Teaching Chemistry in a Social Learning Environment: Facing Drivers and Barriers

Article, Preprint English OPEN
Castro, Cornelia ; Andrade, Antonio (2012)
  • Publisher: ICERI
  • Subject: chemistry | education | engagement | 97C70 | student-generated content | social learning environment | Computer Science - Other Computer Science | web 2.0 | cognitive tools | F.2.2
    acm: ComputingMilieux_COMPUTERSANDEDUCATION

The Portuguese Technological Plan for Education (TPE) was established to modernize schools and to consolidate the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in order to promote the academic success of students and allow schools to be transformed into technological enhanced environments through a significant learning and knowledge building in a participatory, collaborative and sharing logic. With this work we aimed to establish dynamical interactions students-content-teacher in order to overcome a diagnosed students’ lack of effort towards studying curriculum chemistry content. Our methodology design is a non experimental and descriptive one, carried out in a secondary school during a whole school year, in order to answer the question “How to improve the engagement of K-12 students in chemistry classes?”. Students, gathered in small groups, were asked to create digital learning resources (DLR) during classes. The teacher assumed the role of the supervisor, coacher and facilitator of every task that had to be taken or chosen by the students. To enhance interaction student-student and student-teacher, a Twitter account and a Ning community were created for the class. Both supported the Social Learning Environment (SLE) that was intended to be created. The data collected – DLR created, participation of each student in the Ning community, teacher observations and students’ opinions – led us to satisfactory results in what concerns the goals of this exploratory study. We based our research in the following facts: i) the development of a technological basis in education is a social demand and therefore its adoption in a systemic way is no longer a matter of choice; ii) our “digital native” students have different learning styles not considered by traditional instructional practices; iii) SLE promotes and supports collaborative learning through the use of student-created content; iv) involving innovative pedagogical approaches opens up opportunities to engage students in creative learning and can possibly help bridge gaps between innovative and conventional pedagogical approaches and v) the use of well-structured technology, in certain contexts, may have a significant and positive effect on students’ achievements. SLE has been shaped by experience and this study is about that: web 2.0 tools, social media and student-generated content were used to answer to a combination of curriculum very specific skills and the needs and desires of the students. The affordances and constraints of SLE as an open architecture that has potential to facilitate collaborative learning are delineated. The methodology followed out allowed an interaction from many to many and an increased students’ engagement in the proposed tasks. SLE developed ICT skills and established itself as a cognitive tool: students accessed information about learning content and turned it into knowledge. The results seem to demonstrate that TPE, by allowing the ubiquity of computers in schools, let students to be more engaged in working and came out to be a facilitator for integrating ICT in the curriculum. Our findings are important for the Portuguese teachers who still withstand, before these “Net Generation” students, to experimenting pedagogical approaches that integrate ICT into real teaching contexts which is now an imperative cause. Future work should focus on mechanisms that allow assessment both of the methodology used and the students’ generated content in order to improve students’ learning in this environment.
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