Effective Learning Tool for Education

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The aim of this project is to implement an effective discussion tool by using six thinking hats model as the mechanism. There is a need to implement an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong. Discuss tool is a kind of them. Although there are many discussion tool available in the web space, most of them are not developed for specific need especially education. In this project, we used the six thinking hats model as a mechanism in order to develop an effective online discussion tool.

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The six thinking hats model will use as a mechanism to facilitate the synchronous online discussion. By using this model, a collaborative learning assistance platform will be developed. In this project, we will show you why six thinking hats model is situation for student to learn and the author will also evaluate the proposing environment.


There is a need to implement an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong. Discuss tool is a kind of them. Although there are many discussion tools available in the web space, most of them are not developed for education. In this project, we develop an effective discussion tool by using the six thinking hats model as a mechanism.

And in this section, we will go through some background information for this project. They are: specific definitions related to this project, the need e-learning resource and we will also use the Groupware and 3C Collaboration model to analysis online discussion tool. Background

The need of e-learning resources in Hong Kong

In October 2009, the Education Bureau of Hong Kong (2009)[1] released a report related to e-learning entitled “Working Group on Textbooks and e-Learning Resources Development”. The report stated that it is a global trend to use e-learning in education and there is a “paradigm shift in school education from a text-based and teacher-centered mode to a more interactive and learner-centered mode”. E-learning resources are encouraged to develop in order to enhance the learning effectiveness and provide the student a best mode to learn. The Secretary for Education has announced to launch a three-year “Promoting e-learning pilot scheme” in 20- 30 primary and secondary schools in the 2010/2011 school year. From the above, we can see there is a potential need to develop an effective learning tool for education in Hong Kong based on the government policy.

What is Project Based Learning?

Project Based learning (PBL) is a conceptual model that fit learning into projects. According to the definitions in the PBL handbook[2] for teachers, projects are consist of different tasks, based on challenging problems, that required students to “design, problem-solving, decision making, or investigative activities”; Meanwhile PBL allows the student to work relatively autonomously over extended periods of time; and eventually come up with a realistic products or presentations.

The definition above is too abstract that cannot distinguish the different between projects and the instance of PBL. According to Thomas (2000)[3], he proposed five criteria that an instant of PBL project should have. They are centrality, driving question, constructive investigations, autonomy, and realism.

  • “PBL projects are central, not peripheral to the curriculum.”

Projects are the curriculum. The central teaching strategy in PBL is the project itself. Students learn the central concepts through projects. The centrality here means students learn things that are outside the curriculum are not examples of PBL. For example, illustrations, examples, additional practice, or practical applications like discussion is only an “application” of the projects, it is not considered to be the instance of PBL.

  • “PBL projects are focused on questions or problems that “drive” students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.”

The project has to be about a “driving question” or an “ill-defined problem” which can motivate the student to learn. The question that student pursue, as well as the applications mentioned in the last paragraph, must be well combined in the service of an important “intellectual purpose”.

  • “Projects involve students in a constructive investigation.”

In order to be consider as a PBL project. Based on the PBL project, the students are able to “transformation and construction” of knowledge, making new understanding and skill by the PBL activities. If the project represents no difficulty to the student or it is about the “already-learnt” knowledge, the project is an exercise and it is not a PBL project.

  • “Projects are student-driven to some significant degree”

There is no expected, predetermined outcome for the PBL projects. It is because the PBL projects not like traditional instruction and projects, it is highly dependent to the students’ choice, organization and responsibility.

  • “Projects are realistic, not school-like.”

The PBL project give the student a feeling of “authenticity”, it is because of the topic, the tasks, the roles that the students play incorporates real-life challenges where the focus is on authentic (not simulated) problems or questions and where solutions have the potential to be implemented.

Why Project Based Learning is effective

According to George Lucas Educational Foundation (2001), the project based learning is effective for student as it is student driven, based on this situation, the attendance of the student will increase and thus increase their self-confidence, motivate them to participate in the project

Secondly, research show that the “academic gains equal to or better than those generated by other models, with students involved in projects taking greater responsibility for their own learning than during more traditional classroom activities” (Boaler, 1997; SRI, 2000 )

“Opportunities to develop complex skills, such as higher-order thinking, problem-solving, collaborating, and communicating” (SRI, 2000)

“Access to a broader range of learning opportunities in the classroom, providing a strategy for engaging culturally diverse learners” (Railsback, 2002)

The problems

There are many discussion tools available in the web space but seldom of them are designed for learning. Especially, they have addition feature to facilitate learning and at least, the usability of the online tools.

For the learning facilitation, we would like to point out an effective discussion tools should help the participant to learn systematically. It is because, our brain was train to think inside the box (habit). This may limited our thought and make the discussion low affectivity.

For the user usability, chat confusion is one of other problems for online discussion tools. Thirunarayanan, M. O. (2000)[4] suggests that there may be chat or conversation overlap in chat rooms as the student and instructor submit their responses at their “unique pace”. The participants may talk simultaneously and interrupt the other participant to follow the conversation. As the text area of the chat history is usually scrolled automatically, participant will have problem when they want to follow the comment of their initiated idea.

