Dissertation Focus

My Comps Mind Map

21st Century Learning and the Knowledge Society (1/2 page)

This will be a quick overview of 21st century learning skills as asserted by Scardamalia et al. (21st C. material), and by Slotta et al. (ITEST grant narrative). Some consideration may also be given to organizations such as: Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Canadian Council on Learning, and the Metiri Group.

Recently, there has been a strong chorus amongst educators to engage students in “21st century learning”, with many similar themes. One defining common aspect of working in 21st century, is participation in social or collective forms of knowledge construction, where individuals make contributions via Twitter or blogs; and meaning emerges from the overall collective effort of many people. Wikipedia, YouTube, Epicurious, and any number of “online communities” illustrate such forms of interaction in “Web 2.0” applications. While many such applications are not purposed for learning, there is no doubt that some learning and “knowledge advancement” does occur. Moreover, a small collection of researchers have begun to study the nature of learning in Web 2.0 applications, such as wikis, online environments, social networks, etc. (Vanessa Peters, Christine Greenhow, Andrea Forte, Joey Lee - I may write to Vanessa and ask her about others). In general, the individual learner must have a notion of their own participation in “something greater”, and the fact that they are making a contribution to a whole that will be “greater than the sum of its parts”.


  • Scardamalia et al. (21st century material), Bereiter 2002
  • Drucker 1992
  • all the people we reviewed in our ITEST narrative

Digital Trends in Education

I will then look at digital trends in education: Mark Prensky, Daniel Pink, Don Tapscott, Clay Shirky. These authors will give a general overview.

This will lead nicely into specific technological trends in education: mobile learning, Web 2, Web 3, collective, online, augmented reality, mixed reality, social networks, immersive/embodied, tangibles. It would be helpful to know where the practitioner frontier lies with respect to the digital classroom.

Theoretical Perspectives on Learning & Epistemology

Theories of Mind / Nature of Knowledge (1/2 page)

I'll begin with the nature of knowledge (or 'theories of mind'), review Dewey, as a basis for looking at Carl Bereiter's work, then touch on Karl Popper's 3 worlds of knowledge (since Bereiter also considers this in his theory of mind).

I will then look at *individual learning and epistemology*: Piaget, Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Clark Chinn (his recent papers about the nature of science and science learning). “Epistemology” - as in, what learners know about the nature of their own learning – then again, isn't this called “metacognition”? Micki Chi's work on conceptual change would provide a seamless transition into the next topic of Inquiry.

Inquiry (2000 words)

In an effort to make science learning more accessible to students and more effective, in terms of their learning, educators have long sought to define methods of “inquiry” where students are engaged in active, often collaborative learning tasks where they engage deeply with materials, produce their own artifacts, and reflect on their understandings (Dewey, 1938; p. 112) . Some researchers have advanced a notion of inquiry that mirrors the activities of scientists (deJong, etc): forming hypotheses, testing questions, critiquing evidence, and collaborating with peers. Others have advanced a more general notion of inquiry as one where students are simply encouraged to build, in a constructivist way, on their existing ideas; reflecting on evidence or exchanging opinons with peers about scientific phenomena (Quintana et al, 2004; Linn).

I will then look into Knowledge Integration (Marcia Linn). This will lead into Linn & Eylon's book about inquiry and Slotta & Linn's WISE book.

Orchestration & Scripting

An interesting strand of research that is related to inquiry is that of Orchestration and Scripting - the coordinated flow of activities, roles, assessments, etc.; into knowledge community discussions built into KCI pedagogical framework. Hence I will need to deeply understand the big ideas of Orchestration and Scripting, including the role of the teacher: Fischer & Dillenbourg, Kollar, Prieto. This will not be an in-depth review, merely a summary of the big ideas (scaffolding the teacher, to have good interactions with students, etc,.), to indicate that this as an issue and opportunity for research.

Distributed Cognition (250-500 words)

A natural transition from this would be into distributed cognition: Rogers, Cole, Engestrom, Pea, Resnick. This sets the stage for collective epistemology.

Social Constructivism & Knowledge Communities

A quick overview of social constructivist perspectives on education (Vygotsky, Palinscar) will lead nicely into Knowledge Communities.

There is one tradition of research that is well aligned with such a “collective inquiry” model - that of Knowledge Communities (Review: Kate Belacyc, Kai Hakkarrainen); and within that tradition, Fostering Communities of Learners (FCL): Ann Brown, Campione, Engle. A cognitively-focused realm of knowledge community pedagogy is Knowledge Building (Review: Scardamalia, Bereiter, Jianwei Zhang).

After reviewing FCL and KB I will examine commonalities between the 2 pedagogies (i.e. a knowledge base, epistemological position, focus on discourse).

Collective Epistemology / Collective Inquiry

One defining aspect of the knowledge community approach is a sense of Collective Cognitive Responsibility (Scardamalia & Bereiter). Ann Brown also defined the emergence of a Collective Epistemology and Shared Discourse as elements of knowledge communities. This may connect back to “Theories of Mind” (Carl Bereiter, Karl Popper). So I'll look at collective epistemology/inquiry - not sure whether to term this. Collective epistemology - what learners know about the nature of their own learning; or what Dr. Jim Slotta terms collective inquiry - a whole class learning together, relying on one another to make progress in their ideas. Perhaps I'll talk to Dr. Carl Bereiter or Dr. Earl Woodruff about this.

