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Pedagogy for Progress (Four Short Papers 0057, 0096, 0155, 0196)


09:00 - 10:20 on Wednesday, 7 September 2011 in 7.83
0057 Skype education: learning in partnership. Des Hewitt, Mabel-Ann Brown, Charlie Davis
0096 A model for enhancing asynchronous text-based computer-mediated communication through peer facilitation: Recommendations from an empirical study Connie SL Ng, Wing Sum Cheung, Khe Foon Hew
0155 Students as Change Agents in a Digital Age Elisabeth Dunne, Malcolm Ryan
0196 Building on MoRSE: Enhancing Learning in the field Stuart Downward, Tim Linsey
0057 Skype education: learning in partnership. Des Hewitt, Mabel-Ann Brown, Charlie Davis

Background:

Academics, learning technologists and professionals in local schools have been working closely together to develop a cost effective and sustainable technology for web-conferencing to unite learners within undergraduate initial teacher education programmes (trainee teachers in Partnership schools) and Foundation degree (teaching assistants) programmes and local primary schools. The project has been led by an emphasis on teaching and learning, rather than the technology. A further aim has been to work with technologies which are freely available to partners in this country and abroad. Skype is seen as having significant potential to sustain learning widely on a geographical basis as well as through a variety of institutional settings. Such technologies afford learners greater opportunities to create content in learning spaces which extend beyond the traditional boundaries of the physical classroom. This project explores the ways in which Skype can be used to support and enhance learning in formal contexts by widening the scope the learning experience beyond the classroom.

The Education White Paper (‘The Importance of Teaching’) published by the government in November 2010 presents a number of changes for schools, and University-based teacher education departments. There are also considerable changes to the funding structures for Universities and teacher education departments. Schools themselves have increasingly limited finance for technology enhanced learning. Accordingly cheapness, sustainability and flexibility are important considerations.

If the government is committed to the concept of ‘localism’ Skype offers opportunities for the development of local educational networks: for example, between Universities and primary schools. This paper charts the professional and practical concerns and opportunities involved in the use of Skype within a network of University and local primary schools in the Midlands.

Description of approach used:

Monthly Skype sessions have been undertaken from July 2010 – July 2011 by academics and trainee teachers at the University of Derby to pilot ways of interworking between the University and local primary schools. This has been augmented by additional sessions with students on a similar course in Germany to investigate ways of developing awareness of international issues, including awareness of other cultures.

The use of Skype has been sampled through observations and mp3 recordings of each of the sessions. Additionally quantitative surveys have been completed by approximately sixty trainee teachers and sixty teaching assistants to monitor the use of Skype and a range of other technologies in school. A growing network of ten schools has acted as a focus group earlier in 2011, to identify best practice from the point of view of schools. The details have been summarized and analysed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS OF WORK DONE

Early indications suggest that few primary schools use Skype as a tool for learning, but that those who have participated in this project have seen the benefit from the children’s point of view. Trainee teachers have commented that Skype brings the school classroom into the University classroom and therefore has made sessions more relevant and effective.

A manual of how to use Skype in the primary classroom has been developed jointly between academics, primary teachers and learning technologists to chart the possibilities for using Skype to develop the learning of trainee teachers and learners in local partnership schools. All professionals involved have reported on how this has changed the nature of teaching and learning, whatever the age of the learner.

CONCLUSION

Implementation of the technologies has been bottom-up, organic and learner-led, with some developments completely unforeseen by the project team. The Skype pedagogies have developed in a sustainable and viral way at very limited costs to the schools and Universities involved.

0096 A model for enhancing asynchronous text-based computer-mediated communication through peer facilitation: Recommendations from an empirical study Connie SL Ng, Wing Sum Cheung, Khe Foon Hew

This paper explores peer facilitation as a means to improve asynchronous text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC). CMC refers to the process by which people interact through the use of networked computers to create, exchange, and perceive information (Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell, & Haag, 1995; Romiszowski & Mason, 2004).  Although CMC technologies include both synchronous and asynchronous tools, the later especially online discussions have the added advantage of allowing communication to occur at anytime (Gunawardena & McIsaac, 2004; Lo, 2009; Romiszowski & Mason, 2004).

However, the benefits of asynchronous online discussion can only be enjoyed if students are willing to interact with each other in the first place (Ng, Cheung & Hew, 2009). Research has shown that peer facilitation improved asynchronous text-based communication among learners (Gilbert & Dabbagh, 2005; Seo, 2007). In other words, peer facilitation improves learner-learner interaction in asynchronous online discussions. However, these studies did not elaborate on the actual types of peer facilitation techniques used. This study aims to address this gap by proposing a model for encouraging learner-learner interaction in peer-facilitated asynchronous online discussions.

