Knowledge building- designing for learning using social and participatory media


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Author: Gail Casey

This report presents the results of a classroom action research that looked at how one teacher redesigned her curriculum while integrating social media, Web 2.0 and face-to-face teaching in an Australian public high school.

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Knowledge building- designing for learning using social and participatory media

  1. 1. From the field Knowledge-building: Designing for learning using social and participatory mediaAuthor This report presents the results of a classroom action research that looked at how one teacher redesigned her curriculum while integrating social media, Web 2.0 and face-to-Gail Casey, Deakin face teaching in an Australian public high school.University, Geelong,Oceania It explores the qualities that social and participatory media bring to the while focussing on students as active and valued participants in the learning process. Building knowledge using the uniqueness of social media enabled students to become active and valued resources for both the teacher and their peers. Designing for learningTags is a key challenge facing education today; this case offers ideas for learning designerssocial and participatory and contributes to a research base that can support educators from all, online learning,knowledge-building,classroom action research,secondary school 1. Introduction Today’s youth are growing up in a digital world. Where and how they learn is changing as mobile learning and social networking become part of their every day life. As a result of this phenomenon, what it means to teach and learn is changing as new technologies make it possible to easily tap into the knowledge and skills that students bring with them into the classroom. Valuing their often hidden talents can be a difficult task within a high school cur- riculum program. As this research found, venturing beyond the walls of the classroom, to design learning that involves knowledge-building activities, is well supported by the integra- tion of online social media, Web 2.0 and face-to-face teaching; producing a flexible student- centred environment. Course design using Web 2.0 technologies needs to be seen as ‘emergent’ (Mason 2008, p. 155). When designing the projects used throughout this research the teacher/researcher in- corporated concepts of student empowerment, user generated content, and the harnessing of collective intelligence which Mason (2008, p. 155) describes as a mismatch between cen- tralised control (traditional course design) and increased user control (course design reflect- ing Web 2.0 practice). This is a time where pervasive media and a technology landscape is becoming increasingly global, participatory and connected, one in which learners and teach- ers can increasingly become creators of knowledge rather than mere consumers of prepared messages and ideas (Jacobsen 2010). Schools at present are justifiably wary of social media in their classroom. Over the last four years the researcher has been using social media in her classroom and, as a result, provided students with an environment involving more freedom and flexibility than the traditional classroom. A major issue of concern is that teachers are not available to monitor students twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; hence, an element of trust and understanding must be built. For some young people, monitoring their own developed online site for new activity or comment can become a seemingly addictive pastime but as Mason (2008, p. 70) discusses, there are many advantages in using the unique qualities of social media when in ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011Pap www 1
  2. 2. From the fieldthe classroom: they require students to participate, think, con- proximately 900. The data collected included teacher planningtribute and become active in their learning. documents, field notes, student work, end-of-week reflections, mid-term and end-of-term reflections as well as critical friend2. Research Design and peer feedback. Students used pseudonyms when online which they could change at any time hence they often couldThis research is a qualitative study investigating emergence, not identify who a student was or from which class they wereconnections and designs for learning. The connections now be- a made, outside the classroom, with social media and learn-ing, demonstrate that what it means to teach and learn is chang-ing. The researcher combined Graham Nuthall’s (2007) “lens on 3. Designing for learning - knowledgelearning” with Luckin’s (2010) knowledge building pedagogy to buildinghelp her conceptualise and analyse data whilst making links to Knowledge building pedagogy is based on the premise that au-social constructivist teaching in addition to chaos and complex- thentic, creative knowledge work can take place in school class-ity theories. rooms – knowledge work that does not merely emulate the work of mature scholars or designers but that substantively ad-This study uses an action research method. The