Collaborative mLearning: A Module for Learning Secondary School Science

Article excerpt


Collaborative learning enables learning experiences to be interpreted for the construction of knowledge (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). However, the effect of computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools for collaborative learning, or collaborative mobile learning (CmL), is less explored. Studies have shown that CmL is useful for peer support in scaffolding learning (Boticki, Looi, & Wong, 2011; Timmis, 2012), generating ideas (So, Tan, & Tay, 2012), and knowledge-creation (Rogers, Connelly, Hazlewood, & Tedesco, 2010). Different CMC tools have different affordances: discussion forums (Guzdial & Turns, 2000; Slotta & Linn, 2000), wikis (Bonk, Lee, Kim, & Lin, 2009; Pifarre & Li, 2012; Zhang, Scardamalia, Lamon, Messina, & Reeve, 2007) and text messaging (Capuano, Gaeta, Miranda, & Pappacena, 2005; Timmis, 2012) have been used for learning.

CMC tools have been used for teaching science (Guzdial & Turns, 2000; Slotta & Linn, 2000). However, text messaging, and mobile devices which have been for used for learning language (Arrigo, Gentile, Taibi, Chiappone, & Tegolo, 2005; Boticki, Looi, & Wong, 2011; Capuano et al., 2005; Gerosa, Filippo, Pimentel, Fuks, & Lucena, 2010), are not used much in science instruction. A combination of two tools: text messaging with a wiki (Arrigo et al., 2004), and text messaging with a discussion forum (Gerosa, Filippo, Pimentel, Fuks, & Lucena, 2010; Rau, Gao, & Wu, 2008), has been shown to be effective for science learning. This study will investigate the combination of three tools in developing the CmL Science module.

Collaborative learning is rarely implemented in the Malaysian scenario. Teachers perceive that there is insufficient time to complete the science syllabus and allot little time for social interaction in the science classroom. Teachers emphasize the memorization of facts rather than the scientific processes (Chong, 2005). Hence this study seeks to extend previous research by investigating the use of three CMC tools for learning in the CmL environment: the wiki, discussion forum and text messaging. In addition, it will determine if CMC tools are effective for collaborative and mobile learning in science, and whether these interactions can take place out of the formal classroom environment.

Collaborative learning is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes as a result of group interactions (Johnson & Johnson, 2004). When CMC tools are employed for interactions, learning becomes mobile and hence, collaborative mobile learning (CmL) occurs; CmL allows group interactions outside the formal classroom environment and learning happens anytime, anywhere (Ally, 2004; Siraj, 2005; Siraj & Alias, 2005) and is situated in the environment (Chang, 2010; Jeng, Wu, Huang, Tan, & Yang 2010). This study is significant as it would determine whether CmL can be conducted in Malaysian schools.

The language of science

In scientific discoveries, scientists collaborate with other scientists through scientific processes (Emdin, 2010; Nielsen, 2012; Sharma & Anderson 2009). Hence, the language of science is required for discussions and collaboration.

A similar approach of discovery and collaboration should be used for science instruction in schools. Instruction should be focused on scientific methods and processes, built upon social interactions (Hogan & Fisherkeller, 2005; Sharma & Anderson, 2009). Hence, science learners need to be able to communicate socially, interact and debate issues regarding science and society, as well as use science for their personal needs. Social interactions enable learners to attempt to link the newly acquired knowledge with their existing knowledge, and be scaffolded individually (DeWitt & Siraj, 2008).

The language of science enables scientists to construct science concepts. Scientific verbal knowledge is required for planning and for sharing ideas (Ellerton, 2003; Hoyle & Stone, 2000). …