Editor’s Note: Learning in global interactive environments is stimulated by use of computer networks. For Asian students, this requires additional skills in English and in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). These, and other skills that facilitate or inhibit learning, are the focus of this paper.
Factors Influencing the Participation and Perceptions of Asian K-12 Students
ICT CyberCamp Modules
Interactive games to understand the country names, food, currency, scenery, and national flags
Direct manipulation with arrow keys and mouse clicks, avatar for representation
Co-construction of knowledge and competition on quizzes
Agent base multimedia games
Language comprehension in listening and speaking
Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text technologies
Student produced video presentation
Round-robin activity, Collaborative story-telling
Blog-type digital story telling
3D virtual learning worlds
Teacher support and online learning resources sharing (refine search skills)
Repository of Learning Materials
Summarization of the program
Student-produced video presentation
Networked Collaborative Learning Program
Understand the cultural differences of convenience stores in different countries and currency conversion
Compare and contrast holidays in different countries though cross-group collaboration
Understand the monetary systems and discuss the value of money in APEC member economies
A day in our school
Enrich cultural diversity through the exchange of schooling experience in different countries
Both programs have strong emphases on project-based and problem-based learning. Teachers and students can form teams to participate in either the ICT Cyber Camp or one of the four projects in NCLP during the ACA annual international online learning events. During the nine weeks of the annual learning events, each team will present ICT artifacts based on the theme and requirement of each program. Online tutors are also available to provide assistance to participants in each project area. The assistance includes English correction, project comments, and technical trouble-shooting.
ACA has held four international online learning events since 2002. The ICT Cyber Camp activities were not available in 2002 and 2003. The retention rate of the annual learning events varies every year as indicated in Table 3. In 2005, 37 teams (46%) completed all tasks in NCLP and 30% completed the ICT Cyber Camp activities. Since retention rate is one of the most significant indicators about the quality of the service in networked or distance learning (Axmann, 2007), it is important to find out what elements of the ACA learning environment or services contribute to or impede student participation in the perspectives of Asian students and teachers.
Number of ICT Teams
Number of NCLP Teams
This study employed two surveys (Appendices I & II) that include both quantitative and qualitative data. Surveys for the teachers and students were designed to examine the perceptions of the ACA participants. The teacher survey consists of ten 5-point Likert scale questions, one multiple choice question, and two open-ended questions. The student survey, including questions on learner attitudes toward the ACA learning activities and the learning environment, has twenty-four 5-point Likert scale questions, one multiple choice question, and two open-ended questions. The student survey was adopted from the Young Children’s Computer Inventory (YCCI) by Miyashita & Knezek (1992). The YCCI was tested with Japanese, Mexican, and American students with high validity and reliability. The original survey has examined children’s attitudes in the following six areas: computer importance, computer enjoyment, motivation/persistence, study habits, empathy, and creative tendencies. The student survey for this study was developed with questions that focus on computer importance, enjoyment, and other specific ACA areas. The reliability of the surveys is measured by Cronbach’s alpha. The results show high reliability of the survey instruments (student survey= .880; teacher survey= .969). The comments for the open-ended questions were analyzed with NVivo (QSR, 2006), a qualitative research software program. The first researcher for this study was an observer of the ACA programs who didn't participate in the actual project management or operation. The second author of this study is the project director who has designed and conducted the ACA programs since 2002.
An announcement of the surveys was posted at the ACA web site at the end of the 2005 annual international contest. Ninety-six students and fifteen teachers who participated in the 2005 learning events completed the online survey. The nationalities of respondents of the survey include Taiwan, Korea, and Thailand. The grades range is from 5th grade to 12th grade. The survey was provided in both Chinese and English. The objectives of the survey are:
What are the student perceptions toward ACA and ICT in general?
What are teacher perceptions toward ACA learning programs?
What are the factors that may contribute to or inhibit the learner participation of ACA activities? In other words, what are the elements in ACA that might have contributed to the low retention rate in the annual learning events?
1. Student perceptions toward ACA and ICT:
According to the student survey (Appendix I), many students strongly agreed that they enjoy working with a computer (84%), playing computer games (77%), learning with a computer (84%), and collaborating with teammates (81%). In addition, the majority also agreed that they enjoyed writing in English (65%), chatting online (56%), using the computer (60%), navigating easily in ACA (59%), using critical thinking skills for ACA activities (54%), having fun with ACA activities (65%), feeling rewarded from ACA activities (65%), communicating with other ACA students (51%), logging onto ACA to review projects (66%), and becoming more interested in communication in English (63%).
