|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2012, 28(2), 341-363.
Digital immigrant teacher perceptions of an extended Cyberhunt strategy
André du Plessis and Paul Webb
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
This quantitative and qualitative interpretive exploratory case study investigates whether exposure to an Internet based Extended Cyberhunt strategy enables teachers to attain a set of outcomes similar to Prensky's 'Essential 21st Century Skills' and the 'Critical Outcomes of the South African National Curriculum Statement (NCS)'. The outcomes referred to include effective planning, designing, decision making and goal setting; improved computer and data searching skills; enhanced confidence, interest, reflective ability, collaboration, judgment and creative and critical thinking; as well as effective problem solving and the ability to communicate and interact with individuals and groups. The Extended Cyberhunt strategy, which focuses on enabling participants to become the designers of questions on curriculum related topics at different cognitive levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, was introduced to teachers who were first time users of the Internet, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. The intention was to ascertain these teachers' perceptions of the utility of the strategy in terms of assisting them to implement the critical outcomes described above with school level learners. Data on their perceptions and experiences related to these outcomes were generated and triangulated by means of a pre and post-Likert scale questionnaire, an open ended questionnaire, qualitative semi-structured interviews, reflective journal writing, and implementer reflections. Positive gains were revealed in terms of all of the above outcomes after exposure to the Extended Cyberhunt strategy. These findings are considered in terms of differences between the approach used and traditional teacher-centred teaching, and the strategy is examined using activity theory as a lens. While we are aware that many alternative approaches exist that may be just as successful in terms of attaining the desired outcomes, we believe that the Extended Cyberhunt strategy is both a fruitful extension of WebQuests and other existing Internet-based approaches, and a relatively easily implementable and viable way of attaining the desired outcomes.
The South African Department of Education has stipulated a number of critical outcomes which include critical and creative thinking, working together in teams, managing themselves responsibly, collecting and analysing information, communicating effectively, using science and technology effectively, seeing the world as set of related contexts, employing effective learning strategies and becoming responsible citizens (Department of Education, 1997, 2002, 2004). While the role that information and communication technology (ICT) can play in achieving these goals and the concomitant need for teacher development is acknowledged (Department of Education, 2004), there is a paucity of information on how to go about achieving these ends (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2005). In practice, the time frames for ICT implementation in South African schools, as reflected in the Draft White Paper on e-Education (Department of Education 2004), have not been realised and many schools are without computers and Internet connections, nor have the teachers been exposed to ICT related skills and practices. In the Eastern Cape Province for example, 90% of the schools are without a computer centre, let alone an Internet connection (Department of Education, 2009).
Nevertheless, there is an increasing number of schools now provided with ICT infrastructure, and there is a growing need for teacher professional development in terms of ICT. As such there is a need for information on ways to support teachers, particularly those who are digital immigrants, to cope with the demands of the curriculum and the 21st century skills implied therein. This paper provides a snapshot of the perceptions of a group of digital immigrant teachers who were provided first-time access to computers in their schools and who participated in a development program which focused on an extended Cyberhunt strategy (Du Plessis, 2010; Du Plessis & Webb, 2011). The study aimed at ascertaining whether the use of such a strategy could promote essential 21st century skills among the participating teachers, and interpreting the dynamics of the context (Lim & Hang, 2003; Hardman, 2005a, 2005b, 2007) in order to suggest a possible 'how to' strategy to address current ICT curricular demands. The findings are interpreted within activity theory (Hardman, 2005a, 2005b, 2007) and motivational theory (Keller, 1983; Malone & Lepper, 1987) frames of reference, as these ideas underpinned the original design of the extended Cyberhunt strategy.
They can also be used to explore aspects or topics within the curriculum that the teacher is not able to cover because of time constraints. Learners are expected to explore a given topic by generating keywords and key phrases, assessing the appropriateness of the resources found online, and composing questions based on different cognitive levels as per Bloom's revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). The process includes introducing the participants to the notion of different cognitive levels, identifying key verbs associated with each level, and developing a clear assessment memorandum. We argue that the last two aspects, namely a deliberate attempt to engage learners in composing questions on different cognitive levels supported by a clear memorandum, are what makes Extended Cyberhunts novel.
