Flexible Collaboration for Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) Classrooms
“Learning efficacy” lies at the heart of the model in Singapore’s school educational context. Such learning efficacy can be measured in traditional ways in terms of school assessment and examination results and in non-traditional ways like engagement, motivation and attitudes in classroom learning and participation, as well as transformed participation in a community of learners (Ng, Looi & Chen, 2008). Our teachers’ (and students’) views of the learning efficacy of various modes of classroom interaction both condition their choices of interaction and are conditioned by their experience (Looi & Chen, 2008). Taken together, these views, choices, and confirming experiences inform the traditional pattern of classroom discourse in Singapore schools.
Traditional patterns of classroom discourse have evolved over long time, with the most typical pattern of classroom interaction being the IRE (initiation-response-evaluation) pattern which has been shown to account for a possible 70% of teacher-student classroom interactions (Mehan, 1979; Nassaji & Wells, 2000; Wells, 1999). In the IRE, a teacher initiation (I) is followed by a student reply (R), followed by an evaluation of this reply (E) by the teacher. IRE has been criticized for leading to unrewarding and boring classroom discussions. Most of the epistemic agency rests on the teacher: a student’s primary, active, role is to respond.
Our challenge has been to explore new choices of classroom discourse, choices that, on the one hand, do not directly challenge teachers’ views of learning efficacy but, on the other hand, hold promise for the less traditional measures of learning efficacy. In recent years, some researchers sought to design interactive technologies to support students’ active classroom participation by harnessing the collective intelligence inherent in the classroom. One of the technologies is GroupScribbles (GS 2.0), co-developed by SRI International and National Institute of Education of Singapore, which enables collaborative generation, collection and aggregation of ideas through a shared space based upon individual effort and social sharing of notes in graphical and textual form (SRI International, 2006; see also http://gs.lsl.nie.edu.sg). GS was designed to support students’ practices of a collection of important 21st Century skills, which we term Rapid Collaborative Knowledge Building (RCKB). RCKB seeks to harness the collective intelligence of groups in rapid cycles of collaborative activities to learn faster, envision new possibilities, and reveal latent knowledge. Its techniques include problem identification, brainstorming, prioritizing, concept mapping, and action planning (DiGiano, Tatar, & Kireyev, 2006).
The notion of KB in RCKB shares the characteristics of democratized participation as a learning community and idea refinement with the notion of Knowledge Building (KB) as exemplified by the use of Knowledge Forum Scarmadamalia & Bereiter, 1996). In particular, the latter’s explication of KB principles for design and assessment is a motivation and inspiration of the search of similar principles that can support knowledge building in a face-to-face classroom session.
In this project, we have articulated the RCKB principles for designing and evaluating lessons and activities that tap on the affordances of GS. Over a period of 2 years, guided by our design principles framework, we have co-designed and implemented more than a hundred lessons in mathematics, science and Chinese language learning (as learning second language) with school teachers. This design research has helped to refine our understanding of the RCKB principles.
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