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A Focus on Online Discourse

Division C - Learning and Instruction

Section 5: Learning Environments

Scheduled Time: Mon, Apr 11 - 10:35am - 12:05pm Building/Room: Hotel Monteleone

A Focus on Online Discourse

Session Participants:

Recommend: A Tool for Identifying Key Ideas in Asynchronous Discourse Environments

*Jim Hewitt (OISE/University of Toronto), Clare M. Brett (OISE/University of Toronto)

  • Included a “recommend” button (similar to “Like” in Facebook)

  • Reason – long discussion list, some very simple responses (I agree), hard to find the substantial commentary

  • The more “Recommended” a note was, the dark blue the link became

  • Conclusions

    • Yes – students did return and read note

    • However, they didn't tend to generate more discussion

    • Some students didn't use the feature, as the discussions were graded and they felt that by recommending others, they would not get good grades

  • How do Recommended notes compare to other notes? (12 grad distant ed courses)

    • Note Length - longer

    • Sentiment Analysis – tome in positive to negative

    • Objectivity - higher

    • Academic Vocabulary - more

    • However, these are not the ones students most like to read. They prefer shorter, but they realize that these have the good ideas

    • Notes with more responses – positive, more sentimental (feeling based)

  • Notes that students respond to are not the ones they identify as valuable. How can we move students toward responding to valuable ideas, not just emotional responses.


The Power of a Synthesizer Role in Online Discussion Forums: Encouraging Midway Summaries Drives the Knowledge Construction Process

*Alyssa F. Wise (Simon Fraser University), *Ming M. Chiu (University at Buffalo - SUNY)

  • How do you get students to build on each other's ideas?

  • Low level discussions tend to be the norm – ideas are thrown out, but not wrestled with

    • Summarizing posts contribute to knowledge construction (Gunawardena et al 1997)

    • But tend not to happen until the end.

  • (Gunawardena et al 1997)Phases – sharing info, exploring dissonance, negotiating meaning, testing/modifying, agreeing/applying

  • How to you move through the phases

    • Focus on pivotal posts

      • Phase 2 - When someone states “I don't agree with … because”

      • Phase 3 – “if we can define “expert” as …. then

      • Phase 4 – How would... work as”

  • Emerging themes in collaborative learning

    • Process – it isn't just an individual post

    • Temporal dimension – dynamic flow of interactions over time and how micro-mes time context

    • Connecting levels – Examining how individuals effect the group

  • Patterns

    • There are some typical patterns. Which patterns support moving through the phases

  • In the study – the students rotated through 10 different online roles – including a “synthesizer”

  • Conclusions

    • 60% of post are phase 1 – sharing information

    • Most discussions have 1 pivotal post (at about 15th) out of 20 posts – but the continued post move to phase 5

    • What causes pivotal posts – the extensive summary of previous posts and synthesizing other's ideas

    • Generally, there are not regressions in the phases. However, some phases are skipped.

  • Implication

    • Found a progression patterns – focused on phases 1,3 &5

    • There is a pivotal post (which was the manipulation in this study) but it does push the discussion to deeper conversation

    • Timing of discussion contributions is important (the synthesizer needs to be in the middle)

    • Synthesizer – and other roles, can be a way to promote deeper conversation

    • We need to continue to look at how to be more critical within postings

    • Added to the methodology of studying online discussions - moving from individual to group levels, coding, empirically testing the knowledge construction model


Ways of Contributing to a Knowledge-Building Dialogue in Grade Four

*Maria Chuy (University of Toronto), Marlene Scardamalia (OISE/University of Toronto), Monica Resendes (University of Toronto)

  • Role of science is rising, but student interest in science is decreasing

  • Theory building and understanding is the basis of science

  • How can this be done in elementary classrooms?

    • We know that much of it comes through dialogue – questions, criticism

  • Found a site that used Knowledge-Building (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2003) and Knowledge Forum (Scardamalia, 2004)

    • Grade 4

  • Questions

    • Explanatory Questions – why does it happen and how does it work

    • Factual Questions

    • Design Questions – how can we prove or test

  • Theorizing

    • Proposing explanation

    • Supporting an explanation

    • Improving an explanation

    • Seeking alternative explanation

  • Designing an experiment

    • Proposing an experiment

    • Identifying a design experiment

    • Thinking of design improvement

  • Working with evidence

    • Looking for evidence

    • Providing reference to evidence

    • Providing reasons to abandon evidence

    • Finding new evidence

  • Synthesizing

    • Using all available ideas

    • Creating analogies

    • Initiating a “rise-above” note

      • Identify new question – new directions

  • Supporting discussions

    • Using diagrams

    • Giving opinions

    • Drawing on others

  • Which ways of contributing are the most popular in a knowledge-Building classroom?

    • Questioning

    • Theorizing

    • Working with evidence

  • Are there individuals who were stronger at contributing?

    • Most students contributed equally – not a single, overwhelming leader

    • Teacher was the facilitator – through questions – how do you know? Which led to the students working on theorizing and finding evidence.

    • Therefore – good questions are the right time in the right form is extremely important to support knowledge-Building in students.

  • Collective knowledge building – student work together


Reading for Idea Advancement in a Grade 4 Knowledge-Building Community

*Jianwei Zhang (University at Albany - SUNY), Yanqing Sun (University at Albany – SUNY)

  • Optics and light investigation using Knowledge Forum

    • Practice thinking and working like a scientist in ways that scientist gain background knowledge (dissemination of knowledge) through literacy.

  • Reading is a community act in knowledge-building communities – to add to the group's knowledge, not just for individual gain.

  • Reading is for progressive problem solving – posing questions and finding answers

  • Reading is embedded in knowledge-Building discourse – a place to find information, and also to propose investigations

  • Reading is a dialogue between the local knowledge and world knowledge

  • Conclusions

    • Reading involves active inquiry and processing

    • Level and scope of inquiry is increased by dynamic social knowledge-building communities

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