I was curious by the idea of “rapid knowledge building” and so chose to read the GroupScribbles as a Rapid CSCL Tool:Learning Experiences of Pre-service Teachers article listed under this week’s posting. I’ll offer a really quick summary and then make a few comments about some points that stood out for me while reading the paper.
The article outlines the use of a “rapid CSCL tool” called GroupScribbles that allows users to generate, share and refine ideas on a stylus-based tablet device. Participants in the study include two classes comprised of preservice teachers from Singapore. The study included a four stage process in which students were introduced to the tool and worked together to collaboratively co-designed lesson plans based on foundational knowledge building principles.
Researchers were interested in exploring the capacity of GroupScribbles to help the preservice students to collaborate, organize work, to share, critique and refine each others’ ideas and encourage shared construction of meaning.
A screenshot of the main interface of GroupScribbles reveals a very simple design of two main panels for idea contribution (though more panels can be added if the user desires).
The lower panel is a private space and is used for private note taking, while the upper panel comprises the shared public space to which all students can contribute. Contributions are written on “scribble sheets” that support both text and graphics. Scribble sheets can be moved around, annotated with small “labels” and edited or updated at any time. The authors point out that because scribble sheets only allow for a limited amount of text, the tool is specifically designed to generate “concise ideas” or “quick sketches”. A unique feature of GroupScribbles is that all contributions are anonymous.
The experiment itself was comprised of four stages. The first stage was a basic introduction to the tool that actually had students participate in a real-world, paper-based version of GroupScribbles – aptly referred to “paper scribbles” (PS). In this stage, students were divided into 4 small groups and given an “authentic problem” to think about. They were asked to write down their ideas on actual sticky notes and then post them on the wall around the room. Students then completed a “gallery walk” using a “one stays two stray” approach (one student stayed around the area of their group’s notes to answer questions, which the other two students wandered the gallery, and then they switched). The second stage was designed to familiarize students with Knowledge Building theory and the fundamental principles of the pedagogy, and used a jigsaw activity supplemented with the GroupScribbles tool. Students also worked in their original groups to begin to co-design a lesson plan based on the Knowledge Building principles. The third stage constituted a “microteaching” session where students implemented their lesson plans, with their peers acting as ‘students’. The preservice students then worked together to collaboratively refine their lesson plans. The final stage, groups presented their lessons plans to the whole class.
After the invention concluded, researchers conducted content analysis on the students’ postings. Analysis of student contributions fell into three categories – Type 1: Generation of isolated ideas and/or knowledge; Type 2: Generation of related ideas and/or knowledge; Type 3: Refined (or improved) ideas and/or knowledge. Their analysis showed that the group lesson plans showed evidence of all three types of knowledge building categories. Similarly, of the four student groups, three created lesson plans that, according to the researchers, effectively embodied knowledge building principles.
Moreover, noted benefits of use of GroupScribbles for this activity included: increased level of participation using GroupScribbles in comparison to paper scribbles; support of self-organization on behalf of students during collaborative activities; increased access to the whole community’s ideas that helped smaller groups to improve their own ideas; and finally, an appreciation of anonymity on behalf of the students (one student is quoted as reflecting: “I like the fact that GS allows me to give my opinions and ideas anonymously. This way, I am not ashamed if other people criticize my ideas, and hence will be able to take comments and critics more constructively”).
The authors conclude that GroupScribbles did indeed foster participation, collaboration, idea-refinement and collective meaning negotiation. The researchers were also careful to note, however, that the benefits of GroupScribbles “may only be capitalized upon when the teacher is equipped with the knowledge of how lessons may be designed to foster knowledge building in a collaborative learning environment” (260).
A couple of questions arose for me while reading this article (not the least of which is a desire to dig a little deeper into what exactly is meant by “rapid knowledge building”), which I’ll briefly expand on here.
Anonymity The whole question of anonymity of contributions in a collaborative environment is an interesting one. On the one hand, I’ve been in primary grade classrooms where identity and the social aspect of posting notes on Knowledge Forum is a huge component of the practice itself. Students are proud of their notes, taking ownership of the ideas they contribute to the group and attributing credit to ideas generated by others. This, of course, can be both empowering to students (a shy student has her idea validated by a socially prestigious student), or can have a negative effect on group knowledge sharing (students’ might only be interested in reading their friends’ notes). In classrooms with older students, these examples may also apply. Moreover, in other social media, contributions are very often tightly linked with one’s identity (“virtual” or ‘real’), and thus is increasingly the norm in popular technologies. Knowing the identity of the person behind a contribution may also be useful if one knows the members of the group well – different contributing members will have different areas of expertise, and so sometimes it is useful to know who to ask for what, or whose contribution you might ‘trust’ more than others in that you know they are knowledgeable on a certain issue.
