Collaborative Learning and collaborative Visualization

Collaborative Learning and collaborative Visualization

Chapter I: Review of the Literature


The current chapter reviews relevant literature on the learning, and teaching strategies of collaborative visualization, collaborative learning, and communication skills.

This is for the sake of setting a ground that allows us to analyse the attitudes that are held by both teachers and students in the Department of English at Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi Ouzou towards collaborative visualization (CV) in developing communication skills (CS) in English. This chapter is composed of seven basic parts.

The first part is devoted to collaborative visualization. We start this section with several definitions proposed by authors to collaborative learning (CL); then, we move to a brief literature review of collaborative visualization.

The second section deals with the importance of collaborative visualization in the process of learning. We define, in the third position, visual aids and explain their types.

Afterwards, communication skills are defined and the different types which might be involved in the collaborative visualization are explained in the fourth part. The fifth part reviews the relationship between collaborative visualization and communication skills from a constructivist approach.

The concept of attitude and its definition are dealt with at the level of the sixth part. The seventh part is concerned with the theoretical framework on which this research is based.

I. Collaborative Visualization

Collaborative Visualization can be understood as collaborative learning using visual aids. Collaborative learning can be confused with cooperative learning; however, these two terms can be used interchangeably.

According to Bruffee (1995: 12), “Cooperative learning and collaborative learning are two versions of the same thing”, “… their long-range goals are strikingly similar” (ibid).

1. Collaborative Learning

According to Luther (2000), the major premise of the new way of learning is that students are active learners who work in groups. They engage in the learning experience and each member contributes to group success.

Students take part in group activities centred on problem solving; thus, they try to share knowledge and discuss how to solve issues.

In other words, they are involved in their own learning. It is logical that in a group, students might have diverse opinions; consequently, the exchange of information helps one another to think critically.

1. 1. Conceptions of Collaborative Learning

According to Jenni and Mauriel, 2004 (cited in Marjan and Mozhgan, 2012: 491) the term “collaborative learning” is used in many disciplines and fields.

Although authors have not agreed on one definition of the term, there are some features that are common in their definitions.

Mercer and Littleton (2007) define collaborative learning as an activity in which “participants are engaged in a coordinated, continuing attempt to solve a problem or in some other way construct common knowledge” (cited in Reusser and Pauli, 2015:916).

That is to say, in collaborative activities, students must work together. By coordinating their efforts, they try to find a way to successfully manage a problem or a difficulty to reach a consensus.

In addition, Johnson and Johnson (1999:73) state that cooperative learning is “the instructional use of small groups in which students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning”.

In other words, working in groups improves learning efficiency. Communication is essential for coordination because during collaborative activities, students give their opinions and share their ideas.

The exchange of knowledge helps each one to solve academic problems (for example, misunderstanding the topic of the study). Consequently, Zambrano et al. , (2019) think that there is one option to optimise collaborative learning; it is by developing effective collaborative groups.

Indeed, collaborative learning needs effective communication to occur. Johnson and Johnson (1999) mention that there are five conditions to achieve the desired goals in Cooperative Learning.

  1. Students must be mutually interdependent to assume group reaching goals. For example, during a lecture, the students who are divided into groups of four or five are recommended to write a dissertation on a specific topic; this implies that each student shares his knowledge with others, to depend on each other for a common purpose. Students are connected in a way that the success of each student makes the success of all group members.
  2. Individual accountability: students work together and help each other to become stronger through explaining the concepts studied, assessing one another, etc. Even though everyone is responsible of his performance and own learning, this does not prevent the group members to help one another.
  3. Students must participate in important face to face interactions, in which they share knowledge, give constructive feedback, encourage each other to achieve cognitive activities. In fact, students’ participation attracts the other members’ attention to listen and to reflect.
  4. Students should be taught the leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication and conflict-management skills as academic skills. To exemplify this, students are usually asked to prepare exposés depending on the module and the teacher. It is by giving this type of activity (exposés) that students learn to become leaders, to share the tasks with the group members, to avoid conflicts within the group or to manage them.
  5. Group processing: this exists when the students try to organise themselves during activities, negotiate ideas; discuss topics in an effective way.

Lastly, Dillenbourg (1999) means by the term “collaborative learning”, a process by which two or more people learn, acquire knowledge or try to memorise something.

During collaborative activities, students are expected to interact with one another, to be mutually engaged in conversations, to coordinate their efforts to solve problems. Interaction with pairs would lead to produce learning mechanisms, development of critical thinking and communication.

