When discussing the role collaboration and constructivism has within education, I feel the following image is paramount:
We are all spiders working together to create a huge web of information- we are all contributing, sharing and collaborating togetheron the platform of WEB2.0.
“A social constructivist learning approach” has been proposed as a way to think about learning using social networking technologies (hardware and software). Connectivism and Constructivist Learning have also been proposed as a way to provide a theoretical basis for online learning.
“Constructivism does not claim to have made earth-shaking inventions in the area of education; it merely claims to provide a solid conceptual basis for some of the things that, until now, inspired teachers had to do without theoretical foundation.” – von Glasersfeld
[flashvideo width=”425″ height=”350″ filename=”http://www.teachertube.com/flvideo/6042.flv” /]
So the first question that arises is what is meant by constructivism? The term refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves—each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning—as he or she learns. Constructing meaning is learning; there is no other kind. Therefore we have to focus on the learner in thinking about learning (not on the subject/lesson to be taught) and there is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience (constructed) by the learner, or community of learners.There are two main subsets of research that the constructivist approach to teaching and learning is based on; they are cognitive psychology and social psychology. Piaget (1972) is considered as one of the chief theorists among the cognitive constructivists, while Vygotsky (1978) is the major theorist among the social constructivists. Secondly what is Connectivism and how can it be used in education?
When discussing the uses of Web 2.0 in the classroom, it is important to note that the theory of connectivism is being applied. Connectivism ‘ is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories’ (Siemans, 2004). This includes understanding that Web 2.0 is constantly changing and being developed and strategies must be worked on to ensure students are receiving the most up to date educational tools available to them over the internet.
George Siemens can be heard here talking about Connectivism and its implications for education:
Learning and teaching in the classroom is becoming increasingly easier due to the influx of many new technologies and a myriad of software. Web 2.0 is seen as the new and improved, second generation of internet usage; Web 1.0 is the first generation. No longer is web work based upon getting information form the web; now Web 2.0 is about constructing knowledge collaboratively on the web. Web 2.0 is engaging and active compared to the passive and un-engaging Web 1.0 applications- ideal for the digital classroom. Made possible through advancements in technology, Web 2.0 applications (Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Wiki’s, iGoogle, Flickr, RSS Feeds and YouTube. Etc) are effective teaching and pedagogical tools. These provide a platform for social networking through a medium that allows for sharing, informing, communicating and interacting. Having experienced a semester of learning in the Web 2.0 environment and being involved in learning using these methodologies, I see there are several key issues for teachers in the following areas:
A. The way in which the teacher conveys new information
Constructivist teaching is based on the constructivist learning theory, which holds that learning should build upon knowledge that a student already has, and that learning is more effective when a student is actively involved in the construction of knowledge, rather than when he/she is passively listening to a lecture. Thus, the learners give meaning to the knowledge based on their personal experiences. Characteristics of Constructivist TeachingOne of the primary goals of using constructivist teaching is that students learn how to learn by giving them the training to take initiative for their learning experiences.According to Audrey Gray, the characteristics of a constructivist classroom are as follows:
the learners are actively involved
the environment is democratic
the activities are interactive and student-centered
the teacher facilitates a process of learning in which students are encouraged to be responsible and autonomous
In the constructivist classroom, the teacher’s role is to prompt and facilitate discussion. Thus, the teacher’s main focus should be on guiding students by asking questions that will lead them to develop their own conclusions on the subject.With Web 2.0 technologies, the teacher must LEAD by example, and not resort back to BOSS principles.(Glasser)
B. The encouragement of collaboration among students
“The quest for knowledge is the result of innate curiosity in everyone. Find a way to nurture this drive in children, and they will consume knowledge as thirsty person drinks water.” –Greg Henry Quinn, 365 Meditations
collaborating around the world
