Situating this post: I am on a flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo, listening to Astor Piazzolla.
The CSCL 2011 conference (see 2 below for a brief description of CSCL) was fantastic, with tech luminaries for keynote speakers (Erik Duval, Roy Pea, and Ed Chi, now a research scientist at Google) and an overwhelming array of presentations at a very high level of research that really boggled my mind.
One interesting part of this particular conference is that presenters were told to make a 5 or 10 minute presentation (depending on whether it was a short paper presentation or a long paper) and then we all broke up into smaller groups to talk with whichever presenter had caught our interest the most. This put a lot of pressure on the presenters as presentations delivered in the usual type of conference are usually 30 or 40 minutes long (in my experience), so presenters had to really compact their description and their findings into a tiny slot. But the collaboration afterwards was fantastic! In fact, I think it benefits the presenters themselves at least as much as the participants, as they got so much feedback (mostly positive, but some constructive negative feedback too) on their research.
In a typical conference, there might be a few questions after a presentation, but little actual dialogue, and I’ve often seen Q&A sessions where the question asked was not really answered by the presenter. In our collaborative discussions, topics of interest were discussed in depth, and I have to say that although I wish the presentations themselves could have been longer (they really were squashed 3), this represents a new and very participatory way for researchers to engage in dialogue. I learned at least as much from the collaborative after-sessions as I did from the presentations. So this heightened my awareness of the importance of collaboration in learning, which can be done in both online and f2f environments. My own personal experience in collaboration has been minimal. This needs to change (I’m working on ideas on how to change it).
This brings up the point that we as teachers need to be involved in collaboration before we can understand the value of collaboration and share it with our students. In a recent study by Austin, Smyth, Rickard, Quirk-Bolt & Metcalf (2010), researchers found that the level of engagement of teachers in collaborative learning had a positive effect on the success of collaboration of their students. This is very important! The less engaged in collaboration the teacher was, the less successful was the collaboration of her students. Therefore if we hope to reap the benefits of collaborative learning for our students, we had better get collaborating ourselves! An interesting parallel is with technology. It seems likely that the better our own personal experiences with technology are, the more likely we will be to use them in class successfully. So let’s get playing with a variety of technologies, and let’s get collaborating! Let’s collaborate on our learning experiences with technology! 🙂
Austin, R., Smyth, J., Rickard, A., Quirk-Bolt, N., & Metcalfe, N. (2010). Collaborative digital learning in schools: teacher perception and effectiveness. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 19(3), 327-343.
1 I read recently that the use of images helps us to better internalize and retain information so I am going to be using images in posts whenever possible. In the physical version of Wired (July, 2011), I read, “When information is presented verbally, a person will retain about 10% of the message 3 days later; add a picture and retention soars to 65% (John Medina, cited by Carmine Gallo, p. 108). I wonder what the retention rate for written text is?
3 All papers were given to us in pdf format on a flash drive on the first day of the conference, so even with the very short presentation time, we could get the whole paper that very evening if we wanted to (this was also a huge improvement over waiting for months for the proceedings to eventually be published.)