictionary focuses upon subject-specific, course-specific terminology that may be either unfamiliar to the learner or previously addressed but not fully delineated. To successfully support the learner, the living dictionary should possess several integral components. Initially, the living dictionary should be recognizes as a "living" structure, wherein the information is consistently developed and redefined more fully. Next is the ability for the learners to confidentially request the addition of terms to the living dictionary, for purposes of anonymity. A third component of the living dictionary is the focus upon a textual explanation of the term or topic, but also external Internet-based hyperlinks, audio explanations, video representations, and a graphic overview. Finally, the social component of a living dictionary is of utmost import towards the success of the learner's developing conceptual framework of understanding. A social posting area for each topic or term, such as a discussion board or web log (blog), further enables and supports the social meaning and construction of understanding within social communities of learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive load
  • Communication
  • Communities of learning
  • Conceptual age
  • Distance learning
  • Dynamic communities
  • Explicit knowledge
  • Higher order thinking skills
  • Information age
  • Information chunking
  • Interactive activities
  • Knowledge economy
  • Learning communities
  • Living dictionary
  • Social communities
  • Social communities of learning
  • Social constructs
  • Social meanings
  • Tacit knowledge
  • Web-based learning
  • Web-enhanced learning

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