Knowledge Building Technology and Literacy Learning in Canada's North
Elizabeth Tumblin, Department of Education Prince Edward Island, Canada ; Heather Hemming, Acadia University, 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), Waynesville, NC USA
Using computer based technology to support literacy learning has been embraced enthusiastically be some, outwardly rejected by others and examined cautiously by many. What remains a concern is how to ensure that the computer is used in a pedagogically sound way to support learners as they use language in functional ways to construct meaning. One of the challenges for educators is making computer learning experiences culturally relevant while supporting literacy development. This paper examines educators' perspectives on the challenges and possibilities for literacy development created when CSILE/ Knowledge Forum ® (Scardamalia, Bereiter, McLean, Swallow and Woodruff, 1987) software was used by educators in Iqaluit, an isolated, northern Canadian community of approximately 6000 people where 85 % of the students are Inuit. Theoretically, the learning process embedded in the CSILE/ Knowledge Forum ® learning environment should support the creation of a learning environment which parallels that advocated by leading literacy educators. For example the software is created in a manner that learners: read and explore content which is self-selected, use existing background knowledge as a base for learning, are in control of their learning, use language for in meaningful ways to build knowledge and solve problems. The role of the teacher is one of facilitator and mentor. The infrastructure of the software guides the process of knowledge-building and makes explicit some thinking strategies. Participants explore specific areas of interest under the umbrella topics introduced, choose one of several scaffolds to frame their discourse, such as the process of devising a problem, developing theories, posing additional questions, planning, researching new information from a variety of sources, representing new learning through text and graphics, devising a better theory, etc. or through focused discussion topics. Topics are tailored to meet specific local curricula and interests/needs of the students as each site starts with an empty database on their server. In Iqaluit, topics have ranged from Marine Environment to Indigenous People of the World , from Weather and Space to Northern History, Geography and Resources, with special interest areas such as Suicide and Racism explored in between. Students, educators and external resource people with logins contribute to the database on client computers to construct knowledge as a community, allowing for continual modification, building on each other's ideas, constructing knowledge, whether individually or in groups. Using the technology of Knowledge Forum® to build knowledge that is culturally relevant while promoting a world-view has the potential of being motivating for young Inuit children. Such software could enable students to start with what they know, and from where they are in their language development in their first and second languages, thereby enabling a comfort level with learning and technology that is not readily available in most commercialized resources for Northern youth. This research project focused on analysing the perspectives of educators regarding the relationship between the knowledge building technology of Knowledge Forum® and literacy development for Inuit students in Iqaluit, Nunavut. As mentioned previously the software is built on tenants to support knowledge-building which should concurrently support literacy learning. To guide this research the following questions were explored: How is literacy defined and valued - in traditional Inuit culture? In what manner does Knowledge Forum® support culturally relevant learning in both literacy development and knowledge construction? In what ways are learners supported to use language for functional purposes? How are literacy skills and behaviors supported? What role does the teacher play? Five major informants were selected using purposive sampling. There was: 1) a bilingual Inuk first grade teacher whose students are taught totally in Inuktitut, 2) a consultant who was responsible for bringing the software to Baffin, 3) a veteran northern teacher, 4) a bilingual Inuk third/fourth grade teacher, and 5) a fourth grade English First Language teacher. In the presentation will involve a dialogical inquiry between Elizabeth Tumblin, a teacher with extensive experience using Knowledge Forum® in Iqulait and Heather Hemming a literacy teacher educator that focuses on understanding the relationship between using knowledge building technology and literacy development.
Tumblin, E. & Hemming, H. (2002). Knowledge Building Technology and Literacy Learning in Canada's North. In D. Willis, J. Price & N. Davis (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2002--Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1953-1954). Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).