A case study approach was adopted. Data were collected through interviews with the participants and online discussion transcripts. Two case studies involving graduate students from two blended post-graduate courses were involved in the research. Content analysis of the online discussion transcripts and interview data was done to examine the online interaction of the participants and identify the peer facilitation techniques used in the discussions.

The findings suggest that peer facilitators could encourage learner-learner interaction in asynchronous online discussion by initiating, sustaining, and generating in-depth interaction. The first phase – initiating interaction could be achieved through the use of peer facilitation techniques such as “general invitation to contribute” and “open-ended questioning. As for the second phase – sustaining interaction, techniques such as “considering others’ viewpoints” and “showing appreciation” could be used. Finally, for the final phase – to generate in-depth interaction, the technique “challenging others’ viewpoints” could be used.

The findings will contribute to an in-depth understanding of how learner-learner interaction in asynchronous online discussions can be facilitated by students themselves.

0155 Students as Change Agents in a Digital Age Elisabeth Dunne, Malcolm Ryan

The student experience, and relationships between students, their institutions and learning, should be at the heart of the role of technology in learning and teaching in the digital age. A recent NUS/HEFCE report recommends that, ‘All institutions should have an ICT strategy … and students should be actively engaged in the process of developing that strategy’.

This session will review innovative and effective ways in which groups of highly engaged students can realistically go much further than developing strategy, by acting as change agents with regard to technology provision and utilisation, and curriculum review and regeneration. This is a powerful means of working, since many 21st century students are well-informed, aware of the potential of the technologies they use, and creative in the ways that they work. In collaboration with staff, they are fully capable of making decisions, leading agendas for change, finding solutions to problems, and acting responsibly to improve the use of technology with their peers.

Case studies from a range of institutions and sectors will illustrate how students have been taking responsibility for change in many different ways. Such ways of working go far beyond the complaints of students in the NUS/HEFCE data that many staff need additional training in technology use; students themselves take on this training role, develop resources, undertake research, strongly influence the forms of technology that are made available for learning and teaching and student support, act as peer and academic mentors and contribute to the professional development of staff. In addition, they make an effort to understand and respond to the diverse needs of their peers.

The cases illustrate a theoretical model of student engagement in bringing about change in learning and teaching and exemplify different ways in which students can be empowered to influence practice. These range from students having a voice, to being involved in feedback and making recommendations through institutional structures, to being actively involved in bringing about changes in provision through technology. To support the practical implementation of change agents in new contexts, guidelines for establishing ‘students as change agents’ initiatives will be presented, alongside discussion of the challenges, pitfalls and overall benefits and excitements of staff and students working in partnership to promote new ways of working with technology.

0196 Building on MoRSE: Enhancing Learning in the field Stuart Downward, Tim Linsey

The Mobilising Remote Student Engagement Project (Linsey et. al., 2010) was a JISC funded project jointly hosted by Kingston University and De Montfort University concluding in October 2010. The aim of the project was to develop a situated understanding of the impact of mobile and personal technologies on student practice, beyond the institution (field trips and placements). This paper focuses specifically on fieldtrips and how the findings and lessons learnt from the project have been applied to post-project Geography and environment fieldtrips. Findings from the project included:

  • Over 75% of the students reported that the use of the technologies made the fieldtrips more enjoyable and that they had a positive impact on their motivation to study, with a similar percentage agreeing or somewhat agreeing that the use of the technologies had an impact on their understanding.
  • the Importance of preparatory sessions in advance of fieldtrips that introduced approaches for using personal and mobile technologies for supporting learning activities. There was a strong indication that the students did not have an appreciation of how their personal technologies might be used.
  • Positive contribution of student mentors for supporting students, especially in terms of using personal and mobile technologies. One student reported for example that “It is less daunting [than] going up to lecturers; it is less pressurised having [to] formulated the best sort of question to approach a lecturer…”.
  • The role of technologies for enabling the collection of primary data, its processing through to its analysis and interpretation while still in the field.

The paper will report on how fieldtrip learning activities were further developed through the use of student generated support resources; the re-development of preparatory events to include realistic field activities and; the re-thinking of reflective field based blog activities. In addition the paper will report on the post-project impact on student approaches to learning, especially in terms of dissertation work, and the impact of using an additional virtual mentor. The evaluation instruments (pre and post field trip questionnaires and interviews) developed for the MoRSE project will be used for ongoing study.