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Research supporting collaborative, enquiry-based learning.

Model of Learning - Tools for TeachingOne of the great things of studying in the Education Library at Durham University (instead of at home, in my study) is the books I randomly stumble across. For example, I pulled Models of Learning – Tools for Teaching off the shelf today and it fell open at Chapter 7, entitled ‘Learning through cooperative disciplined inquiry.’

This is perfect for me. One of my Performance Management targets for this year – the one focused on my own classroom practices – is about piloting enquiry-based learning with one of my Year 7 History classes. In addition, I’ll (hopefully) be presenting with Nick Dennis at the SHP Conference in July 2010 on this very topic – including the way technology can help! :-p

It’s always good to have some scholarly research to back up one’s actions, so if you’re planning to do something similar here’s some quotations to help you!

The most stunning thing about teaching people to help kids learn cooperatively is that people don’t know how to do it as a consequence of their own schools and life in this society. And, if anything is genetically driven, it’s a social instinct. If it weren’t for each other, we wouldn’t even know who we are. (Herbert Thelen to Bruce Joyce, circa 1964) p.95

The chapter is based on case studies across the age range, but also contains this nugget on p.98-9:

The assumptions that underlie the development of cooperative learning communities are straightforward:

  1. The synergy generated in cooperative settings generates more motivation than do individualistic, competitive environments. Integrative social groups are, in effect, more than the sume of their parts. The feelings of connectedness produce positive energy.
  2. The members of cooperative groups learn from one another. Each learner has more helping hands than in a structure that generates isolation.
  3. Interacting with one another produces cognitive as well as social complexity, creating more intellectual activity that increases learning when contrasted with solitary study.
  4. Cooperation increases positive feelings towards one another, reduces alienation and loneliness, builds relationships, and provides affirmative views of other people.
  5. Cooperation increases self-esteem not only through increased learning but through the feeling of being respected and cared for by others in the environment.
  6. Students can respond to experience in tasks requiring cooperation by increasing their capacity to work together productively. In other words, the more children are given the opportunity to work together, the better they get at it, with benefit to their general social skills.
  7. Students, including primary school children, can learn from training to increase their ability to work together.

The authors go on to summarise the evidence about improved learning through collaboration on p.99:

Classrooms where students work in pairs and larger groups… are characterized by greater mastery of material than the common individual-study/recitation pattern. Also, the shared responsibility and interaction produce more positive feelings toward tasks… In other words, the results generally affirm the assumptions that underlie the use of cooperative learning methods.

It’s not hard to get started with cooperative learning (p.100):

[A]n endearing feature is that it is so very easy to organize students into pairs and triads. And it gets effects immediately. The combination of social support and the increase in cognitive complexity caused by the social interaction have mild but rapid effects on the learning of content and skills.

The authors dismiss claims from some teachers that ‘gifted students prefer to work alone’ as the evidence does not back this up (Joyce 1991; Slavin 1991). They believe it may rest on a misunderstanding of the relationship between individual and cooperative study; partnership still requires individual effort. There’s no need to be concerned about students’ ability to work together (p.101):

In fact, partnership s over simple tasks are not very demanding of social skills. Most students are quite capable of cooperating when they are clear about what has been asked of them.

The Teacher's ToolkitI’ll not go into them here, but the authors mention a number of ways in which teachers can foster ‘positive interdependence’. They also suggest the ‘division of labour’ into specializations. Instead of learning only a part of what every is supposed to be learning, they have found, ‘jigsaw’ activities and the like lead to more learning across the spectrum. Many of the activities they suggest are, in fact, featured alongside others in one of my favourite education-related books, The Teacher’s Toolkit.

The teacher’s role in cooperative learning moves from that of instructor to ‘counsellor, consultant and friendly critic.’ (p.107) The authors note that this ‘is a very difficult and sensitive’ role ‘because the essence of inquiry is student activity’. Teachers need to:

  • facilitate the group process
  • intervene in the group to channel its energy into potentially educative activities, and
  • supervise these educative activities so that personal meaning comes from the experience

The upshot of this is that ‘intervention by the teacher should be minimal unless the group bogs down seriously’ (p.107).

The authors suggest a 6-phase process for cooperative learning:

Phase 1 – Students encounter puzzling situation (planned or unplanned).

Phase 2 – Students explore reactions to the situation.

Phase 3 – Students formulate study task and organize for study (problem definition, role, assignments, etc.)

Phase 4 – Independent and group study.

Phase 5 – Students analyse progress and process.

Phase 6 – Recycle activity.

In conclusion, the authors note how universally cooperative group investigation can be used (p.111-2):

Group investigation is a highly versatile and comprehensive model of learning and teaching: it blends the goals of academic inquiry, social integration and social process learning. It can be used in all subject areas, and with all age levels, when the teacher desires to emphasize the formulation and problem-solving aspects of knowledge rather than the intake of preorganized, predetermined information.

Design the (e-)book cover for #movemeon!

