Well, we are four weeks into school and I haven’t blogged in quite a while, more than a month! In that time, I’ve employed some collaborative learning tools with my classes and would like to report on our progress.
IB Physics SL
With this course, I have used blogs and wikis. I asked students to blog about how they like to learn, about collaborative learning as they understand it, and about the use of technology in education or personally. They were to also read the blogs of others and comment on at least two. I didn’t know what to expect and was very pleased with the results. Students engaged in brief discussion with each other. Here are a few excerpts:
Regarding collaborative learning…
It is obvious that students have different ideas about what collaborative learning is. Most see value in it; some don’t.
Collaborative learning is a very important aspect of the educational process, in my opinion. It, as a whole, brings the class closer together and develops a sense of unity and trust among peers.
and in another post…
Working individually definitely has its benefits, but I think collaborative learning overall can create a much bigger result than anything we could do ourselves. There is not one person who knows everything there is to know in the world, and by combining our knowledge, we are able to gain a greater understanding instead of being ignorant with only what one person knows.
— Jeanne F
Collaborative learning is imperative. Beyond the IB Program, just about everybody will have to interact with a myriads of kind of people. Collaborative learning will result in the expansion of thinking and depart from the conventional. This action will be beneficial emotionally, and socially.
— Shin L
I think collaborative learning is a necessary for a sufficient classroom, whether it is done in the classroom or on the web (like this blog). I think it is helpful to learn what others think to help ourselves and each other, not just through IB but the rest of our lives.
and in a separate post…
Collaborative learning I believe is the best kind there is. It produces new ideas and makes people think and understand, “Oh, that guy has a different viewpoint than me..but I understand where he’s coming from,” which is the simple task that IB hopes to achieve.
and in a separate post…
I said almost the same things that you did, and I believe that we are already starting to learn collaboratively through this blog. It is helping us understand other people’s preferences and maybe thinking “Wow, that person and I have more in common than I thought!”.
— Judy H
Collaborative learning is extremely beneficial, as it allows students to share their thoughts and gather new ideas through communication with others. This exchange of ideas facilitates more innovative thinking, and students are able to be exposed to different points of view, resulting in the development of higher level thinking and the discovery of fresh ideas. Collaborating also establishes an air of cooperation among participants.
— Angela S
I would like collaboration to play a great role in physics, too. The mixing of thoughts from different cultures and perspectives would, all-in-all, create a very developed idea and not just a blunt response to a question from a student.
— Julia K
As for the matter of collaborative learning, I’m strongly for it. Part of IB is becoming globally aware people, and being able to share information and idea with people we wouldn’t ordinarily come into contact with. I know for Economics, we may be participating in a project to finance micro-loans for people across the globe. It’s one thing to read about that and quite another to actively participate! That probably wasn’t ‘collaborative learning’ though. I know on a smaller scale, being able to work together and share ideas can give you completely different vewpoints and perspectives than your own. And there certainly are times where I can’t understand the material in class, and a fellow student can explain it in a way I can grasp. I certainly hope that we’ll use collaborative learning during the next two years, both in and out of class!
— Ashley R
I have to admit, the idea was pretty foreign to me at first. The thought of working together all the time was so different than how we usually went through school (doing everything alone), that at first I couldn’t rap my head around the thought. However, I think it will be both an exciting opportunity as welll as a challenge, and can’t wait to see how it is implented throughout the rest of the school year.
— Cole R
Regarding the use of technology…
Almost all of my students use technology personally and welcome its use in their education. However, there are a few that consider themselves technologically illiterate. Hopefully, they will grow more comfortable with its use during our time together.
Technology is one of the most important and helpful tools. Our generation grew up with technology and we know how to use it well.
— Daniela G
Technology, much like the other techniques i like to learn by, has its own shortcomings. While the idea of both utilizing technology for our present purposes and preparing us for the adaptative world around us seems brilliant in theory, in practice, i have discovered otherwise. Almost every attempt teachers have made to use technology more in the classroom has neither made me more proficient in the subject matter or at using technology. The problem is that almost always, the program the teacher uses doesnt actually help the class, but slows us down while we just add whole new barriers to learning the material. So while I think its a great idea, I am still looking at this collab learning site with dubiety for now.
— Aaron F
Yea, I agree with your comment about how technology can at times be an encumbernace as opposed to a beneficial tool. I too have found that the times that teachers use technology, it is mostly misguided and haphazard. Maybe if the students had a say in what they would like to use the available technology for, a better understanding of concepts might be recieved?
— Akanksha J
Technology has a big impact in my life. I enjoy using it to communicate with friends and family, expressing my thoughts and ideas perhaps more openly and comfortably than in person. I often use technology to my advantage for school as well, calling, chatting, and facebooking my classmates in order to discuss any concerns about school. If I did find it difficult to ask my questions in the classroom, it is certainly easier for me to open up through the technology that I use to contact my friends and classmates, which makes up for not asking in class.
— Lily C
I agree that the use of technology definitely facilitates faster communication among people. It definitely shortens the distance that space creates, allowing many ideas to be shared within small amounts of time. I am also not very keen on asking questions in front of the class, and the ability to communicate with my peers/teachers outside of school allows me to clarify points that I did not understand during class or any unanswered questions that I had.
