Engaging Secondary School Students in Extended and Open Learning Supported by Online Technologies

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A Review of the Nicholas &Wan (2008) paper 

Research Findings:

This study observes the participation and development of a group of 16 ‘gifted students’ aged 13 – 15 in an online environment after attending a four-day Science camp in Australia.  Students were encouraged to continue with their learning for up to 6 months beyond the camp.  Their key focus was to choose any topic related to science and to discuss the ‘societal and ethical’ issues of that topic,via email,Moodle and web-based resources.  Researchers were interested to know how motivated the students were to continue with their (non-compulsory) learning through the virtual environment.  The researchers sought to support students to become independent learners. 

Research findings would suggest a strong level of external support is required to maintain the learning dialogue and for the learning to translate into a ‘tangible product’.  Students felt overwhelmed at times with the independence of their own learning in a non-traditional environment and would have welcomed follow up face to face classes with the facilitators.  Additionally a narrowing of topics and a set timeline would help provide a framework to follow.

Implications for Practice:

The study showed that two thirds of the online conversations between students were none topic related,indicating a need to provide the ability to allow ‘social’ conversations to be a part of the learning process.  This shows that spending time developing relationships online is just as important as it is in the face to face classroom.   Students also tended to use informal English similar to text language;by allowing this type of exchange during the ‘ideas development stage’ students can feel more at ease sharing their opinions.   Providing students with an easy way to find their logins and passwords can help alleviate frustration.  Technical problems can be a hindrance to this type of learning so it is essential that students are not obstructed by procedural issues.  

Reference:

Nicholas,H.,Wan,Ng. 2008,Engaging Secondary School Students in Extended and Open Learning Supported by Online Technologies,
Journal of Research on Technology in Education;Spring 2009;41,3;ProQuest pg305

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