Scholarly article on topic 'Italian Presence in the Dodecanese 1912–1943: Teaching a History Topic in Weebly Environment'

Italian Presence in the Dodecanese 1912–1943: Teaching a History Topic in Weebly Environment Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Procedia Computer Science
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{Weebly / history / "Web 2.0" / collaborative / students / wordpress}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Dimitrios Giannopoulos

Abstract The purpose of this study was to explore the efficiency of the web 2.0 tool, Weebly, in history learning from the perspective of the students. The following historical topic: “Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943” in Weebly environment was chosen as case-study. The author executed an empirical web-based survey to collect data for this study. The study results illustrated a clear enhancement of the knowledge of the historical context and at the same time a great boost to the motivation of the students to participate in class activities. In parallel, the study examined the views of the students on the functionality and the degree of collaboration among class members with the use of the specific Web 2.0 tool, including any potential barriers. The results demonstrated a great level of satisfactory functioning of Weebly in history learning and a considerable promotion of team-spirited work. The most significant obstacles of this Web 2.0 tool issued by the students were: 1. unease and nervousness with openness 2.prolonged time to understand the tool

Academic research paper on topic "Italian Presence in the Dodecanese 1912–1943: Teaching a History Topic in Weebly Environment"



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Procedía Computer Science 65 (2015) 176 - 181

International Conference on Communication, Management and Information Technology

(ICCMIT 2015)

Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943: Teaching a history topic

in Weebly environment

Dimitrios Giannopoulosa

aAthens Metropolitan College and University of East London, Department of Early Childhood Studies, University of Cyprus, Department of History and Archaeology

Email: dgiannopoylos; giannopoulos. dimitrios @ucy.


The purpose of this study was to explore the efficiency of the web 2.0 tool, Weebly, in history learning from the perspective of the students. The following historical topic: "Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943" in Weebly environment was chosen as case-study. The author executed an empirical web-based survey to collect data for this study. The study results illustrated a clear enhancement of the knowledge of the historical context and at the same time a great boost to the motivation of the students to participate in class activities. In parallel, the study examined the views of the students on the functionality and the degree of collaboration among class members with the use of the specific Web 2.0 tool, including any potential barriers. The results demonstrated a great level of satisfactory functioning of Weebly in history learning and a considerable promotion of team-spirited work. The most significant obstacles of this Web 2.0 tool issued by the students were: 1. unease and nervousness wih openness 2.prolonged time to understand the tool

© 2015TheAuthors. Publishedby Elsevier B.V.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of Universal Society for Applied Research

Keywords: Weebly;history; Web 2.0;collaborative;students;wordpress

1. Introduction

Teaching history has been continuously associated with several problems, both for these who teach it and for those who have to learn, understand and remember it. Yet it is important to find ways of coming across historical concepts so that learners can easily assimilate them. It is hard to imagine how individuals can execute their civic obligations without appreciating and evaluating the developments of the historical context of any era, especially when certain events of the past affect their current affairs. Therefore, it is no surprise that the subject of history is regarded as a subject that is fundamental to all walks of the educational process, according to the Greek Institute of Educational Policy.

In this framework, this article aims to highlight that history-teaching and ICT are interconnected, especially with the adoption of the Web 2.0 tool of Weebly, within the context and the principles of collaborative learning. Collaborative learning means

1877-0509 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of Universal Society for Applied Research


working together towards a common goal. According to Slavin [1] the most significant advantages of the implementation of collaborative learning are:

