Assessing applications for collaboration: from collaboratively usable applications to collaborative technology

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<ul><li><p> British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004.Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.</p><p>British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 35 No 4 2004</p><p>433442</p><p>Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Oxford, UKBJETBritish Journal of Educational Technology0007-1013British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 20042004354433442Articles</p><p>Assessing applications for </p><p>collaborationBritish Journal of Educational Technology</p><p>Assessing applications for collaboration: from collaboratively usable applications to collaborative technology</p><p>Lasse Lipponen and Jiri Lallimo</p><p>Lasse Lipponen and Jiri Lallimo are researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University ofHelsinki. They have conducted projects on information and communication technology and learning inschools and workplaces. Address for correspondence: Lasse Lipponen, Department of Psychology, PO Box9, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. Tel: (</p><p>+</p><p>358 9) 191 29472; fax: (</p><p>+</p><p>358 9) 191 29443;</p><p>Abstract</p><p>The continually increasing number of applications said to facilitatecollaboration makes it very difficult for educators to identify and evaluate theones that are suitable for educational purposes. In this paper we argue thatfrom the educational point of view, it is meaningful to make a distinctionbetween collaboratively usable applications and collaborative technology.Collaboratively usable applications are systems that can be used forcollaboration, whilst collaborative technology is technology that is especiallydesigned to support and establish collaboration. To distinguish between thesetwo kinds of technologies, we propose four criteria for collaborative technology:its design is grounded on some explicitly argued theory of learning orpedagogical model; it relies on the idea of groupware; it provides proceduralfacilitation; and it offers representational and community-building tools.</p><p>Introduction</p><p>At present there is increasing research interest in the issue, how technology can be usedin support of collaborative learning in schools (Dillenbourg </p><p>et al</p><p>, 2001; Hoadley, 1999;Koschmann </p><p>et al</p><p>, 2001; Wasson </p><p>et al</p><p>, 2003). Applications for collaboration, such asnetworked learning environments, knowledge spaces and discussion forums, are prom-ised to afford entirely new possibilities for advancing teaching and learning practices(Koschmann, 1996a; Roschelle &amp; Pea, 1999). They allow participants to collaborateand produce knowledge to shared working spaces (Roschelle &amp; Pea, 1999). They canfree teaching and learning from the physical boundaries of schools and the time con-straints of class schedules, and support local and global collaboration among studentsand experts in sharing knowledge (Edelson </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1999). Further, collaborative technol-</p></li><li><p> 434</p><p>British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 35 No 4 2004</p><p> British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004.</p><p>ogy can store the history of knowledge construction processes for revisions and futureuse (Scardamalia &amp; Bereiter, 1994).</p><p>As a consequence of the interest in collaborative learning and in the possibilities tech-nology can offer, new applications that are labeled as collaborative appear frequently.We see problems in this situation. The main challenge is that this continually increasingnumber of applications makes it very difficult for educators to identify and evaluate theones that actually foster collaborative learning in education. Students and teachers arenot the same as experts; they have special needs that require consideration in designingtechnology for collaborative learning. In addition, when a term becomes fashionable,as is the case with collaborative technology, it is often usedthat is to say, abusedfor more or less anything. It is nonsense to talk about the effects of collaborative tech-nology if any technology is labelled collaborative.</p><p>In this paper we argue that from the educational point of view, it is misleading toconsider all the applications that can be used for collaboration as collaborative, and thatone should make a distinction between </p><p>collaboratively usable applications</p><p> and </p><p>collaborativetechnology</p><p>. Our approach to collaborative technology is instructional and pedagogical,not a technical one. We start with a brief look at the history of educational technology;especially we examine the emergence of collaboratively usable applications. We thenpresent four criteria for what we call collaborative technology, to distinguish it fromcollaboratively usable applications. In doing so, we admit to a normative purpose, to saywhat, in our view, should be true of such a technology. The criteria for collaborativetechnology are illustrated with some application examples. Finally, we present someconclusions and offer future directions. Keeping these points in mind, the paper con-tributes to the theoretical as well as practical understanding and development of col-laborative technology.