Theoretical Rationale
  • Abstract
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Authors

  • Abstract

        This document describes the concept of collaboration on the World Wide Web (Web), including conceptual, theoretical, pedagogical, and practical issues involved in using the Web for collaborative activities and projects. The Web offers many opportunities for teachers and students to collaborate on projects in all subject matters and at all grade levels. Social interaction, which is the basis for much of what is learned in school and elsewhere, is also the concept underlying collaborative learning. Through participation in social interaction, students learn subject matter, communication skills, critical thinking, and language.
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        To collaborate means to share work, literally, to "co-labor," and this idea of sharing work relates to both tasks and products. This means that whenever possible, learning tasks should be divided up amoungst group members so that they share the work equally. Collaboration is really about sharing - ideas, writing, thinking, and the activities required to produce the finished product. Collaboration is also about distributing the work amongst members of a team, such that everyone has a part and everyone helps make the project successful.

        Much has been written about collaboration related to learning, and a variety of terms have been used to describe such classroom activities. These include: collaborative learning, cooperative learning, group learning, peer teaching and learning, reciprocal learning, and teamwork. There have also been many attempts to incorporate the ideas behind collaboration into classroom learning tasks, from people like Slavin (1985), Sharon (1984), Roschelle (1992), Rogoff (1990), Linn (1991), etc.

        Johnson, et al. (1990) identify five basic elements of collaborative learning:

        When students collaborate on a learning task, they are often forced to articulate their thinking and beliefs, to share them with others. In articulating their thinking, students must consider what they know, and what they don't know, along with possible arguments and criticisms that might be leveled by others. Once student thinking has been made public, others in the classroom - including peers as well as teachers - can discuss these ideas in light of what has been learned. Through participation in this collaborative discourse, students can come to know and learn ways of thinking and talking that are prevelent in communities of science, history, math, etc.

        One example of this type of collaborative project is the Global Grocery List project [], where students from around the world collect data on the price of basic foods in their local area and share that data with everyone else around the world. The results are current, peer collected data that can be used in math, social studies, science, and health classes (and others).

        Students using the Internet to conduct research on the Web can send e-mail to a scientist or expert in the field, or participate in real-time conferencing with other students about a project they are engaged in. This provides the students with opportunities to think more broadly about their school activities and their lives. Through participation in these activities, students are exposed to perspectives different from their own, and they can associate the classroom activity with real problems they face in the world, supported by others - students, scientists, artists, businesspeople, members of their own community, etc.

        The Internet and the Web can be used to facilitate a variety of collaborative projects, for students in all grades (K-12), and for just about any subject area. While most of the existing Web Educational collaborative projects are for High School Science, the possibility exists for any educational project to be shared over the Web. For example, the following are all possible collaborative Web projecs:

    1. Student-to-Student projects - might include writing a newsletter, magazine, or book together, combining data for a science experiment, gathering art and poetry for a Web site to publish a book, etc. The The Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connections project [] is a good example of this type of collaboration on the Internet. A list of student-to-student collaborative projects [] is also available.

    2. Classroom-to-Classroom projects - such as science projects that involve many classrooms; examples include global rain fall measurement, global grocery list, etc. A good example of this type of project for the technology-savvy classroom is the Jason Project [].

    3. Teacher-to-Teacher projects - such as electronic field trips, teacher support networks, teacher collaboratives, and teacher study groups. Two good resources for teachers looking to collaborate with other teachers is the Camp Internet's Teacher to Teacher Resource Center [] and the Mustang project at Web66 [].

    4. Teacher-to-Researcher projects - which might involve educators and researchers in formulating, undertaking, or analyzing research, publishing papers, articles, and books, etc. The MSU College of Education [] offers numerous opportunities for teachers to collaborate with educational researchers, including faculty and graduate students. Another interesting collaborative teacher-researcher project is the National Writing project [], which is "a collaborative university/school staff development program to improve the teaching and learning of writing in the nation's classrooms. It is a university-based teacher-centered program."

    5. Classroom-to-Expert projects - which connect a classroom with a subject matter expert in the field. A good example of this type of project is the Internet Subject Matter Expert project [] hosted by Judi Harris at CoSN.
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    Andres, Y. M. (1995). Collaboration in the classroom and over the Internet []. Electronic Learning, March 1995.

    Brufee, K. (1995). Sharing our Toys: Cooperative learning versus collaborative learning. Change, January/February, 12-18.

    Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning '95 conference papers [].

    Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, A., and O'Malley, C. (in press). The evolution of research on collaborative learning. In E. Spada & P. Reiman (Eds.), Learning in humans and machines.

    Gallini, J., & Helman, H. (1993, April). Collaborative science learning in the virtually expanded classroom. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the AERA, Atlanta, GA.

    Inger, M. (1993). Teacher collaboration in Secondary Schools []. CenterFocus Number 2/December 1993.

    Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T, Stanne, M., and Garibaldi, A. (1990). The impact of leader and member group processing on achievement in cooperative groups. Journal of Social Psychology, 130: 507-516.

    Linn, M C., & Burbules, N C. (1991). Construction of knowledge and group learning. In Tobin, K. (Ed.), The practice of constructivism in science education(pp. 91-119), AAAS Press.

    Newman, D., Goldman, S. V., Brienne, D., Jackson, I., & Magzamen, S. (1989). Peer collaboration in computer-mediated science investigations. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 5(2), 151-166.

    Riel, M. (1990). Cooperative learning across classrooms in Learning Circles. Instructional Science, 19, 445-466.

    Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in Thinking: Cognitive development in social context. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Roschelle, J. (1992). Learning by collaborating: Convergent conceptual change. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2, 235-276.

    Serim, F. (1995) Communicating online to find collaborators []. Roving reporter field report #4.

    Sharon, S. (1984). Cooperative learning in the classroom: Research in desegregated schools. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Silva, M., and Breuleux, A. (1994). Use of participatory design in the implementation of Internet-based collaborative learning activities in K-12 classrooms []. Interpersonal Computing and Technology: An Electronic Journal for the 21st Century, 2(3), 1064-1326.

    Slavin, R., (1985). Cooperative learning. New York: Longman.

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