Posts tagged ‘collaboration’
Really interesting finding! I suspect, though, that the collaboration had a lot to do with the floundering being successful. It seems to me that floundering is going to require greater cognitive effort, and thus, greater motivation/engagement to persevere. I also wonder about the complexity of the task. I have seen pairs of students flounder at a Java program and (seemingly) not learn much from the effort.
With one group of students, the teacher provided strong “scaffolding” — instructional support — and feedback. With the teacher’s help, these pupils were able to find the answers to their set of problems. Meanwhile, a second group was directed to solve the same problems by collaborating with one another, absent any prompts from their instructor. These students weren’t able to complete the problems correctly. But in the course of trying to do so, they generated a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and about what potential solutions would look like. And when the two groups were tested on what they’d learned, the second group “significantly outperformed” the first.
Using Wikis for undergraduate courses was invented at Georgia Tech. We started in 1997, long before Wikipedia. Ward Cunningham talks about our work in his book “The Wiki Way.” Our paper on how we designed the Swiki (or CoWeb) at CSCW 2000 is, I believe, the earliest reference to wikis in the ACM Digital Library. Jochen “Jeff” Rick built the Swiki software that we use today, and he did his dissertation on his extensions to Swiki.
We published a technical report in 2000 about the varied uses of Swikis that we saw around Georgia Tech’s campus. Some classes were having students create a public case library. Others were have cross-semester discussions between current and past students. Others had public galleries of student work.
All of that ended yesterday.
Georgia Tech’s interpretation of FERPA is that protected information includes the fact that a student is enrolled at all. The folks at GT responsible for oversight of FERPA realized that a student’s name in a website that references a course is evidence of enrollment. Yesterday, in one stroke, every Swiki ever used for a course was removed. None of those uses I described can continue. For example, you can’t have cross-semester discussions or public galleries, because students in one semester of a course can’t know the identities of other students who had taken the course previously.
Seymour Papert coined the term constructionism to describe a setting for constructivism to occur.
Constructionism–the N word as opposed to the V word–shares constructivism’s connotation of learning as “building knowledge structures” irrespective of the circumstances of the learning. It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe.
Constructionism relies on the fact that the entity being constructed is public. The public nature influences the student’s motivation for doing it and doing it well. If it’s not public, it’s not constructionism. We can no longer have students construct public entities on the Web anymore for education at Georgia Tech. It may be that FERPA demands that no school can use the Web to post student work publicly.
I am proud of the Georgia Tech College of Computing administration of the undergraduate program this morning. In the new PCWorld article on cheating in computer science classes, Cedric Stallworth, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Enrollment sets the right tone.
The article isn’t great — it starts out with a false claim that CS undergraduates are at an all time high (they’re up, but not at 2000/2001 levels). Then the article has quotes from several instructors at top CS departments:
… says the introductory computer science courses require students to code their own programs, while higher-level courses allow for more teamwork. “We want them to learn the mechanics first, and then open up the world of collaboration,” he adds.
That’s exactly backwards, according to the cognitive science. You start out with motivating circumstances and low cognitive load practice, and then move on to more complex activities. Pair programming is one of the most successful techniques for improving learning and engagement in CS1!
The article goes on to point out that industry wants more collaboration, and Georgia Tech is trying to encourage more collaboration and more learning:
“In the real world, people write code in teams where they are given pieces of a project to work on,” Foote says. “The academic world should be mapping onto the real world…They shouldn’t be handing out assignments where people are coding on their own.”
To encourage collaboration, Georgia Tech changed its approach to cheating in its introductory computer science courses in 2007….”Students sign a collaboration agreement,” explains Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean for Undergraduate Enrollment at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “We realize that computing is one of the subjects that is best learned in a group. If students are using somebody else’s code and are learning from it, that’s all right.”
To ensure that the students are mastering the material, Georgia Tech requires them to give an oral demonstration of how their software works for one of their teaching assistants. ”We worry less about catching cheaters. We worry more about properly assessing the student’s skill set,” Stallworth says.