Introduction to WebQuest

Discussion as a learning approach in PBL

Difficulties in discussion


The aim of this project is to build an integrate discussion tool to serve the needs of discussion task in WebQuest. We are going to used six thinking hats model as the mechanism in the discussion tool. This project will be an application to Web Quest system (Yeung 2009), while this project provides the student a platform to perform the discussion online based on project based learning and Yeung’s system provided a platform for teacher to examine and manage the student project.


  • Objective To study the need of a discussion tool in e-learning
  • To study the problem of exiting discussion tool
  • To study the advantage of using a collaborative mechanism in PBL
  • To review and examine the six thinking hats model as collaborative mechanism
  • To redesign the model in order to fit the PBLS
  • To develop a collaborative system for PBL

In this section, we have gone through why there is a need to develop the e-learning resources in Hong Kong, it is because the research suggested that e-learning is good for the student and there is a trend to shift the teaching paradigm from “correspondent learning” to the “peers learning” . Hong Kong Government is totally supported the development of the e-learning resources. The students are also preferred to communicate online rather than communicate face to face.

Communicate Mediated Communication and Computer Supported Collaborative learning is two main ideas in this project. In which, we have gone through the meaning of collaboration learning and the benefit of discussion as the learning activity.

Report Organization

Discussion as a learning strategy

Askell-Willams and Lawson (2005)[5] has carried out a sophisticated study in teaching-learning discussion, they investigated the topic in different aspect, and the overview below is concluded by views of expertise in perspectives of psychological, sociological-constructivism and socio-linguists.

There is a convincing reason that why discussion can serve as teaching and learning purpose. Dillon (1994)[6] stated that discussion can benefit in “understanding of subject matter and resolution of issues related to the subject matter and its educational function; personal growth; and understanding of the value of group reflection and deliberation”.

Discussion is also a primary mechanism in students’ social transactions. The discussion itself served as a knowledge construction process. Social transactions in classroom can encourage student to put the knowledge into “public domain”, their reasoning and understands can then be the augmented, examined, elaborated, critiqued and related to the understandings of other people.

Tobin, Tippins, and Gallard (1994)[7] also stated that the role of discussion provided a perfect platform for students to interact. Group interaction can provide a background in which student can be negotiate differences of opinion and seek agreement. It is more important that student can generate question and clarify understanding of specific content. Peers interaction can develop their ability to speak out, unafraid in order to take a proper stand.

Based on the social cognitive perspective, discourse is also a primary deliberation tool for cognitive development. Nuthall (1997)[8] proposed that the potential benefit of discourse is “transactional relationship between socio-cultural experience and self-organizational activities of the mind”. Such activities of the mind are facilitated through discussion, Askell-Willams and Lawson showed us an example. If a student only acquires knowledge from a teacher, the student will only incorporate the “single dependent perspective of the student-teacher relationship”. If, on the other hand, the student acquires the knowledge in discussion in which different perspectives are described, explained and debated, the student’s performance will incorporate with a “larger network of intertwined social and logical relationships”.

Problem rose from discussion

Of course using discussion as a learning strategy is not suitable in every situation. Baxter, Woodward and Olson (2001)[9] showed that learning through class discussion might not effective for those “low-achieving” students, it is too difficult for them to involved in the discussion frequently and they may not have chance to speak out according to their shyness.

Hollander (2002)[10] also noted that the organization of effective discussion at the individual level is not straightforward. Some student talk much while other talks little, the content of discussions can be awkward, there is no guarantee that the discussion content will be “threaded in a coherent manner” and not all students might have developed effective skill for contribution. It should also be noted that, leaving student discuss by their own will not engaging an effective discussion. Many students need specific instruction in order to know how to ask proper questions and give proper respond.

Although the expertise may agree that discussion is a potential learning strategy for education, the key stockholder is the learner. If students’ knowledge is not enough to allow them to make effective use of a discussion, just like “how to act effectively”, “how to ask proper questions “and “how to give proper respond”, in this situation, the benefit of discussion as a learning approach are unlikely to be study.

The value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online learning Environment

From the above, we can see that how discussion benefit in students’ learning, here we will discuss the value of collaboration and discussion in learning strategy for Online Learning Environments (OLEs). Clark(2001)[11] stated that although it is achievable that learning with student interaction(passive learning), active learning through interaction including “faculty acting as peers, guides, and moderators” is generally consider more effective and well suited to OLEs.

Discussion is not like the traditional instructor lecture method of education. Discussion and collaboration increased students’ involvement in which engages students actively participated in the learning process compare with the traditional instructor lecture teaching method, discussion are able promote the belonging of “students’ achievement and satisfaction”.

Clark stated that, although the student and instructor remained as a key player in the discussion as learning strategy, there are still some different between the traditional classroom and OLEs. The diagram stated below illustrated their different.

The Shift of Face to Face discussion to Computer Mediated Discussion

From the last session, we can see that there is advantage of using OLEs in discussion than traditional classroom. How about student? Do they also want to use the electronic resources to learn and interact with each other? An and Frick (2006)[12] found that student preferred to use computer mediated communication (CMC) than face to face (F2F) as communication media under certain condition. Here are the reasons:

    • Flexibility

The location and time become an independent variable in CMC such that student can perform discussion on web anywhere.

