As a Humanist, Cathy Hynes faced a dilemma causing her to query ways to improve levels of student engagement. Buchanan (1998) suggests that interactivity promotes humanistic educations as it places students in the role of active learners rather then in the role of passive receptors of information. Buchanan asserted that technology can humanize education if it empowers students to manage information.
When first beginning with Google groups, Cathy’s purpose was to increase participation and interactivity with content, peers and the instructor.
Cathy followed Novak’s lead to work with discussion groups and to check understanding of concepts prior to class thereby increasing opportunities for problem solving in particular areas and engaging in discussion and debate. She created a specific ‘Google’ group. Self tests were used in order to identify learning needs and ensure reading had been completed. This group enjoyed good communication with the teacher and peers, which promoted clarification of issues through discussion. Frayer (n.d.) asserts that asynchronous discussion involves student interaction rather than simply student –teacher interaction.
Two software packages were selected to facilitate communication. The Yackpack program is easy to use and provides online synchronous as well as asynchronous voice recordings for offline students. Berge and Collins (1996) stress that it is not necessary for individuals to meet synchronously to engage in social interaction.
Similar to Yackpack, the Skype program also provides for groups of up to nine students to collaborate on tasks or simply meet socially. Both packages encourage communication beyond the school day (Wilber, 2007). Miranda & Saunders cited in Piggs and Crank, (2004) discuss the need for reciprocity in online communication and Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) maintain that immediacy enhances social presence. Skype and Yackpack support reciprocity, immediacy and social presence.
Using Yackpack, Cathy was able to receive and collect messages from members of the class who could not connect synchronously. These interactions helped the group to be more connected and use face-to-face class time more effectively.