This year’s research continues the theme of collaborative learning, which was also the focus of last year’s research report, and examines some of the challenges that the Dissolving Boundaries programme is presenting to participating teachers and pupils.The report links academic research into collaborative practice to the work being carried out in Dissolving Boundaries. Evidence from academic literature shows that there are positive relationships between ICT use and improvement in classroom learning. Dissolving Boundaries research shows that the use of ICT facilitates collaborative practices and is changing teaching and learning approaches in many classrooms.- II -Key factors in promoting collaborative learning between schools included:• Re-arranging the physical environment in classrooms;• The careful organisation of groups, including managing group dynamics;• Detailed and flexible planning of tasks, including setting specific aims for each group.A number of different learning styles were adopted by teachers to promote collaborative learning, ranging from those who delegated extensively at one of end of the spectrum to those who were much more directive at the other. A minority found collaborative learning a challenge to their normal practice.Many teachers confirmed that they had adapted their teaching style to accommodate greater pupil collaboration because of the noticeable benefits to pupils that they observed.3 Impact of new technologiesMoodle is a free and open source e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System (CMS), or Learning Management Systems (LMS), or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Moodle was introduced to teachers in Dissolving Boundaries for the first time in 2006. During 2007-08, 90% of all Dissolving Boundaries schools made use of Moodle. All these schools made use of both the teacher and pupil forums for discussion. Some special schools did not use this Virtual Learning Environment, as keyboard tasks proved too challenging. These schools rely more on videoconferencing and face to face interaction.Wikis are a more recent vehicle for collaboration used by Dissolving Boundaries schools. Wikis are a type of web based collaborative tool often referred to collectively as Web 2.0. 75% of the teachers have used these collaborative ‘wikis’ for sharing information about the topics the pupils have- III -been researching; this is a significant increase compared to 2006-7 when only 50% did so. When wikis were used this encouraged a stronger sense of collaboration and teamwork amongst pupils.Of the teachers who used ‘wikis’ during 2007-08, there has been an increase of 77% in those whose work reached the most sophisticated levels of collaborative learning, compared to the previous year.New technologies have the greatest impact when pupils also meet face to face; 66% of schools arranged face to face visits and these frequently acted as a stimulus for further on-line interaction.The absence of video-conferencing facilities in 2007-8 was noted as a significant loss by teachers, particularly in primary and special schools. The successful piloting of ‘Marratech’ videoconferencing software by C2k in Northern Ireland in 2007-8 will lead to the re-introduction of video-conferencing to all schools in 2008-9.Teachers frequently mentioned the enthusiasm that was generated by the use of the Dissolving Boundaries programme’s technology, which was seen to be very different from other schoolwork they were engaged in. The pupils were seen to take ownership of their work within the projects and they often worked over and beyond the levels that were expected and required.
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- Collaborative learning schools
- Northern Ireland Republic of Ireland