A Second Look at Improving Student Interaction with Internet and Peer Review

A Second Look at Improving Student Interaction with Internet and Peer Review

Dilvan de Abreu Moreira (Stanford University, USA) and Elaine Quintino da Silva (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch171
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Abstract

In the last few years, education has been going through an important change: the introduction of information technology in the educational process. Many efforts have been conducted to realize the benefits of such technologies, such as the MIT-Media Lab One Laptop per Child initiative (MIT, 2007) in education. As a result of these efforts, there are many tools available today to produce multimedia educational material for the Web such as WebCT (WebCT, 2004). However, teachers are not sure how to use these tools to create effective models for teaching over the Internet. After a teacher puts classroom slides, schedules, and other static information on Web pages, what more can this technology offer? A possible response to this question is to use Internet technologies to promote collaborative learning. Collaborative learning (CL) is an educational strategy based on social theories in which students, joined in small groups, are responsible for the learning experience of each other (Gokhale, 1995; Panitz, 2002). In CL, the main goal of the teacher is to organize collective activities that can stimulate the development of skills such as creativity, oral expression, and critical thinking, among others. When supported by computers and Internet technologies, collaborative learning is referenced as computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). The main goal of CSCL is to use software and hardware to support and increase group work and learning. The peer review method, known by almost everyone in the academic world, when applied as an educational tool, can be considered a kind of collaborative learning activity. This article describes an educational method that uses peer review and the Internet to promote interaction among students. This method, which has been used and refined since 1997 (by the first author), has been used in different computer science courses at the ICMC-USP. Software tools, such as the WebCoM—Web Course Manager tool (Silva & Moreira, 2003)—are used to support the peer review method and to improve interaction among students. The main advantages of the peer review method and the WebCoM tool over other works in this context are that they: • Allow debate between groups (workers and reviewers) to improve interaction and social abilities among students; • Focus on the interaction among students and their social skills; • Also offer support for group activities (such as reports and assignments) without peer review. Results generated by the experience of managing classes with the WebCoM tool are also presented.
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Introduction

In the last few years, education has been going through an important change: the introduction of information technology in the educational process. Many efforts have been conducted to realize the benefits of such technologies, such as the MIT-Media Lab One Laptop per Child initiative (MIT, 2007) in education. As a result of these efforts, there are many tools available today to produce multimedia educational material for the Web such as WebCT (WebCT, 2004). However, teachers are not sure how to use these tools to create effective models for teaching over the Internet. After a teacher puts classroom slides, schedules, and other static information on Web pages, what more can this technology offer? A possible response to this question is to use Internet technologies to promote collaborative learning.

Collaborative learning (CL) is an educational strategy based on social theories in which students, joined in small groups, are responsible for the learning experience of each other (Gokhale, 1995; Panitz, 2002). In CL, the main goal of the teacher is to organize collective activities that can stimulate the development of skills such as creativity, oral expression, and critical thinking, among others. When supported by computers and Internet technologies, collaborative learning is referenced as computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). The main goal of CSCL is to use software and hardware to support and increase group work and learning. The peer review method, known by almost everyone in the academic world, when applied as an educational tool, can be considered a kind of collaborative learning activity.

This article describes an educational method that uses peer review and the Internet to promote interaction among students. This method, which has been used and refined since 1997 (by the first author), has been used in different computer science courses at the ICMC-USP. Software tools, such as the WebCoM—Web Course Manager tool (Silva & Moreira, 2003)—are used to support the peer review method and to improve interaction among students. The main advantages of the peer review method and the WebCoM tool over other works in this context are that they:

  • Allow debate between groups (workers and reviewers) to improve interaction and social abilities among students;

  • Focus on the interaction among students and their social skills;

  • Also offer support for group activities (such as reports and assignments) without peer review.

Results generated by the experience of managing classes with the WebCoM tool are also presented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Network Density: Individual-level density is the degree a respondent’s ties know one another. Network/global-level density is the number of ties in a network to the amount possible.

Structural Hole: These can be filled by connecting one or more links to link together other nodes. Structural Hole is linking to ideas of social capital, for example, if you link two people who are not linked, you can control their communication.

Social Network: A network is a social structure made of nodes, which are generally individuals or organizations. It indicates the ways in which they are connected through various social familiarities, ranging from casual acquaintance to close familial bonds. The maximum size of social networks tends to be around 150 people and the average size around 124. Social network theory views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors..

Cohesion: Cohesion measures how well the lines of source code within a module work together to provide a specific piece of functionality. It is expressed as either higher cohesion or low cohesion. The advantages of high cohesion are robustness, reliability, reusability, and understandability. The disadvantages of low cohesion are difficult to maintain, difficult to test, difficult to reuse, and difficult to understand.

Closeness: The shortest distance between each individual and every other person in the network. The people who have the shortest paths have the best visibility into what is happening in the network.

Network Integration: This measures a group dispersion or how network links focus on a specific nodes.

Reach: The manner which any member of a network can reach other members of the network.

Network Shape: The shape of the social network helps determine a network’s usefulness to its individuals. Smaller, tighter networks can be less useful to their members than networks with lots of loose connections to individuals outside the main network.

Structural Equivalence: The extent to which nodes have a common set of linkages to other nodes in the system. The nodes do not need to have any linkages with each other to be structurally equivalent.

Degree: The amount of ties to other points in the network. It measures network activity for a node by using the concept of degrees.

Radiality: The degree in which a person’s network reaches out into the network and provides new information and influence.

Betweeness: Measures the extent to which a particular point lies “between” the various other points in the graph. It is the most complex of the measures of point centrality to calculate. It is the number of people who a person is connected to indirectly through their direct links.

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