The Extended Cyberhunt strategy consists of 12 w's: wowing, wanting, wondering, webbing and wreading, wiggling, weaving, wrapping-up, waving, wmail or wupload, and wising (Du Plessis & Webb, 2011), with a high premium placed on journal writing and reflection throughout the process, in order to facilitate learners to articulate their thinking, their needs and their learning. This strategy was developed by using ideas from learner hypermedia design as proposed by the Lehrer (1993) framework, the design ideas of Allessi and Trollip (2002) and Liu (2003), the DDDE (decide, design, develop and evaluate) multimedia design framework of Ivers and Baron (2006) and the Eight Step Project Based framework of Lamb, Smith and Johnson (1997). These were used as the basis for conceptualising the learning as design aspects of the Extended Cyberhunt strategy. This newly developed strategy consists of twelve w's whereas Lamb et al.'s (1997) strategy consist of eight w's.
In a previous paper (Du Plessis & Webb, 2011) and in Du Plessis (2010), comprehensive overviews regarding the theoretical perspectives of Cyberhunts, the underlying philosophy, process of implementation, the knowledge and cognitive dimensions as well as how Cyberhunts differ from WebQuests were presented. The Extended Cyberhunt strategy shares certain aspects similar to WebQuests, but it is important to note that it is not a WebQuest. Below follows a short overview of the theoretical perspectives as well as how it relates to the Extended Cyberhunt strategy.
The theoretical perspectives that underpin the Extended Cyberhunt strategy are 'learning as design' or construction (Perkins, 1986), constructivist principles (Harel & Papert, 1991; Marlowe & Page, 2005; Slavin, 2003), constructionism (Stager, 2005, Ackerman, 2001; Harel & Papert, 1991), reflection (Kafai, 1996), collaboration (Vygotsky, 1978; Wisnudel, 1994) as well as motivation and interest (Keller, 1983; Malone & Lepper, 1987). Constructivism becomes constructionism when learners are actively involved to design artefacts (Harel & Papert, 1991); hence participants became active designers of extended Cyberhunts within this study. Reflection is an important aspect during and after the 'constructionist' design process as it assists in making learning more meaningful and guides further action (Kafai, 1996), hence the use of journals with pre-determined questions as one of the data tools in order that participants could reflect at the end of each session.
The collaborative dimension of the process comes into play when learners make meaning socially, hence giving learning a social constructivist dimension, and offering possibilities to enhance cognitive and social skills (Wisnudel, 1994; Vygotsky, 1978). Hence, participants were encouraged to work in groups of two to four in order to discuss and assist one another - bringing the social dimension to the fore. During the design process, being motivated and interested are also important, as motivational aspects such as fun, attention, challenge, competence, relevance, choice, voice and novelty have the possibility to enhance learning (Keller, 1983; Malone & Lepper, 1987). Therefore, participants were given opportunities to make their own decisions for example the topic that they want to choose, they could voice and share their progress with their peers and the facilitator as opportunities were provided for this. In addition, the participants were challenged with something new (the Internet, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well as the design of Extended Cyberhunts) and at the same time provided with facilitator and peer assistance in order to try to achieve personal competence or mastery.
Learning as design is based upon the principle that learners should be actively involved in the knowledge creation process, something which emphasises both process and product (Bruner, 1996). Hokanson and Hooper (2000) point out that the design process results in using ICTs as a generative constructivist tool, enabling learning and thinking as participants become the active constructors of artefacts (Jonassen & Reeves, 1996). Hence, participants were actively involved while designing their collaborative Extended Cyberhunts. The use of journals for reflective purposes that the facilitator could read enabled not only critical reflection and the identification of current assumptions, but also afforded the opportunity for the facilitator to be aware of the support to provide for the challenge - challenge in the sense that the participants were exposed to a new way of learning where they had to identify problems and possible solutions, implying participation in a transformative learning process (Mezirow, 1997; McGonigal, 2005).