Anyway, I think that the usefulness of the anonymity in this example is bound up with the fact that the tool itself, as the authors describe, is most useful for generating a lot of (likely underdeveloped) ideas very quickly. This requires less time for students to perfect their contributions before exposing them publicly. So, there is a level of comfort that the tool affords for getting ‘half-baked’ ideas out of one’s head and into community space.
– A short aside – as quoted above, one student remarked that he or she liked being anonymous because “This way, I am not ashamed if other people criticize my ideas, and hence will be able to take comments and critics more constructively”. This comment raises an interesting point about how important generating an atmosphere of safety, intellectual risk, as well as mutual trust and respect is to an authentic knowledge building culture. I’m not about to get into possible reasons why this student might feel “ashamed”, as the causes could roam from individual traits to personal history to larger social and cultural factors. However, it is a useful reminder that any talk about Knowledge Building (with a capital K. B.) must take into account communal culture and atmosphere – which are difficult (but not impossible!) to cultivate and sustain in short-lived and widespread communities that characterize many types of open ed or distance learning classes. –
I am left to wonder how students would feel about the anonymity if the tool was used for a longer period of time, which would likely result in growing relationship between students in groups and as a whole class, and with more iterations on idea refinement? Or, if anonymity is best kept to activities that will be fairly short-lived and contained? On the other hand, does anonymity in some ways become less of a concern as ideas become refined through sustained knowledge building and continued efforts to synthesize ideas? As ideas grow and become more robust, they become embodiments of the contributions of the group as a whole, until no single individual can claim ‘rights’ to the idea itself?
I wonder if people in the #cscl group would find it liberating or exasperating if our contributions (at least on the forums) were anonymous? I remember now that there was expressed desire for a ‘safe space’ to ask ‘dumb’ questions…
(Tan, N. Y. L., Chen, W., Looi, C. K. (2009). GroupScribbles as a Rapid CSCL Tool: Learning Experiences of Pre-service Teachers. ICCE 2009.)
Here are this week’s questions:
- What is the connection between “contested meaning making” in Liddo and Shum, and Knowledge Building? Are they similar? What about the tools they propose?
- How can you use Suthers’ article to analyze Knowledge Forum, or other tools you know of (Etherpad?)
- Imagine how we could use deictic indexing/referring from Stahl (2006) to improving Etherpad. Any other tools that could be improved in this way?
- Are there aspects of collaborative tools that don’t fit Suthers’ categories?
BLOG POSTS AND ACTIVITIES
Joe posted an entry on his blog contributing to the important discussions currently going on (on the badges page) about the usefulness, value and potential integration of badges as forms of assessment for this course. This is a really interesting and critical issue to discuss, not only for this course, but for others like it, and it would be great if participants (time allowing) and followers alike could contribute.
- Kohn, Alfie (1987). Studies find reward often no motivator. Boston Globe, Monday January 19.
- Suthers, D. (2001). Towards a systematic study of representational guidance for collaborative learning discourse. Journal Of Universal Computer Science. (see Stian’s summary notes here)
- van Drie, J., van Boxtel, C., Jaspers, J., & Kanselaar, G. (2005). Effects of representational guidance on domain specific reasoning in CSCL. Computers in Human Behavior, 21:4, 575-602
- van Drie, J., van, Boxtel, C.A.M. van & Kanselaar, G. (2003). Supporting historical reasoning within CSCL. Padova, Italy, 10th European Conference for research on learning and instruction.
(**other papers are mentioned in various blogs this week, but the above represent open access articles).
WHERE WE’RE HEADED
Keep reading, blogging, commenting on this week’s theme! Also, remember to add your two cents in about what to discuss. on top of course readings, at the new meeting agenda page.
FYI: this week’s meeting is the same time, same place: Sat 5pm EST, piratepad for meeting 5.
The central question of the Suthers’ (2008) article asks: “if representations are resources for conversation, does it matter which representation one uses?” The answer, not surprisingly, is yes, but it depends on what kind of conversation you’re trying to encourage, and what kind of objective you wish to achieve.
This article is quite comprehensive and covers a number of different studies that include experiments in both a F2F laboratory setting and a purely CMC aysnchronous environment. Each study tested three main representational tools, including the Matrix tool (tabular representation), Graph tool (evidence-mapping tools) and Text tool (word processor).
The analyses of the various interventions, each dealing with engaging students in scientific argumentation, presented findings that in some cases supported and and in some cases failed to support the differing hypotheses researchers proposed in each case. (For example, in the studies focused on purely CMC environments, “statistical analyses in which there was a significant advantage for one of the conditions over the others included an advantage of Graph over Text. In contrast, Mixed was sometimes advantageous to Text, sometimes not, but never was advantageous to Graph, and sometimes yielded the worst results” ). In general, significant differences were found in terms of session process, or how the students utilized each tool, but not necessarily in learning outcomes.