This means that collaborative learning is an active process. However, it is not a method, but rather a social act, between either peers or between peers and the teacher Dillenbourg (1999). Although the environment in the classroom is student-centred, it is not certain that the expected conversations will happen; this is why in collaborative classes, the teacher has his/her responsibilities.

The teacher is supposed to know what happens inside the group of students who are working together; how to maintain their concentration and know how to control critical situations that may happen as well as how to avoid them (Bruffee,1981). The following section will deal with collaborative visualization and its importance in the process of learning.

2. Collaborative Visualization

According to Pea (2002), Harb Manssour Freitas (2000) and Arcavi (2003), collaborative visualization is mainly used in the domain of science, mathematics, etc. The use of this strategy in teaching EFL requires listening comprehension and oral expression.

To apply collaborative visualization in EFL classroom, the principles of coordination process theory should be followed. This means, students would listen and watch videos, films, documentaries; coordinate their efforts, share their knowledge and comment on them effectively.

With the exception of this research, a number of definitions have already been given to describe particular perspectives of collaborative visualization. They are too specific; however, none has endeavored to encompass the scopes of group work around visual representations of information (Isenberg et al. , 2011).

Because of this, Isenberg et al. , (2011: 312) have agreed on one specific definition that broadly describes the scope that CV can encircle; it “[…] is the shared use of computer-supported, (interactive,) visual representations of data by more than one person with the common goal of contribution to joint information processing activities”.

This indicates that, multiple people communicate with the same computer to share their ideas with one another or to discuss the meaning of information cooperatively; however, CV can be divided based on the spatial location (co-located and distributed) and the moment in the time, synchronous and asynchronous, it occurs.

Collaborative Learning and collaborative Visualization

Figure1. Collaborative visualization according to space and time. Matrix adapted from Baecker and Dix et al (cited in Isenberg et al. , 2011: 313).

This Matrix shows that collaborative visualization happens, on the one hand, depending on the location of the participants. On the other hand, it occurs depending on the time, synchronously or asynchronously.

In synchronous collaboration, for example, the students watch a video conferencing at the same time; whereas, asynchronous collaboration, it allows a group of people to have many actions at different times without waiting for the others.

Asynchronous collaboration “involves exchange of letters, faxes, or emails, between members of a group” (Brodlie et al. , 1981: 03), that is, the group members need to use means of communication (letter, faxes or emails) to be able to collaborate with each other. Through these means, the data or the information exchanged between the members are stored.

To recapitulate, in collaborative visualization, a group of people can work together on a project at the same time and the same place. This allows them to have a face-to-face interaction. For instance, viewing a video and discussing it together.

On the other hand, the group of people may be separated geographically and work on a project through computers. They may have synchronous or asynchronous distributed interactions (Brodlie et al. , 1981: 02).

Visualizations are, in fact, intended to support collaboration of multiple users to share their ideas, their involvement and analytical skills, as well as develop each other’s knowledge and professionally reach more profound and valuable information.

They are also used to facilitate communication, “a collaborative visualization enhances the way the doctors would communicate and interact, as well as support the exchange and manipulation of the patient’s medical information” (Cernea, 2015: 02). In this case, doctors can work on projects such as preparing surgeries either synchronicallyor asynchronically.

They may not be in the same work place, but they deal with the same subject. They can manipulate data through their tablets as they can comment about it. Consequently, visualization supports social interaction between doctors.

Indeed, the involvement of the group in the collaborative visualization adjusts the help and encouragement offered to the individuals and to the group as a whole entity; therefore, it would improve multiple users’ communication and interaction, as well as sharing, exchanging and manipulating the information (Cernea, 2015).

2. 1. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning

CSCL is a new, active, changing, interdisciplinary, and international field of research. It focuses on how technology can simplify the construction and the sharing of knowledge through social interaction.

In the computer supported collaborative learning, interactions occur between students through computers to get a better learning environment.

The use of technology assists asynchronous and synchronous communication between students who are together as well as students who are distributed in different physical locations (Paul and Thérèse, 2007).

The development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has brought different computer applications, such as e-mail, chat rooms, video conferencing, simulations, and discussion forums which are useful for education (Janssen et al. , 2007). The study of CSCL is associated with collaborative learning and computer supported for cooperative work (CSCW).