researcher is vances the state of knowledge in the classroom community anda PhD student as well as the classroom teacher and uses Arm- situates it within the larger societal knowledge building effortstrong and Moore’s (2004, p. 13) framework of the action (Scardamalia & Bereiter 2006). By using one online Ning eachresearch spiral which explicitly seeks to encourage inclusive semester as a shared social networked classroom the teacher/processes through research design, practice and process, and researcher could observe the building and sharing of knowledgeresearch outcomes. This action research cycle included the de- that occurred through formal teacher directed projects and in-signing of learning experiences that combined social media with formal student directed activities. One could also monitor theface-to-face teaching and Web 2.0. The data was collected over visitors to the Ning from around the world. At times classes en-approximately 18 months commencing July, 2010 and was col- gaged in global projects but the Ning was not used directly forlected from all of the teacher/researchers semester long-class- these. It is interesting however, to see the selection of wideres. The teacher/researcher taught 7 semester-length classes audience shown in Figure 1 which shows the automated visitorduring the first semester and 5 during the second semester. maps for each of the 3 Nings at the time of writing this paperThe third semester of data collection was still in progress at the (each computer’s unique identifier ensures that any one com-time of writing this paper. Students were aged between 13 and puter is only registered once). This perhaps shows some work16 years of age and the average class size was 25. All students towards building, what Scardamalia and Bereiter call, societalduring the first two semesters of data collection were from one knowledge.Year 7 to 12 co-educational public high school in Geelong, Aus-tralia. Students were predominantly from mid-range socioeco- Throughout this research, students were faced with a widenomic backgrounds and the school student population was ap- range of tools which encouraged them to think, create and Semester 2, 2011 classroom Ning Semester 2, 2010 classroom Ning Semester 1, 2011 classroom Ning Screen clipping taken: 19/10/2011 Screen clipping taken: 19/10/2011 Screen clipping taken: 19/10/2011Figure 1: Visitors recorded on each of the three online Nings used during the research ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 2
  3. 3. From the fieldshare. Multimodal methods of learning were at their fingertips them as members of a knowledgbe building community (Scar-and new literacies became part of the day-to-day learning cycle. damalia & Bereiter 2006, p. 98).Some examples of student work follow and are drawn from the Figure 2 shows a screen clip of an animated podcast made by alarge quantity of data collected as students used a wide range of Year 7 (13 year old) student during an Internet safety project.Web 2.0 tools. These included: This was made using a ‘Voki’ at and this • Survey generators - can be heard by following the link below the screen clip. The • Picture podcasting -, http://www. work involved students choosing an animated character fol-, lowed by them choosing a character voice. They then typed an • Photo editing -, Internet safety message onto the screen which was read aloud image-mosaic-generator/?create, by the animated character when their work was published. • Word clouds -, http://www. Students were keen to hear each others Voki and struggling students quickly understood the requirements of the task by • Cartoon makers -, http://www. watching the work of their peers. Learning occurred not only by students producing their own work but by listening to the work • Movie making with copyright free music - http://animoto. of others. com/ • Animation creators - watch/6919105/identity-theft-2 • Picture globe generator - • Picture editor - • Mind mapping -, http://www.wallwisher. com/ • Real world pictures - html,, • Timeline creator - • QR code generator - Figure 2: Animated podcast made by a student using a ‘Voki’ for qr-code-generator/ an Internet Safety project, • Data visualization - ernetsafety?groupUrl=internetsafety&id=6203891%3AGrou visualisation p%3A4301&xg_pw=&page=2#comments Screen clipping taken: 17/10/2011, 4:28 PMKnowledge-building represents an attempt to refashion educa-tion in a fundamental way (Scardamalia & Bereiter2006, p. 97) so that it becomes a coherent effort toinitiate students into a knowledge-creating culture.The following discussion of student work provide ex-amples of students not only developing knowledge-building competencies but also coming to see them-selves and their work as part of, what Scardamalia andBereiter call, the civilisation-wide effort to advanceknowledge frontiers. In this context, the integrationof social media, Web 2.0 and face-to-face teachingbecame a realistic means for students to connectwith this civilisation-wide knowledge and to maketheir classroom work a part of it. This is a shift from Figure 3: Video clip made by a student using ‘Animoto’ for atreating students as learners and inquirers to treating digital footprints project, digitalfootprints, Screen clipping taken: 17/10/2011, 4:28 PM ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 3