Web 2.0 plays a significant role in promoting cognitive learning principles in the classrooms. Cognitive theorists such as Piaget emphasised active problem solving and meaning-making on the part of the learner. Piaget and Vygotsky pointed out the importance of social interaction in learning. One of the key characteristics of Web 2.0 is collaboration, both between machine and user, and between several users. These applications have the capacity to function as ‘intellectual partners’ to promote critical thinking and higher order cognitive processing (Voithofer, 2007). Text, voice, music, graphics, photos, animation and video are combined to promote thinking and encourage learners to accomplish creative, higher-level tasks. They provide a range of resources for students to use in problem solving, thinking, reflecting and collaborating with others within physical classrooms and across the globe in virtual learning contexts. It is also argued that Web 2.0 technologies, with their potential for interactivity, are more conducive to active and engage learning than more traditional-centred approaches. According to its advocates, the constructivist classroom that integrates Web 2.0 provides students with a ‘complex laboratory in which to observe, question, practise and validate knowledge’ (Dillon, 2004). In such classrooms, the emphasis is on learning with, not from or about, Web 2.0. Collaboration among learners is another defining characteristic of constructivist classrooms (Jonassen, 1994). Web 2.0 has strong potential for social interactivity and for supporting collaboration and student-centred learning. For example, it is possible for virtual communities of learners on the internet to work in small collaborative groups to achieve a common goal; this is achieved through the implementation of a wiki. The heterogeneous grouping of learners around computer based tasks can assist in creating zones of proximal development and be beneficial for all students (Vygotsky, 1934). Such Web 2.0 technologies (facebook, myspace, wikis) provide opportunities for students to build shared meaning (Dillon, 2004).
Humans are social beings with an innate desire to belong, so teachers need to structure their WEB2.0 application and lessons around this fundamental need.(Dreikurs)
Coming together is a beginning;
keeping together is progress;
Working together is success.
C. Classroom management Methods
Students who sit in boring classes where their brains are screaming out for stimulation and dying from tedium will create their own stimuli. That’s when the spit balls will start flying, the bits of rubber will be flicked around the room, the notes will be passed and interference with other students will begin to occur. To harness this creativity and collaboration teachers need to get on board with the digital classroom and implement Web 2.0 applications. This new technology allows for a more open and collaborative classroom where communication, learning and creativity occur.The use of ICT in classrooms has been found to enhance motivation and self-esteem; this can be put down to the active engagement of learners, where self-regulation and control over learning are encouraged by the teacher, peers (and parents). This ‘non-intervention’ process allows learning to occur naturally and progressively through co-operation, and is modelled upon Glasser ‘s(1992) and Roger’s (1989)model of classroom management where students need area met and good behaviour ensues – a need for belonging, power, freedom, fun. All these ‘basic needs’ are addressed throughout Web 2.0 applications where the children have ‘responsibility and self-direction’ of their self- constructed (fun) learning (Glasser, 1992).
Glasser – “We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives.” GlasserThus William Glasser espoused that good behavior comes from good choices and that all behaviours, both positive and negative, are purposeful communication. Glasser believed that by listening to student’s misbeaviours, we could arrive at an understanding of the student that would improve communication. A central tenant of Glasser’s Choice Theory is the belief that we are internally, not externally motivated. According to Glasser, we are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. Glasser’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ is a useful starting point for thinking about what may be motivating student’s behaviour, also leading us to look at what is happening in the classroom rather than at the individual student’s behaviour. Motivation in education and student behaviour will come about through altering the way classrooms function instead of trying to change the students’ behaviour. Lessons can potentially become boring if students are not engaged and at the same time expected not to misbehave. Glasser says this is like asking someone who is standing on hot tar to stand still and stop complaining. Glasser suggests that a key way of changing this traditional classroom function is to move away from “boss” teaching to “lead” teaching. I believe this will activate a positive learning environment, giving students much more independence, responsibility and choice about the things they do (eg what and how they study).
Dreikurs – Rudolf Dreikurs main focus is on establishing a classroom which is democratic in nature and gives students a sense of belonging. This is put in place when students have some voice as to the functions, purpose and tasks of the classroom. Mutual trust between the teacher and students is therefore required.
Dreikurs maintains that “discipline makes no use of punishment.” He further believes that students have different levels of misbehavior. These misbehaviors occur in a progressive manner. The child first tries to get attention. If this does not work, the child will misbehave further in an effort to achieve power over the teacher or others. When attention or power do not gain the student sufficient status, they seek revenge. They believe they can only feel significant if they hurt others. After all else fails, the student then displays inadequacy. This is also called “learned helplessness.” The student sees themselves as a complete failure. They feel others will leave them alone if others see them as inadequate.
