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5.3 HOW COULD TECHNOLOGY HELP

Introduction

 
The key findings from the learning sciences imply that the most effective learning environments will have the following characteristics: Customised learning (Each student receives a customised learning experience.),  Availability of diverse knowledge sources (Learners can acquire knowledge whenever they need it from a variety of sources: books, web sites, and experts around the globe.) and Collaborative group learning (Students learn together as they work collaboratively on authentic, inquiry-oriented projects.) (Sawyer, 2008, 9-10). In general it can be said that when selected educational tools will support the existence of any of these characteristics they have some scientific ground as tools that enhance learning.
 
It’s obvious that for example collaborative learning can be applied with most of the tools (Prezi, Bubbl.us, search engines like Google Scholar etc.) we present in this chapter as according to pedagogical models and teacher direction presented in chapter 5.2 (The Structure of the "Ethics in education" Course) major amount of lecture activities are based on collaboration.
 
On the paragraph 5.3.1 we mention some main activities during the course and link them in an overall level to proposed tools. In a paragraph 5.3.2 we describe proposed tools in a more detailed way.
 

5.3.1 Tools type for the proposed teaching method

 

  1. topics discussion: With this activity we mean all the general communication that has to be taken care of during the course. It includes topics like schedule, assignments, classrooms, information about sudden changes to the plan, students questions and proposals to teacher etc. For this activity a  convenient environment is called Learning Management System (LMS). This type of tool helps teachers and students to communicate in a shared environment with many features that support them.
  1. collaboration: This activity shall be executed with the most of the tools. Examples of such tools are YouTube, Prezi, Bubbl.us. and blogging tools like WikiSpaces or Wordpress.
  1. searching of information: Students are encouraged to use various knowledge sources. Proposed software based knowledge sources include Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.fi/), Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/) and electronic databases like ERIC (http://www.eric.ed.gov/).
  1. creation of the outcomes: For this students could need a tool that helps them to collect and present outcomes in a detailed way combining together either text or other media (images, videos, graphs...). We suggest a tool that belongs under wiki category.
  1. presentation: This task often means creation of slides that show some important outcome. To let students and teachers reduce the wasted time preparing a presentation, we want to suggest a tool that has a good trade-off between return and complexity.
  1. Personal study: For this part students can use any tool they find helpful. The idea is that students shall create their own personal learning environment (PLE).

5.3.2 Proposed Tools

 

5.3.2.1 LMS 

 

Good tools that support discussion and learning strategies lay under the category of Learning Management Systems (LMS). There are plenty of these softwares and it is not easy to know  which one could be better for discussing about ethics. Selection of them has to do with the matter of the taste as well. We suggest two softwares that are easy to use, highly configurable and free.

 

Moodle (http://moodle.com/): is a free e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System, Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). With Moodle teacher can give assignments, create discussion forums (useful for the introduction of the course), managing grades, quiz, news and calendar. This tool offers also instant messaging and a wiki for collaborative text composing.

5.3.2.2 Edu 2.0 (http://www.edu20.org/):

 

One main difference between Edu 2.0 and Moodle is that the former doesn’t require any installation or maintenance since it resides entirely on the web. It offers the same functionalities as Moodle and it has a plugin for Skype so people can collaborate with voice/video calls.

 

5.3.2.3 Bubbl.us (https://bubbl.us/)

 

For mindmaps creation and brainstorming session we suggest a straightforward tool called Bubbl.us. Its’ strength is the fact it’s an online tool that doesn’t require installation or tweakings. Thus, it could be really helpful when students need a fast solution for write down ideas in a collaborative way into a shared environment that can be accessed also to a later time.

Usage of mindmaps can be linked at least to two learning strategies: organisational and elaborative. With organisational strategy student simply classifies, groups and categorises information. With elaborative strategy student forms an understandable view about the subject she/he is studying by combing former knowledge and experiences with the subject and by creating a viewpoint to it that has a practical value to her/him (Järvelä, Häkkinen, Lehtinen, 2006, 36). Learning strategies are linked to self regulated learning theory. Pintrich (2000, 454) has presented a framework of self-regulation where cognition is seen as one area of self-regulation. The idea of self-regulation is that the learner is able to plan/activate, monitor, control and reflect different areas like cognition. The better the learner is able to process different areas the better she/he is able to achieve learning results according to self-regulation theory. Thus, it can be argued that the usage of mindmaps can support learning. Learning strategies and self-regulated learning theories don’t necessarily require the usage of software based mindmaps like the one provided by Bubbl.us but of course they can be used in addition to traditional paper and pen style. One benefit of software based mindmaps compared to old fashion paper and pen way is that they can be shared more easily between students. Finally, as Selwyn (2011, p. 25) says “Perhaps the most frequently discussed benefit of digital technology use is its’ role in supporting and enhancing learners’ cognitive processes and thinking skills.” it can be concluded that the usage of any mindmap and brainstorming tool is really in the core of what educational tools can offer to any leaner.

 

5.3.2.4 Prezi (http://prezi.com/)

 

For preparing and giving presentation we suggest using Prezi. This is presentation software and storytelling tool for exploring and sharing ideas on a virtual canvas. We find it as a good tool that can be used by the teacher to make the point of presentation stronger and the link between the different parts more visible, feature that can help students see the connections that can be tough to realise in ethics. Also students can use this tool to present their opinions on topics that were previously discussed.  

