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Sergue, Einat (Knowledge community)

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Discussion Prompts 

  1. where are the real advantages for using student-contributed content?  What specific topics would be well-suited for this approach, and how could it be used productively within the curriculum?
  2. Lets talk about the pragmatics of student-contributed content and collective inquiry. When we assign students to create, capture, upload, curate, re-mix and apply ideas and observations, how can we make sure that every student gains the benefits: creating and contributing resources, engaging in productive exchanges with peers, and drawing upon the collective resources?



  1. When you think about your students, what kinds of ideas or products could be supported by the “student-contributed content” approach? How would this help you as a teacher?
  2. What kinds of advantages could be offered by a “collective inquiry” approach - where students add and build on ideas and resources, then use their collective product as a resource for further inquiry?


Inquiry activity

Lesson design: step2



Peters, V. L., & Slotta, J. D. (2010). Scaffolding knowledge communities in the classroom: New opportunities in the Web 2.0 era. In M. J. Jacobson & P. Reimann (Eds.), Designs for learning environments of the future: International perspectives from the learning sciences (pp. 205-232). Secaucus, NJ: Springer.

Slotta, J.D. & Najafi, H. (2012). Supporting Collaborative Knowledge Construction with Web 2.0 Technologies. In Emerging Technologies for the Classroom: A Learning Sciences Perspective (N. Lavigne, Ed.). pp. 93-112. Springer.

