Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summary: Using Google Drive to Facilitate a Blended Approach to Authentic Learning
The study was conducted at the University of the Western Cape, in South Africa.  The students involved were in their second year of Applied Physiotherapy.  The study was developed after a previous class of students in this area were found to be lacking reasoning and critical thinking during their clinical exams.  The university wanted to make changes to their module for the second years to improve their skill set in these areas; previously, the classes mostly consisted of readings and lecturers.  The changes included moving from lectures, to case studies and integrating technology, Google Drive, within small groups, as well as, instead of having one lecturer, there were several facilitators.  Students worked collaboratively to explore cases outside of class using Google Drive as their tool.
The study used 10 principles of authentic learning to come up with the case studies.  Authentic activities have real world relevance, are open to interpretation, are made up of complex tasks that need to be studied over a period of time, require that students use theoretical and practical perspectives as well as many resources, require collaboration, provide opportunities for reflection, can be applied across domains of the students’ field of study, involve feedback from peers and facilitators that mimic real world assessment, produce quality work in all forms, whether it be notes in a Google Doc or a completed project, and consist of diverse outcomes and applications, students have freedom while addressing major concepts.
To analyze the findings from this study, the University held a focus group with willing participants from the study, 22/61 participated.  The authors analyzed the responses to conversations at the focus group to determine common themes that were evident.  Students reflected on the following things during the focus group about their experiences:
  • “A change in perception about what learning is”
  • “You can’t memorize your way through a degree”
  • “It’s not a classroom thing-it’s a daily thing”
  • “It’s not learning from a book, it’s trying to find out how to learn”
  • “We have to really be able to explain to other people so they can understand.”
  • “Even a lecturer has something to learn from a student”

Although I don’t teach students anywhere near the independence level of these university students, I believe that I have a lot to learn from this study.  What the professors at this school did, was make their content relevant to their students, while providing them with a tool that would make collaboration possible.  This very much prepares students for working in the real world.  
My student currently have access to Google Drive, and I think most of the time, I simply use it as a substitution for paper and pencil, when it can be so much more!  Some of the Authentic Assessment Principles that jumped out at me were: provide opportunities for reflection, require collaboration, and involve feedback.  All of those are things I can currently implement with my classroom of 4th graders.  However, it does involve a mind shift for me, as the teacher to imagine my classroom with these things going on.  That also means that I need to teach my students how to reflect, collaborate and give feedback.  Thinking of classrooms like this excites me and motivates me to begin taking steps to make it a reality in mine.

Rowe, M., Frantz, J., & Bozalek, V. (2013). Using Google Drive to facilitate a blended approach to authentic learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4). 594-606. (2013, July 1). Retrieved September 9, 2014, from Ebscohost.

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