For educators and researchers interested in improving the quality of learning in CMC spaces (which is not an objective of the research featured in this article), the research on representational guidance is promising because it illustrates various ways to integrate supports for developing particular competencies within collaborative platforms. In an article exploring the use of representational guidance to develop historical reasoning, Van Drie and Van Boxtel (2005) found that students using a Matrix tool discussed historical change more than those who did not, and that those using a Diagram tool produced more evenly balanced arguments than those who did not. In another study, Van Drie et. al (2003) found no significant difference between levels of historical reasoning by students using an argumentative list vs. an argumentative diagram.
Results from all three studies suggest that representational tools can be very useful for very different things, but it is not so easy, at this point, to generalize what tools are best to achieve what ends, especially when you are dealing with specific competencies or skills. It is important to note, however, that this research represents findings gleaned from systematic studies, so I wonder how might results change if the use of these tools are taken out of experimental or test cases and made available to students over longer periods of time?
Despite the variability of the effects on quality of learning displayed in each instance by each tool, one of the most interesting phenomena raised in the Suthers’ article, and corroborated by Van Drie and Van Boxtel, is that representational tools in CMC environments act as the medium rather than the object of discourse (as opposed to F2F environments) (11). In traditional classroom practice, a useful comparison to online “representational guidance” tools is the good old fashioned graphic organizer, such as Venn diagrams, placemats, etc., which likewise help to mediate discussion and elicit ideas or desirable discourse moves. In my experience, using graphic organizers is best accompanied by group dialogue. So, while filling out graphic organizers can be done by an individual, in pairs, or in small groups, the activity can also facilitate whole-class collaborative work (ie once individual or small group work is finished, the entire class shares their ideas and constructs a shared artifact). Sometimes, the function of the “graphic organizer” can be lifted off the page (or the screen) and can be embodied and played out by students themselves. Four Corners (especially relevant for debates) or Value Lines are great examples of this (Barrie Bennett calls them group & thinking/emotional organizers, respectively). Again, in my experience students love these activities, both because they provide structure for students’ thinking but because they also allow for a certain organic fluidity. For example, a student can reposition themselves on a value line if they rethink their position or change their viewpoint due to group dialogue. In this way, such practices are a wonderful platform for collaborative discussion.
What both traditional paper organizers and embodied practices lack, however, is the ability to store and archive the ideas and knowledge generated in the process for any considerable length of time (unless you have a particularly meticulous students). Similarly, the activities I just described, as well as the representational tools discussed in this week’s article, focus mainly on argumentation as the targeted form of discourse. In my time as a graduate student at OISE, I’ve become particularly aware of the distinction between argumentation and knowledge building or “progressive discourse” — that is, the emphasis on persuasion, debate and evidence in the former as opposed to communal dialogue that advances through a shared commitment to deal with puzzling facts and deepen collective understanding, which characterizes the latter (Beretier, 1994; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993). I’ve also become attuned to the argument that filling out handouts or other such tasks are not necessarily the best approach to facilitate and encourage collaborative knowledge building (that is, a professional historian would not find filling out a Venn diagram outlining the similarities and differences of Athenian and 20th century Canadian democracy particularly beneficial way to spend time).
So, partly because I’m dealing with question #3 for this week’s readings, and partly because I’m interested from a personal and academic perspective, I’m left with the question of how representational guidance can be used to enhance knowledge building. In Knowledge Forum (at least the databases I’ve seen), there is little distinction between discursive and conceptual representations — (with the exception of “rise-above” entries, were are meant to signal higher-level understandings and knowledge synthesis).
A useful question to pose here that applies the idea of representational guidance within a knowledge building framework is: how can representational tools be used to help students sort, negotiate, synthesize and build on their own ideas? Knowledge Forum does not provide much “representational guidance” in its current state (I am not considering the analytic toolkit, the Knowledge Space Visualizer or other features in KF which are fantastic for teachers/researches but that most students do not use as part of their daily KB practice). However, one of the obvious benefits of Knowledge Forum for knowledge building discourse is the graphical layout — notes are posted and can easily by moved around and grouped according to theme, problem, or some other useful parameter. Similarly, the ability to draw, upload images, or edit the background view in order to organize notes and ideas helps to create coherency and order out of a messy view that can get filled up with lots of notes very quickly. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, ideas in Knowledge Forum can be easily accessed and revisited at any time, and thus escape the often short shelf-life of posts in threaded discussions. However, although the KF platform works wonderfully for the generation and support of a divergence of ideas and theories, it is considerably more difficult (both technically and cognitively) to perform acts of convergence that synthesize knowledge and form higher-level conceptualizations.