</p><p>From single user software to collaboratively usable applications</p><p>There is a revolution in educational-technology development, beginning with softwaresensitive to individual learners, such as Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), IntelligentTutoring Systems (ITS), and Logo, and proceeding to technology designed to supportcollaborative activities (Koschmann, 1996b). The idea of CAI programs (see Steinberg,1991) was to build software tailored to particular learners with specific needs, focusingon domain specific content representations. Designers of Intelligent Tutoring Systems(ITS; see Mandl &amp; Lesgold, 1988) applied methods of AI research to understand skilledtutoring in complex domains. Investigators were interested in instructional compe-tence, for example, in answering the question, could a computer program function asan adaptive and skilled teacher or tutor?, one can say that CAI software and ITS-systems were both representatives of computer-as-tutor software (Crook, 1994), theformer relying on behaviourism, and the latter on information processing theory. Logo,invented by Papert (1980), emerged in counterpoint to the behaviouristic approach. Itrelied on Piagetian epistemological constructivism, and on the idea that by involvingstudents in programming, they would cultivate their general problem-solving skills(Papert, 1980). To put it briefly, one can say that CAI, ITS and Logo were designed for</p></li><li><p> Assessing applications for collaboration</p><p>435</p><p> British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004.</p><p>individual learners, and teachers using them often neglected the social and collabora-tive aspects of learning.</p><p>The development of collaboratively usable applications has a rather long history. Itstarted in the late 1960s with the work of Doug Engelbart on supporting asynchronouscollaboration among teams distributed geographically (see, for example, Engelbart,1975). Engelbart and his research group developed the oN-Line System (NLS), a hyper-media-groupware environment with tools to support communication, planning, anddebugging for asynchronous use by project collaborators. Today, NLS is still recognisedas one of the most inclusive systems for facilitating wide-area collaboration. The rangeof this work has a continuum in computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) appli-cations or collaborative computing, workgroup computing, and multiuser applications,as they are also labeled (Grudin, 1994). These applications, which support people work-ing together, themselves embody a constellation of technologies that may include email,bulletin boards, videoconferencing, shared calendaring and scheduling, document andknowledge management systems, and awareness tools (Grudin &amp; Poltrock, 1997).CSCW applications are employed in a variety of ways, ranging from organisational useto establishment of virtual communities.</p><p>In education, the research and development of collaboratively usable applications beganonly toward the end of 1980s. It is a rather new area of research and development thatrelies heavily on the tradition of CSCW. Nowadays, archetypal applications for collabo-rative learning in education include groupware, networked learning environments, andmessaging systems, such as discussion forums (Lehtinen </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1999). The developmentof and research on these applications is mainly grounded in the wide framework ofsociocultural theories of learning, and they are especially studied and developed in thefield of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). CSCL is focused on howcollaborative learning, supported by technology, can enhance peer interaction andwork in groups, and how collaboration and technology facilitate sharing and distribut-ing knowledge and expertise among community members (Koschmann, 1996b;Lipponen, 2001).</p><p>From collaboratively usable applications to collaborative technology</p><p>It is not easy to make a clear conceptual or functional distinctions between varioustechnologies. At first sight, this difficulty appears to apply to the differentiation betweencollaboratively usable applications and collaborative technology. Partly, the difficulty isa consequence of the fact that almost any technological setting, could, in some way, beused in support of collaboration (we recognize that there are many different interpre-tations of the term collaboration, but in this context, we simply mean people learningor working together; for various interpretations of the concept, see Lipponen </p><p>et al</p><p>,2004). To illustrate how very dissimilar technologies can be used for collaboration,consider the following two examples. First, imagine a pair of students working at thecomputer, running a simulation program in biology. By creating a point of sharedreference (Crook, 1994), the simulations on the screen can help the students to collab-orate. This referential anchor can function as a concrete and shared representation,</p></li><li><p> 436</p><p>British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 35 No 4 2004</p><p> British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004.