role does ICT play in enhancing children’s talk?
Initially when analysing the data I identified all the examples in which
the task of talking at the computer appeared to enhance children’s
talk. I then sorted those instances into two groups 1) enhancement due
to task, 2) enhancement recognisable as being directly related to the
presence of the tool.
due to task
related to the presence of the tool
Enhancement due to task
The task was for the children to talk about their intentions to write.
That learning was scaffolded and supported through the;
Quality teaching and learning experiences provided by the classroom
• Learning intentions from the classroom and my research
• Learning environment of supportive collaborative work
• Children’s learning strategies and communication skills
• Freedom to talk without teacher regulation
• Time for the learner to learn
Evidence was shown in my research
of the children's learning being maximised in the following ways:
a personalised setting in which the human relationships serve to inspire,
encourage and challenge the learner (Atkin, 2000)”
Personal talk as a break from initate-respond-evaluate (IRE) discussions
• Using personal learning styles freely and expressing personalities
• Collaborative learning
learning involves authentic interactions with others, or others’
knowledge, that engage with and enlarge the individual learner’s
experience (Atkin 2000)”
Having time to use and practice the writing strategies used by the
• Slowing the speed of the task to the level of individual students
• Viewing talk in a different way to that of the teacher regulated
it is driven by intrinsic motivation (Atkin 2000).”
Taking turns and roles
• Having fun and playing
• Taking ownership and sharing of ideas beyond teacher controlled
it involves the learner constructing and reconstructing meaning from
experience (Atkin 2000)”
Developing and refining social and cooperative/collaborative skills
• Using own language to explain concepts and ideas
• Processing and internalise learning
• Accessing Forming Intentions process in own way
related to the presence of the tool
In sorting the examples I kept in my head the thought, “I
could achieve that for my students through providing a quality learning
experience without the computer”. This allowed the identification
of those instances where the enhanced talk could be directly linked to
the presence of the tool.
Achieving the task when at the computer allowed students to,
Get over writer’s block as they had the tool to talk about
• Play themselves forward in their learning
• Record freely without ‘reducing to writing’ those
• Use the mouse as a ‘talking object’
• Interact with the tool and each other through the tool
• Cut short another’s interaction through changing subject
to the tool or using mouse
• Break up the session into different kinds of talk, similar
to real conversation
• Formulate questions about the tool, use terminology and internalise
• Move from computer as centre of attention to ‘background
noise’ to their talk
• Ignore some behaviour from partner
• Take chances and problem solve
• Change attitude to learning, as computer viewed as play amongst
• Use learning styles and switch-ons to learning related to
• Centralise their learning to area provided by the computers
• Create a ‘intellectual community’ through common
language about the tool
• Focus task talk for 20-30 minutes
The literature I reviewed was scarce with regard to ICT in a supporting
role to children’s talk. It mainly focused on software designed
to interact with the writer in oral speech and written forms, or the comparison
in impact of software types on learning and thinking. I found that Rupert
Wegerif was an author in some of the work that loosely resembled my research.
Many of his titles reflected my key word searches of; dialogue, discourse,
talk, using computers to support discussion, thinking with ICT and the
role of ICT in talk. It was in reading his work that the idea emerged
of the tool as being 'not the teacher' and therefore not interacting on
the same physical and emotional level.
nature as –being both an object (a machine) and yet subject-like
(interactive) –can, with appropriate pedagogy and software design,
give computers a unique and distinctive role in mediating learning
conversations (Wegerif, Littleton and Jones 2003, p 2)
The computer is not going to have the same interactions with the students
based on emotions, stress, time of day, time commitments, curriculum,
behaviour, etc. as a teacher would. In my research removing the teacher’s
direct contact and Teacher Talk had a positive effect on the students
and their learning. Team B were able to change their behaviour and direct
it towards their learning when they were given time to do so without the
teacher’s regulation of talk and behaviour. Team A developed ways
to communicate and interact with each other and increased their amount
of talk after I stopped initiating contact with them.
are machines, without expectations and with infinite patience, they
can provide a safe context for children to try out ideas (Wegerif
2004, p 19).