As part of a design experiment in a graduate course I took a few years ago I was playing around with the possibilities for using visual variables to ‘tag’ or categorize Knowledge Forum notes. I took an existing grade 5 database on ancient history, and coded the notes according to whether they represented a question, explanation and piece of information (FYI: this was not a systematic study but rather an experiment for a single class, so the coding and analysis remain very simplified and undeveloped). Each type of contribution had a corresponding shape/colour. For notes coded as pieces of information, I included two colours: red to represent a piece of information with no source given, and green to represent whether that information included a referenced source (whether that was a book, a website, a person the student knew, an article, etc).
The aim was to see what sorts of information regarding the nature of the discourse (with the discourse itself as the building blocks of the representation) could be revealed in a simple glance at the view. In one respect I had the idea in mind that often, when collaborating on a problem, students might ‘hit a wall’ and not know where to turn to next. Turning back and reflecting on their own dialogue might help them spot areas which they could focus on.
#1. The image below represents a KF view (not the original) that discusses “ancient religions”.
#3. What you can see here quite quickly here is that:
- there are a number of isolated facts floating around that could be put to better use within discussion threads, or could be elaborated.
- there are no (primary or secondary) sources mentioned
- a number of questions have gone unanswered and could be taken up (especially if the conversation has run dry and students don’t know where to focus next)
- discussion threads that possess all or too much of one type of contribution could either represent ‘dead ends’and so no longer deserving of attention, or they could represent areas for further elaboration (the thread on the left side of the view has many questions and facts but no attempts at explanation).
Of course, this type of representation could get quite confusing if the number of shapes and colours goes anywhere beyond 3 or 4, and relies on very simple coding measures. As an experiment, however, it is helpful in terms of thinking about how we can play around with students’ KF notes and represent their discourse in various ways. I do not have much technical knowledge at all, but I wonder about the possibilities of perhaps taking some of the useful representational tools like Diagrams or Matrices and being able to visualize student notes in various ways that might be of use to them at a particular moment in the process of their knowledge building work. So, the use of the tools themselves would be subsumed within the larger objective at creating ever-deeper explanations and could be used to help students assess the state of their own knowledge at any given point. This would require tools that would not only help with argumentation but with boosting the level of students’ progressive discourse. It would also require tools that could help students construct representations of higher and higher levels of conceptual understanding of any given problem.
Berieter, C. (1994) Implications of postmodernism for science, or, Science as progressive discourse. Educational Psychologist, 29(1), 3-12.
Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. La Salle, IL: Open Court.
Suthers, Dan. 2008. Empirical studies of the value of conceptually explicit notations in collaborative learning. In Knowledge Cartography: Software tools and mapping techniques.
Teplovs, C. Knowledge space visualizer: A tool for visualizing online discourse.
van Drie, J., van Boxtel, C., Jaspers, J., & Kanselaar, G. (2005). Effects of representational guidance on domain specific reasoning in CSCL. Computers in Human Behavior, 21:4, 575-602
van Drie, J., van, Boxtel, C.A.M. van & Kanselaar, G. (2003). Supporting historical reasoning within CSCL. Padova, Italy, 10th European Conference for research on learning and instruction.
A day late… but here it is!…
THIS WEEK’S TOPIC
WK5 – This week we’ll be discussing the design of collaborative learning environments, particularly the work of Dan Suthers.
BLOG POSTS AND ACTIVITY
Jennifer provided a great summary of one of WK 4’s articles (Zhang, Scardamalia, Reeve & Messina, 2009)
Stian reflected on both of this week’s readings (both Scardamalia and Stahl) as well as the model we experimented with in our latest piratepad meeting (breaking off into smaller Skype discussion groups).
Monica played around with Tony Buzal’s iMindMap in first attempts to trace the landscape of main ideas generated in the course so far.
However, this week much of the back and forth went on in the actual WK4 Knowledge Building page, so check it out!
No new resources this week! (If I’m wrong about this please correct me! add a comment with a link, thx)
WHERE WE’RE HEADED
We’re at quite an interesting point in the course. Right at the halfway point of our 8 weeks, we’ve generated quite a few ideas for collaborative output/artifact for the course, including
- CSCL ‘Food Court’ (leading to a ongoing CSCL community, an extension and expansion of this course)
- Zotero Group
- possible group wiki (yet to be created)
We’ve also had some issues arise, including:
- Feelings of disorientation around the amount of readings
- Feelings of confusion around output/artifact – will we actually create a ‘finished’ artifact?
- Ambivalence around badges – do we have enough time? What is the criteria upon which evaluation will be based?
To which we’ve decided:
- Designate one central reading, list the rest as recommended.
- Create a “meeting agenda” page to help set meeting content and give opportunities for people to congregate around artifacts they want to spend their time on.
