The role of educational software as a support for teaching and learning conversations.
Computers and Education, 43(1-2) pp. 179–191.
Much recent educational research focuses on teaching and learning within classroom conversations. This raises the question of the role of ICT as a support for such conversations. The central argument of this paper is that the dual nature of computers, as machines (objects) which can be made to act as if they were people (subjects), allows them to play a potentially distinctive and valuable role within educational conversations. This role is to resource and, at the same time, to frame and direct, learning conversations amongst small groups of children. Evidence in support of this argument is provided through the findings of an empirical study. In the study preparation for group work at computers was combined with the use of principles for the selection and design of software in order to develop educational activities to support discussion within the science and maths curricula over one year. One hundred and nineteen children aged between nine and ten participated in the study. The evaluation included video-recording, transcript analysis and a matching control group who covered the same areas of the curriculum without the intervention. The qualitative findings show learning occurring in the talk of the children working around computers and the quantitative findings suggest that this approach can produce significant learning gains within the normal curriculum.
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