Active learning through authentic learning activities: Learning environments should be embedded in authentic and real-world contexts where learners learn by doing (Geiger, 1991). Our students are assigned with activities such as reflection and discussion on readings, production and uploading of podcasts and creation of group blogs. We have used real-world environments such as forums (Moodle), podcasting sites (Youtube) and blogging spaces (Blogger) as to motivate them in real context activities, personally relevant to them, and to enhance their creativity.
Self-directed learning: Learners should be given choices and the opportunity to be more autonomous in their actions (Alessi and Trollip, 2001; Doolittle, 1999) and therefore they develop a sense of ownership of what is done. Rather than instructors deciding the goals and activities, in our case, we acted as facilitators in their learning. First of all, we let them explore the material freely with their own pace and content sequencing (Clark and Mayer, 2003). Secondly, they had the autonomy to select their group’s members, decide the subject of their group project using blogs and podcasting and organize group work. During their engagement with the projects, the students will have access to learning support given not only by the teacher in the classroom but also through Moodle’s forum for technical queries whenever is needed.
Use of collaborative activities: Hamalainen et al. (2006) report that “the main idea of collaborative learning is that collaborative knowledge construction, negotiation, co-ordination of different perspectives, commitment to joint goals, information sharing and shared evaluation of group activities enable a group to create something that goes beyond what any one individual could achieve alone” (p. 48). The collaborative aspect of our material can be revealed through the discussion forum activity on the recommended reading and through the podcasting and blogging group activities.
Critical thinking and learner reflection: Constructivist approach stresses critical thinking as a process of knowledge construction, which is accompanied by learners’ reflection, a metacognitive skill for lifelong learning (Anderson, 2007; Richardson, 2006). In our material, critical thinking is reinforced through the reading discussion activity in the forum and the review of their peers’ comments. Furthermore, self-reflection is fostered through the whole process of their group activities, through the reflective learning journal that they have to complete at the end of their project and finally through a self-assessment activity (quiz available in Moodle).
All in all, we have tried to encourage multiple perspectives and representations of content as to meet the expectations of most of our students’ learning styles by providing content in different formats (text, audiovisual). Furthermore, the discussion forums, the comments in the blogs, as well as the whole process of the group projects will enhance students’ participation and improve their social efficacy.
4. How the materials should be used Both Moodle and the blog will be used as supporting materials for the course “Web Applications.” They will be used for revision, for accessing resources – both during and after the session-and for assigning and explaining each session’s activities. Moodle Moodle will be used throughout the course “Web Applications,” based on the five-stage model for computer-mediated communication (CMC) proposed by Salmon (2004):
Stage 1 – Access and Motivation: During the first stage, the tutor will provide all students with a username and password. A quick demonstration of Moodle will take place during the first session, if the tutor feels that it is necessary, since all students have been familiar with the particular CMC in previous courses. There will also be a technical support forum on Moodle, in which students can get help from their tutor and/or colleagues on technical problems. At this stage, the tutor will also stress the fact that Moodle will be a useful tool for revising, finding and exchanging resources, clarifying questions and finding all the information they need for the course.
Stage 2 – Online Socialization: With the social forum that we have put within Moodle, students will start becoming more comfortable with Moodle and begin socializing with each other online. The social forum will be used as their own space to talk about anything they want. Given the fact that they are high school students and have many other courses together, the social forum’s purpose is not primarily to help students get to know each other, but mostly to become more comfortable in online environment and with online discussions.
Stage 3 – Information Exchange: Moodle is structured by the tutor in order to keep things organized. Information is organized into themes, providing students with a summary of each session, resources (including readings, links of websites, glossary, tutorials, the course’s blog and videos from YouTube), activities (including forum discussions and a quiz), forum for technical support and chit chat, as well as a calendar to help students organize their homework according to the course’s deadlines.
Stage 4 – Knowledge Construction: The forum will be organized and guided by the tutor. With the exception of the social forum, all other topics within the forum will be created and organized by the tutor. Discussions will be based on in-class questions and compulsory readings and students will have to answer to specific questions posted by the tutor. Stage 5 – Development: During this stage, the tutor will encourage students to take online discussions to a deeper level. Critical thinking is now encouraged and promoted by the tutor, both during in-class sessions, as well as in online discussions.
Currently, three sessions of the course are included in Moodle, but it is supposed to include all sessions and to be used throughout the course. Blog The blog will be used a bit differently from Moodle. It is focused on only one part of the course and namely “web 2.0 technologies.” It can be accessed from within Moodle and it is created to serve primarily two purposes. The first purpose is that it can and should be used as a revision and resource page for web 2.0 technologies. It provides students with definitions of the term web 2.0, as well as definitions and examples of seven web 2.0 technologies. It also explains the difference of web 1.0 and web 2.0. Finally, it provides students with supporting material for web 2.0 technologies, such as videos from YouTube and supplementary reading for further knowledge.
The second purpose of the blog is that it acts as an example of what the students can do in their final project, which is to create their own blog in groups. The blog becomes more interactive for students, with assigned activities, such as posting their comments on the blog and voting on the blog’s poll. This way, the students are guided to act like readers and critics of blogs, before moving on to the stage where they have to become writers of their own blog.