- Build a consensus about the place of badges in our course (please contribute to the discussion!)
Conversations around these issues are ongoing, please visit the various pages to contribute!
That’s all for this bi-weekly…have a great week everyone!
So, in keeping with this week’s theme — Knowledge Building (KB) — and in the interest of working ideas, AND in the interest of generating something other than text for the course, I spent a bit of time this morning trying to map out the major ideas we’ve been dealing with so far. (Actually, having just wrote that sentence, I wonder now whether ‘Idea Map’ is an accurate title since I’ve charted a number of issues and not necessarily ideas… hmmm… I think I’ve certainly crossed the line… but perhaps we’ll get into this during discussion around KB pedagogy/theory.)
I used Tony Buzan‘s software iMindMap. This was new for me, so I only used the most basic functions. I also learned, after completing my masterpiece, that the free version doesn’t allow exports of any type — just password protected online access. This stinks, because I included links to our relevant blogs and some notes to supplement the branches and keywords as well. But, I did the only thing I could do and took a screenshot for your viewing pleasure. It’s fuzzy and perhaps a bit useless, but I’m going to see if I can find something better for next attempts.
Wow. What a week!!
I wanted to start off by saying a big ‘thanks for being awesome’
to all who participated in this week’s meeting via piratepad. We came
out with some great ideas and lots of inspiration – more on that below.
THIS WEEK’S TOPIC
So we are full steam ahead into WK 4 – Knowledge Building. Because Knowledge Forum (the technology that supports the pedagogy) is not open (at least not yet!) Stian has also included a short demo video you can catch here. Also, like we did back in Wk 1, we’ll be posting optional question and activity prompts on the WK 4 page, to help guide blog posts or comments.
BLOG POSTS & COURSE ACTIVITY
Martin’s expression of ‘culture shock’ (reading pdf’s with nothing but text text and more text!) inspired Nate to suggest the creation of infographics as a useful way to help us reflect on course readings and explain important elements of CSCL. Nate walked the talk and created a very cool interactive chatlog that maps out our latest (Wk3) piratepad chat. Joe posted some ideas/resources that might be useful for building onto Nate’s work on the Wk 3 page.
*For all the #csclintro followers, check out the course Netvibes page which shows all comments, blog posts and tweets related to the course.
A little bit of a buffet going on here — there were a number of difference programs, sites, events, etc. that came up over various conversations this week. Peruse if you like.
- Slashdot – a news site for (techi/science) geeks.
- OpenAtrium - a group collaboration tool/enviro
- International Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) – this year’s conference is in Hong Kong, July 4th-8th. This conference is organized in part by the International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS), which also hosts a conference called the International Conference on the Learning Sciences -(ICLS). These two conferences, ICSL and CSCL, switch back and forth every year. So, last year ICLS was held in Chicago. This year CSCL is in Hong Kong. Next year ICLS will be held in Sydney (official call for papers in November)
- Dear Edupunk – short blog post for your reading pleasure
- Gravpad – a short proposal on extending collaborative functionalities of piratepad.
WHERE WE’RE HEADED
So, we had a great meeting this week on piratepad, and have come out with a couple of new goals for the course and tasks for the week ahead.
- Manifesto – Marcy suggested the idea of collaboratively producing a short manifesto that outlines principles of practice for free and open education, and that states our desire and commitment to learn collaboratively outside of increasingly commercialized structures of education. The principles outlined in the manifesto would be tied directly to action, that is, our ongoing work, both within this course and into the future. Visit the pad to contribute!
- Ongoing blended CSCL + Open Ed community – The question that we are now thinking about is what our ‘future action’ will look like. We are all committed to creating and sustaining a community-based platform that will allow us to continue collaborative work beyond this course, and that will help bridge the two worlds of cscl and open ed. Jennifer and Marcy have begun to outline more specific concerns and issues on the “Meta-discussion about how this group is organized” page. Please add to the discussion if you’re interested in becoming involved!
- CSCL Food Court: As a first step to creating this extended community, and to avoid reinventing any wheels, we would like to map out where CSCL activity is going on right now on the web. What resources already exist? What tools and platforms are people using to connect with each other? Our task for this week is to begin exploring and collecting resources, links, etc., to this end.
We’ve set up a new page on the course site for this: CSCL Food Court. Please post your findings here!
- CSCL Food Court: As a first step to creating this extended community, and to avoid reinventing any wheels, we would like to map out where CSCL activity is going on right now on the web. What resources already exist? What tools and platforms are people using to connect with each other? Our task for this week is to begin exploring and collecting resources, links, etc., to this end.
So, to recap things to do for this week:
- Read the weekly articles and keep up the blog posts (optional prompt questions will be added to the Wk 4 page!)
