Collaboration seems to be the name of the game this week. Computers (and tablets and phones) are generally designed as single user devices and are often used as such. However, there are numerous occasions on which computers are not used singularly, and there are benefits to using computers collaboratively in early childhood classrooms.
The three studies we read about focused on collaboration, technology and the early childhood classroom. Social Construction of Computer Experience in a First-Grade Classroom (Wang & Ching 2003) researched how young students toggle between individual and collective classroom goals as they “create their own definition of computer use.” Young children enjoy using computers. Our study indicates this, “Evident from the very beginning was that playing computers games during choice time was a highly desirable activity for the children.” My own work in a school Media Center supports this. All of my students want to use computers every day. I am asked daily if my lessons include computers, and if they will have an opportunity to “play”. The study results showed how students found ways to work together and engage with each other using one computer. The study also indicates that by encouraging this collaboration, the classroom benefits. “Engaging students in discussions such as what is an appropriate computer turn length, how many players are the optimal group size at the computer, what are proper behaviors during group play at computers, etc. will afford students opportunities to further consider these complex social issues. Additionally, when students help develop the classroom rules, they share ownership of classroom norms and will likely be more willing to self-monitor and follow these co-constructed rules.”
In the Co-located single display collaborative learning for early childhood education, the benefits of collaborative learning are shared, particularly when engaging technology within the early childhood classroom. “When children have the opportunity to work collaboratively, they develop a common understanding of the world as they acquire verbal, cognitive and social skills, all of which influence their learning.” Teachers are central to this process, to help provide the critical guidance that students need to be successful. With that support, students can learn collaborative skills as well as school-readiness skills. “The implementation of the intervention highlighted, the importance of offering settings where students in early childhood can share activities and develop collaboration while learning basic skills. It is important to carefully provide teacher support for these activities in order to facilitate the collaborative interactions among children and strengthen the role of teacher.”
I think, on some level, our class is helping to demonstrate the ability to collaborate using technology. As we all work our way through this and my other class, I find myself working closely with students across space and time. I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal, to plan, to manage my time, to learn new technologies within a timeframe that I did not previously think possible. Rather than creating isolation, technology can bridge gaps and create connections across time and distance.