Research suggest that a collaborative design process - which consists of constructing, modeling, composing, writing (typing), exploring Internet based resources and reflecting - provides opportunities for learners to develop complex mental skills (Carver, Lehrer, Connell & Erickson, 1992; Du Plessis, 2004; Du Plessis, 2010; Kafai, 1996; Lehrer, 1993; Lehrer, Erikson & Conell, 1994; Liu, 2003; Wisnudel, 1994). These complex mental skills refer to, for example, the development of project management skills, research skills, presentation skills and reflection skills (Lehrer et al., 1992; Lehrer, 1993; Lehrer et al., 1994; Liu, 2003; Du Plessis, 2004). Studies also suggest that the design of artefacts by learners also provides for better retention and comprehension of content materials (Beichner, 1994; 1999; Yildirim, 2005), greater higher order thinking skills (Liu, 2003), increased self-esteem and confidence (McGrath et al., 1997), ownership (Lehrer, 1993; Du Plessis, 2004; 2010), and greater awareness of audience (Liu, 2003; Du Plessis, 2004, 2010; Beichner, 1994). Other benefits of the design approach are commitment and enthusiasm (Beichner, 1994), improved motivation, interest and cooperation (Turner & Dipinto, 1992; Lehrer, 1993; Turner & Dipinto, 1997; Liu, 1998; Du Plessis, 2004), and internalisation of design skills (Liu & Hsiao, 2002; Liu, 2003; Du Plessis, 2004).
The Extended Cyberhunt design can be framed with reference to activity theory (Figure 1). The contradictions at the apex of the triangle highlight the differences between the traditional 'chalk and talk' context and the learning-as-design context where the computer and Internet is used as mediated tools. The contradictions indicated at the base of the triangle highlight the differences between learning in the traditional context and the learning-as-design context with special reference to rules, community and division of labor (also referred to as 'roles').
The rules, community and roles have an unmediated function. Within this study, the subjects are the participating teachers from disadvantaged township schools with little previous computer and Internet experience. The mediational tools are the computer, Internet, software, participant journals, language, facilitator and constructivist principles. The social community is the context in which the participants participate; the rules refer to the requirements to which the participants had to adhere to; and the division of labour refers to the shared planning and shared responsibilities of the participants. The object refers to the critical outcomes related to the design skills, and the outcomes to whether the participants have been empowered with reference to the object (See Figure 1).
The learning as design approach is an active knowledge creation process which focuses on the process and the product during the learning process, hence complementing the activity theory notion that learning does not have a final start and end point. In this study the personal cognitive processes, motivation and interest, and collaboration during the design process are mediated by the tools (ICT) in the apex and the tools are supported by the functions at the base, namely rules, community and division of labour. The interactions between these functions have been shown to result in authentic learning experiences (Du Plessis & Webb 2008) which could be attributed to the different learning context of learning-as-design as opposed to the traditional 'talk-and-chalk' context (See Figure 1). At the same time it is important to note that learning within activity theory is seen as a transformation process (See Figure 1, the rectangular box to the left of the outcomes box).
Figure 1: Activity theory and the Extended Cyberhunt intervention
The thinking behind the intervention process was to enable the participating teachers to use computer software such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well as Internet Explorer as a browser in an authentic learning context. Hence, the participating teachers were afforded opportunities to not only learn computer skills hands on, but were also shown how the computer and Internet could be used as a learning tool.
The teaching aim that followed from the rationale was to empower the participants to design collaborative Extended Cyberhunts through the use of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint in order to address a particular set of outcomes, i.e. to provide the participants with opportunities for decision making, searching, posing questions, planning, gaining knowledge pertaining to using the computer as a teaching and learning tool, understanding the notion of an audience, gaining computer skills, practising reflection, developing interest and experiencing the fruits of collaboration.
