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Using the computer lowers the threshold for communicating in class

Computers and mobile devices also enable new ways of participating in classroom activities.

Researchers of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT explored how an anonymous discussion forum used via the mobile phone impacts the behaviour of 12- to-13-year-old students in class.

The research showed that computer-mediated communication frees students to express themselves without the need to consider the social relationships currently prevailing in their class.  Computers and mobile devices also enable new ways of participating in classroom activities, and they can be used to reshape the rules of traditional social interaction.

The interviews highlighted both the opportunity and the obligation to form independent opinions.

'We found that anonymity enabled discussion that, more than regular classroom discussion, allowed for multiple voices and enabled the students to express themselves more freely, as they were not constrained by existing social relationships. The interviews highlighted both the opportunity and the obligation to form independent opinions,' explains doctoral student Matti Nelimarkka.

The students experienced the introduction of the discussion forum as a positive thing. They said that their classmates had helped them learn new perspectives to the themes addressed. The teacher, too, viewed the discussion forum in a positive light: through it, the students had provided answers that would not have emerged in a regular classroom discussion.

Anonymous discussion also has its risks, such as inappropriate behaviour. In previous studies conducted among university students, the proportion of inappropriate messages has ranged between 20 and 50 per cent. With primary school students, the percentage was approximately 25%. We interpret this to mean that anonymity did not lead to an exceptional level of inappropriate behaviour in this group.

Link to the article: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ir226mw40oxvhll/ACM_group_2014.pdf?dl=0 

Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT, a joint venture between the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, examines the opportunities of computer-mediated communication in situations where the participants are located in the same space also physically. The research, published in the ACM Group Conference, is part of the Learning Solutions programme funded by Tekes.

Further information

Matti Nelimarkka

[email protected]

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