- Contribute to the #csclintro manifesto
- Contribute to the CSCL Food Court page
- Make your own infographic (we could build a gallery if we come up with a few)
Thanks again everyone for a wonderfully productive week!
a quick update on what’s been going on this week:
THIS WEEK’S TOPIC:
Martin asks why social media and open discussion platforms have not been widely adopted by the medical community, pinpointing confidentiality and responsibility as key issues.
Jennifer composed an intriguing “Ode to Piaget” in response to the claim posed in one of this week’s course readings that “CSCL locates learning in meaning negotiation carried out in the social world rather than in individuals’ heads” ( Stahl, Koschmann & Suthers, 2006, p. 9).
Great follow-up comments have been written up by various participants in response to both of these posts. Check ‘em out and contribute to the conversations!
GRATUITOUS QUESTION I AM ASKING AS THE BI-WEEKLY WRITER:
There was a wish floating around the tweetscape of this course for a ‘safer’ space to ask ‘dumb questions.’ Wondering how others feel about this? Is anyone else experiencing similar anxieties?!
A recap of where people are working:
- Wk 1 notes-http://piratepad.net/introcscl
- Wk 2 notes at-http://piratepad.net/cscl-meeting2
- The course Zotero group: http://www.zotero.org/groups/icscl/
- How to use Zotero: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c01ECF_Idc
WHAT ELSE IS NEW:
-Joe has set up a new “Cases” page that you can access via the main course page (look bottom left) that lists various platforms and programs which we can comment on and discuss. Great idea!
-We’ve also started to keep a much more comprehensive list of all the readings, both listed for this course as well as those that people bring up in all their posts, comments, tweets, blogs, etc. on the course Resources page (right now they are organized by weeks, but perhaps in the Zotero group or in a wiki page we can begin to organize them thematically)
We’ve had a lot of great videos posted up in conversations this week. I”ve listed them here because they’re all pretty interesting and they can be a nice change from reading long, dense articles.
- RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
- RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce
- Matt Ridley, TedTalk – “When Ideas Have Sex”
- Dave Meslin -Redefining Apathy
This post is a bit messy, but I hope you bear with me (it’s been a long day).
I’ll start where this post’s title ends off, with the question:
Are we a COP?
Responses from #csclintro‘ers ranged from: “Sort of” … to “Not Really” … to “Who Cares?”
Points on the “not really” side of the spectrum:
- CoP’s have fixed boundaries and initiation rituals
- The definition of ‘community’ is too “tight” — perhaps, as Nate suggests, the language of networks (or Personal Learning Networks) is more appropriate. We could also turn to Connectivism for help explaining and conceptualizing how knowledge is created, distributed and shared in wider, emergent networks.
- There is a tension in the idea of “shared practices” and new contexts of learning like open online courses. As Jennifer C outlines in her blog, with respect to educational contexts the ‘learning community’ (ie. one class), and the larger school community do not equally apply to the idea of CoP’s: “Groups mentioned by Lave and Wenger (1991) and Wenger (2006) include butchers, tailors, a youth gang, claims processors in a large insurance company, Impressionist painters, and nurses all share a culture, a shared identity, and they all spend time together physically. High school students are mentioned but I think this is looking at their joining the culture of high school students rather than what happens in classes.”
I want to linger here for just a moment because I think Jennifer points to an important problem for those of us interested in CSCL — we are looking at collaborative technologies for learning in environments where you are learning for learning’s sake. I say ‘learning for learning sake’ because I can’t really say ‘formal learning environments” anymore, as open online courses like this one don’t fall into that category. What term or phrase fits here? I can’t seem to think of a good one at the moment, so I’ll just say that I think we’ve agreed that the focus on [insert appropriate adjective here] learning environments sits rather uneasily with some major principles of CoP’s. [Meta-comment: we're all struggling with language! We need new terms to help communicate these ideas!]
However, we did find a few things about CoP’s useful as markers of what binds and helps sustain effective group work. Some points on the “sort of” end of the spectrum:
- A common goal (deciphering one for this course — beyond learning more about CSCL — has been a bit of a struggle!)
- Shared tools and resources
- Participants may have diverse backgrounds and knowledge to contribute to a common objective
- Shared norms, “method controls’, established standards of practice
(Nate identified some common practices in online courses like this one – ie. setting up individual blogs; weekly newsletters … )
- Creation of ‘usable trace’ that can be beneficial for future members
So, we’ve all identified the need for a set of constraints that helps focus the participants efforts’ toward effective practice and collaboration. So, what kinds of constraints or (normalized) practices would be useful for a course such as this one? Joe’s blog post “on building meta-OER” has some helpful links and resources to begin an exploration of these issues.
Jennifer and Joe started up a great back and forth about hierarchies, SOS’s, consensus, the creation of norms, etc. I think it would be useful to continue this conversation in the larger effort at delineating norms or constraints for P2P courses (and other similar courses/contexts).