    • Interactivity increased

The flexibility of digital learning platform also contributed to the second point, it will increase the interactivity between the students and as well as the Instructor. The learning style of the students is thus transform from independent learning to peers learning by the use of computer aids. Sutton (2001)[13] (in An and Frick, 2006) suggested that CMC has caused the shift from “correspondence learning” to “social learning”. Berge (1995)[14] (in An and Frick, 2006) has also suggested the interaction among instructors, students, contents and interface have been “maximized” in the online discussion and thus facilitate the constructive thinking.

    • Allow student to learn by their own pace

When compare to F2F, CMC provide student more time to respond the question. It allows student to analysis and reflect the question with enough time so that they can compose thoughtful responds. Student can thus learn by their own peak in CMC, they can also take control to their learning and interact with the peer in order to build knowledge.

Overview of the Discussion Tool – Synchronized and Asynchronous Discussion tool

Discussion is definitely a common implementation for Computer Mediate Communication. Generally, online discussion tool can divided in to two types, they are synchronized and asynchronous discussion tool. And as educational platforms, the two distinct format of interaction impact differently. In this session, we are going to investigate the pros and cons of these discussion tools in learning.

What is asynchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson(2006)[15], asynchronous instruction “occurs in delayed time and does not require the simultaneous participation of student and teacher”. The asynchronous instruction was used in distance education in the early year due to postal delays. The asynchronous voice conferencing are already proven useful in some instructional contexts, text-based asynchronous instruction are also widely used in the post-secondary education, it can also be considered as asynchronous online discussion.

Johnson stated that educators has been investigate the efficiency of asynchronous online discussion, they reported that it can “encouraging in-depth, more thoughtful discussion; communicating with temporally diverse students; holding ongoing discussions where archiving is required; and allowing all students to respond to a topic”

There are also potential limitations of the asynchronous discussion room. Student may not check the forum frequently, lack of spontaneous feedback may lead students feel isolated, it is necessary to spend more time in the discussion in order to make it mature.

Dede and Kremer (1999)[16](in Johnson, 2006) conducted a survey to check the students’ preferences of asynchronous discussion tool. They found that the asynchronous discussion provided a more comprehensive interchange for them, but it required more time and provided less social interaction than synchronous chat.

What is synchronous discussion tool?

According to Johnson (2006), “Synchronous instruction occurs in real time and requires the simultaneous participation of students and teacher”. The synchronous instruction was used in the closed circuit television on university campus in the early year. Until 1980s, video-conferencing and interactive television connected remote classroom, in which, the synchronous discussion allow student to ask question and perform interaction in spontaneously, the educators start conduct study how synchronous discussion tool help student in learning.

As you can see, synchronous communication tools allow multiple users communicate with each other at the same time using text messages, According to a report investigated by Branon & Essex (2001)[17] (in Johnson, 2006) showed that synchronous chat tools are useful for “”holding virtual office hours, team decision-making, and brainstorming, community building, and dealing with technical issues”. Spontaneous feedback can make student feel connected; student will not feel isolated in this situation, meanwhile, student are all actively participate in the discussion tool synchronously, not like asynchronous discussion tool, required student to login frequently to check for update.

But there are still limitations for the synchronous discussion tool. It is difficult to implement synchronous discussion tool compare with asynchronous discussion tool. It is hard to get students online at the same time, and it is difficult in manage large-scale conversation. Lack of reflection time for student and it is demanding for the poor typist.

Synchronous Versus asynchronous online discussion

Educators are commonly agreed the learning outcome of asynchronous online discussion room is better the face-to-face discussion. But the limitations stated above (isolation and frequently participation) discourage them to use this mechanism alone. There lead to the trend of implementing synchronous chat tool, it is because synchronous chat can override those limitation, as it “attempts to emulates” face-to-face discussion. Using synchronous chat not only enhanced social transaction but also improve student learning outcome.

Johnson(2006) suggested the best methodology is combining the synchronous and asynchronous chat tool in Online Learning Environment in order to get “higher levels of student satisfaction and mastery of course requirements than implementation of either mode in isolation”. Johnson stated that there is a survey supported student who’s used both discussion tools are most likely to achieved the course requirement because using the both tools can maximized “personal engagement in learning”.

Review on different discussion model

Structured Academic Controversy

The method was firstly introduced by David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, they are the leading expert in cooperative learning. As titled, academic controversy is a structured discussion strategy by using controversy, in which, controversy means an individual has a different idea and that idea is incompatible with others’ idea, so two of them need to compromise in order to reach a common agreement. According to the Cooperate Learning Center, academic controversyuses the “intellectual conflict” to encourage student to reach higher achievement. It will also enhanced the quality of “problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, reasoning, interpersonal relationships, and psychological health and well-being”

There are three goals which SAC are designed to help the to achieve. They are

  1. to gain a deeper understanding of an issue,
  2. to find common ground, and
  3. to make a decision based on evidence and logic

The five procedures in SAC

    • Step 1- “Organizing Information and conclude”

Students are separate into two groups, one of them will receive materials which written in supportive side and the other receive material of the opposite side. The groups will discuss together to conclude main ideas for present.

    • Step 2: “Presenting And Advocating Positions”

Student will present their argument, each side have a limited time to contribute the groups ideas. After the presentation, the other side can have a minute to rebut.