In CSCW, the activities can be either co-located or separated. Students or a group of people working together communicate using a groupware, which is a software designed to be shared collaboratively by a number of users on a computer network, either synchronously or asynchronously.

This communication creates virtual learning environments or communities (Pea, 2002). These communities can be created in blogs and forums.

CSCL can be related to EFL context; with the use of technology in classroom, students can learn English as a foreign language through collaborative activities using visual aids on one hand.

On the other hand, online classrooms are created in educational platforms. To illustrate, wiki spaces is an educational platform where students are separated but work together on the same project.

3. The Importance of Collaborative Visualization in the Process of Learning

Collaborative visualization may be considered as collaborative learning supported by visualization. It is used in many fields mainly those of science, architecture, etc. Its importance in the process of learning has been demonstrated in several researches.

According to Myller (2009), it encourages students to have meaningful conversations based on the exchange of information. Students coordinate their efforts to understand the topic being learned.

When students are actively engaged in the activities, this enhances learning results. After that, as it gives importance to human interactions such as discussions, negotiations, or arguments, this develops social skills and critical thinking (Isenberg, 2011).

In accordance with what has been said, Collaborative Visualization is relevant to EFL at the University because it would, somehow, train students to use English language.

4. Visual Aids

4. 1. Definition of Visual Aids

According to Ghulam (2015: 226), “visual aids are those instructional Aids which are used in the classroom to encourage students [sic] learning process”. In other words, the use of visual aids motivates students.

It encourages them to participate; therefore, learning becomes easier because it creates an enjoyable atmosphere. In addition Burton, cited in Ghulam (2015: 226), thinks that “Visual aids are those sensory objects or images which initiate or stimulate and support learning”. That is, they serve as a complement to a lesson or a presentation.

Finally, visual aids are described by Kinder, (cited in Ghulam, 2015) as “any devices which can be used to make the learning experience more real, more accurate and more active”. In other words, these tools enable students to watch truthful contents, listen to recordings and make the students want to participate and interact.

4. 1. 1. Types of Visual Aids

There is a variety of types of visual aids used in language learning

4. 1. 1. 1. Pictures

They are usually used by most people or in most circumstances. They are very useful for learning new words. However, there are abstract words that are impossible to illustrate contrary to the concrete ones that are easy to accompany with pictures (Anderson and Shifrin, 1980; cited in Hiral, 2015: 93).

Photo dictionaries are widely used to enrich students’ vocabulary and enhance their speaking skill (ibid).

4. 1. 1. 2. Film

The film is another type of visual aids in education. It may have an important role in language learning because the moving pictures and the series of events projected help the students to learn in an enjoyable environment.

The learners pay attention to the pictures and the words; thus, it helps in learning new vocabulary, in improving one’s pronunciation as well, (Hiral, 2015).

Concerning the learners of the Department of English at Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi Ouzou, in our view, it would be more efficient for their learning process to implement films whose scripts are in British English Language. T

hese films help the learners to practice the four skills; listening, while watching the film and reading, writing and speaking in the activities that follow after watching the film (Khan, 2015).

4. 1. 1. 3. YouTube Videos

YouTube videos are mostly watched, with the new era of technology, because of their accessibility. There are many channels that broadcast documentaries, videos and lessons in English.

With these channels that treat several themes, the learners can learn a new vocabulary, a British accent, pronunciation of new words, and grammar; therefore, in my opinion, they can improve students’ four skills namely their listening and speaking skills.

4. 1. 1. 4. PowerPoint Slides

They allow the students to present the main information in a bullet point, in an organised way using examples, colours, personalised effects, etc.

These visual effects draw the audience’s attention and make the learners feel confident (Hiral, 2015). Students have more chances to learn what they see, what they say and what they do. For more precision, it is cited in Ghulam et al. , (2015:226) the results of a research made by Cuban in 2001. The findings indicate that

1% of what is learned is from the sense of TASTE, 1. 5% of what is learned is from the sense of TOUCH, 3. 5% of what is learned is from the logic of SMELL, 11% of what is educated is from the logic of HEARING and 83% of what is learned is from the sense of SIGHT.

Also people generally remember, 10% of what they READ, 20% of what they HEAR, 30% of what they SEE, 50% of what they HEAR and SEE, 70% of what they SAY and 90% of what they SAY as they DO a thing.

In short, the results of this research show that learners remember more what they say (70%), what they say and do (90%) and what they hear and see (50%). The following section will be about communication skills.

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Developing EFL Students’ Communication Skills through Collaborative Visualization
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