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These days learning individually or in traditional ways aren't as powerful and efficient compare to learning in collaboration through discourse and teamwork. Collaboration shows an exchange of new ideas and sharing of knowledge that can mediate student learning and enhance critical thinking as they work through in different collaborative learning environment. This paper demonstrates the provision of collaborative activities that can be effective in developing student's critical thinking skills. First, I discuss the conceptual definition of both collaborative learning and critical thinking followed by the types of collaborative learning those can usually be categorize into two types, Technology supported and face-to-face collaborative learning (Resta & Laferriere, 2007). The main focus of this paper is to provide an understanding of technology supported collaboration that helps foster individual's active learning and critical thinking. This paper also illustrates a relevant example of interactive collaborative learning environment i.e. technology mediated interactive environment
Roschelle and Teasley (as cited in Resta & Laferriere, 2007) stated that in collaborative instructional environment participants are working together in groups in order to achieve a common goal. Johnson & Johnson (as cited in Resta & Laferriere, 2007) define that through the collaboration participant in groups are not only develop communication skills but also responsible for their own and each other's learning.
The ability to think critically is important in today's world and as we know that world is getting more complex, knowledgeable and technical then before. The individuals need to understand and learn new concepts critically and differently. However there is no proper or standardize definition of critical thinking because everyone has different perspective of word 'critical'. Some thoughts about critical thinking are related to the argumentation, problem solving, decision making or reasoning so forth. But many psychologists have proposed definition of critical thinking is a cognitive skill which help person to think more in-depth which led them towards the desirable outcome. It involves reasoning, problem solving, offer alternative explanation and draw wise decision on the certain problem (Halpern, 2003).
Types of Collaborative Learning
In the types of collaborative learning environment that involves interaction where each individual shares their own ideas and discuss a given problem. The talk or discourse is most important thing in collaborative work in order to make a collective decision. Aulls. M, (2010), describe the different kind of talks in collaborative environment. The most fruitful and healthy talk is exploratory talk, in which individuals' divergent thinking take place with meaningful discussion among groups which led them to draw constructive conclusion on the main idea. However, there are different types of collaborative learning environment which support the notion of learning through participation e.g. CSCL (online), face-to-face (on-site) which play an important role in students cognitive development and also guide them towards the accomplishment of outcomes (Resta, & Laferriere, 2007).
In current educational research the focused approach for creating collaborative learning environment is technology supported collaborative learning (e.g. CSCL) whereas other environment or setting does support collaborative learning (Resta & Laferriere, 2007). Unlike CSCL, the Face-to-Face (onsite or classroom) collaborative learning provides a localized (e.g. on-campus) environment for individuals to involve in group interaction or in classroom discourse. Laurillard, (as cited in Resta & Laferriere, 2007) assessed "Multiple factors that are at play in face-to-face and online learning environments including pedagogical strategies, context, interaction with peers and instructors, and assessment."(p. 68). In face-to-face collaborative learning, participant's presence is required in specified time and place for group interaction and discourse to achieve desired solution of a problem. While CSCLs support flexibility of time and space to provide new virtual workplace (e.g. distance learning or online classrooms) in which individuals have opportunity to show their work without being present in specific place and time (Resta & Laferriere, 2007). Despite the variations exist in both collaborative learning environments, which support individuals' cognitive performance, deep understanding of subject matter, problem-solving skills and high-order thinking (A. Breuleux, presentation notes, September 14, 2010).
Technology in Support of Collaborative Learning
In this technological world the educational content are no longer stick to paper-based rather getting digital through different technological tools and software because technology takes over the responsibility of content. It is easy for everyone to access and manage the massive content digitally. In traditional teaching practice the instructor or teacher delivers classroom lectures through regular chalkboard or presentation slides that also include paper-based materials. In this learning environment there is less interaction among students and teachers also they never get immediate feedback from the teacher when they are in impasses. Whereas incorporation of technology in support of collaborative learning not only create different modes of communications (asynchronous and synchronous) among individuals and peers in learning environment but also foster individuals' cognitive growth and their learning processes (Resta & Laferriere, 2007). In the field of learning science the technology supported collaborative learning emerged as a widely accepted concept or branch called Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), (Stahl, Koschmann, & Suthers, 2006). The recent researches on CSCL focus on methodologies and tools in designing efficient technology rich environment that include different computer applications (platforms, forums, building communities, and videoconferencing systems etc.) to support collaborative learning (Resta & Laferriere, 2007). ICT has leverage to simplified and provide easy environment for learning with different modes of communication among peers either distance online learning or interactive classroom.
