Engaging Learners with New Tools
Weds. , Jan. 27, 2010 @ 9:46 pm Module Four
The way to bring technological tools which students use outside the classroom into the learning environment is to simply require it. With younger students, this means to introduce new technologies such as blogs, storytelling media, podcasting, and wikis, and provide ample classroom opportunities to utilize the new technology, then require that students use the technology to complete problem-based projects. For more advanced students, who are more independent at discovering and exploring new media, the introduction phase may be reduced or eliminated, while requiring that students utilize new technologies to apply concepts to real-world issues and problems.
The research according to Durrington, Berryhill, and Swafford (2006)indicates that distance education is just as effective as face-to-face instruction provided that the technology used is appropriate, the instructor provides timely feedback, and there is a high level of student interactivity. As a matter of fact, student’s attitudes toward their learning are more positive in distance education, with higher performance levels, when there are high levels of interactivity among peers and instructor.
Therefore, the tools which should most definitely provide peer interaction would be discussions. I prefer asynchronous discussions, as they allow sufficient “think time” in before a response is expected. Discussions focus on content, while nurturing student responses, allowing for various viewpoints to be discussed, providing both acceptance and reinforcement of student comments. Durrington, Berryhill, and Swafford (2006) recommend student-moderated discussions where the discussion is led, outcomes designed, and levels of response quality determined by students. The authors urge that student exchanges among themselves is more vital to student engagement and contribute further to student learning.
Other strategies which contribute to student engagement, and interaction among themselves also include a group created wiki, or blog. The disadvantages to these tools include contributors who drop a course, or fail to meet their obligations. As these group dynamics develop, time on task together is vital to building the trust in one another as a team, without which the team loses focus, and unwillingness to rely on one another. One manner the instructor can prevent this downward spiral from developing, is to create groups with sufficient team members to allow for interaction, even if one or two members fail the group. The instructor should also closely monitor group participation especially in the beginning to ensure that groups are functioning. Otherwise, the team members should attempt to collaborate according to the syllabus definition, and assignment/group participation rubric.
Durrington, V. A., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190−193.
Siemens, G. (2007). Curatorial teaching. [Video podcast]. Available from http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/10-minute-lecture-george-siemens-curatorial-teaching/
Siemens, G. (2008, January). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. ITForum.