Examining Middle-School Students' Uses of Diigo Annotations to Engage in Collaborative Argumentative Writing

Examining Middle-School Students' Uses of Diigo Annotations to Engage in Collaborative Argumentative Writing

Jill Castek (Portland State University, USA), Richard Beach (University of Minnesota, USA), Heather Cotanch (Teachscape, Inc., USA) and John Scott (University of California, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5982-7.ch004

Abstract

This chapter explores the ways sixth grade students from a linguistically and culturally diverse classroom used Diigo, an online social bookmarking site, to engage in annotation writing focused on the discussion of science ideas within a text. While the use of apps has rapidly increased in schools, there remains little research on the ways annotation writing can be used to support scientific argumentation. Findings from this study indicate that students used the annotation app to pose questions, formulate claims, and request evidence from peers to answer questions or support claims. These results suggest that the process of collaborative annotation encourages students' documentation, critique, and refinement of ideas, which can aid learners in close reading of science texts.
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Introduction

Our nation’s future depends on our ability to provide challenging and meaningful educational opportunities to better prepare students for college-level and workplace communication and thinking (ACT, 2010; Carnegie Corporation, 2009, 2010; Graham & Perin, 2007; Lee & Spratley, 2010). While argumentation—generating claims based on evidence and supporting them with reasoning—has been a focus of research in the past two decades (e.g., Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000; Kuhn, 1993; McNeill & Krajcik, 2008), its central position in today’s national standards is unprecedented. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are derived from the three dimensions of the NSTA Framework of K-12 Science: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas. The NSTA Framework outlines ways of thinking about the nature of science that relies heavily on argumentation, evidence, and reasoning to support claims. And, the Common Core State Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010) point to argumentation as a key feature of academic discourse in all fields echoing Driver et al.’s (2000) assertion that argumentation is a core activity of scientists.

The purpose of this study was to examine ways middle school students employed the Diigo annotation app to engage in collaborative argumentative writing in response to science texts. The argumentation process engaged students’ ability to clearly state their ideas, illustrate their thinking, and back their claims with evidence. Annotation apps can support the collaborative documentation, critique, and refinement of ideas, which aids learners in developing personal understandings that lead to the co-construction of new knowledge (Beach & O’Brien, in press; Castek & Beach, 2013).

While the use of apps (specialized programs used on mobile computers) has rapidly increased in schools, there remains little research on the ways that apps can be used to support scientific argumentation. This study explores the strategies 6th graders employed to engage in close reading of a science text and the ways that sharing the same digital space supported science inquiry and science understanding through digitally supported argumentation.

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