for sustaining interaction in online discussion forums
structured poster session for AERA
Online discussions and virtual
communities promise to play a key role in our visions of an enlightened and
collaborative future world. Yet, attempts to promote the use of such forums run
into deep and complex barriers. Instructors
and learners must deal with new forms of community, adopt innovative learning
styles, master new literacies, and handle unforeseen technical difficulties.
These, and other factors, can lead to reduced levels of online interaction and
lost learning opportunities.
What strategies can we develop to
sustain interaction in online discussion forums and virtual communities?
What are the cognitive, social, and technical issues surrounding
participation in these communities?
This session brings together a wide
range of organizations and participants who are actively investigating: (a) the
social issues of participation and community membership, (b) the cognitive
issues of understanding discussion topics, and (c) the design issues involved in
supporting participants with different levels of technical proficiency.
The underlying assumption of the
projects in this session is that understanding cooperative knowledge building
processes can contribute to the design and improvement of the next generation of
innovative learning technologies. There
are important technical issues to be addressed here.
However, other issues, such as the perception of shared ownership,
identity, and community affiliation, contribute to the levels and forms of
participation which influence the life-cycle of online discussions.
How can teachers and educators benefit from understanding these different
factors? And can integrating these
perspectives lead to more productive and self-sustaining discussions?
In this structured poster session, we
will begin with a discussion of the challenges faced by designers of online
communities as well as the issues faced by teachers trying to use these systems
effectively. This introduction will
outline the range of social, cognitive, and technical issues identified by the
different groups. This overview,
provided by the organizers, will be followed by a brief introduction to each of
the projects. The audience will then have about 45 minutes to tour the posters.
The poster participants will include research findings, descriptions, and
examples of the various environments. Following this, the discussant, Tim
Koschmann, will present his perspective on the strategies for sustaining
interaction in online communities.
The Turing Game: Understanding Identity In Online Worlds
Berman & Amy Bruckman, Georgia Institute of Technology
Do men and women behave differently
online? Can you tell who is a man and who is a woman based on how they
communicate and interact with others on the Internet? Can you tell how old
someone is, or determine their race or national origin? In the online world as
in the real world, issues of personal identity affect how we relate to others.
However, identity in the online world is still poorly understood by both the
general public and the research community. Furthermore, it's difficult to
explain the complexity of these issues; they are much more readily understood
when directly experienced.
The Turing Game is a participatory,
collaborative learning experience about issues of online identity. A panel of
users all pretend to be a member of some group, such as a specific gender. Some
of the users, who are that gender, are trying to communicate that to their
audience. Others are trying to masquerade as being a member of that group. An
audience of users tries to discover who the true members are, by asking
questions and analyzing the panel members' answers. In this way, the
participants in The Turing Game learn about themselves, about others, and about
issues of online identity in general. At the same time, they have a fun and
personally engaging collaborative experience, either within a classroom or over
The Turing Game launched at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/elc/turing
on July 21, 1999. Within the first five days, it has had over three hundred
registrants. It will remain a public system for the next several months. During
this period, we hope to bring to bear a variety of research techniques to
extract useful information for community designers, community members, and those
concerned with issues of online identity. The results of this research will be
reported at AERA 2000.
The Turing Game is a project of the
Electronic Learning Communities (ELC) Group in the College of Computing at the
Georgia Institute of Technology. More information about the ELC Group can be
found at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/elc/.
Helping Students Elicit
Self-Explanation And Clarification From One Another Through Personalized
Clark, University of California at Berkeley, & Doris Jorde, University of
In this study, we structure electronic
discussions to support students in helping other students explain and clarify
their own ideas. Research shows that students are more successful in achieving
learning goals when they engage in self-explanation (Chi, 1996; Chi, Bassok,
Lewis, Reimann, and Glaser, 1989). In
our own previous research, students who were prompted by interviewers to
clarify their answers ultimately performed better on posttests (Lewis,
1996). To further investigate this effect, we constructed an educational project
called "Probing Your Surroundings" that integrates custom discussion,
laboratory, and simulation software to allow students to investigate, construct,
and discuss thermal equilibrium principles.
Students start "Probing" by
making predictions about the temperature of everyday objects around them in the
classroom. Students then use thermal probes to investigate the temperature of
these objects and construct principles to describe the patterns encountered. The
"Probing" software then places students in electronic discussion
groups with students who have constructed explanatory principles which are
different from theirs. The student-constructed principles appear as comments in
the discussions. The groups
critique and discuss these principles, working toward consensus.
This strategy of eliciting student beliefs and then introducing them to
alternative perspectives helps students develop a "repertoire of
models" (Linn, 1995) for explaining scientific phenomena and contributes to
sustained interaction in the online discussions.
Establishing a shared set of dimensions
and criteria for analyzing online discussions:
How can teachers and researchers assess student contributions?