  4. 4. From the fieldFigure 3 shows a 30 second long video made online by a Year 7 room, new literacies, that are becoming part of students’ out-student using Animoto ( during a digital of-school lives, were also easily incorporated. These conceptsfootprints project. By using Animoto the student could upload are supported by many academics including Alvarez (2001),their own still pictures and select from a wide variety of music Fletcher, (2007) Glover and Oliver (2008) and Hahn (2008). Aca-which is free of copyright to add to their video. Students en- demic interest in the consequences of the use of technologyjoyed watching the created works of their peers and this moti- and the use of media in the expansion of knowledge and thevated them to learn the concepts of the project, complete the development of learning and pedagogy, have shifted away fromtask and to integrate their own creativity, knowledge and skills. the linear issues of ‘use’ and ‘outcomes’ to more nuanced con- cerns with the design and evaluation of learning technologies,4. Designing for learning - Integrating as well as the social complexities of their use (Selwyn & Loliver 2011). Social and Participatory Media with Face-to-Face teachingMany students, in the developed world,come with knowledge that enables themto create, connect and form a partnershipin the learning process; but these are notwidely used in the classroom, as discussedby Thomas and Brown. “The kind of learning that will define the twenty-first century is not taking place in a classroom – at least not in today’s classroom. Rather, it is happen- ing all around us, everywhere, and it is powerful”. (p. 17)Authentic integration of ICT is importantif one is to think differently about learningand to explore ways to reproduce some ofThomas and Brown’s ideas of twenty-firstcentury powerful learning. Throughout herresearch, the teacher/researcher foundthat she had to, at times, “unlearn” many ofher traditional teaching practices and to be-come part of a community of learners withher students.Social media are about the content and thebuilding of a sense of community. Using asocial network, such as a Ning, in the class-room allowed the teacher/researcher notonly to incorporate multimedia and multi-modal texts but also to share these quicklyand easily, providing a collaborative learn-ing environment for students to commu- 
nicate. By incorporating social media into Figure 4: How I spend my time project – students collected their own data which they published & communicated online.the day-to-day lives of students in the class- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 4
  5. 5. From the field esses; processes that would normally take them up to five periods (250 minutes) to complete were completed in only one or two periods (up to 100 minutes). During these occasions a buzz ex- isted in the classroom and students would be out of their seat asking each other for help, compar- ing notes and being enthusiastically supportive to their peers. The online medium also offered al- ternatives which helped some students avoid the face-to-face shyness and awkwardness of other modes of sharing such as exchanging physical sheets of paper, moving into physical groups and standing out the front of the classroom present- 
 ing PowerPoint slides.Figure 5: The number of peer replies to student made help videos varied depending on the video topic and how When discussing our networked society, Bonk long the video took to publish. (2009, p. 327) asserts that this new economy now includes mul- tiple voices and viewpoints that can be raised, debated and ex- tended, based on personal experiences and observations. ButLuckin (2010, p. 169), when discussing new opportunities for who helps to ready our students for such an economy? Figureslearning, describes the increased connectivity between people 5 and 6 are screen clips from the classroom Ning showing exam-and between the physical and virtual realities of their world. ples of these multiple voices. These voices provided supportiveExamples of this can be seen in Figure 4, 5 and 6 where stu- and constructive peer feedback that continued to evolve overdents connect with each other through projects that contained time through the action research cycle. The teacher/researcherelements that related to their real lives. When students shared believes that she had far greater success with developing stu-their analysis and published work online, it supported students dent voices online when comparing peer feedback with her face-in a variety of ways. Some students used it as a support struc- to-face classroom. When using student face-to-face feedback,ture for their own work and others engaged in a comparison often students would quickly loose interest in their peers’ workwith their own work while some preferred to provide critical and provided little if any constructive feedback; class time givencommentary. All students are different and as Luckin (2010, p. to this type of