    • Step 3: “Uncertainty Created By Being Challenged By Opposing Views”

After the rebuttal of each group, the two sides will be switched. Each of the group will receive material from their opposite side. The students are required to use their material and points they have learnt from the other side earlier to formulate points of the opposite view.

    • Step 4: “Epistemic Curiosity and Perspective Taking”

Students will put down their position and discuss the issue together; they are required to find points which they are agree with and disagree with based on their evidence from the argument in order to reach concurrence. If the group cannot find a consensus of the topic, they are advice to find a compromised procedure which they could use to resolve the disagreements.

    • Step5: “Re-conceptualizing, Synthesizing, and Integrating”

It is a sharing session, the whole class grouped together and discusses how the group worked as a team and how can SAC help them in understanding the issue.

Limitation of SAC:

  • Student may be prejudiced by first impressions, they may not able to change their mind even the evident are support the opposite idea. And thus, it is hard to reach consensus at the end of the process.
  • As SAC involved rebuttal, student may thought they are personal attacked by the criticism if the others student are not handle the rebuttal properly.
  • It is demanding for the low-achieving student to speak out in the group they may not have chance to speak out according to their shyness.

Civil Conversation Model

The model was firstly used by the Constitutional Rights Foundation for encourages student to analyst a text material. With the guidance of the team leader, groups member are encouraged to study a selected text material, they will get to know their own points of view in the discussion procedure and eventually build a shared knowledge within the group.

The challenged text material is an essential step for discussion in Civil Conversation. The text should be in a proper length and the conversation will takes place with the students in a circle. The teacher usually acts as a facilitator.

The aims of the facilitator are:

  1. identify the topic and main points in the text,
  2. list what they agree and disagree with in the text, and
  3. pose questions about the text they believe are worthy of discussion.

The challenged text will organized as a worksheet and contains question which required student to answer. The questions are usually in the below format:

  1. What is the selection is about:
  2. What is the main points are:
  3. What do you agree with
  4. What do you disagree with
  5. A selected question for group discussion, the question should have no simple answer which can only use the materials as evidence.
  6. Debrief Questions
    • What did you learn from the conversation?
    • What did you find you had in common with other members of the group?
    • For anyone not active in the conversation (those good listeners), what did you learn; what did you agree with; who said something that you would have said?

The four procedures in CC

    • Step 1- Selected a challenged text

Divided students into group and set the time limit of the discussion

    • Step 2- Ask for agreement and Disagreement

Ask every member to contribute idea on agreement and disagreement (question 3 and 4). Members should carefully listens to others and contribute new ideas based on that.

    • Step3- Discussion

Then ask the entire group to respond to question 5 the predefined discussion question. They are required to jot down the issues raise and they can raise a new problem anytime.The conversation can then continue by discussing the questions raised.

    • Step4: Sharing session

It is a sharing session, the whole class grouped together and discusses how the group worked as a team and how can Civil Conversation model help them in understanding the issue. And ask students to return to the Reading Guide and answer questions 6 and 7.

    • Step 5: Make enhancement

Conclude the ideas by asking the student to advise ways to improve the model. If appropriate, add these suggestions to the conversation rules.


  • Facilitator is essential in this model. Student needed guideline on how to make a good discussion. As the student usually asks for “factual question” of the article, it is only good for additional research. A good question should make student to “think about an issue, take position and back it up with evidence”. As you can see the quality of the discussion is mainly depended on the facilitator
  • There is no specific guideline for student to follow while they are taking place to discuss the raised question in step 3. The free-style discussion may lead the discussion out-of -track.
  • Civil Conversation Model are designed to analyst a selected material. It may not fitted the nature of Project Based Learning, in which, student are required to research on the topics and collected additional material by their selves. By doing their own research, they can have new ideas by reconstructing the material.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats Model is a thinking/discussion strategy devised by Edward de Bono in 1994.

The model suggested that human thinking was divided in 6 session and the model uses 6 different colors to represent each of them, It requires students to extend their way of thinking about a topic by wearing a range of different ‘thinking’ hats:

The Hats

  1. White hat thinking focuses on the information available and needed.
  2. Black hat thinking examines the difficulties and problems associated with a topic.
  3. Yellow hat thinking focuses on benefits and values.
  4. Red hat thinking looks at a topic from the point of view of emotions and feelings
  5. Green hat thinking requires imaginative, creative and lateral thinking about a topic.
  6. Blue hat thinking focuses on reflection, control and the need to manage the thinking process.

The colors help students to visualize six separate modes of thinking and to convey something of the meaning of that thinking. It can be used by student in different ages, here are the 6 thinking hat model teaching materials for the primary school student and secondary school student.

Procedure of using Six Thinking Hat Model:

There is no parliamentary procedure for the six thinking hats model, the model can be fitted in individual thinking and it can also fit in group discussion. While using six thinking hat model in group discussion, usually, it required the group member to pick a color of hat and let them contribute their idea one by one. In this model, the blue hat is acted like a facilitator in the group. It aims to manage the thinking process and summarize the points contributed by their team member.


