Raise Your Hands or Hands-On? the Role of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning in Stimulating Intercreativity in Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Young people, at least within Western societies, have been widely referred to as digital natives, for whom digital technologies such as computers, the Internet and mobile phones are natural, self-evident and ever-present (Bauwens et al., 2009; Livingstone, 2002a; 2002b; Livingstone & Bober, 2005). Many have pointed to the increasing diffusion and availability of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the lives of many teenagers, whereas others have emphasized their appropriation practices and signification processes (Bauwens et al., 2009; Livingstone et al., 2010; Mediappro, 2006; Ofcom, 2006). The ways in which young people engage with media and ICT have been described and analyzed in various ways. The result is a plethora of concepts, often referring to a "collaborative" dimension of interacting with both peers and content: "remixing," "self-publication," "role-playing," "collective intelligence," to name only a few (Jenkins, 2006; Parker, 2010). As a consequence, a growing body of scholars has, not entirely uncontested, called for substantial educational reforms responding to the ICT skills and practices of these generations (Bennett, Maton & Kervin, 2008). However, one finds that ICT (e.g., personal computers, cameras) that have been put in place in classrooms still tend to promote a rather traditional, ex-cathedra, teaching approach. This paper explores the opportunities of multi-touch technology as a more interactive and collaborative technology that applies a hands-on, learner-centered and bottom-up learning approach. By drawing on own data, gathered via two multi-method qualitative research designs conducted in Flanders (the Northern region of Belgium), we aim to address the following question: How does the adoption of touch interfaces, influences teaching and learning processes in classrooms and what are the implications for teaching models (traditional versus more interactive models)?

Context and literature review

The discontinuity between young people's ICT practices and the increasingly growing advocacy for educational reforms on the one hand and the available technologies implemented in classrooms on the other hand is at the heart of this article. By drawing on a multi-disciplinary body of literature, i.e., joining the fields of media and communication studies, sociology and learning sciences, we aim to lay a thorough foundation to discuss own research findings gathered in Flanders on the opportunities and pitfalls of interactive, collaborative and learner-centered tools in education. After sketching the broad, conceptual framework of this article, based on theories of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), we will concentrate on the Flemish context and elaborate on a number of key factors influencing and characterizing the educational use of ICT in Flanders, i.e., the widespread diffusion and appropriation of ICT amongst teenagers in Flanders and the educational policy and floor situation with regards to ICT penetration.

Creativity, collaboration and intercreativity in computer-supported collaborative learning

Cultural studies scholars and critical media educationalists, and educational (policy) professionals, cultural institutions and industries (e.g., public services broadcasters, museums) share the idea that a creative use of ICT and digital technologies is vital to the development of young people, both as cultural citizens and as cultural consumers (Burgess, 2006; Goodman, MacCallum-Stewart & Munsell, 2009). Creativity enables them to use ICT "to their own advantage, and to the advantage of a more informed and more equally empowered digital, and real world community" (Goodman, MacCallum-Stewart & Munsell, 2009). Although this notion of an enlarged and empowering creativity for young people dates back to the pre-Internet era (Willis, 1990) it is clear that its appeal has grown significantly with the rise of an Internet that is built on participation, collaboration and user-generated content, i. …