CEP 811: Foundations of Learning – Collaborative Learning Environments

Week 3 began by watching a powerful video about closing the digital gap called Reimagining Learning. Richard Culatta’s Ted Talk discussed the ways in which most teachers (myself included) use technology by only digitizing what they had used prior to incorporating technology (i.e. lectures put into a PowerPoint presentation). Instead Culatta explains that teachers should reimagine learning and challenge their students to use technology to create something that could have never been done before.

In my classroom my students often share technology resources that are available, working with a partner and in groups to complete assignments. So when I was asked to research articles about a specific topic, I decided to focus on collaborative problem solving with the use of technology.

The first article I read was Framework design to develop the collaborative problem-solving skills. In this article Gu, Chen, Zhu and Lin developed a study to teach students proper problem solving skills using collaborative groups and ICT.  The authors mentioned that, “grouping students together does not automatically create collaboration…students have not yet developed effective communication, cooperation and problem solving skills” (Gu et al., p. 144). Their study lasted 8 weeks, as two third-grade classes were observed. During these weeks they implemented an intervention in order for students to gain collaboration skills using “scaffolding in the forms of tutoring or expert modelling…[including] preparation activities, structured tables, prompts, mind mapping templates, and Wikispaces” (Gu et al., p. 146,148). The study concluded that with proper interventions students can create a successful collaborative learning environment to solve creative problems and it is important to teach students proper collaboration skills in order for those interactions to be meaningful.

The second article I read, Retooling Chinese primary school teachers to use technology creatively to promote innovation and problem solving skills in science classrooms, focused on a study preparing elementary teachers to implement technology effectively in order to promote collaborative learning environments in their classrooms. Lee, Chalmers, Vinesh, Yeh and Nason created the Socio-constructivist conceptual model,” and this model includes, “four thinking and problem solving phases: Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue” (p. 186). 100 primary school teachers in China took part in a Professional Learning Program (PLP) to learn and apply these methods. According to Lee et al., an effective PLP includes:

1. Having a clear image of effective classroom learning and teaching
2. Integrating with the school’s educational system
3. Developing teachers’ conceptual knowledge, practical skills, and pedagogical content knowledge to broaden their teaching approaches
4. Preparing and supporting teachers to serve in leadership roles
5. Building a learning community of teachers
6. Using instructional methods that mirror the methods to be used with students
7. Opportunities for teachers to try out developing concepts by making applications in their classrooms (p.184)

At the end of the study one of the teachers stated, “First we need to learn ourselves just like being a student and then and only then can we be better teachers who teach these students to be active learners (Lee et al., p. 200). The study concluded that the learning community made very significant gains in all areas of teaching and learning.

While reading these articles, including Constructivism written by Angela M. O’Donnell, the main theme was teaching students how to become collaborative problem solvers and not just a group sitting around a table. I feel that once students can become active learners, technology can be incorporated to solve problems. This is where a teacher can close the digital gap. When students become effective collaborators, they begin to use their creativity and technology in a way they have never used it before with the help of their peers. To me this is what the maker movement is all about…creativity, technology, collaboration, repurposing, and problem-solving. I feel that both articles spoke to the maker movement because collaboration is key whether it be face to face or digitally.

Now how can I apply this to my classroom? I feel that many of my students already have many of the collaborating skills that the articles mentioned. I think that I need to modify my pedagogy in order to allow more opportunities for open-ended, collaborative problem-solving. This week I will be designing a lesson plan and I will focus on that! Stay tuned!


Culatta, R. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

Gu, X., Chen, S., Zhu, W., & Lin, L. (2015). An intervention framework designed to develop the collaborative problem-solving skills of primary school students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 63(1), 143-159. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11423-014-9365-2

Lee, K., Chalmers, C., Vinesh, C., Yeh, A., & Nason, R. (2014). Retooling chinese primary school teachers to use technology creatively to promote innovation and problem solving skills in science classrooms. The Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 33(2), 181-208. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1517959837?accountid=12598

O’Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003


One thought on “CEP 811: Foundations of Learning – Collaborative Learning Environments

  1. I really like the way the articles you choose came together to compliment one another. There are far too many school leaders that want students to be collaborating, yet don’t model that collaboration within meetings or staff development. I’m guilty of that myself, and it’s nice to find a simple reminder in your words that I should be pushing myself more as well as those around me!


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