Networked Collaborative Learning: Social Interaction and Active Learning (1st ed.)

Guglielmo Trentin. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2010. Pp. xvii + 166.

Reviewed by Weihong Wang
China University of Geosciences
Wuhan, China

Networked Collaborative Learning (NCL) is a critical topic for 21st century education worldwide. Guglielmo Trentin s Networked collaborative learning: Social interaction and active learning has addressed this topic from a social-cognitive perspective and successfully delineated a four-dimensional framework for the implementation of NCL in future education.The insightful perceptions of NCL and the detailed instructions on NCL practice presented in this book are of great significance for educators and practitioners, especially teachers and would-be teachers who attempt to know how to employ NCL in their teaching so as to meet the educational needs in this new era.

The six-chapter book starts with a favorable presentation of numerous potentials of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) through comparison with conventional classroom-based learning. Against this background, NCL is put forward as the cornerstone of future TEL sustainability in this first chapter. It then goes further to explicate how NCL can be best developed from four dimensions, namely pedagogical approaches, e-teacher professionalism, instructional design models, and student performance assessment. The four-dimensional model in developing NCL offered in this chapter serves as a roadmap for understanding the whole book, as the four dimensions are developed into the next four chapters respectively. Chapter 2 explores the philosophy underpinning NCL and the necessary paradigm shifts involved in moving from traditional classroom learning to collaborative networked learning. The presentation of defining pedagogical features of NCL in comparison with traditional learning propels teacher-readers to continually reflect on traditional pedagogies while reading this chapter. This kind of reading experience may gradually lead them to the necessary shifts required in moving beyond the passive, content based pedagogies to embrace the moreinteractive and constructive ones proposed in NCL.

Chapter 3 investigates the professional development involved in NCL, mainly the abilities required for teachers to implement this e-pedagogy. It first provides the rationale for teacher professionalism development, and then goes on to elaborate the multiple roles teachers in NCL environment have to take, like being a subject expert, instructional designer, classroom teacher, e-teacher, or e-moderator. In this chapter, the author particularly emphasizes that in NCL teacher training goes far beyond training teachers to implement traditional teaching practices with new technical skills. Instead, NCL takes as its aim in teacher education and professional development to enlighten teachers to be capable of making autonomous and informed decision about what e-teaching strategies will prove most effective for meeting the needs at hand (p. 54).

Chapter 4 focuses on instructional designing in NCL environment. It offers thorough and detailed instruction on how to design coherent and effective NCL courses. The instruction covers macro-level considerations of aims, objectives, course prerequisites, course flexibility, educational strategies, evaluation criteria and micro-level designing of a variety of e-tivities and e-content.

Chapter 5 is mainly about the evaluation and assessment of NCL. It presents readers a repertoire of evaluating tools and methods so that diverse users can choose from them the most suitable ones according to their own needs. In other words, this chapter turns the intricate details of students performance in collaborative work into measurable variables, which enables teachers to make comparatively objective evaluation on individual student s development.

Chapter 6, the last chapter, re-addresses the importance of teachers efforts in the entire four dimensions to guarantee the distinction of NCL and the effectiveness of e-learning.

The topic discussed in this book is a prompt response to the recent advances in e-learning technology and practice. Drawing on the author s own experience in classroom application of NCL and comparing NCL with conventional learning, this book offers insightful perceptions and useful guidelines for networked learning. However, as it is an advantage of this book to foreground e-pedagogy by strategically comparing it with traditional ones, readers might take a black-and-white view towards the two types of pedagogies and interpret them as absolutely incompatible. The author s intention here is to remind teachers of the danger of directly transferring classroom practice into the cyber world but not advise them to abandon everything related to traditional teaching practices.

Generally speaking, this book deserves the attention of educators at all levels. It will definitely benefit teaching practitioners in deepening their understanding of NCL in the midst of transition from classroom teaching to e-pedagogy. It can also guide educational institutions in their decision-making as regards investing e-learning in their own educational contexts.