Use of Computer based learning environment

The computer based learning environment can be used during normal teaching hours interleaved within the normal course of teaching in class, for self-study after the school hours ore even for self study. Use of the environment during the normal school hours:

   1. The teacher can use one of the videos. The children can watch the experiment on the video, and then proceed to the science lab, collect the materials and apparati needed for the experiment and perform it. The video-clips are simply presented with very little wording, and are understood from the image alone, therefore can also be used by people that do not understand one of the available languages.
      Or The teacher can use some of the videos
      Or he/she uses all of them when he teaches about the electric circuits.
   2. Apart from the videos, the environment contains additional accompanying explanatory texts. Most texts start from the very basic ideas and have extra links when needed to other texts, to pictorial material, or media files, that clarifying a certain idea or term, offering extra info, or to more detailed information. This material can be used by the teacher, and it can be used in many different ways:
         1. During the normal school hours. The teacher provides the students with some worksheets. Explains to the students what to do and leaves them to work either individually or in small groups (2-4 students per group) to explore the computer based learning environment, perform the experiments, read the texts and find the answers to the questions on the worksheets.
         2. During the normal school hours or during the daylong school. Students are divided to small groups and a certain task is assigned to each group of students. The students can watch as many from the videos as they like and read as many of the texts as they need in order to accomplish the task assigned to them. At the end the students may prepare a small presentation which they will present to their classmates. The tasks, assigned to the students should be in accordance of the capabilities of the members of each group. Strong students can prepare something more difficult, while the weaker ones something easier. In this case, all students can accomplish the task they have. This satisfies them and encourages them to try a bit harder next time. Therefore, this way of teaching acts as a very strong motive for self-improvement.
         3. Students can use the Computer based learning environment for self learning and studying at home, after the normal school hours.

The optimum number of students working in front of one PC.

The optimum number of students working in front of a computer is two. When in larger groups, problems regarding communication are observed (e.g. too much noise because the distance from each other is greater), and co-operation (e.g. who will operate the mouse), as well as space problems (everyone should have a clear view on the screen, table-space to spread the worksheets etc).
The distribution of the students into the groups could be done before entering the computer lab. It was proven better practice to allow students to choose their mates, although this often results in uneven groups: the "stronger" students may stick together leaving the rest to make their best. The main advantage of teaching using computer based learning environments is that let students learn by following their own pace. Therefore, uneven grouping should not be considered as a problem. On the contrary, special care should be given to prepare and provide the "strong" students with additional worksheets to occupy them as well as to satisfy their natural curiosity.
Another advantage of the teaching computer based learning environments is that allows the students working together in small groups in order to accomplish a certain task. This is most beneficial to the students, as they have to develop communicative and collaborative skills, in order to fulfil the task assigned to them. Therefore they learn to hear their classmates and evaluate the arguments presented. It is obvious that these abilities would not be achieved instantly, but over time.
Problems that the teacher will face

A problem that will be faced is noise. This is because some of the videos have an audio soundtrack with some type of narration. If a class has 15-20 students, there will be 7-10 groups of students, each one in front of a different computer listening to a different part of the video. Besides the students should speak to each other in order to decide on the answers they will provide to the questions on the worksheets.

Teachers should keep in mind, in the beginning, easy-to-fill worksheets should be provided to the students to work with, and this requires some time for the teacher to prepare. As soon as the students become familiar with the new teaching approach and learn how they can search the computer-based learning environment to find the information they need, the tasks may become more complicated.

On the positive side, the worksheets will be created once, and used many times. Besides the teacher can use his/her time more creatively as for example to answer students' questions, explaining the theory, facilitating the students work or even posing questions to the students making them to go a bit further.
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© 2003, Despina M. Garyfallidou Athens-Greece