Thursday, 29 March 2012

E-learning collaboration

We cannot read the tutor's minds but they have managed to show us the strengths and weanesses of collaborative tools while we have been within the collaborative experiment itself. That is quite an acheievment. My head is buzzing around with so many views that this is going to be a bit random as I an struggling to get a clear picture of the lessons.

There are problems with various collaborative tools in that they fail to actually create a fully functioning dialogue. The point of Web2.0 technologies is to make it a read-write web, but often it just becomes a different way of authoring and viewing, there is reading or writing but not both. This would not meet Laurillard's objectives in e-learning to have a dialogue as either one side or the other is speaking but there is no fusion of the discussion. This can be a problem with asynchronous discussion boards. Each person makes posts but they never build into a conversation. This is why the tutor always plays a significant role in bringing the ideas together as suggested by Gilly Salmon. There is a T-shirt that says more people have read this T-shirt than have read your blog. A blog without comments is not a conversation - it is a monologue and so there is no opportunity to develop ideas.

Most of us felt best about Skype where there is a stronger feel that you are involved in a conversation because the responses are real-time. But does this give time for reasoned response and were the discussions more than superficial? Can you construct new knowledge at that pace?

Some of the discussion boards worked well, but we had one example that failed miserably and this is an important lesson. There are many different dynamics in a group and you can never be sure that one method will work for everyone in a group and in some cases it may not work at all. Even in the second exercise when we looked at types of learner people have only partially engaged with the technology. We have commented on each others posts but there is another chance for reflection by rating posts and most of us have been too polite to enter a rating.

We also looked at Wikis. The reason why wikipedia works and why they are worried is that it depends on having a large community of editors. They might not agree but they will keep writing and rewriting and so the hope is that over time articles improve. In this case we did not have this degree of collaboration because we did not edit each others posts. It is that read-write dynamic that leads to changed perceptions and learning. Like with a blog without comments a wiki without edits is another monologue and there is little deep learning, or more significantly advancement of the ideas.

Where most of the discussions have taken place and most of the collaboration has happened is in the personal blogs through the commenting. Here we have had the most active discussions even though these are the places where we are writing something personal that is not per se intended to be collaborative. 

So how would I sum it up? Sometimes you get collaboration where you were not expecting to find it and sometimes there is little collaboration on a task you designed to stimulate it. People and especially groups of people are very difficult to plan for.

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