Above is an interesting video about technology integration in Victorian Schools, which explains the need for proper technology integration.
I currently teach English as an Additional Language at an Intensive Language Centre in South East Melbourne. Students spend between six and twelve months at our school, before being integrated into mainstream education. Thirteen of my fifteen students are refugees. These students have interrupted schooling to differing degrees.
Due to the demographic of our student body, we cannot rely on students having access to technology outside of the classroom or having the technology skills we might take for granted in mainstream schools. Recently, a magical technology fairy equipped my classroom with a new IWB and a new laptop for each student to use within the space. Thus, I am posed with the question, how do I best use this new technology to prepare my students for mainstream secondary school?
This presentation is aimed at exploring how our school can best use the new technology we have been allocated. I want to move beyond using computers as individual word processors and find a way to ensure students’ use of technology is meaningful, authentic and dynamic. This presentation will begin broadly, looking at general teaching theories, then examine Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, and will finish with the pedagogical approach I think would be most beneficial for my students; Computer Mediated Language Learning.
Sound technology integration theory is rooted in broader pedagogical theories. This presentation will explore variations of Constructivist approaches to pedagogical design. There are two broad constructivist approaches; Cognitive Constructivism based on Paiget’s theories, and Social Constructivism that incorporates Vygotsky’s theories (Mayes, & Freitas, 2013). Constructivism is not a pedagogical approach; it is a theory about learning that facilitates active learning (Howell, 2012). Constructivist methods aim to equip students for a complex world in which they will need the skills to solve problems in novel, creative ways (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).
Cognitive Constructivist methods are based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Piaget described himself as an epistemologist who “states that individuals generate knowledge and meaning from the interaction between their experience and their ideas” (Howell, 2012, pp. 22). The theory describes the process in which knowledge is internalised by learners. It describes four stages of child development and their impact on learning. These stages describe cognitive changes that occur in children from birth to adolescence. For the purposes of this presentation, I will focus on the final stage; the formal operational stage that occurs between the ages of eleven and sixteen, which is characterised by the ability to make rational, abstract judgements without concrete physical objects. At this stage, an adolescents cognitive ability to close to an adult’s (Howell, 2012; Robyler & Doering, 2013). As learners’ cognitive capacity develops, they accommodate for, and assimilates new knowledge into their existing schemas of knowledge as a response to their experiences (Howell, 2012). Thus, teachers must plan to capitalise on their cognitive ability.
Social Constructivism extends Piaget’s theories, using social interaction as a key tool in learning, based on Vygotsky’s theory of Socio-Cultural learning. Socio-Cultural theory uses interaction to move children through their Zone of Proximal Development (ZDP), whereby students are guided through tasks that stretch their cognitive ability (Latolf, 2011).
“Human intelligence is formed by individuals internalizing artefacts and language that are generated socially, that is at the group level. We can think on internalisation as the generation of cognitive artefacts” (Stahl, 2004, pp. 27).
Through this lens, knowledge is a product of social interaction. This approach has three integral parts; social interaction, an expert who drives the learning and tasks that are within the learner’s ZDP (Howell, 2012).
These approaches to constructivism have informed some highly regarded pedagogical approaches. This includes the use of scaffolding, where tools are given to students to assist in developing new knowledge. Social activist approaches encompass constructivism through their emphasis on growth through authentic, meaningful teaching and learning (Roblyer & Doering, 2013). Cognitive apprenticeship approaches are informed by constructivism, advocating situated learning, modelling, coaching and articulation (Collins, 1988). Each of these approaches stress the importance of collaboration, active participation and authentic learning aimed at teaching students the skills they need to become independent, lifelong learners.
General theories of technology integration:
Computer supported collaborative learning
Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) draws heavily from Constructivist approaches, in particular, Social Constructivism. This approach is characterised by sharing the construction of knowledge among participants using technology as the primary mode of communication (Howell, 2012). Collaborative learning is key to breaking down formal and informal barriers within schools to create productive learning communities (Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009). CSCL promotes ‘collaborative knowing’; an expression used to describe the way in which a group might construct a new degree of understanding about the topic they are investigating. Knowledge is not attributed to one individual. Rather, the learners learn from each other and build their knowledge together (Stahl, 2004).
CSCL can be implemented in many ways; it can be individual or social, formal or informal, tactile or explicit (Stahl, 2004). Students can engage using interpersonal computers through multiuser software, mobile devices or virtual learning environments. Increasingly dynamic learning environments empower learners and shift the balance of power away from the teacher. Students and teachers need to adjust to new learning environments and relationships within the classroom. Teachers become facilitators rather than a vehicle for passing on knowledge (Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009). For CSCL to be successful and meaningful, teachers must guide learners through their ZPD by mapping out their current knowledge versus the desired skills (Howell, 2012).
