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    L Bridges L Bridges Document Transcript

    • BY  L  Bridges     NOT  FOR  DISTRIBUTION  Collaborative  Projects  across  the  Curriculum    If  we  are  to  examine  the  use  of  ICT  within  the  classroom,  it  can  be  stated  that  the  communication  potentials  that  are  derived  from  its  use  ultimately  expand  the  opportunities  for  interaction  “far  beyond  the  four  walls  of  the  classroom”  (O’Rourke,  2003,  p.  163).  The  use  of  collaborative  learning  projects  is  becoming  a  common  phenomenon  around  the  globe,  with  educators  highlighting  their  enthusiasm  for  the  positive  outcomes  associated  with  its  use.    Abas  (2004)  notes  that  such  a  project  allows  two  or  more  schools  to  work  together  on  the  same  task  through  the  use  of  Internet  facilities.  This  allows  students  to  share  information,  reflect  on  alternative  perspectives,  assist  peers  with  problem  solving  and  collaborate  to  enhance  knowledge,  skills  and  beliefs.  Bandura  (1971,  as  cited  in  Paulus,  2005)  believes  that  in  order  for  meaningful  learning  to  occur,  students  must  be  exposed  to  interaction  and  dialogue  with  their  peers.  Paulus  (2005,  p.  111)  notes  a  main  aim  for  using  collaborative  projects  is  to  have  students  actively  involved  in  collaborative  dialogue  in  order  to  construct  and  develop  new  knowledge.  Harriman  (2003)  believes  that  collaborative  projects  provide  students  with  in-­‐depth  exploration  of  a  specific  topic,  while  Paulus  (2005)  further  notes  that  there  is  a  double  outcome  from  being  involved  in  such  projects.    Students  learn  from  their  peers  while  also  working  together  to  complete  a  set  task.  The  following  document  will  closely  explore  the  benefits  of  using  collaborative  projects  within  the  classroom,  results  from  case  studies  relating  to  integration  of  collaborative  projects  and  possible  reasons  that  some  educators  are  apprehensive  about  including  such  projects  in  their  programs.      In  a  research  project  conducted  in  2001,  results  revealed  that  the  majority  of  teachers  interviewed  used  the  Internet  as  an  “electronic  library”  as  opposed  to  a  communication  tool  (Sackett,  2001,  as  cited  in  Harris,  2002,  p.  2).  Another  study  undertaken  in  1998  stated  that  sixty-­‐eight  per  cent  of  educators  involved  in  the  survey  used  the  Internet  as  merely  an  information  resource,  only  seven  per  cent  had  students  use  e-­‐mail  and  even  less  than  this  engaged  in  collaborative  projects  across  the  curriculum.    In  2002,  Harris  attempted  to  discover  the  reasons  for  the  seemingly  high  hesitation  to  engage  in  collaborative  projects  displayed  by  some  educators.  The  author  concluded  that  activities,  which  Paulus  (2005)  describes  as  “cooperative”,  were  far  more  popular  than  those  that  involved  collaboration.  While  Harris  (2002)  notes  that  cooperation  activities  are  easier  to  implement  as  they  essentially  involve  students  dividing  the  workload  and  completing  tasks  individually,  Paupus  (2005)  stresses  that  when  cooperation  activities  are  used  solely,  opportunities  for  interaction  and,  in  turn,  meaning  making  are  lost.  Schrage  (1990,  as  cited  in  Paulus,  2005,  p.  113)  explains  that  collaboration  is  “a  process  of  shared  creation:  two  or  more  individuals  with  complementary  skills  interacting  to  create  a  shared  understanding  that  none  had  previously  possessed  or  could  have  come  to  on  their  own.”  A  critical  component  of  collaboration  is  the  use  of  dialogue,  which  allows  students  to  see  multiple  perspectives  through  the  sharing  of  thoughts  resulting  in  the  making  of  new  meanings  and  knowledge.  Harris  (2002,  p.5)  feels  that  teachers  steer  away  from  collaborative  projects  as  she  believes  “the  more  that  we  have  to  negotiate  with  others,  what  we  are  and  will  be  doing  during  a  learning  activity,  the  more  challenging  the  activity  is  to  conduct.”    Although  more  time  consuming  and  demanding  for  teachers,  collaborative  projects  expose  students  to  numerous  benefits  that  will  not  be  gained  from  engaging  in  cooperative  activities  alone  (Harris,  2002).  In  order  for  this  to  occur,  Bigum  (2001,  as  cited  in  O’Rourke,  2003)  notes  that  there  needs  to  be  an  overall  shift  in  the  way  educators  view  ICT  within  education.  No  longer  are  teachers  to  look  at  the  Internet  as  a  mere  information  provider  but  rather  as  a  tool  to  enhance     1  