I’m very pleased to see that other educators have run with the #movemeon idea I floated. There are now literally hundreds of tweets that have been tagged – you can view them in real-time here, or an archive here.

My favourite way of viewing them, is via visibletweets.com using the ‘rotation’ animation:

#movemeon viewed with visibletweets.com

Once we reach a significant number of tweets – I suggested 1,000 – then I’m going to collate them. Using the self-publishing serviceΒ Lulu.com there will be a freely-downloadable e-book along with a book purchasable at cost price. πŸ˜€

I’ve put together a wiki at http://movemeon.wikispaces.com to depersonalise things – it’s about the ideas and the collaboration, not me, after all! You’ll find the same links as I’ve given above over there.

We do, of course, need a cover for the book and so it’s time to crowdsource that. On the wiki is a page with a template to provide your contribution. You know you can do better than my feeble effort, provided to get things started:

#movemeon cover idea

Please do share this with as many people as possible. Not only would I like the book to look as good as it can, but I’d like to make sure that as many educators as possible can tap into the wealth of tips and ideas that have been shared. I’ve certainly learned a lot! πŸ˜€

3 ways Google Wave could be used in the classroom.

Google Wave logo

So you’re an educator who’s managed to score an invitation to Google Wave. You’ve had a play and it’s all very nice, but how could it be used in education?

Before I go any further, read these:

Google Wave conversation

Here are 3 ways I think Google Wave could be used by students for actual learning rather than just playing with something because it’s cool.

1. Empowering learners

There was a great presentation at the TeachMeet that accompanied the Scottish Learning Festival this year. Fearghal Kelly talked about his experiments with giving one of his classes more ownership over their learning. He ran them through the learning objectives and the content they would need to cover and then the student co-created and collaborated on planning what exactly they wanted to do.

Google Wave would be great for this as it allows wiki-like editing but is more threaded and conversation-like. The whole wave can also be ‘replayed’ to see how the thinking of the group evolved over time. It’s something I’d definitely be trying if I had a GCSE or AS/A2-level class… :-p

2. Student feedback

The most powerful learning experiences are those where students have ownership of their learning. That’s been dealt with above. But that’s of no use if students don’t know how to get better in a particular subject or discipline!

That’s why I think Google Wave could be used as an Assessment for Learning tool. Learning as a conversation could be shown in practice through having an individual wave for each student/teacher relationship. Alternatively, these could be small group and ability based to enable peer learning.

I can imagine waves being used for ongoing learning conversations once Google Wave becomes a feature of Google Apps for Education. I’ll certainly be experimenting with it for that purpose! πŸ˜€

3. Flattening the walls of the classroom

One of the really exciting things about Google Wave is the ‘bots’ you can add to automate processes. One of these bots allows for the automatic translation of text entered in one language into that of the recipient.

Whilst language teachers may be up in arms about the idea of ‘not needing’ to learn another’s language, I think it could be fantastic for removing barriers for worldwide collaboration. Imagine the power of students having the digital and wave-equivalent of ‘penpals’ in various classrooms around the world.

Now that really would ‘flatten the walls‘ of the classroom. πŸ™‚

What excites YOU about Google Wave’s potential for education?

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My Google Apps Education Edition ‘nano presentation’ at TeachMeetSLF09

NCEA Google Apps nano-presentation from NCEA on Vimeo.

There’s ways and means of getting to places you want to go. In the case of conferences and meetings a good ploy is usually to volunteer to do a presentation. In the past – with the BETT Show, for example – to get there I’ve either been asked to, or volunteered to speak. That’s allowed me to get there for the real reason I wanted to go. With the BETT Show it’s to attend TeachMeetBETT. πŸ™‚

Today, however, is a bit different; I’m off to the Scottish Learning Festival for the first time. In a (slightly ironic) turn of events I’m being allowed to go by the Academy without having to speak, yet to secure my place at TeachMeetSLF this evening, I’m having to do a (very short) presentation!

The video above is a quick 2-minute overview of how we at The Northumberland Church of England Academy (at which I’m Director of E-Learning) have started to use Google Apps Education Edition. I’m hoping to inspire others to use it as I honestly believe that it can enhance communications – and therefore teaching and learning – within an educational organization. πŸ˜€

What I learned at TeachMeet North East 09

TeachMeetNE

Last night I attended my fourth TeachMeet – TeachMeet North East 09 – having previously been to the last two at the BETT show and TeachMeet Midlands 09 last month. It was held at the wonderfully-refurbished Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the previous three TeachMeet’s I’ve presented either for 2 minutes or 7 minutes, but this time I decided to take a bit more of a back seat and be an ‘enthusiastic lurker’. πŸ™‚

I met lots of people and came away with a few great ideas. These are the ones that stick in my mind:

Steve Bunce’s Neural Impulse Actuator

Neural Impulse Actuator

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, usually things at TeachMeet I’ve either used in a different context or am planning to use. That is to say they’re ‘on my radar’. I was surprised and amazed, therefore, when Steve Bunce demonstrated a Neural Impulse Actuator last night. This takes the form of a band worn across the forehead that responds to muscle movements and brainwaves. Steve demonstrated fairly simple and straightforward applications using games and controlling bars.