Teaching Tools for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education



Video 1

SPEAKER: Hello everyone and welcome to week five.
Learner Communities and Student-Contributed Content
will be the theme.
This is another interesting theme that again you might not expect.
And I want to take just a minute to talk a little bit about why
I think it's an important one.
Certainly again, I believe there's a moment in society when things have,
things have been changing technologically.
Things have been changing in our experience of the internet
and of how we interact with each other.
I believe these kinds of interactions are opening up
new possible applications for learning in the classroom,
especially in the inquiry related learning.
Certainly, they've been very important to my own research.
I'll talk just a little bit about that today.
So I hope you come away from this week with an appreciation
of just how interesting and important the idea of student-contributed content
can be, and maybe even thinking about new ways
to help your classroom work collectively as a learning community.
So to begin, many of you have probably heard the terminology Web 2.0 by now.
That's actually a rather old term, but I think it's still an important one.
It refers to a transition that happened around the year 2000,
approximately, when the web transformed.
I mean, the web was still new at that point, only five or six years old.
But it transformed from an initial idea or conception
as a large collection of resources that people
posted with links they called hyperlinks that you could surf them.
Not too long into the history of the web,
people began to understand the potential opportunities
for more transactional or social applications of the web.
This included not only doing your online banking and purchasing
books from Amazon, but also uploading and tagging
content like YouTube or Flickr and linking your yourself
to peers in social networks.
So like Facebook, where now I post a new video, it goes out to all my friends
and all their friends.
Blogging became an interesting new development
where we could publish and post our ideas
and they would go out to small circles or large ones,
get re-blogged or re-posted.
Twitter came up about 2004 or 2005, and it allowed people
to send out little, small blog posts.
And these things have changed the nature of what we use the web for.
So this became collectively referred to as Web 2.0.
It has opened up many new opportunities for participating in the internet.
And I believe that there are opportunities
for applications for learning.
Just again, to mention a few of the kinds of tools and materials
that have been connected to this Web 2.0 terminology,
you see here on the slide, content aggregators, so collecting photos,
Links like Pinterest is an aggregator.
It links different web pages and images under common themes.
Knowledge resources, like Wikipedia or Reddit,
Stack Overflow, even Yelp are socially negotiated collections or reviews.
Broadcasting and publishing is another one.
So Twitter, WordPress, all of the support for the blogging community,
social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn
have becomes a huge part of our lives in 21st century society.
And finally, commerce and transactional communities
like eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, these are all transforming the nature of the web
and the nature of society.
So indeed, many scholars have talked about the impact of Web 2.0
and the internet in general on our everyday lives.
This includes the use of mobile and handheld devices
as we discussed last week.
But essentially, every, nearly every dimension of
life has been affected in the commercial aspects, government, politics,
our personal and family lives.
Notably though, it's also been noted by many
that classrooms and curriculum still haven't seen an impact
from these new ways of interacting.
Again, like collaboration, like mobile learning,
there's a major challenge in integrating these kinds of interactions
into a curriculum meaningfully.
So it's one thing to just add a Wiki or a Google Doc.
It's another thing to add that in such a way
that students are really learning and learning at a deeper level.
So this week, we will hopefully talk about how that can happen.
You'll see an example or two.
You'll see an example from UTS of an interesting new mathematics lesson.
And we'll come away from it, I hope, with new insight and ideas
about how we can bring these elements into our own inquiry designs.
I'm going to talk about a few of what I consider
to be the opportunities for inquiry that come out of these Web 2.0 interactions.
One of them is the aggregation of content,
allowing our students to work as a classroom community
to collect and build on one another's resources to link,
tagging with keywords, adding to Pinterest boards, YouTube channels,
WordPress blogs.
Another one is cooperative learning and knowledge building.
The new kinds of technologies we're looking at,
Google Docs, Wiki, Twitter, WordPress can
allow for the teacher to develop collaborative projects that
include design projects, their use of peer critique.
And hopefully, you've seen me demonstrating some
of that in the design of this blog.
We have certainly tried to get all of you to upload resources
and tag them and vote on them, to offer critical review to one
another's lesson designs.
The third one is the social promotion and negotiation.
So by voting, forwarding, re-tweeting, commenting,
recommending, that these are new kinds of,
let's say, pedagogical moves that could allow opportunities for inquiry design.
To help achieve these curriculum designs,
there's a theoretical perspective that many have referred to as a
learning communities or knowledge communities.
This is one where students and teacher work together in a classroom
and actually identify as a community.
They think of the purpose of the learning as advancing the community.
Often, students in the room are developing a kind of a knowledge base,
a database of observations, photos, or any kind of media
that they then see as an asset for their further inquiry.
The students work in individual and small groups.
Also they can work as the whole class together.
But essentially, they see this as a collective enterprise
where we all collaborate and review, and then
we all benefit from the sort of fruits of our collective labors.
So I sometimes refer to this kind of curriculum as collective inquiry
curriculum, because it refers to designs that
are actually thinking about the entire classroom as the unit design.
There's definitely a targeted content area,
so you would start with thinking about how the whole class is going
to progress on a specific topic or a specific skill or some sort of media,
depending on year in your domain.
There's an emphasis on individual students in the classroom working
autonomously defining their own questions and methods,
finding resources to meet those questions,
and working with their classroom and their peers as a primary resource.
Finally, an emphasis on community progress,
have we advanced as a community to maybe some ideas come from this group
and some ideas come from this one.
Maybe there's different specialists areas in the community.
I actually consider this MOOC course to be essentially a learning community.
We've grouped you together into SIG groups.
We tried hard to design activities that lets
you learn from one another and discussion forums
where you discuss with each other.  (delete)
So this is now a general approach that I follow in designing inquiry community.
It's one where you as an individual feel that you're
gaining through the activity, through the reflections and the interactions,
but also that you're making a contribution to a wider set of peers.
And moreover, that you're gaining the benefit of all of the knowledge
and contributions of those peers.
So I'll talk through one example that came out of my research.
This was some years ago.
It was actually done at UTS with 10th grade biology teachers.
These are teachers not even in our video cases,
but there were four class sections taught by two teachers.
And we had this idea that we'd love these four sections-- there's
a 102 students overall-- to work together as a community
so that section one could build some contributions.
And section two could take those and continue to work them.
And section three would then gain the benefit
of all of the previous work done by the other two sections and keep going.
So we put our heads together, the teachers and myself and some technology
And we thought about using a wiki to do this.
We were trying to find the right topic that
fit well within the teacher's course.
And they suggested the physiology of human disease.
So this was a nice topic and it really fit well with the design for a Wiki.
We broke the kid's into three specialists groups.
So in each of the four sections they counted off by threes.