The 'safe context' was strongly reflected in my research in allowing Team
A’s development of questioning and discussion, and talk verses silence.
In all the teams, each child was able to use a common language of the
tool with their partner, providing at the start an equal intellectual
community. In using the computer they could proceed at their own pace
and level of communication.
Wegerif strongly represented the view in his writing that computers do
not judge. They are endlessly patient and can stimulate learners and provide
a focus for their talk (Wegerif 2004). The idea of stimulating the learner
and providing focus for talk is prevalent in my research as discussed
in the following sections.
The computer was a catalyst for talk as a way to stimulate their conversations
together, whether organising turns, mouse control, making comment about
the computer or physically being the place for talking about their writing.
The Tool Talk that arose from their direct interactions with the computer
was stimulating to their learning also. It broke the sessions up into
different kinds of talk and subjects, as the flow of a playground conversation
might. This added to the general feel of play in their learning experience.
Here in front of the computer they were able to use talk that would not
be possible in initate-respond-evaluate (IRE) learning situations.
The Teams commented in their post-interviews about how it was all fun.
Adrian commented about it being fun and ‘not work’, the child
equivalent to saying they understood the task and found it easy to achieve.
I do like the term ‘not work’ because it means that as a learning
experience it has achieved the high standards of relevant, real, responsive
and relational with which the generation Y.com need to engage in their
learning (McCrindle 2005).
In the class survey I did before working with my teams, all the children
surveyed could give details of when they last worked on the computer,
the program, the task, the purpose and name the teacher scaffolding that
experience. There was excitement and pride in the voices of those I asked
to explain their experiences further. For those children in the class
who had worked with me previously they were openly boasting about the
work we had done together to others and myself. Forming Intentions through
talk using the computer has been a very memorable experience for my Teams
also, a term later, they are still initiating conversations with me about
our experience together and their use of those skills now.
The physical presence of the computer was influential in their ability
to focus themselves on the task. It was there, visible and substantial.
There were no animations, moving images or sound bleeps to recall the
children to task, however they returned to it as their task focus. This
is demonstrated in the time they allocated to their in-depth conversations,
in the beginning they talked for 30 minutes, dropping down to 20 minutes
in the final sessions. Within a classroom context the time allocated by
the majority of children had been shorter and was of lesser depth.
In some interaction between the partners the mouse acted as ‘talking
object’, that the child with the mouse was the one talking or physically
interacting with the computer. The children recognised when one partner
had been in control of the mouse more than the other, and without argument
made choices about turns and roles. For Team A in their first sessions
the control of the mouse by one partner led to silence and disinterest
in the other, however by their second recorded session this behaviour
was no longer present.
The computer provided for Team B a way to ignore the undesirable behaviour
in their partner without the need to reprimand them or even acknowledge
the behaviour. Both Dee and Adrian were able to return each other to task
through making comment about the tool or simply turning to the tool or
wiggling the mouse.
Team C developed a negative use of the tool in their last recorded session.
The reason for their change in behaviour towards each other is covered
in Tool Talk and Personal Talk. The data shows Olive using the computer
to cut short Jaye’s ideas by stopping the computer recording, turning
to ‘do something’ on the screen, talking about the tool over
top of her, and physically turning to the tool.
The body language at the tool was fascinating. It carried many of the
same messages that looking away, picking up an object or walking away
would in conversation. For the Teams physically turning to the computer
in conversation acted as a new paragraph would in a sentence, it stopped
and changed topic or talk type.
Adam and Tui both commented in their post-interviews that they found forming
intentions on the computer easier because their didn’t have to write
it down and could come back and listen to the ideas later. As writers
with needs, talking about and recording their writing intentions allowed
them to successfully access the writing process. The ease with which they
then returned to the classroom and wrote reflects this as well as their
use and practice of teacher modelling.
