Designing Activities for Collaboration at Classroom Scale Using Shared Technology

Kreitmayer, Stefan (2015). Designing Activities for Collaboration at Classroom Scale Using Shared Technology. PhD thesis The Open University.



Although researchers, teachers and policy makers broadly agree on the benefits of collaborative learning, there appears to be less clarity regarding how effective collaboration can be realised at classroom scale.

Research in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), simulation-based learning and related fields has produced a considerable range of applications that aim to support collaboration in classrooms. Grounded in well-established theories of how humans learn, many such applications have shown promising results within the context of small research studies. However, most of those research-driven applications never matured beyond the prototype stage and few are available today as products that schools can easily use and adopt. Many systems lack flexibility or require too much time, hardware, technical skills or other resources to be effectively implemented. Furthermore, teachers can be overwhelmed by managing large groups of students engaged in complex, computer-supported tasks.

This thesis investigates how forms of whole-classroom activity can be supported by combining shareable technologies with simulation, team play and orchestration. New designs are explored to help large groups engage and discuss at multiple scales (from pairs and small groups to the entire classroom) in ways that effectively include each student and use the teacher's limited resources efficiently. Moreover, this research aims to devise and validate a conceptual framework that can guide future design, orchestration and evaluation of such activities. Three in-situ studies were conducted to address these goals.

The first study involved the design of a climate change simulation to support a professional training course. Iterative design and video analysis resulted in the formulation of the Collaborative Learning Orchestration for Verbal Engagement and Reflection (CLOVER) framework. This framework comprises a suite of conceptual tools and recommendations that aim to help designers and teachers create, orchestrate and evaluate decision-based simulations for whole-classroom use.

Two follow-up studies were conducted to validate the usability and usefulness of CLOVER. One of them aimed to replicate the previous findings in a similar context and resulted in the design of a sustainable, whole-classroom simulation for students to discuss finance decisions. The other used CLOVER to expand an existing desktop application (a~language comprehension task for children) to classroom scale.

In sum, the three studies provide substantial empirical evidence, suggesting that CLOVER-based applications can effectively reconcile learning needs (collaboration) and technological affordances (shareable devices) with the inherent benefits and constraints of teacher-driven, co-located environments. Furthermore, the findings contribute to a better understanding of what it means to design for sustainability in this context.

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