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  Feature Name: Personally-Seeded Discussions
Author: Douglas Clark

Category: Communication Tools: Asynchronous tools

Subject: NA

Kind: Element/Applet

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Software URL: Personally-Seeded Discussions

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This Feature is connected to (3) Principles
  • Encourage learners to learn from others
  • Engage learners as critics
  • Enable multiple ways to participate in online discussions
    Feature in Visual Map
    Following the predictions and data gathering in a hands-on lab, students create principles to describe patterns in their data using a web-based principle builder that is essentially a series of pull-down menus allowing students to string together these phrases to construct a principle mirroring principles that they had already written in their notes. The student-constructed principles appear as the seed comments in the online discussions. To help students develop a repertoire of models, the text-based CSCL software automatically groups students in electronic discussions with peers who have different perspectives. The groups critique and discuss these principles, working toward consensus. The discussion develops around the different perspectives represented in the seed comments by each student group, ideally through a process of comparison, clarification, and justification.

    Structures like these personally-seeded discussions support the actual practices and daily tasks of the students as they engage in inquiry, which involve constructing explanations for scientific observations. Students work to clarify and justify their own scientific principles, comparing and contrasting them with other studentsí principles. This approach takes advantage of findings on the importance of personal relevance. Finally, thinking is made visible for students as they elaborate upon and justify their ideas. By having students explain and defend their own principles, students not only take an interest in their own ideas, but also take interest in responding to and critiquing the other ideas in the discussion. The role of the teacher shifts from presenting alternative views to helping students understand those alternatives, ask for clarification, and refine their own ideas. This type of activity structure therefore facilitates online discussions where students were successfully sharing their conceptual resources in the common task of refining their own ideas.
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    This perspective-taking is important because: (a) students have trouble supporting their ideas with evidence, (b) students donít have shared criteria for evaluating explanations, (c) clarification often involves contrasting perspectives, and (d) clarification also involves developing a repertoire of models.
    Context of Use:
    Online discussions to support inquiry labs.
    Field-based Evidence:
    students participate more frequently in psds than standard discussions. Quality of argumentation is better. Nautre of subject matter gains still unclear
    Clark, D. B. (in press). Building hands-on labs in Internet environments: Making thinking visible through iterative refinement and design. In Linn, M. C., Bell, P, & Davis, E. A. (Eds.) Internet Environments for Science Education. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Cuthbert, A. J., Clark, D. B., & Linn, M. C. (2002). WISE learning communities: Design considerations. In K.A. Renninger & W. Shumar (Eds.), Building Virtual Communities: Learning and Change in Cyberspace. Cambridge University Press.

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