activity usually led to students being distracted173) points out; “we need to pause and consider how we might from the task. Students in Figure 5 produced ‘supporting’ mate-take more of a learner’s resources into account when designing rials for their peers and in return their peers provided feedbacktechnology-rich learning activity and, as a result, how we may to support improvement of work, as can be seen in the numberdo better by our learners”. of replies in the screen clip. The Ning provided a mechanism forFigure 4 is a screen clip showing a student’s published analysis students to share their skills and knowledge, to help others, andand graph of the data they collected on how they spend their hence not only to become active in the teaching and learningtime during a specific week; this student’s pseudonym was process but to become valued participants. Students became‘Mouse’ at the time the screen clip was taken. Through this increasingly aware of their online voices, and their growth asproject, students gained a deeper understanding of themselves digital citizens was essential as the research progressed.and their daily lives as well as an awareness of how they differ Figure 6 shows a screen clip of three examples of peer feedbackfrom their peers. Students were not only engaged but motivated and some initial peer assessment. For a student to be able toto gain the skills and knowledge which allowed them to collect, provide this type of feedback they must have an understandingcreate, publish and compare themselves with others because of the requirements of the task and what their peer has done asthis enabled them to connect, converse and share this informa- well as how their feedback will help their peer achieve success.tion with their peers online. This was one of a number of occa- This type of assessment was kept simple and students were ex-sions when students achieved a series of very complicated proc- pected to give a high (H), medium (M) or low (L) assessment to ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 5
  6. 6. From the field • Peer-to-peer feedback was set up so that each student had 3 peers to provide feed- back for improvement and assessment. • Work was presented via a range of media and published, for all to share and to see, in ways which could be used as models for other students. • Students produced help tutorials to sup- port the learning of others and connected learning occurred; hence, the class frame of thought moved past the concept of ‘cheat- 
 ing’ and into a shared framework of learn-Figure 6: Students giving peers feedback and assessment. ing. To monitor and participate in the Ning required an increase inthree of their peers. Students generally found it easy to under- the teacher’s work time. As a partial counter-balance, it wasstand the concept of; a low, not complete and little effort; high, found that the teacher/researcher successfully reduced hercomplete and enjoyable to view; medium, not high or low. This time spent on correction by implementing peer and self-assess-type of assessment moved the teacher/researcher away from ment with students and by making more effective use of herdetailed rubrics and wordy descriptions of assessment expecta- classroom observations. This led to a valuable triangulation oftions. The Ning social network enabled student feedback and assessment data. Reviewing many of the screen clips collectedassessment to be open but supportive and students were able in this study, one can see the diversity of roles and activitiesto learn from each other using the open publishing nature of the in which the students engaged. Initial analysis of the researchonline social networking system. Training students to critique data suggests that by combining Web 2.0, face-to-face teachingand assess continued to be a challenging and evolving process. and social media, where students made online friends and used pseudonyms, has changed the way they work, communicate4. Conclusion and learn but as Hattie (2008, p. 240) reminds us, the beliefsBuilding a shared framework for learning was made possible and conceptions held by teachers need to be questioned – notby using the action research cycle to develop different ways for because they are wrong (or right) but because the essence ofstudents to construct and share their skills and knowledge. This good teaching is that teacher expectations and conceptionsincluded using their phones to scan, take pictures and upload must be subjected to debate, refutation and investigation. It iscontent. During one semester, there were more than 150 stu- of note that this research is of an extended process where ‘en-dents sharing the one Ning and these students made more than gagement’ would not be sufficient. It was not a trial of a ‘goodforty online student directed groups where, within the normal idea’ over a week or two, but lasting almost six months withschool rules of behaviour, they were able to express themselves each student group. This meant that one or two interest-grab-freely. Students needed support and scaffolding, not only to as- bing ideas would not be sufficient to sustain the process and ac-sist them