Throughout history there have been many renowned theorists that have encouraged collaborative learning in the classroom. People who believed that with support of peers or teacher, children could improve their learning experience and help to shape their own development. However it is only over the last few decades that the idea of collaborative learning has considered the integration of technology. Stahl (2004) had a theory suggesting that learning is not a matter of accepting fixed facts, but is the dynamic, on-going, and evolving result of complex interactions primarily taking place within communities of people. Technology allows us, as educators to form these communities that open up a whole new world of collaboration and learning experiences. One of the biggest believers in collaborative learning was Vygotsky. His theory that everyone had a Zone of Proximal Development (1978) suggested the idea that each child has the potential to access an area of knowledge beyond their current understanding. With the help of technology in the classroom children are able to access knowledge that was previously inaccessible to them, understand areas of confusion and work collaboratively in exciting new ways.
Many people consider ICT to only be a subject in the curriculum; however it has come into its own. ICT is a “complex tool which can be used by teachers and be pupils in teaching a learning” (Higgins, 2001). Technology is always changing, becoming more advanced and available for practical uses in many different settings. It is important that we as educators take advantage of this technology, John and Sutherland (2005) point out that “in recent years the emergence of new digital technologies has offered up the possibility of extending and deepening classroom learning opportunities.” These opportunities are furthered by the ever increasing speed of the internet; this combined with mobile technologies that have rocketed in popularity recently, opens up a new world or e-learning opportunities that we must take advantage of. The multimodal capabilities that technology can provide allow the teacher to present their lessons in a variety of ways, ensuring that they cater for all types of learner. Meeting the needs of every child is important, engaged children will interact in the lesson, getting more involved and take a genuine interest in what is being taught.
Technology in the classroom allows teachers to explore and find new ways of engaging different children and to encourage them to take an active role in their own learning. Computer games are often thought of as purely a leisure activity. However recent interest in education has seen the potential for play to form the basis of learning. Computer games could be individual or whole class activities which the children enjoy playing but each games as an educational theme that develops a child’s understanding of a subject area. Interest in the use of computer games in school has grown as computers and technology have become more readily available in homes. This would allow children through the use of an internet connection to begin a game in school and continue on from the same point when they are at home. Therefore learning will have expanded beyond the traditional classroom and children are having fun whilst building upon the learning that took place in school that day. Technology in the classroom allows children to work individually or in small groups using PCs, mobile devices or tablets developing a range of skills. Some of the skills that computer games develop are outlined by Kirriemuir and McFarlane (2004). These skills are; Strategic thinking, planning, communication, application of numbers, negotiating skills, group decision-making and data handling.
When the idea of children using computers in the classroom began it meant a child or group of children crammed around one desktop PC fixed to a table. However advances in technology now mean that the computer is no longer fixed to one space. We now have access to a wide range of mobile technology and tablets that allow children to pick them up and move around the classroom. This mobility allows children to record data at the scene of an experiment, use the technology in group activities or even take their learning to a more comfortable area in the classroom. The idea of technology in the classroom is not to replace traditional methods, but in fact to integrate it with traditional learning to enhance the learning experience for the children.
When technology is integrated into a classroom it provides the teacher with the opportunity to globalise the school and the learning that is taking place. Many would consider the school’s website to be its only global presence but in fact classes can take advantage of social networking and other media to enhance the school’s reputation on a global scale. The benefits of his far exceed the idea of promoting the school; in fact it allows children to collaborate with other teachers and children around the world. An excellent example of this is 100wc, set up by Head teacher Julia Skinner it facilitates the uploading of children’s short 100 word blog posts. Skinner has gathered a network of trainee and qualified teachers who log on and post comments on children’s work. Knowing that someone is reading their work from another part of the country or somewhere else altogether is great motivation for a child to continue to write. Of course there are safety issues when it comes to sharing information but the children’s surnames in this case are not used and only those with a login can access the work.
