Technology Enhanced Learning

Carrie Heeter
Michigan State University
Department of Telecommunication


      2.6 e-Collaboration

      Exploring the web is usually a solitary user experience, void of other human presence even if 100,000 other people are concurrently reading the same web page. Browsing doesn't need to be solitary. Online learning, e-commerce, public relations, and museum/collection sites would all benefit from integrating e-collaboration in different ways.

      This paper has discussed adding live human presence/resource person/guides to libraries, museums and other online learning sites. Expert annotation, commentary and other third party metadata have also been suggested. Middleware for children to be able to explore the web together, in teams, with the teacher being able to observe all of the groups and join them periodically would probably enhance classroom use of the web.

      Email was the first collaborative killer app made possible by the Internet. Newsgroups and Listserves connect strangers with common interests, as do text and graphical chat rooms. Instant Messaging is the latest online collaboration tool to achieve widespread adoption, connecting family, friends and co-workers. A variety of other new software tools are being introduced for messaging, co-browsing, screen sharing and other new forms of collaboration. The Michigan State University Comm Tech Lab has catalogued existing ecollaboration tools and is experimenting with ecollaboration for K-12 learning. ( Few of the new tools have been widely adopted so far.

      TAPPED IN, created by the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI, is an example specialized online collegial community of more than 5000 K-16 teachers, staff and researchers engaged in professional development. Members hold real-time discussions and classes, browse the web together, explore options, and interact asynchronously. ( Community and communication are incredible resources. But the cohort of individuals in a community needs to be carefully chosen and kept to manageable levels to ensure quality interactions. What is the optimal number and makeup of a collaborating group? What new tools might enhance collaboration?

      We have only begun to realize the potential connectivity possible in a networked world. Parents, teachers, scientists, community leaders, friends, reporters anyone can participate in a learning experience, particularly if it is online. Kozma and Shank [6] in their vision for twenty-first century education predict a model where schools, homes, the workplace, libraries, museums, and social services integrate education into the fabric of the community. Children learn to solve problems, work with others to develop plans, broker consensus, communicate ideas, seek and accept criticism, and generate joint projects. Connectivity and collaboration tools are needed to enable this shift.


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