Team B’s greatest enhancement was the re-direction of their Personal
Unrelated Talk towards the tool and task. They were able to play themselves
forward in their learning. The computer gave them most of that sense of
play through catering for learning style, personalities and inter-activeness.
During the class survey children expressed their personal views of the
computer as “fun because you get to play and do things”. Amongst
the class there was the view of the computer as the fun way to learn and
therefore ‘not work’. This ‘fun’ machine allowed
Team B to make changes in their own behaviour and that of their partners
without losing the appearance of having fun and playing.
Much of the research I read
about explored the software and it’s impact on the children’s
learning. In the next sections I will use Wegerif’s work to illustrate
my point as his work on computers to support children’s discourse
related to my own research. However I read further than his work to find
that the majority of research was focused on software.
Wegerif commented, “the use of computers requires both the design
of software to encourage discussion and the incorporation of the computers
into a larger educational context supportive of exploratory talk”
(Wegerif 1996, p 53). In my research I did not focus on the software as
having impact on the learner or enhancing their talk. I disagree with
Wegerif’s use of ‘design of software’ as being necessary.
He was writing in his article about the use of two pieces of software
specifically designed to support talk amongst learners.
In a later article he commented “combining preparation for working
together at the computer with the right kind of software can draw pupils
into talking and learning together within the curriculum” (Wegerif
2004, p 1). In this article he was discussing two educational approaches
and their use of computer-supported activities, and one specifically designed
piece of software. I support his comment on combining preparation with
the right kind of software, in that the teacher is choosing a program
to support the learning intentions, rather than designing learning intentions
around the program.
My professional opinion here is a reflection of technology development
and my development as a teacher. Instead of developing learning experiences
around movie making software for children to experience making a movie,
and writing learning intentions solely based on the tool. I (and in some
aspects my school) have moved towards planning for a learning experience
involving, say, development and active practice of strategies for communication,
citizenship and a curriculum objective, which will include making a movie.
In planning quality teaching and learning experiences the teacher is locating
the best tools to scaffold and support the learner towards varied learning
There are amazing pieces of software on the market today, and when publishing
their pieces of writing the children in my research use software involving
moving images, animation, sound, music, video clips and writing. In my
research it was not necessary to use educational software designed to
enhance children’s talk when forming intentions to write. The software
commonly used in our school could be applied to the teacher’s learning
intentions for her students. I chose Tech4Learning MediaBlender because
it fit my criteria, 1) record and play back their voices, 2) visual and
physical organisation, and 3) known program to students. Other programs
such as KidPix, Hyperstudio, iMovie and Powerpoint also fit the criteria.
I strongly agreed with Wegerif’s comments about the quality of talk
around the computer as a reflection of the quality learning experiences
prepared by the teacher, that computers can be effective in supporting
exploratory talk amongst groups and integration of the curriculum (Wegerif
The computer and the software enabled the children to record and play
back sound, and visually and physically organise it. For the learner the
computer played the same role as my car does for me. It allows me to enjoy
my morning rides to work amongst the rush-hour traffic. I confess a love
for driving, stereo blaring, three hours up the coast road. I have learned
and developed terminology for it and can converse with others about it.
Friends and family teach me new ways to care for it, and I ask questions
until I can internalise that knowledge. My mechanic corrects my behaviour
towards it and helps me set goals. If I need a way to enter a conversation
I might recount the funny thing I saw while driving my car. I am not required
to talk about it all the time, in fact ‘normal’ conversation
would not flow easily if I did. The hitchhikers I pick up know to converse
with me when entering, the journey is not in silence. The children who
ride in the back are learning and practicing the social skills of enclosed
small spaces and safety in the car and on the road.
