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Nathan Balasubramanian's Response to Assignment 2

Read the article

“In Defense of Cheating” by Don Norman; accessible via: and comment on the following issue:

Briefly discuss the following issues:

1.1 Do you agree or disagree with Norman’s position? Why?

I had mixed feelings after reading Norman’s article because I could both agree and disagree with him. I couldn’t disagree with his views that our educational system should foster greater understanding, knowing how to find solutions to problems, and greater cooperation. I liked his idea that performance should be accurate characterizations of students’ accomplishments instead of a sterile GPA. Besides, I agree with his concluding remarks that restructuring educational systems requires “many more changes” and developing students’ “curiosity, self-reliance, cooperative skills,” social skills, and self-directed learning. However, I found some of his views (in my opinion):

• out of touch with reality and exaggerated at times (grading systems are often zero-sum games)

• subtly advocating scientism (focused on teaching and training instead of learning, implying we know all there is to be known about say, the impact of perceptions, attitudes and/or motivation on student leaning)

• embracing a very simplistic approach to address the problem of student cheating (changing the practice of “inappropriate curricula and examinations” should reduce cheating!)

1.2 How does his view relate to your own experience in your school, university, and working life (in case you have worked somewhere sometimes)?

Although I actively strive to promote the development of student understanding, cooperation, and social skills in my classroom using various collaborative, team-based, hands-on activities, it is challenging for the following reasons. Some shortcomings include:

• Motivating all students

• Sustaining student engagement

• Finding the time to participate and contribute effectively during individual teams’ discussions and building activities (typically have 6 – 7 teams in all my classes)

• Resolving group dynamics

• Promoting greater social collaboration

• Having students put in sufficient thought into their designs

• Increasing cognitive skills of resource-deprived students

• Coping with “Been There, Done That” attitude of some students

• Developing (constantly) genuinely interesting challenges/activities

2. Visit one of the following websites and explore it as a medium for collaboration

3 Briefly discuss for your chosen website: What did you find interesting about it?

I selected What I found interesting about it was:

• It was started by Idit Harel, a Papert’s advisee at MIT’s Media Lab, in 1997 for kids below 12. It reminded me of a similar web site for kids, for web surfing, playing games, and solving puzzles, that I found my 9-year old niece and sister-in-law easily drawn into

• It had over 4.5 million members from 30 countries

• It had a user friendly site map

• It facilitated learning by engagement, doing, and discovery through gaming and activities

• Among the kids who voted on the number one reason why they surfed the web (accessed on January 23, 2005) 58% voted checking out fun and whacky websites, 16% voted making new friends who have the same interest as they do, 14% voted learning cool info on all kinds of exciting topics, 7% voted finding sites to help them with their homework, and a mere 5% voted learning about new technology and becoming an expert

3.1 In which way is it related to “collaboration”?

Members can communicate, share, publish, and learn collectively here.

3.2 How does it compare with the Swiki used for our class?

Allows participants to save, publish, and collaborate with participants but Swiki is more powerful in some of its features, particularly with its edit feature.

4. Which is your favorite website/system in support of collaboration (briefly justify your opinion)!

My favorite website/system is an electronic listserv called ITFORUM, Instructional Technology Forum (, founded in 1994. In this forum, remarkable people from around the world collaborate, share and discuss ideas, theories, and practices on Instructional Technology. Papers are often posted online and members have opportunities to interact with these authors. The papers and past discussions have been archived since 1994 and continue to be a valuable resource for Instructional Technology professionals worldwide.

5. Have you ever read a book(s)/article(s) about collaboration?


5.1 Choose the most important one

The article by Johnson and Johnson (not the health care manufacturer : ) but Professors David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson from the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota

5.2 Provide the title and one paragraph what you found interesting about it!

“Titled Cooperation and the Use of Technology” in the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (2nd ed.) edited by D. H. Jonassen (2004) and published by Lawrence Erlbaum. 785-811.

Although there was plenty of useful information in this article, their exposition of conditions that facilitate technology-supported cooperative learning was interesting. They distinguish cooperative learning from collaborative learning and also use them synonymously. Cooperative learning is a structured instructional strategy in which students work in small groups to maximize one another’s learning towards common goal accomplishment. Collaborative learning on the other hand is less structured and more student-directed. They outline three theories that have guided research on cooperative learning – cognitive developmental or constructivist perspectives (pioneered by Piaget and Vygotsky), behavioral learning theory perspectives (pioneered by Skinner and Bandura), and social interdependence theory perspectives (pioneered by Koffka and Lewin). The later, the authors argue, has been significantly influential in the development of cooperative learning because it has been widely researched. Lewin's field theory ideas argued how:

• an interdependence of members, driven by common goal accomplishment, results in a dynamic whole in which changes in one causes changes in others, and

• an intrinsic state of tension within group members motivates and catalyzes the movement towards goal accomplishment

Johnson and Johnson conclude that research from over 550 experimental and 100 correlational studies, done between 1898 and 1989, have shown that cooperative learning results in higher academic achievement, more positive relationships, and greater psychological health than competitive or individualistic learning. Most importantly, for cooperative learning to be effective, they list five critical elements that must be structured within the learning environment – positive interdependence, promotive interaction, individual accountability, social skills, and group processing. They call for more theorizing, research, and refinement of practice to help technology-supported cooperative learning actualize its promising potential.

Nathan Balasubramanian

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