Technology: A Tool for Creating Collaborative Learning Environments

Technology: A Tool for Creating Collaborative Learning Environments

Rita Gravina (The Bishop Strachan School, Canada) and Helena Pereira-Raso (The Bishop Strachan School, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1936-4.ch007


Collaboration is an important aspect of how our world functions today and an element at the core of rich learning opportunities. The role of educational institutions is one that provides provoking settings so that learning is deep and sustained well beyond the classroom walls. Learners are currently in a paradigm where they are able to learn at all hours of the day; they are no longer in a framework where learning is exclusive to a classroom. Teachers and students at The Bishop Strachan School are exploring this through the various uses of teaching and learning strategies and enriching these strategies with Web 2.0 applications. This chapter will present early explorations in the school with Wiki pages, social networking tools, such as NINGs, interactive timelines, and real-time applications, such as Google apps. Each of the cases provides an authentic learning experience for students and moves the student’s work out into the world.
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Building A Culture Of Powerful Learning

According to Duffy and Jonassen (1992), “the information age and the technological capabilities have caused us to re-conceptualize the learning process and to design new instructional approaches” (p. ix). They further notes that “[b]oth the learning process and the instructional approaches are consistent with the constructivist epistemology” (p. ix). From an educational perspective, constructivism stresses that learners have a different function than what has been associated with traditional objective learning, where technology, if it did exist, was no more than a conveyor of information. In this new framework, the learner becomes a designer and constructor of their own knowledge “using technology as tools for analyzing the world, accessing information, interpreting and organizing their personal knowledge, [and] representing what they know to others” (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992, p. x). The only environment in which this could be possible is one based on constructivist principles. These principles are deeply rooted in cognitive and epistemological theories. Hence, in order to understand the practical implications of technology integration in a constructivist framework, an overview of epistemology as it pertains to this idea is necessary. The underlying reason for this is that “our epistemological views dictate our pedagogic views” (Hein, 1991).

The epistemological debate has existed as far back as antiquity. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle have argued over the nature of knowledge. Their debate has revolved around key questions like whether or not there is such a thing as universal truth or knowledge, as Plato believed, or whether the individual creates it. Is there such thing as knowledge out there, independent of the knower or is there only knowledge that we construct for ourselves as we experience it? If it is the latter, then there is no objective knowledge and thus knowledge becomes attributed to experience. Educational thinkers including John Dewey and Jean Piaget shared similar views. Their ideas of education as an active process have led to thinkers like Jerome Bruner and Lev Vygotsky to coin the educational term constructivism. Central to the philosophy of constructivism is Dewey’s idea that learning is a social activity which involves interaction with others, reflection, and experience (Dewey, 1966). Dewey (1966) states “education is not an affair of ‘telling’ and being told, but an active and constructive process” (p. 61). Piaget’s cognitive theory of learning is also very significant to the idea of constructivism. According to Piaget (1969), the fundamental basis of learning was discovery. In this collaborative environment, students construct their understanding of themselves and what they know in relation to their experiences and interactions.

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