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This part of the assignment is a reflective analysis of my learning with ICT on this module. I am going to review my experience in collaborative learning on this module drawing my attention to the learning experience from the face to face sessions on the unit compared to the classroom sessions.
Collaborative Learning Experience
There are many ways that people learn in their everyday lives. Learning can take place anywhere at any time wherever you may be. Joel (2003) stated that "Learning is a change in behaviour that results from the learner's interaction with the environment". Joel's statement is linked into the two environments experienced on this module. This module the teaching and learning consisted of face-to-face classroom sessions and online VLE discussions held on a weekly basis for one hour. The topics that were covered in this module are the way you can learn in different ways. Students participated in these discussions about various experiences and reinforced the information to promote further discussion. These discussions were mostly set in groups where we had to work together to complete various tasks. This type of collaborative learning is when two or more people are in a situation to learn something together Dillenbourg (1999). This occurred on two occasions in this module, one was creating a mindmap (online) and one was marking a past assignment (face-to-face). Both were instances of learning something new and we were in groups of more than one. Harding (1993) also suggested that collaborative learning usually works when students group together to create a knowledge and understanding of a certain situation. This in my understanding is communication amongst the group. Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is a concept within collaborative learning where it uses technology in the learning environment to facilitate group interactions Mitnik (2009). In my understanding on this module collaborative learning is the completion of any given project or task. According to Miller (1998) successful collaborative tasks have characteristics such as the problem being solved are example of the types of problems found in normal everyday life. Miller's statement here links in with the past and current experiences of all students on the course where they have discussed the topic in hand relating them to their own personal experiences. Miller (1998) also went onto explain that the problem can be solved by a small number of students who have not got the current knowledge and understanding to solve the problem alone but can contribute to it amongst a team. When working with my peers on the collaborative learning tasks I firstly felt as I am the youngest I won't know as much knowledge as the rest of them. However it gave me the opportunity to develop a higher level thinking skill to show my peers I am interested in the subject that we are going to discuss. The task was a positive learning experience which was very active, involved and insightful. When the mind map task was being developed I found that I was learning mostly from the facilities of the software that were available to me. Thanasis (2009) said that the role of the computer is to support users to communicate and structure the learning activity. This was the case in the collaborative task I completed in this module and the use of collaboration here is the idea of learning taking place when peers interact to achieve task outcomes (Thanasis 2009). This collaboration activity of the module was a challenging task as many of us had different ideas. However I felt that we all put our ideas together to find the best outcome. Smith (1992) suggested that this sort of collaborative learning process is not beginning with facts and ideas and then finding out the problem but it begins with the problem to find out the facts and ideas in the first place. We as a group didn't meet up altogether initially but I discussed the task before hand to a member of my peer and just went over what we would want to do. This pre-process helped as I went away and did my own research to find out some ideas I could share. By working in this environment we could cover more ground and get the task done at a quicker pace than doing it individually in which can help by sharing resources and ideas. With my teaching experience in my previous school, students working in smaller groups enable them to increase their knowledge and widen their understanding of the task in hand. The task which is given to the students is structured in a way to accomplish the learning objectives set. Giving students individual responsibilities gives a lively and energetic vibe to the classroom and the thought of competition amongst other students seemed common. Stahl (2002) suggested that when using technology to support collaborative learning it enhances peer interaction and facilitates the distribution of knowledge and expertise amongst the group. The different collaborative Learning strategies I used in the classroom were that I created different tasks and activities that were necessary for the group to work together and be dependent on each other. If certain individuals do really well and shine through, it created a more motivated establishment in the group.
Communities of practise
My experiences of group interaction relates to the work of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger Communities of Practise (CoP) which we covered in our module. Wenger (1991) defines CoP as a passion of learning something and sharing it amongst a group of people and then establishing how it was done. This is a way of promoting new ideas, developing social means, facilitating and spreading knowledge within a group (Wenger 1991). Wenger's definition relates to the module task we worked on. The process of social learning that occurred when a group of students came together to discuss a task was something that we were interested in and collaborated with. Wenger went onto explaining that CoP had 3 main components to it which were domain, community and practice. A domain of interest is a specific subject area, which in our case the multiple intelligence theories. The community is where students gathered together and shared ideas and information about Gardner in the module. The practise is members of the group who are already helpful in the resources and give common experience encountered. These components were explored more in Part 1 Websipration unit on Microworlds. Effective classroom interaction needs to be managed to help student generate a deeper understanding of the lesson. Harry (1993) describes Moore's theory (1984) that this type of management involving three types of learning. Interaction with resources, teachers and peers. With the face to face sessions we encountered on the course I learnt to work with different types of people from different backgrounds. During our lecturers the small group discussions allowed us to reflect and act upon discussions and responses when certain questions were raised by the tutor. These small group interactions on a weekly basis allowed us to have a better understanding on our peers point of view. Downes (1998) states "the idea is that learning is not paced so much by the teacher, as it is by the student's own capacity to acquire the material". Downes statement is exactly how our module is routined. The tutor has a certain role in the classroom but it is up to the student to obtain and research the necessary information to be prepared enough for the upcoming discussions. This collaboration experience in the classroom and online allowed different students give different responses and established a range of different