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Technology - helping them think through collaboration

At the risk of sounding boring I am still harping on about a constructivist approach and how technology is a perfect partner for it - an "optimal medium for the application of constructivist principles to learning".  I have made no bones about the fact that I am rather partial to a constructivist approach.  I truly believe in enabling pupils to discover and determine for themselves as I believe it leads to better learning and learners.

So if I truly believe in this approach and that there is a close relationship between technology and constructivism given that the implementation of each one benefits the other what can I do to ensure overall success?   Keep in mind too that whilst students might be motivated by technology use in class (that's not always a given) they don't necessarily want to have to think for themselves (as mentioned before).  Undoubtedly many of my students have enjoyed being passive recipients of knowledge for many years and they can find themselves perplexed by a constructivist approach.  After all, "how to teach is the teacher's choice, how to learn is the student's choice" (Perkins).

As teacher I am going to need to be resourceful, creative and innovative.  Nothing new there then - this is surely something we all do as teachers everyday. 

So, for this project I chose wikispaces as my medium.  The pages are neatly divided into topic areas and grammatical concepts that need to be learned, internalised and re-applied.  In each of these topic areas there is a focus on some drill and skill exercises and there are a variety of tasks, many of them open-ended.  More importantly there are pages allocated for collaboration.  Why importantly?  The benefit of collaboration is dialogue that can facilitate deeper learning and the advantage of creating a course using a wikispace is that interaction can take place not just between the student and the teacher but between the students themselves.  It's a type of reciprocal teaching that opens discussion amongst my students to which I am able to respond and provide guidance to further promote cognitive processes and understanding.
I know that collaboration can exist in an environment where technology does not play a part but collaboration can be that much more successful and effective when all parties can play a full and active role which is not always possible when work is produced on paper or conversations take place around the room as opposed to a discussion forum.  There is always the one who gets away with doing nothing very much at all.  Collaboration in an environment such as wikispaces provides a whole different aspect that is certainly most welcome in my classroom.






















Reference:


Gilakjani A, Leong L-M, & Ismail, H (2013) ‘Teachers Use of Technology and Constructivism’ I. J Modern Education and Computer Science 4: 49 - 63


Perkins, David (2005) 'Constructivism and troublesome knowledge' in J. Meyer and R. Land (ed.) Overcoming barriers to student understanding Routledge: 33-48


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