When asked to choose the top three favorite ACA activities, the following six items have a higher rating: showcase (60.45%), playground (53.13%), video chat (39.58%), forum (38.54%), mailbox (37.5%), and online tutors (35.42%). Showcase is the place where student artifacts are exhibited and peer-evaluation is employed. The data indicate that students enjoyed browsing each other’s projects through the showcase tool. They definitely enjoyed playing games at the play ground. They were also constantly seeking ways to reach out to each other via synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.
2. Teacher perceptions toward ACA learning programs:
More than half of the teacher respondents agreed that ACA interface is easy to navigate (57%), students enjoyed the ACA games (60%), and the activities could encourage student collaboration (74%) and increase ICT (75%) and English communication skills (73%). The respondents have also pointed out that ACA activities require more time (60%) and much assistance from the teachers (67%). The data collected from the open-ended questions are summarized in table 4.
Sense of community
Improved ICT skills
3. Qualitative data analysis
Open-ended questions on the benefits, challenges of ACA activities and suggestion for ACA were included in the surveys. The data reveal new perceptions toward ACA activities that are not covered by the Likert scale questions. Using the NVivo program, the following themes have emerged in terms of benefits and challenges of the ACA programs. Table 4 shows a comparison of the number of responses by students and teachers at each theme on the benefits of ACA programs.
Both the teacher and student responses on the benefits of the ACA activities reveal that English improvement is the primary factor that attracts them to the ACA programs. Students need to use English to communication with peers and develop projects. They are presented with many opportunities to practice English. The second most cited benefit by the students is the sense of community. They have a chance to communicate with students from different cultures and collaborate with peers in the online community. Online tutors are also available to talk with students. Students have also reflected that they enjoyed posting and checking messages at the forum. Student comments included: “it’s interesting to chat with people from different countries,” “I have made more friends,” “The ACA participants were helpful in responding to questions.” Many students have also reported increased knowledge about the subject matter and the fun nature of the ACA learning programs.
English improvement in the students is also the most obvious benefit that is observed by many teachers. In addition, teachers also make note on the improvement of collaboration and ICT skills through the ACA learning programs. Teachers placed more emphasis on the pedagogical benefits of networked learning.
Interestingly, no students have commented on collaboration with teammates whereas the teachers have regarded collaboration as one of the benefits. Most of student responses to the open-ended questions were short sentences (one or two sentences). Their limited English skills could be one reason. Nevertheless, 80% of the students did respond favorably on the merits of collaboration in the Likert-question in the survey.
PBL-new learning mode
Table 5 summarizes the challenges indicated by students and teachers pertaining to the ACA annual international online learning events. Since all activities were facilitated by teachers in the learning events, most of the challenges were resolved by the teachers who had reported the difficulties in participating in the ACA learning events. Insufficient time was cited as the top challenge for both teachers and students. Teachers had mentioned that all projects needed to be completed in the computer lab. They had to make arrangements to use the lab, teach students how to create web pages and process digital media, monitor student progress in addition to implementing regular curriculum, and meet project timeline. All these factors make it very challenging to complete all activities within nine weeks. Furthermore, most students accessed the ACA site during lunch hours or after school hours, which slowed down the server when hundreds of students were online at the same time. Worth noting is the challenge in implementing project-based learning strategy. Many students in Asia are used to traditional lectures and teacher-centered activities. A few teachers had indicated that the students did not have the motivation to get projects started on their own at the initial stage. The students wanted to be told what to do. They needed very specific guidance for each step. It took a while for students to become somewhat autonomous in project completion. Furthermore, most ACA activities were conducted as part of the after-school program which was not tied to the formal curriculum. Students’ performance was not part of their grades which might explain why some students were not interested in completing or working on the projects. Students did not approach the challenges with the same intensity as the teachers since they could always turn to the teachers for help.
4. Factors influencing participation:
Based on results of the surveys, quantitatively and qualitatively, ACA participants have shown strong interest and been motivated to participate in the ACA activities. Factors that positively influence the participation of Asian students in the ACA learning programs are summarized as follows:
Sense of community: Students enjoy interacting with each other and the online facilitators. The majority indicated that they enjoy online chatting and visit ACA learning environment to review different projects. Although most of the students are not confident with their English capability, the built-in social tools in ACA such as showcase (for peer project evaluation), forum, and mailbox are all highly utilized by the students. The combined activities provide a sense of community supported by a learning environment that is highly interactive.
