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Write to Learn with Journal Zone

, Toronto School District, Canada

Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, in Nashville, Tennessee, USA ISBN 978-1-880094-44-0 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Chesapeake, VA


Journal Zone is an online 'journal' that supports reflective learning within a social context. This classroom tool integrates three common practices of exemplary teaching - journal writing, collaboration, and cognitive scaffolding. It is an ideal place for students to work together to make sense of curricular or conceptual problems, to struggle with contradictions, and to resolve difficulties. The distinctive tools provided in Journal Zone scaffold individual and group learning by helping students in planning, reflecting and in commenting effectively on the work of others. Journal Zone may be used as a 'journal' for thinking about and discussing a project, to create a project 'presentation', or as both a 'journal' and the 'presentation'. Objectives/Outcomes: Participants will develop a better understanding of: - the role of journal writing in learning - effective collaboration and its role in building knowledge - the role of online technologies in scaffolding student learning Practical tips and techniques will be demonstrated and discussed in relation to classroom projects and also to exemplary online projects such as those of I*EARN, ThinkQuest and Global Schoolhouse. Student work will demonstrate how information technologies can be brought to bear on the issues of deeper thinking and curricular outcomes. Participants will participate! In this session, we will put the specific collaborative journal techniques to work to achieve a better understanding of the issues. A website containing the presentation slides, notes and resources will be made available to the participants. Journal Zone is an open-ended tool that allows you to use an inquiry and project-based model while maintaining high expectations and acquiring high standards of achievement in all subject areas. Central to Journal Zone's design and development were the following underlying principles: - that students are not only expected to simply acquire the knowledge of their subjects but indeed are expected to manage their own learning of it - that students have not just a responsibility for their own learning but also for the learning of others. - that knowledge is constructed and is indeed represented in many forms (hence the availability of text, graphics and animation for dynamic modeling) Journal Zone is designed to support and encourage the development of both expertise in learners and of 'collaborative knowledge building' communities (Salomon et al, 1991; Bereiter et al, 1992; Scardamalia et al, 1994). Journal Zone is able to nurture these goals by providing online tools for: multimedia representation of ideas; collaborative reflection; cognitive scaffolding; project creation and presentation. How can novice learners become more like expert learners? What role do journal writing, collaboration, and scaffolding play in the development of learning? Novice versus Expert Learners 'Intentional' or 'mindful' learners are learning to become expert at becoming expert (Scardamalia et al, 1983). They are learning not only subject matter and skills, but are acquiring valuable metacognitive knowledge as well. Current pedagogical models acknowledge that 'learning to learn' is central to education (Chipman et al, 1985; Perkins, D.N., 1995). Journal Zone is designed to help novice learners acquire many expert strategies and behaviors through their purposeful engagement with peers and with the support of the scaffolding features. Journal Writing Journal writing supports intentional or expert behavior in a variety of ways. A Place to Think The very presence of a journal acts as a tool that predisposes people to think - to plan, monitor, and reflect. This helps overcome the difficulties of not even thinking about performing these tasks. Sometimes it is not that the student doesn't know how to plan, it just does not come to mind to do so. The journal, therefore, reminds students to think and gives them the opportunity. Thinking About Thinking Journal writing allows for the externalization of knowledge through language. Language plays an important role in making knowledge explicit by objectifying experience. So as students engage in writing about their knowledge they are indeed exploring, stating and questioning what they know (Britton, J., 1970). Understanding Subject Matter Through Writing Writing has been widely accepted by educators and researchers as a significant means of learning subject matter more effectively. Countryman (1992) says, “Knowing mathematics is doing mathematics. We need to create situations where students can be active, creative, and responsive to the physical world. I believe that to learn mathematics, students must construct it for themselves. They can only do that by exploring, justifying, representing, discussing, using, describing, investigating, predicting - in short by being active in the world. Writing is an ideal activity for such processes.” Journal writing, as a form of writing and 'thinking out loud,' seems to assist in initiating, supporting and encouraging intentional learning. What role might collaboration, cognitive prompts and computers have in designing an effective journal writing environment? Collaboration Central to knowledge construction is a recognition that learning is a social process. Social interactions allow for concepts, vocabulary and processes to be made explicit. Learning has been said to be “less as the socially-facilitated acquisition of knowledge and skill and more as a matter of participation in a social process of knowledge construction” (Cole et al, 1996; Greeno, J.G., 1997; Papert, S., 1993). Journal writing, usually a personal event, may also be more public or collaborative. This collaborative form of journal writing leads to unique experiences that have qualitatively different results than individual journal writing. Students not only reflect on their own thoughts and processes, but also exchange information about both the subject content and the processes and strategies used by others. This leads to more comprehensive knowledge building and results in both better reports and increased metacognitive skills. Journal and Elaboration Prompts Both journal writing and collaboration offer opportunities for students to think deeply about their tasks. Specifically, students may engage in a great number of thoughts related to planning, monitoring and reflecting. But, they also may not. Prompts, questions or sentence starters may provide the necessary scaffolding for this to occur. Journal starters encourage the change of normally covert procedures into ones that are overt. They help students to consider one's own higher level strategies and they promote the active decontextualization of knowledge. They may allow the user to decenter from personal thoughts and think about other considerations. They facilitate an internal dialog when no other partner exists to 'bounce ideas off'. Summary The purpose of Journal Zone is as a collaborative online environment for reflective thinking in order that students will increase their expertise as learners. The information available about the very different behaviors of novice and expert learners formed the basis for the design of these prompts. Journal Zone - through journal writing, collaboration, and scaffolding - supports and encourages the development of expertise in learning.


Skillen, P. (2002). Write to Learn with Journal Zone. In D. Willis, J. Price & N. Davis (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2002--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1947-1948). Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved January 17, 2019 from .


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