Students as learning designers using social media to scaffold the experience


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Authors: Leanne Cameron, Miriam Tanti

The ‘students as learning designers’ approach challenges transmission models of pedagogy and requires teachers to relinquish some control to their students so that they might have the space to experiment and discover how to learn.

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Students as learning designers using social media to scaffold the experience

  1. 1. In-depth Students as learning designers: Using social media to scaffold the experienceAuthors The ‘students as learning designers’ approach challenges transmission models of peda- gogy and requires teachers to relinquish some control to their students so that theyLeanne Cameron might have the space to experiment and discover how to This paper outlines the findings of two studies that allowed students to explore newMiriam Tanti ways of learning, where they were encouraged to take responsibility for their learning, and outlines what potential social media tools may have in facilitating thisFaculty of Education, experience. These projects demonstrate that when students are empowered to designAustralian CatholicUniversity their own learning activities, they can deeply engage in the learning process.Tags 1. Introductionstudents as learning It has been stated that the field of learning design holds the promise of providing teachersdesigners, social media, with a framework that will enable them to design high quality, effective and innovative learn-participatory media ing experiences for their students (Cameron, 2009). By creating the possibility of deconstruct- ing their existing teaching strategies; aiding reflection on their own practice; documenting and scaffolding innovative learning activities; and sharing and reusing expert practice, the field of learning design has the potential to improve the quality of teaching throughout the higher education sector. Traditionally, the key stakeholder in the learning process, the stu- dent, is not given a central design role, however, with the advent of web 2.0 tools, it has never been easier to provide students with the opportunity to contribute to their own learn- ing. Many students have already chosen to use social media, eg. Facebook, Twitter, for their own communications and social interaction (November, 2011). In this paper, we report on what happens when students are empowered to design their own learning, and how best to scaffold the design process using the social media tools with which they are already familiar. 2. Overview The paper describes two separate, but related, studies. The “Students as Learning Design- ers Project” (Cameron & Gotlieb, 2009), involved five teachers and 165 students from five elementary schools. A key element of the project was that the students were asked to take a significant amount of responsibility in planning for, and creating, their own learning. During the project, the students produced 230 learning designs. Research data was collected from teachers and students via a pre-project survey and video recorded post-project interviews. Throughout the project, the teachers took a problem-based learning approach and it be- came quickly apparent that the students required significant scaffolding, particularly in the early stages of the process. In the subsequent project, “Scaffolding Student Learning Designers”, the potential of social media to provide the identified need for scaffolding was explored. The support received by students designing their learning, both from their teachers and their peers, was analysed. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011Pap 1
  2. 2. In-depthThis study involved 206 Masters students at the Australian Several studies indicate that the features of social media toolsCatholic University in their first year of study. Data was collected may be used for educational purposes (Boling, et al., 2008;from students’ Tweets, blog entries and a post-project online Glass & Spiegelman, 2008; Haramiak, Boulton, & Irwin, 2009;survey. Kajder & Bull, 2004; Martindale & Wiley, 2005; Quible, 2005; Ray, 2006; Wassell & Crouch, 2008). Researchers argue that so-3. Objectives cial media tools, namely blogs and microblogs can be used as effective instructional tools in which teachers and students canThe initial project, “Students as Learning Designers Project”, communicate with each other and make connections betweenwas designed to determine the educational impact of students content and pedagogy (Overby, 2009; Ray, 2006). Students canto creating and sharing their own learning designs. It aimed to: also utilise the technologies to collaborate and share their re- • Provide an opportunity for students to have ownership sources. over the design and creation of their learning experiences; In the learning design environment in the “Scaffolding Student • Determine the key teaching and learning opportunities af- Learning Designers” study, students were not merely using the forded by student authoring projects; social media tools to receive information: they were engaging in • Analyse the depth and variety of the designs provided by a constructive learning design process with both their teachers students when access to authoring software is provided; and their peers. • Evaluate the tools that could provide an efficient means of involving students in learning. 