</p><p>and be used in the students collaborative activities (Hakkarainen </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1998). In thiscase, the technology, the software developed for the individual user, can be utilised incollaboration. However, the simulation program does not, by itself, support wide-areacollaboration.</p><p>As a second case, consider email; it has been a communication tool in schools anduniversities, for several years. A common way of utilising email is the exchange ofmessages between distant schools, cross-school research projects, and ask the expertarrangements. Email has also been a tool for teachers to deliver information to studentsor to give personal supervision. Originally, email was designed for one-to-one commu-nication, but with mailing lists, a larger group of users can exploit e-mail in sharingdocuments and in commenting on each others work (Lehtinen </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1999). Despitethese collaborative features, email does not organise discussion very much and doesnot scaffold learning in a pedagogically meaningful way. As pointed out by Roschelleand Pea (1999), email and most of the Internet tools and discussion forums availableare not robust and simple enough for use in average classrooms; they do not translateto the classroom setting, and do not organise conversations well for learning.</p><p>Hence, when referring to </p><p>collaborative technology</p><p>, what is one actually speaking about?Among researchers, including those in academic fields, the term collaborative technol-ogy is understood in at least two main senses. Commonly, every application that hasthe potential to support collaboration is considered as collaborative technology(Roschelle &amp; Pea, 1999). In a few cases, however, a clearer definition for collaborativetechnology has been given. According to Roschelle (1995), collaborative technologyenables and scaffolds the construction of communal ways of seeing, acting and know-ing, and production of shared knowledge and new practices for successful future action.Whilst this definition is absolutely fair, it still is too general to characterise genuinecollaborative technology.</p><p>To help educators (and researchers and software developers) to indentify and evaluatethose collaborative applications that actually foster collaborative learning in education,we propose the following distinction between collaboratively usable applications andcollaborative technology: by </p><p>collaboratively usable applications</p><p> we refer to any technolog-ical application or system that can be used for collaboration. By </p><p>collaborative technology</p><p>,we denote a technology that is especially designed and tested (ie, is grounded on carefultheoretical and empirical analyses) to support and establish collaboration in education.Collaborative technology fulfils the following criteria: (1) its design is grounded on someexplicitly argued theory of learning or pedagogical model; (2) it relies on the idea ofgroupware in supporting wide-area collaboration; (3) it supports users activities byproviding advanced procedural facilitation or socio-cognitive scaffolding; and (4) itoffers a variety of representational and community building tools.</p><p>The first criterion we proposed for collaborative technology was that the design ofcollaborative technology is explicitly grounded on some particular learning theory orpedagogical model. For instance, the design of the Knowledge Forum (the former CSILE,</p></li><li><p> Assessing applications for collaboration</p><p>437</p><p> British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, 2004.</p><p>Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environment, see Scardamalia </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1989)rests on the theory of collaborative knowledge building, articulated by Scardamalia andBereiter (Scardamalia &amp; Bereiter, 1994; Bereiter, 2002). The background of the devel-opment of knowledge building is in research on the psychology of written composition,expertise, and progressive problem-solving. Writing, for example, can be seen as one ofthe most important tools of thinking in our present society (Bereiter &amp; Scardamalia,1987; Olson, 1994). It has a crucial significance in explication and articulation of onesconceptions. Thus the externalization of ideas by writing, making thinking visible,should help students to reflect on their own and others ideas and share their expertisein problem solving. Therefore, collaborative technology is designed to encourage stu-dents to use writing as a medium of collaborative learning and between-student com-munication. In addition, as stated earlier, CSILE, for example, has been empiricallytested at schools for more than ten years (although certain research questions have yetto be definitely answered), and the research findings have been fed back for furthercycles of design of the system. (We do not propose, here, to address the empiricalevidence as to the value of CSILE and its successors, but see Lamon </p><p>et al</p><p>, 1996.)</p><p>A well-known example of an educational groupware that fulfil...</p></li></ul>


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