Tech encourages young students’ social skills

Both researchers observed how even though there was a “no watching” rule, students would break that rule in various ways: some students played on the carpet nearby and offered comments to the players, eventually coming over; some students would write their name on the waiting list, eventually coming over to the computer to watch and offer comments; and some students would play on Computer 2 to be closer to the action occurring at Computer 1. In fact, video footage showed that when the newer computer was occupied, 70 percent of the time more than two children clustered around that computer.

Also, according to the teacher’s rules, even though two students sat at a computer, student 1 was allowed to play the game while student 2 was only allowed to observe. However, seated players always worked together to accomplish the task of getting to higher levels in the game.

Wang and Ching found that the computer group, meaning the two seated players and the standing observers, had common goals: play the game to the highest level, minimize the teacher’s intervention, maximize playing time, have fun, socially belong to the group at the computer, and be good students in the classroom.

Seated players had two dominant goals: get to the highest level, and make sure no one infringed on personal play time.

When one of the seated players believed other students were breaking the rules, they would enforce the rules themselves with comments such as “wait your turn,” or “move away from here.” However, when the players found observer comments helpful, the players would enlist their help.

Overall, Wang and Ching found that the computer allowed children to solve tensions between their goals and the environment. To solve these tensions, students chose to invoke or ignore classroom rules and create new collaborative practices. The computer helped encourage social interaction and helped students learn how to accomplish group goals as well as personal goals.

“…Using technology in the classroom afforded . . . multiple opportunities for social and cognitive development via their continual negotiations,” explained Wang and Ching.

“Because most schools do not have enough computers for each student to use individually, especially in this grade level, young children must often work together. These ideas of spontaneous teamwork, awareness of others and yourself, as well as problem-solving are important to prepare children to become productive members in the increasingly technological and globalized world,” the researchers observed.

In Wang and Ching’s second study, they partnered with Mei-Li Shih and Yore Kedem of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Over the course of one school year, they observed how students created and used digital photography journals to support social and cognitive reflection.

Meris Stansbury

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