Ensuring motivation while engaging with CSCL can be difficult. Motivation can decrease and poor group dynamics can result in socioemotional problems within the group. Conflicting views can emerge. Within groups that are culturally diverse, personal differences such as language levels, communication style and prior educational experiences can inhibit progress. Creating a shared goal and motivation can prove to be difficult for these reasons (Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009). Thus, provisions should be made before the learning starts to reduce these motivational issues.
However, the teacher can act as a mentor to help students navigate through these differences through implementing Self-Regulated Learning. When Self-Regulated Learning occurs, students take charge of their own learning, including monitoring, controlling and regulating their own learning as well as influencing the learning process.
“Researchers on self-regulated learning explore technologies to help students develop better learning strategies and regulate their individual and collaborative learning process, as well as scaffolding their motivation and engagement.” (Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009, pp. 12).
Self-Regulated learning tools can be used to help ensure this approaches’ success. Manlove, Mazonder & de Jong (2005) (in Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009) completed a study whereby they used tools to promote Self-Regulation. They developed software that gathered data and provided visual representations of data to enhance awareness of the learning process. These tools increased motivation and awareness of the learning process. Thus, provisions such as these can counteract motivational issues when implementing CSCL.
Orchestrating CSCL can resemble a science, requiring a prepared and flexible teacher. CSCL can take place in a variety of contexts; such as during excursions, in the classroom or at home. It can encompass different technologies across multiple learning activities at different social levels. The teacher needs to balance cognitive processes and learning processes. The teacher’s main role is to monitor individual and group activities, adapting deadlines and the workload as needed. Scaffolds need to be integrated, coordinated and differentiated. Students should feel safe to take risks and share ideas. They should be able to take on specific roles to develop their leadership capabilities. Socially shared learning can stimulate new strategies that promote metacognitive regulation at the group level (Dillenbourg, Jarvela & Fischer, 2009).
Stahl (2004) conducted a study in which a group of students were delivered an inquiry type lesson using technology as the medium for communication. The teacher asked questions about similarities and differences to guide interactions within the group. Data analysis of discourse revealed that individuals within the group relied on one another to construct meaning, showing distributed cognition. Students had shared an entry point into their learning and had extended this together. Thus, socio-cultural learning took place, resulting in knowledge being internalised, then externalised, through social interaction. This approach is something I would like to explore further in the classroom.
Technology integration for language learning and teaching:
Computer Mediated Language Learning.
Computer Mediated Language Learning (CMLL) is an extension of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. This approach describes a revised way for students to communicate authentically via technology (Tuzi, 2012). It allows for different modes of communication in an uninterrupted, online environment. Communicating this way leads to greater equality among learners because structures of power, such as race, gender and handicaps, become invisible. It reduces problems with group dynamics and allows individuals to respond in their own time (Warschauer, 1997). This approach capitalises on learner’s desire to author their own words (Kramsch, Ness & Lam, 2000). It promotes collaborative learning in a way that makes learners accountable for their contributions to the group’s understanding.
CMLL has its pedagogical roots in Piaget and Vygotsky’s work. Interactionist notions, that inform CMLL, are based within the theory of ZDP (Blake, 2012). This social model of language promotes authentic interactions (Kramsch, Ness & Lam, 2000). These authentic interactions mean that learners can learn ‘through’ the language;
“When viewers in the context of sociocultural learning theory, which emphasises the educational value of creating cross-cultural communities or practice and critical inquiry, these features make online learning a potentially useful tool for collaborative learning” (Warschauer, 1997, pp. 477).
These pedagogical underpinnings set up the core advantages of this model; students construct their knowledge collaboratively and internalise understanding as a result. And of course, using technology to do so.
CMLL can happen either asynchronously or synchronously. Asynchronous communication happens when there is a lapse in time and the task is ongoing (Beatty, 2013). This can occur through what Blake (2012) describes as ‘first generation technology’; email or voice boards, where students can respond to teachers only and their responses are not published. ‘Second generation technology’ describes platforms that are more interactive, such as blogs, where students can react and their reactions become part of the post, or Wikis, where students work collaboratively to create a shared text. Secondly, CMLL can occur synchronously, when all students are logged on together at a specified time. This can use platforms such as chat rooms and multi-user domains. The advantage of CMLL is that processing time is increased for students, no students are blocked from commenting and students become braver with their contributions. Thus, the balance of power in this relationship paradigm is shifted from the teacher to the learners, giving them responsibility and accountability for the learning taking place.
This level of accountability and autonomy is a clear advantage of taking this approach, and particularly useful when dealing with adolescents who often show decreased levels of motivation. Autonomous learning has long been perceived as an individual process, however recent advances in technology have meant that individual contributions can be tracked like never before. Kessler & Bikowski (2010) observed a group of students creating a shared wiki, noting that some students took a leading role while others contributed only what was needed to pass. While this is not ideal, teachers can individual’s contributions to assess individuals rather than giving a ‘group mark’, where students may not deserve the grade they are awarded. In terms of reporting and assessing, this provision is important for generating accurate data.
