Lit Review: Characteristics and Critical Strategies to Support Constructivist Learning Experiences

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

Hayden, K. L. (1999). Videoconferencing in K-12 education: A Delphi study of characteristics and critical strategies to support constructivist learning experiences. Unpublished Ed.D., Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA.

Author: Katherine L. Hayden
Title of dissertation: Videoconferencing in K-12 education: A Delphi study of characteristics and critical strategies to support constructivist learning experiences.
Publication year: 1999
Database source: Dissertation Abstracts and Kathleen Hayden’s website.
My Codes:
VCContentProviders, VCProjects, VCCourseDelivery, VCImplementation, VCExperts

Main Point: The dissertation identified characteristics of videoconference sessions that support constructivist learning experiences. It also focused on critical support strategies necessary for successful K12 videoconferencing. These characteristics were identified by interviewing a panel of experts.

A Delphi study was used to identify characteristics of constructivist learning in videoconferencing.

The participants were from three areas: teachers with prior use of technology in K12 classrooms (stakeholders), experienced users of videoconferencing (experts), and educational consultant or visionaries (facilitator). (p. 73). A purposive sample was used.

They communicated via email and web-based questionnaires in three rounds of surveys, each building on the previous one. In the rounds, the participants identified characteristics and then rated them. The process was conducted over a four month period.

They were not required to have knowledge in constructivism, but were given a list of terms and experiences to work from: themes from the literature on constructivism (p. 65):

  • student-centered activities
  • active participation by students
  • deep understanding of concepts
  • access to primary sources of data
  • performance-based assessment
  • group situations / collaborative work
  • teacher as facilitator

The responses were analyzed using the content analysis method.

Hayden also checked several variables to see if there was a difference between the participants and their responses (age, gender, experience, etc.) One area that was significant was prior experience with videoconferencing, (p. 99). “The group that indicated prior experience using videoconferencing in K-12 education had higher constructivist point totals indicating higher perceptions of constructivist methodology statements.” This is really intriguing considering the Sweeney research results. It does seem this constructivist theme is emerging. Is it because I’m only reading the most interesting studies first and I’m definitely a constructivist? Is that why I enjoy VC so much?

Definitions: The definition of videoconferencing as two way seeing and hearing came from the PacBell site (now AT&T). So it appears that definitions in my dissertation could possibly come from sources such as a blog entry defining projects and collaborations.

Both room based and desktop based videoconferencing were included in the study.

The results identified 20 characteristics of videoconferencing that support constructivist learning. They are online at the web archive. They fit into four themes: connections, questioning, learning, and interaction. p. 136 The researcher found it interesting that the traditional “talking head” of videoconferencing did not emerge in the study.
The results also identified 10 support strategies, that are online at the web archive too. They are organized into six categories: people (a  site technician or coordinator!!, access, hardware and software, materials, staff development, and cost. The researcher suggested that one person could play several support roles: Technician, leadership and management. p. 139

Lit Review: This lit review is organized more closely to how I want to organize mine.

In the lit review, Hayden reviews the history of educational technology and how it often made little long term impact on the classroom.  p. 15 Teachers who used radio, film or instructional television used it “occasionally as a replacement for direct instruction.” p. 15. The reference is to Tyack and Cuban. Hmmm. Does that sound like the use of content providers to you? An occasion replacement for regular insturction?! Interesting, isn’t it. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Do the lessons learned in college course delivery studies apply to K12 curriculum videoconferencing?

p. 47 Hayden describes how schools have used Internet projects in the classroom, and that they aren’t in the research literature, but there are several educational technology journal articles referencing them. This may be the way to describe how VC is used, even tho’ there is little research specifically on K12 curriculum videoconferencing type applications. It may also be useful to look at the types of projects she references to see how they correspond with the types of VC projects we’re doing. I know a lot of the ideas in my Projects Booklet are from internet based projects and Webquests.

p. 48 Hayden also gives an overview of how CUSeeMe was used in classrooms with Global SchoolNet. Research seems applicable to H323 videoconferencing as well. Certainly we can learn from their lessons. GSF projects have some key elements: interactivity with experts & peers, authentic projects with student-centered learning, online assistance with curriculum and finding partners. Read Around the Planet helps with finding partners, and other tools also do this. It’s a critical piece to collaborative projects.

p. 51. The lit review covers the resources available to help teachers in using videoconferencing, limited to basically the PacBell and Global SchoolNet sites. Remember this was in 1999. If I include a section like this, there are a lot more resources to refer to! Note also that there is a reason Lora Smith received the recent CILC National Distance Learning Awards. This site has been the starter/foundation for many of us as we got started with videoconferencing.

