Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview

one student has free-time access from home, and one at a time from school. In both cases, however, the students who do use MOOSE Crossing during their free time have developed expertise and enthusiasm which has benefited the whole class.


Free-Form Versus Structured Activity

At California Public, the joint class project helped to structure the class' activity, facilitate collaboration among students, and sustain the group's interest over time. The students have developed a positive interdependence, learning in a collaborative fashion and Johnson 1994). The group project scaffolded the learning experience ( Guzdial 1994). The children had time to work on self-selected projects, in addition to working on their part of the class project. The teacher has established an effective compromise between free-form and structured activity.

At Massachusetts Public, the children's freedom to engage in any computer activity made their participation in MOOSE Crossing authentically motivated. Enthusiasm for choosing MOOSE over other computer activities grew over the course of the year. Their freedom to chose or reject this activity made their involvement with it more rewarding.

Children at Minnesota Public had neither the advantage of added structure or of real freedom. Some of the students seemed bored, and had neither the option to try another activity nor a shared project to guide them. This may be a contributing factor behind why they seemed less enthusiastic about the activity than the other classes.


Atmosphere

Towards the end of the first MOOSE Crossing session at California Public, Mrs. Jay exclaimed to the class, "This is chaos!" One of the students replied, "but it's magical chaos." Mrs. Jay and the other students concurred. In a looser sense, "magical chaos" might describe the atmosphere at California Public in general. We noted in particular that the school's culture allows the children more physical movement than the children are allowed at other schools we visited. Children there are rarely asked to form lines. During computer class, the children frequently get up to ask other students questions or offer assistance. The cultural permission to move around enhances collaboration.

In contrast, movement is discouraged at the other schools we visited. When the faculty sponsor at Minnesota Public observes the students getting up to talk to one another more towards the end of the session, he interpreted this as restlessness and lack of engagement with the activity. Similarly, when a student at Massachusetts Public stood for a few minutes watching over one of her classmate's shoulders, she was admonished not to waste her computer time, and ushered over to an empty workstation. Teachers of these classes acknowledge the importance of collaborative learning, but the school atmosphere is strongly influenced by the tradition of individual seatwork.


Conclusion

CSCL environments can help to foster and support collaborative learning in schools. However, our observations indicate that a computer-supported cooperative learning tool can not on its own cause a fundamental cultural shift. Factors that affect the success of MOOSE Crossing in the classrooms we observed include the accessibility of computers, school atmosphere, and teacher attitudes towards collaborative learning. Results of this study are being used to develop a set of practical suggestions to be distributed to teachers interested in introducing MOOSE Crossing to their classes. As Kolodner and Guzdial have noted, "Although it's not clear if CSCL prompts changes in school structure or if changes from traditional school structure are needed for CSCL to succeed, it is clear that the two must at least be developed hand in hand" Guzdial 1996).


Acknowledgments

Rick Borovoy and Mitchel Resnick gave helpful comments on drafts of this paper. The authors would also like to thank the teachers and students who have participated in the MOOSE Crossing project.

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