4. Students as learning designersIn the second project, “Scaffolding Student Learning Designers”,the same project design was employed, but an additional aim As learning designers, students are given the opportunity towas included: be creative and pursue their goals actively (Lui & Hsiao, 2002). The initial project demonstrated that students are able to make • Analyse how social media tools were employed to scaffold decisions (with varying degrees of guidance) about both con- the learning design process. tent (what to learn) and pedagogy (how to learn it), (Reigeluth,In each project, students and teachers were asked to look be- 1996).yond their current approach to teaching and learning and ana- Designing learning is a complex task. Caver, Lehrer, Connell &lyse the attitudes and conceptions that inform that approach. Erickson (1992) identified five categories of critical thinkingThe project-based learning strategy adopted required students skills they observed students exhibiting when they were design-to take a more active role in planning and creating their own ing learning environments and/or tools. These thinking skillslearning. Understanding how they might do this was a complex were also observed to be taking place in these projects:and multi-faceted problem. • Project management;Students generally understood how to structure a basic learning • Research;task, eg. provide some information and then check learner un- • Organisation and representation;derstanding using questions. However, they often needed lots • Presentation; andof support in understanding the relationship between the learn- • activities and the pedagogy. When students were given the opportunity participate in a dis-It was not just a matter of helping the students think up relevant cussion with the researchers in their role as learning design-and authentic learning tasks, their teacher’s role was to provide ers (with equal status with their teachers), they rose to meetstudents with carefully considered scaffolds that enabled them the challenge and provided insightful comments, eg. How canto achieve beyond what they could as individuals with the re- groups be used to pull together individuals of similar of differentsources before them. In the “Scaffolding Student Learning De- interest?; What constitutes a ‘good’ answer?; how and why wesigners” Project, the potential of social media tools to scaffold provide feedback.this experience was examined. The table below most effectively summarises the advantages of using students as designers of learning and it also outlines ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 2
  3. 3. In-deptha number of disadvantages, some of which that the teachers in 5. The Teacher’s Rolethis project also discussed in the post-project interview. The presence of the teacher was clearly evident throughout the initial “Students as Learning Designers Project” project. Initially Instructional the research team set criteria with the students about what Advantages to Disadvantages to Design makes a good learning design but the teachers needed to have Students Students Considerations further discussions with students to identify where they hadn’t Collaboration Can learn from each Only as strong as completely understood the criteria, or didn’t know how to de- other. the weakest link. sign to meet the challenge. Synergy results from Too many chiefs, 2 minds working not enough It was noted that for those students who were not autonomous together. Indians. learners, it was really important for the teacher to scaffold the Can share workload & Difficult for some learning activities so the students were able to achieve and fo- responsibilities “Many students to deal hands make small with responsibility cus on learning the meacognitive and communication skills nec- work” for leadership essary for this type of work. The teachers needed to be able to Major amounts identify gaps in the students’ skills and knowledge, and provide of time are scaffolding to help get the students to the next level. necessary. In the latter “Scaffolding Student Learning Designers” project, Relevance Empowers learner If it’s the wrong explicit teacher presence was intentionally withheld from the so- to connect theory & track, it’s a waste hypotheses to actual/ of time. cial media environment. The students were aware their tweets practical context. and blog entries were public so their teachers could read them Adds realism to at any time, however, the teachers did not make posts them- learning process. selves. This was a conscious effort on the part of the teachers Provides pride in to encourage peer support, which was indeed what occurred. ownership of product Allows for constructive The value of scaffolding during the design process became learning evident in the initial project. The concept of scaffolding is de- rived from cognitive psychological research. It is defined as a Learner control Encourages diversity. Can produce off- “social interaction that a knowledgeable participant can create, Encourages multiple task results. by means of speech, supportive conditions in which the novice approaches to Lack of direction solutions. can occur when can participate in, and extend, current skills and knowledge to losing sight of higher levels of competence (Greenfield, 1984 as quoted by Do- Allows for more sophisticated objectives nato, 1994). approaches. Procrastination can result. According to Wood, Bruner & Ross (1976), scaffolded help is Encourages self- confidence. characterised by six features: Allows control of own • Recruiting interest in the task; pace & time • Simplifying the task; Technological Provides advance May intimidate the • Maintaining pursuit of the goal; preparation notice of content, less well informed • Marking critical features and discrepancies between what context, and or skilled. has been produced and the ideal solution; applications to be May get lost & • Controlling frustration during problem-solving, and used. overwhelmed • Demonstrating an idealized version of the act to be per- Increases familiarity & by “information ease with technology. overload.” formed. Donato (1994) reports that peer collaboration provides theTable 1: Advantages and Disadvantages to Students as Designers and same opportunity for scaffolded help as does that of the expert/ Teachers (Murphy, Harvell, Sanders & Epps, 1999) novice relationship. It is often assumed that scaffolding only oc- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 3