The focus of this paper is to show how technology base collaborative learning environment develops critical thinking in individuals. Through literature we can easily assess that technology influence learner's participation and engagement which led them towards the accomplishment of academic goals. However, there are few ideas revolved around the notion of collaboration takes part in learner's critical thinking. Resta & Laferriere, (2007) discussed that the critical elements for effective CSCL are the development of instructional goals targeted towards higher-order thinking skills and complex problem solving. In addition to this, (A. Breuleux, presentation notes, September 14, 2010), share few instructional motives and benefits for the use of technology in support of collaborative learning which prepare students for the knowledge society, add flexibility of time and space for collaborative learning, foster student engagement and keep track of student collaborative work, and improve student academic achievement, development of higher order thinking skills and students satisfaction. The current individual knowledge is not sufficient to use for the whole life, because world is changing day by day and the presence of technology enforces individual to be a part of more social interaction, discourse and up to date with the new information. Hence technology rapidly infused in our lives and changing the aspect of learning. Technology is not only responsible for individual's academic growth but also serves for increasing teacher's productivity for instance with the digital technology, teacher can find educational websites and integrate with the topic of instruction. It also enables to track students' formative, summative assessment and provide them feedback. For instance Bioworld computer based learning environment by provide scaffolding to students related to the cases of patient and provide assistance where individual impasses in problem, (Lajoie, Lavigne, Guerrera, & Munsie, 2001). Currently there are different technology supported learning environments in use today that facilitate collaboration e.g. e-learning, online distance learning, interactive whiteboard etc. These learning environments are designed based on learning experience from the learner's perspective and instructional requirements for teachers and schools. Each learning environment has its own application and benefits as well as limitations with respect to collaboration and students' learning skills. These learning skills may consists for instance problem-solving skills, reasoning, sharing of knowledge among groups that students can learn in interaction.
Considering variation of technology based collaboration for example via computer workstation, only one person at a time can display his work on big screen in the room because that person has right to control the information and no one else share the ideas on screen. But these days interactive whiteboard learning environment supports increased interaction and cooperation where anyone can share, create, modify and review information so everyone has a chance to contribute in group work. The IW can support greater interaction among students to enhance their learning skills and provide opportunity to think or critic on others ideas. The benefits to using Interactive whiteboard is many-folded it provides collaboration, ease of communication among individuals (learners), productivity, enhance problem-solving skills and view emerging ideas critically. In the study (Lajoie, Gauthier & Lu, 2009) investigated, the IW provide concurrent method through which learner can construct knowledge in the context of clinical reasoning and decision making with the joint group efforts.
Collaborative way of learning is a wide area of research it covers technology supported collaborative learning environment which could be formal, informal, and non formal and face-to-face learning environment in real classroom settings. Both support students building knowledge through interaction and exchanging their thoughts freely and come on concrete answer by having the consensus of group. Both face-to-face and technology supported collaboration is useful to foster individual's logical and critical thinking. At this platform they have opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and regulate their learning by taking on-going assessment of own and others arguments. This paper support the idea of online or technology mediated collaborative learning is more beneficial for learner cognitive growth than the face-to-face collaborative way of learning. It doesn't mean that face-to-face learning environment is not favourable in the development of students learning or cognitive thinking. Both collaborative learning environments have positive aspects towards students learning satisfaction, provision of scaffolding, and higher order of thinking skills, and complex problem solving. Johnson et al(as cited in Resta & Laferriere, 2007)