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

Christina did very well in this level. She asked me to write the expressions on her task card as she said them outloud to speed up the process.

Nami K., 05/23/94

Finally, there are numerous documented cases of how participation in collaborative game playing can result in learning outcomes. Children develop basic skills (reading, writing, typing), acquire new facts and problem solving strategies.

It was great playing this game with Matt because I could tell that he was learning from our interaction. Like I said, eventually he could match the clue to the picture on his own. <...> Sometimes in the game, you would run across the same clue or you would end up taking a picture of a robot that you already had a picture of -- Matt would remember which pictures he had and he would also remember listening to the clue from before.

Nami K., 05/24/94


Conclusions

The analyses in this paper have two broad implications for the field of CSCL. First, successful learning is promoted when it occurs within authentic activities, i.e., when learners attain meaningful goals and are intellectually and emotionally engaged in the tasks they carry out. In this paper we attempted at demonstrating that this idea, which is currently widely accepted within the CSCL community, applies not only to individual activities but to collective activities, as well. In other words, educational benefits of collaboration critically depend on the degree to which learners are involved in their collective activity. Putting children and adults together is a necessary but not sufficient condition of genuine collaboration. Therefore, creating environments for Computer Supported Collaborative Learning should include evaluation and support of authentic collective activities. Second, our study indicates a number of factors which should be taken into consideration when setting up environments for collaborative learning. They include:


Meeting a diversity of interests.

People participate in collective activities for a variety of reasons. If collaboration is arranged so that it can accommodate a diversity of individual interests, more people can find it attractive (or the same people can find it more attractive).

Meaningful outcomes of collaboration.

If collaboration cannot help people to reach new goals, that is, if by acting alone they can achieve the same (or better) results, children are less inclined to cooperate, or can even find cooperation a nuisance. So, collective activities should be arranged so that learners can attain goals which are difficult or impossible to reach alone.


Choice.

Genuine collaborative learning rarely takes place when people are forced to collaborate and should follow pre-specified procedures. Positive outcomes of collaboration are usually observed under conditions that ensure that participants take responsibility for their contribution. Therefore, it is important that CSCL systems provide a possibility for the participants to make choices.


Time.

Team identities take time to develop. It is a complex process in which emerging identity, improving performance, and smoother coordination mutually influence each other. Therefore, CSCL settings should allow enough time for development of authentic collective activities.


Initial success.

Our data indicates that initial success can greatly facilitate collaboration, while initial failures often result in a lack of interest in the collaborative endeavor.


Shared emotions.

As mentioned before, authentic collaboration is often associated with strong emotions shared by the participants. A possibility for learners to share their emotions seems to be an important factor of the development of "collective subjects". Since in the Fifth Dimension collaboration is of the "same place/ same time" type, it is easy to express and share emotions there. However, in other types of collaborative environments (e.g., distance learning) limited possibilities for expressing and sharing emotions can be an obstacle for genuine collaboration.12


Constructive conflicts.

Genuine collaboration does not mean that participants should always agree to each other. Data from the Fifth Dimension documents a number of cases where conflicts played a constructive role and resulted in

____________________
12
The main problem is not that people do not express their emotions in computer-mediated communication (cf. the phenomenon of "flaming"). However, such emotions can easily be misunderstood, which negatively influences experiencing shared emotions.

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