  4. 4. In-depthcurs in the presence of an identifiable expert and that this assist- In order for the students to design their own learning activities,ance is unidirectional, that is from the teacher to the student. the teachers had to relinquish some control. This resulted in their students being:In the initial “Students as Learning Designers Project” projectteachers sometimes saw a need to “formalise the informal” to • Given the initiative;realise the potential benefits of peer learning so that all stu- • Allowed to choose from a diversity of sound methods;dents could benefit from it, not just those who were already • Work in teams on authentic, real-world tasks;proficient learners. For example, the teachers provided criteria • Utilise the features of advanced technologies; andfor the learning designs, taught metacognive and communica- • Allowed to persevere until they reached appropriatetion skills, provided feedback on the learning designs and pro- standards (Reigeluth, 1996).vided some instruction on the use of the technology. There is no doubt the students were actively engaged, however, just being allowed to do something that is not a usual part ofTeachers often think that what they do is necessarily more im- formal learning, and/or being recognised for creating some-portant for student learning that other activities in which they thing clever, is enough to keep students motivated and on taskengage. Although the importance of the teacher was clearly (Prensky, 2007). Hence novelty may have been a factor for thedemonstrated in both projects, teachers had to be careful not high level of student motivation place themselves in the position of mediating all the studentsneeded to know. This may not only create unrealistic expecta- Additionally, both projects observed similar student behaviourtions, but teachers can potentially de-skill their students by pre- to that reported by Liu & Rutledge (1997), and that was thatventing them from effectively learning from each other (Boud while students were highly motivated in many respects andet al, 2001). were on task, the critical design skills of planning and time man- agement were not easy for them to acquire.6. Encouraging Student EngagementThroughout both projects, the teachers and students devel- 7. Learning with Social Mediaoped a highly engaging, customised learning environment that These results of the initial “Students as Learning Design-fostered student independence, initiative, teamwork, thinking ers Project” were impressive but what emerged during theskills, metacognitive skills and diversity. Within this environ- study was that students required timely and effective supportment, the students collaborated to design effective learning throughout the learning design process. Hence the search be-activities. Their design task required them to use higher or- gan for tools to scaffold students’ learning without diminishingder thinking processes and reflection, not just the lower order the value of peer interaction and support that had been wit-thinking skills normally used when they are simply required to nessed in the initial study.reproduce knowledge. The value of a blog to record work-in-progress and as a reflec-Kimber & Wyatt-Smith (2006) cite eight strategies to foster deep tion tool is well documented (Dawson, Murray, Parvis & Pater-learning and encourage active engagement with students. All of son, 2005; JISC, 2008). Blogging often increases student partici-these were observed: pation in reflective activity, improves student engagement and • Independent learning, negotiated between student and can change the dynamics of face-to-face sessions. teacher; However Twitter emerged as the social media tool of choice • Personal development; with which to provide scaffolding advice. Doggett (2009) out- • Problem-based learning; lines nine reasons why Twitter might be beneficial in an educa- • Explicit reflection by students on their learning; tional setting. Our project confirms that Twitter was an invalu- • Independent group work; able tool in our project. • Learning by doing; • Developing learning skills; and Using Twitter, students were able to source a wide range of • Project work. views and resources from their peers anywhere, any time; share ideas, thoughts, reflections and support and challenge each ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 4
  5. 5. In-depthother. The question was often asked, “What can I do to make design, discover how to learn and to deeply engage in the learn-this better?” and they frequently got instant feedback. The 140 ing process. Additionally, the paper outlined the potential socialcharacter limit was a challenge for some in this context but it media tools have to facilitate this experience. In our projectsprovided a discipline that was beneficial in many cases. students were not merely using the social media tools to receive information: they were engaging in a constructive learning de-The students excelled at picking up the new technology in dif- sign process with both their teachers and their peers.ferent and interesting ways and the teachers found they learntfrom the students in this area. This also helped create an envi-ronment where the control of the learning process was morestudent-centred.8. The Findings References Boud, D., Cohen, R. & Sampson, J. (eds). (2001). Peer learningThese projects clearly demonstrated the act of designing learn- in higher education: Learning from and with each other. London: Koganing can facilitate students’ engagement and deep learning in the Page.classroom. The findings were: Boling, E., Castek, J., Zawilinski, L., Barton, K., & Nierlich, T. (2008). Collaborative