Collaborative learning has many benefits in an educational setting such as developing social skills, a deeper understanding of knowledge and soft skills (Chai & Tan, 2010). However, like with any learning approach, there are challenges for both teachers and students. For teachers to effectively facilitate collaborative learning, they must be willing to loosen the structure of the classroom. The teacher cannot be in control of groupings, specific group roles and learning expectations, rather, it is important that the students in the group feel like they have ownership in the learning process as a group and agency (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p.8). One way for both teachers and students to deal with this issue is for teachers to begin with cooperative learning and gradually work towards collaborative learning through scaffolding.
For students, a number of issues often present themselves during collaborative learning. Often students feel there is an unequal workload in the group with some people taking leadership roles and other students slacking. During the cooperative learning, teachers should model how to divide group tasks, model ideal group roles and how to reflect as a group throughout the process for the next steps. Teachers can also support students in how to give critical feedback in a positive way. If these strategies are developed during cooperative learning, they will carry over into collaborative learning as strategies to be used by the students.
Often students get off task during collaborative learning tasks (Sing, Wei-Ying, Hyo-Jeong, & Mun, 2011, p. 7). As the teacher, I will go around monitoring the different group and have conversations about what they have done, where they are at, and where they are going. I don't provide too much feedback, rather, ask questions that make them think to guide them moving forward. Often groups will have a timekeeper and someone to monitor task behaviour which also helps the group move forward productively.
With collaborative learning, conflict is enviable to arise at some point. Perhaps there are different perspectives of where to go next, someone isn't pulling their weight or things have been forgotten at home and therefore productivity is at a standstill. These are excellent opportunities for students to develop their problem-solving skills. For me, I always try to get the students to talk through their problems first. We spend a lot of time near the beginning of the year stressing how to express how you are feeling with ' I statements' instead of pointing blame. If students still struggle after a period of time, I support them by mediating the situation but mostly letting them talk. It is important that the students work through the situation together so that they feel they have autonomy in the resolution process.
It is important for the teacher to facilitate a positive collaborative community from the beginning of the year and cultivate this type of culture. From there, teachers can facilitate cooperative learning and through a gradual release of responsibility and scaffolding, shift the ownership of learning to the students in collaborative learning.
Chai, C. S., and Tan S. C. (2009). Professional Development of Teachers for Computer‐Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) through Knowledge Building. Teacher College Records, 111(5), 1296‐1327.
Sing, C.C., Wei-Ying, L., Hyo-Jeong, S. & Mun C. H. (2011). Advancing collaborative learning with ICT: conception, cases and design. Ministry of Education, Singapore. Retrieved from http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/advancing%20collaborative%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf
There are various types of interactions within the classrooms between students and between the teacher and student. Interactions can also include the interaction with technology and ICT. Each type is used in different scenarios but could be used in a number of different situations in an everyday classroom or assignment.
For this type of interaction between students, the teacher has little input other than the learning outcome and initial instructions(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 762). Students could together determine their own group roles and responsibilities to show the necessary learning outcomes by creating a product. Through this, the group would need to choose an appropriate ICT tool such as Google Slides and work together to build their final product.
Authoritative interactivity is directed instruction that is planned by the teacher with specific questions and feedback (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). It allows the student to get immediate responses to their answers. An example of this is students watching a BrainPop video individually or as a class on the interactive whiteboard and then completing the quiz following. This type of interaction is very structured.
The teacher provides variation to help students develop their knowledge in a constructive mode (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 763). An example of this would be a teacher using a Google form with a series of questions for students to answer. In conjunction, the teacher would use Fluberoo to grade answers and email results. Based on their responses, they would receive an email directing them with addional links and questions to further their understanding or support them in developing their understanding to meet their needs.
There is less structure given by the teacher and more ownership by the student(Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). The ICT tool is a way to interact and builds students' metacognitive skills. This could be a student using a class resource site with a generated list of resources to search for specific information or searching through Google chrome browser.
