Conclusion and Recommendations
A learner-centred, digitally minded approach contributed to effective online teaching and learning with primary school students in an online learning community.
This research project was a descriptive case study, investigating the effectiveness and delight in online teaching and learning, with a focus on the factors and teacher's strategies that might contribute to primary school students experiencing 'delight' in an online learning community.
The students enjoyed using various information and communication technologies when they were learning collaboratively with students from other schools and countries. They also learned online protocols and routines as they explored and practiced the use of the synchronous (in real-time) and asynchronous (in delayed time) tools.
A learner-centred, digitally minded approach
The online learning programme featured a learner-centred, digitally minded approach. The Learner-centred principles (APA, 1997) were designed as a framework for a learner-centred approach, and in this study, many of the principles were evident including affective and cognitive factors.
The online learning
Students were actively involved in online and offline learning activities, as they joined and created their own projects, clubs and businesses. Factors in a learner-centred, digitally minded approach that made for effective teaching and learning in the Learn-Now programme were: collaborative and inquiry learning, building on student's prior knowledge, reflective thinking and goal setting. Learning activities motivated and engaged students because they were relevant and meaningful, and were based on students' interest within authentic contexts.
The teacher's strategies
The online teacher took the role of a facilitator of the students' learning, which reflected a learner-centred, digitally minded approach. She implemented effective strategies for: orientation, socialisation, online environment and online learning.
Orientation: The facilitator provided time and support for introductory activities so students became familiar with the online environment, practiced using the collaborative tools and learnt protocol and routines.
Socialisation: The facilitator provided social areas and activities for students to develop their relationships and social skills so they could work collaboratively more effectively. She promoted a safe learning environment and for students to support one another. She encouraged students to be involved in interschool and international projects.
Online environment: The facilitator used coloured text, graphics, movement and a limited amount of text to motivated and engage students when reading text on the screen. She also used chatty, friendly informal language at the beginning and end of messages with clear, succinct formal language for explanations and instructions in the body of the message.
Online learning: The facilitator motivated the students by immersing and providing them with models and exemplars. She gave students expectations, guided instruction, and resources when needed, but also allowed them to negotiate and design their programmes. She used questioning to assess students' skills and ability and to help them reflect on their progress, set their goals and to make their own links with what they already knew. She also developed students' thinking skills, gave timely and specific feedback, encouraged students to take responsibility for their own learning and coached students in their leadership roles.
In Ramondt and Chapman's study, delight was evident mostly at the last stage but in this study, it occurred at all times, from the beginning to the end of the school year. Delightful learning was evident in Terms One to Four. There are lots of claims that the use of ICT is 'motivating', 'engaging' and 'delightful', but often there is little indication of what it IS about ICT usage that is so motivating and engaging. This research identifies what the students in the Learn-Now programme found delight in: the use of ICT, social learning and the online programme.
Delight in the use of ICT: The students developed their computer skills and knowledge while used various information and communication technologies and in particular the collaborative tools to communicate with other students. They enjoyed exploring and being creative and sharing it in the social areas.
Delight in social learning: The students enjoyed using the collaborative tools to get to know students from other schools and countries. They enjoyed supporting one another and sharing what they had learnt. The students developed close relationships with each other and the facilitator.
Delight in the online programme: There were numerous comments from students who enjoyed the clubs, projects and businesses, some explaining that they enjoyed them because they were collaborative, and involved real-life situations and life skills. Students also enjoyed taking responsibility for their own learning and having fun in their learning.
To ensure effective teaching and learning, online teachers should have a social constructivist philosophy, which involves taking on the role as a facilitator of their students' learning. A learner-centred, digitally minded approach, contributed to effective teaching and learning with primary school students in an online learning community. To implement a learner-centred, digitally minded approach teachers can be guided by the learner-centred principles (APA, 1997), which were designed as a framework for educators and teachers. They include the affective and social factors that were evident in the delightful learning in the Learn-Now programme.
Learning should be active and involve meaningful, relevant activities that have an authentic context. The facilitator needs to provide students with specific introductory activities and allow students the time to become familiar with the content and navigation of the online environment, and develop online protocols and routines as students practice using collaborative tools and other communication technologies. Time also needs to be given for students to develop relationships and build trust to ensure a safe learning environment. The facilitator needs to provide specific learning activities to help students develop their social and co-operative skills so they work collaboratively more effectively. These factors and teaching strategies contributed to students' delight in their online learning and make for effective online teaching and learning.
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