• Development of higher level thinking skills

• Promotion of student-faculty interaction and familiarity

• Increase of student retention

• Enhancement of self-esteem in students

• Augmentation of student satisfaction with the learning experience

• Development of oral and social skills

• Stimulation of critical thinking

• Creation of an environment of action and motivation

Among the most widely-known collaborative theories, such as Social constructivism (Piaget), Social-cultural theory (Vygotsky) is given emphasis on the fact that students themselves should be stimulated to acquire, develop cognitive tools through authentic activities.[2] Hence, the computer-supported collaborative learning is considered of the highest importance. Its basic aim is the effective support of students via a computer, through interaction and communication, to achieve an amelioration of teaching and learning. There is a significant bibliography regarding the promotion of collaborative learning through the interaction of web 2.0 tools. Boulos et al. [3] have stressed that health-related professionals and educational services have adopted wikis, blogs and podcasts because of their ease of use and rapidity and deployment. According to the results of their study, wikis are the web sites that can be edited by anyone who have access to them, a blog offers a resource of rich multimedia environment and podcasts are portable media players that can be taken anywhere. Franklin and van Harmelen [4] have reinstated the usefulness of blogs and wikis in higher education but they have also elaborated on social bookmarking, focusing on their results that bookmarking pages such as "", "Bibsonomy" or "Syndication" bring together groups of users with common interests and at the same time teachers and learners can build up collections of resources. Holcomb and Beal [5] among other web 2.0 tools have underlined in their study, the enhancement of collaborative learning via "Voicethread". According to the authors with the aid of "Voicethread", teachers are able to create and share interactive media presentations both inside and outside the classroom. They have in fact made clear that since teenagers use the Internet on daily basis "Voicethread" 's web-based platform possess an elevated educational value. Ajjan's and Hartshorne's[6] study on faculty decisions to adopt Web 2.0 tools highlighted the following discrepancy: although most of the universities teachers assess positively the benefits of Web 2.0 tools in the learning process, few choose to use them in classroom. Caroll [7] in her article focuses on the critical importance of the subject of History in a pedagogical system in terms of shaping a national identity and informing about the present globalized world. She makes, though, quite an interesting conclusion to the need of using ICT in history teaching in order to overcome the conspicuous "digital division" among the teachers BG (Before Google) and students AG (After Google).

In this context, the author of this current study, pursued to manifest the potential gains in the learning process though the engagement of a Web 2.0 tool and in particular Weebly. In this direction, an empirical research on measuring the degree of realization of the designated learning-targets was undertaken through teaching the following historical topic: "The Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943" in Weebly environment. This topic is an integral part of the curriculum of Foundation course and A-level for students who wish to pursue their university education in G. Britain. It should be also clear that this work attempted to highlight the effectiveness of Weebly, through this case-study, from the student's perspective and provided eloquent answers to the following questions:

-For which reasons should a history teacher incorporate in his/her teaching approach Web 2.0 tools and especially Weebly? -In which way the pedagogical goals of history teaching are materialized with the means of Weebly? -Which are the main advantages and disadvantages of Weebly in history learning process?

2. Why web 2.0? Why Weebly?

Based on the previous arguments, it would be sensible to underscore the advantages of Web 2.0 tools. In terms of practical utility, the Web 2.0 or the Read/Write web, is that users can work together to construct a knowledge base without having to work in the complicated language of HTML code. Web 1.0 was read-only where Internet users went online to find information. It was parallel to going to the library to find books. With Web 2.0, which is read/write, people have become active participants and content creators since not only, do they find information on the Internet, but also create and share content. Downes [8] decribed the emergence of Web 2.0 as a shift 'from being a medium, in which information was transmitted and consumed, into being a platform, in which content was created, shared, remixed, repurposed, and passed along." His main argument is that the emergence of Web 2.0 is not a technical revolution, but a social revolution that enables and encourages participation through open applications and services. Web 2.0 also fosters agency and democratic participation with students. Students do not have to be passive recipients of information but can become equal partners in the learning process as they collaborate and create knowledge in a social manner. In other words, when Web 2.0 tools are effectively integrated into the classroom the principlesof student-centered pedagogy are effectively served.