This interactivity requires the most technology skills to be successful. It is when students are reflecting individually but as a whole class (Beauchamp, & Kennewell, 2010, p. 764). An example is when each individual student in the class contributes to a Paddlet board online.
Beauchamp, G., & Kennewell, S. (2010). Interactivity in the classroom and its impact on learning. Computers & Education, 54(3), 759-766.
1. Start with the end in mind. Know what you want your students to know. Use backwards by design.
2. Think about a strong hook to capture your students' interest. What provocation can you use?
3. Be prepared to change your plan on the fly - be flexible.
4. Choose assessment tools that make sense with your lessons.
5. Have opportunities to extend and support the lesson.
6. Prepare all your materials in advance.
7. Only integrate technology if it makes sense and enhances the learning.
8. Think about your questioning strategies.
9. Be aware of timing, including transitions.
10. Think about the set up of the classroom, groups, physical layout.
11. Don't plan too far ahead - let your students' inquiries guide you.
As educators, our goal is to improve student learning inside the classroom using the tools and resources available to use. Technology is enviably becoming more present in our daily lives and education system. However, Cox (2013, p. 85) argues that the effectiveness of using the devices for learning still requires more research.
Cox (2013, p.85) suggests that more research should be done to look at the differences between formal and informal uses of technology for learning and the difference between them. One of the resources becoming more and more popular is the use of technology in the formal setting of a classroom. What was once only accessible in higher education, has made its way down into primary school classes (Cox, p.88)
Due to the high rate of changing technology, research struggles to keep up with the rate of change. There are so many new technology tools and resources becoming available for teachers and students every year that there is no way to properly conduct research on the effectiveness for everyone.
In addition to the change of technology tools, the role of teachers and learners continues to evolve. Through 21st century learning, teachers are transitioning more towards the role of a facilitator as students are able to construct their own learning more readily with access to the internet through their devices. Teaching has changed from a directed model towards a constructivist approach with technology supporting this movement (Roblyer & Doering, p. 46).
As technology continues to evolve, so does the research to determine if integrating technology actually enhances the educational experience. Cox (2012) argues this point by stating that it is difficult to know if the technology improves learning. There is no doubt that technology enhances student engagement by using tools that students use in their informal settings but does it actually show significant improvement in the learning.
With the rise of mobile devices and social media, technology can be taken with you anywhere with learning able to happen anytime. This has changed the way the classroom looks and this transformation requires more research to better understand it and how to most effectively use technology to enhance learning. Teachers are no longer teacher technology as a stand-alone tool but rather a tool that is used in a way to support and enhance the student learning (Voogt, Knezek, Coz, Knezek, & ten Brummelhuis, 2013, p. 5)
In addition, the training of teachers should be looked at to ensure how we teach teachers to integrate technology is the most effective method for student growth.
As technology continues to advance, researchers and educators should continue to ask ourselves 'What does this mean for our education system? What does this mean for learning? What does this mean for student growth?' As we keep the student learning at the core of our thoughts as we navigate the newest realms of technology, there is much research still to be done.
Cox, M.J. (2013), Formal to informal learning with IT: research challenges and issues for e-learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29: 85–105. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2012.00483.x
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].
Voogt, J., Knezek, G., Cox, M., Knezek, D. and ten Brummelhuis, A. (2013), Under which conditions does ICT have a positive effect on teaching and learning? A Call to Action. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29: 4–14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00453.x
Armfield (2011, p.109) suggest that in many situations technology integration in the classroom is simply used for traditional activities. Yet, we need to be looking at how technology transforms the teaching and learning experience for our students and ourselves as teachers.
Armfield (2011, p.111) also brings to light the idea of a community of practice in which all stakeholders are working towards the same goal. I think this is an important point with regards to technology integration. If the administration does not value the transformative aspects of technology in education, there won’t be budgeting for devices. If teachers don’t value technology in education, they won’t bring it into their classroom. If students don’t value it, they won’t engage with it. It really needs to be a part of the school’s mission and vision about creating a learning environment to meet individual needs using 21st-century tools and strategies to enhance learning.
