A Case Study of Social Interaction on ANGEL and Student Authoring Skills

A Case Study of Social Interaction on ANGEL and Student Authoring Skills

Ruth Xiaoqing Guo (Buffalo State College, State University of New York, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1852-7.ch046
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Abstract

This case study examined a constructivist approach to creating an interactive learning environment on ANGEL for graduate students in a course: EDC 604—Authoring for Educators. The course curriculum was designed to help students construct knowledge to develop professional Websites. However, the class time was insufficient to meet the student learning needs and course objectives. The social interaction on ANGEL provided flexible time and space for participants to discuss the issues important to them. Findings revealed that practical action research combined with social interaction shed light on important issues of professional development through reflection on practice. The constructivist approach provided an interaction of two important sets of learning conditions: Internal and external levels for student cognitive development in authoring skills. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. This study also identified issues for further research: The importance of curriculum design to meet students’ needs, the effect of digital divide, and how student attitude impacts learning.
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Literature Review

According to John Dewey (1933), education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself. Therefore, building social interaction in class should be a contributory factor for enhancing learning. Dewey believed that learning was useful only in the context of social experience. Constructivism is a critical way of building knowledge through societal practices, including schooling, reflecting, and meaning making (Wonacott, 2001). Activity theory in general, and the zone of proximal development (ZPD) specifically, initiated by Vygotsky (1934, 1978), suggest that such zones exit when a less-skilful individual or student interacts with a more-advanced person or teacher, or is stimulated by an instrument, allowing the student to fulfill the task not possible when acting on his or her own. Activity theory encourages collaboration, social practice, and critical pedagogy. Russell (1995) defined activity theory in this way: “Activity analyzes human behavior and consciousness in terms of activity systems: Goal-directed, situated, cooperative human interactions, such as a child’s attempt to reach an out-of-reach toy…a discipline, a profession, an institution, a political movement, and so on.” (pp. 54-55). Utilizing an activity theory perspective, the participants of this study extend current understandings of societal practices to include not only how constructivist approach works but also why it is effective.

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