For this reason, Web 2.0 has the potential to create more interactive and powerful learning environments in which learners become creators, producers, editors and evaluators as Richardson claims [9]. Learner's critical thinking skills are enhanced through the opportunity to regularly compare their own contributions to those of their peers and the affirmation of their relative standing in the class may be powerful motivation for learning [10]. Thus, Web 2.0 technologies have the ability to "support active and social learning, provide opportunities and venues for student publication, grant opportunities to provide effective and efficient feedback to learners [11]. Adding, Web 2.0 promotes multiple opportunities for social interactions and collaboration among students, teachers, subject matter experts, professionals in different fields.

2.1 Weebly vs WordPress

In the process of math-planning, it is inevitable for teachers of any discipline to decide which platform is going to be emplyed in their teaching approach. Even though there are an immense number of platforms that a teacher could adopt, it could be argued that Weebly and WordPress in terms of simplicity and functionality are the best options. Weebly is a web site creator that allows its users to design websites, blogs and online stores without requiring HTML coding. Weebly is an attractive tool because of its "drag and drop" management and the given prerogative to cloud hosting, options available for domain names and customized designs. The use of Weebly is effective for allowing students to create and share their narratives in an interactive and engaging manner [12] Weebly is a free web site development that allows users to plan, build and publish their own web-site in a well-structured and user-friendly manner and functions, more or less, like a word processor. The Weebly Education section offers teachers the opportunity to construct class web sites, e-portfolios, and blogs, as well as unique sites for up to 40 users. This whole process can be coordinated in a protected environment as the teacher is given the power to decide which sections are available for public viewing and which are to remain private, as long as what areas are unlocked for editing by students. Weebly, in a nutshell, is a publishing platform with a WYSIWYG interface- What You See Is What You Get.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a free and open-source blogging tool and a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL and is the most popular blogging system in use on the Web [13]. There are numerous reasons to consider using WordPress for educational reasons: 1. WordPress designs are based on "Themes" which are composed of images and cascading style sheet (CSS) webpage layouts so it is very easy for someone to customize the look and the atmosphere of a WordPress site, 2. WordPress software allows anyone to create and edit new web pages and blog "posts" using a web browser, so no knowledge of HTML or other code is required. In addition, the site administrator can grant various levels of access to others, allowing them to contribute to the website/blog, 3.An informative Class Website can be created. This can be used to inform the parents of projects about classroom activities and work that has been recently completed. In other words, it is a platform that can contribute to student participation, 4. For educators, there is the great advantage at their disposal to post and share their online lesons so an online community of educators could be amassed for providing feedback and alternative methods of a particular lesson could be used, 5. Materials that are posted online in the form of documents, content and links could be accessed without need for a password.[14]

Even though Weebly and WordPress seem, comparatively, to offer an equivalent degree of functionality, the author chose to utilize the former because in terms of site-building was by far easy and quick in comparison to the latter. Without an understanding of HTML, the editor of a webpage may encounter difficulties in achieving to the functionality and the responsiveness of the site itself. WordPress, adding, requires constant maintenance due to the great plug-ins available. In addition, a great advantage of Weebly is that the Weebly widgets are native applications and they never conflict, whereas for WordPress there are numerous plugins by different providers who potentially could stop updating their softwares, not to mention that too many plugins could have a serious impact on the velocity of the website. Moreover, Weebly themes are responsive from the start while a WordPress theme in some cases could be a hard task e.g. downloading a theme from an external source and not from the official library of WordPress. Furthermore, Weebly is more intuitive because the user can see the results of his work right away with the drag and drop system where WordPress quite a few structural and page layouts options are required to be executed in the background. Weebly provides to the user a vivid visual interface for building a website. [15]

3. Research questions

The act of teaching history topic is at least a challenging project for a teacher, including a growing emphasis on standards and accountability, an increasingly diverse student population and lack of support or mentoring. In particular, "doing history" entails building historical knowledge through the use of primary sources, conducting historical inquiry, encouraging students to think historically. Historical thinking involves chronological thinking, historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation, historical research, historical issues-analysis and historical decision-making. Essentially, this approach involves teaching students

to analyze historical evidence, to consider perspective and historical context, to decipher the "written word" and evaluate incentives, plans, and actions of the historical protagonists along with the purposes of the author.

