Behaviorists and cognitivists theories emerge from objectivist tradition. Both set of theorists appear to assume that knowledge is “out there” to be transferred into the learner (Driscoll, 2005, page 387). In contrast to objectivists’ viewpoints, constructivist theorists assume that knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experiences (p. 387). Based on this principle, learners are not simply empty vessels waiting to be filled, but instead are active organisms seeking meaning and trying to make sense of their experiences (Perkins, 1991). Regarding collaboration from a constructivist’s standpoint, we saw where both Bruner and Vygotsky emphasized the need for cooperation in learning in Driscoll’s text (chapter 7). These constructivists, believed that children must work out their social differences and develop cooperative behaviors that enable them to reach their goals (Driscoll, 2005, p. 276).
Howard Rheingold on collaboration
Do humans have a basic instinct to “interact and work as a group”? Bernhard in 1988 stated that one impact of a rapidly changing environment in schools has been the neglect of children’s biologically based needs for belonging to and working within a group (as cited in Driscoll, 2005, p. 276). I agree with this notion. Humans in this era are continuously connecting with each other on social networking sites, forming all sorts of groups (some productive and some quite the opposite). Nonetheless, this goes to show that humans do have a basic instinct to interact and work in groups. Quite often at the college where I currently teach, students are constantly reprimanded for logging onto social networking sites during class time. I believe that it would be prudent for educators to go with learners’ natural tendencies than to resist them. As mentioned previously, both Bruner and Vygotsky emphasized the need for cooperation in learning, but this appears to be geared towards children working within the same age groups. However, Bernhard argued for multi-age groups, as well, believing that mixed-age groupings occurred naturally in foraging societies and occur naturally in today’s world. Bernard believed that younger children can learn much from observing and imitating their older peers, and older children gain valuable information about parenting when they interact with younger children (Bernhard, 1988).
How can technology facilitate collaboration among learners based on constructivist principles? First, the goals of constructivist instruction are problem solving, reasoning, critical thinking, active and reflective use of knowledge (Driscoll, 2005, p. 393). I believe that technologies that effectively facilitate collaboration among learners based on constructivist principles are those that learners are comfortable with. This is where the old cliché comes in; do not fix something that has not been broken! In other words, educators should make use of existing technologies, for example, social networking sites, blogs and multi-player online gaming. Most learners have already mastered operating these tools and this would help in encouraging working in teams and help in setting the stage for positive results.
A Research Study That Supports Collaboration as an Effective Learning Tool
Earlier this year, Hong, Yu, and Chen established their powertech contest in Taiwan in an effort to promote inventiveness and technology to elementary students. The powertech contest was designed as a collaborative learning atmosphere for a project design which is comprised of technical processes that included first, the construction of an artifact followed by improvement of its functions (Hong et al., 2011). In short, the aim was for students to learn scientific and technical knowledge through this collaborative design project. The purpose of the study was to explore how collaborative learning could make working on a technological project easier and whether and how pupils working collaboratively were able to share their design ideas. The research was conducted by first, analyzing the design portfolio that was put together by a team of four elementary students. These students worked collaboratively to create a robot rat for the powertech contest. In turn, the researchers assessed the actual collaboration process among the team members. Results of the study indicated that collaborative learning in the contest had made the sharing of knowledge and resources among the team members easier than if students had worked alone. Results also showed that reflections essential for problem-solving among the team members were often raised during the design process.
My personal view on this collaborative learning experience was that it seems as though team members had truly collaborated and not just cooperated as they designed their robot rat. I say this based on one of the findings mentioned above where reflections essential for problem-solving among the team members were often raised during the design process. Dr. Moller brought up in our class threads that there is a difference between cooperation and collaboration. Cooperative teams usually have a firm mode of operation with specific goals and most of all, all members’ roles are specified. Unlike collaborative teams, whose roles are flexible and may change throughout the project (Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, A.,and Claire O'Malley ,1995). The idea of collaboration should be taken seriously, since in this atmosphere everyone has a voice in which ideas are not quickly dismissed, but are considered and tested for validity.
Bernhard, J.G. (1988). Primates in the classroom: An evolutionary perspective on children’s education. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press.
Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, A., & Claire O'Malley (1995) The Evolution of Research on Collaborative Learning. In P. Reimann & H. Spada (Eds). Learning in humans and machines. Towards an interdisciplinary learning science, 189- 211. London: Pergamon. Retrieved from http://performancepyramid.muohio.edu/pyramid/shared-best-practices/Collaberation-Strategies/mainColumnParagraphs/0/document/Collaboration%20Strategies.pdf
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Hong, J., Yu, K., & Chen, M.(2011). Collaborative learning in technological project design. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 21(3), 335-347. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 2427014381).
Perkins, D. (1991) Technology meets constructivism: Do they make a marriage? Educational Technology 31, 5 (May), 18-23.
Rheingold, H. (2008). Howard Rheingold on collaboration [Video file]. Retrieved from