16 SES 09 B, Collaboration and Identity Construction in Digital Environments
This study investigates how students in China and Finland can learn 21st century competencies in terms of joint knowledge creation, collaboration and sharing through digital storytelling. Although the need for future competencies is recognised, schools are not well-prepared to teach these competencies. Säljö (2010) asserts that information and communication technology (ICT) transforms our concepts of what learning entails. Learning is an increasingly active knowledge-constructing process, occurring through interactions among learners. According to Jenkins et al. (2009), digital storytelling (DST) is a 21st century learning mode. In the present study, we investigated how DST can promote students’ active joint knowledge creation through their production of videos on math-related topics. Students worked collaboratively during all project phases in two different cultural contexts, in China and Finland. In earlier school-related studies (Niemi & Multisilta, 2016; Penttilä, Kallunki, Niemi, & Multisilta, 2016), we found that DST has strong motivational power, with students learning important 21st century competencies while designing and shooting videos together. Video products are artefacts that challenge users to learn more, step outside their earlier proximal zone of learning and enter a higher plane. Socio-cultural theories have been attributed to Vygotsky's (1978) thinking. We assumed that students in this study, working in groups to tell their stories with mobile videos, participated in social activities that led to learning. Roy Pea and his Stanford University research groups stressed the importance of media-sharing environments in which user-generated content constitutes the core of learner engagement (Lewis, Pea, & Rosen, 2010; Pea & Lindgren, 2008), i.e., students learned from collaboration.
In this study, we focus on four areas of 21st century competencies based on the Global Sharing Pedagogy (GSP) concept. The GSP framework has sorted 21st century competencies into four categories: (1) learner-driven knowledge and skills creation (including problem solving), (2) collaboration, (3) networking (including sharing and learning from others, and (4) digital media competencies and literacy (Niemi et al., 2014; Multisilta et al., 2017). These categories have been very important to students’ engagement and motivation. In technological environments, learners are both content producers and consumers. When creating videos, they must think about not only which relevant content to include, but also the most effective way to teach peers through their videos. They must assess critically and validate the knowledge they find. When they share their videos with peers, they provide feedback on their peers’ videos. This method requires that students work together (Hull et al., 2009; Pea & Lindgren, 2008; Rogoff, 1990; Wells, 1999). Students learn competencies beyond purely cognitive ones, particularly for collaboration and sharing. Networking is a social mediator that uses synergy from each person’s expertise. In distributed cognitions and interactions with different artefacts, students contribute their skills while enhancing their learning and competencies. These processes are mutually constitutive (Jenkins et al., 2009).The GSP model expands collaboration in a working context to widen social-knowledge inquiry and sharing.
The research questions focus on students and teachers’ experiences:
- What are students’ perceptions of how DST promotes 21st century competencies in terms of collaboration and sharing?
- How does DST support students’ engagement when working in collaborative projects?
- What are teachers’ perceptions on using DST as pedagogical method?
The DST method was implemented for math learning in four Chinese (n =130) and two Finnish classes (n=47) with 10- and 11-year-old students in 2016.The study design included quantitative and qualitative research methods. Students in all classes completed pre-questionnaires with background information. After every lesson or working session, students assessed their DST experiences through structured questionnaires based on categories of GSP. After the project, students assessed how DST influenced their learning. Questions focused on joint knowledge creation, collaboration and sharing and also how engaged students were during the project. The researchers visited the schools, observed proceedings, and interviewed teachers, student teachers and a Chinese principal after the project Each class had its own schedule, and the project was integrated into math lessons during normal school days. All teachers agreed that the common theme would be related to geometry, i.e., how to measure and calculate surface area and how to apply this knowledge in everyday life. They also agreed that they would use DST as a student-driven method, and that students would produce math learning videos. Teachers did not teach content to students directly, but they led students to the theme. All work occurred in groups and they created videos of geometry and its application to teach peers. Each group then presented and shared their videos with other groups. They also provided feedback on each other’s videos. In this way, students practiced peer teaching and acted as “experts” themselves. The Finnish and Chinese educational systems are very different. Finnish schools have much more freedom to develop curricula and use student-driven methods. Chinese schools follow a national curriculum, and teaching is more teacher-centred. However, the study’s intervention had a common goal in both countries: to support students’ active collaborative learning.
The daily assessments indicated that in the Chinese classrooms, the DST project was very successful. The means of the lessons varied, mainly between nine and 10 (the scale 1-10). In the Finnish classes, values were moderate (between 7 and 8). Standard deviations varied between 2.13 – 3.40 in Finnish data and .33 – 4.10 in Chinese data. In both countries, students valued collaboration very highly. The daily reports gave also evidence on high engagement. The engagement as defined in terms of commitment to hard work and enjoyment of learning. We can conclude that students worked very hard, they have enjoyed with DST and they had learned essential 21st century competencies, especially collaboration. The final assessment confirmed what was found in daily measurements. In the post test, Chinese students’ values varied in 21st competences and engagement between 8.93 (SD = 2.7) and 9.62 (SD = 1.28). The Finnish values are systematically lower in the range of means (M = 6.56-7.68, SD = 3.41 - 2.58). The differences are statistically significant in all values. In both countries, students said they learned new knowledge and also "How to bring my own thoughts and ideas into a common group project". The collaboration and learning from peers were very important to them. All teachers emphasized the value of students’ knowledge creation. Teachers stressed the value of collaboration in DST. However, one teacher detected tensions in collaboration and it forced teachers and students to find a solution to the problem. Teachers also considered that sharing culture was important for enhancing learning. Teachers also said that when students presented their videos to other groups, they were very proud of them. The interviews also revealed how teachers’ roles are changing. One teacher said DST needs hard work from all involved parties.
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