    • BY  L  Bridges     NOT  FOR  DISTRIBUTION  learning  experiences.  Harriman  (2003,  p.  3)  claims,  “it  is  not  the  technology  that  makes  the  difference,  but  rather  the  way  it  is  used.”  Heppell  (2007)  furthers  this  by  noting  that  educators  need  to  look  at  the  value  that  computers  can  bring  to  a  learning  experience  rather  than  just  using  them  to  deliver  the  curriculum.      Soloway,  Norris,  Blumenfeld,  Fishman,  Krajcik  and  Marx  (2000)  discuss  four  types  of  discourse  that  are  beneficial  to  student  learning  but  ultimately  difficult  to  incorporate  without  ICT.  The  authors  note  that  students  appreciate  having  an  audience  not  only  to  view  but  also  critique  their  work;  they  respond  to  working  in  teams  with  their  peers  and  often  benefit  from  peer  tutoring.  All  these  elements  are  offered  through  the  use  of  collaborative  projects.  As  seen  in  the  ivideo,  there  are  a  number  of  benefits  that  can  be  gained  from  engaging  in  online  collaborative  projects.  The  ivideo  shows  how  students  think  and  feel  about  working  with  other  students  across  the  nation  and  the  globe  in  order  to  complete  projects.  Jackson  (1999)  highlights  the  numerous  skills  her  class  has  gained  from  engaging  in  online  collaborative  learning  projects.  Such  skills  include  analytical  and  descriptive  writing,  visual  design,  critical  thinking,  online  research  and  constructive  dialogue.  Harriman  (2003)  discussed  with  students  from  two  schools  in  Sydney,  their  feelings  towards  collaborative  projects  after  being  involved  in  an  online  simulation  project.  Students  commented  on  their  experience  explaining  that  they  enjoyed  weighing  up  ideas,  being  able  to  direct  the  action,  develop  their  negotiating  skills  and  think  strategically.  The  teacher  also  commented  on  the  overall  increase  in  motivation  and  engagement  she  witnessed  across  the  year  group.  Students  were  so  engrossed  in  the  project  that  they  spent  much  of  their  free  time  conducting  additional  research  and  discussing  ways  to  solve  the  problems  they  encountered  (Harriman,  2003).  The  author  stated  that  students  valued  working  with  peers  from  other  schools,  as  they  found  they  were  less  likely  to  be  swayed  or  influenced  by  friends  and  could  put  forth  their  opinions  honestly  in  a  safe  and  non-­‐threatening  environment.  Jackson  (1999)  noted  that  her  students  thrived  on  the  opportunity  to  work  with  a  class  from  another  state,  sharing  research  and  offering  reactions  and  feedback  to  each  other’s  work.  Jackson  (1999)  believes  that  there  are  a  number  of  positive  outcomes  from  working  with  others,  not  only  do  collaborative  projects  help  to  strengthen  relationships  between  peers,  but  also  amongst  the  staff  involved  in  the  projects.  Harriman  (2003)  highlights,  that  it  is  through  this  type  of  work  that  students  are  able  to  see  situations  from  alternative  perspectives,  which  is  an  essential  life  skill.      It  is  important  to  note  that  Harriman  (2003)  explains  that  involvement  in  such  projects  does  not,  in  fact,  enhance  students  computing  skills.  This  is  not  necessarily  a  negative  outcome,  it  only  displays  that  the  technology  has  been  used  in  a  way  to  enhance  the  learning  experience  and  is  not  just  a  separate  tool  disengaged  from  the  learning.  O’Rourke  (2003)  did  note,  however,  that  many  students  struggled  to  use  their  time  efficiently  when  left  to  work  on  computers  and  some  found  working  within  a  team  quite  challenging.      There  are  a  number  of  ways  in  which  educators  can  undergo  implementing  collaborative  projects  into  their  teaching.  Reading  the  blogs  posted  by  Shields  (2009)  highlights  how  she  was  able  to  easily  make  contact  with  schools  in  Taiwan,  Uganda  and  Australia  through  Skype  in  school  and  the  ‘online  projects  for  teachers’  website.  From  this  experience,  Shields  (2009)  noted  that  her  students  were  captivated  by  the  prospect  of  making  contact  with  people  from  all  over  the  world  and  enjoyed  hearing  their  thoughts  and  ideas.  Another  way  teachers  can  implement  collaborative  projects  is  through  iEARN  (International  Education  and  Resource     2  