It is of quintessential importance that technology is used to further the learning experience of children; combined with outstanding teaching it creates an environment conducive to student participation and development. Alexander (2008) says that “dialogic teaching harnesses the power of talk to engage children, stimulate and extend their thinking, and advance their learning and understanding.” This type of teaching means using talk more effectively. Rather than a teacher just presenting the work, they should be having on-going discussion with the children. This helps to develop ideas, understanding and model subject specific language. Integrating this method of teaching with technology provides the chance for interactivity to support explanations and learning.
In (1987) Shulman proposed a model of pedagogical reasoning which outlined the knowledge needed by a teacher to plan, teach, assess and evaluate. His model consisted of six elements, these being; comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection and new comprehensions.in each of the areas of his model we can incorporate technology, allowing us as educators to transform aspect of our teaching to provide multimodal ways to represent ideas and evaluate lessons. However Technology is not always necessary so it is at the teacher’s discretion to decide what the unique contribution technology can bring to the lesson. In terms of comprehension the use of ICT is quite limited however using the internet it could be used to provide the children with a range of sources to back up subject knowledge. At the transformation stage the teacher is required to transform their understanding of a topic into a form that the children will grasp. Again the use of technology is very limited at this stage as it requires the teacher to use their own professional judgement. However as the teacher beings to create representations and prepares their lesson the opportunities to use ICT increase and technology such as PowerPoint and Smart Board can be used. It is at this stage the teacher should consider how technology can be ensure the lesson is multimodal, Shulman (1987) himself said “multiple forms of representation are desirable.” By the time instruction stage is reached all planning is finished at at this point the lesson is underway. Technology can be used now collaboratively or individually as a tool to support the children’s understanding of a particular topic. For example there is an IPad app that allows children to explore the body; the different bones, organs etc. If used properly in group work it could support the creation of a poster or fact sheet. Finally considering the evaluation sections of the model technology can be used but its influence will be minimal. Evaluations are conducted by the teacher based on their own thoughts and opinions, however if areas of the lesson have been recorded on video cameras or photos have been taken it can help support the teacher as he/she evaluates.
Web 2.0 referred to the “mass socialisation” of internet connectivity and is centred around communities rather than the individual (Selwyn et al, 2010). In 2001 Prensky coined the term “digital natives” a phrase used to describe the generation that grew up with mobile technology and tools of the digital age. He argued that technology is now part of children’s everyday lives and how they are surrounded by it. Today people are talking about the possibility of the development of the semantic web or web 3.0. Digital technologies are widely seen to support learning and help children develop a greater working memory, be more adept at perceptual learning and have better motor skills (Selwyn et al, 2010). With all the positives that technology can provide in the classroom and the fact that our children are now growing up in a world where they are immersed in technology it seems foolish to not integrate their learning with such a large part of their lives.
References, Sources and Further Reading
- Stahl, G. (2004).Building collaborative Knowing: Elements of a Social Theory of CSCL. In J.-W. Strijbos, P. Kirschner & R. Martens (Eds.), What we know about CSCL: And implementing it in higher education (pp. 53-86). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers
- Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. From: Mind and Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
- Higgens, S. (2001) ICT and Teaching for Understanding. Evaluating and Research in Education. 15:3, 164-171
- John, P., Sutherland, R. (2005) Affordance, opportunity and the pedagogical implications of ICT Educational Review 57 (4) , 405-414
- Kirriemuir, J and McFarlane, A. (2004). Literature Review in Games and Learning. Bristol: Futurelab.
- Alexander, R. (2008). Dialogic Teaching, 4th edition, York: Dialogos.
- Beauchamp, G. (2012) ICT in the Primary School, from Pedagogy to Practice. Essex: Pearson Education.
- Selwyn, N., Potter, J. and Cranmer, S. (2010) Primary Schools and ICT, Learning from Pupil Perspectives. London: Continuum International.
- Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, 9(5), pp 1-6.