A case study of online collaborative inquiry in an elementary classroom
William Paul Lindquist, University of Minnesota, United States
University of Minnesota . Awarded
This study explores the impact of online collaborative inquiry on a fifth grade classroom utilizing a case study method with multiple measures. It brings together literature surrounding inquiry-based teaching with strategies for the effective implementation of the Internet. The Draw-a-Scientist Test, TOSRA, CLI, concept maps, and interviews were used to collect data.
Students were involved in Following Fall, an online collaborative project sponsored by the School Nature Area Project of St. Olaf College. Through Following Fall, the classroom studied autumnal seasonal change by determining the percentage of a schoolyard trees progression of color change, average weekly temperature, and length of daylight. Data was collected and posted online. A collaborative online data table allowed students to compare local data with schools representing geographically diverse locations. In cooperative groups, students designed their own inquiry investigations using data they could collect in their schoolyard around the topic of autumnal seasonal change. As a culminating project, each group created a website to display the artifacts of their learning.
Students in this case study were clearly motivated by both the inquiry nature of the investigation and the presence of an online Following Fall learning community. Identifying the investigation as their own making provided greater impetus to following the investigation through to a satisfactory conclusion. Student perceptions of science and the work scientists do were positively influenced by first hand participation in activities they viewed as the work of science. Students were able to identify themselves in the role of scientists, expanding the role of science in their lives, and significantly reducing the number of common stereotypes appearing on the Draw-a-Scientist test.
Lost learning opportunities suffered as a result of the lack of attention given to engaging students with explicit, physical connections with the online collaborative community underscores the importance of creating a face on other schools and their data. Technology devoid of a carefully articulated strategy for employment is not sufficient to motivate and positively impact the majority of students. A carefully and intentionally structured learning environment must be in place to realize the benefits of online-supported inquiry.
Lindquist, W.P. A case study of online collaborative inquiry in an elementary classroom. Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota.
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