For this week’s readings, I read Ikpeze (2007) and Squire & Jan (2007).
To begin, I’d like to offer my thoughts on Ikpeze (2007). The study was about electronic discourse (ED) in distance education, and looking at qualitative group dynamics in a graduate seminar course. I have had two experiences with distance education, one that was fully online and the other that was mostly a regular lecture-style course with an online component. My first experience was an undergraduate summer class that I took online on the history of the Chicano/a experience in America (to be honest, it was a GE requirement and I was glad I didn’t have to go to campus to do it). There were readings, small quizzes, and reflection papers–standard online fare in my opinion. The portion of the course that relates to this paper was the mandatory chat sessions we had with the instructor each week. The discussion forums were optional. However, my experience was one that research described as ineffective: the instructor did not have control over the chat session, very little was actually discussed, and I felt my learning would be better served doing something else. Spending 20 min of an hour chat session just watching people enter or have technical difficulties was painful. My experience would be qualitatively different from the research described in the paper. In fact, if the methodology of the study was adopted by the instructor of my course, it might have been a better experience.
The other experience was to be a teaching assistant for a psychology course where the students had to make a wiki page on a specific psychological phenomenon in groups on a website. They had to collaborate, engage in discussion regarding editing, and maintain a working and effective webpage. I oversaw the groups, and acted in a similar manner as the instructor of the paper. Though not necessarily linked to the Ikpeze paper, grouping seemed to help effective learning, as the better working groups (similar the 3 groups in the ED paper) produced better final products.
I do have some criticisms regarding the ED paper, however. One, the findings did not seem that ground-breaking to me. While ED adds a new wrinkle to the in-person group dynamic, the group processes still remain: if you’ve got a good group, it will be better; if you have a sucky group, you won’t feel as though the utility of the ED was high. As a psychologist, I was not surprised by these findings. Two, it would have been better to see the study run on undergraduates; this is due the differential motivations in these classes vs. graduate seminar classes. This leads me to my third criticism, which entails my wariness of the conclusions made based on qualitative data. I would have liked to have seen more quantitative data on the observations made. I do not believe they would have been too hard to implement. I did see the use of Likert scale questions, but I think more would have given strength to the conclusions of the study.
The other paper I read for this week was Squire & Jan (2007). This was also a qualitative study, looking at scientific thinking in children (4th-10th grades) on an augmented reality murder mystery game. I don’t have much to say about this study, but again, I would have liked to have read more quantitative findings to give their qualitative analysis more weight.
As for the method, it seems like it has potential. I do like the Sherlock Holmes-esque style of gameplay that requires the students to go from an end event and retrace the steps backward asking specific questions. This is missing from higher education. I would like to see sustained use through multiple grades, especially in longitudinal form. My concern about this game, however, is the openness regarding the gameplay. The authors state that there are many reasons why the person might have died and it is up to the students to make a storyline. The issue I have with this is that there appeared to be no wrong answers. While I agree that the path should be complex for the children to ask deeper questions, it is unclear if they tend to start going down the wrong path if they are nudged back in the right direction. It is easy to rationalize mistakes and seem like a logical deduction or abduction was made.