  • It allow student to think out of the box, not like SAC and CC, the six thinking hats model was a straight forward model to lead student to think the issue based on 6 different aspect.
  • Not like SAC and CC, emotion is brought into the model other than focused in evident, it opens up an opportunity for creativity within Decision Making.
  • Instructor is not necessary in 6 thinking hats model compare than Civil Conversation model, it is because student will take their own part as the blue hat controller, and instructor can just sit around and let the student drive the discussion by themselves.
  • Not like SAC, by using six thinking hats model the student will not prejudiced by first impressions. It is because the six thinking hat model is not aimed for controversywhich required student to rebut for each other, it allows student to express their ideas altogether by role playing.
  • By using this model, there is a directed way the leads the “low-achieving” student contribute in the discussion.

Review on existing system

Instructor Controlled Chat System(ICCS)

ICCS (Thirunarayanan, 2000) [23] was proposed to let the instructor involve into the student discussion, it can fix the problem with chat confusion and overlap. He proposed two software enhancements in order to achieve the aim:

    1. Instructor mediated chat

Instructors will have two windows on their monitor, one is the student discussion window and the other is the instructor control window. Each message raised from the student will send to the instructor window first before published to the other students, the instructor will choose the relevant question / response to publish. Students are only type and respond to the question until the instructor sends the message to the student window

    1. Instructor hints before the chat section

The second point is to save short comments; questions and statement in the database before the chat session begin. Once the student is lack of idea, the instructor can make use of the pre-saved statements to ask question and remind students to stay focused on relevant topic.

Potential problem of ICCS

  1. As the discussion flow is highly depended to the instructor, it will affect the smoothness of the discussion and make it ineffective.
  2. As the discussion material is censored by the instructor, the quality of the discussion will highly depends on the quality of the instructor
  3. The less attention paid by the learner as they can rely on the instructor comment or instruction.
  4. The workload of the instructor will be increased as there may have many discussion groups in a class.

Mediated chat

The mediated chat (Hugo, Pimentel, & Lucena, 2006)[24] was designed to avoid “Message Overload”. According to the authors, message overload refers to many messages from the participants are being display at once. Mediated chat uses the computer mediated channel to solve the problem.

In mediated chat, the student message will first send to the chat server and queue. The chat server will collect all the messages and publish them to the dialog window one by one. The student are able to see a queue list in the window, they are able to see their place in the queue. If their idea are posted by the student in the priority place in the queue, the student are able to delete their submit message and compose a new one to send to the chat server.

Potential problem of Mediated Chat

The system can solve the message overload problem is a pretty effective way, however for the problem of facilitating the effectiveness of the discussion. There are some potential problems in it:

  1. With this method it can lower the burden of the instructor but there are no aids to help student to think critically since they are without the help of the instructor.
  2. As the discussion flow is highly dependent on the chat server, there is no way to quit or change the place of the queue.

CSCL environment for “Six Thinking hats” Discussion

Tamura, & Shuichi (2007)[25] proposed a scenario-based asynchronous discussion environment by using the six thinking hat model. In which, the student are put on a specific hat altogether and contribute idea for this colored hat. After the first hat session, a facilitator will move the whole group to the group review section (illustrated in figure5) and it will further move to other hat section onward.

For the “Group review”, each student will criticized other learners’ statement, and there is a facilitator to control the critic.

The reason of the priority of the hat color: Red> While> Green> Yellow> Black and Blue is because:

  1. Red Hat: Emotion hat, it is easy for the learner to state his personal opinion even they are not familiar with the six thinking hat method.
  2. White Hat: The hat of fact, It provided the student fundamental information to discuss.
  3. Green hat > Yellow hat > Black hat: These hats used to contribute ideas and standing point to the discussion, it is a good way to put it after the emotion hat and the hat of fact.
  4. Blue hat: Using blue hat as a summarized hat. It is the best way to put it at last.

The summary of the “Six Thinking hats” Discussion

  1. The discussion tool utilizes the six thinking hats model, in which, it provided a platform for parallel thinking. And thus it fulfilled the five advantages we suggested in the last section.
  2. The hat sequence is logical. Which make the red hat at the first, white hat follows and the blue hat at the end.

Tamura, & Shuichi (2006) have examined their model uses questionnaire, they found this system can contribute to the various viewpoint for a given topic and provide the easiness to sum up.

There are some points we can take from this system:

  1. It is a good way to let the student to contribute idea altogether (all student contribute to a hat one by one) at the very beginning. It can force to student to think in different direction at least once. But we believe that it is better to stick one student a particular role after the first cycle. It is because the group may be ignored some minor idea during the later discussion (e.g. feeling). If we stick a student to a particular role after the first cycle. The problem will be fixed. (Details flow will be explained in next chapter)
  2. The system should enable some features to facilitate the student to summarized ideas. Meanwhile, it is also a important point to enable feature to facilitate student to take up their specific role.

A combined solution

In this chapter, we went through the reason why discussion is an effective strategy for learning, it is because discussion is a primary mechanism in students’ social transactions and it can consider as a knowledge construction process. Using discussion as a learning strategy is not effective for those “low-achieving” student, they may not get enough opportunity to speak out. Meanwhile, student may not develop an effective skill for discussion, just like “how to act effectively”, “how to ask proper questions “and “how to give proper respond”. For this limitation, a straight forward discussion algorithm is needed to direct the student to think in different directions.

It is necessary to develop an integrated discussion platform which synchronous and asynchronous discussion platform is included. It is because combining the synchronous and asynchronous chat tool in Online Learning Environment can get “higher levels of student satisfaction and mastery of course requirements than implementation of either mode in isolation”.

