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Learning to resolve real cases using computing tools for learning and collaboration. Experimental study in the context of university education

Keywords: WebQuest , construction of knowledge , meaningful learning , mindtools , theory of cognitive flexibility , transformational learning

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Abstract:

Technology can act as a dynamic factor in the process of learning and of communication, generating a context in which people with different training and interests can work together to deal with real problems of major complexity, often badly structured and in different domains of knowledge.The expectations of improving the ability of users of information and communications technologies (ICT) are highly related with the way the full set of computing tools is used within the process of shared construction of knowledge.In this article we propose a model to demonstrate that the use of computing as a tool for the mind is capable of optimising the individual and group potential to reach expert knowledge. That is to say, ICT can affect our ability, at different levels of intensity, in the processes of learning to learn, learning to generate knowledge, learning by collaboration, if the conditions are those based on the principles of the theory of cognitive flexibility, transformational learning, and collaborative learning.The results are presented of research with 63 university students, speech therapists, and specialists in psychology and pedagogy who, using computing tools, had to solve eleven real cases of non-vocal children and adults who aimed to introduce improvements in their systems of augmentative communication. Two learning contexts are compared in the achievement of expert knowledge elaborated in a WebQuest format which uses resources on the Internet, one rigid, based on traditional tools which use protocols, and the other flexible, using "mindtools". Differences in the full use of the programmes between elementary and advanced students are demonstrated, in favour of the latter, who use databases and conceptual maps which are supported by the theory of cognitive flexibility.We discuss the need to make available computing tools for communication which allow students and professionals to create shared work spaces to deal with particularly complex real cases.

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