However, there are challenges to implementing knowledge community pedagogy in the classroom:

  • too hard
  • unwieldy for teachers and educators
  • Not clear what should happen when
  • Not easy to achieve specified learning goals (see Najafi and Slotta, Peters and Slotta, Slotta and Najafi)

Knowledge Community & Inquiry (KCI)

Slotta et al. have developed a new pedagogical model that responds to some of these challenges…(see Najafi and Slotta, Peters and Slotta, Slotta and Najafi)

Technology Supports for Inquiry Knowledge Communities

This would build naturally into Technology Supports for Inquiry & Knowledge Communities: BioKIDS (Songer, 2006), WISE (Slotta, 2004), Inquiry Island (White et al., 2002), BGuILE (Reiser et al., 2001), SCI-WISE (White, Shimoda & Frederiksen, 1999), ThinkerTools Inquiry Curriculum (White & Frederiksen, 1998), and Knowledge Integration Environment (KIE) (Bell, Davis, & Linn, 1995).

This has some reference to the story that Knowledge Building tells about Knowledge Forum. I might be able to embrace that story if I can find among Marlene Scardamalia's 12 Knowledge Building Principles, 1 principle about technology design having to reference pedagogy. Certainly our work with Embedded Phenomena and Inqiury Communities (EPIC) has a comparable tight design coupling.

The Role of Discourse within the Knowledge Community Approach

The role of discourse in advancing ideas hasn't been investigated much, primarily because much of the earlier work on KCI was achieved through the use of wikis, where ideas were created collaboratively (sometimes asynchronously, sometimes synchronously) in an online space, but the discourse amongst students and teachers was not captured and analyzed. Thus, it is not very well understood what the content of specific exchanges was, nor how those exchanges led to patterns of contribution or interaction in the knowledge community.

Discourse and Learning

I will need to deeply understand the role of writing (not sure who to read yet) and online discussions in learning, particularly dynamic discussion: A. L. Brown & Campione, Lea & Nicoll, Rogoff, Scardamalia & Bereiter, Laurillard, Luppicini, Barab, Kling, & Gray.

Dr. Randi A. Engle (UC Berkeley) is currently teaching a course on "Discourse and Learning in Math and Science Classrooms". Her work as well as the reading list has provided for this course will certainly have high relevance for this section.

Written Discourse for Science Learning

Drilling down from “discourse in learning” to reading and writing discourse for constructing scientific knowledge will provide a stronger link between technology-mediated written scientific argumentation and science learning (Klein 2004, Keys 1994 & 1999, Rivard 2000, Holliday 1994, Mason 1998, Syh 2007, Glynn 1994).

Online Learning

This will lead nicely into collaborative learning online, including the notion of “cognitive/social/teacher presence”: Barab, Kling, & Gray, Curtis Jay Bonk & King, Duffy & Kirkley, Garrison & Anderson, Hiltz & Goldman, Roberts. Drilling further down, I will need to consider facilitation and scripting of online learning(Alyssa Wise, George Collison, Bonnie Elbaum, Sarah Haavind, Robert Tinker).

Assessment & Evaluation of Discourse

Finally I want to look at assessment and evaluation of online discussions: Ross & Ross, Hew & Cheung, Chan & van Aalst, Harasim; which will include dimensions of critical thinking & cognition, interaction, and idea growth. I would like to connect this to ways of visualizing idea growth of online discussions (not sure who to read yet, maybe Colin Ware? Chris Teplovs' “Open Learner Model”? See “Resources” section on this wiki page).

I will include a description about the need to understand Discourse within a knowlddge community approach:

  • how do ideas “flow” and become accessible for making collective progress?
  • how does the teacher access ideas and work on them, then give them back to students?
  • how does the curriculum promote or inihibt discourse?
  • ETC.

Research Questions

Hence, the following research questions have emerged for me:

  1. How might effective inquiry discourse be scaffolded and scripted?
  2. What kinds of interactions help knowledge grow in a Knowledge Community and Inquiry (KCI) community?
  3. What is the teacher's role in productive and engaging knowledge construction discourse?
  4. What are the specific technological features that facilitate/scaffold inquiry-oriented discourse?

( see evolution of my Research Questions here)

Since Knowledge Communities and KCI share the idea of collective epistemology, discourse within KCI pedagogy can be viewed with a knowledge community pedagogical lens. I'm interested in discourse because it is one of the core elements of the knowledge community approach, as identified by Ann Brown, Marlene Scardamalia, and reviewed by Slotta and Najafi (2011). However, the KCI model needs to be more explicit in terms of what it says about discourse, and how exchanges between students and teachers can lead to the growth of ideas and progress within the community. This could be helpful for various reasons - such as to explain why or when certain students do not engage, what are the consequences, etc.


I will study children's and teachers' discourse in KCI-based instruction, and develop a facilitative technology that will serve to capture their ideas and make them more available for advancement by peers.

After examining the literature on all these topics, I will feel like I know where the “edge” is, of my field and have a better idea of what direction to take to get to the “cutting edge”. Ideally, I would like to utilize integrated multi-modal technologies such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and interactive whiteboards (IWB); in promoting the growth of ideas and collaborative inquiry in a classroom, in which walls have been “softened” by technological affordances of the devices to access the internet anytime, from anywhere. I have been interested in the potential of real time knowledge building technologies for several years, and was excited by the fluid and complementary way in which the tablets and IWB worked in the HelioRoom and WallCology pilots. I would like to understand how student learning and inquiry can be effectively scaffolded by: (1) technology (i.e. in its design), and (2) by teacher facilitation strategies. With respect to the latter, I would ultimately like to understand how a teacher might effectively use KCI to promote inquiry learning and student achievement.