To this end, I have a few questions I’d love to take up with others:
-Are there case studies we can delineate that show where SOS’s evolved into hierarchical / semi-hierarchical systems? (Joe posted an article about the evolution of Linux that somewhat relates).
-What structures are needed in various contexts to sustain an SOS for learning as it evolves and grows in complexity? Is there a ‘shelf-life’ of SOS’s in relation to learning environments?
-How do norms and standards become created within SOS’s and how can they be sustained and built upon without the development of (oppressive) hierarchies?
-Here I’ll toss in a tweet from #csclintro follower and colleague of mine, Bodong C: “What makes systems self-organizing?
Happy Monday intro-cscl’ers!
We’ve been puzzling this week about what an OER coming out of this course might look like — we’ve agreed to use this next week to both dig into the Group Cognition readings as well as work on the shared piratepad to shape up what we want to produce together. In case you haven’t seen it yet, please visit and contribute to this discussion over the next week!
Right now we are focused on refining/brainstorming around the following areas:
- research question(s)
- critical aspects of CSCL learning environments
- CSCL platforms we might like to use
- create a viable piece of OER as an outcome of the course
- A paper/publication – requires shared and well-formed research question(s)
- Wiki – dealing with??
- perform a literature review and summarize it for future learners
- Zotero repository – bibliography with annotated entries
- experiment with open/collaborative/online learning ourselves and report on the experiment
- a document that is structured like a formal interview with questions posed to individual learners.
- create recommendations for specialized uses of CSCL (e.g. history, self-organizing systems, publishing, mathematics, computing) and assemble any crosscutting themes
- Group Cognition: http://www.gerrystahl.net/mit/stahl%20group%20cognition.pdf
- Sustaining group cognition in a math chat environment: http://gerrystahl.net/pub/rptel.pdf
- For the use of artificial intelligence in education: “Building Intelligent Interactive Tutors: Student-centered strategies for revolutionizing e-learning“, Beverly Park Woolf; Morgan Kauffman 2009.
- Designs for Collective Cognitive Responsibility in Knowledge-Building
Communities, by Zhang et al (Scardamalia too).
- Teaching for Understanding framework: http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/tfu/info.cfm
- The Math Forum is the comprehensive resource for math education on the Internet http://mathforum.org/
- Planetary – developer forum
- Mendeley – for referencing
- Joe made a screencast describing how to use Zotero – watch it here or on the course “Meta-Discussion about Course Components” page.
Because I’m now late for a meeting, that’s it for this Bi-Weekly! Expect #5 on Thursday
Recommendations For Specialized Uses of CSCL
I want to begin a conversation around CSCL for history by briefly outlining what I mean by “competencies in history” as well as the conception of historical reasoning I’m working with. So, the following post is my effort to base exploration of the kinds of CSCL tools and environments that are conducive to authentic historical inquiry in some solid concepts and ideas about what “authentic historical inquiry” actually means (for me, at least) and what it entails.
knowledge creation; innovation; problem-solving—many students typically conceive of history as a set of static or fixed facts about people, events and things that “really happened” in the past (Lee, 2004, p. 4). From this perspective studying history largely involves absorbing large amounts of historical information and reiterating significant names, dates and events. Contrary to these popular conceptions of what constitutes historical work, however, the discipline of history is in fact a “source of innovation” (Stearns, 1998) in which established knowledge is continually being advanced. This is an enterprise that, like scientific inquiry, relies upon the continual improvement of theoretical explanations that aim to make various aspects of the world (both past and present) increasingly comprehensible (Fulbrook, 2002).
John Lewis Gaddis (2002) argues that the nature of historical inquiry is in fact analogous on many levels to inquiry in the natural sciences. For example, both historians and natural scientists aim to explain phenomena that they (often) can never directly experience. Both groups explore phenomena that are characterized by interdependent variables operating within complex systems (see Waldrop, 1993). As such, these disciplines require an adopting an “ecological” or “inclusive” viewpoint to approaching problems (Gaddis, 2002) that calls for a mode of inquiry in which theoretical conjecture plays a central role (see Resnick, 1996 for more on ecological learning environments). In both disciplines, explanations are the result of the interplay between theory and data in an iterative process of inquiry that moves back and forth from inductive to deductive moves. Historians and natural scientists exploring highly complex systems and processes (e.g. the evolution of a species, the rise and fall of empires) construct explanations by “fitting things together” (p. 49)—that is, by creating plausible theories that explain the widest range of established or observable facts, with the goal of garnering the widest consensus possible amongst the scientific or historical community (Wineburg describes this as “contextualized thinking” [2001, p. 91)). Although historians’ explanations can be conceived of as “theories of the case” (Scardamalia and Bereiter, in press), or explanations of particular phenomena, rather than theories that describe or explain universal laws or more generalizable rules, as in science, the notion of explanatory coherence (Thagard, 1989; 2006) is common to both domains. Thus, engaging students in authentic historical inquiry in which they work to create coherent explanations to historical phenomena promotes the ability to innovate, create new knowledge and engage and understand complex phenomena.
