I. Fogarty1, T. Winey2, J. Howe2

1Riverview High School (CANADA)
2Preston Middle School (UNITED STATES)
The SMART Collaborative Classroom is a technology rich learning environment where students work together to solve difficult challenges. Effective collaboration is powerful. There are critical nuances of the student interplay and social constructivism that can dramatically increase achievement by leveraging communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. The choice of technology to facilitate collaboration has a significant impact on the group and achievement.

Technology has bombarded educators with promises of increased communication and collaboration including laptops, 1:1, Web 2.0, interactive whiteboards (IWBs), and most recently mobiles, tablets and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). In carefully constructed situations, they all show some success. However, there are fine details that can have dramatic impacts. Most educators have not had the opportunity to ponder and implement these subtleties, resulting in underutilized technology.

Research findings from seven years of a collaborative high school classroom, and the experience of a middle school classroom will be shared. Best teaching strategies from experimental groups will be discussed. The quantitative and qualitative research of this paper will help identify when each technology is favorable.

This talk is a combination of theoretical and practical classroom examples from a Canadian high school and an American middle school. It will begin with a philosophy discussion of product vs process and the classroom ramifications. Videos of students working with worksheets, 1:1 devices and IWBs will give qualitative evidence of how the choice of technology can impact collaboration. Research from the same classroom will give a quantitative perspective. It will end with real life classroom examples from languages, sciences and math.

The research methodology included creating experimental and control groups. Group A students were placed in small groups (3-4) around laptops to solve problems while Group B students were placed in small groups around IWBs. The experimental sequence was a modified full crossover experiment. This design was used on activities of three different cognitive loads.

The results show that the higher the cognitive load, the better the students gathered around IWBs outperformed their counterparts. The categorization level showed an 18% increase in scores for the IWB group, but it was NOT statistically significant. The recall showed a statistically significant 34% increase in scores for the IWB group and a 50% increase in scores for the difficult logical puzzle.

It is believed that the discussion is a defining element. If the problem is easy, there is little debate, little reason for communication and little critical thinking. When the problems are difficult, the communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking work together.

Student learning greatly benefits from well-designed group work methodology including specific strategies for technology. IWBs and tablets currently have a large global presence. Ideally, students would have access to all technologies and educators would be well trained in all of it. However, in a fiscally strained environment, with high pressured educators, it is important to deliberately make an informed choice as to the right technology for the biggest gain. While many strategies and tools do cause improved scores, when we cannot do all things, what things can we do for the greatest good?