Although this is aimed at much older students in a different type of online community, I think that I can take some key learnings from it.
Link to Reading - pdf
Link to Source - University of Newcastle
Key points :-
- asynchronous discussions provide for student reflection time, rather than encouraging spontaneous responses - this was interesting. So instead of wanting answers straight away, this gives the students thinking time without pressure.
- Slack, Beer, Armitt & Green (2003) found that while online discussion can facilitate deep learning, that it does not happen spontaneously, and may require careful instructor mediation and support in order to develop - this is easy to do within a Google plus Community as you can have access to it at any time. This gives the teacher access to what is posted in there all the time to respond to what the students are posting. Careful questioning can happen during these interventions, not just commenting on what they post.
- In a similar study, Barret & Lally (1999) applied content analysis to discussion transcripts in order to distinguish between social, interactive, surface and deep cognitive skills and metacognitive knowledge and skills. They found some differences in the way that men and women interact in the online learning environment, but overall the participants appreciated the interactive nature of the online component of the course as it made them feel part of a community of learners - I have found this with my classes over the time that I have used Google Plus Communities. There has been very little "social" posting. They have taken the forum very seriously and used it for "work". The students have also shown their appreciation of being part of a learning community and the feeling that we are all in this together.
- Firstly, it is evident that for students to actively engage in a discussion, that the given task or topic should be sufficiently open-ended so as to encourage the expression of multiple viewpoints and opinions - this is a point that I really need to take on board if I want my students to engage in a lot more relational and extended abstract analysis of their design work. I need t post open ended practice scenarios in the community for them to work out together. They can then use these skills to analyse each other's work.
- Secondly, when the SOLO taxonomy was used to analyse the quality of student responses, it was found that more than 50% of the postings were assessed to be at the multi-structural, relational or extended abstract SOLO level, indicating that high level task oriented discussions are viable using an online learning platform - this is where I am aiming. Much more high end discussion amongst them selves. I am hoping that with the group work that I have been introducing into their NCEA project work, that this online discussion will be more comfortable and natural.