Computer importance and enjoyment: A high number of respondents agreed that computers could assist them in gaining new knowledge. It is important to be good at using a computer. Students who are not motivated to use computers may not find the ACA projects interesting or have the desire to complete projects.
English improvement through real-world content learning: Students work on projects that have real-world application in English. They also interact with other participants in English. Both teachers and students indicated improvement in English. It is important for the Asian learners to find a venue in which that they can practice English in a real-world scenario with native speakers and work on projects that further their understanding of physical and virtual learning environments. For example, they have to present school schedules, interview convenience store clerks, check out prices for various products, and compare holidays around the world. Through the knowledge construction process, they have improved understanding of the world around them and the English language.
The surveys, nonetheless, also have revealed several elements of the programs that prohibited the participation: insufficient time of engagement, lack of curriculum integration, and unsatisfactory online learning facilitation.
The main goal of ACA is to enhance ICT skills and English capability through project-based learning and collaboration in a networked learning environment that encourages international collaboration and intercultural exchanges. ACA has accomplished the main goal as most participants have indicated enhanced ICT skills and a strong desire to communicate with peers in English. In addition, students have also demonstrated a strong interest in computers, international collaboration, online community, interactive human-computer interface, fun activities and games, and human feedback. Having fun, establishing new friendships, and learning something meaningful are also revealed in their choice of the favorite ACA learning activities.
Teachers are the team leaders of the ACA annual international learning events and their participation is equally important. Most teachers have acknowledged the increased ICT skills in students as a result of participating in the ACA projects. To encourage more active participation of the teachers, it is important to integrate ACA activities into K-12 curriculum, allow more flexibility in project completion, maintain a robust system, reduce network bottleneck, and increase participating countries.
This study has profiled several key elements that attract Asian K-12 student participation in networked learning. The use of games and interactive tasks to engage students in active learning is essential. Further research on what students do online and how to keep them engaged while learning content knowledge should be implemented. As more teachers are integrating more ICT skills into the classroom, it is imperative to understand what motivates or discourages students in networked learning. Although the findings from this study provide a unique angle on Asian students and their perceptions toward computer and learning, some of the perceptions are applicable to today’s K-12 learners in general.
Axmann, M. (2007). Project Student Rescue: Online Learning Facilitation in Higher Education to Improve Retention Rates for Distance Learners. In In E. McKay (Ed.), Enhancing learning through human-computer interaction, pp. 43-56. Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.
Cramphorn, C. (2004). An evaluation of formal and underlying factors influencing student participation within e-learning web discussion forums. Networked Learning Conference 2004 Proceedings. Retrieved April 24, 2007, from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2004/proceedings/
Fisher, K., Phelps, R., & Ellis, A. (2000). Group processes online: Teaching collaboration through collaborative processes. Educational Technology & Society, 3(3), 484-495.
Ge, X., Yamashiro, K., & Lee, J. (2000). Pre-class planning to scaffold students for online collaborative learning activities. Educational Technology & Society, 3(3), 159-168.
Huges, S., Wickersham, L., Ryan-Jones, D., & Smith, S. (2002). Overcoming social and psychological barriers to effective on-line collaboration. Educational Technology & Society, 5(1), 86-92.
Authors. (2007). APEC Cyber Academy: Integration of pedagogical and HCI principles in an international networked learning environment. In E. McKay (Ed.), Enhancing learning through human-computer interaction, pp. 154-177. Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.
McKenna, M. C. (2006). Introduction: Trends and trajectories of literacy and technology in the new millennium. In M. C. McKenna, L. D. Labbo, R. D. Kieffer & D. Reinking (Eds.), International handbook of literacy and technology (Vol. II, pp. xi-xviii). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publisher.
Miyashita, K., & Knezek, G. (1992). The young children’s computer inventory: A likert scale for assessing attitudes related to computers in instruction. Journal of Computing in Childhood Education, 3, 63-72.