One, two, three.
One was for respiratory.
Two was for circulatory, and three was for digestive diseases.
We told them that they'd be specializing in that area,
and that their job was to create a wiki of diseases in their body system area.
So respiratory diseases would include emphysema and asthma.
And we created a special support to help them do
that, which were these wiki templates.
So each disease in the wiki we thought would
have specific features that included the causes, the symptoms,
the connection to biological functions, the relationship to other disease
And the students were given complete freedom to create the disease,
name the disease, to create description, and fill in all of those headers.
But the fact that we had those page headers really
helped make sure that the content that was developed there
was coherent and consistent with the learning goals
that we had for the curriculum.
So on the first day, the section number one of the class
started to make wiki pages.
The respiratory students, there were probably about 8 or 10 of them.
They worked in pairs, and they created a new page for a new disease, named it,
and then hopefully the disease named they
took wasn't taken by somebody else.
And they got a certain amount of progress on making those pages.
And then, we're done for the day, went home and section two
came in and took over and started to add new disease pages,
but also to work and improve on the ones that had been started by section one.
By a time section three got a hold of it, a lot of the diseases were taken.
And there were some complaints, but the teacher
helped them understand that this was about creating
a really good set of wiki pages.
There were, in the end, 23 of them produced for the three body
systems, so about eight per system.
And these were very lengthy, some of them in 2000, 3000 words with images,
with plenty of connections and resources at the bottom,
edited typically 20 or 30 times by many different students.
And then, once we had this wiki complete we were able to use it.
So as a resource for inquiry about human diseases
and to help the specialists in circulatory system
make connections to the respiratory and digestive diseases.
So I'll walk you through how that worked.
So you can see here one of the pages that's complete
or maybe at some level of completeness for asthma and the use of images there.
And then, you can see the sub-headers that we included.
These again were collaboratively edited.
So students in one section of the course took over
from students in the previous sections.
And finally they all had some hand in making sure
that as a respiratory group across the four sections,
they had produced an authoritative set of resources.
Then as I mentioned, we had this idea that they could
see that wiki as a community resource.
We had told them, hey, you better do a good job I'm on these respiratory pages
because the circulatory and digestive groups are going to need them.
And by the way, you're going to need their pages.
So everyone should really work hard on this.
What we asked the students to do next step
was to use the respiratory pages that their specialist groups have made,
and to go through all of the diseases, not just the ones
that you had worked on, but the other ones as well.
Make sure you were very familiar with your area of expertise.
And then to create two challenge cases.
These are cases we told them to be creative.
Here you see Snow White and the Seven Smokers as one.
And don't tell them what disease this is, but talk about the symptoms.
Talk about some of the connections or lifestyle
behaviors that the afflicted person in this case had.
So that was an inquiry task in itself, and students really
enjoyed making these cases.
What happened next though was we asked them
to go solve one case each from the other two specialization areas.
So circulatory students were on the hook for solving
one respiratory and one digestive case.
And they were to use the wiki again as a resource for doing this.
So now, the pages that the other groups had made
became critical resources for students in solving those cases.
And point of fact, they loved doing the case solution and many of the kids
went on to solve dozens of the cases just
because they had so much fun doing it.
The teachers were incredibly impressed by how much
energy, creativity, engagement came out of this as well the learning.
And you'll see, we actually did look at the final exam scores.
This school happened to use a very similar exam from one year
to the next, similar items.
And we could essentially subtract out the parts of the final exam that
weren't physiology, and we found a significant gain
in the students physiology scores in the year that we ran this study.
So that was encouraging.
And it says something that by developing one of these lessons that
engages your class as a whole but also going
across multiple sections of the course, you could actually increase
engagement and increase learning too.
That human disease lesson was done as the PH.D. Study
of Vanessa Peters who was a student from University of Toronto.
And we've included a book chapter that we wrote about that
as one of the resources for this week.
I want to end here today just by going over some of the approaches
that I think could help curriculum designers create collective inquiry
lessons and integrate those lessons into their courses.
So the first one, I'll mention here is like a classroom blog just
as an example.
And a blog doesn't have to mean just writing.
It can also mean images.
So a Pinterest board in essence could be seen
as a blog of some kind that was dedicated to a theme.
And the teacher could create multiple Pinterest boards.
WordPress is a very popular blog engine, and it
has a setting that you can create a blog for a group of people.
So they can all create entries and add them.
A teacher could create a private version of that
so that only the students in the class could see and make
use of the blog entries.
The next approach I'll mention is this idea of an organizational document
or set of documents, pages that you create that include potentially
links to sub-pages, sub-headers on the documents
that students see as essentially a shell that they have to fill in and complete.
It's almost like a game or gamification of content creation.
You could also use Google Drive, which is
a new feature that Google has produced.
It's actually shared folders that you can
allow students to put photos, images, videos of their creation into.
One interesting feature of this approach of using these sort of Wikispaces
is that when you have completed the course, when you've finished
and the students have populated that shell and created content,
you can actually hand that off or pass that forward to next year's class
and tell them this is something that your peers last year had
/ I expect you to go further and build on what they left behind.
Maybe polish it or improve it.
This isn't always possible, but it's a very interesting opportunity
for the teacher to help the students feel
that they are engaged in a kind of a living, dynamic curriculum
and that it's never the same content year to year.
And finally, I just want to review an approach that many of you
have probably heard of, and it goes hand-in-hand
usually with the second organizational document approach, which
is the jigsaw group design, not necessarily jigsaw,
but specialist group designs.
I used that approach in the human disease lesson.
We created three groups of kids that were specializing
in respiratory, circulatory, digestive.
A jigsaw, a true jigsaw approach would actually then regroup the kids
after they had created their specialist knowledge into new groups.
In my case, it would be groups of three, each one
with a member of the previous group.
So I would have one respiratory, one circulatory, and one digestive student
in that group.
You would then create an inquiry task for them
they would essentially require the expertise that they had developed
and engage them in sharing and enabling the other peers in the group
to essentially get knowledge from one another.
So that's my presentation of student contributed
content and collective inquiry learning communities.
I hope you appreciated the opportunities there.
I don't know if some of you are using these kind of methods
in your own lesson design for this MOOC.
It certainly is a new one that you could try to put in
if you're looking for new approaches.
Again, I've added some resources this week from researchers and theorists
that I've appreciated.
I've added one of my own papers as well.
I hope you enjoy the next two videos, which are from the UTS school leaders
talking about user contributed content and the teacher video
case that will give an example.
So thanks again.
Thanks for staying with us for now five weeks.
I hope you're having a great summer, and we'll see you online.    (delete)