J. Cuthbert & James D. Slotta, University of California at Berkeley
Students need to be guided as they
develop an understanding of how to participate in a discussion, provide
constructive comments, develop shared criteria, and select different
representations and comment types (Cuthbert, 1996). Similarly, teachers need to be able to generate engaging and productive topics as
well as assess student contributions to those discussions.
How can teachers and students establish a shared set of criteria for
online discussions? Can shared
criteria encourage convergent processes such as negotiation and consensus
As part of a seed grant from the Center
for Innovative Learning Technology (CILT, http://www.cilt.org), a group of
expert critics, teachers, and researchers are analyzing a series of experiments
involving online discussions. The
discussions were integrated into different learning activities in eighth grade
science classrooms, undergraduate engineering seminars, and teacher professional
development courses (see http://wise.berkeley.edu
for examples). The criteria for analyzing the discussions will be presented
along with new representational strategies for structuring those discussions.
TAPPED IN: Creating scalable,
sustainable online professional development communities
Fusco & Mark Schlager, SRI International
TAPPED IN™ is a platform-independent,
Web-based, real-time environment
designed to create a scalable, sustainable online community for teacher professional development (TPD) (see http://www.tappedin.org).
A central tenet by which the community
has been developed is that a scalable and sustainable
community requires the participation of many organizations representing a variety of approaches and perspectives. By sharing TAPPED IN,
the organizations enable their
affiliated teachers to gain access to expertise,
ideas, and resources that no single organization could provide
by itself. By having a
larger community that surrounds the many organizations
in TAPPED IN, we hope that our members (teachers and other
education professionals) will be able to easily find different resources
to suit their needs through the course of their career.
Our research investigates the
implementation process, TPD benefits and
outcomes, community building, and technology use and satisfaction
using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods.
We have found that
enthusiasm and presence of leaders are important, but how much
and in what form seems to be the important question, not so much who.
Leaders are needed to stir the pot, adjust the heat, and add new spices
to taste. With over 5000
members (as of July '99), we seem to be reaching
a point where designated leaders are not needed on a day-to-day
or even week-to-week basis. Will
we ever be able to walk away and have it stand on its own?
Sustaining online interaction in a
Hewitt, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
There is often a curious lack of
sustained interaction in electronic instructional communities. Guzdial (1997),
in a study of 35 university-level conferences at Georgia Tech, discovered that
the average size of the online conversations was only 2.8 notes (S.D. 6.5).
Hewitt and Teplovs (1999) performed the same analysis on 9 courses at
OISE/UT and found similar results (mean thread length of 2.69 notes, S.D. 3.01).
In the latter study, over 80% of the online conversations contained 4
notes or less. It is not clear that
these findings are representative of web-based courses in general, but they do
contribute to a growing concern that relatively few electronic discussions last
more than 3 or 4 exchanges.
Why do so many online threads fail to
develop? This paper argues that
there are significant technical and logistical impediments to the growth of
sustained discussions in conventional threaded computer conferencing.
In particular, certain patterns of interaction often lead to the
unintentional and premature termination of a conversation (Hewitt, 1999).
Threaded architectures are compared to a promising discourse facility in
a learning environment called CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning
Environments). The paper describes
how the design and use of the CSILE discussion facility differs from threaded
computer conferencing, and how these differences can promote sustained
interaction and in-depth inquiry.
Didn't your mother ever teach you to
share? Supporting collaborative
Hoadley, Center for Technology and Learning, SRI International
The Center for Innovative Learning
Technologies (CILT) is charged with improving collaboration and cumulativity
across researchers, teachers, and industry in educational technology research. I
present empirical results on what sorts of information researchers can and do
share, and barriers to doing so more effectively.
The CILT Knowledge Network (CILTKN)
software meets these needs by straddling the boundary between information source
and collaboration space, through the use of very low threshold interfaces (VLTIs)
and by integrating the software into existing researcher practices. Results
suggest that technology can significantly impact collaboration among
researchers, even if the researchers do not directly collaborate through the
The Carnegie Foundation's Scholarship
of Teaching Mission: Building community through supporting teachers' reflective
Pointer, Tom Hatch, & Toru Iiyoshi, Carnegie Foundation
The Carnegie Foundation for the
Advancement of Teaching, in Menlo Park, CA, has developed an online workspace
for the "Scholarship of Teaching."
As this term is described by Lee
Shulman, the President of the Foundation, this involves uplifting the profession
of teaching by introducing a tradition of scholarship, consisting of making
one's work public, subjecting it to peer review, and constructing a shared sense
of participation within the teaching community. The online workspace developed
by the Carnegie Foundation is part of the Foundation's plans for a Knowledge
Media Lab, which will assemble (both literally and "virtually")
diverse media reflecting the Foundation's Scholarship of Teaching mission.
