Lit Review: The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education

Sweeney, Marilyn Ann. (2007). The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education. Ed.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts Lowell, United States — Massachusetts. Retrieved September 23, 2007, from ProQuest Digital Dissertations database. (Publication No. AAT 3257352).

Author: Marilyn Ann Sweeney.
Title of article: The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education.
Publication year: 2007
Database source: ProQuest Dissertation Abstracts.
Name of journal: n/a
My Codes: VCContentProviders, VCProjects, VCImplementation.
Main point of the dissertation: Main research question: Is there a relationship between K-12 educator preference for constructivist learning theory and their use of videoconferencing to support constructivism in their videoconferencing lessons? The study looked at four constructivism constructs: prior knowledge, mental models, interaction, and student directed active learning and how those constructs are applied in videoconferencing.

Methods. A survey was used that was built on three other research studies: a survey by Hayden (1999) to find links between constructivism and videoconferencing, a survey by Ravitz, Becker and Wong (2000) to see if distance learning educators used constructivism, and a constructivism preference tool by Taylor and Fraser (1991).

p.23 gives a great rationale for a nationwide sample and using a listserv to administer the survey. Videoconferencing is an emerging technology so a nationwide sample is logical to get more respondents. Also these educators are already using technology, so a listserv is a good way to get to them.

Data analysis techniques included using Cronbach’s alpha to determine the reliability of the two survey sections. Correlation, linear regression, and ANOVA were used to analyze the videoconferencing techniques and constructivism preferences.

Thoughts on the Sample. I remember this survey coming across the listservs. It’s interesting that only 63 educators responded to the survey. I think it’s because so many on the VC listservs aren’t classroom teachers – they are media specialists and tech coordinators – those responsible for videoconferencing. I don’t remember if I finished filling it out or not, but I remember looking at it and thinking that the questions didn’t apply to me because I wasn’t teaching. I wonder how many other coordinators did the same. How many of us forwarded the survey to the teachers we support? I can’t remember if I did or not, but there may have been other ways to get a higher sample of actual classroom teachers.

Further research could include replicating this study in a smaller geographical area but with more teachers. For example, last year we had over 700 videoconferences in our service area. I would guess that’s at least 300 teachers who participated in videoconferences. I can think of a few other educational service agencies who have a lot of teachers using VC and could help with getting more teachers to fill out the survey.

It’s interesting also (p. 71) that half of the respondents had done 20 or more videoconferences. They must have been more willing or more likely to fill out the survey. I can think of many teachers in my area who have only done 1-5 VCs.

Survey Development
How the survey was developed. A chart on pages 61-62 show the correlation between the survey question, the constructivist construct (prior knowledge, etc.), the major theorist and the researcher. These survey questions would be great tools to think about for every videoconference as part of the evaluation. For example:

  • Was the videoconference preceded by classroom work on the topic?
  • Have the students completed readings about the topic prior to the videoconference?
  • Did the students take notes or fill in an activity sheet during the videoconference?
  • Did the students write about what they learned in the videoconference?

These are all great questions. Ones we should think about more as we design and evaluate our participation in videoconferences. I guess also these vibe with me because I’m a constructivist at heart.

“The key finding of this study is that the use of videoconferencing techniques has a positive relationship to the educator’s preference for constructivism. The greater the preference for constructivism in their classroom, the more frequent is the use of videoconferencing techniques, which support constructivism.” The higher the constructivism preferences of the educator, the more videoconferencing techniques they used. (β=.536, n=39, p<.001) p. 106. This is really interesting!! How many times have you heard coordinators ask – how do we get teachers to use VC more? Maybe some of them don’t see the connection between their teaching preferences and goals and the results that can be achieved with a videoconference? I don’t think that just telling them they can connect with NASA or the Columbus Zoo will cut it for training. Maybe this is why the immersive constructivist learning environment created by Jazz is so powerful. I wonder if it’s powerful enough to change opinions about constructivist learning? A before and after survey of beliefs about constructivism and VC would be interesting, especially if coupled with a comparison of use of VC before and after Jazz.

