In the July/August 2012 edition of Techtrends (Association of Educational Communications and Technology, AECT: Vol.56.4), the author shows educators the possibilities of enhancing instructional methods through constructivism and cooperative learning. Constructivism allows students to experience knowledge by acting upon the learning environment to acquire and test new knowledge, while cooperative learning allows students to work with their peers collaboratively on a project, but requires teachers to “structure cooperative interdependence among their students” (What is Cooperative Learning).
In the Techtrends article, the author provides examples on fostering instruction using constructivism and cooperative learning through cloud computing methods. The first element begins with careful planning through establishing policies and procedures on the use of technology during the class. By using the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) as a starting point, the teacher allows the students to learn digital citizenship for the safe, legal, and ethical practices expected in a class activity. These expectations or norms set the criteria on how the technology will be used within class time, focused objectives, and collaborative learning among students.
The advent of cloud computing opens up the possibilities of shared spaces, document gathering, and collaboration among users. In the article the use of Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live is described showing how the peer and collaborative learning environment was able to take advantage of these services.
The article uses a case study and provides several strategies on integrating cloud computing towards enhancing Instruction through constructivism, cooperative learning.
- Group Projects: By providing focused work and objectives, the teacher is able to guide students on teamwork, problem solving, and group decision-making as they share and use files and applications over the internet. Apart from Google Docs, other cloud-based technologies such as WordPress and Blogger can be used.
- Peer Assessment: Students providing constructive feedback to their peers as they further their learning and growth in creating, manipulating, and presenting digital content is a powerful method of assessment. Using a rubric with established criteria will focus the students work towards shared and cooperative inquiry. Google Docs has a feature for sharing work, allowing for comments, and email notification. Other cloud-based technologies are e-Portfolios (http://mahara.org/), and SlideVibe.
- Student Constructed Presentations: Lecture is widely used in the classroom and over online courses. By facilitating student’s development of lecture materials, students are able to participate in their learning and inquiry of the class content. Use of Google Presentation, SlideRocket, and Prezi.
- Simultaneous Class Discussions: Having students sharing their thoughts, ideas, responses for explanations and revisions.
- Collaborative Reflection: Students writing interactive reflection through a collaborative journal or through sharing a document and then sharing their reflection on the content.
- Assisted Writing: Allowing peers and teacher to provide feedback as the paper is being developed, either within groups or individually based on the class size.
- Learning Illustrated: Use of images, flow charts, and diagrams to show process of problem solving or ideas on web development projects.
- Class Inventory: Use of a web form either as a web page or within your Learning Management System (LMS) to gauge student progress, classroom climate, or both.
- Collaborative Rubric Construction: Rubrics allow for the improvement of student understanding and performance. Creating a rubric and sharing it in Google Docs or your LMS to get student feedback and suggestion on project development or course progress.
- Website Publishing: Use of Google Doc, WordPress, or Blogger to create websites for the improvement and collaboration among students. Creating, manipulating and presenting digital content helps students in their learning and educational growth.
This article provides excellent suggestions on combining theory with authentic learning for a richer learning experience for students. There are a host of other cloud computing alternatives other than Google Docs and Microsoft Windows live which will provide the same pedagogical opportunities for student learning and peer and collaborative assessment. The important message, is to focus on the content and learning methods; not the technology. I encourage you to take a read.
Edited: 9/26/2012 @ 12:16 PM
I found this interesting tidbit on a collaborative learning process from Stanford University called SMILE (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment (SMILE); program that creates an ad hoc network to stimulate higher-order student learning) which is a tool to support efforts related to the “Classroom 3.0″ model of learning, which involves having students conduct research, organize information and then present what they learn to their classmates.