The purpose of this work was to explore in which degree the employment of Weebly in history teaching could supersede all these challenges in a satisfactory level and at the same time meet all the set learning-targets of the lesson plan. The learning-targets of teaching this historical topic in a Weebly environment were to encourage students to:

• Build an understanding of the period of the Italian occupation in the Dodecanese through experiencing a broad and balanced course of study

• Improve their independent learning and critical thinking based on a historical context

• Develop their ability to ask relevant and significant questions about the past and conduct research

• Develop their use and understanding of historical terms e.g. fascism, totalitarian regime, liberal state, trasformismo, colonialism etc.

• Make links and draw comparisons within/across different periods and aspects of the past e.g. pre and postDepression era

• Increase interaction, communication and collaboration with their teachers and co-students

• Acknowledge the flexibility and the easy-of-use of Weebly.

• Acknowledge the potential imperfections and drawbacks of Weebly through the education process 3.1 Research method

The author undertook a web-based survey in order to explore the efficiency of the usage of Weebly in the context of the following specific historical topic: "The Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943" and in particular to what degree the students felt that the above learning goals were achieved. An email invitation was sent, including a link to the web-based survey, to all students who had been active and constantly-present members of the afore-mentioned class and participated to all the activities undertaken it the learning process by the teaching stuff. The survey included three demographic questions and 10 ranking and open-ended questions. The key questions included the following:

• To what degree the usage of Weebly in the learning process facilitated the enrichment of your knowledge and your general understanding for the period of the Italian occupation in the Dodecanese?

• Do you feel that terms as "fascism", "trasformismo", "totalitarian state", "colonial policy", "economic depression" are more familiar to you with the employment of Weebly in the learning process?

• To what degree do you agree with the following statement: "The usage of Weebly contributed to the enhancement of my knowledge on the characteristics of the major protagonists of the specific historical period such as B. Mussolini, E. Venizelos, K.Ataturk, D.Grandi?"

• To what degree do you agree with the following statement: "The usage of Weebly in history-teaching facilitated the constructive exchange of views and improved the relations between members of class?

• To what extent the usage of Weebly in the learning process contributed to the building of a sense of community, collaborative learning and resource sharing?

• What was NOT functional using Weebly in the teaching and learning process?

• Which were the major obstructions of using Weebly in the teaching and learning process?

The participants, consisting of 64.29% female and 35.71% male, were 14 and their age ranged from 18 to 21 (18: 61,25%; 19-20: 20,75%;21: 18,00%). Qualitative data from the web-based survey were analyzed using the constant comparative method [16, 17]. The small size of the sample did not require any particular coding. All responses were carefully examined and thoroughly scrutinized.

3.2 Results

The survey results provided insightful responses and valuable feedback regarding the usage of weebly in the historical topic: "The Italian presence in the Dodecanese 1912-1943". The discussion of the results focuses on two sub-categories: 1) knowledge creation and enhancement of the info for the period 2) evaluating Weebly as a tool in history-teaching (pros and cons) and in consolidation of collaborative learning.

3.3 Knowledge creation-Enhancement info

85% of the participants reported that Weebly enabled them to become "creators of knowledge". As one noted, Weebly technology is quite handy and useful because "it gives me the opportunity to create content in line to my predilection instead of listening to monotonous lectures" so it supports active and student-centered learning in which students take responsibility for their learning. Several other participants stressed the fact that the access to online archives, the disposal of educative YouTube videos and Free Open Courses (FOC) from various Universities, which were at their at disposal on the Weebly, "have played a

