This week I read K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship by Arnesen et al, Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016 by Qing-Ke et al, and Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape by Voogt et al. These articles/chapters offered insight into the trends of research in the last two decades in relation to technology in the classroom. They offered insight into important topics such as group demographics, group size, tech and mental load, and technology and the teaching profession. The articles offer a interesting look into how educational technology is being researched, by who, and what methods they are using to do it.

Research on Technology in the Classroom:

It is suggested in the articles that there is a growing trend for technology in education and that the trend will continue to grow in the coming years. This mean that educators need to be aware of what their options are and know how to implement them. This sounds easier than it is as technologies can come and go so quickly that it can be difficult to know what will stick around and what won’t. I personally hesitate to jump on a new technology until it proves itself and finds a footing in the field. There are many reasons for this, but a large factor is prep time and school budget restraints. Ultimately, this growing trend for tech in education will require more research into education technology which means a growing need for more researchers.

One thing that struck as interesting when reading the articles is how a relatively small group of authors can have such a large impact on an area of study. As educational technology in its modern form is relatively new it is to be expected that there would be few contributors to researching in the discipline. They are assets to their area of study, but I feel the subject matter would be better served with more input from a more well-rounded group of researchers to allow the introduction of other approaches to the subject matter. This opinion is not to take away from the work researchers have done and are doing. More collaboration and sharing of different ideas and take on the subject would help broaden the research in the area.  After all, is it not the take of the authors to encourage collaborative learning?

In recent years there has been extra emphasis put on collaborative learning in education circles. This is generally a positive thing as it is realistic of most jobs and careers students will take on in adulthood. There are very few jobs where you don’t work with others in some capacity to a goal. It also allows students to socialize and work together to overcome problem or achieve a goal. The struggle most teachers run into is deciding how to best make up said groups for the best learning dynamics.

Group Demographics and Size:

Research into group lessons using tech has found that most teachers group students of similar knowledge levels in the same groups to maximize their learning potential. This allows the students to make learning progress without retreading old, already learned, territory. In my robotics classroom we group up often to take on challenges. Usually I try mix my groups levels of skill, knowledge, and learning styles despite the research focusing on otherwise. My reasoning is that a mixed group will allow the more knowledgeable students to take on a leadership role and share their knowledge with the others in the group. Also, having students with different skills and approaches is well suited to robotics as there are many roles that need to be taken on and requires many different types of skills. For example, a robotics competition requires a team to build a robot, program it, journal daily progress, and even raise funding for parts and trips. I have not met a student yet who could take on all those roles by themselves. I couldn’t do it myself either. This is where having a diverse group helps. It is unfortunate that there isn’t more research into students being grouped based on their learning styles.

Most research shows teachers usually group students into pairs or groups of 4, allowing for students to pair off. Most teachers avoid not have larger groups for fear of student redundancy, but it is suggested that technology allows for extra students to remain involved, via self learning, despite a groups size. This is under the assumption that the student is engaged to begin with. It also allows a student who is less social an easy way out of group work. I find large groups to be overwhelming and without someone taking charge of organizing, students become lost or choose to slip through the cracks.

I have found in my robotics class that when doing group work which utilizes technology that I have to have groups of preferably 4 because robots are expensive, and my budget cannot cover having one for each student or even for them to work in pairs with one robot to share. Furthermore, 4 makes a good number because it allows everyone to have a job, whether that be robot builder, programmer, leader, or documentation keeper/organizer. There is also room for those four students to do a little of all the other jobs as well, of course.

Mobile Learning and Mental Load

There is little research about mobile collaborative learning that focus’ on cognitive load and learning anxiety often attributed to subjects like mathematics. Focus is generally on sciences and social sciences where learning is generally more relaxed and freer. Although I do feel more research needs to be done in this area, I am curious if the overall cognitive load and anxieties around math, even without mobile learning, already suggests an answer. Most students are very stressed about mathematics, even without technologies involvement. Student depending, I’m not sure adding mobile tech would alleviate that.

Technology and Teaching

It is disappointing that there is little research into teacher and professional development using mobile technology. It seems backwards and perhaps a little hypocritical to not implement tech in the profession and then expect it in the classroom. There are likely a couple factors as to why this is the case. First, if the teacher and administration are not prepared to buy into such a thing then it will never happen. Last year our school introduced an app for students and teachers to use to keep track of students for a “focus block,” a class where students can go to any teacher for extra help or special lessons. Fortunately, the school embraced the app and it is now in its second year running. Meanwhile another school in the district did not so lovingly embrace the app and this year they have discontinued its use.

 

References:

Arnesen, K.T., Hveem, J., Short, C.R. West, R.E.  & Barbour, M.K.  (2019) K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship, Distance Education, 40(1), 32-53, https://DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566

Qing-Ke Fu, Q-K., & Hwang, G-J. (2018). Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016.  Computers & Education, 119, pp. 129-143, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.01.004.

Voogt, J., Knezak, G., Christensen, R., & Lai, K-W. (2018). Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape. In J. Voogt, G. Knezak, R. Christensen, & K-W, Lai (Eds.) Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, pp. 3-12. Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71054-9