Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Dawn Butterworth

Abstract

This study investigated the collaborative interaction patterns exhibited by five-year old pre-primary children in an educational computer environment. The case study method was used in one pre-primary centre in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia, to examine the patterns of collaborative interaction among young children whilst engaged with the computer. The one event case study was of the interactions exhibited by pre-primary children whilst engaged, in dyads, with the computer within a naturalistic classroom environment. This study involved three phases of data collection. Phase I consisted of observations and videotaping sessions, compilation of written observations, narrative descriptions and relevant field notes on each participant. To assess the children's current social skills and computer competence and their general social interaction with peers, the researcher interviewed the children and their teacher using a semi-structured interview schedule to guide the discussion. Phase IT comprised reviewing and transcribing the videotapes and coding children's interactions, while Phase III consisted of analysing all the data obtained. Both observational comments and descriptions and data analyses were presented with anecdotes. 243 interactions were identified and classified into 16 interaction patterns. They were: directing partner's actions; self-monitor/repetition; providing information; declarative planning; asking for information/explanation; disagreeing with partner; accepting guidance; terminal response; exclaiming; correcting others; defending competence; showing pleasure; showing displeasure; sharing control; defending control; and suggesting ideas. Frequency of occurrence of identified interactions was analysed in the form of descriptive statistics. Factors facilitating the collaborative interaction of children whilst engaged with the computer activities were found to be: developmental appropriateness of the software; preexisting computer competency between children; children's preexisting positive attitude towards computer; mutual friendship between collaborators; children's social goals; appropriate structure of enjoyable learning environment; mutual understanding of turn-taking system; and positive non-isolated physical settings of the computer environment. Factors inhibiting collaborative interaction were identified as: non-developmentally appropriate software; lack of computer competency between children; negative attitude (on the part of both children and teacher) towards computer and learning; sense of competition between collaborators; social goals of each child; inappropriate structure to promote enjoyable learning environment; no mutual understanding of turn-taking system; and isolate physical settings of the computer environment. Associated with the findings were three major variables: (1) the classroom teacher variable (philosophy and educational beliefs, task-structure and computer management); (2) the software variable (developmentally appropriateness, content, design, and programmed task-structure); and (3) the child variable (computer competency and attitude towards computer, social goals, social skills, and personal relationship with collaborators). By identifying the collaborative interactions of children, and factors that may facilitate or inhibit these interactions, early childhood educators will be in a better position to integrate the computer into their classroom and to promote positive prosocial interaction among children whilst engaged at the computer. In general, findings suggest that computers should be integrated into all early childhood classrooms and afforded the same status as other traditional early childhood learning materials and activities.

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