The intervention was informed by a community of practice model embedded in cognitive apprenticeship (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989) within a social constructivist socio-cultural community (Overall, 2007), embedded by knowledge sharing and creation (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). In communities of practice a major focus is on sharing and learning from one another. When participants work collaboratively, it opens possibilities for knowledge creation as a result of the interplay between the modes of knowledge creation, namely from tacit to tacit, tacit to explicit, explicit to explicit and explicit to tacit (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). The interaction among participants creates opportunities for the sharing of ideas (socialisation), combining knowledge to test ideas (combination), the emergence of new ideas (externalisation) and developing new ideas through learning by doing (internalisation) (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Hence, it was proposed that they design collaboratively in groups of two or three in order to establish a community of practice.
Formal approval for the project was solicited and received from the Director of the Port Elizabeth District Office. Thereafter, principals and representatives from their respective schools were invited to attend a number of meetings where the research project was explained. Participation was voluntary and the schools determined which of their staff members would participate (not more than seven teachers per school due to the size of the training venue). A letter was sent to each school which explained the project and teachers were invited to volunteer on the basis that they could terminate their participation at any point in the process (eighteen two and a half hour sessions from March 2008 to September 2008 followed by classroom support). Training was conducted for 38 volunteers at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's (NMMU) Missionvale Campus which is situated close to their schools (within a 3 to 10 km radius from the campus). The teachers were expected to design Extended Cyberhunts in groups that could be used by either other teachers or school level learners. A website [http://www.nmmu.ac.za/cyberhunts/] was created as a support tool.
During Phase 1 the participants were introduced to the Microsoft Word suite, the Internet, search engines and Boolean searches. In the design-modeling-copy-tool phase (Phase 2) the project-facilitator modeled the process step by step. Internet Explorer was used as the web browser to explore the Internet via Google and Microsoft Word was used as the design tool for the Extended Cyberhunts. Capable peers were identified to assist the project-facilitator in order to render a more efficient service to other participants in need of assistance. The teachers were also introduced to PowerPoint as a design and presentation tool. After several project-facilitator modeling sessions, the participants started to design their own Extended Cyberhunts in groups of two to four members, during which time they were afforded opportunities to plan, to design, to share and to reflect collectively. They also were also provided opportunities to showcase their finished Cyberhunt products and to obtain feedback from their peers. The feedback served as informal assessment with a view to indicating where improvements could be made and to acquire feedback on how the tester experienced the completed product. At the same time, those who had not yet completed their product had the opportunity to obtain further assistance from more capable peers. In Phase 3 the teachers identified areas in which they would require more assistance, and were provided with additional opportunities to indicate how they experienced the process and to make suggestions for future sessions.
In order to promote validity and trustworthiness, multiple sources of evidence were used (quantitative and multiple qualitative data sources) in order to establish a chain of evidence (Yin, 2003a, 2003b) and to ascertain whether the results were consistent between the data collected from the multiple sources (Merriam, 2009). The qualitative data were typed by a third party in Microsoft Word from the digitally recorded observations, as were the handwritten teacher journal writing and a semi-closed, open-ended questioniare. The digitally recorded semi-structured interviews were also transcribed by a third party and the researcher then made regular checks to ascertain whether the data was transribed verbatim in order to ensure credibility (Ary, Jacobs & Razavieh, 2006; Merriam, 2009). The data were then imported into a demonstration version of MAXQDA, a qualitative data analysis software package. The qualitative data were then analysed by using pre-determined codes related to the categories of the Likert scale questionnaire mentioned earlier. The main purpose was to ascertain whether the qualitative data corroborated the quantitative findings, whether the qualitative data illuminated aspects that the quantitative data did not, and/or whether the qualitative data suggested new insights (Kelle & Eisenberger, 2004; Flick, 2006, 2007).
