Hi Shankar and all
The following are some reactions to and reflections on what Shankar raised in his response to my article for consideration in EJOLTS.
I am awaiting comments from another reviewer and will resubmit my paper when I have had time to consider his thoughts also.
Shankar you took a lot of time with my paper. These are my responses:
Shankar wrote 1. Page 2 Section 1.2. para 1 - Why was the 'social rationale' not considered relevant to your context ? You have mentioned social aspects of software and learning at many places in the paper.
Donalâ€™s response There are many rationales for the use of ICT and Hawkridge et al (1990) would have written about the social rationale as demystifying the importance of computers in school. I remember discussing this very aspect with one of the participants in my Masterâ€™s class, Teresa Hennessy and how we came to the conclusion that technology was now ubiquitous for many young people and that demystification was not as relevant in the early 21st century.
In the original article I say â€śTwo rationales are particularly relevant to my contextâ€ť. That does not dismiss other rationales as such. Perhaps â€especiallyâ€™ rather than â€particularlyâ€™?
Shankar wrote 2. Page 5 Section 1.6. Why have you singled out 'Moodle'? Could this not have been done with any collaborative learning system? Are there any specific characteristics of Moodle that helped you achieve your outcomes? Or was Moodle picked as it was the software platform used by your school?
Donalâ€™s response Good point â€“ Moodle was the online environment in Dublin City Uunversity and the one DCU served to school for me during my studies. Moodle subsequently was the online environment, we decided for use in Portmarnock Community School.
I will answer this question when redrafting. I have also used Fronter and examined StudyWiz and BlackBoard. Personally I philosophically like the idea of Open Source Software (such as Moodle) â€“ its development links to my value of collaboration.
I will include a number of sentences on my rationale for using Moodle when I come to redrafting the article.
Shankar wrote 3.Page 6 Section 2.1 Last para - The term 'dialogue' has a specific meaning and process. Did you use the dialogue process online? I have been exposed to 'dialogue' sessions face-to-face and am curious to know whether you used a specific process in your forum discussions that rendered it to be a dialogue rather than a series of on-line conversations?
There was a challenge in moving from â€a series of online conversationsâ€™ to â€dialogueâ€™ â€“ I understood dialogue in the context of cognitive presence as explained in 2.1.1, paragraph two.
Hatton and Smith (1995) offered a framework that allowed me to examine the online conversations or dialogue â€“ and try to understand if dialogue was taking place â€“ this evolved over the course of the research. Levels Three and Four of Hatton and Smiths framework (dialogic reflection and critical reflection) were reflected in some of the online forums. I will link some of these forums to the article in order to clarify what I say.
Shankar wrote Page 7 Section 2.1.1 This is more of a comment than a question. Recently there has been a great deal of interest in assessing student to prepare them for life mainly in higher education.
See 'Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term' edited by David Boud and Nancy Falchikov published by Routledge in 2007. Professor Ronald Barnett also talks about becoming a 'critical being' in his book. Do you think that we should be preparing students to be 'critical beings'? Should our assessments be focused on teaching life skills? You may like to explore this in your PhD.
Donalâ€™s response Boud is certainly on the reading list! It is so important that we give students the opportunity and space to be critical. The Irish Leaving Certificate calls on students to be critical. It asks that students be able to look at controversial issues from more than one point of view and that students learn that their own judgements â€śbe subjected to the most searching analysis and criticismâ€ť
...Thanks for those references.
Shankar wrote Page 8 Sec 2.2 Why does Lumby conclude that the need for working collaboratively is particularly relevant to the 21st century? Hasn't this movement been evolving fo some time?
Donalâ€™s response absolutely agree with you â€“ an unnecessary/irrelevant reference - will delete.
Shankar wrote Page 10 Sec 2.3 Para 1 'Society of equals' in what way? In knowledge or thinking? The term equals could have multiple meanings.
Donalâ€™s response â€“ Shankarâ€™s your observation here is challenging - Perhaps what I might say is
â€śI began by examining what I believe is the purpose of education, namely, a democratic activity conducted by students and teachers who think critically together, for the purpose of creating a just societyâ€ť.
This would reflect a piece I wrote in my Masterâ€™s dissertation
Chomsky (1994), in writing about John Dewey, says that for most of his (Deweyâ€™s) life, he believed that educational reforms could bring about social change. Chomsky develops this theme using Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s idea of people choosing to become a society of democrats or aristocrats. The only option for humanity is the society of democrats, where people identify with each other as they look after the public interest together. The aristocrats however draw power into the hands of the few.
Shankar wrote Page 11 Sec 3.2 I think it may be useful to point out that there were three cycles in your action plan. Were they deliberately planned as three cycles or did they evolve as you started reflecting on your learning? If not at Sec 3.2 they could be mentioned at the start of section 4.2. on page 14.
Donalâ€™s response â€“ the cycles were not deliberately planned but they evolved over the period of the research. I will do as you recommend in relation to mentioning the three cycles in Section 4.2. My concern was to encourage online dialogue.
Shankar wrote Page 16 Section 4.2 Para 1 - Were the students allowed to post anonymously? Did this give them more freedom to express their opinions?
Donalâ€™s response â€“ No there was no anonymity â€“ there were a lot of things happening in my history class in Portmarnock that could not be mentioned in a relatively short article or even in my dissertation. I donâ€™t mean â€could notâ€™ in the sense that they are excluded â€“ I am talking word-count and keeping to the point.
Irish students at the time (2005-2007) were hugely engaged in Social Networking and a sub-text of what I did was to promote some understanding of an educational use of skills they had acquitted in Facebook, Bebo or wherever. As I think through your question I think they found greater freedom of expression through the online environment than in the traditional class. Some students who would reluctantly have spoken in class (if â€forcedâ€™) were happy to contribute online.
Shankar wrote Page 16 Section 4.2. Para 2 - What made you realise that you were becoming more responsive to to your own learning? Was this based on your reflections in your journal? Do you think it would be good to include a quote here from your journal?
OK â€“ Yes - I should have included â€“ I will incorporate this quotation from my dissertation into the article and further link to online dialogues
As I started to post contributions to the discussion forums and then receive responses from fellow participants and former students in the MSc class, deep personal learning began to occur, as the power of the forums began to emerge. Not alone was I discussing, for example, an educational theory with fellow teachers but also with trainers from the public service, who deal with clients from a variety of social background, or with nurses bringing their particular healthcare perspective to the debate.
Shankar wrote Page 18 Section 4.3 Last but one para - Similar question to the last one? How did you conclude that some crtical thinking was taking place?
Yes â€“ I will include relevant evidence
Shankar wrote Page 19 Section 4.4 Last para - Evidence of student learning to support your claim.
OK â€“ I can link to a thread from one of the forums
Shankar wrote Page 20 Section 4.5 First para - What different ways did you use technology besides the discussion forums?
I will list these: in the main it was through the online learning platform - through it we embedded videos, had the occasional online quiz, wrote a Wiki, searched with Google, created a websiteâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦
Shankar wrote Page 20- Section 4.6 You mention a few people besides your supervisor? Were these your co-researchers? Or were the students your co-researchers? This is not very clear. Perhaps this is my ignorance of the use of action research in education. My experience of AR is mainly in organizations where the people affected by the problem become co-researchers.
I would understand these people more as part of a process of validation, reassurance and critique â€“ critical-friends and/or members of validation groups - many of us were new to action research and to a self study of our practice.
I did not engage formally with the students as co-researchers but we did informally learn a huge amount from each other. I had an interesting email from Denise (the girl in the article photo) this very week â€“ she wrote in relation to her using Moodle as a First Year University student
About knowing how to use moodle before hand- yeah it was real handy knowing how to use it for example one of the subjects I'm doing is geography and there is alot of online quizzes and without knowing it, i had found is so much easier then other students to manage. Being used to something important such as moodle in college that practically the whole year were new to gave me an advantage and made it easier to adapt to 3rd level. :)
Now for my big question:
Shankar wrote I go back to your research question where you ask how can you use technology (in the form of a collaborative learning environment) to improve your practice and encourage your pupils to think critically? My question is how did technology make a difference in helping students to think critically? Could what you achieved, through Moodle, not be achieved in a face-to face situation in a class room? What difference did technology make besides being a convenient and interesting tool to use? Would students be motivated to express their opinions more freely when they are not in the presence of a teacher?
Yes â€“ In an online environment the students also have time to think, to lurk (read others responses), to edit. They also do this in their own time (usually late at night).
It also helped the students to re-engage with history as a subject and brought newness to the way they engage with a class subject. This was the first time anything like this was done in Portmarnock Community School.
The dialogue was very important â€“ I will include link to some examples of these in the revised article to help the reader understand how technology made a difference in helping students to think critically.