Based on the aims for Project Based Learning, the integrated tool should not be highly dependent by the Instructor. It is because PBL project is student driven, instructor should side aside and give minimum guideline in order to let student making new understanding from their investigation.

Using Six Thinking Hats Model as the mechanism for discussion

In this section, we will show you why six thinking hats model discussion tool can satisfy as a mechanism for student to learning and how the model can fit in this project.

Introduction to Six thinking hats

Six Thinking Hats is a thinking strategy proposed by Dr Edward de Bono in 1985. Within 15 years, the model was widespread in the Europe and America. Research has proved that the thinking model is useful for the education and even benefit for children in kindergarten (de Bono consulting, 2009)[26]. The figure3 and 4 provide some question for different level students; it is a teaching material aims to help the student to use the six thinking hats model.

Dr Edward de Bono[27] proposed that we can divide the thinking of human in six regions, they are[28]:

    • The White Hat

The White Hat calls for information known or needed, it is the natural fact of the situation.

    • The Red Hat

The Red Hat signifies emotions, feelings, hunches and intuition.

    • The Black Hat

The Black Hat is judgment — the devil’s advocate or why something may not work, meanwhile, it is an important hat to warn and show alert.

    • The Yellow Hat

The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism, it will contribute positive idea.

    • The Green Hat

The Green Hat focuses on creativity: the possibilities, alternatives and new ideas.

    • The Blue Hat

The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It is the control of the whole process.

Dr de Bono believed with a systematic (parallel) thinking, it is possible to have an efficient solution through thinking or discussion. Parallel thinking is a key concept in the model. Dr De Bono suggested that argument cannot contribute to the effective discussion, even the worst, the group may waste for arguing to each other. Systematic thinking helps student to look problem in a parallel way and looked into the problems one by one and help the group to reach the common agreement.

Teaching material for six thinking hats model for primary and secondary student (English Learning Area, 2007)[29]

How does six thinking Hats suitable for learning?

  1. With the systematic discussion sequence, student can learn from listening rather than arguing.
  2. The colored hat can easily help student to separate their thinking and compose relative thinking to the specific hat.
  3. The whole thinking progress is based on role-playing; one of the limitations of thinking is self-defense and resulted in most of practical error in thinking. While we take up role, it allows us to express ourselves freely as our ego is sheltered by the hat. It is important for the shy students; they are freely talked about their ideas during the role play section.
  4. Learning through rules of game. People are very good to learn the rules of game, especially the children. It is easily to teach children and student to adapt this model to think.
  5. For the six colored hat, the student is forced to think the same problem in different directions. It is an advantage as there may have a specific thinking habit for one own, while participated in six thinking hats model, there is a “directive attention” to drive the student to think outside of their box.
  6. The red hat is also an important element in the design. It is because people usually ignore their feeling in making decision.

How Six Thinking Hat Model fit in this project

In the last chapters, we noted some important points for an effective discussion platform. A combined solution should

  1. Have straight forward flow to engage the student to think in different directions.
  2. Allow even contribution for every student, leading the “low-achieving” student has opportunity to share idea.
  3. Combine the synchronous and asynchronous chat tool in an integrated discussion platform
  4. Not dependent on the instructor and let student drive their own discussion

Using Six thinking hats model can alleviating the question above, it is because:

  1. The student is forced to think the same issue in different directions. Follow by the six different colors, there is a “directive attention” to drive the student to think outside of their box.
  2. The six thinking hat model is based on role playing, when student take up role, it allows students to express freely as their ego is sheltered by the hat. It is important for the “low-achieving” students; they can talk freely during the role play section.
  3. As there is no parliamentary procedure for the six thinking hats model, the model can be fitted in individual thinking and it can also fit in group discussion. We can allow student to express their ideas for all six direction (the six colors of hats) in asynchronous platform before taking place in the synchronous discussion. It is good for student to think in different direction at least once before synchronous discussion. In the synchronous discussion, it is better to stick student in their particular role. It is because the group may be ignored some minor idea during the later discussion (e.g. feeling). If we stick a student to a particular role in the synchronous discussion. The problem will be fixed.
  4. Instructor is not necessary in six thinking hats model, it is because one of the group member will take their own part as the blue hat controller, and instructor can just sit around and let the student drive the discussion by themselves.

Overview of the Proposed System

The integrated discussion tools provide a wide range of function to encourage student to contribute ideas. Based on the review from last chapter, the system will be derived into four modules in order to reach the goal. They are, “Asynchronous Discussion System” (ADS), “Synchronous Discussion System” (SDS),”Peer Summarizing System” (PSS) and “Individual Debriefing System” (IDS).

The four subsystems stated above can be considered as four tasks in this project. The students are required to complete all the phases. These modules provided functions to facilitate student contribute ideas by using the six thinking hat model as the mechanism. Features like material searching, ideas adding, points editing, chat sequencing managing and points summarizing are available in the proposed system in order to facilitate the discussion.

The role of the stockholders

The role of the instructor

The teachers should firstly derive the class in group of six. And assign an “ill-defined problem” for each group, the problem should be clear and it is necessary to drive” students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of the curriculum, in which the question should motivate the student to learn. A good discussion questions will ask students to think about an issue, to take a position and required to back it with evidence.