Great Quotes:
‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, then videoconferencing is worth tens of thousands of words. ”  Newcombe 1997, but the source document is no longer online.

Background/Why It’s Important
p. 1-2 Hayden begins that background of the problem by arguing that business is using electronic communication tools and finds that they are a valuable tool for today’s work. (references from 1996 and 1997). Therefore the schools cannot ignore what is happening in the world. These arguments are similar to those I made when writing our RUS Grant. I’m sure there are more recent references that can be used to make this same argument.

p. 3-4 Hayden argues for the benefits of VC in education, including global resources, visuals, the personal touch, real-world learning, and educators visions of learning in the future.

Why we need VC coordinators in the school
p. 5 referenced Zhao – teachers need support to adopt new technologies otherwise there won’t be a widespread impact on education.

p. 15 Nonuse or infrequent use of early technologies was due to various problems, including access to training and resources. Another Cuban reference.

Limited support is one of the reasons teachers cite as an obstacle to using technology. (Hancock & Betts)

p. 58 “Site mentors” can provide support for professional development. Need to look into this research and how it applies to videoconference coordinators.  Hurst, Sprague, Polin (can’t find the reference).

Cuban‘s (1986) areas of concern for the implementation of technology are still critical issues today: “cost of equipment, maintenance and upgrades; access to technology, curriculum fit, training and support.” He also suggests two other areas that should be addressed: “teacher beliefs about teaching and learning and teachers being included in decision making relating to technology.”

p. 55 e-rate is referenced as a reason the cost of access to VC may be coming down. I think this is true – we couldn’t do IP based VC without good Internet connections. Of course now we want/need fiber! Will it ever end?!

Constructivism & Social Constructivism
p. 6 Many references used to make the point that technology is probably best integrated into student-centered constructivist learning environments. This theme is starting to come through loud and clear in my reading. We wonder why teachers don’t integrate videoconferencing in their curriculum or even try it. Could it be that they don’t believe that learning can happen in social constructivist environments? If that is true, then how do we teach them a new way? I think Jazz makes a few dents in this problem.

p. 23 & 24. Hayden describes how constructivism reforms are making inroads into educational practice and why they are desirable. I wonder what current research is saying about constructivism in the light of No Child Left Behind and the current testing environment? And how does that impact our emphasis on interactive videoconferencing?

Hiltz 1997 found that students who used group learning with online communication tools had higher grades. The social interaction was a key part of the educational process. Interesting, but it’s college level and it’s in a web based asynchronous environment. Do those principles apply to real time videoconferencing as well? Another study would be appropriate to find out if that is true.

p. 41 has a great chart I wish was online on the Internet so I could link to it to show you. It has videoconferencing activities, and how an instructionist teacher or a constructivist teacher would interpret it. I.e. “bring people together from remote locations” means “my students can display their work for another class” to an instructionist teacher, and “my students can collaborate with remote learners” to a constructivist teacher. Hmm. I’m thinking of the popularity of Read Around the Planet. Maybe another reason this project works so well is that it is not too far of a jump for an instructionist teacher to integrate into their learning. It’s relatively easy to put together a presentation to share with another class. The Q&A section is the start of interactive social constructivist experiences – something simple and easy to do.

“New technologies foster the kind of active, collaborative learning that constructivist advocate.” Collins p. 64. This is certainly true for videoconferencing, and especially Web 2.0 plus videoconferencing (see this example and this example).

Training/Professional Development
p. 57 The one day workshop focusing on how to use a skill or program vs. how to use it in the classroom is rarely effective.

p. 58 In technology PD, “the most important staff-development features include opportunities to explore, reflect, collaborate with peers, work on authentic learning tasks, and engage in hands-on, activte learning.” Sandholtz 1997 p. 142. Sure sounds like Jazz to me. These quotes correspond to my variable of what type of training the school VC coordinator received.

Relevance: This study focuses on K12 education, unlike many that focus on higher ed course delivery. It also supports the constructivist learning that is critical in successful content provider programs and collaborative projects.

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