Helping students to find legitimate ways to satisfy their needs can terminate inappropriate behaviour:
· Attract attention – People by their very nature are social beings with an innate desire to belong.
· Exercise power
· Exact revenge
· Display inadequacy
Dreikurs model is an ideal one for enhancing student empowerment.
D. Ensuring that learning occurs at Bloom’s higher levels
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. (Plutarch)
By implementing Bloom’s taxonomy within the learning process of Web 2.0 technologies the teacher is able to ensure that learning occurs at a higher level.Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of thinking organised by level of complexity. It gives teachers and students an opportunity to learn and practice a range of thinking and provides a simple structure for many different kinds of questions and thinking. Typically a teacher would vary the level of questions within a single lesson – aiming towards higher-order thinking. This questioning should be used purposefully to achieve well-defines goals.Emphasis is placed upon its use as a “more authentic tool for curriculum planning, instructional delivery and assessment” (oz-TeacherNet, 2001).
1. REMEMBERING: The learner is able to recall, restate and remember learned information.
2. UNDERSTANDING: The learner grasps the meaning of information by interpreting and translating what has been learned.
3. APPLYING: The learner makes use of information in a context different from the one in which it was learned.
4. ANALYSING: The learner breaks learned information into its parts to best understand that information.
5. EVALUATING: The learner makes decisions based on in-depth reflection, criticism and assessment.
6. CREATING: The learner creates new ideas and information using what has been previously learned.
Higher level questions are those requiring complex application, analysis, evaluation or creation skills. Questions at higher levels of the taxonomy are usually most appropriate for:
• Encouraging students to think more deeply and critically
• Problem solving
• Encouraging discussions
• Stimulating students to seek information on their own
The role of the teacher and the students also varies within the classroom when Higher-Order thinking and a deeper Surface learning is underway. For instance:
Remembering: Classroom Roles for Remembering
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Directs• Tells• Shows• Examines• Questions• Evaluates||• Responds• Absorbs• Remembers• Recognises • Memorises • Defines• Describes• Retells• Passive recipient|
Understanding: Classroom Roles for Understanding
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Demonstrates• Listens• Questions• Compares• Contrasts• Examines||• Explains• Describes• Outlines• Restates• Translates• Demonstrates• Interprets• Active participant|
Applying: Classroom Roles for Applying
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Shows• Facilitates• Observes• Evaluates• Organises • Questions||• Solves problems• Demonstrates use of knowledge• Calculates• Compiles• Completes• Illustrates • Constructs • Active recipient|
Analysing: Classroom Roles for Analysing
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Probes• Guides• Observes• Evaluates• Acts as a resource• Questions• Organises • Dissects||• Discusses• Uncovers• Argues• Debates• Thinks deeply• Tests• Examines• Questions• Calculates• Investigates• Inquires• Active participant|
Evaluating: Classroom Roles for Evaluating
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Clarifies• Accepts• Guides||• Judges• Disputes• Compares• Critiques• Questions• Argues• Assesses• Decides• Selects • Justifies• Active participant|
Creating: Classroom Roles for Creating
|TEACHERS ROLE||STUDENTS ROLE|
|• Facilitates• Extends • Reflects• Analyses• Evaluates||• Designs• Formulates• Plans• Takes risks• Modifies• Creates• Proposes• Active participant|
“What children learn depends not only on what they are taught but also how they are taught, their development level, and their interests and experiences…. These beliefs require that much closer attention be paid to the methods chosen for presenting material…” – Understanding the Common Essential Learnings, Saskatchewan Education, 1988. (p.10)
Web 2.0 allows for engaged, collaborative learning, within which learners are able to access environments, tools and resources (including form other learners) at their own pace, in their own time and from wherever they may be. This empowers learners with responsibility for their own learning, so the Web 2.0 applications often act as catalysts for authentic learning experiences. Ultimately, the implication of Web 2.0 offers new possibilities for teacher professional development, student engagement and meaningful school-community integration.