Promoting Mediated Collaborative Inquiry in Primary and Secondary Science Settings: Sociotechnical Prescriptions for and Challenges to Curricular Reform

Promoting Mediated Collaborative Inquiry in Primary and Secondary Science Settings: Sociotechnical Prescriptions for and Challenges to Curricular Reform

Michael A. Evans (Virginia Tech, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-120-9.ch009
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Mediated collaborative inquiry within communities of practice is proposed as a critical educational goal for the 21st century. Mediated collaborative inquiry promotes the process of participation in search of understanding via mobile, wireless devices and social software. Communities of practice provide sociotechnical scaffolding to define and legitimate inquiry. In this chapter we present a collaborative, collective perspective of learning and practice to demonstrate how we design to support communities of practice for scientific inquiry. The first project, the Mobile Malawi Project, was an exploratory proof-of-concept attempt to facilitate learning and communication among geographically and socially distributed participants in Malawi, Africa using mobile smart phones and social software. The second project, Kids for Change, is a rigorous design-based research project building from the former that encourages middle school students in after school settings to use 3D digital modeling software (Google SketchUp) in socially relevant and civically engaging activities. Both endeavors are designed to provide primary and secondary students opportunities to learn and apply important scientific processes andmathematical ideas to real world situations while interacting with key constituents, including teachers, parents, teacher educators, and community experts. The authors conclude by noting cautions toward an approach of promoting collaboration and community with ICTs. Traditional institutions, pedagogies, and ways of knowing might preclude or hamper smooth transitions to a participatory, network-based educational system built on a Web 2.0 infrastructure and services.
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Mediated Collaborative Inquiry And Communities Of Practice

The concept of learning has shifted from recitation and recall from short-term memory, to a process of constructively using information in project-based settings to create new knowledge. Many current reform plans call for embedding the learning of basic skills in projects that engage students in critical thinking and problem solving in-group settings (Sawyer, 2006). Thus, the collaborative inquiry classroom provides a means to incorporate group settings into instructional strategies. According to Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of learning (1986), these social settings are pivotal to the participation process. One of the key components of this new emphasis on social learning is collaborative inquiry (Roschelle, 1996).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communities of Practice: A term associated with the work of Lave and Wenger (1991) that denotes what Gee (2007 AU21: The in-text citation "Gee (2007" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ) refers to as an affinity group or “semiotic domain”; individuals congregate in non-canonical, informal ways around norms, values, and beliefs associate with “how things are done.”

Collaborative Inquiry: A default organizational form for learning strategies developed form a social-constructivist framework; inquiry is what drives learning, and inquiry is always a collaborative effort.

Mediate Collaborative Inquiry: A complex term that intends to invoke a non-individualistic, non-reductionist perspective of learning; learning is always driven by inquiry, mediated by semiotics, and conducted in a social setting.

Web 2.0: A term accredited to Tim O’Reilly that depicts the decentralized structure of organization built on information and communication technologies; wikis, blogs, and file sharing networks are a few examples of the technology that contributes to this new organizational form.

Participatory: Modifier used in conjunction with culture, design, learning, which denotes the collaborative, communal, decentralized nature of a given activity, endeavor, or undertaking.

Design-Based Research: An engineering approach to educational intervention; the goal is primarily to prescribe iterations of requirements for implementation, results of prototypes possibility generating insights for theory.

Instructional Design: The systematic methods and methodology of developing materials for use by teachers and learners; a theoretically- and pedagogically-based based educational discipline.

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