Armfield (2011, p.114) suggests further challenges such as teachers having little experience with technology and fearful of attempting to use it. Many teachers lack knowledge in how technology can support pedagogy and content to benefit their students. This is something that is very common in schools. It takes a lot to build ownership in learning as well as the confidence and courage to take risks in the classroom in front of students.
Matzen & Edmunds (2007) suggests that just teaching technology tools in professional development is not good enough and teachers will not likely integrate into the classroom in a transformative way. However, if there is a student-centred approach to instructional strategies, then teachers are more likely to have a shift in their own instructional methods.
My role is to lead all of the professional development sessions for education technology. This includes creating surveys to understand staff needs and develop a professional development plan each term to meet these needs, deliver the sessions and reflect back on the success of them and where to go from there. Depending on the time of year and session topics, attendance can vary but I measure success in how teachers then take their learning and apply it in their classrooms or share their learning with others. I love when teachers come back and say they’ve tried something they learnt during a session in their classroom and can share their reflections on it. This also helps them consolidate their own learning and they can then support others who would like to try similar integration strategies in the future. Just like I would facilitate sessions with our students, our professional development sessions are all linked to at least one of the ICT in PYP skills that the International Baccalaureate outlines (2011). This allows teachers to also think about what transferable skills they are developing, similar to how we teach our students.
During sessions, I believe it is important that it is hands-on for teachers and that they try things out. I always allow for time to explore so that teachers are constructing their own learning with technology (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). In addition, I model teaching the sessions in a way that I would teach my students to ensure that the learning is student centred (Matzen & Edmunds,2007). This also helps teachers integrate into their own classrooms as they often model what they have been shown during professional development sessions in their own class (Matzen & Edmunds,2007, p. 427).
I think that it needs to be a combination of ICT skills and learning new ways of teaching. This cannot just fall on the technology coach though - it needs to be supported by the administration and the curriculum coordinator to guide the way of teaching and learning. In order for teachers to incorporate technology into their lessons, they need to understand how to use the technology. Therefore, whenever we do EdTech PD at our school we always have a dual approach where we look at the technology tool and also look at applications of this in the classroom. From there, hopefully, we’ve sparked some ideas with teachers to help them use the tool to deliver or assess content in the future. We can also then have coaching sessions to support teachers in their planning and draw on some of the tools that would help them best deliver content without spending time ‘teaching’ them during these times.
Professional development is ongoing as suggested in Armfield (2011, p. 115). Therefore, we cannot teach teachers everything there is to know about technology integration at once. There needs to be an ongoing commitment to professional development of best practice and technology integration at the school level to build this idea of community of practice. This will help teachers become more confident using technology in their classes and move beyond just teaching skills towards transformative learning.
In addition, as teachers become more confident using technology they should also spend more time reflecting on how they’ve used it and adapt to enhance their teaching. Similarly, as more professional development sessions are run, there needs to be reflection by the technology team to ensure the sessions meet the needs of the staff in a challenging and effective manner.
Our school is really good about providing time and resources for teachers to actually learn through technology. Our department has offered close to 30 sessions this year for teachers and are looking to expand that to an online course for new teachers to bring them up to basics as well as use 2 days if staff professional development days and 2 Primary/ Secondary meetings to develop our new digital citizenship curriculum next year. Schools need to keep this commitment of giving teachers time if they want their teachers to use technology effectively (Armfield, 2011, p. 119).
Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) suggest that most professional development is voluntary. This is very true in our school this year in terms of technology integration professional development. All 30 sessions are voluntary meaning that only those who are motivated and want to engage with these sessions, rather than those who really could benefit from sessions like this. This is another reason we are moving 4 mandatory staff professional development sessions next year. Effective technology integration is something that all staff need to work towards, hence the whole school approach by administration next year.
Armfield, S. (2011). Technology leadership for school improvement Planning, designing, implementing and evaluating technology, pp. 109-128, 2011. in Technology and Leadership for School Improvement. Papa, R. (Ed) California :Sage
International Baccalaureate. (2011).The role of ICT in PYP. UK: IB.
