What I hoped to accomplish in my own practice..
My Community Context and Classroom Practice: With the computer technology being increasingly used in my classroom I have been concerned about whether or not the use of the technology in my classes results in a deeper learning of students. Bransford pointed out that simply using computer in the classroom does not mean that it has been integrated into the curriculum as an effective tool to support learning. "Technologies do not guarantee effective learning; however, inappropriate use of technology can hinder learning." (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). Bransford states that students has wasted their time when surfing the Internet. In his Speech, the education theorist, Seymour Papert mentions that the computer is a tool. Papert says that schools can be divided into two wings: 1) those that technology as an informational medium, and 2) those that use technology as a constructional medium (doing things, making things, constructing things). Although I have been using computer technologies in my classroom for a while, I became concerned that students were just using the information they found, but they were not building an understanding of the information. How technology as an effective tool supports student learning language with deep understanding was at the heart of what I wanted to find out. The situation that I wanted to improve is to use technology not just for obtaining information, but for students to gain deep knowledge in a community of practice.
What areas I saw that needed to be improved...
I discovered that effective learning required a deep understanding. The time students spent on memorization was not sufficient for effective learning because simply memorizing vocabulary, grammar structure, and facts from textbooks or classes would not result in deep understanding. I found that some students were not able to speak the language freely about their topics, simply standing up and reciting text that was meaningless to them. In the long run, without understanding, they forgot what they learned. I became increasingly concerned that students learning was superficial.
I was also concerned that students spent a lot of time in learning the language for just getting good grades, and they did not really have the ownership of the knowledge. I wanted to help students learn for passion and get a new sense of themselves as learners - that setting a goal and working to achieve it is something valuable to them.
From what Literature Review I learned to help design the possible solutions..
1. The Importance of Learning with Deep Understanding
"In order for learners to gain insight into their learning and their understanding, frequent feedback is critical: students need to monitor their learning and actively evaluate their strategies and their current levels of understanding." (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). It is obvious that different ways of using one's time have different effects on learning. Portfolio reflection provides a means to make learning visible. This in turn becomes the bases for deeper learning. The reflection piece requires some meta cognitive work; that is, students thinking about their learning process. When talking about what assessment should look like in a project-based classroom or school, Papert contends that portfolio-based, so-called authentic assessment is very good. (Papert). Meta cognition refers to people's abilities to predict their performances on various tasks and to monitor their own levels of understanding. For example, a student may have a certain set of facts to remember, so he/she reads over the information once and thinks he/she knows it, but on the quiz cannot recall the information. The student needs to be able to look at his/her own learning and say just reading over information once is not enough to remember it. If they don't see this, do they continue to fail tests? The meta cognitive approach to teaching includes activities that focus on sense-making, self-assessment, and reflection on what worked and what needs improving. (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).
2. The Importance of Community of Practice
In describing the learning process, Moore states that "learning is a community process of transformation of participation in sociocultural activities. In this view, learning is a collaboratively and socially constructed entity, rather than an individual possession; education is an inquiry as learners interact with peers around topic, activities, or readings with the guidance of an instructor who has particular expertise in the area." Vygotsky defined a zone of proximal development (ZPD) as the distance between a learner's actual development level and the level of potential development in collaboration with more capable peers. He believed that children were able to solve problems beyond their actual development level if they were guided by someone more advanced. Wenger's ideas of community of practice shows how members of a learning community both support and challenge each other, leading to effective and relevant knowledge construction. "A person's intentions to learn are engaged and the meaning of learning is configured through the process of becoming a full participant in a sociocultural practice. This social process, includes, indeed it subsumes, the learning of knowledgeable skills". (Lave and Wenger 1991: 29).
3. The Importance of New Technology as a Learning Tool
Bransford says that "technology has great potential to enhance student achievement and teacher learning." He believes that technology can help us create an active learning environment where students not only solve problem, but also find their own problem. This is a very different way of learning from the traditional classroom learning, where students learn facts from text.
In his article, CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) for Chinese-Issues and Practice, Prof. Zhang of San Diego State University indicates that interactivity is a crucial strength of the new technology. The computer is interactive, first of all, by virtue of the fact that the user can gain control over learning and therefore becomes an active participant in the learning process. Interactivity also allows the instant feedback from the computer. The interactivity of the computer makes it especially suited for implementing learner-centered teaching methods. (Zhang. 1998).
Tapped-In is a powerful tool to create a multiuser virtual environment, in which synchronous ("live") communication on the network is used. Students can share ideas and interact with each other in an electronic environment . "Because many new technologies are interactive, it is now easier to create environments in which students can learn by doing, receiving feedback, and continually refine their understanding and build new knowledge". (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).
4. The Importance of Collaborating on Project-based Learning
When describing learning environments in which children collaborate around meaningful projects and powerful ideas, the learning theorist, Seymour Papert states that kids will work in communities of common interest on rich projects that will connect with powerful ideas. (Papert). He thinks the project allows some kids to get a new sense of themselves as learners - that learning is something valuable, that setting a goal and working to achieve it is something some kids have never seen before in their lives. If students are involved in the critical examination of their work throughout the project, more learning and better products are the result. Because projects require students to perform real tasks, the products can be performance assessments showing the degree to which the students achieved the learning goals. (Mitchell, 1995). The performance assessment provides information for decision making about what students have learned and what areas of classroom instruction need to be improved. The primary purpose is to provide feedback for improving student achievement, and classroom instruction. (Herman, 1992). Formative assessment puts Vygotsky's theory of the zone of proximal development, in which he says that one needs to be helped by more capable others, into practice.