2: A SOLUTION?

Following a constructivist framework it may be possible to develop active and ongoing student learning through “constructive doing and reflective discussion in groups” (Silverman 1995: 89). While this can be completed during face-to-face forums it is difficult to maintain momentum outside the classroom. Garrison et al. (2001: 11) suggested that a “community of Inquiry” (COI) could be created by allowing  ‘learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse in a critical community of inquiry”. As well as occurring during tutorials/ lectures), blended learning methods enable learning to be solidified in the “private world” through continued “discourse” and “reflection” (e.g. Garrison figure). It is suggested that Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), whereby students are encouraged or required to work together on problem-solving or learning tasks can be a particularly strong method of facilitating long-term learning. A further benefit of this approach is it reinstating the student as custodian of their own ideas/ knowledge and provides “an authoring environment that permits students to express what they learn from the point of view, and in the medium, that emphasizes their own strengths” (Silverman 1995: 89).

Following Bloom (et al. 1956) taxonomy this active learning would be expected to Generate higher order skills such as “evaluation”.  This was recently confirmed by Smith and Burke (2007: 38) who provide a number of convincing case studies of active, online learning as part of archaeology classes.

So what is required?

In order to capture resources arising from the tutes it is necessary to develop an online forum that is a repository for a variety of data sets but also facilitates moderated student discussion. In line with the social constructivist framework it is also important the students can modify their own work and potentially also the work of others.

Two methods that align with these requirements are blogs and wikis (http://iteachu.uaf.edu/grow-skills/choosing-the-best-technology/). Bates and Poole (2003) suggest that decisions depend on consideration of a number of criteria. This includes ease of use, cost, learning, organisational support, speed and interaction with material to create an active learning environment. With this in mind I believe the Wikis would fit my tutorials well. The ANU Wattle system is currently incompatible with blogs. It is late in the semester and so ease and speed implementing a new system is a very real consideration. Also, institutional support exists for Wiki as opposed to the other systems. In terms of teaching and learning I believe that this fits my structuralist approach because (unlike blogs) Wikis allow a negotiation of knowledge (i.e. pages can be edited and updated). A Wiki (as opposed to a blog) would allow students to follow up each tutorial by uploading PDFs, photos, publications, posters and comments about their individual archaeologists. Others would then be able to comment on these presentations and indeed correct any errors that they found during their own research. A Wiki (contra blog) provides a collaborative platform so that students can work on their assessments together. Any misconceptions occurring during this process can be spotted by the coordinator (or students) early improving the final assessment. In short, in keeping with a system developed by the University of Deliware (2008; http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww…) this would enable a “living course website”, which allows courses to develop organically through student contributions.

Further considerations

It is clear that any use of online applications would have to be thought out in some detail before being implemented. Firstly, it is necessary to see whether this benefits student learning (or just confuses the situation). A message that has been reiterated in this module is that technology should not drive curriculum (e.g. Khoo et al. 2009; Redmond 2011). It is important to identify whether or not these new methods can fit/ enhance existing learning outcomes. Secondly, it will be necessary to have a very good understanding of the introduced technology which can then be passed on to students in training workshops/ discussions.

I think that it is clear that I would need to look into privacy issues about using social media. I think it is clear that assessment can not be taught using these online systems. It is important that the university has access to these grades and that we are not put in a situation where work is lost. A question about the back up policy for these systems must also be raised. Discussions with member of ANU IT have put my mind at rest. Materials will not be lost should a wiki be used. They advise that before students use this facility they need to understand the ANU policy for use of Web 2.0 : anup_000784 and have been trained about how these forums can be used and why they are important.

 

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