ITM: A NSF Cyberlearning EXP Grant (2011-2014)


Fostering Collective Progress in Online Discourse for Sustained Knowledge Building. 

This project is funded by the Cyberlearning: Transforming Education program of National Science Foundation (NSF IIS #1122573; $549,459.00). Principal Investigator: Dr. Jianwei Zhang (University at Albany); Co-PIs: Dr. Mei-Hwa Chen (University at Albany), Dr. Janette Pelletier (Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto), Mr. Allan Lockwood (Guilderland Elementary School)

Overview

Classroom innovations to prepare students for creative careers in the 21st century need to engage students in sustained, progressive inquiry by which ideas are continually developed and refined giving rise to higher-level goals. Students need to learn how to monitor, build on, and advance their collective knowledge in a community —the “state of the art” that has emerged from extended, collaborative discourse. Online learning environments support extended discourse but lack effective representation of collective knowledge progress; student online discourse is thus often disconnected and lacks deepening questions and ideas.

To represent and visualize collective progress in online discourse, we created a software tool: Idea Threads Mapper (ITM), which interoperates with Knowledge Forum and potentially other collaborative online learning platforms. Beyond micro-level representations of ideas in online discourse as postings and build-ons, ITM incorporates higher levels of representations: using an idea thread to represent a line of inquiry and clusters of idea threads to represent community-wide advances in a whole initiative. (See more info about ITM, click here) A set of ITM-aided designs have been tested in elementary science classrooms to foster a sustained, progressive trajectory of inquiry. These designs focus on (a) collaborative reflection on progress of understanding over time within a community, (b) cross-community build-on for sustained progress mediated through student-created idea threads and syntheses, and (c) idea threads of productive knowledge-building communities as a resource to support progressive inquiry in emerging communities.

Inquiry-based learning requires a sustained, progressive trajectory to be productive. This research will produce conceptual, pedagogical, and technological advances to make sustained, progressive inquiry more achievable among young students and further extend it to a network of classrooms that builds shared knowledge and resources for continual advancement of ideas.

Technology Development

Idea Thread Mapper (ITM): A timeline-based collective knowledge mapping tool that makes progress in online discourse visible to support collaborative regulation of extended  knowledge building processes. For more info about ITM, click here.

Users of any Knowledge Forum (KF) database can register their database at the following ITM portal, and, then, login ITM using their KF username and password. Preferred browsers: Chrome, Safari.

English versionhttp://tccl.rit.albany.edu:8080/ITM

Chinese versionhttp://tccl.rit.albany.edu:8080/itmcn

 

Major Results and Findings

ITM supports students’ collective metadiscourse about their ongoing knowledge building discourse to generate higher-level representations of collective knowledge, which help  guide and inform personal and collaborative efforts for sustained knowledge building. Using ITM students engage in metacognitive conversations—metadiscourse—to review and regulate their ongoing knowledge building discourse online: they reflect on high-interest “juicy” themes of inquiry; identify key idea contributions for each theme, as an idea thread; co-author a wiki-like synthesis–“Journey of Thinking”—for each thread to summarize the questions, “big ideas,” and deeper efforts needed. Research findings:

  • Young students (Grades 3, 5 and 6) are able to use the ITM tool to engage in meaningful metacognitive conversations, which play a positive role in increasing student awareness of their community’s  emergent knowledge goals and advances in diverse lines of inquiry (Chen et al., 2013).
  • With such reflective awareness, students are able to engage in sustained build-on and advancement of ideas to address deeper problems and advance their understanding. For example, in a study of the human body, a class of fifth-graders formulated increasingly deeper questions and ideas to understand the human body as a complex system, built cross-theme connections (e.g. brain, spine, movement), leading to sophisticated explanations about how the structural parts interact and connect to achieve various functions (Zhang et al., 2013, 2014). 
  • Students further read idea threads and syntheses of other/previous classrooms for valuable questions, insights, and inquiry strategies (e.g. experiment on sensory), leading to reflective conversations about how they might adopt some of the questions and ideas to expand and deepen their own inquiry (Zhang, in preparation). 
  • To support student construction and review of idea threads, we tested using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) to extract distinct topics from online discourse and further identify discourse entries highly relevant to each of the topics. An acceptable level of agreement was achieved between the automated analysis and manual coding of discourse-topic relationships (Sun et al., 2014).