in helping their peers in the learning process, but also tually changing the way student learning occurred in the class-to understand and embed the wide range of Web 2.0 tools. The room, using resources both physical and online, was essential. Itteacher was also new to many of these practices and needed was also essential that the teacher gave ground to the students,to work with the students as partners in the learning process. learnt with the students and learnt from the students. • Students came with knowledge and skills and were encour- There has been much research done on teaching and learning aged to use and further develop these as well as to share in the traditional classroom. In the normal context of the class- them. room even the most experienced, sensitive teacher is unable to • Social networking was used to enable students to become measure how students internalise and make sense of classroom the resources for their peers. activities (Collins & O’Toole 2006, p. 609). Graham Nuthall’s re- search, as discussed by Collins and O’Toole, shows that, what ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 6
  7. 7. From the fieldmatters to teachers is that they provided their students with Fletcher, GH 2007, ‘Bloggers welcome here: social networkingpositive experiences, that there was a good atmosphere in their tools appear poised to enter the school system. It’s a breakthroughclasses, that students felt safe and successful in their learning long overdue.(commentary)’, T H E Journal (Technological Hori-activities, that personal difficulties could be worked out and that zons In Education), vol. 34, no. 11, p. 8(1).life was happy and good for them and their students. Nuthall’sresearch challenges educators to value these but to also move Glover, I & Oliver, A 2008, ‘Hybridisation of Social Networkingto accepting responsibility for greater student understanding. and Learning Environments’, in World Conference on EducationalThis is fundamental to effective teaching and learning and the Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008,Vienna,challenge is to have students demonstrate their understanding Austria, pp. practice (Collins & O’Toole 2006, p. 609). Social and participa-tory media allows more than just the teacher to be the judge of Hahn, J 2008, ‘Born Digital: Understanding the First Generationthis understanding of practice. of Digital Natives’, Library Journal, vol. 133, no. 13, p. 105. Hattie, J 2008,Visible learning : a synthesis of meta-analyses relat-Acknowledgement ing to achievement, Routledge, London : New York.The author would like to thank her Deakin PhD Supervisor, Pro- Jacobsen, M 2010, ‘A Special Issue of the Canadian Journal offessor Terry Evans, for his ongoing assistance throughout the Learning and Technolgy on Knowledge Building’, Canadian Jour-study and acknowledge the quality of his advice. nal of Learning & Technology, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 1-4. References Luckin, R 2010, Re-designing learning contexts : technology- rich, learner-centred ecologies, Routledge, New York. Alvarez, MC (ed.) 2001, Developing Critical and Imaginative Thinking within electronic literacy, What adolescents deserve : a Mason, R 2008, E-learning and social networking handbook : commitment to students’ literacy learning, International Reading resources for higher education, Routledge, New York. Association, Newark, Del. Nuthall, G 2007, The hidden lives of learners, New Zealand Armstrong, F & Moore, M 2004, ‘Action research: developing Council for Educational Research, Wellington, N.Z. inclusive practice and transforming cultures’, in F Armstrong & Scardamalia, M & Bereiter, C 2006, ‘Knowledge Building: M Moore (eds), Action research for inclusive education : chang- Theory, Pedagogy, and Technology’, in K Sawyer (ed.), The Cam- ing places, changing practice, changing minds, RoutledgeFalmer, bridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Cambridge University London ; New York pp. 1-16. Press, New York, pp. 97-115. Bonk, CJ 2009, The world is open : how Web technology is revo- Selwyn, N & Loliver, M 2011, ‘Editorial’, Learning, Media and lutionizing education, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Technology, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 1-3. Collins, S & O’Toole, V 2006, ‘The use of Nuthall’s unique Thomas, D & Brown, J, S 2011, A new Culture of Learning: methodology to better understand the realities of children’s class- Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, ama- room experience’, Teaching and Teacher Education, vol. 22, pp., Charleston, USA. 592-611. Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers Copyrights ISSN: 1887-1542 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject Publisher: to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast pro- Postal address: c/Muntaner 262, 3r, 08021 Barcelona (Spain) vided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Phone: +34 933 670 400 Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. Email: The full licence can be consulted on Internet: es/by-nc-nd/3.0/ ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap www 7