By Michael Hilkemeijer
Group work is an essential part of any student-centred classroom. In the 21st century classroom that is expected to house various types of technology in the classroom, collaboration and cooperation amongst students can be facilitated through good technology teaching strategies.
Teachers who plan for technology integration in the classroom also plan to group students in ways in which they can see positive results. Children’s overall learning experiences are boosted and they are more engaged in their learning leading to an increase in academic improvement, more productivity and a higher self-esteem.
Different way of grouping students when integrating technology in the classroom
Here are a number of ways for you to learn how to group students in the classroom when integrating technology.
Differences in ICT capability – group students who are more capable with ones who are less capable. The more experienced can act as a mentor and the less experience can learn more if the mentor has a clear idea of the role. At times, you may need to interact to reinforce this role.
The personalities of the children – some students are more dominant than other and if there is a dominant child in the group this could lead to disengagement from the task by the other. It is best to pair the dominant students together.
Sex – single-sex pairs tend to cooperate more successfully. However, you may find that pairs of boys tend to take turns rather than work together. In younger children, the gender mix is less important than in older children. Pairing boys with girls can have benefits although boys are less inclined to benefit when working with girls on language activities. Girls themselves will benefit when working with boys on spatial tasks.
Nature of the Task – this needs to be considered in your planning. Decide whether they will be collaborating on one outcome or will they be assisting each other with their individual pieces of work?
Key issues to Overcome
When planning for technology integration in the classroom, there will be a number of issues affecting the assessment of ICT capability. Any use of ICT is largely practical and so it is difficult to gather ephemeral evidence of the children’s responses to tasks and activities.
As much technology integration is done through the grouping of students 2 particular areas of consideration needs to be addressed in your planning.
Children working in pairs
Computer-based activities actually promote collaborative work more than any other classroom activities. At times some pairings can lead to an unequal sharing of responsibility or effort. You may have already noticed that in some groups there are keyboard-hoggers who seldom allow their partner access to the computer and then there are those who are more than happy to sit back and let their partner do the work for them.
Additionally, there are those students who lack confidence or experience and are not comfortable exposing their perceived inadequacy to public scrutiny.
Use these technology teaching strategies to make sure that both children have an equal opportunity to contribute to an activity:
Give the children specific roles or tasks when engaged in an activity – some activities lend themselves to the allocation of roles.
Signal changeovers regularly during a lesson to ensure the pairs get equal access – this approach may be more suited to younger children.
Train the children in paired working – the inexperienced children could be supported through peer tutoring. If you decide to use this approach, it is important that the children are briefed on their roles.
Prepare on-and-off computer tasks during the ICT activity – have an off-computer task running alongside the computer-based task.
It is difficult to determine what the child has done and what the computer has done for the child
This can be overcome by either talking to the children or asking the older child to write a reflective report about the approach they used for an activity. You could also use a self-assessment sheet that encourages them to reflect on the extent to which they have developed new knowledge and skills. This strategy could be used as the basis for discussions or more comprehensive commentaries on the different methods they applied.