The role of the students

As mentioned above, the students should finish all the 4 modules in order to complete the whole discussion. In which, the first module -Asynchronous Discussion System and the last module- Individual Debriefing System are not required real time respond, student contribute idea asynchronously with their group members. For the second module – Synchronous Discussion System and the third module – Peer Summarizing System are required students contribute spontaneously. Here we will show you the detailed features of each platform and stages.

The features of Announcement Platform

After login, the student will redirect to the Announcement Platform. The platform uses to show available project. The platform shows the outline of the project in order to let student realize the status of the project, it also provided a link for student to enter the asynchronous and synchronous discussion platform.

Asynchronous Discussion System

The Asynchronous Discussion System uses to gather ideas before the synchronous discussion takes place, it is necessary to force the student to think in all directions before the next stage. The student can get into this system from Announcement Platform. There will be a form with six different fields, each field represent a different role (from the six hats), by filling the form, student are directed to think the issue in all of the six directions. Student can also view the form filled by other member in this platform, but they can only edit their own form.

Synchronous Discussion Platform

The synchronous Discussion Platform requires real time reaction and it is necessary for all the group members logged into the platform before it starts. In this stage, each of the students is needed to select a specific color of hats, representing a unique characteristic for contributing point in this stage. After entered in the Synchronous Discussion System, the students are required to undergo the Role Selection process. After the role selection, the synchronous discussion starts with a default sequence and the sequence can be manually changed by the blue hat (as the discussion controller).

The role selection

The student can get in this stage from the link provided on the Announcement Platform. After login the student are required to select their own role for the discussion, they can put on one of the six hats they wanted to take part in. The system will only continues (the ok button will be disabled) if each role taken by one student.

Linear discussion is one of main idea for this project. Based on this idea, the system was developed to control the discussion flow between the member. The system was developed to support two different flow, they are: The default flow and Manaul flow.

The Default Discussion Flow:

The students are going to contribute idea one by one in the following sequence: Red> While> Green> Yellow> Black and Blue, after a cycle, it will restart from Red hat again. The default sequence is adopt form a similar platform – CSCL environment for “Six Thinking hats” Discussion (Tamura, & Shuichi[30]) which we have discussed in chapter 2. The following explained why we follow Tamura, & Shuichi system:

  1. Red Hat: Emotion hat, it is easy for the learner to state his personal opinion even they are not familiar with the six thinking hat method.
  2. White Hat: The hat of fact, It provided the student fundamental information to discuss.
  3. Green hat > Yellow hat > Black hat: These hats used to contribute ideas and standing point to the discussion, it is a good way to put it after the emotion hat and the hat of fact.
  4. Blue hat: Using blue hat as a summarized hat. It is the best way to put it at last.

In order to simulate the face to face discussion, there is a possible chances that member would like to stop the default flow and raise priority question in the discussion. In which, our system allow the blue hat controller to Break the default role and assign the discussion sequence manually. The next section, we are going to discuss how the manually mode works.

The Manual Discussion Flow:

The manual discussion flow makes the discussion become flexible, it allows the student speak with priority. Blue hat as the discussion controller can break the default sequence and assign specific hat to speak. The blue hat can resume the manual flow back to default flow by using button in the features panel.

Additional Features to facilitate discussion

In order to simulate the face-to-face discussion, it is necessary to develop additional functions to smooth the discussion procedure. All the panel of the additional features are group on a right hand side In this project, the following features will be used to facitlitate the discussion.

    • Peer private chat room

An off-record peer chat section are required in the system. The student can send message to the others by using this platform without control. It is noted that the private chatroom is developed to smooth the discussion process, the private chat history will not be examinated.

    • Google search bar

Adopt from Google Ajax search API, a google search bar will embed in the system, facilitate student to search information.

    • Hand Raisng platform

This platform are developed for getting attention from the blue hat. The student can raise hand if they would like to contribute ideas with priorities.

    • Flow Managing Panel

As mentioned in the last section, the blue hat as the controller can break the default discussion flow, a panel will be developed for the Blue hat to manage the flow.

Once the student reach the agreement of the discussion, the Blue hat can end the Synchronize Discussion phase and auto-direct the group member to the summary phase.

Peer Summary Platform

This is the third stage of the discussion procedure. The students enter this stage right after finished stage 2- the Synchronous Discussion. The Blue Hat controller ended stage 2 and redirect all students to the summarizing platform.

In this platform, the students summarize the previous discussion one by one. The students are able to add the statements and the points in this platform.

Real time checks, next, peer chat enable completion same as previous, end redirect to next stages

Independent Conclusion Platform

Redirected to this, individual summary, debriefing.

Debrief Questions

  • What did you learn from the conversation?
  • What did you find you had in common with other members of the group?
  • For anyone not active in the conversation (those good listeners), what did you learn; what did you agree with; who said something that you would have said?

Overview of the proposed System:

Design of the Integrated Discussion Tool in Project Based Learning

After discussed the function requirement of the four modules “Asynchronous Discussion System” (ADS), “Synchronous Discussion System” (SDS),”Peer Summarizing System” (PSS) and “Individual Debriefing System” (IDS) in the last chapter, we will going to show you our design of this project in order to achieve the requirement. In this chapter, we will discuss the system architecture, database design, high level design and the interface design of the system.

