Singapore has set the global pace for student-centered learning with a 2:1 (2 pupils with 1 computer) ratio in its master plan for IT education. This shows that even the progressive countries, the 1:1 pupil-computer ratio is still an ideal to be achieved. Reality therefore dictates that schools face the fact that each classroom, especially in public or government schools, may not be equipped with the appropriate number of computers.
The creativity of teacher will have to respond to the situation, and so cooperative learning will likely be the answer to the implementation of IT supported learning in our schools. But the situation may not be that bad since there are motivational and social benefits to cooperative learning and these can compensate for the lack of hardware that educators face.
Defining Cooperative Learning
Cooperative or collaborative learning is learning by small groups of students who work together in a common learning task. It is often also called group learning but to be truly cooperative learning, 5 elements are needed:
1. A common goal
4. Individual accountability
5. Social skills
Therefore not every group work is cooperative learning since students working on their work sheets physically sat around a table may be working together without these features of cooperative learning.
From several studies made on cooperative learning, it is manifested that cooperative learning in its true sense is advantageous since it:
a. Encourages active learning, while motivating students
b. Increases academic performances
c. Promotes literacy and language skills
d. Improves teacher effectiveness.
In addition, there are studies which show that cooperative learning enhances personal and social development among students of all ages, while enhancing self-esteem and improving social relationship between racially and culturally different students.
Cooperative Learning and the Computer
Researchers have made studies on the learning interaction between student and the computer. The studies have great value since it has been a long standing fear that the computer may foster student learning in isolation that hinders the development of students’ social skills.
Now this mythical fear has been contradicted by studies which show that when students work with computers in group, they cluster and interact with each other for advice and mutual help. And given the option to work individually or in a group, the students’ generally wish to work together in computer-based and non-computer-based activities. Reflecting on this phenomenon, psychologists think the computer fosters this positive social behavior due to the fact that it has a display monitor –just like a television set –that is looked upon something in communal.
Therefore researchers agree that the computer is a fairly natural learning vehicle for cooperative (at times called primitive) learning.
Educators are still wary about the computers’ role in cooperative learning. Thus they pose the position that the use of computers do not automatically result in cooperative learning. There therefore assign the teacher several tasks in order to ensure collaborative learning. These are:
● Assigning students to mixed-ability
● Establishing positive interdependence
● Teaching cooperative social skills
● Insuring individual accountability, and
● Helping groups’ process information
These are in addition to assigning a common work goal in which each member of the group will realize that their group will not succeed unless everyone contributes to the group success. It is also important for the teacher limits learning group clusters so that there can be closer involvement in thinking and learning.