Collaboration; civic literacy; critical thinking—In her manifesto advocating liberal arts education for the new millennium, Martha C. Nussbaum argues that the disciplines of the humanities, history included, are particularly suited to helping students develop critical thought, imagination, empathy, and an appreciation of the complexity of the world (7). Wineburg argues that one of the main reasons to study the subject at all is due to the fact that, “history holds the potential, only partly realized, of humanizing us in ways offered by few other areas in the school curriculum” (2001, p5). The concept of “historical empathy” (Lee et al., 1997) lies at the root of historical understanding (Portal, 1987; Blake, 1998; Davis, 1998; Foster & Yeager, 1998) and can be explained as the attempt to genuinely understand the various values and beliefs that form a given historical landscape, and which lie behind and compel historical action and events (Seixas, 2006; Lee & Ashby, 2001). This idea of “historical empathy” lies behind the long-held belief and argument, proposed by many advocates of history education, that the relevance and significance of studying history lies in its ability to help prepare students to be effective collaborators—that is, to work with conflicting and multiple viewpoints, to participate productively in pluralistic communities, and to contribute to the development of healthy, just societies (Stearns, 1998; Seixas, 2001, 2004; Banks, 2008; Takaki, 1993).
Similarly, with respect to collaboration in particular, historical knowledge is not the product of individual minds working in isolation but, as Lowenthal describes, “is by its very nature collectively produced and shared; historical awareness implies group activity” (1985, p. 213). In expert historical practice, the consensus of the wider historical community on a given narrative verifies the coherence of that narrative—that is, how well the narrative as a representation of a particular phenomena “fits” with established knowledge about it (Gaddis, 2002; Seixas, 1993). Currently studies exploring how students work together to create historical knowledge is an area where research remains scarce.
CRITICAL ASPECTS OF “HISTORICAL REASONING”
These aspects are presented as distinct categories only for ease of description; they are, of course, extremely intertwined and have multiple areas of overlap.
Asking historical questions
- Factual (“who”, “what”, “where”, “when” type questions)
- Explanatory (“how” & “why” type questions)
Using substantive concepts
- Unique—“Julius Caesar”
- Inclusive—“Roman Emperors”
- Colligatory—“Fall of the Roman Empire”
Engaging historical meta-concepts (these represent overly simplistic descriptions)
- Historical significance—includes exploring why some historical phenomena are considered more important than others
- Historical perspective—requires exploring multiple and often mystifying viewpoints in order to understand the past
- Change and continuity—explores patterns of change over time
- Cause and consequence—explores the “how” and “why” of historical phenomena
- Moral judgment—explores questions of ethical concern and how they ought to be taken up.
Building historical contexts
- Social—deals with socio-economic, political and cultural conditions;
- Spatial—considerations of geographic concepts, locations and scale
- Temporal/Chronological—deals with the organization of historical time and significant events.
Using historical sources
- Obtaining evidence—introducing new information, seeking out, evaluating and comparing sources, and presenting conflicting sources.
- Working with evidence—using evidence or a reference to support or discard a theory, weighing theoretical claims based on evidence, and accounting for conflicting evidence
(from a knowledge-building approach…)
- Theorizing—proposing explanations, supporting explanations with valid reasons, improving explanations, seeking alternative theories.
- Synthesizing and Comparing—integrating existing ideas, making comparisons and analogies, “rising-above” existing knowledge and ideas to higher level conceptualizations
Recent studies that focus on history education shows that engaging students in primary source analysis (Dutt-Doner, Cook-Cottone, Allen, 2007), active construction of knowledge (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005), collaboration (Van Boxtel et al., 2000), as well as online discussions in collaborative online learning environments (Van Drie et al., 2005) are conducive to the development of higher level competencies in history.
THIS IS THE AREA WHICH I HOPE TO ADVANCE THROUGH THIS COURSE!
The following represent some approaches and tools that have been studied with specific relation to historical reasoning/thinking:
- Representational Guidance
- Scaffolded Learning Environments / Document-Centered Inquiry Environments
- Meta-cognitive tools
- Knowledge building (discourse) environments
I’m also interested in talking more about …
- Scripting (as scaffolding)
- Cognitive Tutoring
Building off of this, my next post will expand on the work that’s been done with each of these tools or environments, and will more actively address developing a set of ‘recommendations’ suited for CSCL for the study of history.