Layered System Architecture

The design of this project will use Model View Controller as a software design pattern. The MVC architecture is a well-known software design pattern that fit multi-tiered enterprise J2EE application. MVC is a common method to separate an application to a variety of tiers. The model composed by three important elements- “Model”, “View” and “Controller”. The View gets data from the Model and decided the presentation of the data for client to client, the presentation should change once there are changes in the model. The Controller acts as the agent between the view and the model, it receive the request from the client and translate the request to the model. The Model embedded the business logic of the system, it responsible in enterprise data processing. Figure 5-1 illustrated the relationship of the three elements.

The model is suitable for this project as it is permit highly interaction in the system. By reducing the dependency of presentation, request processing and business logic, multiple views for different data sets can be executed at once because the independency of each layer. By isolating the layer, engineer can be benefited in reduction of code duplication, it make the maintenance and development much easier. Based on the MVC model. In this project, the Java Servlet acts as the controller in the system, it acts as the agent between the view- the client and the model – business logic which connected to the MySQL database. Figure 5-2 illustrated Interaction of different component within the system.

Design of the Database

Here, we will show you the schema of our database design. The database is mainly used for stored the discussion record for teacher assessment. Apart from the discussion history, the database will also store the personal information of user for access control. Figure 5-1 demonstrated the schema design of this project.

Schema design

Apart from the table above, we would like to clarify the relationship of the tables. Table Chatroom stored essential information for a discussion. It store project information (project ID towards table Project), assigned students’ student ID and date of creation and expiration of the discussion room. Table Role stored the student-role mapping for specified chatroom in Synchronous Discussion System, the table will be updated after the role selection section in SDS. Table Message stored the chat history for SDS; system will get the student role from table Role before updating table Message.

High Level Design

In this section, we will show you the high level design of the system. It will start from showing the design of each component (JSP pages, Servlet and Java Class), after that, we will show you how we use this component in the different modules.

Overview of System component

In this section we will show you the overview of the system component, we separate the component in three category based on the MVC model. Component for presentatio. Here is the page which designed for display and manages presentation to clients. The page will use to post html request to the controller layer which we will discussion in the next section.

Interface Design

The Design of the Four subsystem in Integrated Discussion tool

In this session, we present the interface design of each module in order to achieve the feature we have discussion in the last Chapter. They four subsystem are, “Asynchronous Discussion System” (ADS), “Synchronous Discussion System” (SDS),”Peer Summarizing System” (PSS) and “Individual Debriefing System” (IDS).

The Asynchronous Discussion System

In the ADS, Student

The Synchronous Discussion System

In the SDS module, we use the 3C Collaborative model as a technical template to support our system design. There are three essential elements must be included in an discussion tool, an area for text-typing, an area for showing the participant list and an area for showing the chat history.

Researchers often use the 3C Collaboration Model to analyze the collaboration tool. The 3C Collaboration model was first introduced by Ellis, Gibbs and Rein (1991)[32]. The model state that in order to collaborate, member in the group should communicate, coordinate and cooperate to reach the common goal. The three elements are very useful to illustrate the effectiveness of a groupware. Figure 1 illustrates each element in the 3C collaborative model. Fuks, Pimentel and Lucena (2006)[33] have concluded the model as below:

  1. Communication: “Communication [to make common] + action” means to act together in order to reach the common goal.
  2. Coordination: “Co [together] + ordinate [order] + action” means to organize or arrange the member of the group appropriately in order to ease the agreement through negotiation.
  3. Cooperation: “Co + operate [operate] + action, means the actions of operating together. Members of the group act in conjunction on shared objects within a shared space to perform tasks defined and organized during coordination.”

There are three elements- an area for text-typing, an area for showing the participant list and an area for showing the chat history in the Synchronous Discussion System fulfilled the 3C Collaboration model. The text-typing area enables the participant to communicate with each other; the participant list area provided coordinative support for the group member and the area of the chat record provided support for group cooperation.

Implementation of the Integrated Discussion Tool in Project Based Learning

After discussed the design of the system, we are going to discussion the technical issue in this chapter, first, we will show you the system environment in this project.

System environment

  • Operating System
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
  • Java Source Level
  • J2EE Web Server
  • Database Management System
  • Client Environment
  • Chrome

Review on the Integrated Technology

In this project, we used Java

  • Java
  • SQL


AJAX = Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.

AJAX is not a new programming language, but a new way to use existing standards.

AJAX is the art of exchanging data with a server, and update parts of a web page – without reloading the whole page.

AJAX is about updating parts of a web page, without reloading the whole page.

What You Should Already Know

Before you continue you should have a basic understanding of the following:

  • CSS
  • JavaScript / DOM

If you want to study these subjects first, find the tutorials on ourHome page.

What is AJAX?

AJAX = Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.

AJAX is a technique for creating fast and dynamic web pages.

AJAX allows web pages to be updated asynchronously by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes. This means that it is possible to update parts of a web page, without reloading the whole page.

Classic web pages, (which do not use AJAX) must reload the entire page if the content should change.

Examples of applications using AJAX: Google Maps, Gmail, Youtube, and Facebook tabs.

Did you like this example?

Cite this page

Effective learning tool for education. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved August 11, 2022 , from

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