literacy: Blogs and Internet projects. The • There was an increase in use of the language of metacogni- Reading Teacher, 61(6), 504-506. tion and an increase in the use of and sharing of metacog- Cameron, L. (2009). How learning design can illuminate teaching nitive strategies; practice. Proceedings of The Future of Learning Design Conference, • The classroom dynamic changed. There was a recognition December 10, 2009. Paper 3. Retrieved from of teachers as co-learner and guide and an increased rec- au/fld/09/Program/3. ognition of peers as co-learners and a source of support Cameron, L. & Gotlieb, C. (2009). Students Participating in and advice; the Learning Design Process Using LAMS. In L. Cameron & J. • Students developed highly diverse learning designs; and Dalziel (Eds), Proceedings of the 4th International LAMS Conference • This project provided an opportunity for teachers to ex- 2009: Opening Up Learning Design., pp. 40-47. 3-4th December. 2009, Sydney: LAMS Foundation. Retrieved from: http:// plicitly reflect on metacognitive skills and rethink their approach to the curriculum. Teachers began to look at Carver, S.M., Lehrer, R., Connell, T. & Erickson, J. curriculum frameworks for allowing student creation and (1992). Learning by hypermedia design: Issues of assessment and sharing implementation. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), pp. 385-404.Chang et al (2008) noted that resistance to the change in the Chang, R., Kennedy, G. & Petrovic, T. (2008). Web 2.0 andteacher’s role is not only felt by the teachers. Students have user-created content: Students negotiating shifts in academic authority. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educationalalso voiced a reluctance to accept the shift away from teacher- technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008. http://www.ascilite.centred learning. Have students been conditioned to the status, or are they at a time in their lives where they don’t want to Dawson, J., Murray, K., Parvis, S. & Paterson, J. (2005)upset their peers? Using weblogs to encourage reflective learning in History and Classics – resources/CS_Dawson_Weblogs_200707xx.pdf9. Conclusion Doggett, L. (2009). Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter.The “students as learning designers” approach clearly demon- Retrieved from that the act of designing can facilitate deep learning reasons-why-teachers-should-use-twitter/ on 21 October, the classroom. It enabled students to be independently en- Donato, R. (1994). “Collective scaffolding in second languagegaged in investigation, work autonomously and collaboratively, learning” in Bygotskian approaches to second language research.and it also provided their teachers with rich opportunities for Norwood, J. J.: Ablex Pub. Corp.key teaching moments. This approach challenges transmission Glass, R., & Spiegelman, M. (2008). Incorporating blogsmodels of pedagogy and requires teachers to relinquish some into the syllabus: Making their space a learning space. Journal ofcontrol to their students so that they might be given the space to Educational Technology Systems, 6(2), 145-155. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 5
  6. 6. In-depthHaramiak, A., Boulton, H., & Irwin, B. (2009). Trainee November, A. (2011). Students as contributors:The digital learningteachers’ use of blogs as private reflections for professional farm. Retrieved from Learning, Media and Technology, 34(3), 259-269. uploads/2009/02/students-as-contributors.pdf on 21 October, 2011.JISC. (2008). Effective Practice with e-Portfolios, p.18 – Overby, A. (2009). The new conversation: Using weblogs for reflective practice in the studio art classroom. Art Education, 62(4),Kajder, S. B., & Bull, G.. (2004). A space for “writing without 18-24.writing. Learning & Leading with Technology, 31(6), 32-35. Prensky, M. (2007). Students as designers and creators of educationalKimber, K. & Wyatt-Smith, C. (2006). Using and creating computer games:Who else? Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.knowledge with new technologies: A case for students-as designers. com/writing/Prensky-Students_as_Game_Creators-.pdf.Learning, Media and Technology,Vo. 31, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 19-34. Reigeluth, C.M. (1996). IT Forum Paper #17:What is the newLiu, M. & Hsiao, Y. (2002). Middle School Students as paradigm of Instructional Theory. Indiana University.Multimedia Designers: A Project-Based Learning Approach. Journalof Interactive Learning Research, 13(4), 311-337. Norfolk,VA: AACE. Quible, Z. K. (2005). Blogs: A natural in business communicationRetrieved from courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 68(1), 73-76.Liu, M. & Rutledge, K. (1997). The effect of a “learner as Ray, J. (2006). Welcome to the Blogoshere. The Educational Usemultimedia designer” environment on at-risk high school students’ of Blogs (aka Edublogs). Kappa Delta Pi Record, 42(4), 175-177.motivation and learning of design knowledge. Journal of EducationalComputing Research. 16(2), pp. 145-177. Wassell, B., & Crouch, C. (2008). Fostering critical engagement in preservice teachers: Incorporating weblogs into multiculturalMurphy, K.L., Harvell, T.J., Sanders, B. & Epps, M.L. education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 16(2), 211-232.(1999). Students as designers and teachers of their courses viacomputer-mediated communication. Paper presented at the Annual Wood, D., Bruner, J.S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoringConvention of the Association for Educational Communications and in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 17, pp.Technology (AECT), Houston, Texas on February 13, 1999. 89-100. 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 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011Pap 6