In my research the computer provided the environment, excuse, direction
and opportunity to talk about their writing. The teacher taught the necessary
social and collaborative skills, provided quality teaching and learning
experiences, the model of forming intentions and the writing process,
and a positive learning environment. I provided the time, space, direction
and permission to talk. The major key to the success of the ICT in enhancing
the children’s talk was their view of the computer. The class viewed
the computer as ‘fun’, remembered many successful learning
experiences as ‘not work’, and knew it to be collaborative
through discussion, grouping or asking for support. The students acknowledged
the computer as a tool in which you engage in talk about, at and around.
In my research it became an ideal tool to enhance talk towards the desired
outcomes of the learning intentions.
In Atkin’s (1994) model of effective teaching she states that the
learning environment plays a major role in maximising and enhancing student
learning. The conditions within the learning environment require motivation;
challenge, sense of achievement, appropriate resources and emotional involvement.
Motivation is enhanced by an environment that fosters ownership through
self-direction and metacognition, is non-judgemental, encourages continual
improvement and honours approximations. These conditions combined with
supportive relationships and scaffolding of learning time allowed the
children to achieve learning at their own levels.
Achieving the learning intentions when at the computer allowed myself
as researcher to,
Allow ‘learning’ time for the learner after ‘teaching’
• Provide scaffolding for writers with needs
• Leave students to learn at own pace and skill
• Monitor student ‘thinking’ through talk
• Scaffold independent learning time and control of learning
by the learner
Achieving the learning intentions when at the computer could allow
the classroom teacher to,
• Reflect on teacher modelling through monitoring of student
use of modelled language
• Change the task to the level of the child
• Provide a entry level task with further tasks children could
work through as a rubrics of learning intentions
• Develop use of higher order thinking skills in learning intentions
children to think for themselves we should first teach them to think
with others. Being able to reason together with others in order to
solve problems and build knowledge is a core practice in most areas
of our collective life (Wegerif 1996, p 59).
The quality teaching and learning experiences provided by the classroom
teacher is the key to the enhanced learning in the students in my research.
Without the quality environment of the classroom and school wide practice
the students would not have achieved as much as they did. Effective learning
starts with effective planning by the teacher for their learners.
||A change in teacher intent
is not sufficient. Teacher and students alike are well practiced in
lesson behaviour, and talking in another way doesn’t come easily
In wanting my students to talk when forming their intentions to write
I was asking them to talk in a way they had not done before. I was also
asking myself as their teacher to teach in a way I had not easily done
before. For the children the task of forming intentions was to talk, for
me it was to teach by letting them talk. I can visualise while writing
this Dee sneaking looks over at me to see if I was going to moderate their
talk, and the time it took for her team to adapt to my new style of teaching.
Just wanting my children to talk in a different way was not enough to
achieve this new talk. Through teacher modelling of IRE forming intentions
discussions the children were shown ways to talk about their writing.
By scaffolding the time to do, the space to explore and control of teacher
interaction by the learner, the children developed their own use of talk.
In choosing to provide this variety of learning scaffolding and support
outside the ‘normal’ classroom-writing programme, I allowed
the children to shift their understanding of writing and talking behaviour.
In choosing the computer as the tool to support their learning I provided
them with a child centred approach. A learning approach they comment on
as being in control of, knowing lots about, able to focus on task, personal
choice in learning, current and relevant to their style of learning and
fun. This child centred application of the tool allowed them to take control
of their personal learning and that of the team.
This form of innovation was simply another tool to employ in the students’
learning. My vision for the children in my research would be that of movement
forward. As the student’s learning develops so should the application
of the tool in that learning. All the learners were ready to move on from
this application of the tool to their learning. They were ready to apply
their new talking skills to the class-writing programme without the tool.
Perhaps for Jaye, Adam and Tui returning to the tool when they are ready
to internalise new teaching.
My vision would be that time in the normal classroom practice would be
given to forming intentions talk after teacher modelling and before the
classroom practice of ‘silent writing’. Perhaps in a future
vision these children may apply the skills they developed and internalised
at the computer to their talk as authors throughout the whole writing
process and the ‘silence’ of writing would be humming with
meaningful conversations between authors.