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In its broadest definition, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is any learning that involves two or more learners as well as one or more computers. CSCL research studies how collaboration contributes to learning and how computer technology can facilitate collaborative learning. This chapter discusses CSCL in terms of four conceptions: (1) collaborative knowledge building; (2) dialogic interaction; (3) intersubjective meaning making; (4) group cognition. CSCL research demonstrates that collaboration among students – when well-designed to scaffold student interactions – is more effective than teachers delivering information to students through a recorded lecture or a synchronous video meeting. This chapter reviews major themes in CSCL, including: empirical studies of cooperative learning in groups; theoretical explanations of learning as an emergent, collective phenomenon; conceptions of knowledge as interactions between learners, rather than as mental representations in student’s heads; and the use of interaction analysis to study moment-to-moment collaborations.
Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is an emerging branch of the learning sciences. It is concerned with studying how people can learn together with the help of computers.
As we will see in this chapter, such a simple statement conceals considerable complexity. The interplay of learning with technology turns out to be quite intricate. The inclusion of collaboration, computer mediation, and distance education has problematized the very notion of learning and called into question prevailing assumptions about how to study it.
Like many active fields of scientific research, CSCL has a complex relationship to established disciplines, it evolves in ways that are hard to pinpoint, and it includes important contributions that seem incompatible. The field of CSCL has a long history of controversy about its theory, methods, and definition. Furthermore, it is important to view CSCL as a vision of what may be possible with computers and of what kinds of research should be conducted, rather than as an established body of broadly accepted laboratory and classroom practices. We start from some popular understandings of the issues of CSCL and gradually reveal its more complex nature.
CSCL Within Education
As the study of particular forms of learning, CSCL is intimately concerned with education. It considers all levels of formal education from kindergarten through graduate study as well as informal education, such as in museums.
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