93% of the respondents precede their videoconferences with work on the topic. p. 84 We know that preparation ahead of time is critical to the success of the VC, so this fits well with our experiences.

I wish that interactivity were more defined. 81% of respondents give students the opportunity to ask their own questions of the remote end. p. 84. But what else is interactivity? The MysteryQuest format is highly interactive as the students have to engage with each other’s content. Simulation programs such as the Challenger Learning Center e-Missions are also interactive at a higher level than just Q&A. Roxanne has been exploring this with her Holiday Extravaganza videoconferences. I guess another study would be to really delve into the definitions and forms of interactivity. Many want to know other ways to increase interactivity besides such asking questions.

The respondents preferred constructivist teaching strategies that include students talking with other students about how to solve problems (98%) and teaching interesting things about the world outside of the school (91%). p. 90. What would be even more interesting is to give this survey to all the teachers in 2 or 3 schools. It would be interesting to see if the teachers who aren’t using videoconferencing score lower on these items.

Another interesting finding is that fewer respondents involved students in the planning for the videoconference even though they preferred that in the constructivist section of the survey. Could it be because they don’t know how to involve students in planning a VC? or that the VCs they are participating in actually don’t have room for students to plan the VC? think of content provider programs. Most of them don’t have too much room for student planning other than bringing their own questions. Whereas projects such as Monster Match, Holiday Extravaganza, and Read Around the Planet have a high potential for teachers to involve students in planning for the VC. If teachers choose, students can brainstorm the activities and presentations to share with the partner class.

“54% of the respondents reported being self-taught which suggests on-site support could supplement the other avenues.” p. iii. Hmm. Is this another evidence of the need for a school level videoconference coordinator? Someone IN the building to assist teachers in using VC in their curriculum?

Lit Review
One way to organize a literature review is by history of videoconferencing. This is how Sweeney organized her lit review.

Definitions included are videoconferencing, ISDN, IP, Interactive TV, distance education, e-learning and listserv. (p.20).

I find it interesting that Sweeney uses the word “conduct” to describe teachers who participate in videoconferences: “. When you participate in a videoconference with a content provider, do you consider yourself as “conducting” the videoconference, or do you think the content provider is conducting it?

Questions/Wonderments I Have

  • I need to think more about Vygotsky’s concept of social constructivism and how it is evidenced in the various videoconferences I’m involved in – ASK and MysteryQuest for example.
  • I really need to think about how we’ve implemented social constructivism in the Jazz class.

This was a really interesting dissertation and is worth a skim through if you can find some time to access it!

0 replies on “Lit Review: The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education”

  1. Random thoughts and reactions:

    1. What about Vigotsky’s zone of proximal development? Would that concept also relate to our building coordinators/teachers? I am thinking about how learners have to be challenged with support in order to get maximum learning. Like Goldilocks, “not too hard, not too easy”.

    2. What I love about JAZZ is that we model everything from best practice to troubleshooting to adapting classroom activities. I have talked with many of our participants from last summer who have attended other technology trainings and they say that nothing compares to the level of understanding that they developed during that week. JAZZ is deceptively simple. Bring people together and do the projects. Therein lies the power. We do it over and over and teach new facilitators how to facilitate as well as teaching our participants. Then the new facilitators teach others and work with others to create their own projects. I have got to re-read Situated Learning or Wenger’s Communities of Practice. I know there are other connections to be made, but my theory is rusty!

    3. This does begin to explain why certain teachers are drawn to the type of projects like ASK, Holiday Extravaganza, Read Around the Planet, and Monster Match. We create a boundary, but allow teachers to enable students to create and master content that is required in their standards. I tell people all the time that I work with the most amazing teachers who are doing fantastic things with their students and now I think this is an interesting piece of research worthy of additional investigation.

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