Mark Clarkson’s Collaborative Tools

Mark Clarkson

Prezi is a tool you either love or hate. It was used to great effect by Mark Clarkson in his 15 collaborative tools presentation. Lots of fantastic ideas in this presentation. Mark also created and co-authored an Etherpad document that took notes on everyone else’s presentations. πŸ˜€

Fergus Hegarty on ‘Real independent learning’

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the enigmatic Mr Hegarty. He presented on a ‘needs must’ situation where he recently completely revamped his teaching of Sixth Form Chemistry due to a massive teacher shortage in his department.

He spent hours getting all of the admin sorted for the rest of the course, ‘chunking’ and labelling the material needed. Students then organized their own time and decided which work they had to do when he was present (e.g. practicals) and things they could do during ‘independent learning’ sessions. This gave Fergus time to spend with groups of different abilities. Such approaches engender exactly the skills that are needed in young people – I just hope he gets the results so he can feel vindicated in his pioneering work! :-p

flashmeetingIf you’d like to view a replay of the TeachMeet, it was streamed live via FlashMeeting which created an archive of the event here (followed by an extension here)

Interesting Ways to use Netbooks in the Classroom

I’ve been inspired by Tom Barrett‘s excellent use of Google Presentations to get educators collaborating on ways to use Google Earth and Interactive Whiteboards. Having recently purchased six Asus Eee 1000 Netbooks for my school, I thought I’d try something similar:

Whilst there have been many blog posts and wiki pages dedicated to the ways in which laptops and Netbooks can be used in a 1-to-1 environment, it’s less obvious what you can do when you only have a few in your classroom. This presentation, as an ongoing project, should hopefully remedy that!

If you’d like to collaborate, here’s what to do:

  1. Look at the presentation above to see what tips have already been added.
  2. Send a message on Twitter to @dajbelshaw, or use the contact form on this site in order to request to be added as a collaborator.
  3. Add a slide in a similar fashion to the ones already there, making sure you credit any Creative Commons-license images used.
  4. Change the number of tips now included in the presentation on the first slide, and add your name as being a collaborator.

I’m looking forward to your contributions! πŸ˜€

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Give your students a voice with VoiceThread

Sometimes it’s hard to get the views of everyone in a class. When you’ve 25-30 students in front of you, it’s easy to miss the views and ideas of the quieter members of your class.

That’s why VoiceThread is so good. You put some type of stimulus material – a picture or video, for example – on the website and then invite your students to give their opinions on it. I’ve been using it with my GCSE History students for them to be able to practice analysing historical sources. The great thing is that each user can annotate pictures and videos to illustrate their point. They can also use a microphone or webcam to record their thoughts, too!

Follow the guide below to get started with VoiceThread and click here to see one in action!

Never lose a document again: how Google Docs can change the way you and your department work!

Instead of attaching documents to emails, why don’t we attach email addresses to documents? That way, everyone sees each update of a document (e.g. a scheme of work) and there is a central repository for departmental or school files.

Watch this video:

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Google Docs is part of a wider suite known as Google Apps. There’s a version of this called Google Apps Team Edition that allows only those within an institution or business to collaborate on documents. You can access Ridgewood’s login page here. Only those with an @ridgewoodschool.co.uk email account can access this (which includes pupils, so be careful who you share documents with!)

Step 1

Sign up for an account. Follow the instructions using your school email address.

Step 2

Login to the Ridgewood Google Apps dashboard using the username/password set up in Step 1. You might want to bookmark this login page for ease-of-access next time!

Step 3

In the dashboard area you have several options, the rest of which you can explore at your leisure. For the moment we’re interested in Docs, so click on that!

Step 4

The Docs overview area is fairly straightforward. Documents which have been shared with you are accessible to the bottom-right. You can click on the toolbar to create a new document/spreadsheet/presentation/form/folder, upload existing documents (in Word .doc format, etc.), and share these with others:

Step 5

Once you have created or uploaded a document, click on the blue Share button to the top-right of your screen in the editing window. Then click on Share with others:

Step 6

You can view the ‘revision history’ of the document by going to Tools/Revision history in the editing window. This shows every change that has been made to the document. You can revert to any previous incarnation of a document if necessary!

Step 7

Play! Explore what Google Docs can do. Once you exhausted that, have a look at the rest of the offerings within the Google Apps suite – Sites (easy departmental websites), Calendar (plan course/departmental/school events), Start Page (customised ‘home page’) and Chat (real-time text chat like MSN Messenger)

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EdTechRoundup needs your help with Google Apps UK!

Google Apps

EdTechRoundup, the fledgling educational technology podcast show with which I’m involved wants YOUR help! We’re going to be interviewing the Google Apps team in the UK soon.

If you could ask the Google Apps UK team anything, what would it be?

Responses either in the comments section below, or on the ETR wiki here please! πŸ™‚

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