Sample presentation given in Prezi can be seen below.

5.3.2.5 Blogging Tools

 

When there is a need for students to reflect (write some paper, article or any other document) on what they have learnt in a collaborative manner, a tool like Wikispaces can be quite handy. Students can create and edit pages and their content from different computers and locations at different times.

There is also  a special category of the tool that is adjusted specifically for educational use. In the category there are teacher and student roles that can be portrayed. Teachers can create classes and students can search them.

Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012, 5) refer to study by Harrison that pointed out that blogging helped students direct their own learning, increased engagement in course material, and promoted the development of informal learning communities. Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012, 5) also refer to study by Churchill that shows how blogging can make students feel that they are an important part of the classroom and that their needs and opinions matter. So, as Wikispaces (like e.g. Wordpress) can be used as a blogging tool, it can be considered as a tool that supports better learning according to research.

Introduction video for Wikispaces is given below.

5.3.2.6 YouTube (www.youtube.com)



YouTube can be used to show ethics in education related videos.

Even though conceptual change seems to be a long process it can be fostered by using technology that helps students to become more aware of their preconception about the subject and compare their own thinking and reasoning to other students’ views in a collaborative discussion. This seems to be especially efficient within students of relatively equal age (Järvelä, Häkkinen, Lehtinen, 2006, 36).

It can be argued that YouTube videos fulfill the aforementioned technological part. Thus, making the students to think for example what are the deeper reasons for indifference in access to university between people from different socio-economic backgrounds and then showing them related YouTube videos and letting them to discuss about it is assumed to support the conceptual change and enhances learning.

5.3.2.7 Search Engines



Teacher proposes following search engines Google Scholar, (http://scholar.google.fi/), Mendeley (http://www.mendeley.com/) and ERIC (http://www.eric.ed.gov/). Students can of course use any other search methods and tools, if they find them appropriate.

A couple of rationales behind the usage of search engines are following. Firstly, they may direct students to use various knowledge sources as found material can point to several sources like scientific articles, books, relevant study projects by other students etc. This goal is in line with the latest learning science implications as they emphasise the importance of diverse knowledge sources (Sawyer, 2008, 7). Secondly, as students use search engines e.g. when they create material for drama plays they have to think themselves what is the relevant material and especially what is the ethics related problem or issue they try to handle by drama pedagogy. It’s clear that the teacher might have more deeper understanding about ethics related issues and she might be capable to do more deep analysis based on found articles. However, as she lets the students to create their own understanding about the found material she applies principles of building to students’ prior knowledge, helps students to solve problems and supports their thinking. All these three principles have been listed as important details that enhance learning (Sawyer, 2008).

5.3.2.7 PLE


The teacher encourages students to use web 2.0 based tools like blog and wiki creation tools (e.g. Wordpress and WikiSpaces). In addition to mentioned tools a lot of others can be used to create and modify content on learning space. Here are few examples: YouTube (video presentations), Flickr (photo sharing), RSS-feed (connects data streams between tools), Google Hangout (video meeting), MindMeister (mind map creation tool), Facebook (social networking service), Diigo (used to pick up and share a specific sentence from a any source) etc. Of course students aren’t limited to tools proposed by their teacher, but they can select any other appropriate tool they like.

As PLE allows students to direct their own learning and pursue their own educational goals, it can be seen as learner-centric (Educause, 2009).

Being learner-centric environment PLE seems to support principles that are highlighted by learning science research (e.g. customised learning: students learn based on their ability and interest, diverse knowledge sources: teacher isn’t the only source of information) (Sawyer, 2008, 7) so it obviously is an environment that can support deeper understanding about ethics in education.

Usage of PLE helps students to create and present their study results, share their ideas and collaborate with other students and teacher. Thus, only collaboration part of the PLE points out that it supports learning (Sawyer, 2008).

According to Järvelä’s presentation  (slide 11) ”Learning scientists have discovered that deep learning is more likely to occur in complex social and technological environments.” (Brandsford et al. 2000). It seems clear that PLE environment proposed by teacher offers complex social and technological environments when students use various tools and really collaborate with each other within their studies and thus PLE supports their learning.

Video below gives an overview about PLE based on Web 2.0 tools.

5.3.3 Sources

 

Dabbagh, N. & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning.


Educause. (2009). 7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments. [online referenced 18.11.2012], available: http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-personal-learning-environments


Järvelä S. (2012) Introduction to technology enhanced learning. [online referenced 18.11.2012], available: http://www.slideshare.net/LEToulu/introduction-to-teljarvela


Järvelä, Häkkinen, Lehtinen (toim.) (2006) Oppimisen teoria ja teknologian opetuskäyttö


Pintrich, R. P. (2000) The Role of Goal Orientation in Self-Regulated Learning. In M. Boekaerts, P.R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation (Chap 14). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.


Sawyer, R, K. (2008). Optimising Learning: Implications of Learning Sciences Research.


Selwyn, O. (2011) Education and Technology Key Issues and Debates

 

Discuss & brainstorm