    • BY  L  Bridges     NOT  FOR  DISTRIBUTION  Network),  which  is  a  non-­‐profit  global  network  that  aids  teachers  in  using  the  Internet  and  other  technologies  to  collaborate  on  projects  that  enhance  learning  (International  Education  and  Resource  Network,  2011).  iEARN  projects  use  a  variety  of  ICT,  including  newsgroups,  email,  web  pages  and  video-­‐conferencing.    iEarn  recommends  that  teachers  consider  how  their  chosen  project  will  assist  with  curriculum  aims  and  stresses  that  teachers  do  not  need  to  be  highly  proficient  with  technology  in  order  for  projects  to  be  successful  (Carter,  2011).      In  the  demanding  world  of  the  21st  Century,  any  opportunity  to  enhance  student  learning  should  be  seized.  Collaborative  projects  offer  one  avenue  and,  due  to  the  positive  outcomes  associated  with  this  form  of  education,  should  be  considered  more  closely  by  teachers  when  designing  learning  programs.  After  engaging  in  this  research  project,  I  was  able  to  see  the  enormous  benefits  that  can  be  gained  from  having  students  complete  collaborative  projects  across  the  curriculum.  While  I  do  acknowledge  that  such  projects  are  time  consuming,  there  are  many  programs  in  place  that  support  teachers  when  implementing  collaborative  projects  into  their  classrooms.  In  creating  the  ivideo  on  collaborative  projects,  I  hope  to  highlight  to  teachers  how  beneficial  such  projects  can  be  to  all  students  involved.      Reference  List    Abas,  Z.W.  (2004).  For  collaborative  online  learning.  New  Straits  Times,  Retrieved  February  17,   2011,  from  ProQuest  Database   http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/docview/271837436/12DAFE08DB541 DA123E/6?accountid=17095    Carter,  B.  (2011).  iEARN  projects:  what  are  collaborative  projects.  Retrieved  February  16,  2011,   from  iEARN  Australia  http://www.iearn.org.au/projects.htm    Harriman,  S.  (2003).  Project-­‐based  learning  meets  the  Internet:  students’  experiences  of  online   projects.  Paper  presented  to  the  NZARE/AARE  joint  conference,  Auckland,  New  Zealand.      Harris,  J.  (2002).  Wherefore  art  thou,  telecollaboration?  Retrieved  February  14,  2011,  from   http://virtual-­‐architecture.wm.edu/Foundation/Articles/WhereforeTelecollab.pdf    Heppell,  S.  (2007).  Assessment  and  new  technology:  new  straightjackets  or  new  opportunities?   Retrieved  February  16,  2011,  from  Stephen  Heppell’s  Weblog   http://www.heppell.net/weblog/stephen/    International  Education  and  Resource  Network.  (2011).  iEarn:  learning  with  the  world,  not  just   about  it.  Retrieved  February  18,  2011,  from  International  Education  and  Resource   Network  http://www.iearn.org/    Jackson,  B.  (1999).  Flex  your  classroom’s  collaborative  muscles  (Electronic  version).  Multimedia   and  Internet  at  Schools,  6  (4),  44-­‐49.      O’Rourke,  M.E.  (2003).  Technology  and  educational  change:  making  the  links.  Retrieved   February  18,  2001,  from  Victoria  University  http://eprints.vu.edu.au/237/       3  
    • BY  L  Bridges     NOT  FOR  DISTRIBUTION  Paulus,  T.M.  (2005).  Collaborative  and  cooperative  approaches  to  online  group  work:  the  impact   of  task  type  (Electronic  version).  Distance  Education,  26  (1),  111-­‐125.      Shields,  K.  (2009).  What  do  elephant  grass,  budgies  and  the  beatles  have  in  common?  Retrieved   February  18,  2011,  from  http://ripplingpond.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/what-­‐do-­‐ elephant-­‐grass-­‐budgies-­‐and-­‐the-­‐beatles-­‐have-­‐in-­‐common/    Soloway,  E.,  Norris,  C.,  Blumenfeld,  P.,  Fishman,  B.,  Krajcik,  J.  &  Marx,  R.  (2000).  K-­‐12  and  the   Internet  (Electronic  version).  Communications  of  the  ACM,  43  (1),  19-­‐23.               4