perspectives on the topic discussed. In MacGregor's view he states that "Knowledge is shaped, over time, by successive conversations" MacGregor (1990). The ability to relate to other students in the face to face session is helpful for other students who find it difficult to communicate in front of others and can benefit their own social skills. However the same goes for the online learning sessions on the module where the learning is catered to individual students and their different learning styles (Downes 1998). As Downes suggested the student can adapt the materials and discussions thrown at them and can respond in a learning style that suits them. These different learning styles online without seeing peoples faces becomes a centre of excitement and motivation that we all can feel throught the discussions. Maslow's theory of motivation describes how "human actions are directed toward goal attainment". The esteem needs from Maslows hierarchical pyramid shows a link to the online learning sessions that as students we need the confidence, self-esteem and achievement when working and expressing our views online. To add to this experience it has a deeper impact on me when I answer a question and others respond to it. This built my own self esteem which is described by Maslow's theory of motivation as the others were responding to my ideas and encouraged me to give more to the discussion. At times from the online session it was hard getting the topic discussion together as many in the small group didn't want to manage the talk. Gunawardena (1995) suggested that online learning lacks social interaction between students and teachers, as well as within peer groups themselves. I agree with Gunawardena's statement here because it was hard getting everyone to agree with a certain responsibility which slowed down the discussion process. It is difficult to recognise that our group needs a little help and guidance in our conversation but this is not established by the tutor as they are mainly floating between group discussions. I also found that in many of our discussions even though we had a small group, 1 or 2 members would not say anything at all. This then leaves the discussion on 2 people who are the most dominating of characters end up having a conversation between themselves and others are simply sitting and reading. With the online discussions weekly discussions are uploaded on the VLE before the group get together. If the online conversation becomes slow and undirected, I tend to look at a group discussion they placed on the VLE and give my own options on it. This tends to gear the conversation back up and others tend to join in. These posts at times gives me ideas that I hadn't thought of and enables me to respond to their posts so the other students know that other students have acknowledged them. Through the experiences on the online chats I have noticed that this type of interaction allows the opportunity for students to share their own reflections, give critical feedback and comment openly about the topic. If a question is asked from the tutor in lesson it's apparent that the same 3 or 4 confident students (including me) will raise their hands and continually answer. The answers are spontaneous commonly on the spot with limited time that we have to discuss. However on the online environment, if the same question is answered its opens a new dimension of read, review and respond method that we have encountered on the course. This VLE learning and online discussions encourage the use of other resources such as internet links, course materials, discussions boards at my convenience to help elaborate group discussions.
ICT has changed dramatically from when ICT as an A level in my experience was simply reading, copying out of a book and then taking the exam. This module has developed my understanding of the intensity of ICT and how ICT can be differentiated in many ways through the range of different virtual worlds software packages. The different activities we entailed in the module were across the board where as I discussed before even different students from different backgrounds could explore. Calongne (2008) explains in his article that "Virtual worlds support different learning styles and give students opportunities to explore, discover, and express their understanding of the subject. However the tool's capabilities do not guarantee a great learning experience". This was the case on the module, even though there were different virtual software's we experimented with some were not interesting at all. Only the software I felt I learned the most from were described in part 1 of this report even though most of the software activities were similar to each other. I have learnt a lot about the resources available that I didn't know about and how it can be used in Learning. Applying for my Masters I was worried that I would not have the confidence or techniques to stand up in the classroom again however this module has given me more resources to help me in the future to enhance my lessons using different learning materials. I have always been interested in ICT choosing it at GCSE and A LEVEL and then following it through into my degree and PGCE course. ICT has impacted learning so much that everything is now based around PC's. The online lecturers which were part of the module were accessed at any convenient time and place. This enabled students in the UK and abroad to approach the module without any limitation and express ideas at a pace convenient to them. Online learning as experienced on this module has brought a new dimension to learning and allows the student to engage with other members of my class outside the university environment which helps build confidence amongst the group when we got together. The flexibility of not writing quick short hand notes in lecturers but the detail of discussion remains and I can easily read back anything I may have missed. The tutor in this instant can be seen as a guide to the discussions and gives us students the opportunity to express our opinions and comments on other comments. The classroom interactions are more for the students who prefer to gain more knowledge from other people but also establishing new friendships amongst the group and direct contact with the tutor. Within the learning environment from face to face sessions which are rather brief in my experience however it becomes at times a great ice breaker for those who tend to be the much shy students. Our tutor being the certain point in both the face to face and online sessions gives them plenty of experience to help avoid any future drawbacks from these sessions. This enables tutors to grip the potential of collaborative learning and pull together information from the module evaluations to improve the course as a whole.
Online learning can always have its advantages and disadvantages but technology is there as a tool for learning which is combined with the different teaching methods. It is the way the students respond, review and reflect which was a key aspect of learning in this module. Students explore education in many different ways and the course has allowed us to do this online and face to face. These are only 2 types of learning but more technology will be introduced and more ways of learning will be introduced. This can change how we learn today through the use of student social collaboration methods. As cited in Gibson (2007) "Visions without action is a dream; action without vision, nightmare". If only there was a virtual simulation that can visualise the future of education and how a learning environment would look like which could give us an indication of how rapidly technology is changing.