Collaborative learning is an activity that takes place between a teacher and a learner, between learner and learner, and sometimes, one would hope, between learner and teacher. The free flow of ideas between the various parties can be inhibited by a variety of factors, including perceived or actual power barriers, language skills, previous learning experience, and personal factors such as shyness or dominance. Technology can be used as a way of overcoming, or reducing, some of these inhibitory factors, and this chapter outlines some of the computer-based technologies that can be used. The use of technology to support distant learners is well documented, and this chapter concentrates instead on the less well-reported use of technology in the face-to-face classroom. The chapter opens with a brief consideration of collaborative learning and then focuses on the technologies that can be used to support collaborative learning process in a variety of time and place settings. These technologies include audience response systems, electronic meeting systems, and more recently, and rapidly developing, blended versions of these technologies.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Asynchronous: Communication that takes place where participants communication responses are separated in time. The participants may be at the same place or at different places.
F2F: Face-to-face, (same time, same place) a communication setting where participants are located in the same room and can use of traditional human communication settings as well as being able to make full use of electronic support systems.
Audience Response Systems (ARS): (Also known as classroom voting systems, personal response systems, electronic voting systems, classroom performance system, classroom communication systems) Systems that provide each participant with a handheld input device through which they can communicate anonymously with software that aggregates all participant response data and displays the results on a public screen for subsequent discussion. At their simplest they may only offer numeric keys, but are increasingly making use of a variety of input devices that can provide text and graphics input.
Synchronous: Communication that takes place between participants at the same moment in time. Participants may be at the same place or at different places.
Electronic Meeting Systems (EMS): (Also known as group support systems, group decision support systems, group process support systems) Systems that provide participants with a powerful tool set that can be accessed via a full keyboard. Numeric and textual input is captured and displayed on a public screen for subsequent discussion. Systems typically cater for a small number of participants but the adoption of portable devices that offer numeric, textual, and graphic input is making their use with larger groups possible.