Pivotal to successfully implementing this approach is ensuring a creative, supportive learning environment where all voiced are heard. Input is elaborated through negotiation of meaning. Teachers should chunk learning through explicit instruction to ensure success (Blake, 2012). Teachers must also assess how to best use the technology available to them. Additionally, temporal, socio-psychological and linguistic concerns need to be accounted for (Tuzi, 2012). This could be achieved through discussing new, unfamiliar roles in the learning process in class and giving students some input into how the learning will take place. (Kessler & Bikowski, 2010). In this environment, silences can show a gap in understanding, this gap can be capitalised as a chance to correct this provide additional instruction. Output is forced within this medium. When combined with oral communication, students often self-correct. They are also practicing all of the major modes of English assessed in Victoria; speaking and listening, reading and writing (Blake). Thus, making this pedagogical approach dynamic enough to tackle the demands of the EAL developmental continuum.
Implementation strategy 1
Google Classroom > Google Classroom
- Students can receive information through the class stream function. This information can be tiered. For example, information can be modified for students with lower levels of English, and unmodified versions can be posted for students with higher language levels. Students can read and respond to the same information within their ZDP, and post questions and answers about that content on the class stream. Thus, creating shared knowledge, using CMLL.
- The class stream can be used for students to post questions to fill gaps in their understanding, facilitating peer teaching.
- Google classroom also allows for students to collaboratively construct word documents. Therefore, students and teachers can work together to create models and consolidate understanding. Students are also actively part of the process. Thus, students are being guided through Cognitive Apprenticeship.
Implementation strategy 2
Group Wiki – How to create a Wiki – video
- A group Wiki could be constructed to explore and extend understanding. For example, if a group of students are studying a film as text, they could create a Wiki page about film techniques and the use of visual metaphors, symbols and motifs in film. This process is authentic and task driven. The teacher can monitor contributions to ensure accountability and that students are autonomously making meaningful contributions.
- Roles could be assigned to assist the creation of the Wiki. Students with high levels of English could become the editors, tech-savvy students could take charge of design, organised students could manage deadlines and visual learners could be in charge of choosing visual supplements to written material. Thus, students would be working together to create shared knowledge and contribute in a way that makes them the expert, or author, of a particular specialisation. Thus, guiding each other through their ZPDs.
Implementation strategy 3
Google Blogs – Google Blogs
- Students could create a blog that would complement the group Wiki. The blog could be used like a learning diary – only online. Students could reflect on their progress as an individual and as a member of a learning community. They could personalise with the use of visuals. Their output would differ due to the range of language levels present within the classroom. This approach would promote an authentic, more informal and more reflective use of language than the Wiki. Thus, students will simultaneously be learning to use more than on language register.
- This could be built into the weekly classroom routine. For example, in the final language lesson each week students would be allocated some time to contribute to their blog for the week.
- This data could be used to help triangulate data gathered from group work and individual assessment, and show a different kind of language competency than displayed in more academic attempts to use language.
|Strengths: These implementation strategies can be used interchangeably. For example, integration strategy one could be used as a forum for students to pose questions, delegate roles and confirm understandings. This approach to learning is more consistent with mainstream secondary schools. Additionally, students will learn to use a range of technology and will be engaging with technology in different ways. Thus, making learning meaningful for students.||Weaknesses: These integration approaches may decrease motivation or fuel ‘flaming’; defamatory remarks made by students to each other (Kessler & Bikowski, 2010; Warschauer, 1997). Explicit expectations would need to be put into place to ensure students were respectful and accountable. The teacher would also need to closely monitor interactions within the group.|
|Opportunities: Using these methods can shift the power dynamic within the group. Thus, giving typically shy students, or students who feel they do not possess power within the group, a chance to contribute in a meaningful way (Kessler & Bikowski, 2010). It also aligns closely with the socio-cultural approach to teaching language that is social, authentic and meaningful. This has proven to increase motivation and enhance the accuracy of contributions because students know that their work is visible to others (Kramsch, Ness & Lam, 2000).||Threats: Potential threats could include a decrease in motivation, as discussed under the ‘weakness’ area of the SWOT analysis, or in the failing of technology. As practicing teachers, we know that technology is not always reliable and help is not always on hand. Thus, teachers need to be creative and flexible, as stated by Kessler & Bikowski (2010). If technology fails us, it would provide an opportunity for students to revert to pen and paper, allowing the teacher to assess how much students rely on technology to construct meaning. Another possible threat could be students’ inability to use technology. A very real threat considering the background of the students I work with. Thus, additional explicit instruction would be needed to respond to gaps in understanding.|
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