Currently, three groups of teachers (two groups of higher ed. professors,
one group of K-12/ teacher educators) use the workspace to post documents
reflecting their inquiry into their own teaching, give each other feedback on
each others' work, discuss issues facing them in their practice, and provide
each other with resources. Recently, this sharing of documents has moved from
text-only to a platform which will allow participants to post audio and video.
The main challenges we face are those of developing an intuitive
interface which participants (with a wide array of technological expertise/lack thereof) will find compelling
and relevant to their inquiry process, as well as creating a stable
cross-platform hardware configuration to support the entire process.
WebGuide: Encouraging and supporting
collaborative knowledge construction, perspective-making/taking, and negotiation
in discussion forums
Stahl, University of Colorado, Boulder
WebGuide strives to extend the
discussion forum paradigm in several directions: (a) It's goal is the collaborative
construction of knowledge, not simply the exchange of personal opinions. (b)
Ideas preserved in WebGuide are viewed within individual and group
perspectives, where alternative views on shared issues can be articulated.
(c) WebGuide also supports negotiation processes, so that ideas from
different perspectives can be synthesized and adopted as collaborative results.
WebGuide is an evolving Web-based
discussion medium in search of effective usage practices and appropriate social
configurations. A community of users is co-evolving along with it -- learning
how to exploit its affordances as they are implemented and tuned.
This Fall, WebGuide will be introduced to an international,
interdisciplinary group of students and researchers. They will use it as a
medium for group reflection on computer support systems for collaborative
learning. Small group activities
designed by the participants will be structured and supported in the software in
ways to facilitate the effective use of WebGuide's knowledge construction,
perspective, and negotiation features. See the references section for recent
papers on WebGuide and issues for the next generation of collaborative
Fostering collaboration between
national and local educational organizations
EdGateway is an interactive Web-based
environment created to foster collaboration and the exchange of information.
EdGateway is currently being used by a variety of educational organizations
interested in using the World Wide Web to foster collaboration.
Partners include: the US Department of Education, the Environmental
Protection Agency, the National Environmental Education Advancement Project,
Project Wet, Bay Area CREEC, Los Angeles CREEC, the Coalition for Essential
Schools, the San Diego Science Alliance, State Education and Environment
Roundtable, the Distance Learning Resource Network, WestEd, the US Charter
Schools Web site, and the Pacific Resource for Education and Learning (PREL).
EdGateway is designed to promote learning through community-based
collaboration and information exchange. It provides organizations with the
ability to create stand-alone Web sites with interactive features that maintains
a project's identity while being supported under the EdGateway umbrella.
EdGateway provides these organizations
with powerful capabilities they could not afford to develop on their own and the
flexibility they need to customize the presentation of information for their
region and audience. By using the same development environment, costs are
reduced and clients are provided with a more robust body of knowledge created by
the participation of multiple communities working independently within a common
Chi, M.T.H. (1996) Constructing
self-explanations and scaffolded explanations in tutoring. Applied Cognitive
Psychology, 10, S33-S49
Chi, M.T.H., Bassok, M., Lewis, M.,
Reimann, P., and Glaser, R. (1989). Self-explanations: How students study and
use examples in learning to solve problems. Cognitive Science, 13,
Cuthbert, A. (1996) Collaborative Design: A Cognitive Approach To Information
Resources. Paper presented at WebNet '96.
Guzdial, M. (1997). Information ecology
of collaborations in educational settings: Influences of tool.
In the Proceedings of CSCL '97, 83-90.
Hewitt, J. (1999). An investigation of thread-death in computer conferencing.
Paper presented at AERA '99.
Hewitt, J. and Teplovs, C. (1999).
Threaded discourse and the problem of conversation closure.
Paper submitted CSCL '99.
Lewis, E. (1996). Conceptual change
among middle school students studying elementary thermodynamics. Journal of
Science Education and Technology, 5(1), 3-31
Linn, M. C. (1995). Designing computer
learning environments for engineering and computer science: The scaffolded
knowledge integration framework. Journal of Science Education and Technology,
4 (2), 103-126.
Schlager, M., Fusco, J., & Schank,
P. (1998). Cornerstones for an on-line
community of education professionals. IEEE Technology and
Society, Special Issue on Computers in the Classroom: The Internet
in K-12, 17 (4), 15-21, 40.
Stahl, G. (1999) WebGuide: Guiding
collaborative learning on the Web with perspectives. Paper presented at AERA
'99. Available at: http://GerryStahl.net/publications/conferences/1999/aera99/
Stahl, G. (1999) Reflections on
WebGuide: Seven issues for the next generation of collaborative
knowledge-building environments. Paper
submitted to CSCL '99. Available
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This page last modified on January 05, 2004