Although generalisability in the statistical sense cannot be claimed in this small and exploratory case study, we believe that modest extrapolations which could lead to applicability in other similar, but not necessarily identical, situations are possible (Patton, 2002).
Regarding the quantitative Likert scale questionnaire, the higher above 0.5 the Cronbach alpha value, the higher the reliability of the grouped items is considered to be (Ary et al., 2006). Overall the Cronbach alpha scores were high, suggesting that the questions are reliable. The standard deviation (sigma) was also determined as it is a measure of the variability or dispersion of a population. A low standard deviation suggests that the data points tend to be very close to the same value, while high standard deviation indicates that the data are spread out over a large range of values (Ary et al., 2006; Gravetter & Walnau, 2002). The data suggest a high standard deviation in this study. Probability (p) values were determined for the grouped items to ascertain whether mean changes were statistically significant or not. The p values are all greater than p.01 indicating a high degree of statistical significance, and the effect sizes (Cohen's d values) are all large (Ary et al., 2006; Gravetter & Walnau, 2002). Despite the small sample (n=26), the data that have been presented in this paper are highly motivated statistically and indicate a significant effect across the sample (see Table 1).
Table 1: The reliability of the pre- and post-intervention questionnaire Cronbach alpha scores, mean pre- and post-intervention questionnaire scores, mean gain scores, standard deviations and the statistical (probability) and practical (d) significance of the statistical data
|Data clustered elements||Cronbach alpha||Mean scores||sigma||Inferential statistics|
|Decision making (n=26)||0.58||0.69||2.71||3.57||0.86||0.91||4.83||25||0.000||0.95|
|Searching, research and reading attitude (n=26)||0.89||0.93||2.88||4.09||1.21||0.68||9.07||25||0.000||1.78|
|Knowledge and skills related to composing questions |
on different cognitive levels (n=25)
|Computer skills and design (n=24)||0.98||0.93||2.32||3.67||1.35||1.03||6.41||23||0.000||1.31|
|Confidence in using computer as a teaching and |
learning tool (n=24)
|Reflect and evaluate (n=26)||0.88||0.91||3.31||4.21||0.90||0.91||5.05||25||0.000||0.99|
In the following sub-sections, the quantitative data and qualitative data are presented in an integrative manner.
In general before having this class ... it was not easy to find information because we were lacking a lot of skills ... [such as] how to go about browsing. After some two or three lessons then it was much easier and clearer.Another aspect noted was that participants did not create keywords to make the searching for information process easier, nor did they find it easy to create keywords for searching purposes. However, the pre-post Likert scale questionnaire highlighted that there were substantial improvements related to creating and using keywords to find information and when using keywords.
For us it was just not easy to find information because we were lacking a lot of skills such as how to go about browsing. After some two or three lessons then it was much easier and clearer and we were able to browse and explore. So now we could find information anytime even if somebody whispers something in my ear in my sleep I will stand up and go to my computer.
The data indicated that initially only 12% knew where to find relevant information for a project, but this increased to 77% at the end of the project. Participants also indicated that when doing projects, they struggled to find good or relevant information on the Internet, as indicated by 12% at the beginning of the intervention. However, the post-test data revealed that there was a positive change to 65%. Interview data supported the notion that finding relevant and useful information on the Internet is not always easy, especially when ICT is new to participants. As one participant stated:
For us it was just not easy to find information because we were lacking a lot of skills such as how to go about browsing. After some two or three lessons then it was much easier and clearer and we were able to browse and explore. So now we could find information anytime even if somebody whispers something in my ear in my sleep I will stand up and go to my computer.Search skills involve not only finding information but also ascertaining whether the information is relevant, useful, reliable and truthful. Initially, 42% of the participant indicated that they often question whether information that they have gathered is accurate, reliable and truthful, a figure which increased to 81% by the end of the intervention. Some participants struggled to determine whether the information found was relevant, with some merely looking at the date of publication to determine whether the information was outdated:
It is not easy to see that the information is correct or not. But if you get it [online information] and then sometimes they [project facilitator] tell you if you look at the document and you scroll down they [the website] usually tell that this information is outdated [by looking at the date on the website] or this information is very old. It is not easy to say this information is relevant.While searching for information, participants had to do a great deal of reading. Only a small positive increase was noted related to the statement 'I enjoy spending time reading about a wide range of topics related to a project'. Nevertheless some teachers seemed to appreciate reading opportunities, and stated that "It was very exciting to read information from the Internet" and "Using the Internet is like a new world that you are going to."