Matzen, N. J., & Edmunds, J. A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development. Journal Of Research On Technology In Education, 39(4), 417-430.
Some days as a teacher you may use technology in almost all components of your classes, then other days not even touch it. When is too much? When is not enough? In my mind, why are we even asking these questions? If we focus on what is important, then those questions become irrelevant.
In my role as an education technology coach, my role is to support teachers in integrating technology into the classroom. Many would think I would advocate for getting more technology into the classroom but more doesn't mean better.
I always chuckle when I have a teacher that comes to asking for an opinion on an activity that they want to use technology with and I suggest a non-technology approach. To me, using technology should only be done when it makes sense, when it enhances the learning experience for our students and is authentic. We shouldn't force the use of technology in our classes just because we have it.
There are definitely many benefits of being able to use technology in the classroom - access to information, connecting with others, supporting individual needs, motivation, etc. But the most important aspect of teaching should always remain the teaching and learning for student growth.
When I was a homeroom classroom teacher, I always loved assigning a final project with no limit on how it was presented. In doing so, it allowed the students to express themselves using the tools and resources they felt comfortable with. The final products were of higher quality and more diverse. Whether it was a bulletin board, a dramatic presentation, an online presentation of slides, video, art piece, or handwritten essay, the important thing was that the student felt they had ownership in how they chose to demonstrate their learning journey.
If we stop asking when is too much and not enough use of technology and start asking does it make sense to use technology for this learning experience, the technology integration will be more meaningful. In doing so, we are then able to provide our students with just another set of skills to add to their toolkit that they can draw upon when it is most appropriate.
As part of a podcast with Future Tense (Funnell, 2012), Greg Whitby suggests that you can't just focus on the technology when it comes to education. There is an abundance of technology within our reach with new advances and releases, such as the iPad Pro, becoming available to consumers each day. Our students have more access to technology than ever before and they can choose to interact with it even outside of school. Therefore, focusing on getting technology into the hands of the students isn't enough any more - the novelty of 'using technology in classrooms' has worn off. Beyond that, just teaching students how to use a particular technology tool doesn't promote the type of learning environments our students deserve to have. Rather, as educators, we need to be more cognizant of creating meaningful uses of technology integration to enhance the learning process.
As an educator, one aspect of my role is to focus on the providing the best teaching and learning to my students. As Bill Gates once said, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." If they don't have a teacher who is able to use best practice in integrating that tool effectively into the curriculum and teaching then, the tool is not meaningful. Teachers continue to upskill their own technology abilities with the purpose of utilizing it within the curriculum when approach. Teachers need to not only be able to use and integrate technology but decipher when it is best to actually use technology and when another strategy or tool is more effective to achieve a specific learning outcome or experience. Teachers continue to write curriculum, teach content and assess their students choosing the right tools for each learning experience to provide students with a quality education.
I would argue, that while technology is a tool, it is a powerful tool. It is a tool that can connect classes from across the globe to contrast and compare lifestyle, schooling and interests. It is a tool that can help students access information from various sources in a click of a button. It is a tool that can enhance the learning experience by allowing for experiences that were not possible in reality such as travelling to the bottom of the ocean to explore wildlife. It is a tool that can help students organize their lives through notes and calendars. It is a tool to communicate in a multitude of ways. It can be a tool to document learning and reflect on their educational experiences. Utilizing technology can help engage students while also developing social, self-management, thinking, and communicating skills. Students can create, collaborate, and curate as they develop transdisciplinary skills that can be drawn upon at any time to use.
In a 21st century classroom, the technology still does not replace the teacher, hands-on learning, visual thinking and planning on paper or face-to-face interactions. But what it does achieve is creating an endless supply of learning opportunities for students to engage and experience if integrated in an appropriate manner.
Funnell, A. (2012, Aug 19). 21st century education. Future Tense [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/21st-century-education/4197700#transcript