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Method Essay: Collaborative writing using CSCW (Google Docs)

Method Essay: Collaborative writing using CSCW (Google Docs)

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Published by Morten Oddvik
Collaborative writing is not a new phenomenenon, but with the development of new digital tools teachers are presented with new opportunities and challenges. I am interested in studying joint text creation and the development of English asa Second Language (ESL). My hypothesis is that given positive interdependency and cooperation in groups, student collaboration in cooperative text production ameliorates participants' own ESL learning.
Collaborative writing is not a new phenomenenon, but with the development of new digital tools teachers are presented with new opportunities and challenges. I am interested in studying joint text creation and the development of English asa Second Language (ESL). My hypothesis is that given positive interdependency and cooperation in groups, student collaboration in cooperative text production ameliorates participants' own ESL learning.

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Published by: Morten Oddvik on May 25, 2010
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Method Essay

NTNU
Master didactics foreign languages
EDU3102

Morten Oddvik
Spring 2010
___________________
Content

Method Essay.........................................................................................................................0\ue000 Introduction........................................................................................................................1\ue000 Terminology and Background...............................................................................................3\ue000 Pilot experiment..................................................................................................................4\ue000 Selection.............................................................................................................................6\ue000 Analysis: Pilot.....................................................................................................................6\ue000 Group Interview.................................................................................................................6\ue000 Theories...........................................................................................................................10\ue000 My position.......................................................................................................................12\ue000 Justification of method choice.............................................................................................13\ue000 Research questions............................................................................................................14\ue000 Reliability and validity.......................................................................................................14\ue000 Conclusion........................................................................................................................15\ue000

Morten Oddvik
EDU3102
1
Introduction

Collaborative writing is not a new phenomenenon, but with the development of new digital tools teachers are presented with new opportunities and challenges. I am interested in studying joint text creation and the development of English asa Second Language (ESL). My hypothesis is that given positive interdependency and cooperation in groups, student collaboration in cooperative text production ameliorates participants' own ESL learning. In Assessing writing (2008) Sarah Cushing Weigle writes, on the effects of technology on writing, that "technology is changing the way we think about writing and how we do it" (Weigle 2008:231). In my research and subsequent master's thesis, I want to study the results of collaborative ESL learning when learners use Computer Supported Cooperative Work1, or groupware, in this case Google Documents.2 For this essay I conducted a pilot, which consisted of a group task involving three informants. I will discuss the methods used in my pilot, which consisted of group interviews. I will also briefly discuss text analysis as a tentative method in relation to the pilot. Although this discussion will focus on the pilot, it does however act as a preliminary exercise for the my master's thesis. The topics of collaborative writing and interdependency are massive, and therefore I deem it essential to examine research methods by using a pilot first. The main objective of this paper is to discuss the methods I intend to use in my research study, and assess their appropriateness in producing valid and reliable data for my analysis work. My methods of interview and text analysis are both qualitative methods, and "Denzin & Lincoln (2005a:1910)3 highlight that the termqualitative means to emphasize the processes and meaning that can not be measured in quantity or frequency" (Thaagard 2009:17).4 The main purpose of my master's thesis is to examine the correlation between two areas in ESL learning, quality of language production andinterdependence in group work. However, in this essay I will be focusing on assessing the validity and reliability of methods used in a preliminary pilot experiment. By doing this of hope to be able to assess the appropriateness of the research design as well as the methods used in producing data pertained to my research question. The two areas of quality of language production andinterdependence are core areas in both my pilot experiment and my maste's thesis. The two areas of language use andinterdependence are both

1 Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) was a term first coined by Irene Greif and Paul M.
Cashman in 1984 to describe a collaborative work environment that can be supported by computer systems.
(Girard 2009:114)
2 Google Documents will be referred to as Google Docs and is treated as a singular noun as it is a brand.
3 Denzin & Lincoln (2005a:10) fremhever at begrepet kvalitativ inneb\u00e6rer \u00e5 fremheve prosesser og mening
som ikke kan m\u00e5les i kvantitet eller frekvenser.
4 All translations from Norwegian to English are my own unless otherwise stated.
Morten Oddvik
EDU3102
2
expressed aims of LK06, but nonetheless complex concepts to define. It is an expressed aim in the
Norwegian national curriculum (LK06), to develop and train students' collaborative skills;
"Today's education must also include (...) experience from work, where interdependence
requires discipline, and where the students' own efforts influence the outcome of others. This
requires the development of organisational skills, ability to coordinate activities, lead
activities, follow directions, suggest alternative solutions "
(LK06 2006:17)5

I have conducted a pilot for this essay involving a group task and interviews in order to produce data which I will discuss. Theoretically I will rely on constructivist theories such as connectivism, a learning theory for the digital age, which propounds that "technology has reorganized (...) how we learn" (Siemens 2005:1). As I am conducting the pilot in my own environment where subjects know me, I will also discuss disadvantages and advantages of this practice. However, the chief objective of my main project later on is to explore how "the students' own efforts influence the outcome of others" (LK06). Futhermore, I hope through the discussion of the pilot experiement to shed some light upon the processes of collaborative writing and the correlation between ESL learning and interdependency. Combined with the 21st century's gallopping advances in production of information, communication and technology and the need for the education sector to prepare students for this reality, it is obvious that skills in collaborative work will be an important skill, which in turn needs careful research and study, hence my interest in the subject.

Thesis
This essay springs from the need to assess research design and methods as well as the following
research question which I hope to pursue in my master's thesis: How is the perceived quality of ESL
language learning and language production when utilizing Computer Supported Cooperative Work
(CSCW)? My hypothesis is proposing that when groups of students work collaboratively, in a

digital environment such as Google Docs, they will affect each other's learning positively and qualitatively improve the quality of both process and product. Thus, a central issue and current objective of the pilot, is: How does one measure quality? What does one assess when using collaborative writing tools? I am aware of the complexity of this question, which includes aspects such as motivation, positive and negative conditions for group formation, process communication among students as well as the set assessment criteria. However, CSCW provides the students with a

5 "Dagens oppl\u00e6ring m\u00e5 ogs\u00e5 omfatte (...) erfaring fra arbeid der gjensidig avhengighet krever disiplin, og
der egen innsats p\u00e5virker resultatet av andres. Dette fordrer utvikling av ferdigheter til organisering; evne til \u00e5
samordne virksomhet, lede aktiviteter, f\u00f8lge direktiver, foresl\u00e5 alternative l\u00f8sninger."

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