Moursund, D. G. (2003). Project-based learning using information technology (2nd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
QSR International Pty Ltd. (2006). NVivo 7. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from http://www.qsrinternational.com/
Serim, F. (2002). The importance of contemporary literacy in the digital age: A response to digital transformation: A framework for information communication technologies (ICT) literacy. Retrieved August 16, 2008, from http://www.big6.com/2002/05/10the-importance-of-contemporary-literacy-in-the-digital-age-a-response-to-digital-transformation-a-framework-for-information-communication-technologies-ict-literacy/
Thomas, J. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning. Retrieved July 31, 2006, from http://www.bobpearlman.org/BestPractices/PBL_Research.pdf
C. Candace Chou is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Education at the University of St. Thomas. She is in charge of the Learning Technology and E-Learning Program. As the co-director of the Minnesota Leaders and Educators Technology Initiatives (MELTI), she has worked to bridge the digital divide in the K-12 schools. Her research focuses on the integration of technology into curriculum, computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems, and the design of distance learning environments.
Learning Technology Program
School of Education
University of St. Thomas
1000 LaSalle Ave., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55311, USA
Chi-Syan Lin earned his Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Computer Science at Indiana University in 1994. He currently is a professor at National University of Tainan, Taiwan. With his compelling experience in the field of networked learning, Chi-Syan Lin frequently serves as a consultant to numerous governmental digital learning projects of Taiwan and Asian countries. Being an advocate of educational simulation since his graduate study in late 80, Chi-Syan Lin now is focusing his research on blending the strength of microworld, simulation, and role playing game to create virtual learning environments and content.
Department of Information and Learning Technology
National University of Tainan
33, Sec. 2, Su-Lin St.
Tainan, Taiwan 700
Phone: +886-932830451 Fax: +886-6-280-0675 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Marck van’t Hooft is a senior researcher at the Kent State University, Research Center for Educational Technology.
Yi-Mei Lin is an assistant professor at the National Chung Cheng University, Department of Communication & Graduate Institute of Telecommunications in Taiwan.
Dear APEC Cyber Academy Participant:
Thank you for attending the APEC Cyber Academy (ACA) annual contest. We would like to have your feedback on the activity design for future improvement. Please complete this short survey by indicating your agreement on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 as strongly disagree and 5 as strongly agree. If you have not used a particular feature mentioned in the question, please check N.A. (not applicable)
ACA Project Team
1 = Strongly Disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3 = Slightly Agree; 4 = Agree; 5 = Strongly Agree; and N.A. = Not Applicable
1. I enjoy writing in English.
2. I feel nervous communicating in English with other students.
3. I enjoy online chatting.
4. I enjoy doing things on a computer.
5. I am tired of using a computer.
6. I enjoy computer games very much.
7. I can learn many things when I use a computer.
8. I can navigate in ACA easily.
9. The graphic design of ACA is pleasing.
10. The ACA activities have challenged me to think critically.
11. The ACA activities are fun to participate.
12. I find the ACA learning experience rewarding.
13. I have gained new computer knowledge and skills through ACA learning activities.
14. I have met new friends through ACA.
15. I enjoyed video-conferencing in ACA.
16. The Online facilitators were helpful in answering questions.
17. When I ask questions, the online facilitators give me the answers I need.
18. When I ask questions, I find help from other ACA participants.
19. I collaborated with my teammates on projects.
20. I found it difficult to complete the activities.
21. I could use more time to complete the projects.
22. I enjoy communicating with other students in ACA.
23. I enjoyed logging onto ACA to review the projects done by other teams.
24. I have become more interested in communicating in English as a result of ACA learning events.
25. My top three choices of ACA activities or games are:
26. Other comments
Thank you for leading the student team(s) to participate in the APEC Cyber Academy annual contest. Your feedback on the design of the activities and the web site is highly appreciated. Please complete this short survey by indicating your agreement on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 as strongly disagree and 5 as strongly agree. If you have not used a particular feature mentioned in the question, please check N.A. (not applicable)
ACA Project Team
1. I find it easy to tie the ACA activities to the school curriculum.
2. I could use more time for the students to complete the projects.
3. The ACA web site is easy to navigate.
4. The ACA programs schedule sets the appropriate pace to complete the tasks.
5. My students enjoy playing the ACA computer games.
6. The computer skills required to complete the tasks are at the proper level of difficulty.
7. My students required a lot of assistance in completing the tasks.
8. My students collaborated on projects to complete the ACA leaning events.
9. The ACA activities can enhance student interest in communicating in English.
10. The ACA activities can enhance student interests in learning Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
11. My top three choices of ACA activities or games are:
12. What are the benefits for your students in participating in the ACA contest?
13. What are the challenges that you have faced while leading the team(s) to participate in the ACA contest?
14. Other suggestion or comments for activities and functions of the ACA learning environment:
15. Other comments:
 The 21 APEC member economies include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam