This blog has some posts in portuguese that make sense to be written in portugese and not in English. My excuses to all my friends or readers who cannot read Portuguese, but nevertheless there is always very good translators in the web and I am sure you will not be dissappointed with my decison of making a Blog bilingual.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Why Social interaction and Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) are important issues on my research?

This question pops up on my mind very often and I must give a coherent answer in order to put behind my back any doubts for their importance.

First of all one’s must agree our society is changing drastically and we cannot put aside the technology impact, out of our schools . In fact in one hand, many teachers are already experienced, with their classes, the social web usage, namely creating Foruns, Wikis, or even personal blogs to improve their learning activities. On the other hand many institutions have their learning platforms, based on Moodle or Blackboard for instances, and many school teachers’ are using it, with interesting results.

Going a step further some technological solutions, namely Wise or Co-Lab, based on inquiry learning environments provides interesting solutions for CAL, or Computer Assisted Learning. Moreover the scripting usage in, for instances the COLLAGE IMS-LD tool from U. Valladolid- Spain, or the concept grid script with patterns referenced recently by Dillenbourg, P, from EPFL-Swiss, shows to us, again interesting approaches to CAL.

But I feel something is lacking because I still believe all these systems and others fail in one or another point.

If we consider the chats usage, with say the AIM or MSN, we feel these tools are interesting, though they are not often used for collaborative learning activities. Myself, as a teacher, I have experienced with my students that on a one-to-one basis the chat is very useful to get closer the teacher to the student, but when I use it as a room place, well the group effect rules, and any learning activity is very difficult to happen. Of course there are other times the chat rooms work just fine.

The differences between synchronous and asynchronous social tools, say for instances chats and forums are huge, but I am more interested on the first ones. I think the spontaneous of online systems are very interesting. I compare it to my real classes. Even with a detailed planning, we never know how the class will evolve before hand. That’s what I think is magic in giving classes and helping students with their learning.

Therefore how can we use synchronous environments to improve the learning activities even outside the class?

It was not on purpose I reached the end of my answer with another question. At least I clarified my ideas, and you must agree that social interactions with CAL are definitively important issues for a learning environment. Now I have another dilemma, for using a synchronously collaborative learning tool in an effective manner. Of course the outcome of it can be placed afterwards on a Forun, but the time condition, of having everybody present at the same time and motivating the students and at the same time focusing in the learning activities are real difficulties. Well I will continue later on ….