significant and decisive role in the deeper understanding and enhancement on grasping difficult terminology such as "economic depression", "fascism", "colonial imperialism", "totalitarian regime". Furthermore, 61% of the sample, were positive, that at the end of the lesson on the specific historical topic with Weebly were able to realize in a more coherent way the interactions of the policies of the governments regarding the topic, namely Italy, G. Britain, Greece and Turkey. In addition, 90% of the participants corroborated that "thanks to the utilities of the Weebly, especially photo-galleries, videos, embedded documents, maps, we could understand in a broader level and provide solid input for events, tendencies, customs and type of conducts which were absolutely distant-either chronological or moral or behavioral- from our perspectives". Another interesting feature regarding this aspect is that most of the students-75% of the sample- underscored the fact that with the using of Weebly in the teaching process "felt that they were guided by their teacher to discover themselves the answer to all questions and make sound and well-founded judgments on the main actors of the period and their adopted policy". So it could be said that through Weebly a history teacher becomes a facilitator of learning rather than an almighty, unquestionable distributor of knowledge.

3.4 Weebly as a functional and collaborative tool

In terms of interaction, communication and collaboration, most of the participants verified that Weebly promoted them in a great scale-88% of the sample. The following are some of the most significant comments made by the participants:

• "Weebly undeniably reduced the distance between me and my co-students and I felt my teacher more close than ever"

• " Had it not been for the employment of Weebly in the context of teaching, I would not have participated at all in class activities"

• "I co-operated with people quite fruitfully and harmoniously that in other cases it would never cross my mind"

• " I would strongly urge my other teachers to adopt Weebly in their teaching methods"

65% of the participants regarded Weebly as "quite functional" or "functional enough" but in some cases they faced difficulties in "discovering" all the available data and information on the site. In terms of flexibility, 50% of the participants found Weebly friendly to the user and 75% flexible or very flexible. As for the handicaps of Weebly, the most widely-mentioned disadvantage of this tool is, by far, the "nervousness with directness". A great number of participants-90%- underline that "they do not feel comfortable to express themselves freely or in a spontaneous way in this medium which is visible to the others too". Therefore, we could draw the conclusion that even though that, students are more than willing to bend their privacy rules in other Web 2.0 tools e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but when it comes to learning and the environment of school class, social inhibitions prevail. 53% of the participants also referred to the difficulty of fully grasping the way Weebly works anl they felt that they needed more time to get accustomed to this new e-tool. Finally, a small proportion of the participants-15%-complained about how "slow and time-consuming" Weebly is or that "teachers are not fully aware of the potentials and the utilities of Weebly".

4. Conclusions

Weebly has gained the confidence in history teaching both from teachers and students and not without cause. [7] The integration of Weebly in the context of history teaching can become a valuable asset for the learning process as its interactive and customized character could produce a plethora of positive results. The current study verified that the principles of collaborative learning are in complete convergence with the functioning and the potentials of Weebly since it promotes student-centered learning and enhances the development of a positive climate in class and solidifies the great gains from team-work. As it was stated before, teachers of history nowadays has to deal with numerous challenges dealing with their subject and their educational methodology and approach. A contemporary and up-to-date history teacher is obliged in many cases to cope effectively with a demanding multi-cultural audience which most of the times is fully informed with technology progress and, at the same time, is rather impatient and ill-disposed or even prejudiced to stay focused on a history lecture. However, Weebly could be of a great assistance to a teacher of any field.

To sum up, the employment of Weebly in the learning process, as participants reported at this study, students find extremely useful and productive to attend to a history class organized with the aid of this specific tool as it is much more close to their experiences and it becomes a great facilitator to make the relation teacher-student more functional, creative and substantial. The great advantage of Weebly which was clearly manifested by the current study- students create their own lesson with the guidance of their teacher- should not be disregarded by history teachers since it could represent an extremely valuable tool in order to materialize their learning targets, whatever the topic is. Judging by the results of this case-study, an impartial reader should also emphasize on some drawbacks of the Weebly as well e.g. the delicate issue of openness and privacy which is an abortive paragon for the full participation of students to the utilities of this tool. Furthermore, some procedural guidance to some students that do

not feel confident with the functioning of the site could prove quite useful. Finally, it should be stated that this web-based survey handled with a rather limited sample, however it provided insightful results regarding the efficacy of Weebly in history learning and its contribution to collaborative learning.


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