The pre- and post-tests also reveal that there were positive increases related to skills pertaining to planning, planning for projects, thinking about what can be done to finish on time with projects, and discussing what each person should do in their respective groups. These data were corroborated by the journal data. Interview data also supported these notions as participants noted "I think it [the journal] puts us on the right path in that you know what you want to achieve at the end of the day" and another one concurred when saying "Ja [Yes], from my point of view they [the journals] were helpful, because I managed to reflect on what I did so that my facilitator can see where I struggle, so that in the next session he will be able to help." At the same time, one participant noted that the journals also had value for the project facilitator, as the responses could be used to determine with which areas in which they had struggled. One teacher noted that using the journal to set goals was not always a comfortable process, because it revealed when one was not reaching one's goals. In her words:
Sometimes you know what you want and you set goals for that, then you realise that you have done some of them but not the way you wanted to. So it means you did not reach your goal and it frustrates you. You are reminded again that you have to go back. It is uncomfortable to write it down, you know.However, she immediately added that she felt that journal writing had value by stating "It does have a positive, because you also started to have a direction with your goal. It does help you to focus."
In fact when I came here I didn't know anything about computers, but as time goes on I became an expert myself. I learned the following: word program [Microsoft Word], Internet, saving information, and searching for information.Another teacher concurred when she stated "I learned computer basics because when I come here it was my first time to use a computer." Journal data concerning help received from either their peers or the facilitator revealed that participants had learned basic computer skills such as copy, paste and fonts; Internet skills; typing skills; Cyberhunt design process; saving information and finding saved information; and finding and inserting pictures from the web. The journal data also revealed that they felt that they became more competent as, towards the end of the intervention, they wrote comments such as "Today things were easy I am becoming competent now"; "[No problems] Nothing so far I am slowly getting there"; and "Not at all [No Problems] at least everything was fine. I did not struggle that much as before."
They [journal reflection sheets] are of value, because it is very important to the participant to know in order to repeat what you [the participant] left out in the past lecture.He added:
It is important for me, because the instructor is trying to make me understand ... [so when I have a problem, I can indicate the problem in the journal] and [then the project facilitator can] explain clearly that particular question that I do not understand.
The data suggest that the 'Learning-as-design' tool context in which the computer, Internet and reflective journals were used was experienced as positive, and the teachers noted differences between their traditional way of teacher-centred teaching and the learner-centred Cyberhunt context.
The different rules and the division of labour (also referred to as 'roles') that this intervention require, seem also to have been playing a positive role, as the learning context was experienced as different from the traditional teaching and learning context to which the participants were accustomed. This became evident when participants stated during interviews that what they liked and what was interesting to them during the project, was the fact that children become more independent thinkers, the classroom context is different, as is the role of the teacher - the teacher becomes a facilitator, suggesting that they experienced the learning as more relevant within a context with which they can relate well to. The above become evident when participants stated:
In class the learners have to listen to what you are telling them to do but during Cyberhunts they are actively involved in their learning. So there is a difference between those two classrooms, teaching and the Cyberhunt.In addition, the use of capable peers as co-facilitators, i.e. participants who started to assist participants in other groups due to the fact that they became confident, seems also to have a positive impact, as participants were free to ask any person for assistance. Hence, this was different from the traditional 'teacher-in-charge' classroom where the teacher is active and the learners are passive, i.e. the division of labour was different from the traditional learning context.