— Angela S
I use technology to communicate with people, to research articles posted for school, or to find out something that I’m curious about. I feel more connected to the world through internet technology by being able to know the latest news with just a few clicks. I can shop online, or talk to my friends on oovoo, or find out how to make certain recipes. The internet of all things has anything a person needs to find and is faster than looking in an actual dictionary if I were to look up a word. I take part in this virtual world almost everyday to make the tasks in my life easier.
— Farah M
Technology is a tool for our convenience, and restriction of that technology in lieu of difficult-to-navigate books and physical databases is simply silly when its access is about ten feet away. And with our brave new generation, technology is natural and not at all hard to navigate as it might be for those less inclined to do so. I could not think of a reason to not use technology in the classroom, especially with the practicality of year-long laptops and handheld iPhones and whatnot which provide calculators, conversion tools, and entertainment platforms all in one easy package. Technology is like a garden, and, yes, I dig it.
and in a separate post…
Although, on occasion, technology can hamper us (crashing and freezing and whatnot), I agree that we can use it to ease our workload just slightly, and there is no reason IB should not take a more daring approach in using it instead of placing on us the unnecessary burden of reading smeared notes under candlelight every night and the inconvenience of lugging textbooks around everywhere.
— Dmitri P
As far as technology goes, I am a true proponent. I have been in school systems that greatly encourage it and in school systems that shun such benefits. Schools that allow the constructive use of technology are certainly better equipped to teach topics.
Facebook, at least in my opinion, is truly the holy grail of internet based learning. While the quizzes are awfully informative about oneself, Facebook also serves as a means of communicating with people that you share classes with. And if you can stave off of Facebook quizzes and apps for even a few minutes, being on the site can be greatly rewarding. In fact, as I am typing this response, I’m logged on Facebook and talking to people about this idea. I think somehow incorporating the use of this website into the daily MO of physics will greatly enrich the course.
— Akanksha J
I have doubts about your facebook idea though. It’s too easy to become distracted and hard to keep up multiple conversations while remaining productive. I’d much rather a group of students meet up at the library or anywhere really, to discuss and work in person.
— Ashley R
In earnest, I’ve often found myself wishing that classes had more of a technological base. After all, most of my free time is spent interfacing with some kind of machine, and I’ve had a long time to grow accustomed to learning through it. For the most part, I’m rather excited to see the new role technology plays in learning and teaching during the IB program, though I could say I’m a little nervous about such a sudden change in how I learn.
— Cole R
I do think technology in school is a pro but I don’t think we should let it get out of hand. People ecspecially teenagers spend there whole lives on a computer and I am afraid with all this technology we will forget to interact with the people sitting right next to us who are perfectly capable of having a conversation. The one place were technology could be come a resourse in class rooms is being able to connect with people all over the world. Also this can happen at any time so your not limited to school time. Since IB is a world wide program I believe a major part is connecting with people all over the world and learning their cultures. I believe a major part of IB is to stop people from shying from debate. Since so much knowledge can be learn from others it is a pitty to waste it.
— Paige W
These students also have collaborated in the creation of a wiki on Uncertainty in Measurements. They will create a wiki page for each new topic studied. The wiki will serve as a knowledge base for my IB Physics classes. I have been very impressed with the level of collaboration I’ve seen in this project. I think my students see the value in it. The wiki can serve as another useful resource.
The students in this course are also enrolled in the Engineering program at our school. Most intend to major in science or engineering in college. Aeroscience Studies is a unique course in which students learn physics in the context of rocketry. However, once every week or so, I depart from physics and rocketry to focus on an important part of engineering design. I have discovered a PBS series on Hulu called Design: e2 (in season 2 it is called just e2). The series focuses on the “economies of being environmentally conscious.” It addresses the importance of being conscious, not only of environmental issues, but also of issues related to lifestyle, culture, location, climate, etc. These are important things that I think future designers should start thinking about today.
So, I show an episode every week or so, then ask students to reflect in a blog on what they learned from the episode (with the help of some guiding questions). They must also read others’ reflections and comment. I have been very impressed with the seriousness with which my students have treated this. It is true they welcome the break from physics, but I find them genuinely focusing on the content. Their blogs and comments are very thoughtful and show a depth of thought I was not expecting. I enjoyed reading their blogs, learning a thing or two in the process.
My own reflections…
Partly through collaboration with teachers from all over the world this summer via Twitter, I have come to understand that deep learning does not take place without the opportunity to reflect on our learning (sounds circular, I know). Simply attending a lecture or even participating in a hands-on activity are not sufficient to learn deeply. An opportunity to reflect on the lecture or activity must be given. Reflection can take many forms. The blogging/commenting cycle can be one form. Whole- or small-group face-to-face discussion is another. Even the use of a wiki can serve as a reflective endeavor. I’m sure there are many other ways to reflect (comments are welcome).
I intend to provide reflection opportunities for my students on a regular basis, certainly at the end of each major topic. The student blogs and wiki mentioned in this post have shown me that my students welcome the opportunity to put their thoughts down and to develop their ideas through interaction with their peers.
I look forward to continued collaboration between and with my students because, in the classroom there are learners and there are teachers. We are both.