Research Publications and Presentations

Tao, D., Zhang, J. , & Huang, Y. (2015). How Did a Grade 5 Community Formulate Progressive, Collective Goals to Sustain Knowledge Building Over a Whole School Year? In O. Lindwall & S. Ludvigsen (Eds.), Exploring the material conditions of learning: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (Vol. 1, pp. 419-426). Gothenburg, Sweden: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Zhang, J., Chen, M.-H., Tao, D., Lee, J. Sun, Y., & Judson, D. (2015). Fostering Sustained Knowledge Building through Metadiscourse Aided by the Idea Thread Mapper.  In O. Lindwall & S. Ludvigsen (Eds.), Exploring the material conditions of learning: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (Vol. 1, pp. 166-173). Gothenburg, Sweden: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Vokatis, B., & Zhang, J. (2015). Characterizing the professional identity of three teachers engaging in sustained knowledge building. In O. Lindwall & S. Ludvigsen (Eds.), Exploring the material conditions of learning: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Gothenburg, Sweden: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Zhang, J., Tao, D., Sun, Y., Chen, M-H., Peebles, B., & Naqvi, S. (2015). Metadiscourse on Collective Knowledge Progress to Inform Sustained Knowledge-Building Discourse (AERA15_ITMYear2_FullPaper). Paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association (AERA 2015), Chicago, IL.

Zhang, J., Tao, D., Sun, Y.,  Chen, M-H., Peebles, B., & Naqvi, S. (August 2014). Ongoing Metadiscourse and Reflection on Collective Knowledge Progress Fosters Sustained Knowledge Building. Paper Presented at the Knowledge Building Summer Institute, August 2014, Quebec City.

Chen, M-H., Sun, Y., Zhang, J., Morley, E., & Messina, R. (August 2014). Idea Thread Mapper: Visualizing and Assessing Collective Knowledge Progress in Knowledge Building Communities. A workshop at the Knowledge Building Summer Institute, August 2014, Quebec City.

Chen, B., Teplovs, C., Zhang, J.,  Matsuzawa, Y., Hong, H-Y.,  Perreault, C.,  Philip, D.,  Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2014). Knowledge building analytics: Where we were, where we are, and where we are headed. A workshop at the Knowledge Building Summer Institute, August 2014, Quebec City.

Sun, W., Zhang, J., Jin, H., & Lyu, S. (2014). Analyzing online knowledge building discourse using probabilistic topic models. In J. Polman, E. Kyza, K. O’Neill, & I. Tabak (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2014). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Zhang, J., Lee, J., & Chen, J. (2014). Deepening Inquiry about Human Body Systems through Computer-Supported Collective Metadiscourse.  Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association (AERA 2014), Philadelphia, PA. 

Zhang, J., Chen, M.-H., Tao, D., Naqvi, S., & Peebles, B. (2014). Using Idea Thread Mapper to Support Collaborative Reflection for Sustained Knowledge Building.  Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association (AERA 2014), Philadelphia, PA.

Zhang, J. (2013). Cultivate Creative Knowledge Practices through Principle-Based Design. Invited speech at International Conference of Computers in Education (ICCE), Bali, Indonesia, November 2013. (Invited Speaker)

Zhang, J., & Chen, M.-H. (2013). Foster Sustained, Collaborative Knowledge Building with Idea Thread Mapper. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of American Educational Association (AERA 2013), San Francisco, CA.

Zhang, J. (2013). Foster a Self-Sustained, Collective Trajectory of Inquiry through Adaptive Collaboration. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of American Educational Association (AERA 2013, San Francisco, CA) in a symposium “Researching classrooms as knowledge communities:
New models for 21st century learning.”

Zhang, J. (2013). Using inquiry threads analysis to examine and support unfolding activity structures of knowledge building. Invited panel presentation at the Canada-US Regional Meeting of the International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR), July 2013, Quebec City. (Invited Panel)

Zhang, J., Chen, M.-H., Chen, J., & Mico, T. F.  (2013). Computer-Supported Metadiscourse to Foster Collective Progress in Knowledge-Building Communities . In N. Rummel, M., Kapur, M. Nathan, & S. Puntambekar (Eds.), To See the World and a Grain of Sand: Learning across Levels of Space, Time, and Scale: CSCL 2013 Conference Proceedings Volume 2 (pp.197-200). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Chen, M.-H., Zhang, J. & Lee, J. (2013). Making Collective Progress Visible for Sustained Knowledge Building. In N. Rummel, M., Kapur, M. Nathan, & S. Puntambekar (Eds.), To See the World and a Grain of Sand: Learning across Levels of Space, Time, and Scale: CSCL 2013 Conference Proceedings Volume 1 (pp.81-88). International Society of the Learning Sciences. (Best Design Paper Nomination)

Zhang, J., Lee, J., & Wilde, J. (2012). Metadiscourse to foster collective responsibility for deepening inquiry. In Jan van Aalst, Kate Thompson, Michael J. Jacobson, and Peter Reimann (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp.395-402). International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS).

Zhang, J., Chen, M. -C., Li, H., Zhao, Y., Chen, J., Rajbhandari, B. L., Sun, Y., Ferrer-Mico, T., Shaw, R., Peebles, B., , J., & Naqvi, S. (2012). Making Collective Progress Visible: The Design and Application of Idea Thread Mapper (ITM) for Sustained Knowledge Building. Knowledge Building Summer Institute: Building Cultural Capacity for Innovation. Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology, August 7-10, 2012, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 Acknowledgements

This project was sponsored by National Science Foundation through grant IIS #1122573. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.