In normal class you are just told what to do, but in Cyberhunts you go to the computer and search ... using the computer it is really different from a normal class.
You ask the person sitting next to you. If he doesn't know you ask the other group and all the time they are willing to help you. The one [peer-facilitators] who knows is always willing to help some of them [who struggled], they [peer-facilitators] even stand up and go around.The above suggests that the division of labour within the learning context provided opportunities for participants to have some control over their learning, for example who to ask for assistance and at what point in time. Similarly, journal data seem to concur, as participants responded that they asked the peer-facilitators for assistance when the facilitator could not assist them immediately:
I do ask Teacher C [peer facilitator] because I've noticed that he has got more knowledge about this.Participants also felt empowered by being part of this intervention. This became evident in the words of one female participant when she mentioned during an interview:
Teacher Z [peer facilitator] has experience in working with computers as she is teaching computers in her school.
I have learned a skill that nobody will take from me. It's just like learning how to drive a car. I learned to work with others, move, help and discover information for myself.
When working in a group, I ask the fellow group members and if they don't understand, I ask the facilitator because if you carry on without understanding you won't complete your work and you must do it correctly.Reasons why they felt comfortable asking their peers for assistance were that they could relate to their friends in their group, the facilitator did not always explain to them in a manner that they understood [their mother tongue is Xhosa, the facilitator's English], group members explained in a clearer manner and group members understood them better. Other responses from the semi-closed, open-ended questionnaire suggested that collaborative work was valuable as it assisted with sharing of knowledge among one another, "In a group there is always someone who would know things that you don't know" and another participant added "You can easy get to know the concept from other group members. One contributes with what you know." Journal data concurred when, for example, one participant wrote, "I gain more knowledge from group work" and another one stated, "It's exciting because we share the knowledge."
You ask the person sitting next to you. If he doesn't know you ask the other group and all the time they are willing to help you. The one [peer-facilitators] who knows is always willing to help some of them [who struggled], they [peer-facilitators] even stand up and go around.
In addition, participants suggested in the semi-closed, open-ended questionnaire that collaboration made the learning process easier, for example, "It is more easier and I get help where I stuck so I find it interesting and communicable." This also became evident from the journal data when participants mentioned, "It makes things easier" and "Work became easier than being alone. You get help from the group." The hands on, collaborative training and learning also assisted with personal first hand experience or trialability, "Working in the groups gave me an understanding of what to expect when working with the learners at school". In addition, working in groups helped to create a feeling of confidence, "I would participate because I will have more confidence about the Cyberhunt" and another participant concurred when he indicated in the semi-closed, open-ended questionnaire "They [peers] are willing to assist and the groups are encouraging." Journal data entries supported these perspectives, for example one participant stated that working collaboratively within groups led to "Confidence".
An activity theory lens combined with theoretical perspectives from motivational theory was used in order to ascertain possible reasons as to why the participants experienced this intervention as positive, and to try to provide reasons why there was such a positive change from the pre- and post Likert scale questionnaire results with reference to above-mentioned skills. With reference to motivational theory (Keller, 1983; Malone & Lepper, 1987), the positive impact could be attributed to the elements of challenge, competence, relevance, choice and voice, aspects that have the potential to enhance learning (Keller, 1983; Malone & Lepper, 1987), as suggested by the data in the interest section. Using an activity theory lens, the data suggest that using the computer and Internet as mediating tools, have allowed the participants to experience contradictions between the traditional context characterised by the text-book, chalk board and 'teacher chalk-and-talk', and the 'Learning-as-design' context characterised by the computer, the Internet as a tool and reflection sheets, as suggested by the data in the 'Interest' sub-section within the 'Results' section. Participants frequently indicated that they experienced the learning process and the tools being used as different to their traditional experiences, hence the strong articulation of how the Extended Cyberhunt context contradicts the traditional text-book, chalk board and 'teacher chalk-and-talk' context. The rules and the division of labour (Murphy & Rodriguez-Manzanares, 2008; Hardman, 2005a, 2005b) were experienced as different, as participants indicated that they were not confined to one place, but could move around, ask questions and were assisted by peer-facilitators from other groups, not just from the facilitator. This became evident in the interest and collaborative results section, as the data suggest the formation of a sense of community (see Activity Theory triangle, Figure 1) as a result of the sharing of ideas, asking for assistance, by listening to problems that were experienced, i.e. active learning in a community.
