A Journal on "Virtual Warrensburg: Using Cooperative Learning and the Internet in the Social Studies Classroom by Scott Scheuerell"
A Journal on Virtual Warrensburg: Using Cooperative Learning and the Internet in the Social Studies Classroom by Scott Scheuerell written by Sharo Dickerson
The author discusses how high school social studies teachers can have their students investigate local history topics and share their findings by producing Web pages, using a cooperative learning structure. The author discusses his firsthand experiences using this approach with high school students at Warrensburg High School. He emphasizes the need to rethink how technology is being used in the social studies classroom—in particular, by having students share their local history findings with others beyond the walls of the classroom rather than being passive learners with the Internet. In addition, he emphasizes the benefits of having students work together to collaboratively construct knowledge using technology—specifically, by using the PIES cooperative learning structure to ensure there is positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction among group members. Examples of Web pages, produced by his students using the PIES cooperative learning structure, are discussed in the article.
Literature Review and Discussion
Today’s education demands a multitude of talents and skills from students to become highly efficient and productive citizens of society (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). Students are expected to develop effective communication and collaboration abilities that are essential in a thriving and diverse workforce (Scheuerell, 2010, p. 195). Likewise, students need to develop good listening skills, learn to become team players, and obtain appropriate behaviors to achieve common and mutual goals (ibid, p. 194). These skills are highly recommended in order to compete healthily and effectively in a global environment (Apple, 2009). Despite the positivity of cultivating progressive and innovative skills among students, one cannot help but think about the desired expectations from a society that is driven with different socio-cultural, political, and economic structures (ibid). One is made to reflect and analyze the genuine intentions of society’s demands to produce citizens that will function completely according to specified roles and outcomes (ibid).
In this journal article, Scheuerell (2010) discusses the importance of (a) developing meaningful and dynamic learning experiences, (b) building relevant connections from past history to present situations, (c) integrating technology with cooperative learning to create and implement best teaching and learning practices, and (d) making a positive difference in society (p. 195). The framework for 21st century learning provides opportunities to prepare students in accomplishing these desired expectations and outcomes (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2011). Based on the framework for 21st century learning, students have to be prepared to think critically and communicate effectively, conduct problem solving successfully, and develop creative and innovative ways (ibid). This also includes placing immense emphasis on (a) global awareness, (b) financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial Literacy learning and innovative skills, (c) civic literacy, (d) heath literacy, (e) environmental literacy, (f) life and career skills, and (g) information, media, and technology skills (ibid). In doing so, students will be able to obtain greater understanding of academic content and readiness in a more complex life and work environments in the 21st century (ibid).
In Virtual Warrensburg, students from a social studies class were introduced to collaborative ways of constructing knowledge using technology (Scheuerell, 2010, p. 195). Students were tasked to conduct a research that will (a) connect historical facts on an African American school, (b) explore the impact of the railroad on the community, and (c) discover Bloody Bill Anderson’s impact on the civil war in Johnson County, Missouri (ibid, p. 196). Students were provided with different opportunities to work in groups, communicate with peers, and collaborate with each other to achieve a specified goal (ibid, p. 195). As part of the students’ learning experience, different technology tools and resources (i.e. Internet, laptops, digital videos) were used to complete the assigned research and the production of a web page based on the given topics (ibid, p. 195). Students played different group roles, which allowed each individual to create information and ideas, think critically, apply analytical skills, solve problems, and implement scientific methods in accomplishing the required tasks (ibid, p. 195). This cooperative learning approach provided low and high-achieving students to learn together, retain information in long-terms, be motivated intrinsically, be focused in spending quality time on task, and rely with each other for support and encouragement (ibid, p. 196). Thus, significant academic achievement can be obtained when cooperative learning is implemented appropriately in the classroom (ibid).
Students need to experience thoughtful and careful grappling as part of their learning process (Ornstein, Pajak, & Ornstein, 2011). In doing so, it is important for schools to utilize the benefits of students’ prior knowledge and cultural background to develop students’ new knowledge without the interference and replacement of teachers’ own conclusions (ibid). For this to happen naturally and effectively, teachers have to be open in allowing students to figure out the necessary answers as part of their learning experiences (ibid). Likewise, teachers have to be open to change and explore other possibilities that methodological practices of technology can provide to support and enhance learning (ibid). In this journal article, the high school students from a social studies class in Virtual Warrensburg were able to: (a) collaborate in groups, (b) appropriately use technology to construct individual concepts and understanding of the lesson, and (c) communicate their newfound knowledge to others using technology (Scheueller, 2010, p. 197). This is a great example on how the infusion cooperative learning and technology has created a dynamic lesson, particularly in social studies (ibid).
The experience of Virtual Warrensburg’ students is a positive indication in the importance of developing creative minds, which is highly applicable today (Ornstein et al, 2011). This essential fact can also be associated in the teaching and learning experiences for the students of Ysleta Independent School District at El Paso, Texas. Creative minds are necessary to develop and sustain a society’s everyday existence (ibid). The development of students’ intelligence, knowledge, personality, and motivation will support the existence of a progressive and dynamic environment (ibid). This includes the development of students’ moral and character education, understanding of cultural influence in determining individual roles for the future, and providing multiple opportunities for students to achieve beyond society’s socio-economic structures (ibid). It is a challenge with any school to achieve the ideal student that will eventually lead to the successful creation of the ideal citizen, especially in today’s society where there are more demands for better and greater knowledge, talents, and skills (ibid). In doing so, school communities have to be prepared to support students in being open to the benefits of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and cooperative learning (Scheueller, 2010). Schools also need to provide students with equitable educational opportunities that will lead to more life and work choices (Ornstein et al, 2011). It is evident that students’ academic achievement produces collaboration with peers in a face-to-face setting, offers great possibilities in the use of cooperative learning with technology integration, and provides students with the necessary skills in the 21st century (Scheueller, 2010, p. 198).
Apple, M. (2009). Ideology and Curriculum. New York: Routledge Taylor and Fracis Group.
Ornstein, A., Pajak, E., & Ornstein, S. (2011). Contemporary Issues in Curriculum. (5th ed.). Upple Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/overview
Revere, L., & Kovach, J. V. (2011). ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES FOR ENGAGED LEARNING A Meaningful Synthesis for Educators. Quarterly Review Of Distance Education, 12(2), 113-124.
Scheuerell, S. (2010). Virtual warrensburg: Using cooperative learning and the internet in the social studies classroom. The Social Studies, 101, 194-199. doi: 10.1080/00377990903493861
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