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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy
Year of posting: 2003
Learning with the community online at school and at home
The original aim of the project was to introduce a group of Year Eleven students to Think.com and encourage them to use and develop their home pages.
The students were a very specific group and a profile of them is integral to this project. All students were in Year Eleven and had been classified as ‘disaffected'. They had been identified towards the end of Year Ten as either very disruptive, poor attendees, or consistently failing in most areas of the curriculum and consequently ‘switched off'. In order to deal with this group of students the school set up an alternative Year Eleven course. This ‘alternative curriculum' had various objectives: to withdraw students from mainstream and provide them with the opportunity to do a combination of work experience and college courses and continue studying some core subjects.
Oracle's Think.com, is a web-based community that can be accessed from home or school. This Internet community provides a safe, protected environment in which students of any age and ability can share ideas and learning with others around the globe. It gives students a space to create their own homepage, post work and communicate with other inside the community. It is easy to use and, therefore, can be accessed by learners and teachers at all levels.
The main focus of this project was to investigate whether membership of an online community, and the use of a web-based learning environment, can alter or improve the learning outcomes of a group of ‘disaffected' students.
Students have been provided with notebook computers (with online access) to use at home as well as at school. The intention is to involve their families and carers in the students' learning.
A teacher of English teaching basic skills
"Disaffected" students at KS 4 in the final year of compulsory schooling.
Teacher observation using action research with support from the schoolscape@future team.
Analysis of the key issues
The teachers' hypothesis was that the students in this group were poorly motivated towards education and work. They had displayed this lack of motivation by rejecting their entitlement to the national curriculum in one way or another and consequently earning a place in the group. Thus in order to improve motivation and encourage the students to use a variety of skills, they had to be exposed to something to provide a catalyst to motivation. A web-based environment that could be accessed from home and school seemed to offer to these learners a system which would provide something suitably new and interesting and result in a positive change in motivation and work ethic.
A wide range of conclusions have emerged from this project. Many arise from fragments of conversations with the students involved, some come from viewing the students' Think.com sites, and others are observations made of the students throughout the year. In essence the conclusions are formed around the categories disaffection amongst students, learning styles, computers and on-line learning.
- With a group of ‘disaffected' students relationship with the teacher is of critical importance.
- Students need to recognise that they control the content, and there are consequences for inclusion of inappropriate content.
- You must have the flexibility to ignore the conventions of the ‘classroom'.
- The natural differentiation that the technology allows is ideal for a group of this kind.
- The lack of pressure on the students to produce a formal outcome (assessed work) gave them the freedom to control the content rather than have it dictated to them.
- The girls seemed more interested initially in the idea of a ‘global' audience for their ideas.
- Think.com gives students the ability to construct their identity through language
Feedback from the virtual audience has a very important impact on the students' view of their own page and motivation towards the project.
The ability to interact freely with other members of the community offers important learning gains.
Think.com resource is available free to educational institutions. Details are available from: www.think.com
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