Cooperative Groups in Digital Learning: Driver vs. Passenger

Cooperative Groups in Digital Learning: Driver vs. Passenger

Digital Learning: Do you need an argument?

Need an argument for your 1:1 (digital learning) initiative? Researchers looked at how working in cooperative groups on computer tasks impacted students’ performance. We’ve all seen this, many have even done it—we only have so many computers to go around so we put groups of students on each computer. One of the students “drives” the mouse (that’s usually me), and the group works together to complete tasks on the computer. Have you ever considered how this impacts learning? Maybe not, since if you’ve done it, it was probably because of limited computer availability and the choice was either to do cooperative groups or not do the activity at all. Seems like an easy choice.

Man vs. Mouse

Apparently, students working cooperatively perform about the same as students working independently, EXCEPT the person driving the mouse. That person doesn’t perform as well as the others.


Where does this leave us instructionally? Well, hoping for 1:1 probably. But it could also mean that the mouse responsibility needs to be divided among the group members, maybe rotated at regular intervals rather than letting one person do all the driving, so to speak. In the research, the mouse responsibility was assigned randomly. This leads to the question of whether those who would typically choose this role in a group are actually learning less, or if there is something about us (like our learning style or, in my case I think, my introversion) that makes us select this role. Maybe we’re self-selecting because we feel like it helps our learning rather than hinders it. Maybe we’re just exceptionally talented multitaskers, able to mouse and learn simultaneously.

Perspective on how digital learning can empower collaboration

We’d like to hear your perspectives on this. Do you assign this role or let students choose? Do you rotate the role throughout class? Do you feel it impacts students’ learning? Check out one of Metiri’s articles in Educational Leadership to think a bit more about teaching in the 21st Century, digital classroom.

Read the Research

Mills, R. J., Lawless, K., Pratt, J. A. (2006). Training groups of end users: Examining group interactions in a computer-based learning environment. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 46(3), 104-109. Access the article online.

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