It seems that there was interplay between the rules and division of labour, assisting with the development of a community of learners (see Figure 1). This inference is based upon the fact that the data suggest that knowledge and skills transfer had occurred as a result of cognitive apprenticeship, i.e. more capable peers assisting one another in their own groups as well capable peers who started to assist participants within other groups (Brown, et al., 1989) and that knowledge generation occurred when participants had opportunities to make their tacit understandings explicit (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). The sharing of ideas, asking for assistance, the listening to one another's problems as well as the critical reflection through journal writing also seem to suggest that transformative learning had taken place (Mezirow, 1997; McGonigal, 2005), as participants indicated that they had experienced a new perspective of learning during this intervention.
We therefore argue from an activity theory perspective that the unmediated functioning at the base of the triangle (See Figure 1) through the division of labour and the negotiation of rules - which were experienced as different from the traditional context, as well as the development of a learning community - assisted with the establishment and creation of a milieu contributive to learning (Du Plessis & Webb, 2008; Du Plessis, 2010). The data revealed that outcomes related to motivation and interest, collaboration, decision making, searching skills, ability to compose questions on different cognitive levels, planning ability, notion of audience, computer skills, confidence and reflective ability showed positive increases from the pre- and post-Likert scale questionnaires. Hence, it is argued that the 'learning-as-design' Extended Cyberhunt strategy that made use of computers, the Internet and journal writing as mediated tools enabled the teachers to participate in an exciting and fruitful learning experience within the unmediated functioning of the rules, roles and community. Hence, we are of the opinion that the positive increases in the above stated outcomes probably could be attributed to the interactions between Vygotsky's (1978) unmediated and mediated functioning, i.e. the interactions between the higher order mediated elements (language, computer, Internet and other ICTs, as well as the journals) and the unmediated tools (rules, community and division of labour) at the base of the triangle (Du Plessis & Webb, 2008; Du Plessis, 2010).
While we are aware that many alternative approaches exist that could be just as suitable to address these outcomes and associated 21st century skills, we are of the opinion that this particular strategy is worth disseminating for further testing as a fruitful extension of WebQuests and other existing Internet based approaches (Du Plessis, 2010; Du Plessis & Webb, 2011). We suggest that further research focusing on the use of the Extended Cyberhunt strategy at primary school, high school and university or college level will contribute meaningfully to the debate around technology based learning and support or refute our claims. However, in doing so we must highlight the caveat that the implementation of ICT related strategies cannot be a once-off event, and that the participants need different levels of support and training (professional ICT teacher development), usually in a structured manner, to achieve the confidence and competence required to use new ICT strategies successfully.
Appendix A: Pre- and post Likert scale results
Appendix B: Weekly journal sheets
Appendix C: Samples of open ended questionnaire questions
Appendix D: Sample of interview questions
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|Authors: André du Plessis and Paul Webb|
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
Summerstrand Campus (South), University Way, Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth 6001, South Africa
André du Plessis PhD is a lecturer in ICT and Primary School Mathematics Education at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa. André's research interests are ICT in education, especially developing strategies for the South African context as well as assisting disadvantaged schools with ICT implementation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Webb PhD is Professor of Science Education and Director of the Centre for Educational Research, Technology and Innovation at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa. Paul's research interests are the promotion of scientific literacy in schools via inquiry, reading, writing, discussion, argumentation and using technology. Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: Du Plessis, A. & Webb, P. (2012). Digital immigrant teacher perceptions of an extended Cyberhunt strategy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(2), 341-363. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet28/duplessis.html